Expansive surplus of fantastic stories and technical hilarity.
50 hours into Skyrim and there’s still a voluminous amount of content to explore. At this point in the game, my character is developed enough to combat virtually every situation, I’ve conquered multiple quest lines to include the main quest and I’m married. 50 hours into Bethesda’s latest is mere child’s play in the grand scheme despite being enough time to complete 4 or 5 other games released this year. That’s two days of playing and I have yet to discover half of Skyrim’s content. However, I have played more than enough Skyrim to know it’s a marvelous game that’s more content rich than any modern game on store shelves.
Bethesda has spent the bulk of this generation nailing down their special RPG formula across two different franchises. While all of their releases are arguably modern classics, there’s still a general jankyness to them. Oblivion and Fallout 3 are among my favorite games this generation, if not of all time, but they still felt somewhat incomplete due to technical perfunctory. Skyrim is still tousled in multiple ways just from being a massive open-world game, but Bethesda finally got it right. Yes, I saw a Dragon fly backwards and yes a dead NPC showed up to my wedding, but that’s all part of the Bethesda charm and is all relatively harmless. The serious elements that make a Bethesda game are perfectly balanced with the goofiness their games are known for.
The breathtaking world in Skyrim is an outstanding achievement. The coherence of the world makes it a believable place. Every town I visited had its own cultural identity complete with problems both social and political. Between populated areas are vast fields rich with awe-inspiring natural formations and vegetation, sprinkled with ancient ruins and small villages. The design is consistent enough to make nothing feel out of place. Considering the fantastical nature of everything the game presents, making it all believable is a triumph.
There’s a lot going on in Skyrim. The main quest boils down to Dragons making life rough for Skyrim’s inhabitants. Like Bethesda’s other games, this main quest is pretty straightforward and forgettable. The main story is over right when it gains any real momentum. With the world being in peril, but me saying “Don’t worry about the Dragon committing genocide now, I gotta go drink with this dude at the bar.” is really weird and breaks immersion, but is the price to pay for the sandbox-nature of the game. That’s what Skyrim is all about, the sandbox. At one point, I had 40 quests in my log. I was at the point were I was literally afraid of talking to NPCs due to almost every citizen giving me something to do. It’s overwhelming at first. Thankfully, the quest log is easy to navigate and keeps fantastic track of were you are in a questline. Even if I strayed far off track on one quest, it was easy to bring myself back to speed on what’s going on plot-wise.
The framework of Skyrim offers an endless supply of interesting quests. Every quest I embarked on was complete with motivations and enough characters in play to keep all the variables interesting. The only downside was any moral system that made Fallout such a standout. Skyrim doesn’t lend to any game-changing decisions. Outside of the law busting you on murder or theft, there aren't any real consequences for your actions in Skyrim. The quests are mostly set up in a linear fashion. This isn't a complaint, but Skyrim is set up much differently than Fallout. The major criticism that follows that is the world never changes based on your actions. Without spoiling anything, there are apparent monumental moments in the game that solved major conflicts or problems. However, no change is ever noticeable.
The leveling system is much more straightforward than past Elder Scrolls games. You level up skills by performing. Want to be a better Archer? Well, shoot dudes with arrows. When you gain a level, you’ll have the option to increase health, stamina, or magic. In addition to that, you can get perks in a variety of skill trees such as lockpicking, heavy armor and destruction magic. The way this leveling system is laid out gives the player precise control over what kind of character they want to make.
Combat has never been Bethesda’s strong suit. Skyrim is a little better at presenting combat, but still won’t set any standards for visceral combat. But Skyrim runs laps around Oblvion’s combat system. Melee combat feels much more violent and tactile. Swords cling and blocking with a shield against a strong attack really gives the player a sense their foe is totally serious about killing them. In addition to regular magic, players are given Shouts. These powers include fire breath, slowing down time, and crowd control abilities, just to name a few. They sound interesting on paper, but I never found them particularly interesting or useful in combat. After the first few hours of playing I forgot about the shouts all together.
Skyrim is an expansive surplus of fantastic stories and technical hilarity. For every YouTube video of a guy packing his house full of cheese wheels just to break the game, there’s an engrossing scenario. Skyrim is one of the most interesting and believable worlds to explore and gives the player countless avenues to discover its history and solve present matters. Skyrim is a fundamentally broken game. The flaws of Skyrim make it impossible to meet any immersion, but the sandbox structure is so enjoyable it outweighs any faults. Any game that supplies me with 50 hours of enjoyment and I still wanna go back for more is truly something special. Many games offer countless hours of content, but it’s the few games like Skyrim that bring nothing but rich content for players to engage.