The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review
In my last review, I mentioned that sometimes nostalgia can blind our eyes into thinking a game is much better than it actually is. This is a similar case with Skyrim. However, rather than nostalgia, Skyrim has blinded a large many with hype. Is it as great as many have made it out to be? Let’s see.
The dragons have come, as the legends foretold. Alduin and his followers are intent on taking over the world. You, the Dovakhiin, or, “Dragonborn,” with the blood of dragons, are the only thing standing between the dragons, and civilization’s downfall.
I mean, if you want to, I guess.
You see, Skyrim’s main quest, no matter how urgent may seem, not only takes a backseat, but is pretty uninteresting. That isn’t to say it isn’t good, rather that it isn’t as engaging as some of the optional side-quests and the like of the game. These are where the greatest aspects of the game’s storytelling shine, from main guild arcs to minor, 15 minute quests. All have interesting outcomes, and keep you involved and wanting to complete them. The best part is that there are a multitude of stories to partake in, so if you dislike one, you can simply stroll on over to one that takes your fancy.
Skyrim is an action-rpg, but open-world, akin to the Grand Theft Auto games and Red Dead Redemption. You create your own character, fight, loot, explore, and repeat. When you’re not adventuring, you can participate in mundane activities such as smithing, alchemy, and enchanting, all of which help you fight, loot, and explore better. All of this fighting, looting, and exploring is done using a variety of skills, from using sword and shield, to stealth, to using a bow and arrows, or magic. There are many different skills, and as you use them, they will upgrade. This is a nice, organic way to level up your character: The skills you naturally use depending on your inherent play style get better as you use them. Then, when you level up, you get to choose a perk for one of your skills, encouraging you to specialize in the skills you use the most. Very soon, you’ll go from almost executed peasant to being known throughout Tamriel. When you get stronger, you feel it, and look it. It’s a pretty sweet incentive to keep playing, coupled with the dragon shouts that you’ll obtain as you explore and complete quests, that have effects varying from a sort of force push, to actual fire breath, to a few that I won’t spoil, as they’re pretty awesome.
The other incentive is Skyrim’s calling card: Freedom. You can do basically anything you’d like. Ignore quests all together and explore. Roleplay any role you wish. Become a traveler or a bandit, a hero or villain, or something in between. Your choice is the most important part of Skyrim. And quite honestly, it is the best part of the game as well. Those moments when you step away from the main quest and do what you’d like, finding the most unexpected of things. Once, I decided to enter a random cave, simply on a whim. I ended up obtaining one of the most powerful enchanted items in the game. Not because the game told me to retrieve X at Y in any way. But because I *chose* to enter that cave. I felt in control of my own virtual fate. And this is because I *was.* It’s quite refreshing in comparison to the narrow hallway Point-A-to-Point-B RPGs that have been on the rise lately (Final Fantasy XIII).
Thankfully, all the hours of exploring you get to do looks great. Skyrim is a pretty game, and miles above it’s predecessor. It’s sound and graphics help immerse you into the world. Skyrim looks like a rugged, snowy world that could actually exist,-minus the, you know, dragons and what not. This is a great strength, because you will be spending tons of the time in the game. However, this length is a double edged sword, as caves and the like most definitely start to blend together at the 20-25 hour mark. This sense of deja vu only increases as you spend time playing the game, but it plays well enough that it doesn’t matter..
Well, it plays well, for the most part.
There are two aspects of Skyrim that don’t really click with me. The first is combat. Though choices have increased, and duel-wielding is available, it does not feel very visceral. Sword slashes seem to phase through your enemies, and only finishing move have any amount of *umph* to them. Magic, thankfully, does not have this issue, and it, combined with the physics engine, makes for some very interesting and awesome scenarios at times. However, this really is a small issue in the grand scheme of things. The combat system works properly, and this is most important to me.
The bigger issue are glitches. I have experienced too many for me to simply brush the problem aside. While some can be humorous, some can also be game-breaking. I have been stuck in geometry, trapped in areas where gates are meant to open, and had quests cut off for doing things in a certain order. While these are sometimes normal for games of such a grand scale, they happened more often than I was comfortable with. These issues were, for me, more frequent on the PS3 version of the game, and diminished on the PC version.
However, in the grand scheme of things, Skyrim is a great game. While I don’t believe it should have been as hyped up as it was, in hindsight, it can provide hundreds of hours of entertainment for the gamer who doesn’t have much to spend, making it the perfect empty wallet game. The sense of freedom it gives is fantastic. So go out and explore, Dovakhiin: You have quite a lot to do.
Did Skyrim play well for you? Did the glitches ruin your experience? In general, how do you feel about Skyrim?