master_prophet's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360) review

Kiss your Social Life Goodbye.

I approached the gigantic tundra with my sword drawn. A native of the town of Whiterun had asked me to clean out this cavern so that he could continue his mining operation. As I approach the cavern and entered, I could hear the shrill sounds of the dead literally rising from their graves. I stand back, and embrace whatever is to come my way.

And thus begun my journey into Skyrim, Bethesda's newest entry into the Elder Scrolls series.

Let's be honest, I've waited a little over five years for this game. Oblivion wasn't just a game changer for me, it was a life changer. At the time of it's release I had started to grow out of the whole video game thing, and honestly six years ago I would have never guessed I would have been sucked back into this whole damn thing. Oblivion did that for me, and it is a game, like many other people, that I hold in the highest regard. So yeah, I've been looking forward to Skyrim. And it doesn't disappoint.

In fact, one of my biggest beefs with the game is that the first hour of the game, well probably less (I spent a long time on creating my character), the game throws you through a cinematic style beginning, something that's never been Bethesda's strong suit. This had me worried, as it is kind of glitchy, and really took me out of the whole ordeal. However, once you get past that beginning, and the world opens up to you, you will begin to realize just how massive Skyrim is.

Let's start off this by stating that Skyrim, unlike previous Bethesda games, doesn't have the clearest out outlines as you begin. Sure, you have a main quest you can do, but literally once you are dropped into this world, you can go anywhere, and do anything. You aren't tied to anything. I've always been a main questline first kind of guy, so that's what I did, however I found myself getting sidetracked for a few hours by the Companion's quest line. But then it was back on to finishing the main quest. Once that was done, I sought out the other various side missions and completed them.

Overall, I dumped 120 hours into Skyrim when it was all said and done, and I still feel like I've only scratched the surface of this massive masterpiece. But not everything here is about the quest. Bethesda has basically been able to sit down and fix just about everything you've ever had a problem with for these games. Everything is streamlined, making leveling easier. A “favorite's” system has been introduced, allowing you to literally favorite anything into a menu that you can easily bring up by pressing up on the d pad and choosing it, even during combat. Magic has never been this easy to use before, and as someone who stays away from magic use (only the Demon's Souls/Dark Souls series has ever made me use magic), I found myself playing through most of this game using one hand sword and one had magic. I've never found it that easy to use magic in these games, so that was a nice addition. Crafting your own armor is much easier this time around, as is alchemy. Overall, you can become really high in just about anything, and this makes for some awesome character builds.

Out of all the quest lines offered in Skyrim, the Dark Brotherhood was easily my favorite. For the record, Bethesda didn't really push too much when Oblivion was re-rated M from a T rating, but this game, they fully embrace their M rating. The Dark Brotherhood offers up some of the darkest and most deranged missions I've ever encountered in a video game, only seconded by the Dadriac missions, but we'll get to that later. The Thieves Guild is also vastly improved over Oblivion's, offering a much more streamlined quest line then the annoying fetch missions of the previous game. The Mage's Guild has been confined to missions from “The College of Winterhold”, an interesting new dynamic. And finally, the fighter's Guild has been replaced with “The Companion's”. Overall, none of these quest lines ever offered anything that bored me. And that's something I have to mention, this game really feels like they sat down and thought out every single mission through as much as you can, making no mission ever seem boring. That is daunting on its own.

What about Dragons? You want to fight some Dragons? While I will offer up that you will slay more Dragons in Skyrim then any other game you've ever played (yeah Dragon Age, I'm pointing at you) at the same time, the disappointment with Dragons comes at the fact that you can basically hide behind a rock or boulder for the first few hours, and they a broken. They are also pretty much easily defeated. Its disappointing, but at the same time, towards the end I started to get annoyed with how frequently they would appear. When I was done I had vanquished about 40 Dragons.

Character and NPC interaction has also received a significant upgrade from previous games. Where Oblivion focused on just the facial features, Skyrim pans the camera back, allowing for dynamic movement of NPC's. The third person camera has also received a significant upgrade, and for once I didn't feel bad using this view.

It isn't to say that Skyrim isn't without bugs. As with all Bethesda games, the amount of bugs you'll encounter is rather high at times, however, at this point if you are going into a Bethesda game at launch expecting perfection, you are a fool. With a game being this massive, there will always be something that is overlooked. I've had things like a Dragon attacking me disappear into a mountain and die. I had a giant fly upwards and disappear into the sky, and finally I had a few enemies fall through the floor. But honestly, if you are like me, you just continuously save the game. When I was done I had about 450 saves altogether. That's how you play a Bethesda RPG.

Finally, I have to mention the Dadriac missions. While there was no achievement associated with them in Oblivion, I still sought out most of those missions, as they always offer some of the best items and weapons. The same goes for Skyrim, but these missions offer even more darkness and insanity then the Dark Brotherhood missions. With human sacrifice and cannibalism, these aren't the most tame missions and they aren't for the faint of heart. Some of them are even downright creepy.

My only final complaint is that when it was all said and done, I didn't really find too much challenge with the game. The only real challenges where getting around some of the bugs. While this didn't limit my enjoyment with the game at all, it was slightly disappointing. However, I lost that disappointment somewhere into the 120 hour adventure.

Bethesda has been able to make a masterpiece with Skyrim, which really shouldn't surprise anyone. It also makes me eagerly await whatever their next project could be, not to mention the DLC they have planned for this game. With some rumors floating around about returns to either Cyrodiil or Morrowind, I am eagerly awaiting an announcement. Skyrim is probably the best game I've played in five years, since Oblivion, and easily could be the game of 2011.

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