Since 1986, Bethesda has been working diligently to make games for people to enjoy. It wasn’t until 1994 however that they released their first real success; The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Since then The Elder Scrolls has gained a huge following and has sold more and more with each of it’s four direct sequels. Following in its predecessors footsteps, Skyrim attempts to be the next big thing. But can it possibly duplicate, or even expand on the sense of awe players experienced in past entries?
To avoid spoilers, I won’t give details on the story. However, I will say I was concerned during the introduction quest. It almost felt like something straight out of a medieval Call of Duty game. Soon after this scene my enthusiasm for the game shot up to eleven. I was happy to see that as in previous installments, everything the game had to offer was open for me to explore (I settled on hunting some moose.) I was also happy, but not surprised to see to see all of the guilds had made a return.
The gameplay in Skyrim is almost identical to that it’s predecessors; which in this case is a good thing. Bethesda drops you into a big open world full of content and says “have at it”. One change I really like is that the crossbow actually feels good, making hunting very enjoyable, even though it does’t help you make progress. Along with hunting, the stealth mechanics have been improved; NPCs almost have to make eye-contact with you to know you are there. One big complaint is that guards are still magical ever-knowing wizards; if you do something naughty, they wont be far behind you.
Like in all RPGs, menus are very important. Unfortunately, menus are one of Skyrim’s only downfalls. There is no way to sort items by weight, damage level, or value; leaving players to mindlessly scroll through and through. However, the leveling menu works fantastic, as well as the map/quest log. It is also a bit irritating that in this day and age we still have such a weak auto-save system. Though most players of Bethesda games have developed a reflex to manually save frequently.
The visuals are simply stunning for such a open game. They aren’t the best gamers have seen in recent years; but some of the vistas Bethesda has created are just mind-blowing. Character models are much improved over past installments, although there are some very noticeably rough pieces of geometry, specifically around the nose. Textures look good from a distance but become muddy as a player approaches them. Animations are much better than past installments as well; but I noticed some stuttering during dragon animations.
The sound is also very good, and fits whatever mood the game wants it to. Walks through the beautiful world feel peaceful until you see a wolf, then the orchestra that follows you kicks it up a notch until you have slain the beast. All creatures make good “grunt” noises; mammoths sound big, dragons sound bigger. The human voice acting sounds a bit campy, but it adds to the charm.
Movement is what players have grown to expect from a Bethesda game. The controls work; but don’t break any ground. Some fairly big improvements however, have been made. Combat feels better, making it enjoyable, unlike in Oblivion where it felt like a chore. Magic feels particularly better now that it is controlled by the triggers instead of bumpers. Also, the third person view is much improved.
Skyrim is a book that you write. The decisions that will change everything in the state of Skyrim are the ones that you make. That is what makes Skyrim such a special experience. While it is not free of flaw, it is still one of the greatest games made this year. And it is definitely the most immersive game I have experienced since Fallout 3, making it well worth every gamer’s time.
The Good: Nearly everything
The Bad: Ever-knowing God-like guards
The Ugly: Bethesda-bugs
Final thoughts: The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim gives me a feeling I have not felt in a very long time; a feeling of freedom, and of life. Every self-respecting gamer owes it to themselves to pick this one up as soon as possible.
Second Opinion by Evan Tognotti
I’ll be the first to admit that I have not beaten Skyrim, although I’m not quite sure what doing so would entail. There’s so much content here that it’s almost exhausting to think about, much less attempt to “beat.” But I have played enough of Skyrim to assure you that it’s one of the best gaming experiences of this year, or any year. And not because it has the best graphics, or the best dialogue, or the best combat. It’s because of its ambition: how I could look out on a snowy vista one moment, bathe in a stream the next, and round it all off with a dungeon crawl. How I can be the hero everyone wants, or the villain no one expects, without any pointless in-game morality meter tying me down. How I could battle a frost dragon, lure it into a town and watch the guards spring to my aid, grounding the beast with their arrows and leaving a mighty skeleton as a monument to our success. It has flaws, but they all feel like necessary ones to allow this much freedom. Skyrim does the thing we’ve always wanted video games to do; it transports you to another world. Remember that feeling when you popped in The Legend of Zelda for the first time and felt like you were in a wonderful, magical place? Skyrim does that. Only this time, it feels truly alive.