Review by miyaa999

"Skyrim: A Case of Too Many Dragons"

Skyrim is one of those games that brings out the best in sand box game play. It is not as expansive as Obilivion or Morrowind was, but in its compactness is brimming with eye candy and the pomp and circumstances to what I suspect is the Penultimate Elder Scroll saga. It is great, it excels very well in all aspects and barring a few minor flaws, is the kind of game that you will think you'll play for hours without end.

Except that you end up putting it away after a few weeks. I just didn't find this game to be the same kind of “crack” that other games in the series was. And I think I have pinpointed the problem: too many dragons. Let me explain.

Unless you've were in a coma for the past several weeks, I think everyone understands the plot. You're spared from yet another “chosen one is in prison” beginning (Dear Bethesda: please start Elder Scrolls: VI with the chosen one NOT being in jail.) by a rather large dragon that pretty much scatters everyone as you were one axe blade away from execution. You immediately have to choose a side and then being your tale of slide and dice of dragons.

The problem is that dragons start attacking you from the very beginning, and after you find yourself in the middle of the first Act, they will start attacking you at about the rate of one or two dragons every fifth or sixth side-quest (or perhaps a dragon every hour and half) you find yourself in and it keeps getting more intense. It's just too much dragon. And I don't understand why they focus on you instead of luring you into a trap or forcing your hand quicker in the plot line. It just seems too much. I would have preferred that if you are on a side-quest that no dragons appear and let them only appear during the main quest. I wish Bethesda had done it this way.
(I also wished you could choose from the beginning to just get into the keep without having to choose a side immediately, but that's a very minor point.)

As the main quest continues on, you end up discovering what has happened to the Lands since Oblivion, and it's not pretty. This is sort of the fantasy equivalent of the early Dark Ages where the Romans (Imperials) have lost much of their lands and the Barbarians (Nords) are in a civil war over whether or not to remain loyal to the Empire or not. It's quite a befuddlement.

There are a whole host of characters you can meet and a thousand quests you can take up. Bethesda has developed a sort of perpetual quest where after you help a faction or group achieve the full height of success, you can continue to take random missions in order to continue it along if you wish. I sort of understand what they were trying to do in order to make the game play last longer, but I sort of wish they didn't do it this way, especially after immediately announcing that there will be DLCs for a 300 hour game. It's not a completely bad idea, I just wish this was done with a little more variety.

One of the aspects of the game play that I found to be interesting is how much of it is influenced by its best-selling Fallout 3 series. The most immediate realization of this is the lock-picking system, which is very much like Fallout with the lock picks and turning it. It's really good. (Would have like to have had a companion that could unlock a chest for you if you're not really into unlocking chests like I am.) There are other aspects that subtly draw from Fallout's success, like the creation of potions, creating and enhancing weapons and clothes. Even the game's artistic design from the font it uses to the menu design is much more modern than in previous Elder Scrolls, which surprised me. This is mostly to the good and I am glad to see that the game engine works well here.

Fighting and using magic are easy to use and the leveling system are both simple and elegant. I particularly love how the skills are done in an astronomically way as the stars show which skills there are. Some skills from previous games are removed and they've even slimmed down the character creation so that essentially you performance becomes your character's class. Downside is that you don't get the chance to change your mind after a certain point. Other elements that you had come to expect from the character creation process are still there, but it's now done in a certain way that requires more work to actually get to the places to active that element. However, the good thing is now some of them are interchangeable. For instance, the sign that you would normally announce that you have at the beginning of character creations are now put in terms of sacred monoliths that you touch to active the benefits of having that active sign. And you can change which sign you want.

Magic has two forms, the magic itself which takes magick to spend and the new dragon shouts which comes from being the Chosen One's dragon slayer. Those take finding the words of the shout to learn, and the spending of dragon souls to active them to its fullest ability. Many of these forms are quite clever and you end up wanting to use them over and over again. My only problem here is that while I can certainly see how the dragon shouts are much more powerful to use, it seems like compared to the dragons, it takes too long to use them effectively in battle, especially when dragons attack primarily in the air and essentially drag on a dragon fight for far too long.

I still think this game is one of the best this year, and is the best of the Elder Scroll series. However, considering how many other great games were released at the same time as this one, you are bound to be more likely to play with this for a while, put it down, and possibly pick it back up sometime further down the road.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/29/11

Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (US, 11/10/11)

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