Review by _NotoriousIynx_

"Once you start up your first file and explore the first scene of Skyrim, you've seen all of Skyrim."

Once you start up your first file and explore the first scene of Skyrim, you've seen all of Skyrim. Everything from the design of dungeons to the architecture is copied and pasted all over the world, making the game feel like it was constructed with very limited assets. The size of the world isn't a problem and I find the size to be decent, but it lacks in variety. Its not just the landscape that is lacking, either. The combat feels all the same and the schools of magic are really limited this time around, even people who just joined the Elder Scrolls with this installment should see how lacking magic can get.

The leveling system forces you to take skills you normally would never just to finish skill trees. I blame the bad leveling system on the fact the game is continuing to use such an outdated method as skill trees. Skill trees are too linear and restrictive, especially for a game like this. I would love something along the lines of a "skill grid" which splits and intersects into swords, axes, or blunt (using one-handed as an example).

In addition to the skill trees, each skillset is very limited. Each school of magic really only has three unique spells, and each of them does nearly the same thing. Alteration especially got hit the hardest with some of my favorite spells being removed -- Open Lock, Burden and Feather. Fire, Frost and Shock are really all the same spell with a different effect placed over them. Its very unlikely you will run into someone who is so protected against any of the three that you will be at a disadvantage. You can easily kill someone with 50% Frost Resistance in a matter of a few seconds with frost magic. Its actually quite sad how much magic was downgraded in this game. I hear a lot of complaints about how in later levels, destructive magic doesn't scale with level, so it continues to do the same amounts of damage or something. Despite all of this, the way skills are handled in Skyrim is definitely better than most games. In order to actually level up your smithing skill, you need to actually go out and start smithing.

The setting is bland and looks washed out. None of the towns in Skyrim will ever be as memorable as the bright and happier-looking Imperial City. The first time you saw an Oblivion gate was pretty awesome for me and changed the whole color of the world. I remember hearing how there was something like 200 dungeons in the game a while back before release. In reality, there's only about six unique dungeons -- cave full of spiders, cave full of draugrs, cave full of bandits. The other three unique ones are all the previous ones with a pressure panel-activated trap door. All of the dungeons are very combat-heavy; there will almost never be any puzzles in any of the dungeons. The very first one you come upon does have a super obvious puzzle which involves turning statues to reveal a certain pattern. This same puzzle popped up in a few other dungeons as well.

Even the quests feel all the same. Pretty much all of the quests will involve you going to one of the six unique dungeons and getting some item. I'll try not to compare Skyrim to Oblivion too much, but really compare it to the entirety of the western roleplaying game genre. Almost every game will have some good ratio of "go here and kill that" to sneaking missions or diplomatic missions (Oblivion did have that great whodunit mission). Most people will claim that its good that Skyrim doesn't force you into these mission types, but I think its worse that Skyrim really doesn't give you the option at all.

Even quests from guilds (which tended to be the better quests in Oblivion) are much of the same in Skyrim. The Thieve's Guild in Skyrim was ridiculously boring, involving only local bullying jobs and some more obnoxious dungeon crawling, where as Oblivion had some great heist missions. It was a bit cooler that Skyrim featured a much more underground Thieve's Guild, which felt inspired by ghetto culture, but this added to how one-sided the guild was. All the guild is is just evil where as the Thieve's Guild of Oblivion was very mixed and dynamic in beliefs, even if the whole Robinhood-inspired Thieve's Guild scenario has been played to death. Some of the guild forced you to take certain actions to continue the quest lines, which is understandable to some extent, but still annoying. The companion's quest line won't continue unless you decide to become a werewolf. I thought I was doing something wrong because I didn't want to become a werewolf, but still continue the companion's quest line, though I didn't know how I could accomplish this. I felt like I was forced into becoming a werewolf. Of course, its understandable if you see it as the other companions won't accept you, but on the other hand, look at everything you've already done from them and you continue to accept them after you found out their secrets.

Skyrim could of taken many lessons from Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. Skyrim should of not been so combat-heavy and gave many more abilities which allows us to avoid combat or perform non-combat related tasks. Alchemy has always been one of my favorite past times in games and I felt like it was much more enjoyable in Oblivion. I don't mean to come off as an Oblivion fanboy by comparing some aspects of Skyrim to that game. Truthfully, Oblivion was the blandest of the modern Elder Scroll games. It's actually really interesting that Skyrim took a lot of inspiration from Nordic culture. Oblivion felt very traditional and uninspired by any culture or mythology, other than the most basic of fantasy settings. To be fair, Oblivion did have much brighter, vivid colors. Skyrim boasts about its graphics, and yet the only colors I see are brown and grey.

Verdict:

Lack of variety is definitely what plagues Skyrim the most. There's just too many combat-oriented, dungeon crawling fetch quests for its own good. The skills feel very limited and force you to choose things you will never use. The way leveling of skills has been handled is really great, however. 7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/07/13

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


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