Review by unclehosh
"Why is there so much to do?!"
I was never a huge fan of Role Playing Games (RPGs). All of that changed with The Elder Scrolls Morrowind. I plowed through both that game and Oblivion, and I eagerly awaited the next installment in the groundbreaking series. I was expecting a great game, so imagine how shocked I was to find that Skyrim was twice as great as I could have hoped.
There is no possible way for a two hundred hour long game to look fantastic, right? Wrong. Skyrim is so beautiful that my mouth fell open in the opening scene. Grass blows in the wind, mountains in the distance are covered in snow, and massive plains lie in between them. The map is somewhere around sixteen square miles, which is just ridiculous! The fact that this game is easily one of the prettiest games of 2011 just goes to show that Bethesda is capable of just about anything. Obviously, there are some nasty looking textures. Rocks are attached to the ground, and the water could use a little work, but to create a game this large with so few flaws in the look is beyond astounding.
The story of Skyrim is not exactly great. For now, ignore the score. The game opens with an unnamed prisoner being dragged to his execution (Sound familiar?). A dragon swoops in and your character flees, leaving the town behind. You find out that your character is a man/woman with the soul of a dragon, and he/she the only one capable of defeating Alduin, the evil dragon king. The story itself isn't some well developed plot with cliffhangers and characters that you will grow attached to. What makes the story of Skyrim so great is that the land itself has its own history. There are countless books scattered around the land that shed light on the history of Tamriel, the empire, and even connect Skyrim to previous entries in the series. So much thought clearly went into writing this game that I still can't believe the fact that I still haven't read all the volumes of SKyrim's history even after almost 150 hours of gameplay. Writing flows smoothly, and conversations make much more sense than the random things people would say to you in Oblivion. Syyrim is in every sense the most developed of any Elder Scrolls game.
The music is Skyrim is so beautiful. I found myself listening to the genius melodies on my free time, and I even put them on my iPod! Each track is orchestrated and gives and indescribable joy as you travel through the world of Skyrim. Bethesda manages to capture the right mood of each town and dungeon. Even battles convey the sense of intensity and desperation that Bethesda was so clearly going for. Few games to this day have been so successful in the musical department.
Skyrim features some truly fantastic additions to the Elder Scrolls series, while still maintaining what makes the series so loved. In a first for the series, you can now hold a weapon or spell in each hand. There are so many different combinations that any player can find exactly what works for them. There are also two handed weapons that double attack power, bows for long distance fighting, and potions for health and magic management. Skyrim also features a new shout system. After absorbing the soul of a dragon, you can unlock certain shouts after learning its word of power. Shouts can offer certain special abilities like tossing aside a twenty foot tall monster like it was the weight of a feather. The shouts are a neat addition to the series, but I rarely used them due to the fact that they take an extremely long time to recharge, and most of my spells can do similar things. Each ability can be upgraded, and the more you upgrade a certain skill, the more experience you get. After reaching a certain point, you can upgrade one of three attributes: magic, health, and stamina. After that, you can assign certain perks to each skill, like the ability to remain undetected while pickpocketing. The new upgrade system is much less tedious than it was in Oblivion, and you no longer require a bed to level up. In addition, weapons no longer break, but I don't know whether to call this good or bad. You will not spend nearly as much money now that there is no need to worry about repair hammers, but there is no sense of realism in the world. Now that your weapons don't break, some of the depth of the series seems to be stripped away. The fast traveling system from Oblivion returns, which makes travel much easier. At the start of the game, Skyrim feels so enormous that you will be left speechless. However, there are over 300 locations, many of which you will discover by accident. After about twenty hours, you will have discovered easily one third of the locations by accident. If you need to go to an area later on, you can just fast travel to it or to an area very close to it that you may have discovered. The fast travel system seems to take away the feeling of being in a massive world. I love the fast travel ability, but it makes the game feel so much smaller. Dungeons are plentiful, and most of them will not require backtracking to get to the entrance. Unfortunately, they become very repetitive, especially when considering that there are literally hundreds of them. In addition to the main story, players can join guilds. These guilds open up additional side quests, but it is a shame that most guilds are only about five quests long. Completing the missions will unlock special items, but there is very little incentive to go back after completing them. The combat of the game is unfortunately not too different from Oblivion. I know I said that there are one handed weapons and spells, but it still feels like you are hitting through air. Battles with huge bosses end up being nothing more than button mashing exercises, and necklaces and potions can make your weapons so strong that even the toughest enemies will die in just one to two hits. The difficulty of Skyrim is almost nonexistent after the first twenty hours. In the end, my Daedric weapons did over 300 damage without any enchantments! I would just run right through dungeons with enemies hitting me the entire time. Fighting them just seemed unfair, and my health meter was so large that I would come out with over 80% of it still remaining. Also, fights with dragons seem so intense at first, but they eventually become way too repetitive. I would find myself trying to fast travel, only to realize that a dragon in the distance was preventing me from doing so. After killing it in just one hit, the same thing would happen a second time. There are way too many dragons, and they are nothing more than an inconvenience. I realize that I have a lot of complaints with Skyrim, but the game does a lot right. The world is alive! People have their own schedules, and there is so much to see and do that it is likely no one will ever reach 100% completion. It is a shame that enemies can't be persuaded to stop attacking you. They will relentlessly pursue you, and there is no way to stop them. You can slaughter an innocent child right in front of a guard, and pay to have your bounty removed for just a few hundred gold pieces. Instances like this are absolutely ridiculous, and they take away from the experience. However, a game this big has to come with flaws. Glitches are abundant, and there are MANY problems, but I enjoyed the game very much.
In closing, Skyrim is a must own game. It has dominated the leaderboards for months, and I would not be surprised if this title was never removed from them. The fact that this game is so alive boggles the mind. I have never grown so attached to the map of a video game! Welcome to Skyrim.
Final Score: 10/10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/27/12
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (US, 11/11/11)
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