Review by spammo123

"Skyrim: Redefining the definition of RPG's. Again."

As for what to expect, I tell it from the perspective of someone who has played Morrowind and Oblivion.

Graphics: 9/10

Firstly, the graphics are expectably good. They seem like they are not much improvement over Morrowind, but it's the little things that get you. Soul gems being awesome shiny crystals rather than dull teal rocks, spell animations being hyped up, all new weapon and armor designs. For example, glass armor looks way better now. Before it was this unbelievably gaudy bright green stuff, now it's partly teal glass bit and a good amount of gap filling material (brass? le shrug). It looks more realistic and the restrained appearance comes off better looking. Another example would be any amount of landscape viewing. I've been taking pictures here and there of things I find to be awesome, and the majority of them are landscape. It's astonishing that they've gotten this much awesome packed into less than 6GB of install files.

Sound: 10/10

Firstly I have to praise them for not having the same voice for every person. It is so nice that I've not really been like "aha, voice B for this one" in my head. Considering how it's been going I don't think I'd be surprised if they actually have unique voices for all named characters in the game. Combat and ambient sounds are good too, ambient is especially noteworthy I think. An example would be that in this one some of the alchemy ingredients are bugs and things, and certain bugs as you come upon them they are making noise. This noise is in surround so you get a sense by sound of where the bugs are, and once you catch them it goes away as to say, "yep, that was the one making the noise, enjoy tearing his wings off."

Leveling: 9/10

For Skyrim, they dumbed everything completely down, which is nice. No more attributes at all, and no more primary/secondary skills. Every skill is equally yours to use and raise, and leveling them is relatively quick and painless. Level-wise, I'm in my early 20's and I've not yet visited a trainer for it, but my weapon skill is in the high 60's already, just from using it in combat. And I'm not using one-handed exclusively, I use my bow or a bit of magic sometimes, and I have a companion who does alot of the work too. Crafting skills level way easier too, and unlike MMO's there is no "gray line" for crafting recipes. I decided late last night to push smithing because I wanted to get at bonuses for weapon/armor improvements. I purely made leather bracers, perhaps the lowest mat-req crafting available. Only a few need be made for each skill point, and every level you can train 5 points too. I managed to get up to the 90's before essentially deciding to go to bed and finish up today. Leveling itself has only two things to check-box. First you pick between health, mana, and stamina. Each raise gets 10 points, and stamina gives 5 points of burden, since without strength there was need of some marker for this. The other component to leveling is spending a talent point. Like WoW there are trees and various special bonuses in talents, but unlike WoW there is a tree for each skill, about 10-15 points per tree. They have pre-req talents of course, though admittedly it's not written anywhere other than having trace-lines and you don't get errors for trying to pick one up you haven't dug into, you just can't spend on them. Each talent except the first one in a tree has a skill req to pick it up, so they throttle you from getting some of the more broken talents from a skill you hardly use (heavy armor weighs nothing, anyone?). The effects vary, and I recommend reviewing it a bit because the details so far suggest that while you could max everything skill-wise, you probably cannot get all perks.

Gameplay: 9/10

It is expectedly win. I do find myself missing the button for picking up and tossing around environment items for physics play, but the physics engine is still solidly there. I think it's sharper than before, just not standing in the foreground for us to play with. Combat is epic, and word is that it is made more so by playing as a melee fighter. I have been doing so, and it has been good stuff. Monsters don't just run flat out at you once they aggro, they can choose to run at low health, or even hide behind corners if you're using ranged. Ranged attackers will strafe a little just like we do to avoid projectiles. Magic isn't just launch projectile, there's alot of channeled magic effects including heals. Dual wielding magics makes for fun, you can hold a heal while holding your attack spell and spend less time menu jumping or hotkey switching, more time in the action. Or you can dual wield, and with the right perks do even more devastating damage or heal much more rapidly. My friend has been focusing more on magic than I, and thus far the one complaint (if you could call it that) is that he's having trouble finding certain spells, most specifically Soul Trap. Melee combat has the classic blocking but now also shield bashing. It is a bit hard to use since some of the attackers are pretty relentless, and bashing uses stamina which is often in short supply during combat. I find myself thinking that while block is a fun skill, it is also a bit pointless and perhaps I should have gone 2-hander and not bothered with blocking at all, as most of the time I don't bother.

Quests: 9/10

To start with the world map is worth noting as it is fully rendered and all the cave/dungeon places you've cleared are specifically marked "Cleared" so you know where to dungeon crawl. I'm not sure if dungeons respawn, but thus far I've been eyeballing places I cleared early on and haven't seen it happen. A couple places I cleared did not mark it, and I came back later to find it restocked with targets, one of which I went through twice because two different sidequests sent me there. The second was a "get the item" quest, and since I'm a loot fanatic it clearly wasn't there the first time. This is good, since it means no finding quest items before you're on the quest it seems. Dynamic questing is added to pretty much everything this time around, you get choices in perhaps every dialog option. There is no karma system though, so feel free to be evil when it suits you. For the record, I only did so once so far and it was because the good option got the quest guy killed as a completion and I get no reward, and the bad option *I* kill him and get a super epic reward. I think I'll go with epic reward over no reward when there's no other side effects, and overlook my principles. The quest journal has active and completed quests, and there is a section in active labeled "Miscellaneous" where it has many many quests it dumps and just shows you one step on that quest. You can mark any or all quests as active to put compass/map markers for, and there's an option to mark a quest float when near an object/person/door in the view area. The only complaint I'd give is there's no completed quests section for the Miscellaneous quests. Plenty of sidequests do not fall in this bundle though, so you'll have enough stuff in your side quest completed section to review.

