sup909's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360) review

Impressive World, But Fails in the Role-Playing Department

Skyrim is a truly remarkable game that demonstrates some of the best in terms of the graphical power and the versatility of this generation's game consoles. Straight up it is an incredibly beautiful game that immerses the player in an expansive world. There is an absolute myriad of things that can be done in this game and the degree of side quests is staggering. Hundreds of hours can easily be put into this game.

While all of this stuff in the game is impressive, it is largely the exact same thing that we played in Oblivion in 2004, right down to the "emergence" into the world. Here is where the issues of such an expansive game become a problem. While the game is incredibly wide, it simply has almost no real depth to it and in some respects is even hindered by what could be perceived as the "right way to play".

Mechanically the game fails on the most basic level of role playing. On the outset it gives the player this illusion of depth by allowing you to not only pick your class, but to fully customize the look of your character. Certain classes even have boosted abilities or additional perks and if you follow the lore different histories to them. All of this is instantly thrown away though as soon as you enter the world. Any character species can easily become proficient in any specialty very easily. Not only that but the history and relationships of the species appears to be non-existent in the context of the player. For example, the Khajiit are supposedly thought of as being thieves and dirty traders. The High Elves are thought of as imperialist racists. All of that could be really interesting as it plays out in this seemingly homogeneous northern province of the empire. None of this though is reflected upon your character in any meaningful way in the game from the NPC's. You could play as a Nord, an Orc, an Khajiit or a Dark Elf and it all has absolutely no impact on the way the world sees you. This is exactly where the basis of the role playing fails. All of this history is already established and the game makers failed to bring it into the context of the interactions in the game.

From a story perspective it also does not seem to make a lot of sense to have the Dragonborn be any other race but a Nord. In my example, my character choice almost directly clashed with the idea of the Dragonborn story. I played as a High Elf. Now for the lore if I were playing as a high elf and not a Nord, why would I in any capacity all care about the silly history of Skyrim and what the Dragonborn meant. They could have played it in that case as it relates to the Imperial throne, but they failed to do so. My race was the one who did no allow Talos to be recognized as a god. Added onto that, wouldn't it make sense that the people of Skyrim would be incredibly upset if a Dragonborn was found and they were not a Nord?

There were a lot of problems with the moral duality system that was at play in the Fable games, but the one thing that those games did nail was the way the world reacted to you. If you walked through that game as an evil, manipulative person, the world saw that and treated you as such. If you were the hero of good, the townspeople in turn acknowledged that. In Skyrim however the world appears to have no reaction to you as a person. Even if I am playing as an ideal character, a Nord Dragonborn, the world just doesn't seem to care all that much. Likewise if I just murdered fifty people in the wild I can pay off my crime with some money and nothing is for the worse. The fact that city guards know that I murdered people in the wild with no one around is another issue entirely. Everyone should still view me as a murderer and treat me as such in the world.

Overall I think the game is a fun one, don't get me wrong. I however just believe that for it to truly be a good role playing experience there has to be more to it than just the look of my character and the ways that I kill things. I want the world to react permanently to my decisions and my actions. If I am a Nord I want to be hailed as such. If I am an Imperial or High Elf, I wanted to be treated with the disdain that the lore lays out. If I break into people's home and steal things, I am a thief!!! Treat me as such!!!!!! The Elder Scrolls universe lays out so much in the background as to who all of these races are and what their history is, and it actually is an incredibly interesting world and history. The game just fails completely to take any advantage of it and instead just throws the player into a world to go "walk about" for a few dozen hours.

2 Comments
Posted by DrEdward

Based on the review you've written for this game, shouldnt you're score be lower than 3.5?
Posted by sup909

@DrEdward: Why do you say that? I don't compare games and their rankings to each other. Each score is independent and my ranking is loosely as follows: 1= Hate, 2=Disliked 3=Liked 4=Loved 5=Classic. I liked this game a lot, but wasn't in love with it, so I settled on the 3.5 score.

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