Game Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360)

Posted on by Dave

January 12, 2012
By Dave

Alright, before I start, let’s just say this review is only based on what I’ve done so-far. Skyrim is just too big a game to cover everything in one review. I’m starting it because I’ve beaten the main quest and tossed an odd 70+ hours into the epic world of Skyrim. Qualified yo. I’m sure I still have roughly another hundred or so hours of things to do, but I’ll just go ahead and review this beast as I see it now. I have been anticipating this game for years, basically since I finished out The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion sometime in 2007 at around 200+ hours. There was so much I had hoped for, so much I wanted to be added into this already expansive RPG to fully flesh out its already-beyond-crazy scope. I had a wish list! Not because Oblivion was bad, far from, but after a few hundred hours you get to know a game inside and out; and realize there are several things you love and hate…and want more of. Skyrim was the first game since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that had me glued to the TV every day, for months (and in Oblivion’s case, years).

Skyrim arrives in grand form, an epic and amazing swan song of everything that developer, Bethesda, can do…and not do, lol, but we’ll get to those shortcomings later. While Skyrim is marred by a few frustrating quirks, they are quickly overshadowed and forgotten by the sheer brilliance, immersion, and spectacle that is the pinnacle achievement of the Elder Scrolls long history. I will play this game off and on for years to come, honing my Warrior’s skills and experience, defeating the, what are sure to come, game expansion downloads; and simply basking in the rich environs and mighty glory of a truly masterful role-playing game.

Ok, I’ll tone down the fanboy now. Here’s the skinny folks:

Graphics: KILLER. Ok, let me rephrase. Not the best I’ve seen, and after playing titles like The Witcher II or Rage, it’s easy to dismiss Skyrim’s graphics as simply slightly above average for this generation of game consoles. That said, given the gigantic open-world of Skyrim, the countless dungeons, castles, houses, shops, towns, characters, soundtrack, and hundreds of quests, not to mention they fit it on one DVD disc…then yes, the graphics ARE killer.

(Oddly enough, Sony’s Playstation 3, with its almighty Blu-Ray format, is still fumbling over itself trying to run the game well.)

But I digress. The lands of Skyrim are very well done; every barren valley to every snow-capped peak is beautifully designed to make the player feel as though they can feel the bitter cold snapping at their cheeks. Different areas of the “country” are varied as well, with some areas in the south and east being somewhat neutral in climate (Skyrim does border Cyrodiil after all), to others being frozen and blizzard-ridden wastelands filled with menacing bears and deadly Saber Cats; still others being beautiful forests filled with deer, rabbits, and waterfalls. The dungeons, caves, and towns all sport an individual look as well, not only adding diversity, but really making you believe that you are in different parts of the country. Some places are old and decrepit while others are pristine and modern. The frame rate works and the character models are good for the most part, although NPC’s are still a tad on the stiff side. Dragons are cool (unless their bones are falling from the sky like an atom bomb whenever you enter the area you killed them in. It’s a pretty funny glitch). Weather effects rock, going from windy to sunny to snowy to all-out crazy shenanigans! Point is, you won’t be complaining much if at all about Skyrim’s graphics, and if you do, you’ll soon lose yourself in the game again and forget all about it. So yes, the graphics are KILLER. 🙂

Sound: Sweeping melodies, awe-inspiring chorus laden epics, it’s all here. The soundtrack of Skyrim is second to none in the series. There are plenty of times you’ll stop your horse, close your eyes, and simply enjoy the soft melodies of a walk through the forest, or the ominous approach of a dragon. You’ll hear birds chip, wolves howl, and distant thunder boom. Several levels down underground in some dank and long forgotten dungeon you’ll hear the dripping of moisture off of the walls, echos of unknown danger somewhere far below, all of which add to sense of realism and suspense. UNBELIEVABLE amounts of spoken dialogue abound, almost to the point that you seriously wonder how in the hell they packed this much stuff onto ONE disc. It’s nuts folks. But, it does come at a price. While you have some well-known actors like Max Von Sydow (yeah, he’s a badass, I know), Linda Carter, and Christopher Plummer voicing the main characters/storyline, you’ll also get a lot of lesser characters voiced by the same cast of probably 20 or so actors. K, don’t bite my head off, I know that’s a lot of voice talent, but over the course of a year or so you’ll be playing this game it will become completely obvious that the insane dark mage you fought on some snow-swept cliff during a lightning storm has the same voice as some boring peasant wandering around a village or 2 around Skyrim, and so on and so forth. Trust me, it doesn’t break the game, but it does break the immersion from time to time when you start to instantly recognize voices around Skyrim.

