Product Type: Bethesda Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... making the game in many senses, endless! The vast nature of the skill trees incorporated into Skyrim truly is something to behold. B... more
An incredible game - Reconsider your use of the word 'EPIC'!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360)
Member Name: DonPaolo
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Scale, story, diversity, combat, magic, dragons, 100s of hours of play
Disadvantages: Some glitches, daunting scale
"Skyrim", or to give the game its full title, "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim", is the fifth and latest instalment in the long-running 'The Elder Scrolls' series of games by Bethesda Softworks. It is set in the same 'world' as previous games in the series, called 'Tamriel', but the action takes place in the region of Skyrim, which as yet has not been explored by a game. For Elder Scrolls fans, this story is actually set around 200 years later than the previous game, Oblivion, and you will hear references to the events of previous titles.
<<< Style & Scale >>>
Like its predecessors, Skyrim is an open-ended RPG or "Role-Playing Game", and does not involve taking a set character through a linear series of scripted missions in a structured order. Instead, the player creates their own character to inhabit a fictional world; a vast, expansive world with hundreds of possible activities and quests. There is a main storyline quest to follow, which forms a significant chunk of action, but the bulk of the gameplay takes the form of side quests, which you may stumble upon, hear about from another character in game, or go in search of in the wilderness. All things considered, you could quite easily spend over 100 hours of game time in Skyrim, and still have more to see. I have never seen an RPG of such magnificent scale on a console before - it is truly worthy of being called an 'Epic' game!
<<< Character Creation >>>
You begin the game by choosing the gender, race, and appearance of your character, with a wide range of strengths, weaknesses, skills and attributes to bear in mind. As you progress through the game, you develop, and acquire a self-determined set of skills. You may choose to become a burly warrior, with little in the way of stealth or tact, but a massive magic battleaxe and the devastating power to use it... You may choose to become a sneaky thief, who has little combat skill but oozes the charm and charisma to squeeze out of tricky situations (and the lock-picking ability doesn't hurt either!)... Or you may become a powerful sorcerer who can create, destroy and control with a wave of the hand... I'm sure you get the idea, but the point is that the Skyrim's character customisation options are mesmerising, and allow you to deal with the game's scripted quests and chance encounters in a massive array of ways.
For example, you need to gain access to a certain restricted area - Do you try to talk your way in? Do you sneak past the guards and risk capture? Do you help the locals, earn their trust, and gain access honestly? Do you kill the guards or summon a demon to do your dirty work for you? It's all for you to decide and live with the consequences... In order to truly appreciate just a portion of the possibilities this offers, you would have to play through at least 3 or 4 times, which would be a major undertaking.
<<< Plot & Premise >>>
With you self-created character in place, you begin the main story. As you wait to be executed, the townspeople's priorities are suddenly changed by the arrival of a dragon. Although this affords you a lucky escape, it's very much 'out of the frying pan, into the fire-breathing lizard'. You are the 'Dragonborn', possessing unique powers which will allow you to take on the devilish creatures who have returned to rule over Skyrim, and so you set on the main quest to discover more and ultimately attempt to vanquish your scaly foes!
As I have mentioned, it is entirely up to you whether you drive forward with this quest, or get distracted immediately by the rich and enthralling world of Skyrim, with its many side missions, places to explore and people to meet.
<<< Great Gameplay >>>
The variety of the play in Skyrim sets it apart from other games by miles. You can travel alone or with allies, you can go on foot or by horse, you can climb mountains and explore dungeons, you can collect ingredients or rob stock rooms, create potions or spells, and generally be good or evil or anything in between.
Combat does make up a major element of the game, and is well structured. You will collect various weapons, potions and spells throughout the game, and you can even mix, create and enchant your own, which can be combined to devastating and satisfying effect. Despite there being such a range of spells and weapons available to you at any time, it is quite easy to manage them effectively. For novice players, the system may take a little getting used, including choosing your active spells, donning certain armour at specific times, and switching between set ups, but this is simply due to its depth and not its complexity - the system is quite intuitive and clear.
I've found it impossible to get bored with Skyrim. Having spent my first hours exploring nearby towns, meeting the locals and helping with minor searching fetching quests, I felt I'd soaked up enough culture and had a thirst for battle. I set of to look for a nearby dungeon, sword in hand and firebolt spell at the ready, only to endure almost an hour of frantic and visceral clashes with a band of goblins. After that, I needed a break; so I bought a horse and rode around the hills and valleys, just admiring the incredible vistas and jaw-dropping scale. Which brings me nicely to...
