I have been waiting for this release since I first read about it a very long time ago. Oblivion was one of my favorite games for XBOX360 and remains among the top games in my favorites list. No other game at the time had such freedom of game-play or massively beautiful landscapes as Oblivion. Finally, five years later, Skyrim takes the open world RPG genre to the next level and proudly presents itself as a worthy addition to the Elder Scrolls series. Read on for my detailed look at this marvelous game.
For those not familiar, Skyrim is a single player, open-world RPG. It is completely free-roaming and creates a world in which you direct the adventure. Your development depends on what quests you choose to pursue and what skills you choose to use most throughout the game. There is a “main story” you can choose to follow but there are hundreds of hours of side quests you can be sucked into at any given time. There’s not much more I can say. Games like Skyrim are not for everyone, if you haven’t played a similar game, it’s something you need to play for yourself to decide if you enjoy.
Skyrim has noticeably better graphics and more realistic world/character design than its predecessor - as expected. The landscapes are epic and majestic, and leave you in a state of wonder and awe. This aside, the first thing I noticed about game-play as I started my adventure was the smoothness of conversation. In a game this large, it is hard to not have characters repeat themselves or sound awkward in unscripted conversation. As I worked through many quests and ventured later in the game, my initial observations held true. Even the people you overhear while walking by that aren’t speaking with you directly seemed to have a vast library of conversation pieces. The designers really did a great job. If you do hire or acquire a mercenary to help along your quests, I did find they repeated phrases fairly often. This was one of the few exceptions…
As I mentioned before, the landscapes were gorgeous. It’s something that jumps out at you immediately as you start your adventure. The cities/towns and the dungeons were also built with this level of detail. Most towns are easily distinguishable from each other in both layout and architecture. This is was an aspect of Oblivion that carried over well. Where Skyrim trumps is in dungeon design. Oblivion’s dungeons seemed painfully repetitive at times. Skyrim boasts not only fairly unique dungeons, but extremely large ones as well – much larger than even the largest of Oblivion.
Enemy design is another strong suit of Skyrim. Many of the enemies are downright scary-looking and they are fairly smart in how they attack. Dragons play a large role in both the story-line and in character development. Dragons fly around and appear all over Skyrim and you are required to fight them. They look fabulous, but the AI for the dragons is pretty sub par. It is pretty much my only gripe with this game. If they were not such an integral part of the game, I could probably overlook it. It’s pretty exciting, but fighting dragons is a bit repetitive. They fly around and repeat the same moves/attacks and as you pick away at their health. It’s still fun…and I’m sure it’s much easier said than done, but I wish they would have spent a little more time fine tuning the AI of the dragons.
How your character levels up in Skyrim is a a bit different than in Oblivion. There are less things to consider, you aren’t forced to choose a class which dictates your major and minor skills, and it is much more intuitively laid out. Because they list the perks you can unlock, you can have a clear goal to work towards rather than just enjoying a certain skill and wondering what it will do for you. Also, your character levels on a (mostly) fixed number system. In other words, the enemies you are fighting in random dungeons stay at a fairly constant level rather than leveling up to match you. Certain quests have noticeably stronger enemies and you need to wait to level up before attempting them. Personally, I found this system much more enjoyable than having all the enemies around you match your level.
I found the “sneak” system and item retrieval mechanics to be improved. Oblivion felt a bit random at times. In Skyrim, it is very clear which items (especially arrows) can be salvaged from a slain beast or bandit. Also, obstacles such as rocks and trees play a large part in enemies detecting you while sneaking around. It makes it much more fun and strategic to sneak up on an enemy. The 3rd person game-play is also much improved. It doesn’t feel nearly as mechanical. I still choose to play in 1st person, but I could see someone playing the game through in 3rd person if they desired.
As with both it’s predecessors, Skyrim has an amazing soundtrack. The songs are a bit less melodic, so they (fortunately or unfortunately) don’t get stuck in your head much, but they serve their purpose well and greatly add to the mood throughout the game.
I can’t cover everything, I have put a good 40 hours into the game over the past month and have probably 10 times that much of the game left to explore. It has jumped into my favorites list and I think it has set the new standard for modern RPGs.
That’s all for now. I’m off to play some more Skyrim.