Reviews: The Elderscrolls V Skyrim
Part of me fears for the next game...
I have a deep fondness for the Elder Scrolls games, having dabbled with the five core entries of the series (my particular infatuation goes to Oblivion) and finding myself deeply loving both the setting and the gameplay. To me they mark the pinnacle of Eastern RPG's, providing the kind of experience I always look for in RPG's... but Skyrim stands on a precarious perch in my mind, and I feel that if Bethesda doesn't pull back from that then the next game will lose all the good things about the franchise. Skyrim, while certainly not lacking in scale of the world and having many of the good gameplay traits (even adding in some new good mechanics like improved magicka use and dual wielding in combat) it feels like it's dumping substance for style. A bit of a blow since the graphics aren't all that amazing, especially when you look at things up close... Notably it's ditched even more skills from the last games, and dropped the class system and physical stats. I don't like this namby-pamby wishy-washy 'play it how YOU want to play' method, I want to be able to sculpt my character from the getgo to level in a certain way. In addition in some areas it just feels like Bethesda gave up halfway through development and left things looking rough and shoddy and just saying 'eh, let the modders pick up the slack.' The completely missing skills, some truly hilariously abysmal animations that look utterly unfinished (Wolf-Aela in the underforge come to mind) and the fact that the two main story threads of Alduin and the Civil War end with very little resolution or reward to the player. To me it feels like they should have just made one of those the focus and added more to them. In addition it kinda feels like your character is a lacky in most of the questlines, which kinda detracts from the whole 'chosen one uber-badass' aspect. It made sense in Oblivion where you were the passenger to the actual hero of the story, Martin. Here you're getting batted about by those two tards in the Blades, or working alongside those braindead jackasses in the Thieves Guild (Damnit Karliah, Mercer Frey is about as threatening and dangerous as a poodle). Plus constantly fighting dragons feels more like a chore, and many shouts grow to feel kinda useless. Still... worth playing if you get the legendary edition on PC and mod the crap out of it.
A Skyrim review...
Pros: Skyrim is huge and I mean HUGE. I feel that it is one of the biggest worlds I have ever seen. Combat is complex and the finishers are a nice touch Dragon battles are great Lots of Lore and Worldbuilding Quests can vary from a simple bounty quest....to fighting a dragon...to as complex as finding out what happened after a drinking game. The characters do their job. They aren't complex or anything (as far as I've played) but they do their job Shouts are creative and varied Cons:
- Personal Cons and Just for Fun are just stuff that minorly affect the review.
Simultaneously Fun and Dull...
I'm really not sure what to think of Skyrim. It appears to have improved on nearly every aspect - environment graphics, bugs, music, enemies, dungeons, magic, animantion, race designs...and the battles seem far more hectic and 'natural' to me. There were many times when I could climb a tall hill and stare out over vast, beautiful plains. The rivers actually flowed along courses, the waterfalls threw up sprays and fish leaped up the rapids. There was mist and light and smoke and rain and snow, all gorgeous to look at. Some enemies, such as giants, spiders and dragons, genuinely freaked me out by their sheer size and power. The people didn't look as though their faces had melted and partially solidified again. The voices were sometimes the same for different characters, but still far better than Oblivion's - and nowhere near as American. I felt a definite sense of achievement after slaying a dragon by myself with a few potions and a bow, and just killing a single giant made me feel great. The battles were always challenging but never impossible. And found myself constantly scrounging for money in any way I could, selling off every odd and end I could get my hands on, in order to save up for that awesome mace or ring or amulet. Getting a house, in particular, and completely furnishing it was very gratifying. Some flaws were that I reached my max carry weight very often, quests often felt kind of brief (despite long, multi-trip hauls through dungeons), I had to same my perks a lot, there were a few bugs associated with loading, and where were all the Khajiit, Argonians and Orcs? So why didn't Skyrim fill me with as much wonder as Cyrodiil did? Nostalgia Filter? I loved Oblivion and Morrowind, despite their flaws. I play both for hundreds of hours. Skyrim had loads of features, activites, quests and places to explore. Even the skills are better - I've used almost all of them to some degree, as almost all are useful. I think the game was worth my money. But it often felt...muted. Lacklustre in some unidentifiable way. Held back somehow, even though the devs clearly put a lot of time into it. Don't get me wrong. I don't hate this game. I don't even dislike it. On several levels, I enjoy it. Maybe I just haven't played enough. Maybe I'm not playing it right. I hope I'm complaining because I haven't had close to the full experience.
Could have been so much better
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.
