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Review: Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim

Review: Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim


Console: Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 / PC
Players: Single
Release Date: 11th November 2011
Developers: Bethesda Game Studios
Publishers: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: Roleplay, Open World, Fantasy
Price: €44.99* (Collector’s Edition ~€150)

In Skyrim you are the Dragonborn, a person born with the soul of a dragon and the ability to use the power of the dragon language. As the game opens you are a prisoner of the Empire; your history, your future, your destiny is whatever you want it to be. You can be the master thief who pickpockets everyone and has nothing to do with dragons, the heroic warrior who saves us all or the vicious brute who dooms us all.

Story and immersion, that’s what you come to an Elder Scrolls game for and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is no different, everything here is just dripping with lore waiting to be discovered. From random people in town, to scrawled notes on a dungeon wall, everything tells a story if you are willing to look for it. You can totally ignore the main quest, with the only consequence being that you don’t get the see the main quest. When you finish the main story, the game doesn’t end and you are free to continue you adventures around the province of Skyrim. The real game is everywhere else, you can easily drop 100 hours into this game. I have to hand it to the writers, they have done an amazing job here, from the epic dialogue, the random chit chat to all the hundreds of books that are fully readable, it’s just staggering and really pulls you into the world.

The gameplay of Skyrim is the most fulfilling I’ve experienced in a long time. It’s everything Bethesda has given us before but more polished and streamlined. The UI is simple and intuitive; you are never more than four clicks away from anything in the menu. The world feels totally unique, as rich and expansive as you could wish for. Just walking around the wilderness feels so alive and natural; you can touch and interact with almost everything in Skyrim. When first wandering I saw tiny butterflies flitting around and decided to follow them, when I got close enough I was shocked to be able to interact with them. The loading screens are fun and entertaining to look, but can get a little long as the game has to track more and more data. But long loading times have always been par for the course for an Elder Scrolls game.

Levelling up and character progression has changed, defined classed are no longer an option. It would be easy for the die hard fans to rage over the “dumbing down of My Elder Scrolls for the casuals!” but it is actually a really robust and in-depth system once you start playing with it. You increase your skills by using them and pick perks at level up to determine your characters abilities. The way the perks are structured lets you customise the character exactly how you want to play, with an easy to follow upgrade path. Each perk has a minimum skill requirement and easy to understand benefits. Overall it’s a definite improvement over the potentially confusing stat juggling of previous games.

The combat isn’t perfect, but you don’t come to an Elder Scrolls game for the combat. However it is much improved, weapons and spells are easily accessed via the favourites menu, and the distance you need to hit an enemy is much easier to judge. In previous games, I more often than not found my head stuck in the armpit of a Deadroth while trying to swing a sword and not really able to see what’s going on, this isn’t the case as often in Skyrim. Magic has had a complete overhaul, now you can duel wield weapon and magic or just magic and magic. It is really quite awesome to combine spells and unleash the destruction on those around you. The addition of Shouts (powerful spells on cool down timers instead of using Magicka) you have a lot of options for dealing with combat. The Dragon fights (spoilers you fight dragons!) are truly astonishing. Another new feature is the “kill cam” from Fallout 3, occasionally when you kill an enemy you will be treated to a cinematic third person view of you dispatching your foe in a dramatic manner.

This game is just gorgeous by any standards, from the smallest details to the gigantic sprawling vistas of Skyrim. You will spend a lot of time just marvelling at how great everything looks. The lighting and weather effects are astounding, the game mimics how your eyes adjust moving to areas of bright and darkness. The weather changes from almost impenetrable blizzard to bright and sunny as you descend from the mountains, It really shows off the power of the new Creation Engine.

The music and sound in the game are a perfect fit to the world of Skyrim, if you watch the extra DVD you can see the thirty person “barbarian” choir making some of the music of Skyrim. From the roar of a dragon to drawing your sword and all the other sound effects are as sufficiently meaty and visceral as the Nordic world they inhabit. One of the bigger complaints about Oblivion was that it only had twelve voice actors, Skyrim has no such limitation with over ninety voices in the game including such names as Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, Lynda Carter, Micheal Hogan, Kari Wahlgren and Paul Eiding (personal favourite of mine). My ears can hear Will Friedle in there but haven’t found any credits for him. It all contributes to making the world more alive.

I haven’t even touched on the cooking, enchanting smithing systems, there is a lot to do in this game.

The collector’s edition comes with a behind the scenes DVD and a couple of “feelies”. The main draw of getting the collector’s edition would be the 30cm PVC statue of the dragon Alduin perched atop a dragon wall. The sculpt, paint and pose really capture the feel of dragons in this game. The DVD is an interesting watch if you are into that sort of thing; it’s about 40 minutes of the Bethesda team talking about their experiences working on Skyrim. The artbook is truly an amazing piece, 200 pages of beautiful art from the game. The binding on the book is really something to behold. Another extra in my eyes is the fact that it is modelled after an in game item “The Book of the Dragonborn” one of the first books you come across in game. It also comes with a cloth map of Skyrim which would look great on the wall.


Everything, definite contender for Game of the Year.

Can’t really find any.