The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim cover.png
Developer(s) Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher(s) Bethesda Softworks
Distributor(s) Bethesda Softworks (retail)
Steam (online)
Director(s) Todd Howard
Composer(s) Jeremy Soule
Series The Elder Scrolls
Engine Creation Engine
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Release date(s) November 11, 2011[1]
  • JP December 8, 2011
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Open world
Mode(s) Single-player (first-person and third-person view)
Media/distribution DVD
Blu-ray Disc
System requirements

See Development section

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a single-player role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls action role-playing video game series, following The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It was released on November 11, 2011 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Skyrim's main story revolves around the player character's efforts to defeat the Nordic dragon god Alduin, who is prophesied to destroy the world. Set two hundred years after Oblivion, the game takes place in the land of Skyrim, which is in the midst of a civil war after the assassination of the high king. The open world gameplay of the Elder Scrolls series returns in Skyrim; the player can explore the land at will and ignore or postpone the main quest indefinitely.



The nonlinear gameplay traditional in the Elder Scrolls series is incorporated in Skyrim.[7] The player can explore the open world of Skyrim on foot or on horseback, and fast-travel to cities, towns and dungeons after they have been discovered.[8] Quests are given to the player by non-player characters (NPCs) in the world, and through the Radiant Story system, the quests can be dynamically altered to accommodate for player actions which may influence the quest's characters and objectives. The Radiant Story system further directs the player's interaction with the world by setting unexplored dungeons as quest locations.[9] When not completing quests, the player can interact with NPCs through conversation, and they may request favors or training in skills from the player.[10] In addition to scripted quests certain ones will be dynamically generated, providing a limitless number to the player.[7] Some NPCs can become companions to the player to aid in combat, and some companions can be married.[11] The player may choose to join factions, which are organized groups of NPCs such as the Dark Brotherhood, a band of assassins.[12] Each of the factions has a headquarters, and they have their own quest paths which the player can progress through. The economy of cities and towns can be stimulated by completing jobs such as farming and mining, or harmed by sabotaging industrial buildings.[13]

Character development is a primary element of Skyrim. At the beginning of the game, the player selects one of several human, elven, or zoomorphic human races, each of which has different natural abilities, and customizes their character's appearance.[14] A perpetual objective for the player is to improve their character's skills, which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. There are eighteen skills divided evenly between the three schools of combat, magic and stealth, and training until the necessary required experience is met, results in the player's character leveling-up. Previous Elder Scrolls games made use of a class system to determine which skills would contribute to the character's leveling, but its removal in Skyrim allows for a preferred play-style to be developed naturally.[9][15] When their character levels, the player may choose to select a skill-specific ability called a perk, or store perks for later use. Upon levelling fifty times, the player character can continue to level and earn perks, but the rate of levelling is slowed significantly.[16]

A heads-up display appears when any one of the player's three attributes are being depleted. Health is depleted primarily through combat and can be restored by spells, potions, or resting; the loss of all health results in death. Magicka allows for and is depleted by the use of spells; it is rejuvenated naturally over time, but it can be restored in similar ways to health. Stamina determines the player's effectiveness in combat and is depleted by sprinting, jumping, and power attacking, but can be restored in similar ways to health and magicka. The player's inventory can be accessed from the menu and items can be viewed in 3D, which may be essential in solving puzzles found in dungeons.[17] The player's effectiveness in combat relies on the use of weapons and armor, which may be bought or created at forges, and magic, which may also be bought or unlocked. Weapons and magic are assigned to each hand, allowing for dual-wielding, and can be swapped out through a quick-access menu of favorite items.[18] Shields can be used either to fend off enemy attacks and reduce the damage intake, or offensively through bashing attacks. Blunt, bladed and hacking weapons can be used in close combat and each have specific advantages and roles; as an example, the player can perform different finishing moves with each weapon. Magic can be used in the form of spells; each of the eighty-five spells have different functions, such as the regeneration of health, or the depleting of enemy health and stamina through frost spells.[19] The bow and arrow may be utilized in long-range combat, but the bow can be used as a defensive melee weapon in close combat. The player can enter a sneak mode and pickpocket, or deliver sneak attacks to unsuspecting enemies. If the player drops unwanted loot, such as a shield or item of clothing, NPCs will attempt to pick the item up, some even asking the player's permission to take the item.[20]

