The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Platform: 360, PS3, PC (Reviewed)
Edition Reviewed: Collectors
Release Date: 11/11/11
NOTE: Since I purchased the Collectorís Edition, Iím going to take a moment and review the package and its extra content before getting to the game itself. The review of the Collectorís Edition extras does NOT factor into the final score of the game.
The Collectorís Edition (from now on just being referenced as CE) is a beast of a package, with many components, so let us begin with the box itself. Not a whole lot of stuff to say about it, 3 sides have a picture of Bethesdaís ďDovahkiinĒ character staring out over the mountains. The back of the back of the box has a few screens, info, the contents of the box, and of course the requirements. Opening the large box, the first thing visible is the art book; from here Iíll be making a list with the items and what I think of them.
Art book: This is possibly the best art book I have ever seen. A presumably leather bound, 200 pages, full color book containing very high quality prints of conceptual arts for the world, characters, monsters, items, etc. The book is large, comparative to a tablet computer in length and width. This is easily one of the best items of this package. Following the art book is the case (which doesnít need to be covered) and the Making of DVD.
Making of DVD: This is the weakest part of this collection. Other Bethesda bonus DVDs have a making of video, trailers for the game, usually from what I call the ďoriginal source (take the first oblivion trailer for instance, all the online versions ran at 24-30 FPS, while the version on the DVD was 60FPS)Ē maybe some posters/concept art, making it a nice piece to have. This one has JUST a making of feature, and it really doesnít say a lot about the process that was involved in making the game. Not a lot of seeing people working on the game and talking about it. Itís disappointing to see such a lackluster, bare-boned bonus DVD in such an expensive package, but still, itís nice to have.
Alduin Statue: The centerpiece of the collection is the statue of the gameís main villain, Alduin the World Eater. It comes in 2 pieces, the dragon and the base. The base is lower quality plastic, but being just a dragon wall, it doesnít have a lot of detail to worry about. The dragon piece on the other hand is made from high-quality PVC (it feels sturdy in your hands) and has a ton of fine details. Itís an impressive statue, really high quality and a fine piece, rivaling the art book as the best part of the extras.
The Game Review:
Skyrim is a large game. It is a game that will take you a long time to complete. It is a game where you can choose to play in many different styles, and be your character. But how good IS it, and is it worthy to carry on the Elder Scrolls series? If you want a short version, there here you go, yes, yes it is.
Presentation: Skyrim is a decent looking game. Overall the presentation is great, but the finer details, without graphics mods, are fairly blurry up close. This is a good and bad thing, as it means more people can play the game on computers with less resource, but it also means those with beefy rigs need to download texture mods to really get the most out of this game. Little details, such as berries and plants vanishing when you pick them are nice touches, and the animations are vastly better than any of Bethesdaís other games. Combat, especially with weapons, looks heavy and kinetic; with another nice touch being your swing is interrupted when blocked by a shield.
NPC interaction is still a bit stiff, mainly how the characters move while talking to you, but the camera stays away, and time no longer stops, making conversations more natural. The biggest flaw in the graphics is the shadows, even at the highest settings, outside they are blocky, and ugly, and for some reason, the choice in time advancement has them move along their respective movement in increments every few seconds. Itís not jarring until youíre standing still in an area with a lot of them. Inside, shadows look fine, but itís still something that makes the game less pretty.
The audio presentation is better, melee weapons and bows sound great, impacts sound painful and weighty. Footsteps are appropriate and change depending on the type of ground you are on, and what kind of footwear you currently have equipped. Voice acting is a mixed bag in a way. All the voice acting is great, but a lot of it is done in a rather silly accent. Nothing wrong with it, just takes some getting used to. The musical score on the other hand, is Jeremy Souleís best work, easily. Every song is fantastic, with the title theme bringing a whole new meaning to the word ďepic.Ē
Gameplay: Skyrim has some areas of gameplay that are hard to accurately rate. On the one hand, keyboard and mouse controls work well, but the user interface isnít quite as smooth on this control preference. The game was built to be played with a controller, and the 360 controller for windows works fantastically on the pc version. Itís really up to personal choice as to which to use since both work well. As for the rest of the game, itís a really fun game to play, easy to control, and a large variable of ways to form to character.
Your get better at skills by using them, so you get better with one handed weapons or pickpocketing by killing things with one-handed weapons and by picking pockets, level your skills enough times and youíll gain a level up. When leveling up you choose to raise either health, magicka or stamina by 10 points, then you can choose a perk, if you meet the requirements. You can also hold on to the perk point for later use if nothing appeals to you.
Combat feels better than it ever has, melee isnít quite perfect, but it feels like youíre swinging a piece of metal around instead of a feather duster like Oblivion did. Magic has seen a vast improvement from constant spell to rune traps; you can do them all once you are strong enough. Then you also have shouts. Shouts are the dragon words of power, and are basically spells of immense power. You can equip anything to either hand (except shields and two-handed weapons) and use them separate from each other (in the case of the 360 pad, by using RT and LT for right and left hands respectively) or in the case of dual wielding or spells (once the perk is learned) together for greater effect.
There are plenty of quests to undertake, and all of them appear naturally. Things like reading a book and learning of a lost treasure, or hearing about a robbery in a local shop, it all adds to the experience. Youíll be sent on a variety of tasks from retrieving an item, fighting for either the Imperial Legion or the Stormcloaks, and the main quest, which involves stopping Alduin from destroying the world. Overall the game handles itself well, and keeps at a challenge, while still keeping the weaker foes around so you can feel your progress.
With all that Iíve said on the game, there are flaws in there. Some graphical glitches are there, like some places where the rocks arenít connected and thereís an invisible gap (itís not often and there arenít any gaps in the actual ground) there. Thereís at least one area that has invisible water, and itís still possible to get stuck in the geometry, though this is rare. Dual wielding also feels a bit tacked on, the weapon in your left hand just pops in and vanishes when drawn/sheathed, and you cannot form combos with the weapon in your left hand. The main quest has a lackluster ending to it, it just kind of ends, and no one really talks about it that much afterwards. There are also currently some physics glitches, mostly seen so far by saber cats, in which when they die their bodies fly around, itís a really funny sight, and a great glitch, but itís still worth bringing up.
Final Words: Skyrim isnít perfect; there are quite a few bugs and flaws. However a lot of these can be fairly easily ignored, as the atmosphere and sense of wonder that the world of Skyrim has is unmatched by almost nothing else on the market. Thereís room for improvement, and the modding community has already gone to great strides to improve the game, and things will only get better when the development tools are released in January. Overall, Skyrim is an impressive feat. Deep, rich, and entertaining in almost every way a game should be. Needless to say this game has my Game of the Year award already.
Content Score: 9 (Thereís some things that need to be patched, but even so thereís a LOT to do here.)
NOTE: Many of you will notice that I didn't put in a section for the story of the game. I didn't because while there are many quests, and a main quest, I feel these aren't actually the "Story" of Skyrim. In my opinion, the actual story of the game is the one you make by playing it. Your actions, where you go, who you help, what you kill, this is what I feel the story is.