Fus Ro Dah!
Skyrim arrives over five years after the release of the excellent Oblivion, bringing with it a brand new setting, story and features. Has it been worth the wait? Read on to find out
Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Without giving too much away, the game starts in typical Elder Scrolls fashion, you are a prisoner on his/her way to the chop for reasons unknown. However, just as your about to meet your doom, a dragon shows up and the resulting chaos allows you to escape. The dragons, formerly worshiped by the people of Tamriel, have returned after being killed off centuries ago. Why have they returned? Well, that’s a mystery you’ll unravel as you progress through the game, and it’s safe to say, you’ll have a fantastic time doing so.
As you travel from location to location, you’ll meet several interesting characters and learn about Skyrim itself via the stories littered throughout the land. Whilst the main story is certainly intriguing, it’s the tales and events you encounter away from the normal path that impress the most. They make Skyrim believable, which in turn keeps you interested and invested in the story right until the end.
It might not be the prettiest game ever, but the graphics are a massive step up from Oblivion, which is something you’d expect given the time between the two titles. Considering the size of Skyrim, simply put, the game looks fantastic. Sure, they could be better, but when you consider a game like The Witcher 2 and the fact that it doesn’t harbour a massive open world, it’s quite an achievement how good Skyrim looks. From the lush forests to the blizzards on snowy mountains, the game looks quite brilliant.
The character detail, particularly on the faces, is a bit underwhelming, but, they’re not bad enough to bother you too much. Non-human enemies, like Frost Spiders, are modeled well enough to send arachnophobia riddled gamers running for the hills. The game’s biggest enemies, the dragons, look absolutely superb. When seen outside of a quest, the dragons circle around the area above you, and it’s quite a sight.
For instance, during my playthrough, I witnessed a dragon attacking a village that I was walking through, and the whole sequence looked jaw droppingly magnificent. The dragon flew around, landed on some houses, and smothered the citizens with a shower of frost. From the dust rising off the houses as he landed, to the guards shooting arrows from the other end of the village, everything just looked amazing.
Soundtracks usually make or break the immersion factor of a game, especially when it comes to epic RPGs. Sometimes they are a bit over the top, and on other occasions you’ll find they just don’t fit the mood of the game. Thankfully, that sentiment doesn’t apply to Skyrim. The music suits the tone of the game down to a tee. It’s implementation is subtle, and you’ll only really notice the music when something of note happens. Walk through a forest or snowy mountains and the music will be quietly playing away adding to the atmosphere. However, when an enemy suddenly appears, the music becomes more exciting, adding to the tension of a fight with whatever creature you happen to have stumbled upon in your travels.
Thankfully, Bethesda have increased the number of voice actors for the game, or at least, they seem to have. No longer is someone like Patrick Stewart playing a scruffy looking homeless person as well as half the villagers populating the city.
Combat sounds, like sword on sword or sword on shield are as you’d expect really. There’s nothing especially astounding about them and nothing wrong with them either, they just do the job nicely.
Skyrim is massive, there’s really no other way to put it, and it’s something you’ll only fully grasp if your horse happens to die. During one particular quest, I had to travel from Whiterun to Solitude after my horse was killed by a Bear, and it took me over half an hour to get there. To put that into perspective, at most, that’s only half of the game’s map.
A massive game world would be nothing without good content though, so it’s a good job then that Skyrim has so much to do, that you won’t even know where to begin. The quests are nice and varied, you’ll never feel like you’re doing the same thing twice. Not only does this extend the longevity of the game, but it also keeps you immersed in the wonderful world Bethesda have crafted.
New to Skyrim is the ability to assign weapons or spells to either of the main character’s hands which is rather, well, handy. Terrible puns aside, this is a fantastic addition to the game. It enables you to put a sword in one hand and a restoration spell in the other, or even more impressive, a sword in each hand so you can deal massive damage to incoming enemies.
Another new addition to the combat come in the form of Dragon Shouts. Being a Dragonborn, you can speak their language and use their shouts against them. Gained by slaying dragons, each shout has a specific purpose, varying from a burst of power which can send enemies flying across the room to a burst of speed, enabling you to move faster across short distances. Other than that, not much has changed since Oblivion with regards to the combat, but Bethesda has added a new “cut-scene” like moment when you get your final hit on an enemy. You’re provided with a brutal, cinematic view of your final blow, which serves as a nice little “reward” for your combat related efforts.
Skyrim does have its fair share of problems though, starting with the repetitive nature of enemies, specifically the wolves. I cannot imagine how many wolves I killed during my playthrough, you seem to come across them more often then you perhaps should. Then you have the bugs, some are minor, and some quite major. For example, the main character appearing beneath the game world once loaded in after dying, or dragon skeletons appearing randomly in different locations after you’ve killed them. Sure, these bugs are usually negated once you reload the game, but it’s not something you’d expect to see in an otherwise high quality title like Skyrim.
Sadly, there are many bugs of a more serious nature in the game too. Glitched quests that don’t allow you to progress the main story, and then there’s the business of save files becoming too big, resulting in the game becoming very laggy and virtually unplayable. Again, this really shouldn’t be happening, but Bethesda has stated a second patch is on the way. Hopefully it will resolve the more serious problems and allow everyone to experience the joy of Skyrim without issue.
There’s literally so much to do in Skyrim, you could load up the game with the intention of doing a main quest and after some three hours, find that you’ve just been wandering around a forest harvesting ingredients, chopping wood for gold, learning new skills, or increasing your sneak ability. You could literally play for hours upon hours and still not see everything the game has to offer.
The game’s Radiant Quest system which, according to game director, Todd Howard, always gives you something to do. Even long after you’ve finished the main story, the game will conjure up quests for you to do based on your experiences within the game.
There’s no doubt Skyrim has its fair share of bugs and glitches, however even with them in mind, Bethesda’s latest RPG delivers one of the best gaming experiences you’ll ever have. The world is filled to the brim with content that somehow manages to remain fresh every single time the game is loaded up. To answer the question posed at the start of the review, has it been worth the wait? Most definitely, yes.