I have never been a big fan of the Elder Scrolls games. A few years ago I tried to play Oblivion and sadly I just couldnít get into it. I donít know if it was the story, the controls or just the structure of the game but the game never really stuck with me. My friends would tell me how great the game was and I would see the games perfect scores on the internet but I just didnít like the game. However last year during the VGAís when Skyrim was announced I told myself that I would give the Elder Scrolls series another chance. Now I donít know what Bethesda did different this time around or just if my taste in games has changed, but The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is one of the best games I have played in a while.
The game starts off with your character, a prisoner, being sent to Helgen by the Imperial Army along with the Stormcloak leader; Ulfric Stormcloak and some other Stormcloak soldiers. After arriving in Helgen and creating your character, you get ready to be executed. However as luck would have it your execution is interrupted by a dragon attack. From there your only mission is to get out of your shackles and find a way out of the town without being burned alive. After escaping Helgen the game really lets you go along your own path. However the main quest progresses you eventually learn that your character is a Dragonborn, someone who has been born with the soul and blood of a dragon, but has the body of a mortal. This also lets you absorb dragon souls, use shouts, and conveniently be the only one that can stop the evil dragon, Alduin, from ending the world.
The main quest wonít take you too long to complete. If you play right through then it will only take a few hours, however good luck playing right through the story. I told myself that I was just going to play right through the main quest and then play through the sidequests afterwards. It was a lot harder than I thought. I think I played through about two missions in the main quest before I went on a rampage doing tons of sidequests and exploring the world for new dungeons and dragons. Iím not saying that the main quest is boring but just looking out into the distance your creativity will get to you and you will want to explore all that the world of Skyrim has to offer. I donít know how many times I told myself I was going to go finish up this story quest but as Iím traveling I see a dragon fly over my head or see a dungeon symbol on my compass and I get sidetracked. Sure it may just be the ADD in me but trust me, if you want to finish the main quest first, all I can say if good luck.
I have played well over 50 hours of Skyrim. I have created two characters pursuing different forms of combat, hand-to-hand and magic. I have reached level 40 with my first character and 15 with my second. I have completed the main story, fully leveled up two of my abilities and have completed well over a dozen sidequests. However, I donít feel like I have even completed one third of what this game has to offer. Skyrim is the type of game I wish was released every year. So many games nowadays include a 5 hour campaign (if even that) and multiplayer. Itís refreshing to have a game that has given me so much stuff to do without a multiplayer mode.
If you have played The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion then you should be familiar with how this game works. Unlike most RPGís where you gain experience for your character as a whole, experience is given to individual attributes. For example, if you kill an enemy wearing heavy armor and attacking with destruction magic and one-handed weapons, you will gain experience for those individual attributes. Once you level up those individual abilities that will go towards you experience for your actual levels. Every level you get to increase your health, magic or stamina and are awarded a skill point. Each of the aforementioned attributes has their own skill tree that can be upgraded with the skill points. It may be a little confusing for people who have been mainly playing JRPGís but the system works very well and is very deep for customization. Speaking of customization, the game also gives you great freedom of how you want to play the game. There are three main class types for the game; warrior, mage or thief. These three classes hold specific attributes for each, but each classís attributes can be used with other classes. You can be a guy that sneaks, uses magic and wears heavy armor if you want. Although I will admit that mixing classes too much can result in some problems, the fact that you can play the way you want is very refreshing.
