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

Skyrim Review

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POSTED IN: DAVID'S POSTS, MICROSOFT, PS3, REVIEWS, REVIEWS ARCHIVE, SONY, XBOX 360

Developer: Bethesda

Publisher: Bethesda

The time has come. The time has come that fans of Oblivion have been waiting for. The time has come that they can delve into a world that the average player wont even see half of. The time has come to close the door to the outside world. The time has come to forget about the outside world, and the time has come to remember why you play games. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is here.

Casting an all encompassing shadow around its release window, enthusiasts of the gaming industry would have found it impossible miss the release of Skyrim. Having pierced a level of public awareness Oblivion failed to, it seems that talent and technology has finally caught up with the ambition of Bethesda’s developers. Spanning across a beautiful world of epic proportions, players are thrown into events of intrigue, mystery and cunning that they can address when, or indeed if they feel like it.

The main campaign, if it can be called that, will take only about 17 hours, but it’s the rest that players play the Elder Scrolls games for. Jam packed with literally hundreds of hours of story based quests, and that again for pure exploration, players could genuinely buy this game and play nothing else for the rest of the year and be happy. Those coming from past experience in Oblivion will recognize the mission structure, with the thieves guild, dark brotherhood and the other factions returning in various forms. There is a level of familiarity there for those who have played Bethesda games before, but not to the point of turning people new to the concept away. For such an expansive game, it is surprisingly accommodating for new players.

As new missions are discovered, they can be accessed and selected through the start menu. This is also where loot management can be accessed, and happily Bethesda have learned their lesson from previous games, making the menus a joy to use. Nothing is confusing and everything is easily located. They have even included a new quick access option that players can place their most used items, saving them the time of opening the menus every time they want to use a particular item.

Mechanically, Skyrim is also the most accomplished of the series. Initially simple to pick up, there are a wealth of approaches to choose between, from shields and swords to bows and hulking mallets. Prefer a different approach, then there is also magic, and various forms of it too. Describing the depth of the game really does it no justice. There’s crafting weapons, spells, armour and even jewelry. Skill trees are here, leveling up, persuasion, bartering, selling, and buying. The list could honestly go on all day, but let’s just settle on saying that there is a lot going on here, and it will be impossible to master it all. This adds a tactical element that forces players to make decisions about what kind of character they want to use within the game world.

New to the series are the shouts. Being a “dragon born” players have the ability to wield a fearsome skill that allows you to harness the power of the dragons that roam the land, with deadly consequences. Fighting Dragons is also a major part of the game that is unavoidable. For the most part these are fun and enjoyable. Dragons are not to be trifled with though, and in the early hours of play they will present a considerable danger to your character. Frantic and tense, the Dragon fights are a nice switch in pace. It’s truly terrifying when these formidable foes fly over the mountains towards you, only for you to discover that you’re running low on health potions. The feeling of vulnerability makes players constantly aware that they are never untouchable, and Skyrim is a dangerous place to be.

Graphically the game is also brilliant, considering its expanse. Understanding the limitations imposed on the engine because of its size, landscapes can often resemble beautiful oil paintings that will have players stopping just to admire the view, as they hunt the wilderness for Deer pelt.

Part of what brought Oblivion its charm were the bugs. Enemies would become trapped in doors, or get stuck in the sky whilst singing the same song about pirates over and over. These thankfully remain, adding a level of humour to what would otherwise be a dark game. What is disappointing though, is that the game breaking bugs have also returned. This at times can force players to reboot their system of choice, and in cases present them from progressing certain quests. Those playing it on the Xbox 360 or PCare for the most part OK, but PS3 owners should beware, as it can often be a very unstable version of the game. Play it for extended periods of time and the frame rate can drop to a level of unacceptable quality. Bethesda have promised a patch, but given that there are still gamers without internet access, this is completely unacceptable. Asking consumers to buy a product that is known to be faulty is quite frankly disgusting, and casts a very dark cloud over what is mainly a remarkable experience.

There are also a few niggles with the game that will frustrate players. Being that there is so much to do, a method of recapping the story of a particular quest would have been useful. However this is frustratingly absent, with the end result being that there are times where players will be wandering between interactions with no clue as to why they are doing it. There is also no way of editing the way characters look. An inability to swap gender, race or features is understandable, but there are face paint designs that can be applied at the beginning that seemingly become tattooed onto your characters face because there is no way of removing these or changing them.

Although largely well designed, the combat also suffers from the familiar Bethesda traits, meaning that during particularly intense battles, gamers will spend much of their time running backwards, frantically swiping their weapons in the face of the enemy. For such a well thought out game, these are surprisingly glaring omissions that can all too often jar you out of the experience.

For the most part, and as long as you are playing Skyrim on a machine that is not a PS3, it is a wonderful and beautiful experience that is unmatched by almost anything else on the market today. Encapsulating and fun, players should be prepared to lose their life to the game for what could end up being months at a time. The inability to check back over quests that have been started but not finished is an annoyance, and the unacceptably broken PS3 version cannot be ignored. If you have an Xbox, then you should buy the game on that system. Only own a PS3? Then wait until the developers release a patch to fix the performance issues, otherwise it may mar the experience of what is truly one of the games of this generation.

3 GOOD POINTS

  • Fun Story.
  • Fighting Dragons.
  • The visuals.

3 BAD POINTS

  • The bugs.
  • The PS3 version.
  • Not being able to recap story progress.

BreakdownScore
Graphics:Remarkably good for the size of the game. Some truly stunning vistas on offer.8/10
Gameplay:Handles well, falls into some of the same traps Bethesda have become known for.8/10
Story:Big improvement on previous games, however the size can get some people lost.8/10
ReplayabilityThe fact that this game is almost uncompleteable will make the game a sound investment.10/10
Value For Money At:Epic game of epic proportions. End of.£40
Overall:It is imperative to note that if you only have a PS3, then you should re-evaluate your decision to buy this game. The PS3 version is unplayable at times which is completely unacceptable. With that said, A Winner Is You must judge this game on the experiences we had, and we must concede that we had none of these issues, and have based our reporting of the issues from other sources. As a result we cannot consider this in our final score. If you have an XBox 360, then buy this game. If you have a PS3, check to see if they have patched the issues before picking it up. Despite the score, Skyrim remains one of the stand out titles of the last decade, however the omission of a way to recap story quests that you have forgotten about is a big drawback.8.5/10Great
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