The Game that reconciled me with video RPG
I admit, I honestly wasn't enthousiastic with Skyrim when I first saw parts of it. Sure, it was cool and all, but following an issue I had with World of Warcraft that would be too long explain, I had kinda given up on that kind of game. Eventually, and friend of mine explained me parts of the story, and managed to convince me to give it a try. I found the game, I installed it, I played. And I had a hell of a time. Maybe it's just because that's the first time I play a RPG with all the time needed, but I really enjoyed it a lot. The graphics can have some glitches, but when they work right, they are amazing. You have some great creativity with your character: you can basically have him be whoever and whatever you want (I assume this is, again, common in Elder Scrolls Games). You have a large set of powers and weapons, and a pretty original one in the form of the Shouts. The questlines are of.... variable quality, but the best ones tend to be great. There is little to no manicheism, most of the stories have a lot of Gray and Grey Morality, and, while some parts might seem like a Cliché Storm at the first look, most stereotypes are often deconstructed of subverted in quite epic ways. Not everything is perfect, though. The commands are a bit hard, and take time to get used to. Also, the Gray and Grey Morality is a double-edged word: sometimes, either because both side are just as bad as each others or both have a point, you can have a hard time to chose which one pick or even give a crap, especially in the Civil War and Dark Brotherhood storylines. The followers, while some of them are cool, usually have a limited amount of development or dialogue, which can make them boring after a time (sad, because a lot of them have potential). Regardless, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a great game that will most likely entertain you for a while, and makes a great job at creating an interactive world. I recommand it to anyone who ever wished to play a Bad Ass, overpowered Escapist Character in a fantasy setting.
Dawnguard is Bethesda's 1st DLC expansion for Skyrim. Priced at $20, Dawnguard is much more expensive than the other DLC packs Bethesda has released in the past. So, is it worth the price? Not at all. Dawnguard's questlines are almost carbon copies of each other; each group has almost exactly the same quests and even if you join the anti-vampire Dawnguard, you still get an opportunity to become the new "Vampire Lord" transformation later on with no repercussions asides from random encounters with hunters, which pretty much eliminates most of the difference between the groups. The questline also forces you to associate with a rather poorly written character called Serana, a vampire with daddy issues. No matter what you do and how much you hate vampires, Serana WILL tag along and WILL NOT leave you until the questline is concluded. Thus, you are forced to listen to Serana's numerous problems and complaints all the time. Not to mention that Serana will pretty much screw over your stealth character on multiple occasions by charging into fights, but that's more of a problem with Skyrim's AI in general. The new Vampire Lord form is not as fun as you'd expect. You are forced into the clunky 3rd-person view while transformed and your abilities are only useful at low levels. You also have to grind a lot in order to get all the powers, which is just tedious to do. The new Werewolf powers are even more boring, as none of them are very useful and are all things you could just do with Dragon Shouts. The new Crossbow weapon functions almost exactly as a bow, so it's not very exciting to use. There are some positives to the DLC. The environments are very beautiful and have some fun secrets in them. Some of the new loot have interesting powers and abilities. While they are weaker than regular weapons, it is fun to play with their effects. There are some interesting lore tidbits to find through out the new areas as well. In conclusion, wait for a severe price drop in Dawnguard before even thinking of buying it. There's not much to do and your $20 could be better spent on a full game rather than this DLC. Hopefully Bethesda learns from this and tries harder with their next DLC expansion.
Wild Snowberries - Gaming Goes Moody
The Elder Scrolls series began for me with Oblivion, at a friend’s. By the time my brother bought an Xbox 360, I was as familiar as anyone to its general look and feel. In short, I had already “explored” it without really “savouring” it. My tactic of generally staying away from gossip and pre-release info has, I think, paid off with Skyrim. It’s a game that needs to be taken in slowly in order to allow the best aspects to shine through, because those best aspects are likely going to be your very own reactions to the things you discover. This doesn’t just apply visually, as beautiful as the scenery generally looks; the game plants little pieces of story information for you to pick up and keep in mind. The world of the game operates as a whole. Walking down a road to visit a city for the first time (which the game highly encourages by not letting you zip over immediately), you could potentially meet many different characters with whom you’ll become more familiar with later on. On another level however, attention must be paid to the many ways that the game deliberately detracts from its widely-touted artificial beauty. The world of Skyrim is less pleasant than its Oblivion counterpart through its stories (many characters are now far more ambiguous), its combat system (which can be quite merciless should you let your guard down just momentarily) and its environment (marked by jagged black rocks and freezing white snow, vengeful mythical beasts and even angrier bears that will tear you to shreds). In these cases, Skyrim lacks the kind of contextual balance and reassurance of the previous game, and how that is received differs from person to person. That supposed lack of frequent episodic charm puts the previous game out on top at some points. As a result, some characters are simply not appealing (especially in regard to one of my personal favourite features, the Dark Brotherhood, which served as one of the most memorable highlights in Oblivion) and to some the game may seem frustratingly tougher from the start. However, these darker moods and tendencies serve one of the game’s main attractions (one of the centrepiece stories, the Skyrim Civil War) very well, and lore-wise, we simply couldn’t accept Skyrim any other way. Ambitious, attractive, deep, if lacking in some alternative flavours.
