November 11, 2011 is going to go down in gamer history. Not only was it 11/11/11 on the calendar, but it was the day that Bethesda released their finest work yet. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was unleashed to the masses and thankfully it arrived on a Friday. The epic adventure holds hundreds of hours worth of gameplay in a gorgeous, highly-detailed fantasy world. If you own an Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3, or PC, then you must experience Skyrim.
We were on a 100% Skyrim information lockdown before the release of the game to keep this review as impression free as possible. We passed up all trailers, screenshots, previews, and interviews. Our expectations were moderated solely on previous Elders Scrolls titles. Most of our first impressions of the game were live within our 48-hour charity marathon for Child’s Play, and of course, our playthrough for this review.
Truthfully, it’s hard to restrain from coming apart at the seams with compliments when it comes to reviewing Skyrim. Afterall, it has everything we love that makes us geeks. Swords, shields, bows, spells…. dragons.
The storyline of Elder Scrolls V (if you choose to follow it) is well-written and well-told for a fantasy RPG. Dragons, which the Nords had thought to be extinct, are terrorising the Tamriel province of Skyrim once again and it’s up to you and your unique powers to find out why. Of course, there are plenty of other storylines and roles to play within Skyrim. You can choose to live as a thief, an assassin, a knight, an aspiring mage, or you can become a Thane to one of the major cities. Or you can be ALL of those things at the same time.
Or you can completely ignore the storyline, find a horse and explore the world and face its dangers at your own pace.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion launched in March of 2006 which was very early in the Xbox 360’s lifecycle. As Skyrim launches in this console generation’s twilight years, it is impressive to see the graphical leaps that have been made. The scope of the map, the detail of the terrain, the intricacies of the character and monster models, and the fine craftsmanship that went into every sword, shield, spell and piece of armor is astounding. A lot of care and love clearly went into the making of this game.
However, no game is perfect and Skyrim holds to that rule. One of the few complaints we have about the game is that some of the textures are strangely low resolution pop out at the player when they’re present, which is sad because it temporarily pulls you out of the game.
In terms of gameplay, this is the most streamlined Elder Scrolls game to date. We use that term delicately since “streamlined” is often synonymous with “dumbed-down” when describing video games. That is not the case in Skyrim. While a good number of spells have seen the axe, everything else has gotten the overhaul it needed.
The dual wielding system is fantastic for combat. You can now hold two weapons, two different spells, or a weapon and spell in each hand. And the combat itself is very satisfying as Bethesda has added some finishing moves that are sure to please. Magic is a blast to tinker with and sneaking is always an option for the stealthy at heart.
Skyrim has done away with repair hammers, but in their place, they’ve implemented a forging skill which is, by and far, a superior system. Enchanting has seem some tweaks as well, but all in all, both are great diversions for the average dragon hunter.
The music is phenomenal. The voice acting is head and shoulders above the rest of the Elder Scrolls series, and we were happy to see and hear some familiar faces and voices.
Battling your first dragon is an adrenaline rush that we haven’t felt in a long time in gaming. And to be perfectly blunt, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim isn’t just a video game. It’s a geek’s vacation dream come true.
But it’s not all gorgeous vistas and claustrophobic spelunking. There are two more flaws we’d like to bring up before going back to the game.
First, the introduction sequence barely does the game any justice. In fact, it’s a little drawn out and tedious. In order to create a new character you’ll need to go through it every single time. You aren’t simply dropped into a world like you are in Morrowind, and despite the presence of a dragon chasing you, it’s not nearly as exciting as Oblivion’s introduction. Here’s hoping that a patch will be put out allowing you to recustomize your character just before you leave the final cave so you can create a save file just before that moment and effectively skip the introduction.
Secondly, the menu system is abysmal, especially on the PC. Oblivion’s menu system was a bit overly chaotic and hard to navigate, but this is somehow worse. In time, you overcome this obstacle, but it would be great if it wasn’t a hindrance in the first place.
If you are going to pick up Skyrim, and we absolutely recommend that you do, we wholeheartedly push you to getting the PC version. There are already a large handful of fantastic mods available to customize your Skyrim experience, and we’re certain that most of the issues we address here will be remedied by mods if Bethesda doesn’t patch it themselves.
But Skyim should truly be experienced by everyone even if you don’t think you’re a fan of fantasy RPGs. What we’ve covered here barely scratches the surface of what lies beneath. This open world has too much to discover. Shining as Bethesda Softworks’ newest jewel in their crown, Skyrim is easily one of the greatest games of the past 20 years. With modding support in place, Skyrim will likely be on everyone’s hard drives for years to come. We are very happy to award The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with the Elder’s Choice Award.
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Name: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Developed by: Bethesda Game Studios
Published by: Bethesda Softworks
Release date: November 11, 2011
EG Score: 5 out of 5 / “Worth Buying”