Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review (PS3)
I feel I should start this out by saying that Oblivion is not only my first Elder Scrolls game, but is was also my first Bethesda game and I fell in love with it instantly. It scratched an itch I had for so very long of wanting to play D&D. I have never played Morrowind and apparently that seems to be the best of the series, or so the internet would have most believe anyway. So, I will unfortunately not be able to use that as any kind of comparison, but Oblivion, as I said, was amazing in so many ways and Skyrim has gone above and beyond all I could have hoped for in an Elder Scrolls sequel. The look and feel of the game is more than any other game before it and the world is packed full of content that you can easily have the game pull you in ten different directions at once.
I have learned a lot over the past few years about the Elder Scrolls games during and after playing Oblivion. There is so much there to be told the history alone is rich with interesting story not to mention the living breathing world going on around your character. With each Elder Scrolls game Bethesda has focused on a different landmass in the world known as Tamriel. This time in Elder Scrolls V, they focus on Skyrim, which is the farthest north of all the provinces in Tamriel. Skyrim is the home of the Nords, a very tall human race of this universe. Nords have a resistance to the cold and cold spells and it is very understandable why. Many places in Skyrim are covered in blankets of snow and heavy winds, most of which are in the mountain top regions, which there is a lot of in Skyrim. I have read a description of the Nords being very “Vikings like” and I have to agree completely. Although the game takes place a good 200 years after the events of Oblivion, some of the cities you find in your journey are nothing more than buildings made of all lumber and some of these are main cities in some aspects. Not to mention many of the games armor, weapons and other things in the environment feel like it is from the Viking era. Not everything is buried in snow however, there are many parts in the world that are full of wooded areas and open fields. All of this looks absolutely amazing. Even looking up at the mountains and seeing the clouds move slowly around them make this world feel so alive and real and when traveling seeing the animals of the world simply doing their own thing. Everything about the environment sucks you into the game.
There is a lot going on in Skyrim, but the main story is about dragons. Dragons have been gone out of existence for so long that most people in Skyrim believe they never actually existed in the first place. All of a sudden dragons are back and destroying everything in their path. You come to find out that you are the first Dragonborn in many ages and thus you are the only one able to permanently kill the dragons terrorizing the people. Finding out that you are the sole dragon slayer in all the land, you must set out to discover where the dragons are coming from and how to stop it completely. This is the main storyline for Skyrim. I feel the need to point out with all that you can do in this game, I have yet to finish the main story, but I am very much on my way to and it is well done and thought out. There are twists, intrigue and some unexpected situations. Bethesda has really out done themselves here. In Oblivion I waited until I finished most of everything else before getting started on the main quest, because if you did more than the first few steps it caused Oblivion Gate to open randomly across the world and you would have to close them and each one too a good twenty minutes or so to finish and closing any of them did not further you in the main story at all. On top of that the main story was not all that great, but was still somewhat interesting. Also there is Fallout 3, which I found the first half of the main quest to be great, while you are in search for your father, but after that it kind of flatlined. It feels like the story in Skyrim is simply put together better keeping the player wanting to progress farther. It makes it hard to take a break from the main story at time and go on to do something else for a while to kind of savor the main story more. Although I have not finished the main story in Skyrim, I do know for a fact that once you do finish it you are simply put back into the world to continue on playing. With both of the last two Fallout games at some point having the game completely end after the main story was finished did kind of worry me with Skyrim. So you can safely beat the game and continue on doing other questions and such simply like before in Oblivion.
The main story is however a very small part of the big picture. I would actually say even more so that it was in Oblivion. There is many, many side quests like one would expect from a Bethesda game, but there is one that really stands out that again I have just grazed the surface of. As you play the game you will come in contact with many different people and you will learn quickly that Skyrim is on the brink of a civil war. On one side you have the Imperials that were the main people in Cyrodiil (where Oblivion took place) who are trying to fend off the rebels that are lead by Ulfric Stormcloak who seems to be the leader of the Nords. This causes much chaos across the land in Skyrim in many ways. You have tension building as this fracture of the two groups force situations that cause the people of the land be sometimes be at odds with each other. There are people with different views of religion and politics, families feuding with each other, murder and racial oppression. The backdrop to the main story line is so much more rich and in depth than any other game I can remember ever playing.
