Review by thornphlesh

"Marque Of A Masterpiece"

Bethesda Studios

RPGs have a unique way of attaching itself to a player by promising an adventure filled with unimaginable danger and wonders that will astound surrounded by a seemingly living breathing world that invites one to leave everything, suspend belief and embrace a brand new life. That's what it's always been for me anyway. I think I can safely say that I have always been an RPG player of sorts. Gemstone Warrior, Swords and Sorcery, Marsport, Dungeon Master and Might & Magic had me engrossed in their splendor, silently stealing away the years in my sordid life.

The Elder Scrolls series was only something I read about, having never played any of them. I decided to give Skyrim a shot. There's a lot to live up to and this game was unashamedly touted by Bethesda to be their best work to date.

From the moment the game boots up I was pleasantly surprised to see it go straight to the Start Game Menu. It gets right to the point and that's a damn good sign. The game unfolds with a group of prisoners taking a cart ride down the medival green mile for a date with death at the edge of the executioners axe. Quickly the character creation screen pops up and it presents players with a multitude of roles to adopt in game each of which are possess an inherent skill or magical affinity but this is merely the basis of the characters role. The actual character creation is actually built on going as the game is played out. This means that players may choose to excel in any given set of skills just by using them in the game. This is a brilliant system and I am dead certain we will be seeing the method replicated in many games of this nature in the future. With a little imagination, this opens up many possibilities and will give rise to the creation of some outrageous builds.

There is a ton of things to do in this game and more than just one way to do it. The freedom Skyrim offers is just staggering. Players will find themselves burning the midnight oil at the blacksmith's furnace honing their skills making that perfect leather loincloth or getting a backache leaning over alchemy labs concocting rat poison or blowing up that new batch of ice essence. True social animals will be delighted to know that there is a helluva lot of non player characters to talk to and get to know. No Facebook addicts here. Real computer generated boys and girls who will, more often than always, have something interesting to tell you or something life threathening for you to do. Of course, there's this nagging problem with the reappearance of dragons in Skyrim that's got a lot of people worried and a lot of talk about some jive ass turkey known as the Dragonborn but who cares. I want to run in the fields with the butterflies, skip through the mountain flower bushes and play with those crabs by the riverside.

The Level Up system looks sparse, but it is obviously meant to make this often tideous task easy. With every new level, players can increase one of three stats representing health for durability, stamina for energy taxing tasks and magicka for toasting rabbits and invoking demonic minions. Since leveling up is achieved by casting spells, striking enemies and producing weapons, armor and tonics, each skill that is increased affords the player with skill points as well. These are used to unlock a plethora of perks for the 16 different skill trees. Its a ridiculously simple system that works well.

The graphics take a little getting used to. For those who own the Xbox 360 and PS3, they might need to re-adjust to some of the best artwork in recent 3-D history. The entire world of Skyrim is a tour de force in digital artistry. Everything looks spectacular and alive. For weak bowelled PC owners with 'recommended specs', there will be some degree of pants pooping as this version of the game is just outrageous. It is refreshing to see that a lot of thought, hard work and love went into making this game.

I would really like to salute the band boys for putting together some of the best compositions for this game. The in game music comprises some of the best I've heard in a long time. Everything just fits in perfectly and doesn't interrupt the flow. The battle themes are just fantastic but I have to give credit to the boozed up bards at the Inns. I always request that bawdy song about something Red. Reminds me of this girl I knew. She wanted to kill me too.

There are bugs but they failed to bother me or take away any of the pleasure I experienced. The game has locked up on me and I didn't like that very much but it never gets worse than that.

The freedom to explore is one of Skyrim's greatest achievements but this also means that it's possible to venture into a spooky cave up high in the mountains only to be pitted against some very tough enemies. Or you may find the bears that roam the lowlands are much less durable that the ones up in the higher pleateau. But that's the beauty of it all. You get the freedom to challenge yourself anytime you want. It also means that not all bears take a dump in the woods. Some do it near cave entrances which is a very mean and unhygienic thing to do.

Loading times are not entirely fast. Nothing like the lightening quick PC but it doesn't hinder the game in any way. Besides reading about the Daedric princes and marriage tips aren't all that bad. Although walking around wearing a cheap plastercine copy of the Talisman of Mara and being cheeky with girls got me a few stares and one particular nasty slap from a questionably attractive waitress.

The controls are good. I didn't make a mistake by pressing the wrong button at the right time. The response is excellent. The animation is beautiful. When you swing your sword, it actually feels powerful and the hits connect with such ferocity that it looks painful. Severing the head of an enemy has never looked so graceful. It is, and I quote, 'a visual paen to the gods of blood and slaughter'.

It is my humble opinion that Bethesda have come up with the goods where many others have failed this Christmas. I also have no doubt that The Elder Scrolls V will be GOTY-fied and win many accolades, but most importantly they have found themselves one more admirer of their work. Bethesda have successfully set the new standard not just for RPGs but in gaming on the whole. Every major release that comes with all the expensive fanfare and hype will be judged and compared with Skyrim, because this is how you make a Masterpiece.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/27/12

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

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