The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Every hope fulfilled, every fear allayed. Bethesda’s Skyrim is quite astonishing. We always knew though that a developer that can make games as breathtaking as Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion could pull it off again. The key was balance. We didn’t want the same game again and it isn’t. It’s much more. However we didn’t want a different game, because we like Oblivion just as it is. It isn’t a different game. It’s ever so familiar. The character creation and leveling system needed fixing. They fixed it. It was quirky and and awkward and needed time and effort spent on it. We liked that. It’s still like that. The combat was a bit basic and clunky before. It’s more dynamic and fun to use now. We wouldn’t want it to become an action game, though. It isn’t. Combat is still quite a cerebral affair. There seemed to only be about 10 people doing the voice acting before. There’s more now but they still sound kinda mental, which is a good thing. It’s still pretty but not too realistic. It’s epic and windswept but not like an interactive movie. What Skyrim is… well, what it is… it’s well… Skyrim.

The character creation has been, and I’m going to use a dirty word here, streamlined. It really, really needed this. In Oblivion, making a character involved research and statistical analysis before you could come to any decision and it always ended up being the wrong decision anyway. Leveling was a nightmare that could so easily lead to you completely rooking your character so that their skill building didn’t tally with their overall level, leading to you getting your face mashed in by every dick with a sword you came across. Now you pick a character more based on which sort of ears you like and decide from there how they’re going to fight rather than the other way round. The leveling isn’t actually different as such, but it’s no longer hidden behind a bunch of invisible stats. You can see better how your character is progressing through some rather swishy looking skill trees. Your overall level does climb alarmingly fast, though, and there is cause for concern here regarding how many skill points you can squeeze in to each level, keeping in mind that the level you’re at will affect the difficulty of enemies and quality of drops. It seems like it’s still possible to paint your character into a corner of being underskilled. If someone has already worked out mathematically that skill building is actually balanced do give us some details in the comments below but the fact remains that it’s not totally clear in game as to how well you’re going to progress against enemies leveling with you. The perk system, borrowed from Fallout 3, lets you hone your character to your own style but most of the perks available are abilities you could cultivate in Oblivion. They are just more clearly defined in the new skill tree system.

Not all enemies are evenly matched to you. It’s clear there are some creatures you should avoid early on, although they can occasionally be found on paths you would want to take early on in the game. Giants in particular are spectacularly powerful, more so than dragons. At one point I happened across what appeared to be a fairly benevolent giant. I got too close so he threw me into space. So yeah, avoid them for a bit. You’ll be able to come back later though once you’ve got a few good spells handy and a big glowing sword. The duel wielding is awesome. You can go at your enemies with two swords in hand, two spells, or one of each, with almost infinite permutations of pain. On top of this there are ‘shouts’, the new power you can gain from the slaying of dragons. Regardless of your play style these come in mighty handy as a special move and early on as an easy win button. Kill animations occasionally play out, lending the combat a sense of drama that’s very welcome and not so gritty as to break the atmosphere of the fantasy world.

Anyway, who cares about all that. That’s not what these games are about. They’re about immersing yourself in a living breathing world, where every character has a story to tell, every hill leads to another hill and every sunrise is a breathtaking moment at the beginning of a day that will be completely different from the day before. Around you people go about their business, mining, cooking, farming, forging (all activities you can do too). There are towns, villages, cities and dungeons all waiting to be explored over a vast, snowy, mountainous landscape that really makes you feel like you’re trekking across the top of the world.

It might just be perfect… but not too perfect… which is perfect.







One response to “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”

  1. Dean avatar

    Love the review – my friend spent the first few hours of the game taking his smith skill to level 100 by forging iron daggers and completely broke the game, because even though he had the best armor imaginable he was lacking the other skills to beat the new badass enemies he was facing. Still i think its definitely more balanced than Oblivion.

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