In the meantime, I’ll tell you this: If you’ve played Oblivion, you’ve played Skyrim. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing at all. What I mean by that is that if you played Oblivion and loved it, you’ll love Skyrim just as much because the overall feel of the game is the same.
What’s changed makes it even better. Read on. (N’s comments will be in red!)
The story of Skyrim is one of fantasy and mystery, much like that of Oblivion. I’m not going to drop a lot of spoilers but I will say that Bethesda sticks with their tried and true method of allowing the story to unfold as the player moves through the game, keeping a lot of things mysterious and hidden until the player discovers them on his or her own.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is Bethesda’s apparent joy at kicking the player’s ass at every turn. Between trolls, Spriggons, bandits and sabrecats, walking a trail to pretty much anywhere means taking your life in your own hands. It’s a brutal world out there.
Also, the 7000 steps to High Hrothgar…They ain’t kiddin’. What a climb!
So let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.
This is 80-90% of the game. The graphics are gorgeous, the interface has been given a face lift, the game has all of the elements which make the Elder Scrolls series of games great and the story is top-notch. From the time you kill your first dragon, fairly early in the arc, things unfold and shape and turn in a very captivating way. I’m very happy with that.
You’ll have the ability to buy a home, gain titles and live whatever kind of life you’d like. If you want to spend hundreds of hours collecting flowers and berries, working on your alchemy skill? Go for it. Want to go out and get in bar brawls for cash? Go for it. Want to play the role of Dragonborn and put the smack down on some overgrown wing-ey lizards? Have at it!
That’s something that really amazes me about this series…The fact that you can just do whatever you want. There is nothing pushing you along. Nothing that makes you follow the progression of the story. There’s no time, there’s no major sense of urgency to get things done, you can just do whatever you want. This has been a bit of a downfall for me, personally, because I often find myself spend much more time than I should off in the woods collecting flowers and catching bees. Suddenly I’ll remember that I’m on a quest and will set off toward my goal, only to get caught up in collecting flowers and catching bugs again.
One thing Bethesda tried in Oblivion was to streamline the quest lines while holding your hand a bit too much. Thank the gods that Bethesda relented a bit. Morrowind was a very raw experience and its complete lack of polish in spots meant that watching scripted events made you think the game was glitching out from time to time. Some quests would simply fall apart or break and others impossible to finish because of the game’s lack of direction. Oblivion tried to reverse this by making the quest lines a bit too obvious and allowing you to fast travel to virtually everywhere in the game as soon as you left the first dungeon, rendering the horse a useless purchase. Here, you’re required once again to get out there and hoof it to locations to discover them which is a welcome relief. There’s something so amazing about the worlds they build that it’s a shame that they let you skip so much of it last time. I pine for larger cities to get my work done, but Oblivion’s Imperial City was a bit too much. These will simply have to do.
I do enjoy the way the game has updated a bit from the last release, via the interface and the skills system, which is the cat’s pajamas. I also love the story and how it unfolds. There are some things I DON’T love, however.
There are a few glitches, though nothing major jumps out at me. I have seen daggers floating in midair, chairs levitating with people in them and a number of pathfinding issues. While none of these stand out as being terrible, the combination of them shatters the fantasy a little and takes away from the experience.
There are also some issues with the spell system. First and foremost, the clairvoyance spell is busted. Useless. You assign a primary quest and the spell will have you running all over hell and creation…everywhere BUT where you’re supposed to be. Second, targeting is a mess. You have to be spot on to hit and if you move, you have to adjust. This is annoying in the heat of battle, sometimes. The biggest issue I have with the spells, though, is the fact that the dual spell casting thing is a pain in the ass. It’s so sensitive that if you hit the triggers even 1/10th of a second out of sync, it won’t dual cast and you’re just wasting magicka. This has gotten me killed a few times.
The lack of hot keys or a ‘selection wheel’ was an aspect that really irritated me. The game expects you to have a ton of spells and weaponry at your quick disposal, but only gives you the favorites menu (up on the d-pad) to retrieve these. Even though the game pauses while accessing it, it can be annoying to switch between several items, especially when you can dual wield. Perhaps that’s ‘lrn2manageurfaves, nub’, but it honestly didn’t feel very efficient in a post-Deus Ex era.
Other than those few issues, there’s nothing else TOO glitchy about the game. Some minor graphical stuff here and there, the horse does not work well on unfriendly terrain, a couple of clipping issues, etc…the usual.
Yeah, there’s an ugly, at least in my mind. The level scaling. Bethesda has this thing in their head where they ramp up the difficulty of their games based on the level of the character. This makes ZERO sense to me. A wolf, which was fairly easy to kill at level 1, should be SUPER easy to kill at level 8 and should die with a wink at level 20. This is not so. Each mob you encounter will get progressively tougher as you level up so it never really seems to get easier to play as you get higher levels. This is something they’ve been doing for years and years and it’s something I hate. I can live with it because Skyrim is nearly perfect but it’s annoying and I want to slap someone over it. I agreed with this criticism in Oblivion where your foes were always a bit too difficult for whatever level you were at (especially in the Oblivion gates) and you had to constantly dole out currency for healing potions or magicka restoration. Skyrim on the other hand makes everything a little too easy, so even with a thief character that’s oriented more toward stealth abilities, I find myself able to knock out everyone and found myself dying rarely.
Other than that, there’s not really anything to complain about. Skyrim is a solid, visually stunning game with all the stuff we’ve come to love from The Elder Scrolls, and more. If it weren’t for a few niggling glitches, this game would receive a perfect score. Because of those glitches, though, I can’t do that so I’m going to give it the highest “not-perfect” score I can.