Wednesday 23rd April 2014,
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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Jon November 28, 2011 Reviews, Xbox 360 6 Comments

Overview

The Elder Scrolls series has always had a certain charm to it in terms of its fantastically realized world and somewhat buggy performance.  Games in the series have always been sprawling epics that take players hours upon hours to complete and even after all that time there is more to do.  Skyrim is nothing if not the epitome of an Elder Scrolls game and the formula has been perfected and executed so well that it’s hard not to see the beauty and majesty that Skyrim offers.

Gameplay

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim plays very similarly to its predecessor Oblivion.  The combat system still relies on players using the two trigger buttons to attack, block, cast spells, and shoot arrows while backing up to avoid being struck.  Some people were turned off immediately by the combat system in Oblivion as it was cumbersome to constantly back away from incoming attacks and then move in for a quick slash or two.  Whether it’s because Oblivion was so long ago or because Skyrim has a tweaked combat system the combat just feels better.  It is much more gratifying to slyly dodge enemy attacks, or block them if you use a shield, and then get a few good strikes in.  Also, there is the now added bonus of a slow-motion camera similar to Fallout’s VATS system where the final strike appears as a gnarly cut scene.  Thankfully Skyrim doesn’t sport any actual VATS type system, just the cool camera moments.

Elder Scrolls Skyrim 360 Screenshot
Of course it’s not all swords and shields in the Nordic land of Skyrim.  Like other Elder Scrolls games before it Skyrim allows players to level up their individual skills based on how much they use any given weapon or tactic.  Therefore, if you run in constantly with a two handed war-hammer and heavy armor your two handed weapons and heavy armor skills will increase.  This applies for the different magic schools in the game, sneaking, archery, one handed weapons, lock picking, and other attributes as well.  The most surprising thing about all of the attributes is that they all work well and can be used as viable strategies.  The same fort can be cleared out whether you sneak around it and pick off guards one by one or run in with a sword and take them all on at once.  There is no “right” way to play Skyrim which gives it an incredibly open and sometimes overwhelming, in a good way, feel.

Elder Scrolls Skyrim 360 Screenshot
The attribute system has been overhauled since Oblivion and it’s for the better.  In Oblivion you dumped points into stats that would give you bonuses in each individual statistic.  Overall it felt a bit confusing and the result of your point spending was never readily apparent.  In Skyrim the system has been streamlined and simplified so that each point you earn acts as a perk.  These perks can be dished out into whatever attribute you wish, so long as you have the necessary skill level in that given area.  So if you want to get the perk for swords that allows for decapitations you’ll have to raise your sword level up by slaughtering enemies whole sale with said sword.  It all works very well and allows for a very high degree of specialization or customization depending on your play style.

So, dragons are kind of important in Skyrim considering they are the newest and most unique enemy type you’re going to find in the game.  From the first time you kill a dragon you realize that the combat is going to be a little different with these beasts.  They’re epic in scale and each fight with one usually leads to an unexpected and tense battle.  Sometimes you’ll be walking around on your way to a town or mission and a dragon will swoop down and the battle music will queue up.  Dragon fights are superbly done in Skyrim and while it’s often times crazy battling a dragon on your own, watching civilians or animals team up with you to fight the dragon is even more entertaining.  There will be times where mammoths and giants will get involved due to aggro meters and the ensuing fight between mammoth and dragon is absolutely hilarious. These strange moments are all over Skyrim and instead of making the game feel broken or unpolished they add a strange level of charm to it all.

Elder Scrolls Skyrim 360 Screenshot
You’ll see characters disappear through doors while talking to you, dragons get killed by horses, enemies fall out of the sky, and other strange glitches and bugs.  With so many moving parts it would be impossible for Skyrim to work perfectly, but that’s ok.  Part of the fun of Skyrim is seeing these strange and unexpected moments happen and then sharing them with others.  I can not count how many videos were up on YouTube the day Skyrim came out highlighting weird moments and glitches.  It doesn’t happen often enough to be alarming or game breaking and when it does happen it’s often funny and adds to the overall fun of the game.

Skyrim offers a huge array of options besides just fighting and watching for glitches.  There’s an alchemy system, cooking system, blacksmithing, crafting, and tons of talking to be done as well.  Ingredients can be harvested from the wild and used to create valuable and vital potions, armor, and food.  On top of that there are hundreds upon hundreds of side quests that seem to add themselves to your journal just because you heard a keyword here and there.  All of the side quests are very well done and while some are just the average go here and retrieve this the majority of the quests feel fresh and have their own back story that adds to the game.

Elder Scrolls Skyrim 360 Screenshot
I could spend hours talking about the amount of gameplay mechanics that Skyrim has but the easiest way to sum it all up is to say that Skyrim offers literally hundreds of hours of gameplay and missing out on any bit of it would be criminal.  Take as many side quests as possible and go exploring for a few hours, you’re bound to find some crazy stuff.

Graphics

Skyrim is gorgeous, there is no denying that fact. At any point in the game you can stop for a second and look around and you’ll be treated to some jaw dropping scenery that is hard to find in any other game.  Character models have improved substantially since Oblivion and they all feel as though they have much more life to them overall.  It helps that often times when you talk to a character they’re drinking or working or just doing something rather than standing there like an automaton staring lifelessly into your eyes. The lands of Skyrim are gorgeous as well and it all comes together in such a way that makes the Xbox 360 feel like a graphical powerhouse all over again. Skyrim takes place in the northern lands of Tamriel that share a name with the game’s title.

