The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review
The horses' hooves clop rhythmically on the cobblestone. The wheels strain underneath the weight of the wagon you are in. You open your eyes to a snowy morning. Your hands are bound. You have been caught trying to cross the border into Skyrim by an Imperial ambush intended for a band of rebels. You are having a bad day. You arrive in a town named Helgen where you find out you have been lumped in with the rebels and are sentenced to die. Citizens hurl insults in your direction as you are unloaded off the wagon and read your crimes. You witness a man beheaded. Gruesome.
A horrible sound is heard off in the distance. You are marched to the chopping blocked and forced to kneel when you hear that horrible sound again. You turn your head in order to look your executioner in the eye and that is when you see it. Off in the distance but getting closer, a Dragon. The black beast lands upon a tower, lets out a roar and unleashes Hell upon the town of Helgen. You get free and run for your life. This is your introduction to the harsh yet breathless world of Skyrim.
There isn't much that can be said about this game without first mentioning the size of the world. The scope of the story and audacity of detail throughout Skyrim is astonishing. You can take a moment at anytime, gather in your surroundings and be treated to a work of art. Climb a snowy mountain and watch your screen almost resemble a black and white film. There is more to look at than just distant scenery too. Dungeons are where the superior lighting in the game really shine. The close quarter combat gives a great opportunity to showcase creature design. The subtlety of how a Draugr's jaw hangs to the muscles beneath the fur of a troll are impressive. Blood on your sword after a hit and the splatters on surrounding walls are just some of the many minor details that suck you into this world.
The second thing to be noted when speaking of Skyrim is choice. You are inundated with a nearly endless supply of choices. From the different factions which can be joined to your style of play; weapon choices to how you interact with the people of Skyrim, the choice is always yours. Do you wish to be their champion or rob them nightly like a common thief? You can blend weapon and magic in more ways than one. Hell, you could easily spend dozens of hours doing nothing but farming and smithing if you so chose.
Controlling your character is more of a mixed bag. Again, size is mentioned here because the amount of different commands at your disposal can be daunting at first. Button layout is efficient and easy to attack with both hands or block and attack. You can switch between first and third person perspective on the fly but it is not recommended you fight in third person as it renders your attacks highly inaccurate. There is a slight delay when in combat so button mashing will quickly find yourself in an awkward position. Menus are a breeze and you are given the ability to favorite things such as weapons, potions or spells for quick access. Like I said earlier, the sheer amount of commands at your disposal is daunting and can make you feel cumbersome but once you get past the learning curve the controller becomes an extension of your arm. You'll be moving in and out and dodging attacks on your own which generally makes you feel like a bad ass. This is perhaps what Skyrim does best: making you feel like the baddest person in all of Skyrim.
Sound design is the best I've noticed outside of Battlefield 3. Dungeon crawling has a way of forcing you to steadily grip your controller tighter and tighter. Hearing Dragons off in the distance can be unnerving. Listening to the sounds of a city come to life each day, enchanting. Hearing enemies whisper to each other, confused when they cannot locate you, satisfying. The unholy sound of God knows what from behind you because you moved through a dungeon too quick is terrifying. When fighting Dragons, the main Skyrim theme kicks on, making your battle seem like the coolest thing that has ever happened to anyone. And at least for me, it never gets old.
You can move through the game and complete the main story in about 40-50 hours. The main quest line is well told and when you think you have it figured out, they drop a few story threads and continue down another path which may foretell some future dlc we have coming our way. There are tons of side quests and many factions to join, all with their own quests involved. This game will take you well over 100 hours to play through a reasonable amount of content. This is the size of the game coming into play again. Skyrim is actually less about replay and more about continued play. Sure, you can start a new game and play as a different race and make different choices but you don't necessarily have to. Skyrim never technically ends. You could log over 150 hours before the game even started to feel slightly repetitive. The world is so fully realized it begins to feel like an extension of your own life.
You will encounter minor frame rate issues and with any game this size, the occasional freeze so save often. Minor quibbles aside, this is a tremendous technical achievement. In the era of $60+ games, anytime you can pay less than $1 per hour of entertainment is a treat and to have that game tell such a rich and complex story loaded with fully realized characters (down to the lady selling vegetables, mind you) is a Godsend. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a landmark achievement for rpg's. It is the best of the series and one of the very best of this generation.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.
6/10/2012 Guest, "Gorilla Biscuit"