Solid, entertaining game that needs polishing
I would not have minded if Bethesda made a smaller game with better content than a huge game like Skyrim with somewhat repetitive content. The majority of quests go something like this "Find person X, who tells you to go to ancient ruin Y, fetch artifact Z while fighting off hoards of level-scaled undead, and bring artifact Z back to person X for money." Rinse and repeat. I was extremely disappointed in the Main Quest. I found myself postponing parts of it simply because I was too bored with it. It didn't have the sense of urgency that I felt it should have. Somehow, I managed to find the time to start the Companions and finish the Dark Brotherhood, College of Winterhold, and Thieves' Guild questlines and many Daedric quests before I felt like saving the world from impending doom that could wait one more day. I also found dragons to be lackluster. They used the same set of moves, were rather predictable,and simple to counter. They simply didn't pose the same threat as a giant, mammoth or even a bear at times. The thing I found most disappointing with dragons was that the final boss of the game, a dragon, behaves no differently from the random-encounter dragons. If only Bethesda had given him different actions than the rabble. Bethesda has improved conversations immensely but the people still seem stiff, as their voices can be sometimes dozens of times more enthusiastic than their bodies. Particularly Sheogorath and Cicero, who scream and shout their sentences but never do much more than wave their hands a bit and tilt their head. I have few complaints with the games performance. There are bugs, many bugs, and some infuriating bugs, too. The game crashes occasionally. It's to be expected with such an enormous world. Bethesda has some brilliant things in this game and many great things. For that matter, most things are very good. It simply could have used a bit more shine and variety to the quests, particularly the Main Quest. If you are thinking about buying this game. I highly recommend it. You can't do a whole lot better than Skyrim. Just don't expect everything to be as perfect as you have been told. It has flaws, just like every game does.
Atypical Gaming Experience
The thing I look for most in video games is a great story to complement solid gameplay. I rarely play games just to kill time, instead treating them as another portal to immersive fictional worlds. What's atypical for me about Skyrim is that I didn't give a hoot about the story or the world. I haven't played any other games in the series, and thus had no background information. I wasn't motivated to find out any of the lore, and I really only played the main quest to complete it and get more dragon shouts. And because of the wide-open nature of the game, the story actually isn't meant to be cohesive; the world is an open book for the player to write. While I respect that, it's not my cup of tea. I prefer a railroaded narrative that develops inevitably as I play. Somehow, though, Skyrim captivated me. Because I could tool around the countryside fighting whatever I wanted, building my skills to chuck bigger fireballs and crafting cooler swords out of rare metals, I kept playing and playing. There was tons of ways to develop, and tons of things to do, even if I had no particular emotional attachment to the characters or setting. Just taking the quests as little one-off adventures was immensely satisfying. There was so much to do, and the level-up system was streamlined enough for only a casual RPG player to enjoy. Any game that lacks significant narrative appeal for me yet still causes me to invest 50+ hours has to be counted as a success.
Six Hundred Hours Logged
Really, do I need to say anything else about this game? Its vast, beautiful, immersive, and incredibly fun to play. Pick a direction, start walking, fight some monsters, explore the landscape, and go on spontaneous adventures in the land of fantasy vikings and giant dragons and barbarian bandits and angry Romans. Find a guild or an NPC in a town and discover an awesome quest to go on to find loot. Go home, craft weapons and armor to make the Daedric Princes themselves flush with envy. And when you have time between all of that, find a spot with good view, kick back, relax, and look at the sky and the horizon, and be awed by the world around you. Then get eaten by a bear, because this is Skyrim, bitches.
