Review by Goukakyuu91
"TES V: Skyrim - brimming with character, but ultimately bleak and barren."
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was known for being story-driven and dramatic, but does the same apply to TES V: Skyrim? Will Skyrim survive the battle against other RPGs? Let's find out. LOWER THE GATES!
Skyrim's plot is simple enough; Skyrim is in turmoil, due to a civil war and the return of the dragons. You, the Dragonborn, are tasked with stopping Alduin the strongest of the dragons as well as their leader from destroying the entire planet of Nirn. In my opinion, the story is corny. How often has this prevent destruction of the world' idea been used now? Bethesda could've made the plot revolve around only the civil war. It would've been enough. The civil war is fought between the Empire and the Stormcloaks, which are the Imperials and nationalist Nords respectively.
While the plot is intriguing, the execution leaves much to be desired. As you play the game, it becomes apparent that most of the main quest is a go there, do this' experience: a chore. Hardly ever is it the case that a quest's plot surprises you. Most quests don't offer branching paths - therefore, it reminds me of shooter games. So much for role playing. You also get to slay a dragon far too soon - this takes away the excitement when fighting the final boss. And here I thought Final Fantasy XIII was repetitive! At the end' of the game, everything's restored, but nobody cares. You are simply left alone, and you don't receive any reward. Hello? Dragonborn here! You know, legendary savior?
The plot is adequate, but the main quest lacks RPG elements. It also leaves you unfulfilled at every turn in the road.
Skyrim's gameplay has evolved from that of Oblivion, but in some ways, it's also seriously devolved. I will explain my views in several different subsections, starting with the in-game world.
- The World
Skyrim's world is huge, and contains many things for you to explore a Bethesda staple. But the question is: does quantity equal quality? The answer is no. While it's nice that it feels like the game world has no borders, there isn't a vibrant world contained within them. For example: I once came across a shack in the woods, but there was nothing to gain from talking to the owner. She didn't provide a quest, and the house was empty. Dungeons' outward appearances vary, but they all contain the same boring puzzles, such as one where you have to turn stone tablets to match the alignment shown. And if that wasn't enough, you will fight the same enemy in every dungeon. Whether the Draugr Deathlord is called Jeff or Herbert, it's still a generic enemy. Those enemies carry so-called unique' weapons, which are actually common weapons that bear a magical effect.
The map of Skyrim doesn't suit the game, as it's in 3D and reminds you that you're not the Dragonborn looking at his map. It's also hazy; after all this time, I still don't know the relative position of Winterhold compared to the other cities. This is because the map is zoomed in too far for you to see in its entirety. It also contains clouds and fog, since it's a realistic representation. Why change Oblivion's map so drastically?
The citizens are detailed because they often share their life stories, but since listening to them doesn't affect anything, would you care?
- The Quests
The quests don't improve the situation. The main quest feels unfinished and anticlimactic, and nearly all the other quests show the same issue. You're trusted by quest givers unconditionally, and you'll become the head of your guild without much effort. The associated quests are tedious and undeserving of the word epic'. Some quests are really engaging, but most end disappointingly. Not only that, but you never bond with any of the characters or feel at home anywhere. Quests had an excellent narrative in the previous installment, and built up to a great ending. Not so in Skyrim. You may want to compare Oblivion's and Skyrim's Dark Brotherhood questlines to see what I mean. To top it off, the majority of quests yield no rewards like weapons or useful items only money. Even after slaying a dragon you receive gold, and for what purpose? Visiting stores is unnecessary, as almost everything there can be found anywhere.
Add to all that I mentioned the lack of quest creativity and decision making, and you're in for a shallow experience.
- The Combat
Combat has been improved significantly. You can now dual-wield weapons and spells as you see fit. This makes it possible to combine attacks to play as a jack of all trades, or to be more specialized in a pure form of combat.
Despite the aforementioned, combat is shallow. If you play the game as an archer or assassin type character, you will wonder why you can't place traps or do anything guileful. Sneaking is really the only thing you can do. In archery, you no longer have to aim high, unless you're very far away from the enemy. This detracts from the experience. I wish archery were more realistic, deadly and skill-demanding. The enemies are all basically the same, and you can use the same tactic on all of them. Magic is the most enjoyable way to go. The destruction tree allows you to place traps (why CAN I now?) and there are some useful spells, one of them being an electrical attack that leaps to multiple targets. Melee combat is better than before, as abilities have been added in the form of perks. Finishing moves seem random; if you click away, one will happen.
Combat lacks strategic elements, but has been improved. Most of the quests don't pull you in and lack interesting rewards. Sadly, you will find the realm quite void when you realize there's nothing to gain from exploring. All that remains is disappointment.
Skyrim´s graphics are impressive, though they don´t seem to handle outside spaces in daylight well. I say this because during the day everything has a sallow appearance. Fortunately, this is not apparent when it´s night. This must´ve been an attempt at making the game look more gritty, but it´s detrimental to the province´s beauty. The lighting is slightly pallid, with fire that's always pale yellow in color. On top of that, there's a general lack of contrast in the game that can only be fixed by downloading mods. It's a shame that, for example, inns aren't as atmospheric as they should be due to that.
As far as I know, Skyrim was created specifically for the consoles, then ported to the PC. This is why the graphics aren´t up to date, and you will need to - again - download mods to significantly improve them. That said, everything looks good from a distance; it's when you get close to things that you see how horrendous they look. That's why I recommend downloading a high resolution texture pack.
All in all, the graphics are impressive, but not as pure as the game requires.
What soundtrack? I looked up the songs on Youtube, but I couldn't remember hearing them. It's comparable to elevator music. The only pieces I recall hearing are the battle themes, one of them being a remix of the main theme. Indeed, all the music sounds so alike, there's no reason not to mute it. The music is made up of drums, a violin and a flute, and that's about it. I must also mention that the music is used in a terrible way; suspenseful scenes aren't intensified by music. In fact, the music is mostly absent during scenes that need it the most. That said, the music fits the game well, and isn't too loud when it shouldn't be.
The few actors have no doubt done their best to deliver. But while the main characters do a good job, the others perform moderately. They sound scripted and unnatural. As I said, there are only a few actors for the possibly hundreds of characters. Most of you will think: 'Duh! They can't hire a huge bunch of actors, that would make it expensive!'' I disagree with that notion. If you look at the cast, you will notice that most of the actors are experienced. This undoubtedly costs more than hiring fresh talent.
Sound effects are nice and realistic. Shock spells sound a bit weak. Creatures sound the way they ideally should, and ambient sound effects sound clear and proper. The critical hit' sound effects occasionally heard sound like clanging pots and pans. I don't know where they come from. All I know is that I don't want to hear them again.
Overall, while the soundtrack fits the world of Skyrim and its boss fights, songs are often misplaced and sound too much alike. The main theme is arguably one of the best theme songs of any game ever created. The acting is just acceptable and there are not enough voice actors for NPCs.
Overall, Skyrim is a fine game that is deep in some areas. However, most quests are nothing but chores. Bethesda encourages you to explore Skyrim, but there's not much worth exploring. In its quest to become more immersive, Skyrim sacrifices drama and storytelling in favor of gameplay, ironically sacrificing immersion in doing so.
Skyrim has bitten off more than it can chew, resulting in all-around mediocrity. This game is great to start with if you don't have experience with RPGs. If you do, rent it first, or look for something else.
Score: 6.5/10, which rounds up to 7/10.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/02/12, Updated 06/14/12
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (EU, 11/11/11)
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