Gameplay: It works. Seriously. People who were pissed about Oblivion’s slightly wonky and stiff character movement, combat, and animation need not worry. Not only is combat much more organic and natural now, you’ll grow incredibly comfortable with it in the first few hours of play. Whether you use a mouse and my old friend WASD, or a console controller and a nice comfy couch, you’ll feel in complete control of your character. No worries. The infamous third-person view now looks more natural as well, your character seems to display a nice “weighty” look and feel, instead of the floating-an-inch-of-the-ground effect, something Bethesda games were notorious for in their game engines. The horses control well enough, although there is the ever-present “glitch” of sorts that allows you to basically climb a mountain or hill pretty much vertically with the right maneuvering. But hey, for what the rest of the game is, it’s only another small notch off an otherwise superb experience.

I do have to say that I also, for the first time in an Elder Scrolls game, got into the magic system. Not just into; like balls DEEP into. I used to think magic users were clowns who couldn’t melee, but Skyrim allows you to seamlessly use scrolls, spells, and tomes quite effortlessly. No longer do you have to pause the game and select what you want to use. Simply pre-map your favorite spells and weapons into your “ready” line-up, then when the time comes, wield your battle-axe in one hand and have a fire spell, or whatever, ready to go in the other. I cannot count how many times this new system saved my ass. The ability to fight dragons with my two-handed Battle Mace of Doom, switch to two-handed lightening attacks and fry away like Emperor goddamn Palpatine (RIP), switch to a heal spell cause the dragon nailed my face with his tail, then switch right back to my battle mace for the final blow on the bastard is PRICELESS. It made me a magic user from day one and I’m pretty sure I will never look back. Now I’m not saying I’m going to put down my war axe anytime soon chums, but now that the magic system is so much more viable and user-friendly, it’s impossible not to embrace it and make it yours.

I have to say, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a momentous achievement in gaming, to RPG’s in general, and a testament to what modern consoles can do. This game is chicken soup for my soul. It lifts me up, grabs hold, and doesn’t let go. No matter what mood I’m in or how crazy my day has been, I can load up Skyrim and be instantly transported to an all-enveloping world of dragons, Kings, ominous dungeons, and high fantasy. Skyrim gives you an entire country full of magic, majesty, and deep lore to exploit, explore, succeed in, and conquer! You’ll meet characters in the game you’ll never forget and come back time and time again just to see them. Quest, fight, join guilds, hunt….this place is YOURS. Are there issues with it? Sure. What game is perfect? But I dare you not to fall in love with Skyrim. Not for anything I’ve mentioned above, but because it gives you another place to live and breathe in, whenever you want. Oh yeah, and it’s stupidly FUN.

5 out of 5

7 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. DayJob January 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm -

    If I left a review it would look a lot different. I LOVED the game for the first 18 hours or so and then quickly realized how much of the game is ‘missing’. I read the promises and the list of stuff that was supposed to be in the game a long time ago and this game was released with about 10% of it. So we basically have a fully developed gameworld that is awesome but much of the machanics and cool stuff to do are all missing.

    I think its due to the pressure to release on a certain date. I also watched personal interviews with the release manager for the game (his title is much bigger then RM but for the sake of not researching any more than i have to, its RM). He pretty much talked about how he was focused on release dates and reading between the lines you can tell he cared little about what content gets left out.

    Think about it, after about 23 hours in game you can max out 1 or 2 of the limited stats in the game. I am at 100 on blacksmith and enchantments and only have 23 hours in the game. I can beat anyone anywhere at anytime and not worry about death. I also have no interest in loot because I have the maximum armor and weapons you can get in the game. So basically without caring about death, loot, stats, there is no reason for me to play any further. Sux… thats my point of view.

  2. Dave January 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm -

    Totally, I get ya. My approach is to escape into the world of Skyrim and have a good time. I can understand your frustrations, but it’s a different game to different people at different times, and that’s the beauty of it. I personally hate most of the Final Fantasy series, for multiple reasons, but I know that what I don’t like is always going to be trumped by what others DO like. Once again, it’s the beauty of video games. We can make them be whatever we want them to be.

  3. thealternativethought January 15, 2012 at 4:47 am -

    Skyrim was exactly as I imagined, but in a small way I’m slightly disappointed Bethesda didn’t go above and beyond as I’ve experienced. Still, I am thankful for the countless hours I have put into exploring the countless nooks and crannies of a great and diverse land. The new magic system was a godsend, and the way the NPC’s live and breathe around you, no matter what is happening, they adapt to the situation almost seamlessly, is superb.

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