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

Dont Take An Arrow In The Knee, Play This Game

24 hours and 31 minutes. In most games that would mean I had played the game to the fullest. I would probably have completed the game on numerous difficulties, and got to a high rank in on-line multi-player. Oh and I’d probably also have all the collectibles and achievements/trophies. In Skyrim, 24 hours and 31 minutes is pathetic, I’ve not seen half of what the game has to offer. I’m still working on the main quest, still killing dragons, and I know that once I do beat the main story, theres at least 100 hours worth of side missions to be done.

For some reason, I never managed to get into Oblivion. I think with RPG games like The Elder Scrolls, you have to go into them in the right frame of mind. It’s not always going to be linear, and don’t expect them to spoon feed you with tips and controls, your left to work that out on your own. If you go into this game knowing what your getting yourself into, knowing you can spend 300 hours of your life in this game, you will have so much fun with it.

Visuals

Skyrim is no Crysis 2, Uncharted 3, or Battlefield 3 when it comes to graphics, but it probably shows more attention to detail than any of those. Uncharted, Battlefield, and Crysis, are mostly always linear, their worlds aren’t that big, so of course they can have great graphics. With Skyrim, it would be nigh on impossible to have the worlds best graphics in the worlds biggest, well, world. Sure, at times you may think that they could have done a bit more polishing, some textures aren’t great when up close. But these are forgiven when you find a high vantage point and look around the beautiful world of Skyrim. You see, the graphics don’t need to be great, because the world looks amazing anyway.

There’s plenty of small villages which have a nice homely feel about them (apart from the ones with wolves in!) And at times, the game looks so beautiful, you won’t even notice the graphics are worse than some games. The weather in Skyrim really helps show off the beauty of it all. Seeing the sun rise earling in the morning, shining over you, without a cloud in the sky, is something to behold. There’s also rain and plenty of snow which often comes into play when your climbing mountains. The horses look great too, even contending with Red Dead Redemptions. Actually, all the animals look great, there’s wolves, mooses, dogs, and big hairy giant things (but don’t get too friendly with those. Ahem.) Oh and how could I forget, the dragons, which look amazing.

Overall Skyrim is a beautfiul looking game even if the quality of graphics isn’t up to the likes of Battlefield, it has far more attention to detail. There are a few visual bugs here and there. For instance, almost as soon as I started the game, the first house I walked into had a huge world hole and I got stuck in a loop of falling into the sky/ground. Thankfully, these are few and far between.

Trees, glorious trees

Audio

In most games, I don’t really care for audio, it’s there, but it rarely stick in my noggin. Many games have fantastic memorable theme tunes, which they only use on the menus and not in-game. Skyrim however, is quite the opposite, and I have a little story to tell here.

I’m up on top of the Winterhold College (you have to go there, it’s part of the story), it looks a lot like a castle from the top and you can get a good view of the rest of the surroundings. I’m just happily minding my own business, wondering around, pondering on where I should go, and then I here a flutter of wings, like if you got a drum stick and waved it around, I look up into the sky, scanning the clouds to try and spot him, but to no avail. As I continue to dumbly look up, I’m all of a sudden on fire! The dragon appears from behind me (what does this have to do with audio?) Well, at this point, the main theme tune kicks in and I’m in a ferocious fight with a dragon, not man other games can say that, It’s certainly one of the most epic things I’ll ever do in gaming. And the best thing is, none of the dragons are scripted so they’ll be different every time you fight them.

So, apart from the epic musical score, there’s also some great voice acting. You may even recognize some of them, am I getting a sense of Ezio (Assassins Creed) and Wheatley (Portal) here and there? In a world this big, and a story so long, there must’ve been plenty of voice acting to be done. It’s mostly great and the characters really engage you into their story, there’s even kids in here as well who’ve had to do a lot of work. But it is at times a bit annoying and un-realistic. It doesn’t really matter because the rest of the voice actings fine, but why does almost everyone say “mmm hmm” as a form of good-bye? No-one says that in our world! “I’m just going to work dear” “mmm hmm.” Anyway, this is Skyrim’s world, and I suppose some things are different to ours.

Aside from the music and voice acting, everything else sounds top-notch. The trickling of the water down the waterfall, the horses shoes plodding along the rocky terrain, or the soft touch when galloping through snow. Even the wind sounds real, I mean weather wind, not, y’know. All of these little recordings contribute to make the world feel much more real.

Raaawwrr!

