The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action 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. Skyrim was released on November 11, 2011, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Three downloadable content (DLC) add-ons were released—Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn—which were repackaged into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition, which released on June 4, 2013.
Skyrim's main story revolves around the player character's efforts to defeat Alduin the World-Eater, a dragon who is prophesied to destroy the world. Set two hundred years after the events of Oblivion, the game takes place in the fictional province of Skyrim. Over the course of the game, the player completes quests and develops their character by improving their skills. Unlike previous Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim does not require the player to select a character class at the beginning of the game, negating a problem the development team felt previous entries had by forcing the player into a rigid play-style too early into the game. Skyrim continues the open-world tradition of its predecessors by allowing the player to travel anywhere in the game world at any time, and to ignore or postpone the main storyline indefinitely.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim premiered to critical acclaim, with reviewers particularly responding well to the refined character development and setting. Winner of over 220 Game of the Year awards, "Skyrim" is the second most awarded game in history, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest games of all time. The game was developed using the in-house Creation Engine, built specifically for the game. Skyrim is not a direct sequel to previous Elder Scrolls games, but during development it was considered a spiritual successor to Oblivion, 2008's Fallout 3, and 2010's Fallout New Vegas. The team opted for a more unique and diverse game world than Oblivion's Cyrodiil, which game director and executive producer Todd Howard considered less interesting by comparison. The game shipped over seven million copies to retailers within the first week of its release, and sold over 20 million copies across all three platforms.
Skyrim is set 200 years after the events of Oblivion, though it is not a direct sequel. The game takes place in the land of Skyrim, a province of the Empire on the continent of Tamriel, amid a civil war between two factions. The Stormcloaks, led by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, are made up of Skyrim's native Nord race. Their goal is an independent Skyrim free from Imperial interference. The Imperial Legion, the military of the Empire, opposes the Stormcloaks and seek to reunite and pacify the province. General Tullius leads the Imperial forces in Skyrim.
The story begins with the imprisoned player being led to an Imperial execution in the town of Helgen, alongside several Stormcloak soldiers and their leader, Ulfric Stormcloak. A dragon unexpectedly interrupts the procession, attacking and destroying the town. The player escapes and journeys to the nearby town of Riverwood, whose residents are now fearful that the dragon could strike their town as well at any moment. Riverwood also serves as a tutorial village in that the player can forge items, trade goods, practice alchemy, and receive miscellaneous quests. The player is asked to make their way to the city of Whiterun, to request aid from the city's Jarl against the dragon threat. Jarl Balgruuf the Greater accepts. He also directs the player to his court wizard, who asks the player to retrieve the Dragonstone, an ancient artifact that shows the location of ancient dragon burial sites.
The player returns to Whiterun with the Dragonstone, only to learn that another dragon has appeared near the city. After slaying the dragon with assistance from the city's guards, the player unexpectedly absorbs the dragon's soul which grants them the ability to perform a magical ability called a "Thu'um", or Shout. The city's guards are astonished, and inform the player that they must be a Dragonborn, a mortal born with the soul and power of a dragon. 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 in their temple of High Hrothgar on the slopes of Skyrim's tallest mountain, the Throat of the World.
The Greybeards further train the player in the "Way of the Voice", teaching the player more powerful Thu'ums and instructing the player on their destiny and role as the Dragonborn. The player learns that Skyrim's civil war is the last in a sequence of prophetic events foretold by the Elder Scrolls, which also predicted the return of Alduin, the first dragon and the Nordic god of destruction. Alduin is prophesied to destroy the races of Men and Mer, and consume the world. The player character is the latest "Dovahkiin", or Dragonborn. Dovahkiin are anointed by the gods to help fend off the threat Alduin and other dragons pose to Tamriel.
