Review by TrueAnarchist
"Attempting to take your life away - - - and you won't complain."
The Elder Scrolls series is one of the most long lasting and profound series within the confines of the RPG genre. It is widely applauded for it's attention to detail and the hypnotizing ability to absorb a player into a world that is not their own.
Bethesda recieved attention of the general public and wide critical acclaim upon their release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It was a deeply engrossing game, with deep stories and an atmosphere that few games had ever matched before (and have yet to have matched since.) Morrowind released to the Xbox community, recieving Bethesda a much wider community than their formerly niche audience; ad this was only amplified upon the release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. While now often scolded for it's removal of some elements, Oblivion was an excellent game, and was truly breathtaking upon it's release. Boasting what was then, amazing AI, fantastic scenery and graphics, along with an overhauled real time combat system, Oblivion would go on to be one the best-selling and most widely-acclaimed RPGs of all time.
No doubt, Bethesda has had a big load on their shoulders, but the question on everyone's mind is, "Does it live up to the hype?" And I hear your pleas dear reader, allow me to answer you: Yes. Yes it does.
Bethesda did a lot to make sure that the majority of Skyrim was guarded from the public eye before release, and thank the nines that the did! The world of Skyrim has a sense of mystery to it that you will spend hours upon hours of your life investing yourself into. And you will somehow manage to never regret it.
GRAPHICS : 9/10
The first major change you will take note of, coming in from Oblivion, is just how much of a facelift The Elder Scrolls has received. The landscape is absolutely stunning in Skyrim, it is in fact, one of the most beautiful combinations of set pieces I haver ever seen within a video game. Fog collects around the peaks of mountains, snowy blizzards flurry around your character in a blast of winter, and from the top of the highest mountains you will peer down upon the vast tundras of Skyrim; watching massive Mammoths and creatures wander about, showing off the impressive art design.
Up until Skyrim, major Bethesda games have made use of the beyond aged GameByro engine. Even games such as Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas suffered from the bland graphics, subpar models, and atrocious animation. I feel it is important to note, however, that while Skyrim uses the (often beautiful) Creation engine, the tell-tale signs of the GameByro engine are still there. While most animations look much better, (especially third person views) many NPCs still animate rather stiffly, and some character faces are still a bit ugly. At the time of this review, the 360 is also suffering from a rather crippling texture glitch, that causes many textures to render incorrectly, causing some rather ugly situations.
On the whole, however, Skyrim is a beautiful game. It is by far the best looking Elder Scrolls game, it has beautiful landscapes, and the art design is absolutely impeccable.
STORY : 8/10
The story in Bethesda games, really isn't the important part. If you feel obligated, however, there has never been more of a push into the main quest line. While often predictable, the story is still well told (thanks in no small part to the improved voice acting) and has by far some of the most epic moments in the entire Elder Scrolls series. Because of the way the game is designed, and the mystery surrounding your quest, you will feel a surge of obligation to play it. I can't really go into specifics, for fear of spoilers, but rest assured that the story is there, and it is very much worth playing.
GAMEPLAY : 10/10
Skyrim is many things. You have the ability to cut wood, smith items, enchant items, sell off your loot, buy a house, decorate your house, hunt bounties, hunt in general. . . but the core of Skyrim is still focused around what has been at the center of all Elder Scrolls games. . . dungeon crawling.
This isn't your typical dungeon crawler, however. How you pass through these tombs, caves, hideouts, forts, and barrows is entirely up to you. Do you want to be a deadly thief, picking off targets with your bow and assassinating anyone with their foolish back turned? Perhaps you'd rather play a devastating mage, summoning a massive creature to assist your battle with one hand, and laying flames into your enemies from another. Maybe you just want to crush your foes with a giant hammer, you Orcish barbarian, and that's fine too. The fact of the matter is that your character is whatever you want them to be.
The leveling system has been simplified, and entirely refined. The perk system requires you to specialize within a small handful of skills if you want to have a good character before the soft level cap of 50. The immersion is absolutely soul taking and immense, the world will suck you in, and refuse your release for months as you spend literally hundreds of hours slaying dragons, mammoths, giants, and other deadly beasts. Each and every single dungeon is uniquely designed, with fantastic visuals, unique puzzles, and creative stories you'll toil time away figuring out.
Part of this is due to the excellent new combat system. Focused on dual wielding, the combat depends on what you want to do. Two spells at once? Go for it? Two swords? Yep. The combat carries a real weight that previous games have been missing, and while still floaty at items, it is still by far the best in the series.
SOUND DESIGN : 10/10
In my opinion, the sound design for this series has never been better, and it has ALWAYS been impeccable. The music is epic and fantastic, the feel you get from fighting the first dragon is only amplified by the music and I refuse to spoil it. Rest assured, though, be it the footsteps of an undead Nordic warrior approaching, the drips of moisture from an underground cavern, or the deadly dragon shouting at your face, you will be ceaselessly amazed by the sound design. It is perfect, and there is really nothing else to say about it.
Skyrim is a crown jewel among video games, and is easily one of the most immerse forms of media I've ever found myself involved with. Never before has a game given you so much bang for your buck, and I very much believe this game will go down as one of the many late opus of this console generation. Buy this game, and don't wait to lose your social life.
Pros and Cons
+Beautiful, immersive world
+Satisfying combat, leveling system
+Impressive music and sound design
-Minor qualms with engine, many bugs
Sound Design: 10/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/15/11
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (US, 11/11/11)
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