Review by DandyQuackShot

"You Make Me Want to Shout!"

My thanes! I am sworn to carry your burdens! We've got dragons in the air, arrows in the knee, a civil war raging between the Nords and Imperials, and the Daedric princes are out to have a little fun with mankind and company. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim continues the engrossing series that many a noble and Khajit alike have been swept up into since the release of the Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. This series of games that made RPGs awesome again has made a lot of fans and probably even more gamers self aware of the geo-political goings on in Tamriel than in the real world. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim continues one of my favorite values of this series: absolute freedom. You can go anywhere, do almost anything, become a really good guy, or trade good deeds for murderous rampages. But even better is to stroll through Skyrim and stopping to take in the view or pick flowers. The world of Skyrim is enveloping and while I knew that I should not expect much more from Skyrim than Oblivion in terms of controls and game play, Skyrim still blew me away with tons of things to do at every turn and seemingly almost every inhabitant of the ancient Nord land. On top of that we are introduced to the dragons and their ancient language called the Thu'um which words can be learned to be used as magical effects called Shouts. One could say that the pinnacle of the Elder Scrolls series are the dragons in Skyrim as they circle around in the distant landscape casting a distinct gloom across the land. There is so much to love and a lot more that will be forever memorable about Skyrim in particular years down the road.

Things to do, people to see, beasts to slay; Skyrim is really a directionless game. In fact, I do not even think there is an actual "end" to this game. You are given a main quest, and there are many many secondary quests that would make you feel like these were a part of the main quest, but then there are also miscellaneous quests that fall into your lap anywhere you go. In my first playthrough I decided to forego the main quest to do everything before the main quest was completed. Suffice it to say that is not the best way to play through the game as it does not end and you end up with some excellent perks after completing the main quest of the Dragonborn. The story goes that you are another prisoner starting off in the land of Skyrim-home of the Nords and supposedly where mankind got its first baby steps in Tamriel (the world you are on). From there you are forced to pick an ally to help you get out of Helgen which gets attacked by Alduin, a really mean dragon. Alduin eats souls in Svarngarde to keep his power so that is pretty mean. You expect to die and have an eternal soul and then some dragon comes along and eats you. I mean you could have been eaten as a mortal by a dragon or something even worse, and then to get eaten again by a dragon is very crass. Anyway there is something very special about yourself no matter what kind of character you pick to play as. So there is also a very special role such as there was in Oblivion in which you must become the hero of Skyrim and save not just Skyrim this time but the world.

The game play, I thought, was very much the same as Oblivion. I could not detect too many differences since playing Oblivion a few years ago, but I know the Fallout games made me forget about a lot of the mechanics of Oblivion. At some points in the game I was wishing for a comparable weapon to match the Fat Boy but the weapons sufficed. The magic effects did not seem to work too well as attacks as it did with healing and using the Shouts. I played as an Imperial but ended up once again resorting to brute force and arrows over the Destruction magic attacks. Well, okay, I also made excellent and over frequent use of the Sanguine Rose, but there is just something adorable about having your own pet Dremora with a flaming sword. Leveling up is easy to do but things get more difficult the higher you go. This was the way Morrowind was but the weaker enemies do not disappear and get replaced like they did in Morrowind. Some start surviving longer. You can also expect to encounter danger almost every step of the way in you are traveling around. Most of the time you just run into things that you can easily dispatch but then there the dragons who become more annoying than dangerous later in the game.

The controls are very awkward for a first person/third person type of game. In a way you are still playing a RPG as you can go into the selection menu at any time and choose and item, potion, magical effect, or whatever else to equip. The mechanics do not make too much use of real time. If I punched somebody I doubt I could ask him to stop so I could equip my armor and sword and drink a health potion before he finished me off. One of the things I wanted to do in Skyrim that I had not done in Oblivion was take the time to collect ingredients and learn to create cool potions as well as collect all of the books in the game and created a library in my houses in Solitude and Winterhelm. I ended up running out of space so in my Whiterun house it looks like my real place with books scattered all over the floor. Even more fun is that in Skyrim you can pick up a lot of help. You can hire mercenaries to follow you, help out towns to get a housecarl to be your servant, recruit for the Blades, make friends, and even get married.

In other aspects of the game play, you still have plenty of loading screens to contend with while you spin a game item or object around until the next area is loaded. I do not think there is much of a way around loading screens for games of this magnitude. Other problems I had were with some of the quests. Of course I got carried away with exploring the game but one dungeon I cleared out prevented me from going back and collecting a fragment of an artifact I was supposed to retrieve from a draugr that I had already killed. Then there was the Markarth incident where I accidentally hit the Jarl who was supposed to congratulate me or something for solving one of his problems and I couldn't complete the quest. So there are glitches to the game play. Accidents happen a lot in this game. Erik the Slayer can attest to that when I "accidentally" hit him with an arrow while he was fighting a troll.

Skyrim's graphics are the same if not better than Oblivion's. You can't compare the graphics and landscape detail of these two games to anything else that is around. The landscapes are awesome and it is the first part of the game where you finally set off on your own that you get the feeling you aren't just playing another RPG game, but have just reached your vacation destination. I don't get that feeling with any other game than with the Elder Scrolls games. You can view some awesome scenery in this game with minor issues such as vanishing people and things popping out of thin air some times, but for the most part I would have to say the graphics win big time. The big Dwemer city underground where all the red Nirnroots are was probably one of my favorite areas to take in. The music also sets the mood with the environments you are in. It lets you know when you are about to get attacked and when it is time to stop and take in the aurora lights in the sky at night. Well, at least it sets the mood while you watch the night sky in this game.

What I didn't like about Skyrim's graphics and sounds were the over use of the same voice characters in the game. Not that the voice dialogue is bad or anything, I just did not appreciate the same gruff voice guy talking to me every third character. I couldn't figure out the dialect patterns either. Most of the bad guys or nobles in the game sound British, the male Nords sound like steroid poppers, and the women Nords sound Italian or Spanish. Anyway it gets kind of irritating after awhile not excluding some of the repetitious comments made over and over.

Depending on how you play Skyrim you can determine that completing everything in the game is definitely going to take a long time. I made it to level 34 (of 50) before completing the main quest and "stopping". That still left a whole lot undone and unexplored. This game completed in its entirety would take a few months. As for achievements, you can collect all of them since this is just a single player game. This also takes time and once you have collected 100,000 gold, it leaves little to need to purchase. Houses are not that expensive in this game. Skyrim's replay value is quite good though. I think next time something should be added to do online to interact with other players. I'm sure another Elder Scrolls games would be a long time away however.

Final Recommendation 9/10

You can't go wrong with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This is what makes a RPG geek out of a regular first person shooter player or any other kind of gamer. Skyrim is definitely a full price game. I initially held off but could not resist getting lost in a world not my own and picked this up in December and just now have finished a run through without even nearly completing all the quests in the game. There is a lot to to do and explore, a lot to read, a lot to slay, a lot to barter, a lot to enchant and craft, and well you get the idea. If there was one game from 2011 that you did not pick up and Skyrim was one of them you definitely are missing out. If you played Oblivion and held off on Skyrim because you were like me and expecting it to be a lot more of the same you are right, but you are also still missing a great game. The glitches and other things can be set aside because Skyrim delivers a great experience that no other game can deliver.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/06/12

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

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