Miscellaneous Notes:

- Fast Travel! Outside of some towns (perhaps all, but I've found a few that I couldn't locate it) are stables, and in this case there's a cart guy who will take you to any major city for a small price. You do not innately get the ability to fast travel to them, but for a small fee you are dropped at the gates to get the map marker and can fast travel from then on. Some would consider this a downgrade from the previous system of towns at least being fast travel at all times, but I like it. It adds depth to how/why you know where that town is I suppose.

- Horses: There are horses in the game, I've yet to explore that one since the previous games they really weren't worth consideration. I can say however that it's an improvement. Previous games if you went over burden you physically could not move. In this one if you're over limit you can walk slowly, which means you can walk slowly to your horse if need be, and the horse enables you to fast travel while over-encumbered!

- Companions/Followers: In previous games you only really got people to tag along with you if they were on a quest with you. As an example, the Oblivion mods for companions required giving you a quest to have them with you. In this one, I've gotten companionship as a reward for certain quests. The main quest in the early steps gave me a follower who has been trading between loafing about my house and following me about. They aren't very smart but just having the option is a massive improvement upon the previous games. Additionally, they seem to be no-kill unless you kill them yourself, so even if they're worthless in a specific battle, they still can get back up and become involved, sometimes helping your strategy on a hard fight. "Hey could you distract him while I heal?" Indeed they do that innately, to their own peril. But the other function they serve is pack mules! You can give them any amount of junk, up to their burden limit. And Skyrim doesn't tell you where that limit is but items gray out when they weigh too much for the companion to carry, so you will know as you fill them up. You can of course disband them or tell then "wait here... forever" if you think having one is broken.

- Traps/Puzzles: I think it's an improvement over Oblivion in this field. Traps are a bit more obvious and at the same time as you are rushing through a dungeon it's easy to miss a tripwire or pressure plate. Sometimes key items are on Indiana Jones platforms to trigger a trap for picking them up. Some magical traps have soul gems in them that allow firing. Break out that bow and arrow! You can trip tripwires or pressure plates, knock items/soul gems out of position before walking into things. As for puzzles, I've seen a few 3-part combination locks and some other stuff, so it's been interesting in that respect. My friend tells me that lockpicking is like Fallout, or for those like me who don't know it's a keyhole and you rotate your pick to find the right angle and turn the lock. The only complaint here is when you break a pick, your position is reset (unless you dig into picking for a perk that presets the pick near the unlock position), Harder locks have EXTREMELY tight ranges of picking, but they are not impossible. Additionally, don't bother quickloading when you find the unlock, it moves in my experience and you just have to waste 30-40 picks again to crack a master lock. With a gentle touch you can usually get 2-4 attempts from a pick on a harder lock.

- Gathering/Alchemy: The ore deposits have mining animation and deplete, gathering flowers/mushrooms/etc has visible removal of stuff so you get a sense that you've depleted that plant or whatever, but most important to note is things like fishing or bug catching. There are butterflies, dragonflies, and other such bugs that you catch them as they fly around or land on things. Not swarms, individual bugs that vanish from environment when caught as expected. As for fishing, you just dive into your nearest river or pond and look for fish and snatch em. I've seen beehives and gotten honey and a bee from it (Sorry, no angry swarm repercussions to my knowledge). As for alchemy itself, at any skill level you can figure out all the powers on an ingredient, just try them against each other to figure it out, or find a guide that says "these items do blah" and only combine the magical combo. No need to have upgraded mortar and pestle/calcinator/etc, an alchemy lab is an alchemy lab.

- Enchanting: First off, to find effects to enchant with you need to disenchant a magical item, so if you want to use Fortify Heavy Armor you just disenchant anything that has it, and you're set to start. Enchanting potency for armor is controlled by the soul gem, and weapons can be adjusted to increase charges or potency (to a limit, as it seems you cannot make a one-charge 500 triple-element damage doomstick). Perks increase potency and I saw one to allow putting two effects on one item.

Overall: 9/10

I hesitate to give anything a perfect marker because it can clearly be improved upon, until the day gaming is VR thought-enabled reality with graphics and sound fed straight into your nervous system and look and feel is as real as it gets. Sadly we're still looking through the window at an impressive but clearly CGI world, no smells or things to touch. But for modern game, this is as good as it gets. Morrowind and Oblivion were Game of the Year upon release and I expect Skyrim will likely land the same accolades. As for me, I was playing it the moment it came out, and Skyward Sword coming out a week later gets to wait for me to be satisfied. I think it speaks for itself that Skyrim is worth playing over a ZELDA.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/14/11

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

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