(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 4.5 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 5 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 5 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 5 Stars
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Street Date:
- November 11th, 2011
- Reviewed by:
- Daniel Hirshleifer
- Review Date:1
- November 28th, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- Bethesda Softworks
- Bethesda Game Studios
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
IntroductionIn the world of western RPG's, nothing tops the Elder Scrolls. Each release sets the standard for open environments, variety of missions, and magnificently epic battles. The last Elder Scrolls, Oblivion, is still my choice for the best game of this generation. Needless to say, I've been awaiting the new game, Skyrim, with baited breath. Let's see what it brings to the table.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
200 years after the events of Oblivion, Skyrim takes you north to the titular land, where you begin as a prisoner of a weakened imperium. Moments before the axeman takes off your head, a dragon swings by and wreaks havoc all over the village. Making your escape, you find yourself thrust into the battle between the Nords, natives of Skyrim, and the Empire they wish to secede from. To make matters a little more complicated, you're not just any old prisoner. No, you're a dragonborn, with the ability to absorb the souls of dragons and use them to power ancient and devastating magic.
Skyrim should be immediately comfortable to anyone who's played the last two Elder Scrolls games, Oblivion or Morrowind. After choosing a race and creating a character, you find yourself inhabiting a vast, open world. As you progress, you activate an increasing number of missions. And in the case of Skyrim, the available missions are actually endless. Developer Bethesda has created an infinite mission system, which means that over time the game will create new missions to keep your character occupied.
Of course, even without an infinite amount of missions, Skyrim is a massive game, encompassing many types of terrain and many types of gameplay. The game focuses on three major areas: Combat, magic and stealth. Your character can use any of these at will, and each one has several subcategories that you can upgrade to enhance your style of playing. For example, if you like to use stealth, you can upgrade bonuses for attacking while sneaking, or make yourself better at lockpicking and pickpocketing. If combat is your thing, damage and armor bonuses would be your thing. And of course, you can mix and match as you see fit.
Not everything about Skyrim has remained the same as before. The leveling and perk system has been streamlined in a very attractive interface designed around constellations. Some hardcore role players may find this to be too simplistic, but I think it allows you to get to the action even more quickly. A less attractive change is to the menu system, which does feel too simplistic and makes it difficult to compare items when you're looking to buy and sell with merchants.
That minor quibble aside, Skyrim is a beautiful and addicting game. The inclusion of dragons (long considered extinct within the fictional game universe) adds an exciting and unpredictable element. It's breathtaking to feel the ground shake beneath you as a see a massive winged shadow fly past you. And actually fighting them is a whole new experience for the Elder Scrolls series. These massive creatures are dangerous from almost all sides, and if you're not careful they will simply chomp you in half.
As with all Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim rewards exploration. There are more hidden gems tucked away in nooks and crannies than one person could ever reasonably hope to find. Additionally, many of the missions are unexpected and hilarious, including one where you black out in a bar, wake up in another city, and have to recreate the events of the night before, a la The Hangover. With so much to do, you'll never get bored with Skyrim.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Skyrim looks gorgeous, pushing the limits of what this generation of consoles can process. Gone is the HDR lighting scheme of Oblivion (thankfully), replaced by the more muted color scheme of the northern lands. Skyrim is ultimately less graphically varied than Oblivion, but there is no shortage of impressive graphics, whether you're on a windswept mountain top or at a bubbling geyser. And those dragons sure do take your breath away.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Once again, Bethesda brings some A-level talent to do the voice work in Skyrim. Every character sounds unique, and you could spend weeks just talking to NPC's throughout the game. The environment also has plenty of ambient sounds, and some not so ambient (it's always a tense moment when you hear a growling bear and know that in seconds it will be on top of you). There's a whole world inside of Skyrim, and every part of it has a sound.
With all there is to do in Skyrim, the game was designed to be played over and over. There are multiple races to choose from, different ways to play, and different outcomes for many of the missions. As I play through the game for the first time, I'm already thinking of how I'll play it differently the second, third, and fourth times.
Skyrim once again transports us to the wonderful world of Elder Scrolls. Here you can make a character unique to you, play how you want, and do what you want. And along the way you get to slay some giant dragons. How cool is that?
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