Review by lighty691

"A really good game spoilt by some really annoying flaws"

Welcome to my review of The Elder Scrolls V - Skyrim for the Xbox 360. This game follows on from the success of The Elder Scrolls IV - Oblivion and was widely anticipated to be one of the biggest selling and most popular games of the year, and possibly in the history of the console too. The huge success of its predecessor ensured that it was always going to be a big seller which meant that Bethesda, the developers, had big shoes to fill when it came to ensuring the game lived up to its incredible expectations...

The best place to start in reviewing this game is with the storyline. As with any RPG game, the bread and butter of the game is the storyline and the characters that players will interact with throughout. Skyrim is set many decades after the events of Oblivion, although a lot of ideas, beliefs and attitudes remain the same. People in Skyrim still have deep rooted beliefs in religion and subscribe to humble ways of life, commonly influenced by regional kings and queens.

You begin your quest mid story - similar to in Oblivion where you are unsure of your past and how you got to the point you did. This is an interesting way of presenting the game as it gives players the opportunity to work with a blank canvas and create exactly the type of player they desire without having a pre-set history to work around. At the very beginning of the game you are attacked by a dragon and the story develops from there. Without going in to detail that will spoil the story, dragons form the main part of the storyline and are present throughout. From this point onwards the players complete various quests and missions that reveal the story as you progress, eventually coming to a conclusion many "acts" or "events" later.

The game is also home to a huge number of NPC's that players can fully interact with. This is one of the main selling points of the game as such in depth interaction with other people creates a hugely enticing world where your conversations and actions have a direct impact on those around you. Some of these NPC's are the link to other missions which have their own storylines. Some of these stories are almost as long as the main story and are more often than not, just as exciting.

Soon after starting the game it becomes apparent that the world of Skyrim is under huge conflict. A major civil war is breaking out across the lands with most citizens choosing to side with the Imperial Soldiers or the rebels - The Stormcloaks. This has caused much fighting and death across Skyrim and also takes a main role in the main storyline.

After creating and establishing a compelling and engrossing storyline, it was vitally important that the gameplay was equally as addictive. Skyrim really does not disappoint here. Firstly the ability to create a totally unique character to fit your perceptions of a "hero" is a big selling point and at the start of the game you are able to determine the full attributes of your character. The most important aspect of your character is the race that you will pick. There is a wide range of different races that you can choose from, ranging from the typical "human" characters like Nords, Imperials and Bretons to the more bizarre Argonians, Orcs and Khajiits. The Argonians and Khajiits are reptile and lion type races respectively and are truly a unique feature that you are unlikely to see in any other game and really should not be missed. This broad variation in character type offers a unique gaming experience that can be very different each time. Each other these races has speciality skills based on their abilities, for example the hugely powerful Orcs have bonus skills in Heavy Armour and Weapons whereas other races such as the High Elves or Dark elves who may be weak in these areas have bonuses in magic ability. You are also able to change many other aspects of your character such as height and weight, facial features, sex and even body art such as tattoos and hair styles. As mentioned before this gives players the ability to create exactly the type of character they like.

Again, it has previously been mentioned that the game doesn't just have a main storyline, there are also several other factions that you can join and do quests for. Again, these groups differ greatly in their beliefs and activities. You can join The Companions who are a "protector of the people" type of group that take on protection missions for people, or you could join a completely different group such as The Dark Brotherhood who take out contact killing missions. These are not the only two groups that you can align yourself with though, there are also quests for those who like to steal for profit and also for those who like to delve into the arcane and practice magic. As well as the official main storyline quest and various groups to join, there are also countless numbers of mini side quests to complete. Again these can be very varied, ranging from simple pass item from person A to B type favours to clearing out a dungeon and retrieving a valuable item. There are also some interesting touches in that you can permanently murder people and also end up in jail for various crimes. The guards will recognise you and the bounty that you have on your head, pursuing you where necessary to make an arrest. All these little things make the world seem much more real and allow players to have a greater interaction with cities and villages.

Graphically, Skyrim is an incredibly well constructed game. Some of the scenery and cities in the game appear wonderfully detailed and give the game a real sense of history. Ancient ruins and cities built hundreds of years ago have been perfectly created in order to give a real sense of realism which adds great weight to the game itself. Characters are also very well created with unique body shapes and clothing dependant on race. Specialist items, weapons and armour are all beautifully created and fit in perfectly with their surroundings.

One other area that does well in the game is in the music and the sound effects. The music sets the scene perfectly and gives the game a sense of realism and belonging. In some of the more tranquil areas the music is very soft and serene and when you are under attack the pace of the music instantly increases. Sound effects such as items moving, weapons being drawn and used and magic spells are also good.

However, for all the ground breaking graphics and brilliant storylines there are some down points in this game unfortunately. The main problems involve the amount of glitches in the game. There are many instances of key items not being where they should be, characters not existing, missions being broken and even dragons flying backwards. It is inevitable that there will be a certain degree of problems with a game as big as it is but some of these problems can really ruin the game. Hopefully over time these will be corrected but they should really have been picked up before the game was released. Another major problem with the game, and its predecessor in some peoples opinion, is that the game is far too dark. In many locations, dungeons and caves particularly it can be extremely difficult to actually see what you are doing. It could be argued that this adds realism to the game as it would not be light in every location, however it does make the game unnecessarily difficult to play. Some other annoyances with the game can be having to wait for people to move to locations in missions. This can be annoying as some characters walk very slowly and you cannot progress the mission until they have moved. Stealth is also very difficult in the game. It can be very hard to sneak past people and pickpocket. The concept is and interesting one but it could have been done a lot better. Similarly some of the side missions can become a little repetitive. You will often find yourself completing missions that are very similar and just rotate characters and/or locations.

Overall Skyrim is a really good game and will keep even the most hardcore RPG gamers entertained for long periods of time. The gameplay is excellent and the storylines are really good too. Graphically the game is good and the music fits in really well with the overall theme of the game. However there are a few annoying problems in the game that do spoil the game slightly. However this does not have a massive bearing on the game and only drops the score slightly. One final word on this game, being that it is an Xbox360 game is the achievements. The developers have managed to create a good spread between easy and difficult achievements as well as achievements that are quickly obtained and those that take time to complete. Overall a really good game well worth looking at.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/04/12

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

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