Game Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Genre: Single Player RPG
Developer: Bethesda Studios
Available Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
MSRP: $49.99 (PC) $59.99 (console)
ESRB Rating: Mature
Yes roleplaying fans, the newest installment in Bethesda’s renowned Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim, is finally here! This epic, dragon slaying adventure has most certainly been the buzz of the gaming community for some time now, even prior to its release; and rightly so. I know that a majority of you will be buying this game regardless of what I say here in this review (that is, if you haven’t already). After all, what’s not to like? Three hundred plus hours of content to quest through, free reign over a giant open world map, fully featured crafting systems, oh, and did I mention you get to slay dragons? These are bold claims, and can be impressive features to list on your fingers as you try and persuade a friend, but how does it all come together? Is this game truly worth three hundred of your precious hours?
In Skyrim, you take on the role of a ‘Dragonborn’ hero who’s special powers allow him (or her) to absorb the souls of the Dragons which have recently reemerged to terrorize the northern lands of Tamriel, after hundreds of years of silence and extinction. Being the only Dragonborn in the land of Skyrim, it falls on you to defeat this new threat. But even if saving the world from dragons doesn’t suit your fancy, just like the previous Elder Scrolls games, there are plenty of other things to keep you busy. Why not become an assassin in the Dark Brotherhood? When you are done there, you could try atoning for your sins by serving the realm in the ranks of the Imperial Legion, or fighting alongside the fearless Companions. Or, maybe you want follow in Harry Potter’s foot steps and climb through the ranks of the arcane College of Winterhold. It’s really up to you. The staple, non linear gameplay of the Elder Scrolls games has not only been preserved in Skyrim, it is easier to get side tracked than ever (and I mean that in the best possible way).
As far as gameplay, veterans of Morrowind or Oblivion should feel right at home, but they will also notice a lot of changes. Combat has been refined, third person mode is significantly better than before, the interface has been completely revamped, and the conversation system now feels more dynamic and immersive. When you see a person and engage in a conversation, rather than being interrupted, and zooming in on a fixed close up of the NPC’s emotionless face, small white text options for possible responses or queries will emerge in the lower portion of the screen for you to choose from, as you are left free to look about, and the rest of the game world carries on around you. Also, the new finishing moves, which your character will perform as you slay the last enemy in an area adds a welcome visual effect to the combat. Gamers love that ku de gra…
Story feels slightly generic at times, but it still managed to pull me in better than the previous Elder Scrolls games. And if you are like me (and fantasy audiences around the world), and you have an almost unhealthy fascination with dragons, then this game will make you feel as if you’ve died and gone to heaven. There are simply too many epic moments to list or spoil them for you here, but rest assured that you are getting your money’s worth. Just like Oblivion, voice acting in Skyrim is top notch, featuring engaging performances by recognizable actors such as Max von Sydow and Joan Allen. It is no secret that the visuals in this game are impressive, but the harshly convincing, gritty, old world style of the setting also helps to immerse the player in the experience and lore of the land, along with its inhabitants.
The things I enjoyed most about this game have to do with its depth, and the changes to the skill system. Unlike previous Elder Scrolls games, which would have you choose your set class and skills from the get go, Skyrim introduces a more evolved and intuitive system that helps gamers create the exact character they wanted. There are no classes in Skyrim, your character simply levels up according to what skills you use. Sorting through a roleplaying game’s long list of skills in your first five minutes can be a daunting task, and it is likely you will make some choices that might not prove to be all that useful later in your character’s career. Skyrim frees you from that worry by letting you find out what skills you enjoy and wish to continue specializing in by simply using them more frequently as you play the game. Your character becomes a sort of digital thumb print of your play style. I have already touched on the game’s depth, but it bears mentioning again. The scale of the world, the new immersive conversation system, and the massive amount of quest content all combine to form one of the most addictive and engaging RPG experience you are likely to find on the video game market today.
My only real complaints with Skyrim are with bugs, frame rate issues on console editions, and the game’s animations in general. Aside from being known among the single player RPG gods, Bethesda has developed another, more negative reputation for the bugs and glitches found in their games. Sadly, Skyrim has not escaped this trend, as I would occasionally experience an infinite loading screen that forced me to restart my console, or I would see my character make a spinning somersault into the sky above as he was crushed by an unforgiving giant, or other minor issues as I played through the game. Playing on my Playstation 3, I ran into some frame rate issues in certain sections, though it was never unplayable, and seemed to somehow smooth out the more I played. My complaint about the general animations could be seen as nit picky, but they are hardly the industry’s best. Although the animations have taken tremendous strides since Daggerfall and Morrowind, they still seem awkward and jerky at times. Yet all of these complaints are forgivable in sight of the scale of this title. Sure, Nathan Drake looks more realistic as he climbs a flight of stairs in the Uncharted series, but he doesn’t have three hundred hours of content to run through either.
In closing, this game was, and will continue to be, one of the greatest single player experiences I have ever had. If you are looking for something to fill your time with, then go buy Skyrim and say goodbye to your weekends. I am in love with my character, and I can’t wait to finish the other faction quests and side content that still waits for him so I can start my next character and try it all again in a different way. So remember, count on your fingers: three hundred hours of content, a huge explorable map to yourself, evolved crafting and game systems, and as many dragons as you can stand to kill. If we gave decimal scores here at P*N, I might tag on an extra point five. Escapists rejoice, your new home awaits!
+ Staggering amount of content
+ Awesome story and visuals
+ Immersive and engaging,
+ Non-linear gameplay
– Bugs and glitches, jerky animations
Final Score: 9/10