The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
What can I say about Skyrim? I’ve actually just sat at my computer staring at a blank screen for a while trying to consider how I would write a review for such an epic game. This game has won game of the year awards from many different sources and is being celebrated world over. So I started with the simple sentence at the beginning of this paragraph. I’ll have to settle for the fact that my review will never give this game justice. Most people will just have to try the game to truly understand it.
The game is simply breathtaking, the large world excellent graphics. Everything I expected the game to be. However I also found it to be very familiar, largely the same as any other Elder Scrolls title. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely liked the game but I didn’t see anything that I would classify as groundbreaking. In some ways the game is an upgrade with amazing graphics, a simplified leveling system (plus or minus depending on your taste). In some ways the game is not as good as the previous with some shortfalls with horses, a disappointing thieves guild. But one thing that Skyrim did that neither Oblivion or Morrowind did to me, was to draw me in. From the very first few seconds of Skyrim you are immediately part of the story. You have a predicament, are introduced to the world and then a larger predicament arrives which starts a whole chain of events which shapes the whole storyline. I just did not get that same level of excitement for Morrowind or Oblivion.
Skyrim has a large game world, just like any immersive and deep RPG with massive gameplay time behind it should have. Yet somehow they’ve managed to make it small and not very intimidating like Oblivion and Morrowind were. In fact each game I found the game world became less and less massive as it went. This might be my own self perception as I mature with the series, but I swear that it was just laid out better. Except travelling north east of the “Throat of the world”, the terrain and long winding path makes the travel particularly heinous.
One particular complaint that I’ve heard over and over about Skyrim which I somewhat agree with is that the NPCs in the game are not relate-able nor are they very interesting. But as a fellow gamer pointed out to me (and several others at the time), that many of the people we meet in real life are not very relate-able or interesting. Therefore he concluded that Skyrim is obviously the most realistic RPG he’s ever seen.
The graphics in the game are of course top notch. When played on the computer Skyrim did not cause any slowdowns on my test PC at full graphics options and it did look stunning, older PCs however will have to turn down the detail inorder to play the game without any hiccups. I make particular note of weather transitions in the game as you travel both in elevation and to more northern and southern regions of the game world. These transitions were amazing. While in one particular mission close to the beginning of the game the player is required to walk up a trail to the peak of a mountain to visit some shut-ins known as the “GreyBeards”. While the player walks up this trail they’re treated to wind blowing, snow storms, flurries with the occasional calm down of the weather. But by the time you get to the top, the sky is dark and you can tell you are extremely high up. While you’re up here and you realize that you have to climb back down for the next part of the mission. Resist the urge to just send your character over the side as a shortcut. Turns out its not a good idea.
The music is Skyrim is everything you expect it to be, epic, heroic, sad. It fits the moods of the game the way it should. Its a pitty that the default sound levels of the game hide the music away silently in the background while the voice acting and sound effects take center stage. There is a cool aspect to the music however where it seems to rise in volume in the game just when it matters most. This is a neat little trick they’ve used in the game to accent plot revelations, progression etc. Also when the player finds a new “Shout” there is a chanting drum beating score which is likely more considered a sound effect than a musical score, but it effectively draws the player towards the interesting totem which holds the new shout. The chanting and drumming becoming more intense and louder in volume as the player approaches the totem to the point where the writing on the totem leaps off and hovers in front of the players vision.
The gameplay in Skyrim is a mix of the First Person and RPG genre. Although technically not a shooter it could be considered a hybrid first person shooter with strong melee elements. The players uses weapons of their choice such as one handed weapons, two handed weapons, magic and ranged weapons. Players also have the option of wearing light armor, heavy armor, magicians robes or simply wearing clothes. Combat is decided real time without any game world changes. This creates some problems as players who like to walk around with a weapon drawn may accidentally strike a passerby and cause the city guards to come and strike them down. As players progress they get to level up which is a very simplified process for this Elder Scrolls Game and compared to almost any other RPG for that matter. The player chooses which attribute they wish to enhance with their level up, Magic, Health or Stamina. Then they choose a perk which increases their abilities in Magic, Theiving, Defense, Combat etc.
The game takes the player through many environments, from the tops of mountains to large underground labyrinths. On the top of the world at the Grey Beards sanctuary and beyond the sky darkens to give a real sense of altitude, snow falls and the wind howls almost all of the time. On the roads and in the bush hungry wolves will eye the player and attack if they feel their chances are good, patrols of Rebels and Imperials march down the roads. In the dungeons demons lurk, large spiders, daedra, and countless other hazards including traps. In fact especially traps, this game has more traps than I can remember in any other game. Along with playing the main elements of the game, like many RPGs Skyrim allows you to do several other mundane tasks such as alchemy, smithing etc. You can also own property, get married and many other things.
The story for the game is very captivating. It draws you in from the very beginning and doesn’t let you down at the end. I must confess this is the only Elder Scrolls game I’ve actually completed the main storyline for. This is a plus and a minus probably. I suspect the fact that I actually completed the main storyline for this game and did it in a relatively short amount of time about 6 hours all told. In fact if you wanted to speed run through the game it apparently can be done in a little over 2 hours. Prior to Skyrim’s release Bethesda held a contest between Sam Bernstein of QA and Jeff Brown, a level designer, in a sprint to the game’s conclusion. The results were quite close with Brown coming in at 2:16:30 and Bernstein beating him at 2:16:10, a difference of only 20 seconds. Truth be told though you can really sink into this game and find hundreds of hours worth of gameplay time in it.
As I mentioned earlier this game did not break any new ground for me. Some of the games elements can be dated back to Catacombs 3d. But this game isn’t about what new elements have been brought in, its about how they added the elements to make a game worth playing. Skyrim will give hours of fun to anyone who gives it a chance, even people who don’t want to have anything to do with the actual storyline can still run off and have their own fun in the numerous towns and cities that dot the landscape. I give the game 8.5 out of 10.
By James Sullivan
James is a regular contributor to GameAspect.Com and also the operator. He’s primarily a PC gamer but enjoys the occasional console game.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,