Skyrim is a thoroughly enjoyable experience but it is far from perfect.
Skyrim. A game many of us have eagerly anticipated since it was first announced. After launch and hundreds of hours later, I felt that it was time to review the game.
Skyrim is a snowy province located in the northern part of Tamriel. Land of the aggressive Nords, it is where your journey will take place. 200 years after the Oblivion Crisis of TES IV, Skyrim is plagued with civil war, as well as an unwelcome presence of the Aldumari Dominion. As to not spoil too much of the story, this is all I will tell you of the various factions.
Like any Elder Scrolls game, it starts of with you as a prisoner. You have been falsely imprisoned because of your proximity to a band of rebels known as the Stormcloaks. It is here that you can customize your race, gender, and character. With a stunning array of options, it is possible to totally transform the appearance of your character. The customization has been greatly improved from the process in Oblivion, which had a more steep learning curve. After you are about to be executed, a giant dragon comes and all hell breaks loose. Your escape becomes a tutorial and you are now ready to enjoy the realm of Skyrim.
Skyrim is a first person open-world RPG with a non-linear quest line. What does this mean? Well, it means that you can do whatever you want and roam wherever within the restrictions of the game-world. It also means that you don't ever have to do the main quests, or any side quests. This is definitely one of the strongest features of the game. Basically, the game is limited by how fast you get bored of it. Exploring every location and doing every quest takes hours, so the game provides a fairly long experience. There are a multitude of faction quests available, as well as many side quests and tasks to augment the main quest line. The world is approximately the size of Oblivion's world, or roughly 16 square miles i believe. However, it is a lot more treacherous and hard to explore due to the rugged and mountainous terrain. The game can also be played in a third person view, but it is poor, especially compared to the first person view mode.
The world is rich and varied, from grassy meadows to blizzard shrouded peaks. A variety of caves, mines and other dungeons generously dot the world. However, many of the dungeons are very similar and generic, which makes dungeoneering quite boring. The game also has in-game weather effects in addition to night-day cycles. This means that you may be trudging through a blizzard, or trudging... through a snowstorm. Basically, the weather effects are randomly generated, meaning that it won't be snowing all the time, just most of the time. There are 9 holds, each with a major town/city. The major towns/cities are ruled by Jarls, who govern their respective holds. In comparison to Oblivion, the locations are very different in appearance. In addition to the main locations, there are a variety of small villages and inns dotting the countryside. One of the things that I felt was really well done was how each town seemed like a bastion, but outside of these towns there wasn't very many people, with the exception of bandits. It really felt like Skyrim was in the middle of a conflict. I mean, having to deal with civil war, dragons, bandits and other evil creatures would make anybody want to hide. I just felt in total that the world was quite well done.
The inhabitants, on the other hand, were downright jarring. There were too few of voice actors for the game. When you have a large amount of NPC's, you need a fair amount of voice actors and a lot of different random dialogue. It was downright painful to listen to one NPC talk to another with the same voice. The guards were the absolute worse, spawning memes such as "the arrow to the knee" joke. As well, they seemed stiff and their interactions with the other NPC's weren't quite as well done as I hoped for. When the world is as great as Skyrim, it was a major disappointment to have inhabitants that were mediocre. That being said, most of the scripted dialogue was quite good, and a few of the major NPC's had phenomenal voice acting.
The graphics, on the other hand were exceptional. The world looked great, especially from a distance. I found that this is a critical point that most games do not have. Skyrim has this absolutely amazing draw distance where it is easy to look at absolutely gorgeous vistas from a distance. The characters were equally gorgeous to look at, despite their annoying voice acting. However, I found that up close some textures were quite ugly, such as the snow on the rocks. The snow looked like it was painted on the rocks, absolutely ugly, which is a shame considering how impressive the game looks otherwise. The monsters looked pretty good too, except I found that the trolls suffer from ugly fur textures. Another great thing was that the falling snow looked extremely believable. As a whole, I found that graphics were pretty damn good.
Combat has been radically changed from Oblivion. It is now way more involved and a lot more fluid. However, there are "kill cam" type things in which you automatically kill the enemy with a finishing move. In theory, this is a good concept, but I found that it was very jarring to be thrust out of first person view into third person to perform this kill, before going back into first person. Some of the animations look awful too, very stiff and unbelievable. Another thing that I cannot figure out is why your character only goes into third person kill mode some of the time. Other times, you perform the finishing move in first person. I find the system to be weird as a whole and I felt that it doesn't work very well. Spell mechanics have changed from Oblivion in which spells are now wielded like a weapon, which I feel is more fair and much improved. By comparison, horse riding is still awful, with combat only being added later in a patch. Sprinting, an entirely new mechanic, has been implemented very well though.
The class system has been overhauled as well, with any skill being counted towards your character level. As well, upon leveling up only health, mana or stamina can be chosen to level up compared with Oblivion's system. Perks are also available upon leveling and are dictated by how high your skill is. These perks can improve your character in a variety of ways, similar to the perk system in Fallout.
I found that the quests just weren't as fun as previous Elder Scrolls games, but they were still very gripping and contained some very poignant moments. The questlines are the thieves guild, college of winterhold (mages), Dark Brotherhood (Assassin's), and Companions (fighters/mercenaries). I just felt that they were not that fun with the exception of a few different parts. Whereas in Oblivion or Morrowind these factions were better than the actual main quest, here I find that they just don't bring much to the game. Of course, the absence of an Arena was a really big downside for me as well. As a bonus, resolving the civil war is pretty good too.
Whether you are in for slaying dragons, killing trolls, destroying helpless bandits or any other kind of fighting, you will be in for a treat. Skyrim is a game that is focused on combat, exploration and sucking countless hours of your time away. It is an excellent game to play if you are a fan of RPG's, a fan of the Elder Scrolls, or if you just want to play an awesome game. However, the game is not perfect. It is very fun, but it has quite a few glitches and blemishes that I have neglected to mention, for fear of totally ruining your appetite for the game. In conclusion, this game is excellent and i would heartily recommend it for anyone, just don't expect a masterpiece.