Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review
Every since I was a young lad growing up in the outskirts of London I have always wanted to be an adventurer. Travelling around the country and helping passing strangers on the road or taking them of everything they own. Somedays I might fancy doing a spot of work to earn some extra pocket money, be it back breaking hours working the local fields or just beating up some thugs for a friendly shop keeper. The world was going to be my oyster………..that was until I took an arrow to the knee. Now I find the best place to live out these dreams is to jump in to the exciting world of the latest installment of The Elder Scrolls franchise, Skyrim.
This is the fifth time that Bethesda have dived in to the world of the Elder Scrolls (not including a fair few DLC and GotY add ons), but Skyrim without a shadow of a doubt is the finest of the bunch. This outing brings all the best parts of the previous games (and of course a few new ones) and merges them all together to make a game where the possibilities are almost quite literally endless. After the success of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Skyrim had big shoes to fill and it did in a massive way.
The main story revolves around the player character’s journey as they try to defeat Alduin, a dragon who is set to destroy the world. The main story is only a tiny part of the game, however, as there are hours of other missions to take on, so if you get a little tired of trying to find out why the dragons are returning, you can always find something else you to. if you want to just do a bit of adventuring that is of course an option or maybe you would like to climb the ranks in the assassins known as the Dark Brotherhood, the main quest will always be waiting for you to get back to.
My biggest fear for this game would be that would have the same downfalls that the previous games had. The first of which was the combat system, it has always felt (and looked) like all you and your opponent were just wildly swinging your swords around hoping for a hit; it was a little like fighting as a kid, no skill or accuracy, just loads of energy and luck. This has been fixed to an extent, there still isn’t the look of a true Hollywood style battle to the death but it doesn’t look as clumsy as in pervious outings. I know that it is difficult to pull off totally in such an open world with so many different enemies, but it has been a step in the right direction, which I believe will keep critics of the battle system (myself included in that number) quiet for the time being. Another drawback was the class choosing and levelling up systems. Like most people out there I like to sample everything that a game has to offer and in previous titles you had to make a choice at the beginning what kind of player you was going to be; warrior, archer, mage, etc; now this meant that you had to pretty much stick to this style of play as all other abilities wouldn’t be strong enough to cope in a fight. Luckily though Bethesda looked at this problem and fixed it for the release of Skyrim. Any choices you make at the beginning don’t necessarily need to be stuck to; when you first gain control of your character you may decide I want to get up close and personal with my enemies; so a sword and shield or even twin axes may of been your weapons of choice, but then after a few hours you decide that a more stealthy approach is the way forward; so you may well think that a knife or bow are better suited. This can be done without even a second thought (of course some training will need to be done on your new fields but this can take no time at all if you have will to train or the gold to be taught by NPCs) which keeps the game fresh and exciting. The same goes for missions, maybe you have had enough of trying to find out why the dragons have returned and fancy doing a bit of breaking and entering with your brothers in the thieves guild, this is easily done and the main missions will still be waiting for you when you return to them.
Apart from the improvements there are also a lot of new features, my favourite of which is your ability to do an honest days work. I know that the majority of us play video games to get away from the tedious nature of work, but Skyrim takes this to a totally new level. There is no better feeling than going out in to the wild and collecting pelts from your fresh kills, afterwards taking a trip to your local mine to get your hands on some lovely ore and taking all these ingredients to a blacksmiths work shop and smithing your own suit of armour and weapons, and now with the DLC to build and maintain your own homestead, just adds to the pride of crafting everything you own. I found myself digging through caves and dungeons for treasure just so I could add a new wing to my own little piece of Skyrim. Have no fear though if you want to get your gold through more illegal channels, the option to murder, steal and pickpocket is still there. This game truly does have something for everyone, even those who just want to get married and adopt some random children you find on the streets (seriously).
The control of the game is smooth, you never once have to stop and think about what you are about to do, and the transition from archer to sword fighter can be done mid battle so you are ready for all situations, which is handy as there are more than a few surprises out there. The game manages a good mix of making the controls easy enough as not to alienate casual gamers and hard enough that you don’t feel like there is no real skill needed in combat, some players will even find different techniques for approaching each situation, which again keeps the game fresh as if you don’t tailor your attacks to the enemy you will probably end up dead.
One of the most important aspect of any modern gaming experience is how it works visual, and there aren’t many titles that can stand toe to toe with this one. Never before have I climbed up a virtual mountain and stood there looking at the beautiful landscape before me or stared up at the night sky with wonderment, it truly will take your breathe away, but this level of detail is not purely cosmetic, it also serves a very practical reason. Scouting a head in a game has never been easier, with a decent vantage point you will be able to see the enemy long they spot you; allowing plenty of time for you to think up the best way to deal with the threat, rather than having them just appear out of no where, giving you no time to think up a battle plan.
The visuals will only get you so far, sound is also key while exploring the Skyrim countryside. So many times I haven’t spotted the pack of wolves by the side of the road or the bandit camp I’ve just stubbled in to, but once you hear them a sense of panic takes over and you find yourself spinning the camera around in a frenzy trying to find the newest threat to your life, this is again where Bethesda gets top marks. The music of the game also manages to capture the feel really well, one minute there is the calm, tranquil music that follows you as you ride gracefully on top your horse enjoying the stunning sights that Skyrim has to offer, when all of a sudden the music (along with your mood) changes and once again you find yourself looking in the bushes or to the sky to find the reason why you lovely stroll has been ruined. Another lovely touch is the fact that when travelling through towns and villages, the people that live there engage each other in conversation, not just moving around without uttering a word to each other like most over titles. Not only just this add to the realism of the game, it also gives clues to where you can find missions or treasures (if you are willing to pay attention).
With such a tough economy at the present moment in time, gamers what a bit more before they part with their hard earned cash. Skyrim doesn’t hold much replay value, but with some much going on a doubt many people out there (if any) will get to a point where they find themselves aimlessly wondering around the world with nothing to do. Since getting this game I have easily clocked up over a hundred hours of gameplay and there is still so much for me to do; if that isn’t value for money I don’t know what is.
So, if you don’t want to lose hours of your life, a partner or maybe even your job; then maybe you might want to skip this game, if however, you want to escape from the troubles of this world and maybe capture a small glimpse of your child hood dreams than there is not many places better to visit than Skyrim. Not only is this the best game of the last few years, I am going to go out on a limb and say that it is potential the best game of this generation. Never before has a video game kept me so entertained and invested; that not only can you lose track of the time, you also lose track of the days. It is a landmark outing for Bethesda, a true Concorde moment in video game history.
Version Reviewed- Playstation 3