As for the actual gameplay, it has gotten a big overhaul since Oblivion. While the game is still a first or third person action RPG, there are some welcome additions. The first big addition is the Shout system. As a Dragonborn you can do use shouts just like the dragons. These shouts range from basically a force push or being able to summon up a storm. Itís a very cool mechanic that adds some variety to the regular combat. Also, nothing is funnier than sending a few enemies off a cliff with an Unrelenting Shout. Another one of the biggest of these additions would have to be the ability to dual-wield weapons and spells. It may seem like a gimmick at first but you wonít feel that way after you see how fast you can tear apart your enemies dual-wielding a flame sword and the Ice Storm spell. Another change to the overall gameplay is that the game feels a good bit slower. This is mainly from a much more realistic feel wear heavier weapons take longer to swing and switching weapons takes a few seconds to take effect. While it is a little hard to get used to, you donít really notice it after playing for a while. The final main difference in the gameplay is the new interface. Apparently Bethesda is sick of the abundance of menus in RPG because it has been radically simplified in Skyrim. With one press of a button you can access your items, spells, skills and your map. No more spending minutes searching for weapons or magic in the menus, everything is right there is simple to find. The game also includes a ďfavoritesĒ system where you can quickly pull up your favorite weapons, armor, magic, shouts or items with ease.
Other than all that, gameplay for Skyrim is very similar to Oblivion and very solid. Everything from combat to sneaking works very well. However there are some minor complaints. Like I mentioned before, the combat is very sluggish. Itís not unplayable by any means but it does take a while to get used to. Also, a staple throughout recent Bethesda games, speech options, is nearly nonexistent. Although there are still choices in talking, it has been severely watered down. At the most you may get four or five choices for what to say and even that is rare, instead, about 9 out of 10 times you are forced to only use one option. Now this isnít something that hurts the game but I miss the freedom during conversations. These are small complaints, they donít hurt the game in any way but they are a little annoying, but at least the core gameplay is good.
Although the game plays pretty well, this also wouldnít be a Bethesda game without a handful of glitches. While there is the occasional graphical glitch like disappearing pieces of the environment or wrong textures, I havenít run into any major game-breaking problems. I have heard of some problems where quests wonít continue if you do a certain thing and the game has frozen one me or twice, but this is pretty scarce (especially in a 50 plus hour game). However, the game does chug along at some times. Now I know the PlayStation 3 version (which I have) has had many lag problems as of late, but I experienced some bad lag even on the day of this games release. The problem usually goes away after a few seconds, but this can be very hurtful if you are about to shoot an arrow and the game starts to lag. The glitches (for me anyways) havenít really hurt my experience with the game but they can be frustrating. Nothing kills momentum like having to restart your console because the game froze. The game luckily never hits Fallout: New Vegas levels of problems so if you survived that game this game wonít cause much of a problem.
Skyrim looks pretty good for how big of a game it is. While it is nowhere as good looking as games like Uncharted 3 or Battlefield 3, this game is much more massive than those other games. The game looks great when you just look out into the giant world and see everything from afar, but it gets a little uglier when you look close up. A lot of the textures just look muddy or pixelated like they havenít loaded even after you have been in an area for over an hour. Character models look fine but once again, the faces look a little messed up. This game could loo a lot worse and with a game this big we are lucky it looks this good. The sound of Skyrim is pretty good too. The ambient sounds of the huge world sound great. From hearing wolfs howl in the background to the creaking sound skeletons make as they walk, everything sounds good. Probably the biggest audio improvement over Oblivion though, is the voice acting. Although it still isnít great, itís definitely a step up from the previous game. Characters actually put some emotion into what they are talking about and they donít just sound like robots with medieval accents. Now all the main characters have their own voice actors but as for the NPCís, there isnít much variety. For the 100 different people you can talk to, there are about 10 different voice actors. Although this isnít uncommon for big games like this, itís still weird that the courier, the ship captain in Dawnstar and some shop owner all have the some annoying voice. Still, it is an improvement and you really canít complain about that.
Skyrim is an amazing game. It does have bugs, but then again, just every game this big (which mostly involves Bethesda) has one. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is one of those games that you will never get tired of. I have played this game for over 50 hours and I donít see any signs of stopping. I havenít played a game in a while where I say I will stop playing in an hour and then Iím still playing 5 hours later. The game isnít for everyone, but for people that enjoy a great RPG or anyone that loved Fallout 3 or The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion wonít be disappointed. Now if you excuse me, Im off to go hunt for dragons, fully upgrade my attributes and finish one of my many unfinished sidequests.