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

Fus Ro Dah

You have to give Bethesda credit for their ambition. They clearly have a vision for what video games can be, and the kinds of transportive experiences they can offer. And while a number of technical issues try to keep that ambition in check, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim proves to be another phenomenal RPG that fans will absolutely love.

The Elder Scrolls franchise has always been primarily about presenting expansive fantasy worlds for players to explore, and that is most certainly the case with Skyrim. I really appreciate the game’s commitment to its setting; Skyrim is a distinct wintry land that’s also recognizable as part of the larger Elder Scrolls universe. It’s a testament to Bethesda’s ability to create large, cohesive gaming worlds, and what’s even better is that not an inch of it is wasted in Skyrim. You can’t avoid stumbling across all sorts of exciting sights and sounds, and my favorite part of the entire game is just seeing what’s around every bend. I don’t know that I’ve experienced another gaming world that’s simultaneously this large and this dense, and that it all manages to look and sound so fantastic is a borderline miracle. Gaming worlds rarely feel so alive, and it’s a blast to take it all in. That being said, this is a Bethesda game, and countless bugs and glitches definitely mar the otherwise captivating world. Lockups, broken AI and flying mammoths are but a sample of the dozens of issues I have encountered, which is frustrating to say the least. These problems aren’t so frequent that they substantially break the game, but it’s still the kind of stuff you don’t want to see in a professionally made product that you pay good money for.

All of this is par for the course for Bethesda’s brand of RPG, and Skyrim represents their best effort yet. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the revamped character creation system. The Elder Scrolls series has always sported a unique leveling system that sees your character develop based entirely on what skills you use, but it’s always been easily exploitable. With Skyrim they have finally found a solid middle ground between their classic method and a more linear progression that provides a great balance of freedom and structure. You can still build exactly the character you want to, but by having all skills affect level growth, higher level skills affect level growth more, and a large array of powerful perks to choose from every level, you feel like every level gained is equally potent. Also improved are the quests in general. While there are still a number of fetch-quests and other repetitive grinds, the quests seem to have a wider variety of objectives and send you to more diverse locations on the whole. A lot of this is once again due to the more robust world available, which only further emphasizes how central the world is to everything Skyrim does.

That’s really what it’s all about. In some ways Skyrim isn’t drastically different from a lot of western RPGs, but by offering such a fascinating, highly detailed world to explore it becomes something else entirely. There’s a lot to be said for purity of vision, and the way Skyrim dedicates itself to creating a gripping fantasy world worth losing yourself in is a sight to behold. If you have any interest in enthralling RPGs, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is not to be missed.

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