Bethesda developed the Creation Engine for Skyrim. It allows for dynamic snowfall, and the integration of dragons in gameplay.[21]

When exploring the game world, the player may encounter wildlife. Many wilderness monsters are immediately hostile towards the player and thus can be slain.[7] The inclusion of dragons in Skyrim affords a major influence on both story and gameplay. During the game's development, a team was set aside to work on dragons and their interactions with the world.[9] In the world, a variety of different dragons are encountered either alone or in small groups. They are randomly-generated, meaning their numbers are infinite, and they can attack cities and towns at any time.[22] Not every dragon is hostile, and the player can interact with non-hostile dragons. Early in the game, the player character learns that they are Dragonborn, which allows the player to use powerful spells called dragon shouts. Twenty different dragon shouts can be discovered by visiting "dragon walls" in dungeons, and they are unlocked for use by absorbing the souls of slain dragons.[23][24] A regeneration period limits the player's use of shouts in gameplay.[25]Another significant change from previous games in the series is the elimination of weapon and armor durability, in which a player would periodically have to repair or pay to have their items repaired.



Skyrim is not a direct sequel to Oblivion, but a new chapter in the Elder Scrolls series, set 200 years after the events of Oblivion.[23] In the preamble to Skyrim, the Empire began ceding territory to the Elven nations it once ruled, because there was no heir to the Emperor's throne, during a bloody war between the Empire and the Elven "Aldmeri Dominion". The Blades had no one to defend, and gradually died, were murdered, or secluded themselves from the rest of the world.[23] After the king of Skyrim was assassinated, a civil war broke out amongst the native Nord race – the majority being those who wished for Skyrim to secede from the Empire, and the rest being those who wished for Skyrim to stay in the Empire.[26]

As with previous Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim begins with the player character as an unknown prisoner, on the way to Helgen for their own execution for an unspecified crime, along with a group of Stormcloaks, a rebel group founded by the king's assassin, Ulfric Stormcloak, the Jarl of Windhelm.[26] As the player character is about to be beheaded, a dragon arrives, destroying the town and interrupting the execution. The player eventually learns that Skyrim's civil war is last in a sequence of prophetic events foretold by the Elder Scrolls, which also foretell of the return of Alduin, the Nordic Dragon-god of destruction. Alduin is prophesied to consume the world with his servants, the Jills (a race of black Dragons). The player character is the last Doväkiin (Dragonborn), a dragon hunter anointed by the gods to help fend off the threat Alduin poses to Skyrim and Tamriel. Aiding the player is Esbern (voiced by Max von Sydow), one of the last Blades.[23]


Following the attack on Helgen, the player character can choose to escape with an Imperial soldier or a Stormcloak rebel, making their way through Helgen's keep to escape through a cave. Following the escape, if the player wishes to pursue the main questline, they travel to the town of Riverwood, seeking help from relatives of the character the player chose to escape with. The player is asked to travel to the city of Whiterun, to inform Jarl Balgruuf of the Dragon attack on Helgen and ask him to send soldiers to help defend Riverwood. The Jarl agrees to send a detachment of soldiers to Riverwood, but asks the player if they will assist his court-wizard in recovering a Dragonstone from a nearby cave/tomb called Bleak Falls Barrow. The player recovers the Dragonstone, discovering a Word-Wall in the process, learning their first Word of Power or "Thu'um", the shouts used by the early Nords to combat the Dragons. Upon returning to Whiterun, the player is asked to help defend the city from an attacking Dragon. After defeating the Dragon, the player character absorbs the soul of the Dragon, and learns from the Whiterun soldiers that he is a Dragonborn.

