Skyrim review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim could well be the biggest game of the year. So in order to review it, we wanted to make sure we put the time in. Jamie has so far put in well over 60 hours into the game. With that, we have a review for you!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is easily one of the most anticipated games of the year. The previous instalment, Oblivion, was something of a shock hit with a mainstream audience who usually shuns RPG’s. While the game was by no means perfect, people were captivated with the world of Tamriel, and were gagging for more. I’m sure those people will have nothing but high praises for Skyrim, but as someone who’s been with the series since the rather spectacular Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. The game is definitely enjoyable, and many hours have been sunk into it, but I still see Skyrim as somewhat of a decline.

The game stars, as always, a prisoner. On your way to the chopping block, it seems like your adventure is over before it even begins. Thankfully a dragon shows up and stirs up some trouble. In the world of the Elder Scrolls, Dragons are nothing more than legends, so this obviously causes concern across the land of Skyrim. The Dragons are back, and the legends say only a Dovahkiin (Dragonborn) can stop them. Thank CHRIST your character survived then, as you’re the only remaining one. The main plot sees you finding out the reasonings behind the Dragons return, as well as you trying to stop them from burning the world to a crisp.

Or at least, one of the main quests has you doing that. Skyrim is unique in having two main questlines. The other one focuses on the power struggle and civil war that grips Skyrim at the moment between the Nord-Faithful Stormcloaks and the Imperials. This is an interesting aside, and in some ways more interesting than the Dragon questline.

One of the cool features that come as a by-product of the Dragon invasion is the random Dragon battles. They will fly out of nowhere and cause havoc wherever they roam, and it’s up to you to defeat them. The Dragons fly gracefully through the sky, and almost reminds me of some of the flying battles in Shadow of the Colossus due to the fluidity of the creatures. The fights are very atmospheric, but also frequent. You see, it’s all well and good having these fantastic dragon battles, but so far in my 60 hour game I’ve fought 17 of the buggers. I’m just bored of Dragon fights now. They’ve become formulaic, and annoying as they stop what I’m currently doing. The fights were fun and fantastical for the first 10 or so, but they’ve quickly become boring. I’m avoiding the main quest as I don’t want to have to fight any more. Also, strangely, the dragons are incredibly easy. Now, if you’re gonna be fighting them randomly, you don’t want to have them be too strong, but I’ve fought bandits stronger than Dragons. Seem’s a bit out of place.

In terms of writing, the game is a huge step-up from Oblivion and Fallout 3, which both suffered a bit in the story department. However, Skyrim’s quests and writing reminds me more of games such as Baldur’s Gate and Arcanum, which is by no means a bad thing. I find myself caring about the characters in front of me, and wanting to go out and help them. A few of the quests are also just really cool, like a Hangover parody where you get drunk and have to go cross country trying to discovered what happened.

However, quests like these are few and far between. It seems the game has shied away from the gameplay variety of previous games in favour of making every quest designed for hacking and slashing your way through. Even the rather well-written Dark Brotherhood questline, which was built around sneaking and deception in Oblivion, seems more about running in and fighting people in Skyrim. One or two quests give you room to be sneaky, but the majority of the questline seems to be designed for flat-out fighting. This is hugely disappointing, as it just feels like a Fighters Guild where you wear more black armour. The real depressing thing with this is that the lack of variety means that the game becomes boring quite quickly by Elder Scrolls standards. I’m at the point in the game now where I’m only playing to find out the stories, as the gameplay for me has become deathly boring with the lack of variety.

The game suffers a bit in the UI department as well. Being a PC player, I feel like I’ve been left out in the lurch by Bethesda. Morrowind was built for PC’s, and Oblivion was built for consoles but with PCs in mind. Skyrim however, seem’s built for consoles with no care for PCs. The UI barely works with the mouse, and often I think I’m clicking one thing but clicking another. Another really annoying thing, likely done to make it easier for selection with a console controller, is the Quest tab is in a different menu to the rest of the games important menus. Let me clarify this for a second: If I want to check my Magic, Inventory, Map or Skillset, I have to press tab. But if I want to check my quests, I have to press Escape. Now, the Magic/Inventory/Etc menu uses a radial menu, which is a wonderful way of navigation if you’re using a controller, but limits them to using four links. It makes sense to put quests on another menu for the console version, but on the PC it just seems so stupid that it makes me shake my head. The game’s map system is horrible as well, having a zoomed out version of the game world for you to navigate as opposed to a traditional map. It sounds good in theory, but is really awkward and unintuitive in practice.

The sound design for Skyrim is a bit all over the place. Sometimes it’s really good, with fantastic sound effects and surprisingly amazing voice acting, but then in other places you realise they’ve re-used background music from Fallout 3 (Which in turn, was re-used from Oblivion). While I want to give full marks to the sound design, little bits of re-used music from games that last 300+ hours just annoys me. I’m sick of those background tracks.

Basically, on the PC, Skyrim is a game that barely gets a recommendation. It’s still a recommendation, but a strained one. The console version may fair better, and if you’ve never played an RPG before then you might really get into this. But on a personal level, I find this game to be slightly above average. The game is mostly good, sometimes great, but overall it’s a disappointing mess of bad design choices, unvaried gameplay and re-used sounds.

Words: Jamie Dickerson

What do you think about Skyrim? Do you agree with this article? Why not join us on the forum here and get in on the debate.


One response to “Skyrim review

  1. Pingback: Skyrim review « | Game Review Guide·

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