<<< Graphics (& Glitches) >>>
When you consider the sheer scale of Skyrim, the graphics are incredible. Character animations, textures and locations all represent a significant upgrade from the game's predecessor 'Oblivion'. There is so much handiwork to admire, whether you're walking through a forest glade, battling a dragon on a snowy mountain crag, or exploring a subterranean dungeon by flaming-torch-light.
On very close inspection, some of the surfaces and textures are a bit on the rough side, but this has to be expected when looking at such an open game. You won't find the incredibly sharp graphical attention to detail of say, Call of Duty, but rather the attention to detail is in a living, breathing organic world, where the characters have daily routines and don't just exist to interact with you at pre-ordained moments.
As with other titles in the series, and indeed other large RPGs, there are many glitches, both graphical and gameplay wise. These can shatter the illusion for a while and be frustrating, especially when they cause your character to die or lose some possessions. However I have not had anything major like causing the Xbox to crash (so far) and I would advise regular saving to minimise any damage. In any case, these are minor imperfections in the grand scheme of Skyrim, and do very little to put me off playing.
<<< Questing & Side-Questing >>>
Skyrim's main quest, is dramatic, engaging, and incredibly fulfilling to pursue. I will not spoil any details, suffice to say that you will be relentlessly scouring the game-world and battling all manner of terrible creatures in some truly amazing set-piece encounters as you seek to restore order. Altogether, I reckon it takes around 20 - 25 hours of play to complete this quest, and it is a well-scripted, well acted and rewarding one all round.
The side quests are myriad and varied, from basic collection and conversation objectives which can take you mere minutes, to campaigns which involve hours of searching, battling, thieving, spell-casting, exploring and more. It's very difficult to estimate the length of time to be spent engaging in these parts of the game, as I feel I have only scratched the surface myself sometimes. However, I would conservatively estimate at well over 100-200 hours of play, and that is just in a single play-trough.
What you must remember as you look at your next objective on the map, is that your destination may be literally miles away, and if you don't have a horse to hand, you will have a significant hike on your hands. It's during these long journeys that the game's quality truly reveals its quality. One journey which should have taken me around ten minutes to complete on horseback resulted in me encountering a wild troll, who quickly dispatched my steed and almost left me dead too. I travelled to a nearby town to recuperate at an inn, and ended up running a few errands for the innkeeper, and joined the local Mage's Guild (a cosy little club for wizards). It was only several hours later, as I was completing some wizard training, that I realised I had completely forgotten about the urgent quest I was on before being so rudely interrupted by that troll! The way this game holds your attention and sidetracks you with such weird and wonderful distractions is really brilliant.
<<< Solid Sounds...>>>
The audio on Skyrim is once again excellent. With such a wide selection of characters to meet, conversation options to have, and scripted events which occur, there are hours upon hours of great dialogue here. There are always some generic filler phrases which crop up regularly and cause annoyance, but the voice acting of the primary quests is very well done indeed. The ambient sounds, clashes of swords, roars of dragons and flashes of spells are rich and realistic, and the musical soundtrack is suitably soothing and stirring when it needs to be.
<<< Legendary Longevity...>>>
I have touched on this several times, but in case you missed it, Skyrim is the most detailed game I have ever played. It's difficult not to be over-awed by the choices before you, and you will not be able to appreciate the scale of the world you inhabit or the possibilities available to you until you have spent many hours playing, only to look at the map and realise you haven't covered a fifth of the total land mass yet. However the mood takes you, you will find a suitable quest or activity to occupy several hours of your time without fail, and always be left wanting more - fortunately there always will be more to experience too!
<<< Overall Opinions...>>>
Skyrim is an incredibly ambitious game, which takes RPGs to new levels of scale and customisation. It has hundreds of hours of satisfying and engaging gameplay, and is exceptionally well put together. The way your character progresses is rewarding and challenging, and the game itself provides the variety and customisation to occupy gamers for many years to come.
+ Brilliantly crafted story and engaging game
+ Endless character customisation options
+ Surely the most expansive game ever created
+ Hundreds of hours of missions, quests and activities
+ Satisfying and visceral combat
+ Create your own potions, spells, weapons and armour
+ You get to fight massive fire-breathing dragons!!!
- Various glitches and bugs which have escaped testing - but this is to be expected in such a large game
- Scale can be very daunting. I think many will be put off by the length of commitment and time required to really make the game worth playing
<<< Availability >>>
This has been a review of my Xbox copy of Skyrim, but it is also available for the PS3 and PC. The Xbox version is currently retailing for £37.91 on Amazon, and will be available new or pre-owned from various entertainment stores.
Thanks for reading - this review will also appear on Ciao under the same name - DonPaolo :)
Summary: A brilliantly diverse and compelling RPG from Bethesda