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1Jan/120

Love is Blind: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review



The Elder Scrolls is a long running RPG series. The recurring formula of the series is simple game play mechanics backed up by extremely deep worlds. Skyrim is the latest incarnation of a 17 year saga. Let's get down to it.

The Good: The world of Skyrim is unlike any other. Skyrim is almost the same as its predecessor, Oblivion, in size. 16 square miles. The difference is in the density of points of interest. There is much more to explore in Skyrim. Every cave a source of curiosity and terror. Every mountain an epic adventure. Every town a quest tree, with a myriad of possible branches. In fact you can spend hours exploring without getting bored. A strange temple on top of a hill? A house in the middle of nowhere? A creepy trail leading into the darkness of a forest? Steel or spell in hand and the courage to face the unknown is all you need.
Quests are varied and deep for the most part. In fact you may find yourself spending more time doing side quests than following the main plot. I know I did. In some cases sides quests are even more intricate and involving than the main story. Sending you deep into ancient ruins or simply investigating a local murder, quest givers enrich their tasks with excellent dialogue and interesting characters.
The main plotline follows the cliched to death formula of being "the chosen one". Even though the concept is unoriginal the execution is wonderful. From the first moment you battle a huge dragon to the time you leave the living world. As I mentioned earlier the side quests are just as fantastic, and some are truly original. I played a warrior class but became the leader of the mage guild. Why? It was a great quest.

 

The (not so) Bad: The combat system needs a facelift. Possibly to something more dynamic like Die By The Sword or Mount & Blade type mechanics. What most people don't realize is that Elders scrolls for the most part is an action RPG. It just hides the "action" stereotype with an ocean of world depth. This shouldn't deter avid RPG fans, after all the genre is about playing a role and the series is among the best.
AI and path finding. The AI is terribly stupid. There is one difference between a dog companion and a armored knight companion. The knight is better equipped. In combat both just rush headlong into the fray with no regard to their own safety or yours. Sometimes wandering into your line of fire and others triggering deadly traps. At least with the dog it's somewhat realistic, after all it is a dumb animal. But when a highly trained and educated mage gets stuck on a barrel well... you begin question if they have a brain at all.
The physics engine was a disappointment. Even simplistic action games today have breakable buildings so when you see a dying dragon skid off a wooden hut as he falls it removes your ability to suspend disbelief. The truly cringe worthy physics moment is when your character cannot walk on land with a certain incline. About a 30 to 40 degree I believe. I killed dragons that make my swords look like tooth picks but I can't climb the disabled ramp. Silly. Physics realism was obviously not an important focus for Bethesda.

The Ugly: All the stuff I mentioned above does not detract from the games brilliance. Makes you grunt every once and a while but that's about it. The Ugly is all about the mind boggling stupidity in almost every game. Nobody's perfect.
Console port... uggh that was tough to say. The Elder Scrolls series had problems with the user interface from the very beginning,. In Skyrim the problems have increased in severity because Skyrim was obviously made with the mainstream majority, button thumping monkeys, weekend RPG'ers in mind. The console gamer. Don't get me wrong, many games are extremely well suited for console, hell even some RPGs are a perfect fit (Final Fantasy). But complex RPGs with a plethora of items to deal with and hundreds of location/ characters to juggle don't translate well. I don't mind giving console players their due but Bethesda did it at the expense of the PC gamer by simplifying the User Interface, making the mouse glitched and unwieldy. The inventory system can be summed in one word: Chaos. What a shame.
Glitches, glitches, glitches galore. The game is so buggy it's a unfathomable that a game tester played it and said "This game is ready for launch". Characters stuck on 2 inch high pebbles, textures disappear, and crashes are not uncommon. This is by far the ugliest of the ugly. Nothing breaks enjoyment more than breaks in the game. Time constraints for Bethesda? It had to be because no sane minded person would call this game "ready".

4/5 Great


I know the Bad and Ugly seem to be larger in number of words but I can't emphasize enough on the Good. A few weeks ago I decided that the game deserves a 3.5/5 just because Bethesda released it with so many glitches. Since then I have changed my mind. As they say, love is blind... even to glitches. It wasn't difficult once I realized that despite all the bugs I still wanted to play. Over 80 hours in fact.
The combat is fun if simple. The first person view accentuates tense moments. The graphics are pretty and atmospheric. The enemies are varied and challenging. The quests are deep and engaging. The lore can fill books. The main story is pretty simple in design but epic in execution. With so many RPGs failing (Dragon Age 2) this is one of the few in recent years to remind us of why we fell in love with the genre in the first place.
The one regret I have is that I should have waited two more months before I began to play. I recommend anyone interested in this game to wait, perhaps until March before getting it on the PC. The reason is Bethesda will hopefully have fixed the bugs in the game. And more importantly the PC Skyrim community has player created content that enhances the game by large margins. Already there is a mod that changes the User Interface, making it PC and user friendly (highly recommended mod). Link to mods below.
Skyrim Nexus

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