So last month, on the 11th exactly, I received my copy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I think it’s about time I wrote something about it (after everybody else). I haven’t had that much time to play with it, hence this late impression of the game.
First let me say that Skyrim is the Best Game of 2011 I played. The game simply feels alive, and offers a great experience if you love sandbox-type games.
First, the game is just pretty to look at. I love mountains, I love forests, and I love snow. Bethesda really captured the essence of all these elements. When you walk in the frosty north of Skyrim, you could shiver just by looking at the snow and wind blowing around. Getting trapped in a blizzard makes you think that you should take cover. The sky with the aurora and the three moons is also majestic to look at. I did a lot of screenshot taking at night. Beside the landscape, the Argonians and Khajiit haven’t looked better in an Elder Scroll game. Also, lots of improvements from the previous Epic on the animation department and character face graphics. There are real beards!
Graphics aren’t the only thing Bethesda revamped. They also changed the magic system, deleted the spellcraft system and upgraded Oblivion’s perk system. Now spells are pre-made and have specific graphics and perks. Each skill also comes with its own perks tree. And these trees are really what define your character, not just using a skill.
I do like the perk additions, but I’m conflicted with the magic system. While the spells are much better looking and feel more like magic, the fact that you can’t change them is annoying. They don’t scale well and when you level up in skills you will simply stop using the earliest one. Except for one spell: healing. The basic healing spells work much better than the future variation. Although, most of my problems with the magic system have been “patched” by fan mods so far, so I’m left with really little to complain about. But it would have been great if Bethesda didn’t take the spellcraft all away and let the players make their own spells.
Now let’s talk a bit about the stories in the game. I explored less than 10% of the gameworld so far, but I found a lot of interesting stuff. So Skyrim has fully voiced NPCs and lots and lots of quests. NPCs now have personalities and some are actually memorable. There are also a lot of “random” events that you can encounter in the wild while traveling, which means that no two playthroughs are exactly the same. There are also random faction-based quests. These exist to make sure you always have something to do.
Speaking of factions. So far, I tried a bit of the Mage, Companions (fighter) and Thieves guilds. For a change, playing a mage or thief feel like you are in the proper organizations. It’s not all about killing and looting corpses anymore. What I saw of the Companions is also interesting, there is more to it than the next contracts to fulfill.
As for the main quest, I haven’t been too far away in it. Too many side quests to do. Some were really interesting, so I didn’t really bother with the main quest(s). I did fight dragons, it’s not the “boss” fight people are used to. Dragons fly, sometimes land and cover a lot of area. So you run around a lot and can find yourself with quite a few helpers or attract more unwanted. Also, dragon fights can be epic, but not necessarily hard.
Now let’s talk about what I don’t like about the game. Two small things (or big things, depending how you look at it). The inventory menu is crap. I knew it was going to be crap the moment they announced it, and my opinion didn’t change. Let’s say the menu doesn’t work well with a mouse, although I can’t say if it works better with a gamepad.
Also, the game has level scaling. Which is required for this type of open world without boundaries. While the level scaling is much better than what was in Oblivion, it also hax weird quirks. Example, sometimes bosses in caves are way too powerful compared to the rest of his underlings. Dying in two hits when you cleared the rest of the bandit’s hideout easily is frustrating.
But beside those small annoyances, the game is great to play for the explorers. It also has good quest lines and interesting recurring NPCs, so people who love stories should like it as well. I know I do.