Friday, June 19, 2015

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Release Date: November 11, 2011
Genre: Action, Roleplaying

One Sentence Review:
Take it on its own and it's an extremely good game and probably my favorite for 2011, but compared to its predecessors it just lacks something in so many ways.

Skyrim comes from a line of decent to outstanding titles which can only beget one underlying question for this review. Does Skyrim hold up to its predecessors or does it fall short? As with Guild Wars 2, let's get the good out of the way fast so I can start ranting!

Well maybe ranting is a little harsh, there's actually much to discuss in the good department. My favorite thing about the game is how clean it all is. Skyrim boasts a massive landscape for you to explore, hunt, quest, gather, and any other number of things. My expectations of massive landscapes from games like Just Cause 2 is that a little copypasta is going to happen a lot. However, Skyrim shatters those expectations completely. While there is some copy and paste areas, most of the land in Skyrim feels like it belongs there and there's very little wasted space. It really feels like they spent years working on this game since the release of Oblivion and the effort shows.

Another good thing is the quests. In both Morrowind and Oblivion the quests tended to be hit-or-miss and for every good quest there were generally an equal number of boring ones. Skyrim quests are less of a sin wave between hit and miss and more of a straight line far closer to the hit area of the graph. The easy way to achieve this would be to cut out all of the miss quests and leave in only the hits, but considering the sheer number of quests that Skyrim offers I doubt they went that route. To make this many hits requires meticulous work and careful attention to detail that you rarely see in games nowadays with all the Call of Boring and Battlefield Bullshit. This does lead nicely into my third point though...

Details! Seriously, Skyrim is probably one of my top games of 2011 and possibly my top game ever in the attention to detail department. Nothing in this game feels like it was randomly placed and everything down to the last butterfly feels like it was meant to be there. Considering there are actual butterflies in this game that statement might be a bit more literal than I first intended. This is something that needs to be experienced rather than explained.

But now begins the ranting portion, because for all Skyrim's good points there are so many points that give me pause.

For starters let's talk about the Spellcrafting system... oh wait there isn't one. That's right, one of the most iconic things about Morrowind and Oblivion has been cut out of Skyrim. In the place of spellcrafting we get a little song and dance of flashy spells and graphics. Don't get me wrong, the spells are nicely done and pretty but overall there isn't enough variety in them to make up for the lack of ability to craft my own. They tried to fill in the gap but they didn't quite make it.

Next, let's talk about levelling up. Attributes? Gone. Skill based systems? Goodbye. Now we have this "marvelous" perk system. Please explain to me the logic of having 100/100 skill levels of sneak but barely being able to sneak past a Mamoth 30 meters away without having some arbitrary perks. I like the concept of a perk system but a perk is supposed to be a bonus to what we already have, not a requirement to do what the skill is supposed to do in the first place. They could have focused on the perk system or focused on the skill levels but this mismatched system is just tiring and pointless.

To sum up the negatives about this game, it's basically a shift of control. In Morrowind and Oblivion you will eventually become the equivalent of a demigod and able to obliterate anything that comes your way with a wave of your hand. But in those games you became god your way and under your parameters. In Skyrim you will eventually become the equivalent of a demigod and able to obliterate anything that comes your way with a wave of your hand. But in this game you will become a god Bethesda's way and you have very little say in the matter. You're still going to become a god but this time it's under their terms, not yours.

As of now, Skyrim will run you $20 USD for the basic game with no DLC. The DLC will cost up to $45 USD more. So the entire Skyrim experience will cost about $65 USD. Seems pretty pricey, but is it? Well yes it is but you have to understand what you're getting for that amount. For all the ranting I did, Skyrim is still one of the best games of 2011 and possibly to date. Just the $20 bill alone will net you several hundred to several thousand hours of play time and each DLC will net you almost equivalent amounts. You'll certainly get more than your money's worth on this one. My gamer price tag for the entire Skyrim package (DLC included) is about $80. I would gladly pay "more" for the game than what they're currently charging.