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Reviews Comments: Could have been so much better The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim game review by Kev-O

Ah, Skyrim. This game has been generating so much buzz. My friends could not stop talking about it before it came out, and this site's wonderful forum's thread on Skyrim swelled to over a hundred pages. However, after playing it for a week, I don't think it deserved most of the hype. Skyrim, while not a bad game like Bethesda's last two efforts, disappoints me in how much better it could be.

One of the main problems with Skyrim is that everything feels really brief. The main quest lasts for maybe 7 hours, and each of the major factions can be completed in 2 hours. For a game hyped to have over 300 hours of content, I have completed the main quest and am now the head of every faction in about 17 hours. The quality of writing also leaves much to be desired. In all of the faction quests, you go from recruit to trusted member in 2 quests and guild leader after 6. The main quest is a cliche affair in which you fight an ancient evil dragon intent on eating the world. Barely any motivation is given for the big bad's actions and none of the characters are given enough time to make an impression on the player. The conflict between the Empire and the Stormcloaks is well done and probably would have made a better main conflict.

Combat is slightly improved over Oblivion. Dual wielding adds some much needed variety to the combat by giving the player more choices for his play style and gives humanoid enemies more range. However, many enemies are not smart enough or do enough damage to be a real threat. Many of the enemies only get by via having huge amounts of health. Also, the dragons, another highly hyped element of the game, are just plain boring to fight. None of the dragons do anything beyond breathing fire or ice. One wonders why the developers did not give the dragons the same Shouts the player has.

The music in this game is outstanding and is one of the few things that did live up to the hype. The sound effects are also very well made and sound fitting. However, voice acting is very hit and miss. Many of the voice actors sound bored out of their skulls and give mediocre performances. It makes me wonder if Bethesda tried to save money by just hiring a lot of random rookie voice actors with barely any experience.

In conclusion, Bethesda wasted some good opportunities. Skyrim is highly average, but could have been a superb RPG with some changes.


  • McSomeguy
  • 24th Nov 11
Highly average? Oh nonono... You are right about the faults of this game, but they are what keep it from being the most amazing game ever created, they do not, however, make it average. The game is good, very good in fact, just not as good as it could have been.
  • Nokiro
  • 26th Nov 11
"Skyrim, while not a bad game like Bethesda's last two efforts", I'm sorry but right off the but it seems like you don't really know what you're talking about. Oblivion, I admit was a disappointing Elder Scrolls game, but alone it was at least average game if not more. Morrowind on the other hand was an amazing game, with a beautiful atmosphere that you could immerse yourself in. So to say that they were bad games is ridiculous. Now, I understand the flaws you brought up in your review were valid complaints but they are minor and do not detract enough from the game for it to be called average. Also it seems you powered through the main quest line and the faction quests, which is not how the game is supposed to be played. You're supposed to explore, take your time, enjoy the scenery and partake of the various side quests in the game, not rush through only the major quests. Remember, Skyrim is an open-sandbox rpg. The key term being sandbox.
  • Mukora
  • 26th Nov 11
I... actually agree with most of this. My god. Someone help!

One thing, though, Dragons do more than breath fire and ice. I've seen dragons summon storms, and use FUS RO DAH.
  • eveil
  • 26th Nov 11
Skyrim, while not a bad game like Bethesda's last two efforts", I'm sorry but right off the but it seems like you don't really know what you're talking about. Oblivion, I admit was a disappointing Elder Scrolls game, but alone it was at least average game if not more. Morrowind on the other hand was an amazing game, with a beautiful atmosphere that you could immerse yourself in. So to say that they were bad games is ridiculous

Are you sure he wasn't talking about Fallout 3 and New Vegas?
  • Wagrid
  • 26th Nov 11
This isn't as negative as I was expecting. Surprising.
  • Kev-O
  • 26th Nov 11
What I meant was Bethesda's last two games were Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Fallout New Vegas was my favorite RPG of last year, but that was all Obsidian's work. I found Oblivion to be very bland and unmemorable. Fallout 3 was a disappointing sequel to a great series in my eyes.
  • TheSollerodFascist
  • 29th Nov 11
I think part of the problem with the Main Quest's villain "motivations" is that a surprising amount of thematic content is far more spiritual, metaphorical and somewhat self-reflective. To me, Esbern and Paarthurnax were the most interesting characters, because it is in their dialogue where these areas really show their strength. A highlight for me was the brief "debate" you can have with Paarthurnax, which almost feels like a deconstruction of the story you're expecting to see built up. Story-wise, the dominant changing force is not Alduin, but the heroes of the past themselves, and the player character's story reacts to that instead. How much of that was fully intentional and as to how well it comes to life within the medium (it's admittedly not a greatly interactive sector of the game) and... well, I suppose that's the breaking point when it comes to discussion.

I mentioned in my review that the only other entry in the series I've played is Oblivion. I think Skyrim's Main Quest story goes out of its way to be polarised with the internally shaky Mankar Camoran plot of Oblivion (openly operational), and it alters the verisimilitude slightly to do that (the reasoning I suppose behind Oblivion ending with "you walk through a door and the evil God is killed in a cutscene", opposed to Skyrim ending with a playable battle).