After returning to the Jarl with news of the Dragon's defeat, the player is summoned to meet with the Greybeards, an order of monks who live in seclusion on the slopes of the Throat of the World, in their temple of High Hrothgar. Upon meeting the Greybeards, the player is trained more extensively in the use of Thu'ums and tasked with retrieving the legendary Horn of Jurgen Windcaller to prove their abilities to the Greybeards. However, the player discovers the Horn has already been taken, with a note left behind, directing the player to the Sleeping Giant Inn in Riverwood. Upon arrival at Riverwoood, the player discovers the note was left by Delphine, the owner of the Inn. The player character discovers Delphine is one of the last Blades, a group of knights that worked in secret to protect Tamriel's Dragonborn emperors, and who gradually disbanded, were murdered, died and went into hiding following the death of Martin Septim 200 years previously. Delphine explains that she stole the Horn to test the player, and asks the player to accompany her to a location she believes a Dragon will appear. Upon arrival, the player and Delphine witness Alduin awakening a Dragon from a burial mound. Alduin departs, and the player and Delphine battle the Dragon. After defeating the Dragon and absorbing it's soul, the player conclusively proves to Delphine that they are Dragonborn, and earns her trust.


System requirements
Minimum Recommended
Microsoft Windows[27]
Operating system Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 (32 or 64 bit of any)
CPU Intel or AMD 2 GHz dual-core Intel or AMD quad-core
Memory 2 GB RAM 4 GB RAM
Hard drive space 6 GB free HDD space
Graphics hardware Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 512 MB of RAM Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 or ATi Radeon HD 4890 1 GB
Sound hardware DirectX compatible sound card
Network Internet access for Steam activation

Skyrim was conceptualized shortly after the release of Oblivion in 2006.[28] Works on Skyrim did not begin until Fallout 3's release in 2008; developers considered the game to be a spiritual successor to both Fallout 3 and previous Elder Scrolls games.[29] The game was developed by a team of roughly 100 people composed of new talent as well as of the series's veterans.[28] The production was supervised by Todd Howard, who was the director of many titles released by Bethesda Softworks.[28] Skyrim is powered by Bethesda's own Creation Engine which is the company's entirely new engine.[28][21] Bethesda has officially stated that the engine will be used at least in one more project apart from Skyrim.[30] After Fallout 3's release, the team devised numerous design objectives to meet for Skyrim, and as Howard described, the team "got all those done and kept going".[31] Had the team not been able to meet their design goals with current hardware, they would have waited for the next generation and released Skyrim then,[32] but, as Howard felt, the current technology did not hold the team back at all.[31] The Creation Engine allowed for numerous improvements in graphical fidelity over Bethesda's previous efforts. For example, the draw distance renders farther than in previous Elder Scrolls games; Howard furnished an example where the player could stare at a small object such as a fork in detail, and then look up at a mountain and run to the top of it.[33] Dynamic lighting affords shadows to be created by any structure or item in the game world, and while Bethesda utilized SpeedTree to produce flora in previous games, the Creation Engine utilized by Skyrim allowed for greater detail than what had been allowed by SpeedTree.[23] For example, with Bethesda's own technology, the team was able to give weight to the branches of trees which affected how the tree blew in wind; in addition, the technology afforded wind to affect the flow of water in channels such as rivers and streams.[10] Because of the large presence of snow in Skyrim's game world, the technological upgrades were applied to weather effects and allowed for dynamic snow fall upon the terrain, instead of snow that was rendered as a textural effect in previous games.[10]

The team made use of Havok's Behavior toolset for character animation, which allowed for a greater fluidity between the character's movements of walking, running and sprinting, and also increased the efficiency of the third-person camera option which had been criticized in Oblivion.[10][34] The toolset allowed interactions between the player and NPCs to take place in real-time; in Oblivion, when the player went to interact with an NPC, time would freeze and the camera would zoom in on the NPC's face. In Skyrim, NPCs can move around and make body gestures while conversing with the player. Children are present in the game, and their presence is handled similarly as in Fallout 3 in that they cannot be harmed by the player in any way[23] since depictions of violence involving children in video games is a controversial and largely-debated issue.[35] Skyrim makes use of the Radiant AI artificial intelligence system that was created for Oblivion, and it has been updated to allow NPCs to "do what they want under extra parameters".[22] The updated system allows for greater interaction between NPCs and their environments; NPCs can perform tasks such as farming, milling and mining in the game world, and will react with each other, such as by fighting over loot that the player has dropped.[36]

Within Skyrim's universe is the use of 'dragon language'. The alphabet was constructed to look aesthetically dragon-like, hence the use of claw-like markings.[37]

