There Be Dragons!

What sets Skyrim apart is a sense of exploration and adventuring that is unmatched by anything before it.  A varied landscape littered with snowcapped mountains, dense forests, drifting glaciers, horrid swamps, and hot springs.

From bustling big cities and struggling towns to farms, water mills, and shacks; a world is before you begging to be lost in.  Ancient ruins, palaces and dungeons, forbidden caves and old tunnels, fortresses and watchtowers, bridges made with stone and others made of dragon bone.  Dive into lakes, float down a river, tumble over waterfalls, scale towering peaks, or be content with owning a house built into the side of a mountain.  This is your playground.

A day and night cycle coupled with an ever changing weather system only adds to the immersion.  You become lost gazing at a sunset.  You can almost feel the coolness of the early morning air.  Are those the Northern Lights I see shooting across the night sky?

Wildlife is everywhere you turn: birds, butterflies, bears, trolls, saber cats, wolves, mammoths, and so much more.  Hunters and wizards, vampires and werewolves, valiant knights and treacherous rebels, merchants and miners, couriers and sailors; this is the world of fantasy brought to life.  I have yet to mention the dragons, giants, skeletons, ghosts, zombies, and giant spiders.  And some other surprises I won’t mention here.

Skyrim is a living, breathing world that is massive in size and filled with detail.  It is for this reason alone that I can overlook many of the minor glitches and bugs that spring up from time to time.  During my first play through on the Xbox 360 as a level seventy-three dark elf battle-mage, the game must have crashed at least a dozen times.  Yet, I have never had so much fun playing a game.

That’s the key issue here: fun.  The main story is good, although I found many of the sidequests to be more enjoyable.  The musical score is brilliant, but I still long for a better variation in voices for the NPC’s.  While I could nitpick at its faults, the game really is too fun to put down.

The leveling system is fantastic.  Building your own armor and then enchanting it is a blast.  The magic system is equally enjoyable.  The combat can get repetitive and some of the assassin animations look sloppy; but that’s only a few zits on what is otherwise a beautiful face.  Skyrim is the very definition of fun.

It’s because of this that Skyrim has remarkable replay value.  You can sink in over fifty hours completing over a hundred quests and still have dozens more to finish.  And that’s only a single play through.  With ten unique races, various plot threads and choices to make; this is a game that will keep roleplaying fans happy over the next four to five years as we await the next Elder Scrolls installment.  The knowledge that meaty downloadable content is on the way is the cherry on top.

Rating: 94%

Title: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Publisher: Bethesda Software

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios

Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, & PS3

Style: 1 Player; 1st or 3rd person RPG


by D.L. Timmerman


Welcome to Arkham City

His face is bloodied and bruised.  Deep gashes cover his chest, bits of shrapnel are embedded into his thigh, and his cape is torn to shreds.  He sucks in a deep breath.  A light snow is falling as a winter storm approaches.  To his back lies theGothamCityskyline complete with towering giants, bright spotlights, and draped in yellow hues.  Police sirens shriek in the distance, but they will be of no help where he is at.

He is alone; waging an all-out war against a never ending tide of murderers, psychotics, and lunatics.  There is no law here.  It’s everybody for themselves; anarchy at its finest.  A maniacal laugh causes his head to flinch.  The time for rest is over.  Batman and the player controlling him take to the skies once more knowing that even a moment’s hesitation can mean the difference between life and death.

Welcome to ArkhamCity.  A walled-off section of Gotham transformed into a massive prison.  It is within these walls that one of the greatest Batman stories ever told transpires and is executed to near perfection.

It manages to integrate polished gameplay with a blockbuster script and the results are staggering.  From the moody atmosphere littered with detail, to the adrenaline laced combat, colorful characters, and an engrossing narrative that will stick with you long after the credits roll; Arkham City stands as a staple of how richly awarding interactive storytelling can be when you get it right.

This is not just the best licensed game ever crafted.  ArkhamCity is an instant classic; a new benchmark by which other games must now ascribe to achieve.

Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker), along with a stellar cast of voice actors, deliver powerful performances.  The musical score is solid throughout and never feels out of place.  One thing that really hit me was hearing a person crying out for help.  You race atop rooftops as the screams grow louder, pinpoint the mugging taking place in a nearby alley, and swoop down upon the unsuspecting foe, rendering him unconscious with a well-placed elbow to his face.

You are Batman.  They have managed to capture the essence of the character so well that it is mind blowing.  It is more than just beating down gangs and rescuing innocent bystanders from would-be assailants.  ArkhamCity digs deep into the psychology of what makes the man tick.  It succeeds making that connection between game and player that every novel attempts to spark between reader and characters.

There are the rare hiccups in framerate and the occasional camera glitch.  However, these annoyances are few and far between.  With a main story that’ll last you between 10-15 hours, dozens of engaging side missions, hundreds of collectables, incredible replay value, and challenge maps nailed down to an art-form; Arkham City manages to surpass its predecessor (Arkham Asylum; itself a critical darling) in every conceivable way.

Rating:  100%

Title: BatmanArkhamCity

Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive

Developer: Rocksteady Studios

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Style: 1 Player, 3rd Person Action

ESRB: T (mild language, violence)

by D.L. Timmerman