Just some brief thoughts either way! It might be fun to unpack some.
  • Nokiro
  • 29th Nov 11
Oh, my mistake Kev-O, I thought you meant Bethesda's last two Elder Scrolls games. And Yes I agree with you, Fallout 3 was very disappointing, on par with Oblivion, especially if you were a fan of Fallout 1 and 2. And Oblivion bland atmosphere was a real killer for me, due to how the Lore was butchered in the game and turned Cyrodil from a unique place, to another "Traditional Fantasy" setting. That being said both games alone, divorced from the main franchise, are solid games.
  • vincearan
  • 3rd Dec 11
Dude, sounds like you rushed through the main quest and faction questlines. I'm betting you even skipped the conversation with Paarthurnax which COMPLETELY EXPLAINS why Alduin is doing what he's doing, along with so much more. It's an open-world game, so just go out and do what you want. Develop some ADD like everyone else and then try complaining about the lack of game hours you'll experience.
  • Kev-O
  • 28th Jan 12
I don't really think that wandering around will improve the storyline. And no, I read everything I could, listened to all the dialogue, and went everywhere I could, but there wasn't much stuff that interested me.
  • McSomeguy
  • 29th Jan 12
Seems to be an extremely subjective problem. You sound like the type of person who should stay away form Bethesda games and go play something by Bioware instead.
  • Kev-O
  • 30th Jan 12
Why would I want to play a Bioware game? They're terrible these days. At least Bethesda has SOME good stuff in its games.
  • gibberingtroper
  • 30th Oct 13
There is one exception to the guild faction thing. You have to work your tail off to become the Guild leader of the Thieves Guild. After completing the main quest line (which involves multiple smaller arcs including helping Maven, discovering the infiltrator and tracking down the traitor) you then have to do something like 25 radiant quests followed by five less generic quests to reestablish the guild's reputation and business ties. You earn the Guildmaster title for that guild.

As for the others, I can buy that the Dragonborn with his larger than life presence and Thu'um would be accepted as Harbinger by The Companions. They're all about honor and glory and it doesn't get more glorious than the Dragonborn. Besides, the Harbinger gives guidance, not orders which makes it easier to accept.

The only one I just could not buy was the Dragonborn becoming the Archmage. Even with the Psijic Order's endorsement, I'd have thought there would be more objections. I could see him being one of the master mages just for the fact that he's exceptionally good at delving in ruins and unearthing lost lore but thats not the stuff an archmage is made of. To me, it would have worked better if the Dragonborn was required to finish those master spell research side quests (which require maxing out your magic schools). Then I could buy it.

Take it from someone who has recently experienced a succession of career successes after over a decade in the trenches. Once you break through, one success seems to lead to another quickly if you want it to. The prestige and presence the Dragonborn has coming in puts him above teh
  • kay4today
  • 30th Oct 13
The funny thing is that you can become Archmage even though it's able to use next to no actual magic in the whole questline.
  • JobanGrayskull
  • 30th Oct 13
I can't say I object to any of the content in this review, but as a hug fan of Skyrim I'll say that you have to play and enjoy the game for what it is.

It's a sandbox toy. It's basically the video game equivalent of playing with action figures. It's not all that deep or well-written, and like you said a lot of the content feels extremely abridged. But it's really, really good at what it does right, which is letting the player do their thing in an open world. You get to be an unstoppable juggernaut, tricked out with weapons, armor, and magic as you see fit. As a kid, I loved spending hours with my action figures, and as an adult I likewise love spending hours with Skyrim. It's not so much a game as a big AI toy.

It could be better at some things, it could be a better RPG, but then it would be a vastly different experience. I think Skyrim really excels at what it is. Maybe not for everyone, but I wouldn't say it's average.
  • methodoverload
  • 22nd May 14
Its a toy on two different levels. Its a toy for the player to go exploring and expressing themselves. And its a toy for modders looking to turn the game into their vision of a more complete game. You can write more interesting stories or more fully realized characters using this rich foundation to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. The beauty of the landscape design has wonderful synergy with graphics enhancement mods. With the modding tools and extensive community of modders, you could potentially turn this from a pretty great game into a game that will stand above all others for years or even decades to come.

Imagine if you got a team of modders working in concert. Someone with the vision of the guy who created Falskaar, teaming up with the ENB guy, teaming up with Midas for texturing, teaming up with the Frostfall and Realistic Needs guys, teaming up with the writers of Viljas and Anise, together with all the voice actors and project managers from Skywind and Immersive Followers (or whatever its called), teaming up with the Skyre guys. Sure you can download their mods separately and enjoy them but imagine if each one redesigned their mods to reinforce each other, the gameplay, graphics, rules enhancements, characters, all serving the same themes in a glorious fan developed expansion.
  • methodoverload
  • 22nd May 14
The point is, Skyrim is a great foundation to build all of that on, and they've got the critical mass of fans and modders to make it happen.

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