Elder Scrolls Skyrim: Review
Ah yes, the latest in the Elder Scrolls series. Not to be confused with Scrolls… because that would actually happen… Anyways, this was pretty much an immediate purchase for any Bethesda fan and a massive powerhouse game that actually lived up to much of its hype. So unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last year or so, I’m sure you’ve all heard of this game and know what it’s about. But for those cave dwellers, it’s basically a first person role playing game set in the fantasy world of Nirn.
Skyrim, like all of its predecessors, is set in the frozen province of… um… Skyrim. You play the Dragonborn, a hero set for death, for whatever reason… you know what you did! And all the npcs get distracted when dragons join the party, giving you the choice to join the freedom fighting brave hearts or the trojan army that just tried to kill you. Or something to that extent. Once you get to that point, you have 2 more options; spend 5 hours and beat the game, or spend the next 100 hours and do everything except that. I chose the latter.
As this is the next game in the series, there are a number of improvements over the oldies. Now, I will say the only other one I played was Oblivion, which sold me as a Bethesda fanboy instantly. Having said that, I’ve noticed great improvements in every aspect of crafting, magic use, combat, jumping, interaction, and well, AI. We’ll get into some of that later, but they really made great strides in improving the overall quality of the game in its mechanics.
Gameplay / Control
It’s first person. Oh, wanted more? Ok, it’s an FPRPG that’s just spot on with its mechanics. There are plenty playstyles you can go with, many of which are familiar to Oblivion players, but you’ve got your standard warrior, rogue, ranger, mage, and some mix and matches with other magic skills. Control is mostly intuitive and easy to get accustom to… EXCEPT… You assign 2 skills or spells or weapons to each hand and the left/right mouse buttons control these. Now, you might be thinking that this makes sense and sounds great, right? Well, yes, but the initial control setup is to switch these! My left our your’s? Well you’re both facing the same dang darn way! This is infinitely frustrating and got immediately changed.
Some other issues I’ve noticed is that the menu system is total rubbish. Just absolute crud! Firstly they played waaaay too much Final Fantasy and did a skillpoint system by going down skill trees shaped like constellations. Alone that’s not bad, but trying to navigate through them is like a dog trying to walk from the back of a moving van to the front… while wearing foot booties… and the floor of the van is ice infused with teflon. Yeah, it’s obnoxious and you’ll be cursing it. Luckily, by the time you’re 30 or 40, you’ll have more skillpoints than you know what to do with so you’ll probably not have to worry about it for too long.
Along with the menu disaster is trying to get to your quests. A sensible person might figure you would go into the same menu that does your map or inventory/skills… no, it’s next to the options/settings. Really game? Really? I have to hit Esc to get to my quests? Ok, it’s not game breaking, but it drives me bonkers.
So we’re going to do a compliment sandwich here and end with some nice things. One of which is the companion AI. Remember in Oblivion how wonderfully patient your companions were and let you toss out fireballs while staying out of the line of friendly fire? Right, that never happened. And if you so much as sneezed on a companion NPC, they’ll stop their fight with the boss, toss down their gauntlets, and join the badguys to smash you into the ground like the Hulk trying to tap a thumbtack into a bulletin board. New AI makes it so that you have to directly hit them a few times, 5 I think, in a row before they start getting pissy. Definitely an improvement, though it does ruin quite a few memes.
Replayability / Interest
This is definitely hard to define in Skyrim, or any Bethesda game. On the one hand, the main quest is short and linear, but there’s tons of crud to do on the side so doing a playthrough and restarting can get sort of daunting. But, there is so much to do, once you get 50+ hours into it and reroll, you’ll probably forget all those things you had to do (if you’re like me) so it’s still pretty fresh.
I would say it’s fairly replayable since there are so many classes you can try out and skill combinations, as well as certain decision paths to make. Though that last bit could really be improved upon better for later releases. I’d say you’d probably only get maybe 1 or 2 replays after completing the game before wandering Siberia gets on your nerves, but you might reroll a half dozen times before then anyways so I think it’s reasonable to say you’ll get your money’s worth.
Interest in this is a given. I use this a bit interchangeably with immersion here, still, you’ll be pulled in like the Never Ending Story. Seriously, Bethesda always does a great job with this so as you traverse the snowy tundra, you’ll really feel like you’re the Dragonborn and the only thing between the 5 people that live here and the swarms of dragons and undead.
This is a hard one to pin down for this series since it’s a build up of years of innovation and trail and error. But, I think that evolution is essential to the success of this game. Like I stated earlier, there are many improvements upon the last few installments and that extra polish really makes this game shine. Also, the addition of dragons seemed to fit naturally into this series and the story itself is what you make it to be, but otherwise it’s pretty top notch.
However, there really seems like there could be more done. You walk around the world a bit and it’s a very familiar feeling. While this isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t seem to set off any fireworks for me. Heck, even the music is remastered scores from a previous game! All things kept the same, the series is solid and I’d probably buy the next one even if it’s the same old cereal but in a new box. It’s solid. But it really needs something new and exciting to get extra credit in this category.
Skyrim, for lack of better words… is purdy! It’s a visually beautiful environment which greatly improves the immersion. From the magic, buildings, dungeons, mobs, and even the character skins, everything is top end and what you’d expect a AAA game to be. As with every installment of the Elder Scrolls series, this is a new province (country? state?) so the theme this time is the frozen north. Just play it for a few minutes and you’ll feel the cold. This is one thing that Bethesda excels at, making you feel like you’re in this crazy fantasy world.
Uncanny Valley Factor
Which brings us to the UV factor. Like I said before, Bethesda really knows how to make you feel like you’re a part of their worlds. From Fallout 3 to Skyrim, you can believe you are really there. The level of detail in everything is just astounding. That and you can steal most of anything that’s not nailed down, so immersion isn’t an issue here. So with such lush settings, seeing dragons or shooting ice out of your hands isn’t something that will break the illusion of reality. And they’ve come a long way with the 3rd person perspective, I mean come on, you spend at least 2 hours of you gameplay making your character look like Chuck Norris, so you’ll want to see more than just his hands. Jumping looks much better… still needs work though. I’m not sure why they can’t do this right ever, but it’s leaps and bounds above Oblivion.
But I do think they still hit the wall with a certain level of creepy. Bethesda, ever since their first Elder Scrolls title, has had this unhealthy obsession with making all their humanoid characters look as real as they could… which, of course, means they venture deep into the valley. However, Skyrim is their best effort to date and I think within a few more releases they could eventually overcome this hurtle, but for now, you still get a great deal of creepy out of it. Granted, most characters are behind helms, but the ones that aren’t, well… have you ever had that nightmare where you walked into work or class and everybody is looking at you and you realize that you’re naked? Well, sort of the same thing here. Every time you walk into some place or by a group of people, all of them within a 20 mile radius stops what they’re doing, drops plates of food, the piano in the corner cuts off, and they all stare at you. Like they’re waiting for you to give a catch phrase or something. It reminds me of a bad spaghetti western movie. Uhg! And of course they don’t really have the natural body movements quite down yet, so that harms the suspension of disbelief. We’re getting there, folks, but just not yet. Not the worst UV by a long shot, but definitely not out of the valley.
Conclusion, Cliff Notes, TLDR… Buy it. Great game. Return of the 80+ hour gameplay (without grinding). Openworld fun and more arrows to the knee than you can Fus Ro Dah at! Worth every penny! 7/10! Pretty good in my book!
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