Review by nastynate3118
"All that glitters is not gold"
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is without question one of the most hyped games of all time. It seems that everyone has been talking about it and applauding its depth, length and gameplay. I have never played any of the other Elder Scrolls games and am not terribly familiar with Western RPGs. This game took some time for me to adjust to and I feel like it takes a tremendous amount of time before the game starts to get good. Overall, I was impressed with the ambition of this game but I consider far and away from one of the all-time great games that some make it out to be.
Skyrim features the player exploring the titular world completing quests and attempting to discover his own inner-power and save the world from a dangerous threat. The game is extremely open-ended and there are multiple quest paths that are open to you. The sheer amount of freedom this game offers in unbelievable. There is a ton of customization available to the player that allows you to mold your player-character any way you wish. At the beginning of the game you are able to choose what race they are and customize every tiny detail of their appearance, although this is moot because you will rarely ever see their face in the game beneath the heavy amount of armor the character wears. In addition to their appearance, you can customize their skill set and certain combat preferences.
The freedom in this game allows you to do as many side quests as you would like or do the main story of the game at your own pace. There is a nice menu that keeps track of all of the quests you can do and your progress in each one. Because the game is so expansive and massive, there is a little quest tracker thing at the top of the screen that always directs you where to go. It is not the best looking tool ever but it is a necessary evil to help get you through the game. My main criticism of these side quests is that many of them are simple, tedious fetch quests that ultimately boil down to you running to a location that is indicated on a map and retrieving an item for someone. Not all of the quests are like that, but they all have a monotonous and boring feel to them.
As the game goes on, dragons will start to appear on the overworld screen and try and attack you. These battles are fairly challenging and add some needed tension and excitement to the gameplay. You can outrun them if you don't feel like dealing with the angry dragon but I enjoyed fighting them.
The combat in this game is questionable, at best. I like the fact that you can use multiple perspectives in this game (first or third person) and it helps in certain combat situations, such as fighting with a sword vs. fighting with a bow/arrow. The fighting itself is a bit of a mixed bag. Most enemies die in a few hits but I experienced some questionable combat physics and collision detection. At times enemies can spam attacks on you while you hopelessly swing at them and other times you dominate them and they have no chance of defeating you. There is a notable lack of balance and consistency with the combat.
There are also a high number of glitches that bug the game. I found myself stuck in certain areas and other strange things kept happening to me. I experienced one instance of the game freezing on me.
The gameplay has a pretty strong foundation and there are plenty of quests to be completed and areas to explore. The game sometimes favors quantity over quality and as a result gameplay suffers. The combat is nothing really to celebrate and lacks balance and as a result the game wisely chooses to make exploration and questing the main focus of the game.
As you can see, I am not a big fan of the interface in Skyrim. First off, the game is plagued by loading screens. I understand that the game is massive and this becomes necessary, but it goes back to my point of the game favoring quantity over quality. Another thing I immediately noticed with the game is how tiny the text is. I was playing on a 32'' HDTV and I had trouble reading the text (my vision is just fine). You seriously have to squint half the time you play this game to read the text.
There is a huge plethora of items that can be collected as you play the game. You can hold as many as you'd like but eventually your character will have too much weight on them and will move very slowly. These items clutter up menu space and make it very sloppy. I like the thought behind being able to collect pretty much everything you can find in the game, but it is unnecessary and makes the menus a chore to navigate.
There is a map that becomes essential to playing this game, but it can be a bit unclear. This also is coupled with the fact that the little ticker at the top of the screen that is supposed to guide you is very vague and is full of useless information.
On a plus side, there is a very helpful feature with the interface that makes the game far more playable. The Favorite feature allows you to move items, spells and weapons to a little submenu that can be accessed during gameplay. It eliminates the need to navigate through the clunky menus while in the heat of combat and makes the gameplay more fluent.