The team set the game in the province of Skyrim, designing it by hand. While similar in size to Oblivion's game world Cyrodiil, the mountainous topography of the world inflates the game space and makes it more difficult to traverse than the relatively-flatter Cyrodiil.[25] In designing Skyrim's world, the team opted for a different approach to what was taken with Oblivion; art director Matt Carofano considered the more surrealistic approach of Skyrim's world design as a departure from Oblivion's generic representation of classic European fantasy lore.[14] Howard expressed the team's desire to re-encapsulate the "wonder of discovery" of Morrowind's game world in Skyrim, as the return to the classic fantasy of Arena and The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall in Oblivion meant sacrificing a world with a unique culture.[33] However, instead of placing the player in an alien world like Morrowind's, the team opted to "walk the line" between Morrowind's and Oblivion's art directions by juxtaposing a familiar fantasy setting of forests and mountains against a world with an unfamiliar culture.[31] As a way of creating diversity in the world, the team divided the world into eight sectors, known as holds, and attempted to make each hold feel topographically unique from another; in addition, the team wanted to reflect the socioeconomic background of the NPCs by making some of the world's locations elaborate and wealthy and others poorer and lower-tech.[9] Focus was put into making of each the game's ten races feel unique; Howard considered that the player's choosing of a race and gender at the beginning of the game was a more important decision than it had been in previous Elder Scrolls games because the culture of Skyrim's world was rooted in racism and sexism. However, he iterated that the player's decisions on race and gender did not have major game-affecting consequences as it simply added "flavor" in different NPCs dispositions towards the player, and was not meant as a way of locking players out of particular quests.[31] Efforts to making Skyrim's world feel hand-crafted extended to the team abandoning the use of generated landscapes as they had done in Oblivion. While one team member was charged with designing dungeons in Oblivion, Skyrim's 150 dungeons were designed by a small team of eight people.[38]

Bethesda employed over seventy voice actors to record the voices of NPCs in the game; the total number of lines recorded for NPCs is over 60,000. The cast includes Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, Joan Allen, Lynda Carter, Claudia Christian and Michael Hogan.[39]


The team employed Jeremy Soule to compose music for Skyrim, after his work on Morrowind and Oblivion. He composed "Sons of Skyrim", which is the game's main theme and was recorded with a choir of over thirty people, singing in the game world's native language.[40] Creative Director Todd Howard envisioned the theme for Skyrim as the Elder Scrolls theme sung by a choir of barbarians. This became a reality when the idea was passed by Soule, who recorded the 30-man choir and layered three separate recordings to create the effect of 90 voices.[41] The language, Draconic, was created by Bethesda's concept artist Adam Adamowicz, and he developed a 34-character runic alphabet for the game.[37] The lexicon of Draconic was expanded as needed; as lead designer Bruce Nesmith explained, words were introduced to the lexicon "every time [the studio wanted] to say something".[22]

As with the previous two entries in the series, the soundtrack to Skyrim is sold exclusively via Jeremy Soule's distributor DirectSong; on November 4, 2011 a physical-only release consisting of 4 audio CDs was announced, coinciding with the launch of the game. All copies preordered before December 23 will be personally autographed by Soule.[42] Following an October 17 tweet from Pete Hines, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at Bethesda, stating "The OST would take 4 CDs",[43] a 4-disc CD set release was spotted by Digital Song customers during an account display error.[44] "Day One" preorders from also include a 5-track promotional Skyrim soundtrack sampler.[45]


Skyrim was first announced at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2010. The center was the host of Spike's annual Video Game Awards; Howard appeared on stage during the awards and presented its announcement trailer, which introduced the game's story and revealed its "11-11-11" release date.[46] It was the cover story for the February 2011 issue of the Game Informer magazine, wherein journalist Matt Miller wrote a fifteen-page article that revealed the first details about the game's story and gameplay.[23] Asked about downloadable content (DLC) packages in a June 2011 interview, Howard expressed that it was the team's intention to release DLC packages after having done so for previous releases; he revealed that it was the team's goal to release a lower number of DLC packages that were larger in content than those released for Fallout 3, as he felt that releasing a larger number of low-content packages was "chaotic".[47] Via a press release, the team announced that the first two planned DLC packages would release on the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live a month ahead of PCs and the PlayStation 3 system.[48] At the 2011 QuakeCon conference, the team unveiled Skyrim's special edition package. Bundled with a copy of the game is a map of the game world, a 12-inch figurine of the game's antagonistic dragon Alduin, as well as a 200-page concept art book and a DVD feature about the making of Skyrim.[49]

