My name is Kory and I’m addicted to the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I can’t stop ‘chasing the purple dragon’…and I literally mean winged monsters from the sky.
Skyrim, a single-player epic RPG from Bethesda Softworks, is the fifth and arguably greatest installment in the celebrated Elder Scrolls series. Set in the Viking-inspired Nordic nation of Skyrim, the game is open-world, open-ended and filled with enough content to be virtually inexhaustible to the average gamer. For these reasons, I have been unable to tear myself away from the game since I first received my copy. During those brief times when I have been forced to take a break, I talk about Skyrim and subject my wife to endless excited chatter about caves, dragons, giant spiders, trolls, werewolves, and magic. Last night, I dreamt of Skyrim.
Skyrim is addictive because of the freedom the player has to experience what he or she wishes. Don’t feel like following the main storyline? Don’t worry, there are hundreds of other tales to unfold, many of which are every bit as lengthy, challenging and engrossing as the main storyline. Want to be a wizard, a warrior, an assassin, a freedom fighter, a thief, a monster or a complex combination of all the above? Go ahead, Skyrim will let you and actually encourage you to do so.
My personal adventure through Skyrim has been that of a wanderer, flitting in and out of major storylines, stopping at random locales on whims of curiosity rather than fallowing any set path. My character development has focused on being well rounded, with an equal application to all the major battle tactics and schools of specialty. I guess what I’m saying is that you wouldn’t want me to find you standing around in a cold, abandoned cave or ancient subterranean ruin, even with the best of armor and weaponry.
I’d start by taking close to half your health away with a single, well-placed arrow from my powerful, enchanted bow before you even knew I was there. By the time you turned around to fight me, I would already be blasting you with magical flames from one hand and lightning from the other. If you managed to survive this onslaught long enough for hand-to-hand combat, I would block your strongest blows with a heavy shield and enchanted light armor. I’d counter each attack with a magic mace or battleaxe that would almost instantly remove that sliver of health keeping you alive. Statistically, I would not have suffered a scratch and you would be dead.
Skyrim is visually stunning; quite literally one of the most beautiful and artistically inspired open-RPG worlds ever created (and I’ve played through dozens). With massive, majestic peaks, gorgeous lowlands, star-studded nighttime skies – oft complimented with the game’s version of aurora borealis – even veteran gamers haven’t seen anything quite like it.
From a technical point of view the game is, usually, a triumph. Textures are typically crisp, the draw-distance in the game is phenomenal aside from some small object pop-in, real time lighting is abundant in most environments and the almost total lack of aliasing issues (particularly on console) is a magical feat of programming in itself.
Skyrim manages to make a few major improvements over the already impressive Oblivion that should be duly noted. For starters, the flexibility of attaching any weapon or spell to either hand is a massive improvement over the far more rigid Oblivion. Included is the ability to now dual-weld spells, something that makes playing strictly as a mage character more rewarding and feasible, than in the fourth installment. Next up is the noticeably better menu system, a cleaner interface for navigating the many bits of information and items that will affect your character. Additionally, locating your mission goal is easier in-game because of a more aggressive quest indicator that actually shows on screen relative to the direction you are facing, i.e., a door you need to go through will have your quest indicator appear directly on it, not just in your compass or on the map. Speaking of maps, Skyrim’s is actually an incredible and attractive 3D view of the nation from miles above.
Lastly, and arguably the biggest improvement of all, Skyrim maintains the hardcore RPG complexity of Oblivion and Morrowind but manages to make deciphering how to do most tasks easier than in any previous installment. Whereas Morrowind was famous for leaving players virtually without any direction, Skyrim is able to present more complex pieces of play – such as alchemy, enchanting, casting, summoning, guilds and schools – in ways that are intuitive and simple to understand. The marriage of complex ideas to simple, intuitive learning processes is probably the game’s single greatest triumph. If ever a title was pleasing to ‘hardcore’ RPG gamers, yet accessible to curious newcomers without sacrifice, it is Skyrim.
For all the incredible good in Skyrim there are exceptions, particularly in ways for which Bethesda is notorious. The game crashed entirely on me on two separate occasions and, considering how much time I have spent with Skyrim, that number is low compared to the experiences of my colleagues. Moving on, the physics behind riding horses are functional (at best), and the animations for said equestrian motions are even worse. Even resting on your horse on anything but flat ground makes for a comical, gravity-defying stance.
Other problems include miss-fired conversations such as one NPC talking to another that was no longer there, getting stuck in places in the environment your character shouldn’t have trouble getting out of and clipping trouble, such as people up to their waists in solid rock. I also noticed that hit detection is a tad off resulting in arrows connecting when they obviously should have missed and conversely, cover I’m shooting around, blocking arrows that were plainly free from any obstacles.
I’d like to be clear as this review moves forward that Skyrim’s glitches, bugs, and problems don’t change the fact that the fifth Elder Scrolls installment is one of the single greatest interactive entertainment achievements in history. You, yes, you reading this right now, should buy Skyrim. You will not just enjoy it, you will feel compelled to dedicate a small portion of your life to it simply for the sheer joy of playing. It truly can become an addiction, but luckily one that leaves you feeling genuinely rewarded for your time and effort rather than getting you thrown into rehab or prison.
My fellow gamers, if I could only recommend one game this holiday season, Skyrim would get that recommendation without question or second thought. Having extensively played Cod: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City, and Uncharted 3 – all of which are incredible games – I can honestly say that none are offering as grand or engrossing an experience as the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Go out and buy it, my friends; everyone is doing it.
- Massive, beautiful world to explore
- Flexible, choose your own adventure experience
- Countless customizable play styles, character traits/attributes, and tactics.
- Dozens of engrossing story lines
- Surprises litter the game world; you never know what or who you will encounter next
- Gorgeous lighting, colors and magic effects
- Intuitive game-play makes for a surprisingly accessible “Hardcore” RPG without “dumbing” the game down.
- Occasional game crashes
- Minor clipping and hit detection issues
- Bizarre horse animations and physics
Overall Score: 10/10
Recommendation: Buy it now! (Even if you have to borrow money from a relative or friend)