All of this simply adds up to countless number of side quests that are available to you at all times. Some you will find while working on another, keeping you stock piles for a very long time. You will be able to choose a side in this civil war and although the split is basically right down the middle, so much so that if you look at any map on a table (usually in a camp for one side or another) you will see all red flags to the left and all blue flags to the right. Deciding who to fight for is not as simple, seeing both sides have done so bad things in the wake of this war coming around. You will also find the Dark brotherhood and thieves’ guild has made their way to Skyrim. I have not done anything with the Dark brotherhood so I have no idea how to join them at this time, but there is talk in some places about them. The thieves’ guild, like in Oblivion is not too easy joined. Although I did not play Morrowind I do know that there were places with signs that let you know they were the thieves’ guild, which I always thought was completely ridiculous. There is no real sign of the thieves’ guild, but you do come into contact with a few members (or are they?) that will in a not so direct way ask you about joining them. The fighters’ guild and mages’ guild however are not found in Skyrim, but there are equivalents, one being a small group of mercenaries and the other being a school for magic users in their place. All of these groups have their own set of quests for you to tackle and will take up a good amount of time. That is without mentioning all of the many other side quests and miscellaneous quests that can be found throughout the world. Every city and even small villages will add to your growing list of things to do. Even while traveling across the world and finding location to be added to your map can get you a few quests as well. This could be found as overwhelming to some people, but the game does a great job of keeping all the quests in order and separated.
One great thing about traveling and trying to find ever little place possible in Skyrim is the look and feel of all the different areas. The quality in the dungeons and other areas are vastly improved from that of Oblivion. It seemed as if every cave and ruins area in one way or another felt more or less like the same place. There were their small differences, but in the long haul it became boring after awhile of exploring. The places in Skyrim do have some noticeable likenesses of each other with the textures and such; however for the most part each have very unique looks to the layout and environment in them. Also there are puzzles to be found in some of these places that make for very exciting exploring. When searching around a place that have other humans in it, you will find that they are not just simply standing around mindless at all times like they would a lot of time in Oblivion. If done right, you can come across two or more bandits, necromancers or any other human baddies and listen to their conversation about whatever it is that is going on or why they are there. This helps add a bit of realism to playing the game.
Skyrim is completely open to do anything you want any time you want. It is very much like the games of past like Oblivion and Fallout 3. However Skyrim does make you feel like you have more freedom as a character and while leveling up. There are no more set stats for your character and no more classes to choose from. Instead everything is set to a baseline and whatever it is you decide to do while playing the game is what your character will become better in. If alchemy is your thing then mixing all type of concoctions will be what you spend time doing to become better at it. If you like two handed weapons, then you will use them and become better with those weapons. If you are like me and don’t get into using magic then you never have to and not worry about any of those stats. These all add to different skills such as armor (light and heavy), sneaking, speech, archery, shield blocking, weapons (one handed or two), all the different kinds of magic like destruction and the list goes on. All of this along with finishing quests and killing enemies is how you get your experience and thus this is how you level up in the game. Leveling up has become very streamlined. You first simply choose to increase your magic, health or stamina. Then you get one perk point to add to any skill you want to get a bonus of sorts. Most skill trees start out with being able to put more than one point in the first thing over time and it is usually pretty basic stuff. Like one handed you can put a point in the first thing and do something like 10% better with one handed weapons. As you build these skills you will be able to unlock different things with perks, such as being able to bribe guards eventually that catch you breaking the law, by adding a point in the right spot of the speech tree. This makes for creating a character to exactly your liking even better. It also opens it up to switch what you want for your character has the game goes on. If you have a sword and shield and you have been putting perks in the places for those, you can simply switch to something like archery and start building that skill up and start putting points for perks into that instead.
The combat in the game has not changed much. It is mostly the same as it was in Oblivion. You swing your sword and if you are in reach of the bad guy, you hit him, usually. There is no aspect of VATS from Fallout 3 brought over to Skyrim and though I did enjoy VATS, I don’t think it would have felt right in this type of game anyway. It worked well with using gun in Fallout 3 and that is all it was really useful for. However, there is an aspect that did come from Fallout 3 with the third person camera. When attacking enemies sometimes you will get some attack animations were your character can do thing like drop a guy to his knees and chop is head off. Though some of these animations repeat a lot, they are quick and cool so they don’t really get boring to see. The combat and controls in general seem to be more perfected for the controller. I had no problems with any of Bethesda’s past games with the controller, but with Skyrim they seem less clunky and smoother. This is probably helped by the work that has been done with the third person model of your character. I play these games strictly in third person and although the rendering and movement of my character in games like Oblivion looked good enough for me, Bethesda has done a remarkable job with how the third person character looks, feels and moves in Skyrim. Third person no longer feels like a tacked on option, but that it was build into the game as a viable option.
Skyrim has an open world, dragons, war, action and an amazing story for all your questing. If Morrowind truly is that much better than Oblivion then I think it is safe to say Skyrim is my Morrowind. It will pull you in more than Oblivion ever hoped to in so many ways. This is by far the best game I have played this year and I have not even scratched the surface of what can be done. Sure I have found a few glitches and problems but nothing at all game breaking, maybe quest breaking in one instance, but that is not a lot especially with all that is packed into this game. At least the best part of most of the glitches and bugs in these types of games, they make for funny stories to share with your friends. If Skyrim could be made even more perfect, I don’t know what it would be.
Final Score: 5/5