Video Game Review: Skyrim

“Live another life, in another world.”  This has been a motto of The Elder Scrolls games since the 2002 release of the third game in the series, “Morrowind,” a game which revolutionized the RPG (Role Playing Game) genre.  Bethesda Softworks’s latest installment in the series, “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” truly lives up to this motto, proving once again that no one makes an RPG like Bethesda Softworks does.

The game takes place in the mountainous and frigid province of Skyrim, a fantasy world full of beautiful forests, icy wastes, and lively towns.  It is an open-world RPG, meaning the player is free to do whatever he or she chooses, though there is a (by no means enforced) “main quest” during which the player learns he or she is the Dragonborn, a mighty warrior destined to save the world from the wrath of a powerful and malevolent dragon known as “The World Eater”. Along the way, the player will face dragons and other foes in order to master the power of the Voice – the power to use the dragon language to literally shout magic – and hopefully stop Alduin and his thrall from delivering the world to its end.  Skyrim is rich with a variety of other quests to complete, and although certain questlines aren’t nearly long enough, this game will keep you very busy – I’m nearing the milestone of 100 hours of play time, and I still haven’t touched the main quest, explored every area, or come close to completing a fraction of the content that this game has to offer.

I shall give the obligatory overview of the game mechanics, which, though well-implemented, aren’t what make Skyrim unique and spectacular.  Combat has been revamped since past Elder Scrolls games: frenzied button-clicking and monotonous hack-and-slash has been replaced with more tactical fighting – in the realm of melee combat, the player must effectively control the battle, while spell-casters must find a balance between offensive and defensive spells without depleting their Magicka reserves too quickly, and stealthy characters must navigate the shadows with caution and diligence.  It is also quite possible to create a unique combat strategy involving elements of two or all three pillars of combat.  In addition, there’s a new perk system which allows the player to further specialize in all skills, which makes the playing experience even more dynamic.  Not only have combat and skills been overhauled, but other systems that were notoriously unpolished in Skyrim’s predecessor Oblivion, like interface, have been highly improved. Skyrim still has room for improvement; it can be glitchy (save often!), the menus can be frustratingly uncooperative, and, while it has been improved over Oblivion’s, the AI is occasionally annoyingly faulty.

However, it’s not the mostly well-executed mechanics that make Skyrim, and indeed the entire Elder Scrolls series, so remarkable and breathtaking.  It’s that tremendous feeling when you first step into the world and behold a towering, distant mountain upon which an ancient ruin is built, and you look to your right and see a mountain thrice as high; it’s that visceral awe that overwhelms you as a city built on a giant land bridge comes into view; it’s that sensation of total immersion, of realness you have when you create a unique character who inhabits a living, active world full of interesting people and a rich, extensive lore which make Skyrim the amazing game it is.  The world that the team at Bethesda Softworks has created is just so utterly magnificent that it’s impossible not to be mesmerized by it.

There’s one flabbergasting fact about this series that never fails to amaze me.  One of the original developers of these games has written over 150,000 words of in-game books and other supplemental segments of lore.  This number boggles my mind, and the fact that it doesn’t include the contributions of anyone but this one man suggests the lore is even more extensive than this.  It’s this lore that makes Skyrim so special, interesting, and engaging – to learn about the complex and numerous deities of this world, to study the millennia of recorded history, and to be enriched by multitudes of distinct cultures that this game offers is endlessly exciting.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim offers a balanced combination of action, adventure, and a complex world to make for a game that appeals to a broad spectrum of gamers.  While there’s still room for improvement in some aspects, the magnificence and depth of the world and its content makes up for it completely.  I’m confident calling this one of the best games I’ve ever played – perhaps the best.

–Patrick Quinn, Contributing Writer 

Posted by on December 7, 2011. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Responses to Video Game Review: Skyrim

  1. Jim Foley

    December 8, 2011 at 3:08 am

    Great review, Patrick. Your mention of the 150k words of in-world writing made me think of Neal Stephenson’s funny take on that in “Reamde,” his most recent novel. Highly recommended.

  2. walkera

    December 8, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    “I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee!”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login