The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review
We present the full, edited together Review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. At the end is a final score. Click to read the whole article.
The Look - Score: 9Skyrim, for me, is still one of the best looking games out there. No matter where you go its look is consistent, with nothing really letting this down. As soon as you step out into Skyrim properly from the burning Town of Helgen, you are greeted with what I still find one of the best views in the game (see below) and this means that you have a good impression on your mind of what it will look like throughout. A good start is great for any game, as it means you don't have a down impression of what will happen later. You're excited and motivated to keep playing along to find out what's going to happen to the characters around you.
However, after re-playing it a little for this review, I think there are some things that could be made better regarding the look of Skyrim. The trees being the major one. Although for most of the game you aren't just starring at trees, but you do run past them, through them, and around them quite a lot and close up - they don't look too great. They look like something from a previous game in the series from quite a while ago and this is disappointing because quite a lot of Skyrim IS trees. Sure, not as much as some of the other provinces of Tamriel but it is still a noticeable amount of them and none of them are up to scratch. They look quite pixelated and up close, a bit flat. This might just be the colouring though, I'll let you judge that for yourself. However, I'm sure this can be fixed for TES: VI as Bethesda have done such a great job improving what their games look like over the years. I know this is just progression of the industry, but if you even look at Morrowind (which was only released nine years before Skyrim) everything looks a crazily amount better.
One thing that has been improved a lot, but could have so much more work done on is the faces of people. Faces have been notoriously bad looking in The Elder Scrolls series, and Skyrim is only a little better. Although people no longer look like they've been hit head first by a bus - they now look a little distant in their expressions, and like they never have very different reactions to things. Which isn't too bad, seeing as a lot of people's faces are covered with beards - but could be fixed (from seeing The Elder Scrolls Online, this seems to have been fixed so faces look more real, which is good.)
Apart from faces and trees there is nothing else which I don't like about what Skyrim looks like. You can spend hours trying to find which mountain has the best view, or simply just staring out at the landscape from anywhere you choose - there's always something beautiful to look at in Skyrim.
The Gameplay - Score 9
Skyrim isn't really known for its combat. Sure, it's fun - but there isn't a whole load of strategy to it then you have to master before you get really good. It is mainly hack and slash combat. This may not be a bad thing though. It means that you can pretty much use any melee weapon you choose and get the same results. Except perhaps the weight of the weapon affects how quickly you swing, and how much Mana is taken. Saying that, it is fun to just tank through a whole load of enemies in the big battle quests (which sadly don't show up as much as I would like - more on that later), but that really does depend on your character build. If you choose to be a warrior - you are basically used as a tank, in the traditional build. If you choose to be a Mage then you will want to play any other Elder Scrolls game than Skyrim - as in the others you can make your own spells - something that was really really fun to do and a shame that it was taken out. Saying that you can get incredibly powerful if you choose to become a Mage, it just may not really fit into the land of the Nords as much. Another really interesting character build is more of a Thief/Assassin. Obviously, this means joining the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild is a priority, but also means you will be using much more of the bow and arrow than the melee weapon (I suggest getting the Dawnguard DLC if this is your preferred build as it introduces Crossbows to fight the Vampires.) Obviously there are other builds, and you can cross-build to suit what you want to play as, but these are the ones I've tried.
Something really good in Skyrim is the fast-travel system, which lets you go to any place you've visited (almost) instantly, or any big city. This is great, and I can't really fault it. What I do wish however, is that when travelling in a horse and carriage, or on the back of a Dragon to a city, that you could see the landscape around you. That would be brilliant, and a really good way for Bethesda to properly show of the World they have created. But, alas, you can't - maybe in the next one? Lets hope so. I suppose another way to do this would be to eliminate the fast travel system until level 5 maybe, so you can really get a feel for the world.
I loved going through the main quest line in Skyrim. And the side quests. And the faction quests. They were all really good fun, even if a few of the main quests did get a little same-y. But what really shone in Skyrim were the side and faction quests. They were all unique (with the possible exception of some of the Thieves Guild quests) and all really fun to play, in any play through of the game. The Companions quest line was probably the most fun to play, because of the brilliance of the story for it. You really felt involved with them. I won't, however, give too much away about the quests. All I will say is that the ending did disappoint me slightly, as it was a bit too easy, and I really wish there had been more really big battles, and the two or three that were in there were some of the most fun quests of the game. I will never forget when the Stormcloaks (I sided with the Empire) attacked Whiterun and it was just me and the guards against them. That's was awesome, and I wish more games like Skyrim did that.
