Super Simple Review: The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
If Bethesda's promise of dragons, 100's of hand crafted unique dungeons, Radiant AI and dual casting of spells excited you, then read no further because this game is for you. Go and buy it because nothing I say henceforth will convince you otherwise. Have fun and we'll see you when you emerge. For those who weren't entirely convinced or require further coaxing, read on.
Yes, they are awesome to fight. To see a dragon flying around the environment is pretty fantastic. Hearing a dragon in the distance and not knowing where it is can be terrifying. You know it's either terrorizing a village or calling to you, beckoning you to its perch for a battle. Each time I hear it I think back to the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. If the dragons aren't swooping over you and breathing fire or ice, they're giving chase on foot and trying to bite you. In short, they look awesome, they're awesome to fight, and I love them.
There are about 150 hand crafted dungeons in Skyrim, each with its own unique aesthetic, loot and boss: as one would expect. Some of them can take up to an hour to get through, others are a single room with a troll and chest. In Oblivion the thought of traipsing through a dungeon was painful, I mean I actually felt pain. I felt they were all the same, with the same enemies and the same generic loot. In Skyrim, they all feel different, and up to this writing have all featured a cool boss at the end. Whereas in Oblivion I avoided them like the plague, in Skyrim I actively seek them out. They're good.
Dual casting magic
Prior to Skyrim the only rpg's I played were Fallout 3 and Oblivion, Oblivion being my first. So if dual casting magic has been a thing for a while, well, yeah. On my first play through I was a tank. I carried a heavy shield and wielded a large hammer, it was fun. But for my second romp I chose to be a mage, and what a difference that made. Being able to enter a dungeon and cast a super powerful fireball is stupid fun. Shit flies off tables, bodies are tossed about, it's utter chaos in tight spaces. Having this powerful spell manifesting itself between your hands looks really cool as well. Dual casting, it's like a whole new game.
The story is you have to find out why there are dragons, kill them, and then kill the all powerful leader. It's okay. You play as a man who can absorb dragon souls and shout words of power in the dragon tongue. These shouts push foes back, cause storms, give you fire breath, etc. There are lots of shouts and they all do something cool. I really like the way the shouts sound when your character yells them. Each is made up of three words, once you have all three words of a shout it is complete and at its most lethal. They are super helpful in tight spots, or for pissing off villagers.
There are a lot of side quests to be completed, due in large part to the newly revamped Radiant A.I system. It tracks what you've done and where you've been. Todd Howard, lead man at Bethesda, claims the game features endless quests. In reality they are the same quests just rehashed to send you to new areas or collect different items. I get the sense that I'm doing a lot of fetching, and I'm okay with that as I constantly get to see new and interesting places.
One of my favorite things, no, my favorite thing about Oblivion was the music. Who doesn't get goosebumps when the title screen appears and the music crescendos. I've got them now just thinking about it, it's fucking awesome. Skyrim is the same way, mostly. The title song, the games theme song is good. It doesn't elicit the same emotions that Oblivion's score did, but that's okay because it's still really good. I really enjoyed the wondering music in Oblivion as well. It conveyed a sense of adventure, whereas Skyrim's does not, at least not to the same effect. The music in these games is important to me because in some weird way it helps me to connect with the game world. And that is important, to me.
It's so pretty
The sheer number of awe inspiring vistas in this game is staggering. I'm sure to reach my Steam screenshot limit shortly. Everything from the fog rolling over the steep mountain peaks to the sun shining through the fall themed forests near Riften, it's all breathtaking. My least favorite moments in the game are when the weather turns to shit and there's no sunlight, or the clouds block the night sky. Oblivion, I thought, had some amazing landscapes, but Skyrim outshines it. I decide what part of the world to spend my time in by deciding what sort of environment I want to look at. If I want to see snow-capped mountains, I head north, if I'm in the mood for fall weather I head east. It's gorgeous and you'll spend plenty of time taking screenshots.
I've done quite a bit of gushing haven't I. You're probably wondering what's wrong with the game and to that I would say very little, all things considered. The game has who knows how many systems that need to run in unison to operate, I'm still not convinced it isn't magic. There are some animation issues, the same that plagued Fallout 3 and Oblivion. All of the npc's look stiff and lifeless and that doesn't help to convey them as people living in this game world. They look as though they're lurching when you walk next to one, as if they're dropping frames, it's distracting.
There are occasional problems with the physics as well. When hit by a Giant's club there's a good chance you'll be launched into the air. It's good for aerial photography, but breaks the game because you may have been able to kill him, but now you can't because you're going to hit the ground and die. Various objects will bounce off of walls and sometimes come back to cause damage. During one instance of this I walked into a dungeon and at the entrance was a sword and shield laying on the ground. As I tried walking past it they disappeared into the ground for a moment and then shot out at me, nearly causing death.
The issues are minute, with exception to the PS3 version. But I'm playing on the PC and am reviewing the PC version. For better or worse I think these small issues help to define a Bethesda game. They're one of the few companies still making these large worlds. With all of those systems in place something has to give. When it comes down to it, at the end of the day the game is massive, it's fun, and it is a time suck. Seriously, the sun will have gone down and returned before you know it. If that sort of thing appeals to you, then do yourself a solid and pick this game up.