The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Review

By Muhammad Faisal 0 comments
Release/Out Now
Ladies and gentleman, may we present an entire country for your amusement. With dragons. And giants, witches and...
Traditionally the age-old question of who would win in a straight-up battle royale between dragon and giant was something sadly lost to the mists of time and/or mythology. If you're anything like us it will have been source of much pub-based debate. Thankfully there is now an almost definitive answer. According to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim the giant will win.

I found this out by accident while pony trekking the foothills just east of Whiterun. I stumbled upon a long giant's camp and, while they're not exactly pacifists, so long as you leave the giants to their own devices they're relatively docile. so I took care to give him a wide berth.

Then I heard the flapping of leathery wings and a great shadow passed across the ground before me. Next thing I knew there was big ol'dragon landing next to me with terminal halitosis and a vicious glint in its eye. So I turned tail and ran as the winged bastard took the sky again. Cowering out of sight in the trees I saw a great gout of flame erupting by the camp and lo and behold the giant vs dragon bout had begun.

In any other game that would have been scripted event and the soaring musical score would have been tied specifically to that moment. In Skyrim, though, that just happened-dragon, giant, musical accompaniment, everything. There are many other reasons why Skyrim is quite possibly the best game I've ever played, but that is still an incredibly compelling one.

Hack and snore?
Granted it's not a hugely original concept. A quest-based adventure in a sword and sorcery fantasy world is hardly something that's never been seen before. However, the sheer scale and fidelity of the open world in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in unprecedented.

And when I say 'open world' Skyrim will become the very definition of that phrase. Okay,'world' might be stretching it a little, but this is very much an open country. Right from the off, like the other TES games, you're free to roam in any direction and get into whatever scrapes take your fancy.

There are innumerable games' worth of content within this one mammoth title. Each of the faction quest lines, with the surrounding optional jaunts, could be a game in its own right. And there are many factions in the world to play with. But for the love of the maker, please don't tell Bethesda it could make an entire series out of Skyrim alone.

The chances are you're never going to do everything, but the fact that there is so much on offer means you can happily spend your time playing the parts of the game you want, without really worrying that you're not getting value for money.

And there is a lot of value right here. I've spend over 40 hours in-game so far and have barely tickled the surface, let alone scratched it.

Questing questions
i could easily get bogged down in the details of the main quest here but, like Oblivion before it, what I've seen so far is one of the least interesting parts of the game. Suffice to sky Skyrim is on the brink of civil war and now the legendary flappy lizards are making a return and you turn out to be one of the rare Dragon-born.

This essentially means you can suck on the soul of a dead dragon, energizing the 'shouts' in the dragon-tongue that supplement the already impressive magical options available. It also means that you'll find yourself quite sought after in Skyrim...

The main quest, though, quickly becomes lost in the myriad other adventures open to you as you explore the beautiful, diverse and thoroughly fascinating country outside your front door. That's almost a positive however, because although it tries to make you feel epic it actually winds up making you feel like some gawping moron. You react incredulously to every snippet of information imparted by the main story's long, bearded-man soliloquies.

Sadly you don't really have a lot of say in, well, what you say. Mostly your contributions to conversations end up just being opportunities for the person you're chatting with to take a bit of a breather before they embark on more rambling exposition.

If you were hoping for an improvement over the voice-acting of Oblivion then you'll be pleased to know that it is indeed improved, but there are still issues. While there are many more voice-actors providing the guttural tones of the game's NPCs, it sounds like Bethesda was scraping the barrel with a few. Some sound like they've never done voice-over work before and some simply sound like they only learnt to read that morning. That said, I did find the Schwarzenegger impressions liberally sprinkled among the Nordic folk enjoyable...

And there are still times when the voice-over is diametrically opposed to the events that are happening on-screen. For example, thanks to the game world still going about its business while you're in conversation, you'll find other NPCsThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, save to offer a little light relief on the odd occasion.

There are a few other bugs out there too and, I'm sure with a title as ambitious and so vast in scale, there will be more found in the future. I found a man seemingly chatting to my horse in the stables who seemed to be buried up to his stomach. That's just a fairly simple glitch but there are other, more interesting things that actually highlight how well the game is put together.