That brings me onto a big side-quest. Something which is crucial to the plot, but not in the spot-light for most of the game, which is the Nords fighting against each other. Ulfric Stormcloak against the Empire. It ties in to the plot because of the prophecy for when Alduin (the main bad-guy in the game - also a dragon) would return with the Dragons "When the sons of Skyrim would spill their own blood..."is the line in the trailer that describes this struggle the two sides faced, and is a very interesting part of the game, as you can choose which side to fight with, which will ultimately end up pitting your side against the other to see who takes control over Skyrim. All this starts in the very first "scene" of the game, where you can decide to escape Helgen with either an Imperial Soldier, or a Stormcloak prisoner. Although this choice doesn't really effect your game at all, it significantly shows you about some of the quests in the game from the beginning, which I really like.
The Features - Score 8
The Music in Skyrim is something magical. Although perhaps not the best music the series has ever seen, it is certainly very beautiful, and something I often search up on YouTube and can spend hours listening to over and over again. It's a beautiful complement to the phenomenal environment of Skyrim. Wherever you are in the game there's music of some sort. Whether it be the triggered music from completing an action or a quest, or something sung by a bard in the local Tavern - they are all great. I feel the epitome of this though, is the theme for this entry in the series entitled Dragonborn. If you haven't listened to this then you are missing out so much, it is possibly my favourite theme so far from an Elder Scrolls game, and I feel I should take a moment to explain why. To create this theme Jeremy Soule (Elder Scrolls Composer) decided he had to do something special. First decided to create a whole new language for the song. He hired language experts to write and form "The Dragon Tongue", which is used throughout the whole game when Dragons speak, and is the language that your shouts are spoken in. By iteself, this is pretty cool, but what makes it more so is that the song lyrics (in Dragon Tongue) rhyme in that language, AND in English, so no matter which language you play it in, it will still function as a song. Awesome, right? Well, to sing the Theme Mr Soule also hired 30 male singers who went through the song in Dragon Tongue. But, 30 wasn't enough so these peoples voices were changed to it sounded like there were 90 people there. That is cool. To add to this, since Morrowind (TES: III) the theme's are traditionally a slightly re-worked version of the previous soundtrack, meaning if you listen to the three of them, they are all incredibly similar. Anyway, I love the theme's and I listen to them while writing this stuff normally, its great for inspiration.
|The original Skyrim UI in the Inventory. Source: forum.rpg.net|
Ahh, the UI in Skyrim. A bit of a sore spot for PC players of the game, who always feel that it was the only part that wasn't built for PC optimization. It's clunky, is fairly hard to use with a mouse (I'm thinking especially of the character selection at the beginning of the game which was incredibly hard to click through) but it isn't ugly. It doesn't look bad. If it was done slightly better it wouldn't have been a problem at all. Luckily though, because the problem was mainly on PC, it meant modders could fix it. And they did. Very well. Probably the best Mod to fix the UI, is called SkyUI, and can either be downloaded from Nexus mods, or from the Steam Workshop.
|Skyrim UI with the SkyUI Mod running. Source: explodingbarrel.ca|
As an RPG your decisions SHOULD effect the way the game is played out for you. This is why so many people are supportive and love RPG's; it brings a really personal story, if its done well. I'm in two minds about this is Skyrim. On one hand this does happen with what you do decide. But, there aren't many decisions like this that you do have to make. So it's done well. Where it is done. I suppose what does effect the way you are seen is the way you treat people in the game, if you join the Thieves Guild, The Dark Brotherhood, and The Companions. This can make people fear you, trust you or try to kill you. That's great, but decisions in speaking or where you go aren't so great.
Was It Fun? Score - 10
Skyrim was and still is heaps of fun to play. You are granted a freedom to do whatever you like - and that isn't seen, to the level of Skyrim at least, in many games. Skyrim is special, it lets you be who you want to be, do what you want to do and go where you want to go. But, that isn't the only reason its great fun. The reason you see people in the Steam reviews who have clocked 1000 hours plus, is because of the modding community. There are so many mods for Skyrim (granted, so of them are awful and pointless, and some of them simply exist so you can make everyone naked) that you can spend weeks trying to play through every one and still not complete them all.
I've spoken about the Quests previously, but I feel I should re-iterate about the plethora of side quests available to the Dragonborn in the game. From the most simple (eg. Cicero wanting help with his Wagon Wheel) to finiding the Dragon Priests Masks, or the Black Books - all are thought out a huge amount and this is really shown, and is something that I feel should be recognised more to Bethesda.
Going back to the mods - recently I downloaded a Mod called Skyrim Unbound (referencing the first Quest in Skyrim - Unbound) which lets you begin anywhere in the map, and lets you choose who you are. You can even turn off Dragons and not be the Dragonborn at all - or just set it to random and see what happens. This kind of thing is great. With my first character, I went to each Hold and brutally murdered all the guards in sight (which is a lot - and also helped me to earn the achievement for getting 1000 bounty in each Hold). Although I have finished the main Quest in the game, and each of the DLC's - I still want to revist Skyrim to complete the side-quests and have fun with the mods. 87 Hours? I've barely scratched the surface.