Review by kigl

"Bethesda Once Again Setting the Bar"

The fifth game of the excellent Elder Scrolls series of games, Skyrim offers an impressive and massive world for the player to explore and plunder. The game is quite long itself and a single playthrough can take away months of your time. If you have a social life, you might very well lose it playing this game.

Summary(for those who don't want to read):

Gameplay: 9.25/10
Graphics: 9.5/10
Sound: 9.75/10
Replayability: High
Overall: 9.5/10

Recommended: If you have a PC which can handle it, I recommend the PC version. Having access to the console commands can counter many of the glitches/short falls of this game without having to wait for a patch. Otherwise this game would have a perfect 10/10.
It also opens of a realm of mods and other things adding even more replayability. For those who can't stand a mouse/keyboard, just
get a wired 360 controller or wireless adapter and enjoy.

Pros:
-Fluid, visceral combat
-Perk system makes leveling feel rewarding
-Numerous viable, unique ways to play game
-Beautiful graphics (from afar) and huge landscape
-Sound adds to the aesthetic experience
-Satisfying experience throughout the game/good pacing

Cons:
-Few minor glitches and game breaking glitches (will be patched)
-Expoitable crafting system(avoidable if desired)
-Simplicity of UI and leveling (some may see this as an improvement)
-Ease in difficulty/Lack of truly scaling enemies(again some may see as improvement)
-Interrupting NPC's during important dialogue
-Lack of true character immersion and character development (if you want that even)

Gameplay:

Most important to the game is the gameplay, which, when compared to Oblivion and Morrowind, feels much more fluid and commanding. The game fits any style of play quite suitably. Whether you use a bow, fling spells, or hack through the game with melee weapons, the game never feels limiting in a sense. Inclusion of VATS-style slow-motion and special killing blows makes the combat feel ultimately more satisfying, and does not detract from the flow of combat at all. However, the lack of inclusion of this for spells was disappointing.

Additionally added to the game is a more extensive crafting system, however this can be usually abused(explained in last paragraph of gameplay). The player has three options to them available via Enchanting, Smithing, and Alchemy. Players can create their own armor and weapons, enchant their own gear, and brew their own potions. Perk investment unlocks further improvements as well. In a game lacking a Diablo-like random loot system, this proves quite useful. However, there is no spellcrafting in this game, unlike Oblivion. This proves quite disappointing, as spell damage is a set value for various spells and cannot be improved via any items. This makes Destruction magic pale in comparison to Archery and melee later on, however, it is still potent enough to easily get through the game.

Leveling is different from many other Elder Scrolls games. Characters level by using skills more and more and this contributes to an overall level bar. Once this bar fills, the character level increases and the character level increases. At this time the player must add 10 points to health, stamina, or mana and place a perk point in a specific skill(an idea borrowed from Fallout 3 and New Vegas). This simplified leveling system has its benefits and at the same time is limiting. It is an improvement over Oblivion's leveling system, which many complained of, but the simplicity might discourage some. The perks are actually quite exciting and add a rewarding sense upon leveling.

Another true flaw of this leveling system, is late game leveling. In order for the player after he maxes the major skills is to start playing the game utilizing skills he has no perks invested in. Once the player reaches this point, it would probably be more enjoyable to start a new character as this only occurs many many hours into the game. Or the player could attempt to rejoin the real social world. The choice is theirs to make.

Disappointingly, similar to Fallout 3/New Vegas, enemies don't level with the player. True, tougher enemies are introduced as you level and become more common, but these enemies are still set level and will die quite easily after the player hits about level 30. The combat negates this lack of challenge, as it is still ultimately satisfying to decapitate say a bandit no matter the difficulty. And if the player ultimately wants a challenge, they are free to go fight a giant naked with nothing more than a fork and butter knife (literal usable weapons in the game) if they so choose.

Dragon fights are not quite as they are depicted in previews. Many times the dragon will still simply fly overhead, refusing to attack until it encounters an NPC. At this time, it will usually stay overhead and breathe fire/ice upon the player and the populace, out of range of a melee character much to their dismay. As they land, they will simply snarl and bite in a predictable fashion. After many random encounters with these dragons, it becomes simply more amusing to watch the dragon fight a bear or a town. As the player levels, the player will encounter more difficult versions of these dragons, but at this point they are still almost a walk in the park.
Detracting from the game are the vast amounts of glitches that Bethesda as a studio is notorious for. Though not nearly as buggy as Fallout: New Vegas, the game has a few game-breaking glitches that don't allow the player to advance in certain quest lines. An example of this is during the Companions quest line (equivalent of the Fighter's Guild in previous games) a certain animal needed to be killed at a specific location, however, it was already dead upon arrival. With this occurring, the ability to advance this quest led to inability to advance this any further. While these will be corrected in future patches, they still interrupted the flow of enjoyment from an otherwise near perfect game. There are also the slew of small glitches which simply add hilarity into the game. A simple search into this would reveal backwards-flying dragons, flying horses, or the occasional floating NPC. These make every player's experience unique and would be one of the few times that a glitch makes the game even more enjoyable.

Also another potential detracting factor, is the exploitable factor of the crafting professions. There is a loop in which the player can use Alchemy to increase their Enchanting skill. This in turn allows the player to enchant items to say, increase their Alchemy skill. These can be used to make enchants that increase smithing skill as well. This loop can continue, allowing the player to make game-breakingly good gear or make Destruction magic free to cast. The exploit of these skills requires perk investments, however, and the player can choose to ignore it making it a non-factor if avoided.

Graphics:

The graphics in this game look quite excellent; however there are a few flaws. The game looks beautiful from afar, with lush landscapes and breath-taking mountains and rivers. The sheer size of this game is quite impressive. However, if the player decides to zoom in on a wall, the textures look pretty terrible. Only noticeable upon close inspection, if the player decides to let this bother them, then Skyrim is probably not for them and they should look into going to an art museum for some aesthetic enjoyment instead.

Many times throughout the game, certain things such as the texture of the water would simply appear black. This does not really detract from the experience in the least, so it is not really of concern. Minor glitches like this will most likely be patched in the future.

Sound:

The soundtrack to this game sets the mood and gets the blood pumping. A peaceful symphonic peace will switch to have heavy percussive sounds and chanting as a dragon begins to attack for a random encounter. The voice acting is also markedly better and a little more varied than Oblivion. You will swear you hear the same voice-actor at times but this is not nearly as common as it was in Oblivion.

At a few minor points, since events to occur while dialogue occurs between the player and an NPC, other NPC's will attempt to chime in random thoughts, drowning occasional important dialogue. Instead you might hear some rendition of “Ragnar the Red” as you try to learn important facets of the main story.

The radiant AI adds some level of immersion into the game. Guards and NPC's will often comment or react differently to you based on your major skills or quests you have completed. This immersion pales in a sense to say a Bioware game, however, it is an attempt nonetheless and is an improvement upon the old.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/12

Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (US, 11/11/11)


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