The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Release Date: November 11, 2011
- Visually, locations are rich and outstanding to behold
- The sheer scope of the game is incredible
- Unique adventure for every player
- Reworked magic and leveling is easy to grasp
- Dragon battles are a unique experience
- Combat feels sluggish and dated at times
- Enemy and Friendly AI have trouble finding paths
If there is one franchise that screams RPG, it's the Elder Scrolls. Ever since Morrowind, the game has been all about freedom of choice and shaping the main story to your preferred style of play. Whether you wish to become the stealthy archer or majestic mage, your preference makes this single player experience tailored to your ideal adventure. This is no different in Skyrim, in which the sheer scope and satisfaction of the game is beyond any RPG out there.
You are flung into the game as a prisoner, much like the previous installment. Just as you are about to be executed, a dragon appears to the surprise of all the villagers and you escape confinement. Through the main quest line, you investigate the reason behind the dragon's sudden appearance in the world, and how your own destiny intertwines. It's a classic tale of adventure, with a hero rising up against a dark force, reinforced by a hefty lore depicted in character interaction and literature that makes Skyrim a world all its own.
It's when the leash comes off that the game showcases its greatest feature; an open world daring you to explore every crevice. The sheer size and amount to do in this game is incredible. Practically ever villager has something to say or a task for you to complete. The quest log I had quickly filled up with each new area, to the point of becoming overwhelmed with the tasks at hand. Even players wanting to skimp on the main quest line can ignore it completely to just run around with a sword in hand.
You can embark on a sub-quest, run through a local dungeon, create armor and weapons, reinforce armor and weapons, produce potions, enchant weapons, and so much more. Bethesda has created a living breathing world, and you are just a small entity of it. As far as a game with the most bang for your buck, Skyrim is unmatched.
Your Own Viking
In addition to having an entire world at your disposal, the character creation in the game personalizes each experience. You choose a race ranging from Orc, to Nord, to Elf and everything in between. In addition to a race, there are the typical alterations that can be made to perfect the look of your character. The possibilities are endless, as you could put your own physical appearance onto any character model.
The biggest appeal of Skyrim lays in evolving your character from a soldier with tin cans for armor into the shiniest beacon of awesome in your perception possible. With each dungeon or mission completed, you are bound to find a new piece of equipment to replace your existing setup. The feeling of satisfaction as you pan the camera around to observe your character's look is never fleeting, as a brand new shiny piece of armor is right around the corner.
In addition to a unique look is the unique experience. Some players may wish to continue the main story, the outcomes can be so different that you may use a different method of getting there than another player. Some may wish to skimp on story and run around the wilderness, exploring caves and dungeons at their leisure. Others may grab the nearest broom and start whacking every chicken they can find in a village. Skyrim allows you to play out the game however you wish, and with so many classes and places to explore; no two individuals will have the same experience in Skyrim.
Fight with Honor
Combat in the game works best from the first person perspective. Depending on how you develop your character, the approach to each fight can vary. Stealthy classes will stick to the shadows and strike for extra damage. Melee combat will charge in with the typical block and counter attack technique. Spell casters will usually end up prepping with buff spells and then unleashing devastation.
Every action you invest in, including the armor you wear, adds up in that particular skill. A skill tree allows you to divulge with each level into whatever you wish to become adept in using in combat. No one tree is more powerful than the other, and the list of hybrid possibilities is immense. You can spend points in Archery and Destruction magic, making you a force to be reckoned with from afar, or Heavy Armor and Blocking to become an unstoppable tank.
You spend one perk per level for one of the three main bars on the interface: Magic, Health, and Stamina. Spell casters will choose heavily to increase their magic bar and allow more spells, health becomes a standard for all classes, and stamina becomes useful for melee lunges and blocking. It's a simpler alternative to upgrading individual skills such as Dexterity and Strength, and results in quicker decision making to get right back into the fight.
Do Not Feed the Giants
Do not get me wrong, Skyrim is a fantastic game that is well worth any fantasy buff's time. However, the game had a few quirks that held it back from perfection.
The AI has not gotten an upgrade from Oblivion, and it's painfully obvious as you watch them try to make their way to you. Followers and companions will often get hung up on rocks or a fairly large twig, and even enemies get tied up in their pursuit of you. I even watched a companion stand perfectly still as he was chopped by skeletons.
Combat has some fairly nice touches to it, but can evolve into backpedaling and firing off spells and arrows. Not to mention the melee combat, despite some satisfying finishers, leaves a little more visual appeal to be desired. Oftentimes full lunges will end up going right past the intended target. With multiple enemies in melee range, it can be difficult to pick certain targets, and more often than not you smack your friend in the back instead of the enemy.
Despite a generally fair difficulty, there were the occasional moments where you feel you rolled the unlucky dice in your journey. Giants are immediately labeled as a "stay the away from me or go flying 500 feet in the air" enemy, but end up being on your path to a new objective more often than they should early in the game. The occasional roadside encounter varies greatly, sometime being a single thief and other times a well trained mage that can put you down in seconds. Not only does it act as a constant gear check, but a lesson in humility.
Skyrim is one of the best RPGs to grace a console in a long time, and with the hours of content available, offers a huge world to play around in. It is one of the few games that has captured a battle with a dragon in a way unlike any other. The small nuances can be overlooked to see the unique adventure that lies below it, and with hours of content at your disposal, it's an adventure that can last a lifetime.