Review by VeldrinDershak
"Definitely a good game, but could have been even better. **Spoilers**"
Well ill start of saying that I have been a fan of The Elder Scrolls series since Morrowind. And so I've been looking forward to this game for a very long time.
Starting off with the pros of this game, I must say I love the user interface for most of the actions you can do in this game. For example, when smithing and creating potions, your character is animated doing it, instead of it just being a taskbar, which really adds a lot to this sort of game. Also most screens have your current level of the skill you're using, making it a lot easier to keep track. A minor foible I have with the interfaces is that sometimes it's hard to keep track of what all your stats are. For example, in Oblivion you could always tell what sign you were born under, whereas in Skyrim, it's not so easy, takes a bit of tracking down. However the journal is a lot better now, with the ability to have more than 1 running quest, plus a misc. section for ease of non quest related stuff.
Character interaction is another strong point for this game. Time no longer freezes when you talk, and you can leave at most times with one press of a button and carry on what you were doing. Also Bethesda have got a lot more voice actors now so less of the time you a shopkeeper selling to himself. If you pay attention you can still put the voice with a Fallout 3 or Oblivion character, but that's just me. I was a bit disappointed to see the persuasion wheel gone, I liked it, and now there's no sure fire way to tell if someone likes you. But all of this together adds a great sense of immersion, no not broken as often by an NPC getting caught on a step. The friendly AI can still piss you off by remaining in a door way and not moving if you want to leave, and it has the same problem as Fallout 3 (although on smaller level) being some terrain is un-walkable, which I think breaks the experience. If I think I can walk on it, most times I can. But just a little jar in the ointment.
The graphics are of the highest quality, as we all expect for en Elder Scrolls game. Voices are more emotive, which just makes it more of a shame that they haven't done enough to emote the faces or bodies when talking to someone. While fighting faces are angry and bodies move freely obviously, it's just a shame they didn't liven up the people a bit more. Also I think that they've grimed up the different races a bit too much. They look very nice and well designed, but unless you really try hard, it's hard to tell some races apart (apart from Argonians and Kajihts) with Nords looking almost no different to Bretons. The landscapes are wonderful, often you will just want to stop and save the game, just so you have a screenshot of a sunrise.
Combat game play is nice and smooth as well. Now there is a finesse to clicking the button unlike in Oblivion, because sometimes clicking the mouse when you don't want to swing your sword again will leave you helpless for a few precious seconds. Also the stamina bar is now very important, unlike Oblivions fatigue bar, giving the power-attacks and shield bashes (love them) greater weight. The ability to dual wield, or have double spells, or sword and spell just adds another level of flexibility to the game, allowing you how to play as you want. One thing I would say is that I think there are a lot less spells in the world that are useful constantly than in Oblivion. Also, at the start of a game, facing a sabre cat would be terrifying, but later on, at around level 20, especially if you only smith so its level 100 and can make dragon armour, then they become very easy to dispatch, and some NPC enemies don't level as high as you, sometimes making a few encounters very unchallenging. Something that Bethesda have brought over from Fallout 3 that I really don't care for is the kill cam style finishing moves, which leave you unable to move for a few seconds. I'm not really interested with my enemies head leaving his body.
Now I must get onto my biggest niggle about an otherwise superb game. The story. I love a good one. I buy a game based on its story. If a game has a great one, it can make up for other shortcomings, like Oblivion. In Oblivion, when doing the main quest you got a sense that the world was going to end, cities being destroyed, oblivion gates everywhere, everyone talking about it. Same with faction quests, I really felt the problems the fighters guild and mages guild had, and felt bad and frustrated when the Black Hand killed Lucien LaChance. But in Skyrim there is no sense of urgency in the game, yes a dragon attacks at the start, and that was great, I loved it, but after that there's no real threat, no real danger. And no one really talks about the world ending due to the dragons, just the blades and High Priests. And when it's over, world saved, no one registers that you've saved it. Yes you run into dragons in the wild, but they just fly around the same little area, causing no harm at all. And still remain once it's all over. Same with faction quests, the Companions (fighters) has a woefully short main quest line, that requires no build up with smaller quests, and feels like it any other day. Thieves guild is a little better with having a lot longer quest line, but ruins the experience with having a lot of the dungeon crawls as things that require no finesse, you could run through and miss all the traps just because you ran past them. They just don't have the same sense of depth in the crawls that Oblivion did. And for the Thieves and Dark Brotherhood quests, you don't even need to sneak really. In oblivion, if you got caught, you missed and awesome bonus, or failed. Whereas in Skyrim you can go ballistic, kill everyone, and just loot what you need, and only loose like 500gp, which is easier to find. In general I think the sneak skill is a bit worse than Oblivion, with having it seem a bit too hard to do effectively, but having no real consequences for not doing it right. I think, in totality, the story seems a bit too rushed, with no sense of epicness and urgency that and massive RPG like Skyrim deserves. Also, a lot of what you do doesn't even effect other characters much, because I became head of thieves guild, and I was still yelled at by everyone, never recognised as the saviour of the world. The guards seemed to know more about my activities in the Dark Brotherhood than the Assassins did. Which is a shame because some of the side quests are awesome and fun. However, as an avid Daedric worshipper, I thought that the daedric quests here, were terrible pieces of piss that really shouldn't be in there in that state (except Nocturnal due to integrated with thieves quest). Side note, you can do all the little jobs after finishing the main line, but seems a little small after saving Nocturnal's ass.
There are nice touches like the fact you will hear some stuff you remember from Oblivion, and a lot of the Lore is consistent which is great to see. My personal opinion, I just hate the fact the Dark Brotherhood changed so much, where are all the rules gone? Plus killing the emperor was piss easy, and had like no affect on anything else, except my pocket change.
Also, minor tech details, sometimes you will be annoyed because when you're sneaking unnoticed for a change, a cut scene will start automatically, even if you're invisible, and everyone will know where you are. And sometimes at shop vendors, when going through their wares, you will randomly be taken back to the speech screen. Annoying.
All in all, it's a great game, which plays beautifully, looks beautiful, and improves on the AI, voice, and game play issues of its predecessors, with minor flaws in UI, and a rather audible sigh of disappointment for the story. Definitely buy this game, if only to keep you up to date on the series, but it will also keep you entertained for hours, immersed, and what more can you ask for?
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 11/29/11
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (EU, 11/11/11)
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