Skyrim is the game on the lips of many RPG lovers, and there are many funny bits out there written up about the game. I know I am late to the party just writing the review now, but there are a few reasons behind it. One of those reasons is that I honestly thought Morrowind and Oblivion were both extremely boring games. Hell, all of the Elder Scrolls games are boring.
I know I have everyone’s attention now. I basically just walked into a building full of Bethesda fans and told them their beloved games are garbage. However it does give me the distinct advantage of looking at this title thoroughly without rose tinted glasses, and without automatically thinking it’s game of the year material. It also explains why I am late to the party.
Some will state that it’s because I am not a fan of First Person Role Playing Games (FPRPG), and that’s not it at all. In fact around the time The Elder Scrolls Arena came out another FPRPG came out. It was called King’s Field and I was playing that, but that is a review for another time and place.
So, I have sat down with Skyrim and I can tell you, 30 hours into playing the game, that I am hooked. Morrowind I played for about 10 hours, and just lost all interest with it, Oblivion ended up getting about 15 hours. What holds me in Skyrim more is what I didn’t feel in the two previous games… Immersion.
The immersion into the world is so much stronger this time out. As I walked the lands of Cyrodil I felt like something was missing from the world, yeah it had it’s ups and downs, but something was definitely missing. I longed for something exciting to happen, but even with the odd highwayman here and there it was really just lacking.
You walk around in the land of the Nords keeping your eyes to the skies. Dragon battles are what was missing from the other Elder Scrolls games. Not just dragons though: giants, mammoths, and many other newer creatures all add to the experience. There are random dragon battles, when you least expect them, and there are also battles that are with “named” dragons that make some boss battles look easy.
However Dragons aren’t what give this game the amount of immersion that I wasn’t expecting, rather it is the amount of gray area that most of the side quests leave you with. I don’t want to spoil things, but you are left with hard decisions at times that you wouldn’t expect. I found myself asking, do I really trust that woman in the Inn, or the man that I had to fight my way to get to? Can I really trust this royal, or is he trying to manipulate me even further?
The way it pulls on your emotions isn’t forced. In fact everything that comes at you is subtle, unlike other games that purposely pull the rug out from under you. Bethesda knows how to tell a story, or in this case many stories that populate an entire world. They also know how to pull you into these stories, toy with your emotions, and have you questioning who really is right or wrong.
Sadly though, there are parts of the game where the immersion breaks. Some of these things can and will pull you right out of the world, leaving you asking why the developers would leave out something this huge. Fortunately I haven’t hit any of these sections because I decided to play a character that is from Skyrim itself, but others have chosen some of the other races that populate Tamriel and suffered as a result.
A fellow writer, Richard Naik over at Game Critics, wrote about his experiences playing the game, and he mentioned how he was Argonian, which is the race of Lizard people. Trying to keep as many spoilers out of the review as possible, he mentions how racism is rampant in one of the holds found in Skyrim. He gets there and he sees a scene where they are yelling out racial slurs towards Dark Elves and Argonians. He walks ups to the racists in question, and they treat him like just one of the guys. This definitely breaks the immersion into the game for anyone that doesn’t play a Nord race. You can read his article here about what happened in his game and his thoughts about it. I thank him for bringing this to light as I would have completely missed it in my play through of the game.
I have a few theories as to why this might be, but it makes you wonder why they wouldn’t have him get treated like the other “hated” NPCs. There are a range of theories such as the idea that they din’t want to break the story, they wanted him to have access to all the content in the game, and even the suggestion that they did not want to make the player deal with those feelings as it might be in bad taste. Whether it is intentional or not, well I will leave that up to you.
One of the biggest things I love about Skyrim is the leveling up system, which has also caused quite a bit of controversy. A lot of the hardcore fans of the series complain that the new system in the game “dumbs things down”. I am not in that boat because I feel the new system is just as complex as the one that was in Oblivion, just with a lot of the fat trimmed off.
In Oblivion, when you leveled up you could pick which attributes to level based on what skills you used to gain that level. There were some serious problems with this for a few reasons. If you didn’t know what you were doing, or how the attributes helped with skills, you could end up with dud levels, and the game getting way too hard to beat. You could cheat things and not level up at all, as the game levels up with you, or you can power level certain things.
Skyrim’s system does away with all of that. When you level up you get to choose what stat you want to increase (more magic, health or stamina) and where to spend your skill perk. There are 21 skills, with many perks in each skill to make you better at those skills, and you can spend your skill perk right when you level up or save it for later, it is your choice.
There are problems with that system though. One of the most glaring of which is that you cannot respec your character. Once you spend those perks, they are spent, so choose them wisely. Also, without attributes there are fewer ways to differentiate between characters. For example, will a Wizard who trains with a sword in his spare time and who has equal skill with the Warrior be as strong as him? No, there is no strength stat so the warrior will have a higher weapon skill (which allows for more perks from those trees), health and stamina while the wizard would likely be focusing on magicka and magic skills.
Sadly though, as with most Bethesda games there are a large assortment of bugs and issues with the game. Rather than write up about flying horses, broken physics and bucket head theft I will just post three videos that will show what I would describe in words. Though, let it be known there are a few quest breaking bugs as well. The videos are down on the bottom of the article.
I have encountered some quest breaking bugs as well. One quest, called Lost Legends, has you find a journal and and then travel to another ruin to find more information. Well the original journal was at the beginning of the cave, and I thought ‘why not finish the cave and come back later’. So I did, I went over to the next spot only to find out that I had to go back to the original cave and finish it to get the reward. Even though it was already marked clearly on the map it still said I had to go back and collect something. So I Went back, and well… that something I needed wasn’t there, and I wouldn’t have been able to finish the quest.
I did figure out a bit of a work around, and I will be talking about that in another post. The major issue with the work around is that you need to have the PC version of the game. If you have both versions of the game (like I do, now) then you are still in luck if you broke the quest on the xbox 360. If you don’t have the PC version, I’m sure one of your friends could help you.
Over all, Skyrim is worth it. Despite it’s flaws and it’s bugs I am still having a lot of fun with the game. I am not the only one in my house enjoying the game either, as I seem to have peaked my wife’s interest in the game as well. Whenever I play she is intrigued enough to watch, and she is enjoying how the main story is panning out.
I have the xbox 360 version of the game because my wife enjoys watching me play it, and it gives us a bit more couch time. She also doesn’t “lose her husband” (her words not mine). If you have a PC that can handle it I would recommend getting it for that platform, just because you have the ability to debug some of the issues that come up in the game as the PC version gives you access to console commands, whereas the 360 and PS3 versions do not. Also, being able to swap your save file over to the PC from the 360 and back again is kind of cool for those of us with both versions, or those waiting for the PC version to go on sale so you can play some of the community mods that will eventually come out for it.
Worth the full price of admission, and worth playing it!
I swear to you this horse glitch video got me to go out and try the game! No seriously it did!