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About the product
- Features -
- Skyrim reimagines the open-world fantasy epic, pushing the game play and technology of a virtual world to new heights
- Play any type of character you can imagine, and do whatever you want; the legendary freedom of choice, storytelling
- Skyrim's new game engine brings to life a complete virtual world with rolling clouds, rugged mountains, bustling cities, lush fields.
- Choose from hundreds of weapons, spells, and abilities; the new character system allows you to play any way you want
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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the next installment in the award-winning Elder Scrolls series. Skyrim is the follow up to the 2006 Game of the Year, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and the next game from Bethesda Game Studios, creators of the 2008 Game of the Year, Fallout 3.
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After logging approximately 100 hours into Skyrim (I have not finished the main storyline) I feel I'm ready to write a review. As the title implies, Skyrim is not perfect, far from it in fact. While there is a lot to like with this latest offering from Bethesda Softworks there is also a lot to dislike.
I'll also state right off the bat that I'm playing this game on the PS3, as it's my console of choice, despite the fact of Bethesda's attitude toward the PS3 seems to be that of a distant afterthought. There are many well known issues with the PS3 version that specifically impact things like the frame-rate. Then there are issues that seem to plague all versions ranging from large bugs like backward flying, unkillable dragons to simple glitches like items becoming stuck in the players inventory. I'm sad to say that I've been exposed to all of these. It's widely known that Bethesda is notorious for releasing games in varying states of finish and Skyrim is no exception. I've heard from fellow gamers that Bethesda seems to treat its customer base as a free pool of beta testers and after seeing the state that Skyrim, Fallout 3, and Fallout 3: New Vegas were released in I'm inclined to agree.
Back to the meat of the game, Skyrim takes place about 200 years after the events of Oblivion and as the title implies unfolds in the northernmost realm of Tamriel known as Skyrim. The player begins as a prisoner of the Imperial Forces riding on a cart with other prisoners on their way to execution. Events unfold and a dragon attacks the Keep at Helgen where you were set to be executed. From there on your immediately thrust into the vast world of Skyrim where a war is being fought between Nords siding with Imperial Forces and those siding with a rebel leader known as Ulfric Stormcloak. The story in Skyrim can be as much or as little as you make of it in similar fashion to past Elder Scrolls titles. For example you can simply choose to skip lengthy dialogue scenes or choose not to read many of the vast volumes of books scattered across the landscape in towns, villages, castles, dungeons and keeps. I've heard many complaints from JRPG fans that The Elder Scrolls games are lacking in substance but really there's plenty of back-story, it's just left up to the player to choose to experience it or not.
Graphics are nice but not spectacular in the same way as cutting-edge PS3 games are like Uncharted. For certain this is a step up from Oblivion's graphics. Facial expressions of the games many NPCs have been upgraded and are immediately noticeable. The landscapes are breathtaking in many spots and the terrain in Skyrim is a vast mountainous expanse. There are snowy, fog covered peaks, with ragging blizzards to traverse to dense coniferous forests. Raging rivers carve through the environment from the mountainous terrain down to the forested hillsides and lowlands. The variety to the landscape of Skyrim is truly a marvel to behold! The lighting engine has received a major upgrade as well and dungeons feature a variety of lighting techniques, shadows and gradients of colors. The variety afforded by the lighting system is impressive. Exploring outside at night can range from a pitch-black experience on a cloudy night to a magical romp across the land as the Northern Lights are beautifully recreated in Skyrim. A vast, imposing moon can be masked behind fog and craggy peaks. Again, the entire world is impressively rendered. The menu system has also received a graphical facelift and unfortunately seems to be for the worse. While the new categories nicely organize the thousands of items you'll pick up throughout your quest in Skyrim the menu looks sparse and in sharp contrast to the setting of the title. You can no longer view your characters equipped armors and weapons right in the menu which is sorely missed. Thankfully Bethesda spent some time working on the 3rd person camera which seemed to be almost unusable in past TES games. This remains the only way to view your character and equipped items.
The sound department has received equal attention in my book. The musical score changes to reflect your current surroundings from a peaceful melody as you meander through a forest meadow to an ominous track as you sneak about a bandit's dingy hovel. Once in combat the music really picks up and does a great job ratcheting up the tension. Voiceovers are thankfully much more varied than those found in Oblivion though of course you'll soon become accustomed to a familiar set of voices.
The character creation system has been streamlined although you do lose some of the options past TES games imparted. Similarly the upgrade system has been simplified and is much more approachable to newer players than past games. There are dozens and dozens of perks to unlock via the leveling system. One level imparts one skill point to assign to an astrological sign correlating to a particular skill. Some perks require a certain level to be achieved before a it can be unlocked and learned. Leveling is accomplished in a similar way to past TES games - mainly by using the various skills at your disposal. The variety to your character customization is only limited by your ambition, planning, and of course the level cap which is set at 70.
As far as an overall rating I hate to give Skyrim less than it deserves although in its state on the PS3 it's difficult to rate the title highly. Would I recommend the PS3 version of Skyrim to a friend? Probably only if that's their only means of playing the game. If you have a PC that can run this game then definitely go that route. For me playing through on the PS3 version of the game I have a love, hate relationship with this title. There's a lot to like but that can be quickly dissolved by the frustrating mess this game can become when the frame rate starts dropping.
UPDATE: Bethesda released update v1.4 in early February for consoles and for the PS3 it was an immediate improvement to the framerate issue that plagued the title. The change was literally night and day; I went from experiencing almost constant lag to a smooth playing experience once again.
All in all I logged in around 200 hours into Skyrim and the last 100 hours or so post update v1.4. There were some sporadic occasions where the framerate still hiccuped but nothing remotely comparable to the problems I was experiencing before. It's a shame that Bethesda continues to treat PS3 gamers with such low regard. Had they released Skyrim without the framerate issue the game would've certainly garnered better press and more importantly trust between developer/publisher and consumer.
My thoughts on the title…
Huge, beautiful world to explore
Lots of deep side quests with a range of content (even some hilarious ones thrown in)
Lots of character growth options that you will want to replay the game with
Main storyline is a bit boring compared to the wealth of side quests
Performance on PS3 specifically is pretty bad
Combat could be a bit meatier (still feels very basic)
The world feels more alive than Oblivion did.
The combat is still very similar to how it was in previous titles (with some refinements) which may please some. However, I was hoping for a bigger change in this title to make the combat a bit deeper.
The side quests are where most of my time went (and where most enjoyment was had). There are tons of sides quests to engage in. Some of these are mundane or fetch-questy, but there are some real gems to be enjoyed. By comparison, the main storyline feels a bit clichéd. Additionally, it is always weird to me when the world events freeze (in this case, civil war) until your character becomes involved. I do wish that there were more going on with the civil war in the game without your character’s actions being taken into account.
This game is spectacular, but the game as it is on PS3 is nearly unplayable at points due to performance issues. The framerates are just terrible. I would recommend trying it on PC (if you have an OK computer) or on 360.
Though not as expansive as Morrowind, Skyrim streamlines combat and makes the map easier to navigate. The majority of your foes scale with your level, and difficulty settings can be changed mid-combat, easily making any encounter an appropriate challenge. I'm also pleased that the game allows me to hoard lockpicks and keys, because they weigh nothing in the inventory. All in all, I consider Skyrim a great, immersive introduction to the world of fantasy rpgs.
If you want all of the expansions, purchase the Legendary Edition instead, as that is more cost-effective.