17th November 2011 - Ladies and gentlemen, have you ever wanted something more? Something more than your boring 9 to 5 grind? Something more than getting stuck in traffic on the way to work every morning, or having a detailed routine to ensure you wake up at the right time? To put it bluntly; have you ever just wanted to escape? Well the folks over at Bethesda know how you feel, and have spent the last years of their lives mercilessly crafting the perfect getaway. I present to you a game that can, nay, will take you away to another world and immerse you like nothing you have ever experienced before. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The Elder Scrolls games have been at the forefront of wester RPG’s since their inception in the 90’s. With a universe of unparalleled lore and creation, Skyrim features a heroic land spanning quest with almost unlimited playability. You are the Dragonborn, a hero of your own personal creation destined to save the lives of all of Skyrim – or the entire world for that matter – from the claws and jaws of the mighty dragons, mysteriously returning back to life after centuries of myths and legends. It sounds like some stock stuff from the Fantasy 101 book, but let me remind you, Bethesda wrote that book with the original games in the series and have continued to rewrite its passages into the gaming industry with every later instalment. Skyrim once more demonstrates the companies hold on our imaginations and the endless creativity their designers and artists demonstrate.
As usual, Skyrim features not just a main quest, but also countless side-quests, missions, favours, guilds and storylines that the player can participate in at his or her own leisure. The number of which here far outweighs the last instalment, Oblivion, and is instead more comparable to the content numbers of the franchises largest and arguably most praised title, Morrowind.
One of the biggest new additions the game presents players is the Radiant Story feature, which allows the game itself to cater unique storylines, missions and interactions to how it senses you are playing and experiencing the game, as well as the choices you’ve made from the smallest detail to the largest. The usefulness and success of this feature varies from mission to mission, but as an overall inclusion, it’s a great achievement and when you realize just how it works with such little seemlessness and finesse, you will be shocked. This is definitely a genre-leading feature I’m certain we will see cloned and expanded upon the industry over.
One of my personal favourite draws of the Elder Scrolls Series is the nearly unlimited personalisation. With so many different races to choose from, topped with gender, miniscule details and looks you can make almost any fantasy character you can think or dream of. Then in the gameplay side of things, you have even more choice in how you play. Skyrim's core mechanics allow players to take to the world however they see fit. Be they a nimble thief, a powerful and fearful mage or a heroic and praised warrior of the sword, and absolutely anything in between – it’s completely up to the gamer. But why stick to archetypes? Mixing it up a little, a player can now be a dual wielding assassin or a sword wavering spell caster. With two hands comes twice as much awesome, allowing any single handed weapon or item or spell to be placed in either, with any of the opposite in the other. Heck, even combine spells to create some true chaos if you want. I can’t explain how open ended the combat and player perception in this game is, it’s unbelievable and truly awe inspiring.
Skyrim is the land of the Nords, one of The Elder Scrolls many races. Like many of the races in TES universe, Nords are loosely based on a particular real-life counterpart. In this case, Scandinavians. And as such, Skyrim is a beautiful place. Featuring a range of snowy mountains, barren (yes oh so beautiful) marshes and landscapes, the world of Skyrim is as close to a living breathing world as you will find in a video game.
Visually, the game is a huge improvement over Oblivion, and now features much better lip synching and animations. While I noticed some minor clipping issues and again some stiff animations like when characters get stuck intersected with certain environmental objects, overall it looks wonderful. The constantly varying scenery adds to the immersion and most definitely to the enjoyment of the game, as does the improved range of character models and clothing/armour, which all go hand-in-hand to create the atmosphere and environments that make the Skyrim as a whole so fun to play and so damned addictive.
Another vast improvement over the last instalment in the franchise in the audio. Where Oblivion featured only 12 individual voice actors supplying lines for the entire cast of hundreds, which quickly got noticeable and at times very annoying, Skyrim features a cast of at least 70. This not only helps keep things fresh as you explore the land and not feel like you just talked to this trader a few townships back, but with the increased quality of the quantity of actors, we now have a great range of believable accents and personalities to conclude the varying races of the land. Like I mentioned with the aesthetic style and atmosphere of the game, this is the kind of thing which helps bind together all other aspects of the title and create a truly unforgettable and enjoyable experience.
Some games are meant to played with others. Some are meant to be experienced online with some trash talking, or some co-operation. Skyrim isn’t one of them. This is the kind of game you lock yourself away from the world to experience. I’ve seen this game being defamed due to a lack of online or co-op mode, and to me that screams an injustice. Skyrim is a pure and simple single-player experience, and one like no other for that matter. While the main story missions can be completed in a good 20 hours themselves, it’s highly unlikely as well as not recommended, that you play through them straight. With the pure volume of optional missions, side quests, factions to join, wars to wage and fun to be had, Skyrim lays claim to 300 hours of gameplay. Of course, I haven’t experienced everything there is to, but from almost constant playing during my spare time for a week, I can say it seems like I have yet to even put a dent in what it available in this game. It’s seemingly never ending, and in some cases does actually feature randomly generated quests with no end. Bethesda has once again put their money where their mouth is, and delivered a game larger than you can fathom. And take my word; they’ve done it with the quality to match.
How do you sum up a game like Skyrim in one paragraph? That’s almost as difficult as taking on a horde a dragons with no health potions and nothing but a loin cloth. To say the least, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a pitch perfect fantast game. It ticks every box with gameplay, graphics and the all-important lore and enriched environments. It’s a living, breathing world on a disc and has to be experienced to be believed. I stress the word experienced because you don’t play Skyrim. You are engulfed in it, entranced by it and overwhelmed by it. You experience Skyrim, because it’s more than just a game – It’s an Elder Scrolls game.
+ World like no other
+ Radiant Story works a treat
+ Utterly massive in every sense
+ Great fantasy elements
- Some minor graphical issues
- Usual bugs and glitches
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott