A revolutionary journey to a unforgettable world which is only held back by a few noticeable technical issues.
The story follows the typical "You are the chosen one," path, but is actually a well told tale involving the world of Skyrim and the problems it is facing. A civil war is in place, and on one side you have the raging Stormclocks. They are determined Skyrim belongs to the Nords, and refuse to acknowledge anything else. On the other side is the Empire, who have ruled Skyrim for many ages and are now defending their land. But in the middle of all the tragedy are mysterious dragons, who have recently returned to Skyrim and are now destroying everything. It is your job as the respected Dragonborn to defeat these dragons, but such a task is not a easy one.
Many cinematic moments in the game really stand out, and some incredible boss fights are brought to life by the breathtaking technology. However, fans of the series know the appeal of the games is not the story, but instead the side-quest and exploration. Besides the story mode, you have other main guild quest like The Companions, College of Winterhold, The Thieves Guild and finally The Dark Brotherhood. All of these stories offer fun challenges, and enjoyable story-telling. The amount of side-quest is unbelievable, and while you may get fifteen hours out of the main story if you don't get distracted, you will probably spend countless hours absorbed in the game's exciting world.
And what a world it is thanks to the technology. Weather effects, day and night cycles and even random dragon encounters bring the world to stunning life and creates a atmospheric journey. As you walk through a civilized town you may see a man chopping wood, or someone trying to sell vegetables at a organized market. The world feels so engrossing, and even a hike to the top of a mountain can turn into a life or death adventure. A foggy morning turns into a rainy night filled with terror, as vampires hunt for prey and mudcrabs await at a frozen lakeside. Even books are scattered throughout the world, and create a interesting background for locations and characters, making the world feel even more believable.
The graphics are quite impressive, but some noticeable glitches, bugs, blurry textures and frame rate issues sometimes dampen the experience. I saw a Elk start flying in mid-air, only to crash to the ground violently. Another glitch had me walking underground with only my head visible. Frame rate problems often arise when the game is auto-saving, and although you can simply switch the auto-save feature off it does not eliminate the problem. Most notably, the frame rate sometimes gets distressing in cities, or outside of them.
But if you ignore the few technical issues, you discover many eye-catching moments only a game of this scale could deliver. Dragon physics are amazing, and even believable. Snow and rain effects are incredible, memorizing and realistically detailed. Water-effects change depending on the wind, and sometimes you can't help but stop and watch as fish jump out of lakes, making the water feel populated.
The cities and towns feel almost crowded with the amount of people to talk to, and the quest they have prepared. Even the wilderness feels wonderfully alive, as insects fly around in a breathtaking forest and wolfs watch your every move. You may wander into a beautifully crafted cave inhabited with saber tooth cats waiting for a meal, or a ancient ruin housing a deadly dragon shout.
Nearly every person has a quest for you, whether it involves you hunting down a group of insane bandits or has you searching for a hidden item located in a distant ruin. It feels almost overwhelming, and staying focus on one quest feels almost impossible. One thing that strengthens the excitement of discovery are the caves and dungeons. They all feel different, and gives you a reason to explore since many hold useful weapons and armor. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion used the same dungeons countless times, making it feel as if everything was copy and pasted. But since every cave and dungeon has been hand-crafted in Skyrim, this feeling has been thankfully removed.
You will most likely be spending a long time in the world of Skyrim, so the soundtrack becomes one of the most important aspects. It feels perfect, and the soundtrack is a good variety. While you explore a forest at the foot of a mountain, it plays heavenly, mysterious soundtrack which promotes exploration but when you enter a cave it switches to suspenseful adventure themes. Even the fight themes feel encouraging, specifically when you encounter a dragon. The soundtrack doesn't feel repetitive, and most of it is very subtle, never growing old. The voice-acting is also exceptional, and the script is decent overall.
Gameplay in The Elder Scrolls has never been as perfect as the world it takes place in, but this time things are different. The character development is simple, but clever. Customizing your character's look is a organized process, and offers a large amount of choices. Leveling up is, like before, only achieved by leveling up skills. For example, if you level up your sneak skill your level progression increases until you reach a new level. Then you can choose to increase your magicka, health or stamina by a few points.
After leveling up you unlock a perk, which you can use to increase your preferred skills even further. When you want to use a perk, you are taken to a unique constellation perk tree, where you choose different paths of perks and unlock new ones as your level in that specific skill increases. One gives you the option of zooming in with your bow, while another allows you to dual-wield weapons. Although the system is simple, it feels deep. In some games, I feel worried when I level up a certain skill over making the correct decision. But in Skyrim, I never had that feeling. I always felt as if my character was evolving each time I unlocked a new perk, and that's all thanks to how rewarding the leveling up system really is.
The menu is simply perfection when using a controller. When you look up, the menu shows the constellation perk trees, but when you look down in the menu you open up your 3D map, which offers a stunning view of the world. When you look left, you have your magic and when you look right, you have your items. The quick-select system doesn't feel up to par with the menu however, and sometimes it becomes difficult finding the correct item you want since it's in alphabetical order. It's still acceptable, but it could have been a bit better.
What would otherwise be boring gameplay in the combat category is saved by another simple solution that is in place. Dual-wielding weapons and spells opens up endless possibilities, and makes sure there is something for everyone. If you want to be a unstoppable warrior, you may prefer using a sword and a shield but if you want to be a intelligent battle mage, you can equip a spell with a small dagger, or combine the use of two spells for a more powerful version.
The weapon choices are impressive: Swords, daggers, maces, axes and bows are usable. The variety of spells is impressive too, even considering the magnitude of the rest of the game. The different schools of magic are illusion, conjunction, destruction, restoration and alteration. Each school has it's own list of effective spells like summoning a mindless creature or shooting fire from your fingertips.
Another new feature is the introduction of shouts: A new power you, as Dragonborn, can learn. One allows you to breath the fire of a dragon, while another creates a storm and strikes your foe with lightning. These shouts change the course of battle, and are a welcomed addition to an already fun game.
But beyond combat, there is still much more to do in the world of Skyrim. Perhaps you would like to buy a house to keep your items in, or get a job and sell firewood. You can combine ingredients to create a useful potion, a deadly weapon or even a small meal. You can also enchant different items through another simple, yet clever system. If you have a weapon that inflicts ice damage, you can destroy that item but in return learn the enchantment. You can then apply the enchantment to more weapons, making them more powerful in the process.
Finally, unlike previous Elder Scroll games, the game is perfectly playable in a third person perspective thanks to a new animation system. Sometimes the camera is a bit shaky due to collisions with walls, but luckily the camera is adjustable which fixes the problem.
The excitement of the world is first realized when you emerge from the introduction and embark on a quest filled with thrilling stories, gorgeous graphics, a groundbreaking soundtrack, flawless gameplay and a mind-blowing amount of content. Even if a few technical issues hold it back from perfection, it still stands as possibly the greatest RPG ever, and even one of the best games in general. Skyrim will unmistakeably, always remain as an unforgettable journey to a elegant fantasy world which is nothing short of revolutionary.