Skyrim is the northernmost province in Tamriel, the realm where the Elder Scrolls games take place, so it follows that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is informed by a sense of the North. The warm, ornate Tolkien kitsch that has dominated the look of this fantasy RPG series is replaced in Skyrim by a cool austerity. The title screen displays a black stone carving of a dragon beside a sans-serif invitation to begin playing, and the world’s structures are designed in a spare, elegant blend of Gaelic and Nordic influences. This is a cleaner game than its predecessors. One essential contradiction of northern climes, though, is that they’re both clean and rugged. The masterstroke of Skyrim is that, in addition to its sleek beauty, the edges are still rough where they need to be.
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