Five years is a long time to wait. Being a child and waiting one year for the next Holiday Recess is one thing but it’s another being an adult waiting for the next Elder Scrolls game. Now that the wait is over, Dragonborns everywhere will be making their mark in Skyrim battling dragons, crawling dungeons, and hoarding belongings. This game is nothing short of spectacular, and in the following paragraphs I will do my best to convey this while keeping my review spoiler free.
This series is known for two things that stand out above all else: size and depth. I recall playing Oblivion and getting about 60 hours in before I had even started the main story, or taken a break for eye drops. Skyrim has taken what fans of the series love and multiplied it by ten, creating the most immersing and thorough RPG game in recent days. The sights and sounds of the land are at times awe inspiring, and the feelings of loneliness conveyed by desolate landscapes and bustling towns full of things to do is spot on. I had previously played the game at PAX and was barely able to scratch the surface in terms of what the new Creation Engine had to offer. Now that I’ve been able to spend some quality time with the game, I can say with certainty that this bold move has paid off big time.
At the game’s beginning, you’re given the opportunity to look around while riding in a cart heading to your untimely execution. Do yourself a favor, and take this opportunity to look at everything around you. Look at the trees, the animals, people’s faces, pretty much everything. The texturing that’s gone into this game is extremely remarkable. Right off the bat, you’re given a more rich and transporting world than the preceding incarnation, and you haven’t even walked around yet. Unfortunately, the overall landscapes and faraway places are what’s most beautiful here. Looking at things up close is a completely different story. Looking at the textures up close detracts from the game’s realism, but then again, why are you looking so hard at a wall 2 inches in front of your face when you have about eight hundred million quest hours ahead of you?
Next, if you can pry your focus away from scampering animals and swaying conifers, listen to the sound of the world. Pay particular attention to the voices of the people around you. Bethesda went all out this time, and hired more than five voice actors. All of the other sounds in the game are remarkable as well, including the terrifying sound of a dragon swooping over head, completely out of nowhere. I’m pretty sure that if smell-o-vision had been invented by now, these guys would have done an awesome job with that also. The problem I had a few times however, is the repetition of phrases by characters over and over. The video I’ve linked below conveys what I’m referring to pretty accurately.
Regardless of any repetition this game might have, it’s pretty minimal compared to the immensity of everything and anything else you can do. Call me paranoid, but I don’t think you’re supposed to be in there, where ever that is.
In terms of play style, there aren’t many constraints here. If you’ve been looking for a game where you have control over pretty much everything your character can do, this game is as close as you’re going to get for now. If you want to go bats crazy on dragons you can do that. If you want to take time off after going bats crazy and become a farmer for a week you can do that too. From being a home owner, to getting married, Skyrim allows you to become the hero you want to be. With the redesigned interface system, you can change your tactics on the fly, and better cope with situations thrown your way. The option to dual wield is the icing on the cake here.
Now let’s talk quests. There’s more quests than you can shake a Wabbajack at in this game. The more you play, the more you’ll find your quest ledger just start filling up. This is by no means a bad thing, unless of course this is your first time playing an RPG. I was describing this game to a friend of mine earlier, who does not play RPGs at all, and his response was, “It sounds like a lot of work.” Mind you, he works for the federal government, so his definition of work might be different from mine. Yes, it is a lot of work pulling a few of these quests off, but anyone who’s played an Elder Scrolls game knows, more is better, and this game had plenty of “more”. Case in point, there’s random quest generation and progression. Essentially, you could play this game forever. I’m not suggesting this as it might cause a psychotic episode, but you won’t be bored either.
Skyrim also does a good job of keeping you in check. You’ll power through a few dungeons at the beginning of the game, and set a few things on fire. After completing your first few quests, you’ll feel ten feet tall, and bullet proof. Then you’ll wander across your first giant, herding his mammoths, and try to nip at his heels a bit; test the waters. This is a bad idea, but you don’t know that until the game swats you down for trying. The message becomes clear: you will have to earn your way to that level you’re aspiring to. There’s no shortcuts in becoming the dragon slayer you want to be, so you’d better be more careful next time. Seriously though, don’t mess with giants.
The time for RPGers to rejoice is now. Skyrim heeds the call of its clamoring fans, and delivers a level of awesome only dreamt about up until now. As I mentioned before, if you’re the kind of person that likes to do what you want, in a fresh new setting this game is for you. It’s fairly easy to pick up and learn even if you haven’t played an Elder Scrolls game up to this point, and will welcome you even if you’re curious. The hardest thing anyone will face in this game is deciding what to do next.
A copy of Skyrim was purchased by the reviewer.