The exploit that allows you to steal from under people's noses so long as their eyes are covered - for example, by manipulating a bucket and dropping it over their head - is a prime one. Characters need a direct line of sight, or an audible cue, to link you to a crime. And if those eyes are covered...

It makes general naughtiness much more acceptable and executable in Skyrim than in Oblivion. Especially with each conurbation having its own independent guard taking care of its populace without being overly concerned about wrong-doing in other parts of the country.

Generally though, I'm a good person. So I will mostly choose to play a relatively honorable game. And more than anything else Skyrim is a game of choices. Every second you spend in the game world requires you to make an independent decision. Do I investigate that ominous tower just up the hill? Do I check out what's up that path? Do I put the village idiot out of his misery? Do I allow the blood disease I've contracted to turn into full-blown vampirism?

Choices everywhere
One choice you won't have to make however, is what class of character you want to play. Oblivion was making steps towards this free-form character development, but The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has gone all that the way. All the skills you have level-up as and when you use them. You can use individual blessings to enhance skill development in certain key areas, but other than that they all behave the same.

Leveling up is handled slightly differently too, with each upgrade offering a boost to either Magicka, Health or Stamina, rather than individual profile stats. You then get to purchase a perk from a skill tree, in Destruction magic or Archery, for example. These perks allow you to create a very specific style of character, but one you can tweak mercilessly.

This all makes your character's abilities rather unique if you stick to certain key traits. There is, enough, a huge amount of fun to be had with all disciplines, which has meant I've ended up as a jack of all forms of murder rather than a master of one.

Despite the lack of spell crafting, I've enjoyed spending a large amount of time flitting about in my mage robes, dual-wielding spells to devastating effect. The new dynamic of attributing spells and/or weapons to either hand can make for some compelling combination attacks.

I've also had more fun as a long-range bowman too, something I never spent much time with in the previous game. This, though, is largely thanks to the new companion dynamic of the game than any real change in bow-based game play. Having someone else to distract the enemies' blades while I pepper them with arrows from distance has allowed me seriously bone up on my bow skills.

In most towns you'll find mercenaries for hire, or people you can befriend and ask to join you in your adventures. These operate much like the companions in the modern Fallout games, allowing you to tool them up with weapons or Armour, or just use them as an extended backpack.

It's these little vignettes in Skyrim that give it so much depth and resonance once you finally have to turn off your computer to get some much needed rest. Little stories will keep playing around in your head, little moments you feel compelled to tell your completely uninterested co-workers the following day.

PC win!
And on the PC we're lucky enough to have the ultimate version of this incredible game. It's the best-looking of all the versions, with much higher-resolution textures than the console equivalents, and the load times are seriously reduced too. But that's far from the best thing about the PC release. The thing that positions the PC game way above any other version is the community.

Oblivion became far more than the game it was developed to be once the PC modding community got involved, and the same is guaranteed to happen with Skyrim. Already there are tweaks and tips and downloads to make the game even more beautiful than it was at launch, and there will be a host of other content when the Creation Kit is launched with he dev tools used to create the main game.

The first thing to be changed, though, will surely be the interface. As mush as the voice-acting is a little clunky at times it's the interface that really grates. That's purely down to the design decision to optimise it purely for the joy-pad. It does work perfectly with an Xbox pad plugged into your computer - indeed mouse control disappears completely with a pad attached - but with the mouse and keyboard it feels altogether more awkward.

Personally I much prefer the freedom of movement the mouse offers, especially when taking in the grand vistas and vibrant urban environments of Skyrim. Jerky joy-pad panning tears me from that feeling of immersion, like being violently woken up with a mackerel.

These tiny, almost insignificant problems impact little on my enjoyment of the game. I barely notice the interface anymore. My mind is far more focused on what I'm doing next, where I'm going and how I'm going to kill that old lady and get away with it. Skyrim is a game that doesn't just live inside your PC, it burrows into your head and curls itself up inside your heart. 

Vital Statistics
Price $63
Developer Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher Bethesda Softworks
Multiplayer No
DRM Steam

Needs Dual-core 2GHz CPU, 2GB RAM, 512MB DX9c
Wants Quad-core CPU, 4GHz RAM, 1GB DX9c GPU

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