Jan 08 2015

Late Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Review

I originally received this game Christmas 2011 on the Xbox 360 and it quite simply blew my mind. Firstly, because they were offering this game a month after release at a mere £20 and secondly, because this was the best game to be released for the previous generation of consoles.

After developing Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Bethesda made the right decision to use its current game engine, add dragons and shouting, with some of the best hand to hand combat I’ve ever come across. Me and my brother used to take it in turns to play our own campaigns on the Xbox, starting life as a convicted Nord and watching the amazing opening chaotic scene with the dragon Alduin, reaping destruction as you break free from capture. I’ll admit, the next stage of deciding which faction to run away with was a bit confusing, as was the case throughout the beginning of the game. It was a struggle trying to understand the ideology from both sides of a divide between the Imperials and Nords, and was never entirely convinced by either sides of choosing which was the most moralistic, but I digress.

Fighting is the first action we come across in the game, and with its first person perspective, makes it an absolute delight to swing swords and shields into your enemy’s face. It’s even more delightful further into the game, when you unlock the skill to also behead human trouble makers. Using all your skills is highly recommended, to ensure you level up both your skill level and overall level, allowing you to unlock skills and magic that make the game even more fun as your able to sneakily roll up to enemies, pickpocket them of their valuable loot, then send a 4ft tentacle blade through their abdomen. Coming across hostile enemies at the beginning of the game, such as bears and massive mutant spiders is such a thrill as we run around in circles constantly pausing the game to heal as we feebly try to damage with a sword that keeps missing, but with time and careful skill point choices, are soon stepping out from behind the trees, sheathing the crossbow, and running at a dragon full on, with a shield bash ready to score critical and valuable stun damage, followed with a few blows to the head from a health draining sword, before finally finishing the fiend off as we climb atop it’s head and strike our sword straight into it’s skull.

The visuals in this game are beyond what many games at the time where capable of, and were a preview of how next-gen games are to appear. Way before its time, the landscape and environment were stunning to look upon from the first snowy mountain we traversed, taking an hour to ‘Y’ up. Creatures and monsters are a joy to hunt as they traverse hidden amongst this terrain, and when seeing a giant and his herd of mammoths in the background, I just kept wishing this was all real. There have been a few times I’ve needed a new pair of pants whilst playing this game, when I’ve unexpectedly come across screaming draughs in creepy crypts spread across the lands, the detailing on enemies and realistic motions are again just brilliant.

I did at one point get a Kinect for my Xbox, which should have allowed me to perform shouts within the game by shouting at my TV, but the game struggled to understand my voice, probably due to my thick Yorkshire accent. Shouts are great in how varied and powerful they are in the game, and can be great to use if fights aren’t going as planned. It’s well worth playing the game atleast at adept mode, as you all too quickly become very powerful in the game, and need to leave atleast some challenge to come across.

Having progressed about halfway through the game, I bought my gaming PC, which I purchased another copy of the game for straight away, and got stuck into the eye-widening 1080p Ultra graphics. I never bothered with any of the visual mods available, as I’ve always thought the vanilla graphics where beautiful enough, with terrains complementing vegetation, rivers, animals and weather system. The only problem I had with the visuals of the games which I couldn’t find a mod to fix it with, was that dungeons that were built into mountains or deep underground, were all somehow lit up with natural light, and considering there’s actually quite a number of spells in the game that solely generate light, I wish more emphasis had been made to use these spells to progess through a dungeon, as to make it more realistic, longer lasting and 100x times creepier than it already was. To have a Draugh Warlord attack from a potential of 360 degrees of openness, and being only to at first locate it using sound alone, would have been brilliant, adding an extra layer of difficulty.

With the game being open world from the start, you can approach the game anyway you like. Whether it’s completing solely the story missions, a couple of the side quests or like I did, locate and complete practically every side quest, progressing on the campaign as little as possible until right at the end. I did complete the Dragonborn DLC before completing the original story campaign, and am just finishing now on the Dawnguard DLC. I also purchased the Hearthfire DLC, which was ok, but there are buildings already provided with the original game that allow you to store and exhibit favourite equipment, and adopting kids is just annoying as fuck.

So having to replay the game again on PC since Christmas 2012, this game has taken the longest I’ve ever needed to complete a game. I’ve enjoyed my 300 hours+ in the world of tamriel, and would love to delve straight back in again, but will have to wait for Elder Scrolls 6 I believe. I would struggle playing Oblivion with graphics that don’t come anywhere near Skyrim’s, and I’m not the biggest fan of MMORPG, so I’ll just wait for the next single player installment and buy it on day of release. Hopefully I’ll do much better at completing this in a smaller time frame.

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