The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3) Review
Posted by Mark Salmela on 11.25.2011
The next big RPG from Bethesda is finally here. Can Skyrim possibly meet its high expectations? Read and find out.
Title: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Rated: M for Mature
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the follow-up to 2006ís Oblivion. Set 200 years after the Oblivion Crisis, Skyrim is a new entry in the Elder Scrolls series. You donít need to have played any of the previous Elder Scrolls games to enjoy Skyrim, but fans of the series will enjoy the references to the previous games, especially those who played Morrowind and Oblivion. The general synopsis of the story is that the high king of Skyrim has been murdered, and now a civil war has broken out amongst the native Nords, who want to secede from the Empire, and the rest of the population who wants to stay under Empire control. You take control of a Dragonborn, a dragon hunter who possesses the ability to stop Alduin from destroying the world.
After sitting through Skyrimís introduction, itís time to create your character. Skyrim consists of ten different races, each with its own special perk. Unlike previous Bethesda games you no longer assign skill points to one of Skyrimís many skill categories. Every skill in the game levels up through continued use. If you want to increase your sneak skill you simply sneak around areas undetected. The sneak skill will level up automatically. You increase your block skill by blocking, increase your two-handed attack by using two-handed weapons, and so on. You choose what type of character you want to be in Skyrim.
Unlike most RPGs you donít receive any experience for completing a quest in Skyrim. You receive experience points by leveling up each individual skill. Level up enough skills and your overall level will increase in Skyrim, letting you choose between leveling up your overall health, your stamina, or your magic meter. Each level increase will also grant you a perk, which you spend on an individual skill category to give you a bonus such as increased effectiveness. There are a ton of individual perks which you can spend your points on, and thankfully you donít have to spend your perks immediately, and can instead save them until youíre sure which perk you really want.
Combat has seen several improvements in Skyrim. With the exception of two-handed weapons you are free to assign a shield, weapon, or magic attack to each individual hand. You can dual-wield different weapons, a weapon and a spell, two different spells, or after unlocking the perk dual-wield the same spell for a powered-up version of that spell. You can handle any combat situation in a variety of different ways. Thereís no one correct way to handle a certain situation, and itís very refreshing and fun to be able to experiment with different combinations of attacks.
With that said thereís still a lot of room for improvement in the melee combat. While itís still a lot of fun to run around hacking and slashing at enemies, it often times feels like youíre slashing at the air rather than cutting through an enemy. You donít get that sense of resistance as your sword cuts through an opponentís skin. You donít get any real sense of contact at all. One thing Skyrim does to improve the melee combat is the ability to perform Fallout 3 style finishing maneuvers, where time slows down and your character goes into an animation, killing your enemy in a brutal and cinematic fashion.
It has never been more fun to be a mage in Skyrim. Skyrimís improved magic system makes it easy for players to switch between casting destruction spells such as frost attacks, healing yourself using restoration, or simply summoning undead soldiers to help you fight off hordes of enemies. Skyrim also has a new shout system, which allows you to shout a really powerful spell or attack that you unlock from killing dragons. Thereís a button mapped for the shout attacks, so you donít have to equip anything to be able to shout other than selecting the shout that you want to use.
Roaming the vast world of Skyrim is a real treat. Bethesda has put so much attention into Skyrimís detail that youíll swear itís based off a real-world area. Thereís always something new around the corner, and youíll spend weeks exploring every nook and cranny hidden in Skyrim. One of the biggest compliments I can give to Skyrim is saying that it feels like an actual world. You actually get the feeling that Skyrim existed well before you got there, and it will exist long after you stop playing. Characters actually feel like real people and not random bots populating an area.
As for the NPCs in Skyrim, theyíre vastly improved as well from Bethesdaís previous games. NPCs actually have opinions and interesting things to say. NPCs will take sides in the civil war and will make comments depending on your character. NPCs will judge you based on your race, comment if youíre not wearing any clothes, or respond more hostile if your weapons are drawn. The NPCs in Skyrim are more than just quest-givers, and it compels you to actually get invested in what youíre doing.
Skyrim looks absolutely beautiful, but itís not without its problems. Like every other Bethesda game Skyrim is filled with bugs. Some bugs are minor, such as jittering bodies, where other bugs can be much more problematic, such as broken quest-lines and bugs that prevent your character from advancing. With such a large and open-world bugs are expected, but itís still frustrating when you encounter them. Thereís also a problem with the load times, as certain areas will take forever to load, and load screens are frequent in Skyrim. As of right now there are also issues with textures not loading and framerate issues on the PS3 version of Skyrim, which Bethesda claims theyíll fix in future patches.
Skyrimís main quest can be finished in somewhere around 20 hours, but simply doing the main quest would be doing Skyrim an injustice. You can spend hundreds of hours smithing weapons, creating spells at an alchemist table, enchanting items, joining one of the gameís many guilds, or simply doing side quests. Skyrim is filled to the brim with dungeons to explore, containing rare items and fun boss battles. The dragon battles are extremely cinematic as well, as everyone in the area stops to tackle such a daunting enemy. Unfortunately the dragon attacks are extremely repetitive, taking away some of the fun over time.
- One of the best worlds created in a video game.
- Amazing soundtrack that makes each battle feel epic.
- Improved skill tree system that levels up through usage.
- Improved combat that is simple to use, yet deep for players who want something more.
- Hundreds of hours of unique content.
- The game is still very buggy.
- Skyrim has long and frequent load times.
- Melee combat can feel very floaty. You never feel like youíre making contact.
- As of right now there are issues with textures not loading in and framerate drops on the PS3 version.
- Dragons have very repetitive attacks.
- Enemies and NPCs have trouble navigating the environment, getting stuck behind objects and running in circles trying to get to you.
Tonight, we feast on bear!
Skyrim is an absolute must buy. Thereís something here for everyone, regardless of whether or not you like RPGs. Skyrim has quite possibly the most fleshed out and well-realized world in a video game. The characters feel much more alive and have interesting things to say. The combat system has been improved and casting magic is more fun than it has ever been. Despite some issues Skyrim is a game thatís impossible to put down. Thereís always something to do. You can burn entire days exploring Skyrim and still not see everything. Skyrim canít be considered a perfect experience with the many issues noted previously, but youíd be a fool if you missed this experience. Skyrim deserves to be considered one of the best games of the year, hands down.
Framerate issues aside, Skyrim is a fully-realized world thatís absolutely beautiful.
Thereís so much to see and do in Skyrim. Melee combat aside Bethesda has nearly perfected the RPG formula.
This is the definition of an epic soundtrack.
Thereís always something to do in Skyrim. There are hundreds of hours of unique content.
Skyrimís bugs will irritate you, but not stop you from enjoying one of the best experiences of the year.