In October 2011 pictures of many pages of the manual of the game were leaked,[50][51] later followed by footage from the introduction, revealing some more details.[52] By November 1, 2011, a copy of the Xbox 360 version had been leaked and made available through the internet, allowing people with a hacked Xbox 360 to play Skyrim 10 days before its official release.[53][54] In the Netherlands, the game has been available for purchase since November 7.[55] On the 10th of November stores in Australia began selling the game ahead of its 11th of November release date.[56]

During the first day of release, Steam showed over 230,000 people playing Skyrim concurrently.[57] This later peaked at 280,000 concurrent users, setting a new Steam record.[58] In the first week of release, Bethesda stated the total sales through the following Wednesday at an estimated $450 million USD, with 7 million copies of the game shipped.[59][60]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 95/100 (PC)[61]

96/100 (Xbox 360)[62]
95/100 (PS3)[63]

Review scores
Publication Score A-[64]
Computer and Video Games 9.5/10[65]
Edge 9/10[66]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 10[67]
Eurogamer 10/10[68]
G4 5/5[69]
Game Informer 9.5/10[70]
GameSpot 9/10[71]
GamesRadar 10/10[72]
IGN 9.5/10[73]
Official Xbox Magazine 10/10[74]
Machinima 9.5/10[75]
Wired 10/10[76]
Destructoid 10/10[77]
Joystiq 5/5 stars[78]
GiantBomb 5/5 stars[79]
GamePro 5/5 stars[80]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[81]

Skyrim has received universal acclaim from critics, with an overall rating on Metacritic of 95 out of 100 based on 12 reviews on Windows,[61] 96 out of 100 based on 70 reviews on Xbox 360[62] and 95 out of 100 based on 21 reviews on PlayStation 3.[63]

IGN gave the game a rating of 9.5 out of 10, stating "It's a mesmerizing game that draws you into a finely crafted fictional space packed with content that consistently surprises... playing Skyrim is a rare kind of intensely personal, deeply rewarding experience, and one of the best role-playing games yet produced."[73] The Guardian gave the game 5 stars (out of 5), stating "The reason for this is that Skyrim is one of the most gargantuan undertakings gamers will experience all year. The sheer size of the adventure, both in terms of its environment and in the amount of activities available to the player, is mind-blowing."[81] Destructoid gave the game a 10/10 sighting that "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is every single reason to love a Western role-playing game, condensed into a single comprehensive experience with nothing lost in the conversion process."[82] also gave a perfect score of 10 out of 10, writing "The game's greatest accomplishment is that it is a paradise of escapism, a lavish love letter to immersion. Diving into Skyrim’s world feels both thrilling and comforting, like riding a rollercoaster or swimming in the ocean. There is very little padding. There are very few scripted quests that aren’t worth experiencing."[83] Edge gave Skyrim a rating of 9 out of 10, saying that "in the instance of breathless excitement, triumph or discovery, you invest completely in its world." GameSpot also rated it 9 out of 10, adding that "Skyrim performs the most spectacular of enchantments: the one that causes huge chunks of time to vanish before you know it."[66] Joystiq gave a perfect score of 5 out of 5 sighting "This is the deepest, loveliest world ever created for a single player to explore"[84] AtomicGamer gave a review score of 10/10 saying "While other games this year have delivered tighter storylines and intense multiplayer action, nothing satisfies my gaming needs quite like Bethesda's core studio of developers can."[85] A review score of 5 out of 5 was given by GiantBomb.[86]

The PC version received similar praise, but the user interface was heavily criticized as being designed for consoles rather than for the traditional keyboard and mouse setup.[87][88] The game was also felt to not take full advantage of PCs' superior graphical capabilities by using low-resolution textures and only using DirectX 9 (DX9) features, forgoing more modern DX10 and DX11 features.[89]


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