Review by kael_durandel

"Excellent addition To the Elder Scrolls Series, only a few flaws keep it from perfect fun"

First review time, this should be interesting.

So for those who haven't heard of western RPG's, Skyrim is the newest installment to the Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series. This series is famed for its wide open exploration, one where the player finds their own enjoyment rather than having the developer hand deliver it. Break down time

To anyone familiar with the elder scrolls series, you'll know that story is not their strong suit. As said Bethesda focuses on letting the player find their own entertainment rather than lead them from story point to story point. Skyrim itself can be "divided" if you will into 3 types of stories: main, guild/rebellion, and miscellaneous.

The main quest for all purposes sounds great, but is badly executed. One of the big things Skyrim was bringing to the table was dragons, which have for the most part never appeared in elder scrolls games before, definitely not as an enemy to fight. So you're probably saying, "Ah so it must some quest to uncover why the dragons are back." N you'd be correct to say that. Again though, great on paper, but horrible in execution. The main plot will last you about 15 hours or so but it fails abysmally in the main villain, a dragon named Alduin also known as the World-eater. For a main villain I found him completely harmless, not something you want in a main villain, especially when they supposedly devour worlds. This made him appear laughable and so I never felt the final battle with him carry that epic save the world feel. It felt more like I was the janitor that cleaned up the mess no one else wanted to do.

The guild/rebellion missions are actually more entertaining and challenging than the main quest (other way around Bethesda). You got your companions (fighters guild), Thieves guild, Dark brotherhood (Assassin's guild), and college of winterhold (mages guild) for guilds. For the rebellion you can choose imperials or stormcloaks. Crazy thing is I felt more connection to the characters in these quests than in any other. The quests are fun and challenging and really help open the world and all that nice stuff. Excellently done.

The miscellaneous quests are anything not counted for as one of the two above. Also they are greatly done, huge numbers, but never anything so difficult that you feel bogged down. Get a guys sword back here, help out a family with a kidnapped son there. It really does flesh out the world, help you feel that you can go somewhere and help someone out.

Ah the meat part of the elder scrolls series. Story isn't what Bethesda does best as I've explained, but gameplay is where it shines. I could go on and on but lets highlight the big points.

Skill trees. One of the biggest loose ends I found in oblivion (the previous elder scrolls game) was that it pretty much didn't matter what you chose, if you worked at it hard enough you could get to skill level 100 in everything. It felt depressing, because whatever major skills you picked never felt major, they were just skills you could easily control skilling up so you could level up (the character, not the skill) whenever you want. Look it up, there are numerous FAQS for oblivion that are all about getting 100 in everything and having a maxed character. Skyrim changes that with skill trees. You level up, you get a skill point to put in a tree, which gives a character a unique skill within a skill. Also there are not enough skill points possible to even cover a third of all the trees, so what you choose has impact. Say I have an archer and a berserker. They can both be 100 in archery and two handed weapons, but where they put their skill points will make loads of difference.

Leveling up. Ah I loved how you level up in this game. Everything gives you experience. Kill a monster, get some experience. Finish a quest, get some experience. Level up a skill, get some experience. The method is great for making you try out new skills.

Exploration/combat. So Skyrim is big, like really big. And you can go just bout anywhere you can see. See that mountain in the distance? Yea go climb that. Walking through the dozens of dungeons is also a great way to waste countless hours. Exploration is a big thing, it encourages the go out and find your own entertainment idea that Bethesda made. No matter where you go you'll find something too, be it a dragon or some new creature or a quest of some kind. And while you explore, you will fight and fight and fight. Combat works pretty well, not mind shattering but never draws focus. you can put something in each hand, be it a spell, weapon, or shield. Then use the respective trigger to use that hand. It would take too long to break down every kind of fighting, just now that it works really well. Except for two annoyances. The first is dragon shouts, pretty much a spell that costs no mana but has sad cooldown time. Why couldn't we level these up? The main story puts much emphasis on this amazing power to use dragon shouts, but all in all I never used them because they were never practical. In the heat of battle are you going to use that fireball spell that you can spam a few times or are you going to remember you can breathe a weak bit of fire and wait half an hour to use it again? Leveling up dragon shouts would have been amazing, sucks to see it go to waste. Second annoyance, hotkeying. I played on 360 so my options to hotkey was this, put it on a list that I access with the top of the dpad. Not bad, but imagine you have a huge list of stuff that you're scrolling through in the heat of battle to find that spell. No Bethesda, you let us hotkey the whole dpad in Fallout 3 and New Vegas so I know you can stop being lazy and implement it here. Would make combat so much smoother, especially for a mage who is constantly flipping through spells.

I'll admit that when it comes to an RPG, I don't care too much for graphics. An RPG should be about the journey and the destination and the boat that gets you there. Gameplay being boat and story being journey and destination. That said though skyrim is none the less impressive.

Sound is excellent, I always felt it complimented the mood of whatever seen I'm in well. And if you haven't heard the opening song, look it up. It gives a great sense of epic as you embark on your journey. it did was sound should, compliment the scenery without drawing focus.

Graphics were also impressive, considering how much space there is. Some people argue they're not good but you're comparing it to battlefield, which a battlefield map doesn't even have a fraction of a percent of the size of Skyrim. Its one of the things you have to understand the game is too huge to be mind shattering good, but still it is impressive. There was some noted clipping here and there but it never took focus from gameplay.

Final thoughts:
There is some merit to replay. Because of the new skill system, it's interesting to actually go back and play again, solving the same problems but with very different solutions.

Skyrim, very solid game with a few flaws in story and gameplay. But really when you get down to it, a game should be rated on how much fun you had. Personally, I had 9/10 worth of fun. Give me a villain I was actually afraid of and let me map the whole dpad with favorites like in Fallout and I was sing 10/10, but alas can't do it. Don't let 9/10 discourage you, before I knew it I had sunk almost 60 hours into this game, and it was a fun 60 hours.

On a small note if I could get feedback on my first review I'd appreciate it, thank you!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/19/12

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

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