Skyrim is a snowy Nordic land full of longboats and viking talk.  It’s got a great feel to it all that really helps make the characters and the world you play in feel genuine and believable. Hearing the great voice acting and fun Nordic accents also help lend a feel of realism to the world as well.

Elder Scrolls Skyrim 360 Screenshot
Sound design is incredible in Skyrim whether you’re talking about the music or the voices.  The music in Skyrim is absolutely epic in scale and it often feels like you’ve got a full orchestra at your back when you’re taking on a dragon or an army of bandits.  It gives the world and the combat a great feel and gives the player a feeling of overwhelming power when they go into battle.  Even when all is calm in Skyrim the music takes it to another level by softly serenading the player with music that fits the scene perfectly whether you’re traversing the vast landscape or exploring a dirty slum area.

Now, the interface has been the talk of the town lately among gamers and it seems to be a hate it or love it topic. The interface in Skyrim has been massively overhauled from Oblivion and I for one think it is for the better.  Overall the interface has gotten some flack from people for being to wordy and not sort-able enough.  While having some sort of way to list things by weight or value would’ve been nice the interface is smooth and slick overall.  It allows players to go from one item to the next and it’s incredibly easy to navigate.  Very rarely did I find myself stumbling over the interface as I have with other Elder Scrolls games.  It is a no hassle interface that allows for quick access to necessarily items through the favorites option and sorts items in a very intuitive fashion. The interface takes a little time to get used to if you’re still playing Oblivion but overall it’s a much welcomed change.

Fun Factor

Skyrim definitely has a lot to do in it but it isn’t always about quantity if the quality suffers.  Luckily that isn’t the case and the large amount of quests to do and things to see are always highly polished and entertaining.  Yes, the game has a tendency to lock up and glitch here and there but with the grand scale of it all it is hard to see that not happening.  The game world is so enormous and things are constantly happening around you whether you’re a part of them or not.  Sometimes you’ll run into battles that are halfway finished and if you don’t jump in they’ll finish without you.  Other times you’ll see the remains of a battle and the only thing standing is the giant that is coming for you.  It all gives the world a feeling of life that is second to none in terms of scale and astonishment.

Elder Scrolls Skyrim 360 Screenshot
The main quest is particularly exciting and much more well done than past Elder Scrolls games.  In Oblivion I barely remember the main story as I focused on the guild quests instead.  Luckily in Skyrim the main quest is much more enticing, though the guild quests are still just as fun.  You have your Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood which both boasts exciting quests that lead to some really awesome gear and perks.  There aren’t any Fighter or Mage guilds in Skyrim but there are two different factions that fill their void and make for some really fun side quests with terrific twists.

After years of making epic role playing games Bethesda looks to have truly fine tuned Skyrim.  It has it’s fair share of issues but overall it’s an experience like no other and is incredibly fun.  Each side quest, main quest, and random encounter is just fun to play and even after playing the game for hours on end it all feels just as fresh as when you started.

Overall

Skyrim is the game that I would highly recommend to damn near anyone.  It’s not too hard to figure out and it’s got such an enormous amount of stuff to do that anyone would be able to see what is so special about the game.  It has bugs, there is no doubting that, and glitches that can be frustrating at times but it’s just too complete of a package to let the technical shortcomings matter.  The graphics, the sound, the gameplay, the scale, and everything else in Skyrim come together to create one of the most exciting worlds imaginable and no one should miss out on such a great game.

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About The Author

Hey there, I'm Jon and I like playing and writing about video games. Ever since I read my first issue of Gamepro I've been hooked on reading the latest news and reviews and keeping up with anything and everything that the gaming world has to offer. If it's popular, interesting, different, strange, absolute rubbish, or recommended by someone at random I'll most likely play it. For me it's about appreciating what the developers have created and enjoying video games for the awesome experiences that they offer.

  • http://twitter.com/Viking_95 Charlie Österlund

    This along with Arkham City are my two favourite games of the year; Skyrim lived up to ALL my expectations.

  • http://profiles.google.com/evillibrarian1138 Allen Kesinger

    I discovered that dragons can affect the terrain. One tried to perform a nose dive maneuver on me only to hit the ground hard and slid about 10 feet, leaving a trail of earth behind him that stayed long after the battle. 

  • Logan

    Good review. Glad this game got a 10. Well deserved.

  • http://www.darkstation.com Joel Szerlip

    Great review Jon I do agree with all of your points in the review. Should make a good competitor for GOTY.

  • Blade

    Great review and I agree with just about every point.

    I’ve never really given RPG games a chance. It’s not that I’m not interested it’s just that I didn’t think I’d have the time or patience to really get into them.  After reading countless reviews I decided that Skyrim just looked too good to miss and I bought it last Thursday. 

    All I can say is what a great decision!! I’ve only played 8 hours so far and am probably not even 10% of the way through the game but it’s already blown me away and justified the price tag.

    The atmosphere is incredible and it really does feel like you’re living in a real living world. I’ve only done a couple of the main quests and about 6 side quests so far but I’ve spent the rest of the time just wondering around the world.

    I’m only up to level 5 but I’ve already noticed a massive difference in my combat skills from when I first started. Heaven knows how much fun this game is going to be when I actually get powerfil enough to battle a giant!!

     I’m so happy I decided to give Skyrim a go and I honestly think this could end up as my favourite game of all time! … and I haven’t even had my first dragon fight yet!!

  • http://twitter.com/Fisco Jon Fisco

    I think between this and the 3 other games I just got from Amazon’s lightning sales (Arkham City, Deus Ex, and Dead Island) I have over 200 hours of gaming to do…it never ends!

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DOES 1 – 10,

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Dated this 4th day of September, 2009.