The Greybeards task the player with retrieving the legendary Horn of Jurgen Windcaller in the marshes of Hjaalmarch as a final test. However, the player discovers the Horn has been stolen, and the culprit wishes to meet with the Dragonborn. The thief reveals herself as Delphine, Riverwood's innkeeper. Delphine admits that she set up the player in retrieving the Dragonstone. Delphine wants the Dragonborn to prove their power before explaining her actions, and they head to the village of Kynesgrove, where a dragon burial mound is supposedly located. Once there, the player and Delphine witness Alduin reviving a dragon from the burial mound and defeat the dragon. Delphine later reveals that she is one of the last surviving members of the Blades—an order of bodyguards sworn to protect Dragonborn Imperial Emperors, and before that, they were sworn to kill dragons. She explains that the Blades have been out of purpose for centuries with no Dragonborn Emperor, and now with the player character being the next Dragonborn, the organization has finally regained its purpose. Afterwards, Malborn, who Delphine tells the player to meet at Solitude to help you, helps the player infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy near the city of Solitude, the headquarters of the Aldmeri Dominion in Skyrim, to follow up on her suspicions about the Thalmor's possible involvement with the dragon threat. While there, the player discover the Thalmor are searching for a man named Esbern, an archivist of the Blades Order, then the Thalmor tell the player to surrender or they will kill Malborn, but Malborn attacks the soldiers and the player has the opportunity to save Malborn though it is not necessary. After escaping the Thalmor Embassy, Delphine then instructs the player to locate Esbern, known to be hiding in the sewers and ratways of the city of Riften.
The player character accompanies the Blades in search of Alduin's Wall, a prophetic engravement located in an ancient Blades fortress known as Sky Haven Temple. While the Blades set up in the temple, the player character learns that the ancient Nords used a special Thu'um against Alduin called "Dragonrend", representing mankind's comprehensive hatred for the dragons, to cripple his ability to fly so they could engage him. To gain more information, the player meets the ancient dragon Paarthurnax, the leader of the Greybeards who was once one of Alduin's most feared generals. Paarthurnax reveals that Alduin was not truly defeated in the past, but was cast into the currents of time by the use of an Elder Scroll in the hope was that he would never reemerge. The player manages to locate the Elder Scroll within the ancient Dwemer ruin of Blackreach and uses it to peer through a window in time, when Alduin was first defeated, learning the powerful Dragonrend Shout to combat Alduin.
Armed with the knowledge of how the ancient Nords defeated Alduin, the player battles Alduin on the summit of the Throat of the World. Overpowered by the player, Alduin flees to Sovngarde, the Nordic afterlife. The player learns that Dragonsreach, the palace of the Jarl of Whiterun, was originally built to trap and hold a dragon. The Jarl refuses to allow the player to utilize Dragonsreach and possibly endanger the city if the civil war between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion still rages. With the help of the Greybeards, the player calls a council between General Tullius—the Imperial Legion's commander—and Ulfric Stormcloak, successfully calling for a temporary armistice while the dragon threat exists. If the civil war questline has been completed beforehand, thus ending the war, the Jarl eventually agrees with persuasion.
The player summons and traps a dragon named Odahviing in Dragonsreach, learning from him that Alduin has fled to Sovngarde through a portal located high in the Velothi Mountains, at an ancient fort called Skuldafn. Odahviing, impressed with the player's Thu'um and ability to capture him, agrees to fly the player to Skuldafn, claiming Alduin has shown himself as weak and undeserving of leadership over the dragon race. Upon arrival at Skuldafn, the player fights their way up to the portal to Sovngarde. Upon entering Sovngarde, the player travels to the Hall of Valor and meets with Ysgramor, the legendary Nord who, along with his Five Hundred Companions, drove the Elves out of Skyrim. Ysgramor informs the player that Alduin has placed a "soul snare" in Sovngarde, allowing him to gain strength by devouring the souls of deceased Nords arriving there. The player meets up with the three heroes of Nordic legend who defeated Alduin originally, and, with their help, destroys the soul snare and defeats Alduin once more.
If the player did not kill Paarthurnax in an earlier side quest, an alternate conclusion is given. The player returns to the summit of the Throat of the World in which Paarthurnax and several other dragons wait. Paarthurnax explains that even though Alduin is defeated, they are in no condition to celebrate for he was once their ally and is still one of their kin. Having asserted his authority over many dragons, Paarthurnax declares that the remainder of the dragons will "submit to his Thu'um," suggesting he wants to take Alduin's place as the leader of the dragons in order to teach them the Way of the Voice.
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