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I didn’t really like Oblivion, despite the fact that everyone seems to love it. Maybe it was because I first played it in 2010, three years after the PS3 release. It could have been that it was hilariously glitchy – I once left someone who was following me alone, for a few minutes. On my return, his head was only visible above the ground. But I decided to give the next title in the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim, a chance as it looked like a big improvement. That’s enough about me, though. The chances are you’ve looked at my rating, and probably know what I’m about to say: Skyrim is excellent. It’s deep but can appeal to both RPG veterans and newcomers to the genre. The gameplay isn’t perfect, but several different ways to play warrants several playthroughs, plus there’s a load of things to do. This game will last you months. Make sure you take some time off work before getting it, though.
Unlike Oblivion, you don’t spend the first hour of Skyrim running around a rat-infested dungeon with Patrick Stuart. Seriously. Instead, you start off in an on-rails section where you and several other people are taken to be executed. After witnessing the first bloody killing, you put your head on the chopping block and your fate seems inevitable. Then there’s a roar and a dragon swoops down – chaos is imminent. This section introduces the element of choice as you get to choose with whom to escape. You go to a town named Whiterun and are ordered to help kill a dragon. After a fierce battle, the dragon falls and you somehow absorb its soul. The people from Whiterun tell you this means you are a Dragonborn, possibly the last one. As you progress through the story, you learn what this means and why it is so important. There’s not really much to add because from there everything is the player’s choice. You could progress through the story, complete the shorter Miscellaneous missions or just explore the world. Fully completing Skyrim will take hundreds of hours so there’s certainly no shortage of content here.
I’ll start with combat. The swordfighting, like in Oblivion, is basically a case of repeatedly hammering the R1 button. One-handed weapons also allow you to block and dual-wield. Battles are sometimes finished with a brutal final move. I’m not sure what triggers these, but they do look awesome. Next, there’s a variety of magic to choose from, including fire and sparks, as well as a Restoration spell which boosts your health. Experimenting by mixing magic and swords at the same time can lead to maximum results. There’s a new feature in Skyrim called ‘Shouts’, too. Ranging from a powerful roar knocking enemies backwards to one letting you travel from one place to another, these are a great new addition. Finally, you can be an archer. This is great at long distances and for when using stealth.
It isn’t all about the combat, though. Skyrim is an RPG (role-playing game) and the system has changed now. There are numerous skills, such as one-handed, heavy armour, archery, speech and several others. Over time these skills level up as you use them, and you become much more experienced in them. For example, a high level in light armour means you won’t take as much damage. Levelling up these skills contributes to an overall Level Up, which allows you to upgrade your health, magic or stamina. Then you unlock a perk, which can be used to make other skills even better. For instance, you can get a Speech perk which makes merchants give you a discount. It’s deep but can appeal to any type of gamer. Typically of a Western-RPG, you can talk to nearly every non-player character and collect items that can be sold for gold.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics in Skyrim are a mixed bag. The facial detail and animation is mediocre and considering you’ll be seeing a lot of characters in the world, it’s quite an annoyance. On the other hand, the world itself is beautiful despite some frame-rate issues (though, this could become more of a problem later in the game, as you’ll see at the bottom of my review). The snowy mountains look fantastic from afar, but climbing the steep slopes can be frustrating. The sound isn’t perfect either. There’s a more aggressive main title theme, but the music played in the game itself isn’t really that memorable. The voice acting is pretty impressive, but some of it sounds a bit samey.
In terms of content, the game isn’t too bad. There’s a small amount of blood splatter when you attack an enemy with a sword and the finishing moves are quite nasty, with your character impaling the enemy with a sword sometimes, along with others. You can even attack anyone you find, even civilians. Breaking into someone’s house is an option, too. Strong language isn’t too much of an issue, with only some minor language but nothing major. So in my opinion, the BBFC 15 rating is quite fair, but it should be fine for most under that age.
NEGATIVES There are a few issues with Skyrim, but nothing huge. First of all, the character models don’t look all that good and the lip-synching isn’t great. I’ve come across a few glitches and bugs – my game froze once while in combat and there’s the occasional lag, when textures have to load. The in-game music isn’t particularly memorable. Finally, time passes really fast when playing and it’s so good you won’t want to stop playing.POSITIVES Skyrim is a brilliant game overall. The story is very good with plenty of intriguing characters to meet and loads to do. The gameplay is even better. The swordfighting still isn’t all that good, as it boils down to constantly tapping a button, but the ability to dual-wield is fab. Experimenting with magic and using stealth with bows is great. The upgrading system is fairly complex but easy to use, and caters to your playing style. The graphics in the environment are stunning and detailed, despite the lag and the music on the main menu is quite good. This is an essential title and with hour after hour of gameplay, you get a lot of bang for your buck.
NOTE: On release Skyrim was packed full of bugs and glitches but now it's been patched several times, it isn't nearly as infested with annoyances as before. Therefore, an internet connection is needed for the best playing experience as installing patches requires the internet.
I agree this is more fun than Oblivion. I tried several times to give that game a chance and it just wasn't for me.
tom1clare 22.01.2012 00:10
Impressive writing on a cool sounding game, one I'll get around to in the distant future after playing New Vegas :) Surprised about the save file problems given that the same thing was happening way back when after you reached 10mb on Fallout 3 :)