The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review
Skyrim is a serious Game of the Year contender, bringing some incredible layered questing into the modern gaming age, and offering a sweeping world full of secrets and mysticism rarely found outside the classic RPG genre.
But yet again, Bethesda has shown us why it is streets ahead of the competition, by simply delivering an incredible single player campaign with enough variety, intrigue, and good old fashioned, solid gameplay that lasts several months.
Like Oblivion before it, Skyrim lets the gamer explore the massive world at their leisure, using any combination of spells, arrows and melee to fight off the hordes of enemies that litter the dungeons and castles.
There are a lot of places to explore, and although the initial map seems a bit limited, it’s absolutely stuffed to the gills with things to do, with many caves and dungeons going down many levels.
In Skyrim, Bethesda has attempted to avoid the repetition of previous Elder Scrolls games by giving most areas their own identity, story and atmosphere. It’s both wonderfully believable and immersive.
A brief intro sets the scene, as your character, later revealed to be Dragonborn – people with the ability to speak the Dragon language and perform Shouts – has been unwittingly caught up in a civil rebellion.
Trolls are nasty buggers, and regenrate health very quickly.
Just as your hero is about to be executed, unforeseen events break you loose and thrust you into the open world. From there, you are on your own, and despite a lengthy and impressive main quest line to complete, most players will quickly find themselves diverted by a world full of interesting people and fun stuff to do.
The side quests alone number in the hundreds, and are often strung together in storylines that make other titles look bare, and the volume of things to do at times can be overwhelming. It’s easy to spend many hours of game time hunting and crafting to make a set of armour, but it never feels like a chore – in fact, it‘s usually a lot of fun.
One of the stand-out side quests on offer involves a random drinking game in a small village. Downing several tankards of ale leads to your character blacking out and waking up in a temple way across the map. As it happens, you trashed the temple in a drunken frenzy, and the resident priest is none too happy.
Retracing your steps in a similar vein to the movie The Hangover, you discover exactly what you got up to while out of your skull, and attempt to put it right. Once the mystery is resolved, you will likely look at your game clock to discover that you’ve yet again lost two hours to a seemingly random side quest that hit you out of nowhere.
One of the first things you’ll notice on firing up the game is the visuals – although Bethesda is still hard at work tidying up some texture glitches, the PC version absolutely sings when running on a rig with a relatively modest spec.
The visuals look superb on PC, leapfrogging consoles completely.
Although the draw distance and model quality seem only modestly better than the console versions, the leap is big enough to sway the choosy gamer towards the keyboard and mouse.
But alas, the controls – and the PC loses points here – offer a set up that is clearly intended for the console market, as keyboard compatibility occasionally becoming a slight struggle.
Plugging in a controller helps, but vanilla PC Skyrim has annoying menu to mouse interaction, a low vertical view movement, and a lack of key remapping which grates somewhat – Bethesda is working on fixes, however, and a simple search of the web throws up all manner of mods and patch commands to help out.
And what PC review would be complete without a bit of news on the mods available? In short, the modding community has been busy since launch, with some classic additions to improve and streamline the game for the PC.
The best ones around currently deal in visual tweaks and graphics enhancements, but if Oblivion is anything to go by, the future holds a lot of excellent content for PC gamers. For that alone, the PC version is worth every penny.
A quick line on some of the glitches found in game – yes, it’s expected of every Bethesda game to be glitchy, but at times Skyrim can be a bit of a mess.
Surprisingly, a few laughable issues returned from previous games, but the odd problem resulted in a frustrating need to reload a save – luckily, Bethesda are shipping patches regularly to fix all the issues as they crop up.
Skyrim is a world you can get completely lost in.
Known issues already out there in the wild include some side quests randomly glitching so that they can’t be completed, completed side quests remaining as unfinished on your quest journal, and there’s also the little matter of dragons flying backwards.
But, as anyone you ask will tell you, it’s a Bethesda game – most of us can overlook the silliness for what is clearly an immense piece of work, and the new benchmark for RPGs and single player games as a whole. It can be a tiny bit rough on the odd occasion, but half an hour spent tweaking and patching really make the game a masterpiece.
Skyrim really deserves every accolade it’s getting right now, as the sheer depth of character and gameplay is truly mind blowing. With enough quests to make an MMO blush, and storylines that could have come from RPG classics of yesteryear, it’s hard to think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this game.
This is a welcome change of pace, especially in another season of rehashes and sequels to repetitive genres. And as for the ability to mod, tweak and tinker, the PC version is the one to get, because in six months time, you’ll thank us for the recommendation.