Playability

Skyrim doesn’t bring much new to the board in terms of core gameplay, but that doesn’t matter, because that core gameplay is solid and fluent as ever anyway. You can choose to play in ever first or third person view. Both are great, but I prefer first-person. Some think first-person melee is nuts, I think it’s great. It’s especially useful when your in narrow dungeons and switching to third person could cause some minor glitches. Third person is useful when you want to see your character and what there dressed up in, but other than that, it offers nothing that first person doesn’t. Anyway, I found the melee combat to be very smooth, I felt like it almost locked on to the enemies at times, I could aimlessly swing my sword and it could sort of give me a helping hand at aiming in the right direction. If at times you feel your weapon isn’t doing it for you, you can of course try a different one, or you can equip enchantments, this basically gives your weapon better powers but they only last for a period of time (when in use) but they can give you a great advantage and make you dominate your foes. I should also mention theres a little easter egg too! If you climb to the absoloute highest point in the game, don’t worry, your taken there through the story if you don’t want to find it yourself. Theres a lot of rock of which you can mine, and if you look around a bit, you will find ‘Nothed Pickaxe’. It’s a beast when you equip enchantments. For any of you not familiar with Minecraft, it’s a PC (soon to be XBLA) game created by a guy called Notch, and your main weapon is a pick-axe. I can imagine Bethesda have taken a little inspiration from Minecraft for Skyrim, and heres there way of saying thank-you I guess.

Alternatively, instead of melee weapons, you can use arrows, not extremely effective but useful from long range, and you can use spells. If you have a one handed weapon, you can use your left hand to cause a little mayhem (or perhaps, clean up the mayhem.) You can unleash spells like fire, electricity and so on, but if you go to the College, you can learn a shield, which will block your enemies spells. On the other end of the spectrum, you have ‘shouts’. Press RB or R1 and whichever shout you have equipped will unleash fury. These can be very effective and range from Whirlwind Sprint (makes you run extremely fast for about a second) to Clear The Skies (mainly used in mountains, helps get rid of snowstorms and so clearing your path.

When your not hacking and slashing, shooting and looting (that’s probably my best sentence this year), you will often be running around villages talking to people, going to mission objectives, or if you rather, meander aimlessly and get lost in the wonderful world. At first, you’ll be doing more walking than anything else because you need to discover places before you can fast travel to them. Once you do have a few locations under your belt, theres a couple more forms of transport. If you discover a stable, you can buy a horse (or steal it, you naughty thing) and take it wherever you want. Horses have a few different moves like, galloping and jumping which you should be using often. I tend to have a bit of bad luck when it comes to horses though. During my first experience with one, I took it up a snowy mountain (probably not a good idea in itself) and then fell back down, I survived, but.. yeah. I was playing yesterday, bought a new horse and it got revenge. I took it across a narrow bridge with a great drop below (probably another bad idea, I’m full of ‘em!) As I hopped off my horse to enter this cave, it nudged me and I fell of the cliff and had to find my way back up again. It was annoying but also kinda funny and I guess it was my own fault.

The other main form of transport is ‘horse.. carts?’ is that what there called? Anyway, you can’t actually watch yourself travelling in them, there just a good way of fast travelling to places you haven’t discovered yet.

Skyrim on the whole plays really well, there are a few bugs and you may at times find yourself sandwiched between some rocks, but ignore the glitches and you’ve got a fluent, solid, and fun-filled adventure. Bar the horses (we don’t get along.)

Something's going to go wrong

Delivery

Where do I start? This is definitely the game I will be playing the most, not only this year, but perhaps this decade. As I said I’ve ‘only’ played for 24 hours or so and I am yet to see most of Skyrim. Exploring the world is one of the best ways to unlock side quests and one of the best pass-times. I think I spent an hour of my 24 wondering around a single village, going in every house, talking to everyone. It’s just so addcting, you can’t just walk straight through a village without doing anything, that’d be agony, you have to investigate, see what’s going on.

Of course you don’t have to complete the main story but these are where the best missions are. The first part if really the only cinematic part, but there are other great sequences too. One missions saw me go to a party, but I had to sneak out without being noticed. It was tricky, but with a little help from the AI, we soon got the job done. Most missions start and end by talking to some of your buddies, they’re interesting and if you delve deeper into the dialouge you can almost have a histoy lesson only without the pen and paper.

Anyway, once you have completed the main story, there is still tons to do. There are plenty of side missions which are actually a good length and sometimes have a story to them. Once all them are completed, (although you’ll probably keep unlocking more along the way) there are loads of miscellanous objectives. There obviously not as interesting as the story missions but still offer plenty of fun to be had and send you to more new locations. There mainly, go to this place and clear it out, or, deliver this to ‘x’, you get the idea. There all great fun to do just because Skyrim is a great place to be in.

You have to see it to believe it, you’ve got the main story which seems pretty lenghty, tons of side missions, and loads of miscellanous objectives to keep you going afterwards. Add on all the time you’ll spend just walking around the huge world and you’ll see why people will spend at least 300 hours with this game.

Verdict

For me it improves upon Oblivion in every way. It has the biggest world in gaming (and the most engaging) great combat, vast landscape and a horse or two to boot (seriously, boot that horse.) Remember, go into Skyrim in the right frame of mind if your new to the series, think of it as an on-going adventure rather than a timed, linear story, and this could be one of the best games you’ve ever played. And I for one know that I’ll keep coming back for more Elder Scrolls, heres to VI!

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