Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I should not need to write an opening for this review, I've played Skyrim since 11/11/11 and yet the review has not arrived until now, is there a reason for this? No, except that I've been unsure how to begin telling you people about this game. It was my most anticipated game of 2011, it had a lot to live up to... And wow.

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Developed by Bethesda Softworks / Published by Zenimax Studios
  • Reviewed on 360 / Available on PC/360/PS3
  • PEGI: 18+ / ESRB: M
  • Reviewed by: Tobbii Karlsson

Skyrim is more than a game, it's a world. That's fact by the way, Skyrim is the actual world you step into in the game. It's the home of the nords of Tamriel and the game is named after this great region. Unlike previous games that did not have as direct names, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind took place in the central Morrowind island called Vvardefell, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion took place in Cyrodiil and the two games before them took place in more than just one region. The reason I'm mentioning this is that I want you all to realize just hope big and deeply thought out The Elder Scroll's world really is, Bethesda have planned this in great detail for fans to experience what should actually feel like a proper world, and they have succeeded beyond my expectations.

My favourite RPG of all time is Morrowind, the third game in the series, for the amazing world and the amount of freedom the game gave me. I felt that Oblivion, the fourth game, was a step back in various ways, it was still an awesome game worthy of high praise, but it didn't come close to Morrowind that to me was a much richer experience. That's where Skyrim's world come in. Unlike Oblivion, the towns and cities feel alive and populated beyond anything I've seen in a videogame before, people have randomly generated lives and conflicts, they can give you quests that noone else playing the game will get and you can affect their life in great detail.

The game is gorgeous, some textures on the console version are slightly below average, but it's not noticeable unless you really try finding problems with the game. The light effects are some of the best I've seen in an open world game and every acre on the map feels unique and detailed. The character models look more alive than in any other Bethesda developed game and the character creation gives you almost everything you could want. The art direction is superb and consistent, and the animations are greatly improved upon previous titles. If I need to actually knock down on anything in terms of visual presentation it would be the lack of interesting clothes to collect. Oblivion had a lot more fun and fancy types of clothes you could collect and run around in, maybe DLC will fix that though.
The music in the game is nothing short of amazing, whether it's memorable ambient tunes from Morrowind or epic new battle themes as you set a Dragon Priest on fire, it's all good. The soundtrack is something I recommend you buy on its own even, that's how great it is. The voice acting is as good as you would expect from a AAA title like this, believable and characteristic. Other sound effects sound kind of generic, nothing bad, but a sword cutting against another sword will always sound the same. If I had to compare the soundtrack to previous titles however, I would say it's slightly weaker than Oblivion or Morrowind, probably because of how many throwbacks to those games there are in the tunes.

But I've still not talked about the gameplay have I. That's the hard part about reviewing a game like Skyrim. Because I could spend 10 hours in this game catching fish and chasing animals in the forest, but that's not what you want to hear is it? No, you want to hear about dragons, fighting dragons. I've fought about 50 dragons at this point, the battles are a lot of fun even if you face a slightly weaker dragon. I do think Bethesda expected you to fight the Dragon while it's flying though, which I found very hard, I always end up waiting for them to land and the wail on them with my Ghostblade and Dawnbreaker. That's two swords by the way, you can dual wield everything one-handed now, even spells, that's a great addition to the franchise as a whole.

Another new thing is Dragon Shouts. Basically you can collect words of the dragon language that allow you to yell out spells, whether it's fire-breathing or summoning lightning storms it's just awesome. The crafting system in Skyrim is very simple, in a good way, I can honestly say that crafting has never been this easy to get into and at the same time fun in any other RPG title, I've raised my smithing to level 100 and still I enjoy crafting armor just for the sake of crafting armor. You can also get married now, both heterosexual and homosexual that is, it basically allows for your husband/wife to either cook you food, open up a store to earn in money or help you on your battles. It's fairly shallow as of now, but it helps set the realism of the world a lot and maybe there will be something in the form of DLC to maybe allow for more features with your partner.

The controls work perfectly, you have everything you need easily accessible and the new menu system helps with this a lot. The new third-person camera is also something welcomed, I've spent many hours in third-person mode and it's just as fun as the first-person mode. However, let's talk about glitches. There are glitches in this game and they come in all shapes and forms. It's not as bad as previous Bethesda games, but it's still present. However, whether it was dead bodies sticking to the ceiling, people walking in the sky or dragons flying backwards, it never ever makes the game feel less fun. And to me that's the most important factor here, there are moments where the glitches should ruin your experience, but somehow it doesn't knock down the enjoyment of the game at all.

Finally, I'd like to dedicate a part of this review to just describe an experience that I've not had in any other game. My village was attacked by a randomly generated dragon at one point and the person I had gotten to know as my friend was killed in battle, this made me very sad, because I actually cared for him. Then his daughter came up and started mourning the loss of her father, she was gloomy for a long time afterwards, refusing to talk to me. I've never had such an emotional rollercoaster for NPCs in what is essentially a sandbox game, someone else might have killed those character himself to get their property or something, and when I think of that I just realize how different this game is going to be for everyone else who plays it.

Morrowind or Skyrim, which game is the best? Well, if we take away the two great expansion packs of Morrowind and simply looks at it from a vanilla vs vanilla battle, I've got to be honest and tell you that I will rank them the same. It's a tie, and that's probably the biggest compliment I could give a game like Skyrim, to tell it that it's as good as Morrowind, and when I held off writing I thought the reason for me not being able to start would be because I would finally have to decide about that, but now I know why I held it off. Because now I can honestly say, hand on my heart, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is my personal Game of the Year 2011.

Final Evaluation:
10/10 - Bloody Brilliant

Tobbii Karlsson played Skyrim for a total of 148 hours, 25 hours for the main campaign.
Tobbii beat every questline once and collected all the achievements.

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