Review by RPG_Guru87
"Someone's been murdered! Who? Any RPG released in the next year."
If I were a buddhist, Skyrim would be Nirvana. I have spent over 80 hours engrossed in only ONE character thus far, and even on that character I still have countless side quests to complete and I have only finished two of the four Skyrim "guild" questlines. For anyone unfamiliar to the Elder Scrolls series, the guilds sent you on various quests that rival the main storyline. With Skyrim's radiant story design, you can even continue to pick up quests from followers of the various guilds after you've completed the main quest for that faction. You know the saying "It ain't over til the fat lady sings?" Well... there are no fat women in Skyrim (literally!).
Skyrim is nearly perfect in every single aspect of its gameplay, but what it lacks in each individual section is more than compensated for in every other section. 10/10 doesn't even begin to describe the amount of depth in this game.
Controls: 9/10 - Skyrim is incredibly close to obtaining a perfect in this section. The controls are fluid, and pause and play is definitely a tactic I've come to know and love in RPGs. The new interface is much cleaner and well represented than those of Oblivion and Morrowind. I don't dare compare the HUD to the Fallout franchise as they are stylistically different games at their core.
Being able to pick and choose favorite spells/items via a menu that you can access by pushing up or down on the directional pad allows for SIGNIFICANTLY more abilities to be mapped. You can hot key various pieces of armor to equip them when in town (for better bartering or an increase in output in any crafting profession. You can hot key potions as well, which is my favorite change. Any fan of previous Elder Scrolls and Fallout titles knows how frustrating it is to accidentally chug a potion when swapping weapons or skills, and Bethesda knew it needed a change. Great success!
The only major problem I have experienced with the controls is what I like to call a "dead stop." When running and strafing at the same time, the game will occasionally stop my character completely and just begin strafing. Other minor problems I've had are missing a dragon shout despite it being off cool down, and "sticky blocking." My controller is brand new, so unless it was defective out of the box, I take these to be general problems with the game.
Graphics: 9/10 - Another section that is dangerously close to obtaining perfection. I have seen the AMAZING graphical quality on computer, but I am sad to say that it does not carry over to the 360 quite as magnificently. At a distance, everything looks fantastic, but closer inspection of various fences and vegetation show some very dumbed down graphics. While not flawless, the graphics are certainly outstanding in the modern sense.
Facial expressions, weapon animations and even the "killing blow" cinematics are quite possibly some of the best I've ever seen. I've encountered a few errors (mainly graphical: picture going out on a finishing move, etc.) where I would have to reboot, but given that I've only rebooted three times in over eighty hours of play is a testament to how solid the game was put together beforehand.
Gameplay/Content: 10/10 - I've probably spent ten hours of gameplay (unsaved) running around killing people and feeding on their corpses as a new playable "effect" in Skyrim. It's no secret that sneaking around as a vampire was entertaining in Oblivion, but the new addition to Skyrim's gameplay simply annihilates the need to become a blood sucker (which I still haven't tested yet in all of my logged time).
The massive amount of content in Skyrim is simply indescribable... Those are the only words I can use to adequately convey how I feel about the game as a whole. As I stated previously, I've logged over 80 hours of gameplay and after exploring every nook and cranny I STILL missed some things. Radiant story is simply divine. I've brawled a countless number of times for some petty gold, but mainly to assert myself as the beastly warrior I play. Everyone in the game reacts to you differently based on how you play. I would compare it mildly to Dragon Age: Origin's coercion, but it's almost natural, not forced like it was in BioWare's epic RPG.
The new take on the "guild" system is also fantastic. The Dark Brotherhood isn't the only guild that lives in the shadows. A lot of the guild quests in Oblivion were very tedious. I'm happy to say that each guild quest in Skyrim makes its mark on the world, and the final quests of the two guilds I completed give you a genuine sense of accomplishment.
I've barely scratched the surface on Skyrim's two main quest lines, and I haven't had to. The fact that I've not finished the main quests in over eighty hours of play is a testament to its longevity and insane quality of content. When Bethesda puts out a game, they annihilate any competition for RPGs in the following 6 months.
Sound: 10/10 - Soule is back at it, integrating themes from both Morrowind and Oblivion in this epic soundtrack that I plan to purchase. With any Elder Scrolls game, the music has been absolutely gorgeous. The voice acting is spot on, and the various elements of speech in towns give you the natural feel of being among the people.
In Oblivion, you heard "Someone's been murdered!" about half a million times by the same voice, but from different people. In Skyrim, everyone reacts differently to death, and some people even thank you for your crime. Even eighty hours in I pick up on little tidbits about lost treasues in Dwemer ruins that I have yet to hear.
Sound effects are also top notch. Every clank is conclusive with the weapon that is swung, minus the occasional decapitation sound. Arrows bounce off of heavy armor and shields with a thud. Lightning bolts cackle as they leave your finger tips. If you didn't know any better, you would think that you were actually present in the world.
Menu Navigation: 10/10 - The old menu system in Oblivion took time to get used to. Inventory selection got much better with Fallout, but Skyrim blows Fallout's navigational prowess out of the water. You can pin spells, armor, weapons, and potions to your favorites and access them easily in combat. Map travel is as simple as bringing up your menu and hitting the down arrow. The new perk system based on the building of a constellation is innovative and incredibly smooth. You'll find yourself just as captivated with the menus as the game itself.
Overall Skyrim gets a 10/10. Though it is not perfect in every area, the slight downfalls in the graphics and control category is more than covered in the amount of intense gameplay and the overall feel of the game. I personally do not stare at rocks for hours on end and complain that the moss doesn't look right. Dragons soaring overhead and dropping at a moment's notice, trolls actively pursuing you over the frozen tundra, fighting for freedom for all Nords in Skyrim, and massive giants chasing you away from their mammoth cheese gives you more than enough to worry about, let alone how nice the fence looks as your jump over it running for your life.
Bottom Line: Even if you aren't a fan of RPGs, I suggest purchasing Skyrim as soon as possible for the full retail value. Bethesda deserves the full amount of profits for putting out quite possibly the best RPG ever made. Until Bethesda launches the next Elder Scrolls title, I will be content playing Skyrim even if the gap is over five years and on the next gen console.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/29/11
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (US, 11/11/11)
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