This is the second article in my Bethesda game review series. Be sure to check out my first review for Fallout 3 here.
The Elder Scrolls, this phrase says a lot, the start of a long running and legendary series. The titles that led us into Bethesda’s golden age. From Arena to Online it’s fair to say the Elder Scrolls has had a pretty smooth ride up the most popular games of all time. In my opinion the fifth installment in this series, Skyrim, has easily gotten the most praise of any of it’s predecessors (and even of it’s successor). Now I can’t say I’ve played all of the Elder Scrolls games, but I have played all of Bethesda’s titles in the Series excluding Daggerfall and Arena.
Now with every bethesda game the introduction to Skyrim was indeed very cinematic and very impressive. You are convinced that the first dragon anyone’s seen in hundreds of years is going to cook you up and eat you if you don’t get moving that instant. One thing that I also give to Bethesda is that even in situations where you’re convinced you could die any second, they still give you some very clear choices and don’t make it a one time experience that means nothing. This story line leads you to the main story of Dragons and Dungeons…wait wrong game. At any rate if you follow the questline that is considered the “main story” of the game then you’re led on this epic of dragon slaying and forgotten history. As far as main stories go it’s a tried and true formula, nothing wrong with it, but nothing too creative.
Now when I put something in quotations it isn’t for my health, what is considered the main story of Skyrim gives you a lot of content in the first place, but the real meat of the game is in all of the hundreds of side quests. The Dark Brotherhood has always been my favorite when it comes to the various factions in the Elder Scrolls games; and in the fifth installment of the game I don’t think the Dark Brotherhood could have had a better story arc. As well as that, the main story kind of takes a side seat to the amazing storytelling in some of these side quests. I could not have been more happy with how well developed every aspect of Skyrim is.
Another thing that is prevalent when you play any Elder Scrolls title is the amazing worlds that you get to explore. Skyrim is no exception! With giants that ragdoll you across the rolling plains, to dragons that don’t give their souls up easy. Even Draugr have a unique feel to them, from frail piles of bone, to the legendary Red Eagle.
I think praises have been sung enough, we know Skyrim has great creatures, amazing side quests, and a rich story to explore; but what about the bad stuff? Well to start with Skyrim has a very linear progression system. The way it works is you select a tree (one of the magic classes, a weapon group, or crafting) and then once you select the tree you work your way down to better and better upgrades. Now there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this system, but it makes the beginning bland and by the end of the tree it doesn’t give you the kind of benefits you want. Personally I’d like to see an Elder Scrolls game with a progression system straight out of Fallout. Give people that want it those crazy bloody mess or mysterious stranger, but leave the option for people who want to min max to get that +1% crit chance.
The last bit of criticism I have to level at Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, is the unprecedented difficulty spike after you fight the first dragon or two. After I defeated the first dragon at the tower just outside of Whiterun I thought “Oh man dragons are actually just a bunch of pansies!” but that dragon was one of the easiest mobs in the entire game. Draugr are stupid enemies that don’t do much more than wander around waiting for you to kill them; and that’s understandable. But when you go from killing ruin after ruin full of them, then find yourself face to face with some Dwemer and you are either about to give up 2 seconds into a cave or you’re in quicksave city. Now I wouldn’t have a problem if Skyrim laid out a good progression from one difficulty to the next, but Bethesda dropped the ball there. From enemies as easy as the Draugr to a couple of wolves and jumping difficulty to hagravens and even the dragon mask bearers, there is no middle ground.
My final verdict on the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is that all in all it’s a good game, definitely at the top of the RPG genre. If you like games chalk full of story you’d be better off here than you would with pretty much any other open world title. The combat is great but the progression falls a bit short, even by non-Bethesda standards. The world is immersive and filled with a vast variety of creatures, but if you find yourself too adventurous you’ll end up being eaten by a very powerful dragon or punted across the world by a giant. I also thought this was getting a bit long so I didn’t talk about modability but if you play this game with mods it can be even more crazy or immersive. All in all it’s definitely worth owning for a couple hundred hours of fun.
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: 11/11/2011
MSRP: $19.99/$39.99 legendary edition.
- Insane levels of content
- It’s an Elder Scrolls title
- Super value
- Great DLC
- Good quality both graphically and content wise
- Easily Modded and great mod variety
- No multiplayer
- Little customization
- Difficulty Fluctuation
- Weak progression system