Skyrim is interesting in the fact that it does not place plot at the centerpiece of the game. Instead, exploration and completing quests is the heart and soul of the experience. This is a major contrast with Japanese RPGs such as the Final Fantasy series. You are a dragon-born warrior who seeks to try and rid the land of a dangerous force that is wreaking havoc on the land of Skyrim via dragons. The world of Skyrim is very deep and has a complex amount of terms and mythology that makes the game tough to get into at first. The character you play as has very little backstory and is hard to connect with.
As for the story itself, the script is well written but the pacing is not very good. The game moves at a snail's pace and really does not pick up until about seven hours into the playthrough, which is far too long. The characters are well done and shine when they discuss how to deal with the problems of Skyrim. The ending to the main story is practically non-existent and is a letdown considering how much is built up for the fight with the main villain of the game (who is also very forgettable).
The story is really only interesting when the characters interact with each other and move the plot along. Otherwise do not expect a lot from the story of the game, as it may leave you in a comatose.
At first glance, the graphics in Skyrim are astounding. The developers create an entire world and bring it to life very well. Each town is given a unique amount of identity and in terms of level and dungeon design there is variety. The developers added a few nice touches such as a slow motion killing sequence. It randomly occurs during the conclusion of a battle and looks neat. The fields and enemies also look pretty nice and are given a tremendous amount of detail.
Many of the overworld areas look pretty similar and tend to be hard to distinguish from each other, especially with the snowy areas. The characters in this game for the most part are well done but hair is something that the developers struggled with. Admittedly, hair is very hard to design in a video game and make look good, but it has been done before. Another strange oddity with the animation in this game is the jumping motion of your character. It is one of the most drawn-out and ridiculous jumping motions I have ever seen. It almost looks like your character is trying to do an impersonation of a bird.
Besides these minor flaws, the graphics in this game are very strong.
The best way to describe the music in this game is very atmospheric. It does not have any catchy melodies or music that will be stuck in your head, but the string arrangements in this soundtrack are beautiful. One song that really stands out for me is the theme for the town of Whiterun. It is an outstanding composition and is full of emotion. The soundtrack is very well done and contains an epic feel to it that boasts several pieces that really tug at your heart strings.
The sound effects are numerous and sound great. No older game can really match the quality of sounds this game provides. The voice acting is also very well done and sounds crisp, but occasionally the actors exaggerate their lines and sound overly dramatic. This tends to distract from the experience and makes some of the dialogue pretty laughable. Aside from that, the audio is excellent.
Play Time/Replayability - 10/10
I finished the main story with minimal involvement in side quests in 15 hours and 3 minutes and then continued with various quests after that. This may seem short for an RPG but the game was meant to be played at a slow pace and by branching off the main story path. The ultimate amount of time to play this game could easily push 80+ hours. I like the fact that the play time can really be what you want it to be and there is a nice amount of flexibility with it.
The replay value with this game is very high. There are multiple difficulty settings and tons of side quests that can be completed. Each playthrough can be different considering you can play as different races and have different abilities emphasized. This is definitely a game that you can play multiple times.
+Plenty of customization available
+Tons of freedom and very open-ended
+Dragons make combat more interesting
+Favorite feature streamlines menu selection
+Environments are given an astounding amount of detail
+Slow motion kill sequence is a nice addition
+Atmospheric soundtrack sounds beautiful
+Very high replay value
+Flexible play time
-Combat is questionable and lacks balance
-Glitches can be apparent
-Side quests are tedious and repetitive
-Loading screens are numerous
-Text is tiny and barely readable
-Menus are cluttered with useless items and hard to navigate
-Story's pace is very slow and dull
-Jumping animation is unnatural
-Some of the voice acting sounds exaggerated
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim feels like it favors quantity over quality. Given all the hype that this game received, I was expecting a very good game. For the most part, it is passable but certainly does not live up to its reputation as a masterpiece of this generation. It has several noticeable flaws and can only stay entertaining for so long. At times, it almost feels like an offline MMORPG. While there are a lot of good things to say about it, I found it boring at times and underwhelming. Maybe you will enjoy it more than I did, but do not expect a groundbreaking title.
Final Score: 8.416/10 rounded to 8/10
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/12
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (US, 11/11/11)
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