Review by bigtmor6

"Out of Oblivion and into Skyrim: Elder Scrolls continues to amaze!"


First, let me attempt to be value-free and get my bias' out of the way: Elder Scrolls: Oblivion was one of my favorite games of all time. It rivaled my love for KOTOR I and II and all of the RPG's of prior consoles (Legend of Zelda et al.). That aside, I had HUGE expectations for the newest iteration of the Elder Scrolls series. My birthday is 11/11, and the fact that Skyrim was released on 11/11/11 felt like it was written in the stars and meant to be (I also have a brother who is into the game so 11/11/11 must have been some form pre-destiny—thank you, Bethesda). All of that aside, I do not consider myself a “fanboy” of the series, and will attempt to provide a fair and critical review of the game…it is here that I begin my analysis.

Brief Overview

If you are reading this, you are somewhat familiar with the plot of Skyrim and probably of the series of Elder Scrolls; if this is the case, skip this part, if not, continue reading on. In Elder Scrolls V, you find yourself in Skyrim, some 200 years since the events of the Oblivion crises. The empire is losing its' hold on the providences of Tamriel. Most importantly, however, is that Skyrim is based around the Dragonborn [you]; the individual who can command the words, or voice, of the dragon. Dragons have returned to this Tamriel, and you are one who is destined to assist in helping Skyrim in understanding, and ultimately conquering, this return of the long banished beasts. You begin your adventure as a prisoner (surprise!), and slowly begin to fulfill your destiny as Dovahkiin or Dragonborn. As with any ES game, you can choose any number of routes to accomplish this, which brings me to the meat of the game: gameplay.

Gameplay: 9.5/10

This is where Skyrim really shines. With all of the possible routes of gameplay, Skyrim is both innovative and open-ended. You can join the Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, Companions [akin to the Warrior's Guild], College of Winterhold [akin to the Mages Guild], and can partake in a number of radiant quests and tasks in addition to the Main Quest line, and the Imperial vs. Stormcloaks battle. I do not want to give any spoilers away here; sufficient to say that this games offers a proverbial ton of choices. You can easily play as a full on warrior, mage, thief, or any possible combination. The choice is completely up to you.

Like Oblivion, the enemies in Skyrim level with you. In addition, Bethesda has replaced the more complex character development found in Morrowind and Oblivion, and has opted for a more straightforward form of character development. Instead of having to define a characters class and specialization at the beginning of the game, the player can, instead, apply skill perks each time you level up. In other words, if you find yourself playing as a warrior in the beginning, but want to switch to more of an assassin-type figure, then you can place a skill perk in sneaking the next time you level up, instead of heavy armor. This makes it seem as though you are not “stuck” in one type of gameplay. Being that the level cap is 82 (at that point, all of your skills are at 100) you have a total of 82 “perk” points to apply however you see fit.

Skyrim is perhaps the only game to date that adequately captures the power and essence of the mythical dragons. The dragons seem, for lack of a better term, epic. When you are out in the middle of a field catching butterflies (which is totally possible), all of the sudden, a giant Frost Dragons drops out of the sky and begins to attack you. Hope you brought your battle gear and plenty of health potions. However, as cool as this idea is, the reality can be a bit more cumbersome when the dragon refuses to land, or won't come within hitting distance. That aside, there is nothing like engaging in an epic battle with a dragon, and Skyrim captures the essence of this very well.

Like all Elder Scrolls games, at least on the more “modern” consoles, there are a number of glitches that can become very annoying, but none of these glitches are deal breakers, in this reviewer's opinion. It is, however, important to note that Skyrim is no different than Oblivion in that regard. If glitches really bother you, then Skyrim isn't for you. But this is a Bethesda game…

Graphics: 9/10

With a game this size, it would be impossible for everything to be perfect. Skyrim is beautiful: from the flowing streams, giant lakes, and radiant weather system to the massive towns and small villages, the graphics are pleasing to the eye and are relatively realistic. There are some flaws though. A closer look at the mountains reveals mesh-like textures, take a glance at the trees as you run by and you realize the bark looks scaly and transparent. These flaws are minor, but they do remind you that you're probably sitting on a couch playing a game and not actually destroying dragons, ogres, and trolls by the boatload.

In addition to some of the flaws in the graphics, glitches do tend to pop up (i.e. a wall doesn't load, a door flickers in and out), but overall, the graphic palate of Skyrim should leave the player very pleased. If you are one of the few playing on an SD television, get ready to loose parts of the menu and screens…then go out and get an HDTV. This game does not play well on anything but HD. Outside of some of the minor issues mentioned above, the graphics in Skyrim live up to the epic-ness offered by the gameplay.

Sound: 10/10

Succinctly right, the soundtrack in Skyrim is simply epic, incredible, and entirely original. There really isn't much else to say, the soundtrack is absolutely a perfect fit for the game. When a dragon swoops in for battle and the music gears up with increasingly louder drum beats and sound, you can't help but be taken in with the overall package.

New Features: 9/10

Bethesda has added a few new features that take the ES series in a different direction. First, have I mentioned dragons, yet? Second, Skyrim employs a follower system. Note: you can only have one follower at a time, but you have a ton of follower options to choose from. This is a nice and welcome addition. Your follower will equip weapons/armor that you give them, they can perform simple tasks for you, and can also carry extra equipment. This adds a new dimension to the game that has not existed in previous iterations of the series. As always, Bethesda has added new armor and weapons, daedric artifacts, and other items. You can also dual wield weapons and spells, which also adds to the gameplay. Overall, Skyrim tends to follow the same formula as Oblivion in terms of gear/items/potions/spells. Some gamers may not like that Bethesda has removed the ability to create your own spells, and certain enchantments can only be placed on certain pieces of armor and clothing.

Bottom Line:
Gameplay: 9.5
Graphics: 9
Sound: 10
New Features: 9
Reviewer's score: 9/10

Overall, this is a great game and certainly worthy of all of the Game of the Year awards it has received. If you enjoyed Morrowind and Oblivion, you absolutely have to get this game. Some minor glitches and annoyances stop this game from receiving a perfect 10/10, but now it is time to stop reading and start gaming!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/04/12

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

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