Review by qvp
"First, go to your door, get in the car, and go to the store."
Next, bring home this game, then ask your door to hold all of your calls for the next month or so while you are immersed in one of the most fantastic RPGs ever created. Buy it. Really, go do it.
If you have gotten to this point, you have most definitely not gotten to your door, gone to the store, and brought home the game, probably because you want a helpful review, and it's ok. There is usually doubt around a game that has been hyped up like this.
It involves a experience-skill leveling system in which you are asked to pick seven main skills, such as sneaking or blade, and become proficient in them through experience and use. After you receive ten skill ups, you go up in level, which just raises health and whatnot. In reality levels don't matter all too much, since your enemies level with you.
Aw, what--is that bad? Because it isn't. These developers made the choice for you, for your own good; and that is to avoid that base feeling of superiority by pwning some noobish rats and instead present you with a system that encourages skillful playing. By doing this, and not appealing to the lowest common denominator, they get my respect. There is no dice-system; a physical hit is a hit, and you must aim, block, dodge, parry, shoot and jump the best to win. So, how good you are isn't a direct function of time; but rather how quickly you learn the fighting system in the time you've played, which is vastly better than Morrowind.
So, that is the RPG system. The game itself is one of the most open-ended games on the market. There is a large and interesting main quest that you can do at the start and be happy with. Or, there is a mind-boggling amount of "side"-quests (I don't like "side", the word makes it feel unimportant), things to steal, people to murder gruesomely and disgustingly (with jaw-dropping ragdoll physics), zombies to slay, chapels to pray at, rogues to banish, daedra to conquer and loot to be looted, which supposedly comes in at over 300 hours. Do you think that is limiting?
The AI. In game, the radiant AI doesn't stand out as much unless you look for it. It's as if you need a special and weird situation for you to appreciate the extent of the system. I'll spare you and just say that the AI is just what the genre has needed all along; a dynamic world. Seeing people react to different things they see and act in a certain way are all great. A guest at a dinner party noted there were 5 people who were just there a minute ago, and were missing, but since I made sure I was secret; she wondered who was the murderer! She was then told that the thing advancing at her was a very large and angry dagger.
This is one of the best looking games out there. Facial expressions are portrayed extremely well, lighting is fantastic, animations are smoother (in the previous installment, they were outright horrendous) and weather effects are amazing. I keep visiting the northern city of Bruma just to look at the snow and the fog that pops up here and then. (And also to sell my illegal, evil loot).
Unfortunately, the jaw-dropping beauty comes with a price. The system requirements are one of the highest I've seen, and a lot of people will not like how it is on a DVD (although, they'd have to waste a stupid amount of CDs). I was fortunate enough to have a rig that runs it on high with decent AA and Bloom at a pleasing FPS, and it just great. On low, it looks rather bland, so make sure to buy the game knowing where your settings will be at.
The only other problem I have is the draw distance. At first, it sounds great; map textures according to how far away they are, because there will be less wasted resources. The textured environments are only mapped out in front of you, so if you are in the open, you might see a nasty line between beauty and the beast. Also, the grass appearing out of nowhere is disconcerting, but its nothing to worry about, since the magic effects and just about everything else is superb.
You never know if the sounds and the music will be as good as the rest of the game during the hype stage, because all we get are names and no real examples. However, I knew it would be great from the opening epic music sequence to the warm and kind melody that plays in innocent locations. The score is great.
There are many sounds in the game, for so many things, that I'm wondering how long it took them to acquire them all. Creaking, walking, screaming, smashing, sheathing, and shooting all have these great sounds. The voice acting, for the most part, is great. I'm still amazed that everyone has a voice. There are a few cheesy lines, but the reaction is fantastic, and you can overhear conversations and learn about a new quest.
Yes, that's only three sections, because that's what there is. There's what you see, what you hear, and what you do.
So, in the end, it gets a perfect score, simply because the overall package was awesome. Everyone did their job wonderfully.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 03/28/06
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