Oblivion 2.0: Starts promising, but doesn't deliver except only 5.5 years late
I really wanted this game to be mindblowingly good. Better than the aborted fetus known as Oblivion, where the latter set the bar so low that the sequel have no chance but to surpass it in every single way. Especially with all those awesome mods around for Oblivion/Morrowind, Bethesda must have took some great ideas from them...Right? Nope. A mixed bag. Let's start with the good stuff. Graphics, landscaping and the art on the whole are gorgeous, and this is the most stable and smoothest game from Bethesda at release yet. Now, the bad. Almost all dungeons are linear with only one set path, the quests are one-dimensional "talk to X, go to place Y kill/take Z, return for reward" with no meaningful choices that can be made by the player to change outcomes. Nobody in game seems to ever acknowledge you in esteem or fear even if you are the Arch Mage / Thieves Guild boss / Dark Brotherhood leader / Imperial or rebel champion all at the same time. Quest/Dialogue writing are so bland that even the V As have a hard time infusing emotion into them. Game mechanics is borked. C'mon, it is really so hard to get a semblance of game balance in a single player game? I'm not expecting World Of Warcraft-level competitive Pv P balance here, but things like a single 1-hander + shield doing more overall damage than 2-hander, or the armor/resist caps are bafflingly retarded in 2011. Choices are only valid choices when the underlying mechanics are well thought-out and designed, not tons of useless perks so that the player can gimp themselves with. Leved scaled loot rewards are back, hell yeah! Nothing more insulting than collecting subpar items because you did quest X at a low level. The UI is an sheer abomination that it makes the 8-year old Morrowind UI look amazing. Obviously, PC displays became smaller and the mouse becamse dead during the same 8-year period that everything was squeezed into long lists that makes the eye hurt. To add insult to the injury, the 1.2 patch broke magic resistances and made truly awesome stuff happen like dragons flying backwards. While this was fixed shortly by the time of writing, it speaks volumes of Bethesda's sheer incompetence. With Skyrim as it is, I doubt they will ever learn. Overall rating: 6.5/10, PC version.
An incredible game with largely unnoticed design improvements
Skyrim represents to me virtually everything that a franchise installment should be. It improves over its predecessors, offers something new to players, while still providing what players generally come to expect. Evaluated in its own right, Skyrim continues to impress me with its improved design and narrative depth. The leveling system of the previous two Elder Scrolls games has been done away with, to great fanfare and celebration. The level progression feels more natural and is considerably less prone to overcautious play. In Skyrim, the player has much more control over how one's character grows. The new skill perks system means that the player's abilities improve more frequently now, rewarding focus while still letting the player grab any ancillary perks they find convenient. The end result strips away a lot of the dull complexity of previous games while maintaining at least as much depth. Exploring the world is also something I've come to appreciate in Skyrim more than in Oblivion. Killing dragons is much less of a chore than clearing Oblivion Gates, and while some complain that they become easy after a while, I'm glad that Bethesda chose to lean towards making them too easy rather than too hard, as obtaining Dragon Souls is critical to the other central mechanic, Dragon Shouts. Shouts themselves add a lot of interesting facets to gameplay. The variety of Shouts lets the player use them in everything from head-to-head combat to stealth trickery to navigating the world, all in a way that makes the player feel empowered. The story is also something I found intriguing. There's a lot of room for mileage variance with regards to the two main factions in the game. To side with one faction wholeheartedly, no matter which one, would mean allying yourself with some distasteful characters, be they racist, or militaristic, or downright psychotic. Any game that makes the player think critically about their allegiances deserves a gold star from the industry. There are a lot of other changes I'm thankful for, like the experimentation-based alchemy system, the better sneaking feedback, and the improved NPC writing and behavior. The improvements over previous games, plus the depth added to the play and the plotline, result in a game that I'm glad to be experiencing, in spite of its imperfections.
Skyrim had big shoes to fill, Oblivion was a really great game in a lot of aspects. In all aspects, it trumps the old and even brings newer things up to par with what's expected. The combat system requires a lot more consideration, you can't just stand there and laugh as you could sometimes in Oblivion. In this game, they made sure that you were kept on your toes with enemies. The addition of a dual-wield is beneficial, and the shield is now able to be effective. The perk system is much better than the old Oblivion leveling system, and a lot of benefits lie in even the lower echelons of each skill tree. There's a lot to do, and while a fair amount of it can seem repetitious there's always something new to make it seem different. A lot of the annoyances of Oblivion skills are removed, it's far more streamlined and more effective. You can level up and take new perks when you want, not just when you sleep anymore. Anything you choose, you don't have to worry about strength being terrible or magic abilities to be overly deficient from base stats. The Shouts are really fun as well, and keep the game really entertaining and helps with any build of character. The amount of different voices is far larger than that of the original game, practically the only time you run into an old voice that does sound familiar is the enemies. Enemies are smarter than they were before, but they can and will make stupid decisions. Your Followers are no exception, but they're actually brighter than most enemies you run across. They can be a major help in situations. The lines are better than they were in Oblivion, though some are remarkably...Odd or stupid. And some questlines seem to end with your being made the leader of a guild, which can be a bit annoying with how quickly they seem to trust you. And now, with the bad entirely. Textures can be fairly off, ranging from really good to fairly bad. It can really glare at you, how bad they seem to get at times. Glitches aren't common, but there are some times where it's a bit frustrating. The game also freezes at times on my system. However, the faults rarely take away enough to make the game unplayable. In fact, the game is extremely entertaining a lot of the time. I've lost hours straight playing, and almost never felt a bit of boredom. 9/10