* Best RPG of 2011 * GOTY 2011
PG 1 | PG 2
Not too many games have garnered a flawless score on Extreme Gamer. Over the years only five titles have reached that pinnacle of perfection; the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion being one of them. Therefor our expectations are beyond lofty for the fifth adventure in the Elder Scrolls series. Can Bethesda deliever? Let's enter the captivating world of Skryim to find out.
As you likely know, Skyrim is a massive game, so we shall try to keep this review as brief, yet meticulous as possible. However, without even reading the rest of the review (that’s not a deterrent,) Skyrim is awesome. If you have enjoyed any of Bethesda's previous endeavors, you will feel right at home in the 'Elder Scrolls V.' This is the next evolution in sanboxed RPGs; no one does them better. So where do you start with a game this enormous? That's easy. Since the Elder Scrolls habitually sprouts the leaves of character creation, it seems like most feasible spot to begin.
Creating the Dragonborn
As expected, Bethesda excels in the character creation department. Covering each selection isn't necessary, just know, this is one of the most detail character editors we have ever seen. The new war paint, dirt, and scars are welcomed additions that induce some visual spice to your hero, or anti-hero for that matter. 10 races are available to tweak and customize until you have created the ultimate vision of a Skyrim adventurer. Unlike 'Oblivion' you won't be given a second chance to edit your character, so this is it, choose wisely.
My, what big wings you have
The big addition to Skyrim, aside from the new gaming engine, are the dragons. These imposing mythical beasts are awe-inspiring to watch and are quickly interjected into the plot. Not only are they technically developed to perfection, their existence is directly tied into the prose. "Dragons" and the "Dragonborn" are the muse of the narrative, and rightful deserve the spotlight. As the one who was born with the blood of the dragon, you will have the uncanny ability to communicate and absorb the soul of dragons. These enigmatic creatures add a wonderful air of mystique to the Elder Scrolls series that only builds on the outstanding foundation laid by its processors. Empowering and sophisticated, think of your character as a medieval superhero of sorts; minus the tights and cape, of course.
The proverbial tip of the ice-berg
Instead of being a direct sequel to Oblivion, Bethesda shifted away from Cyrodiil into northern part of Tamriel; the home of the Nords. Picking up 200 years after the previous Elder Scrolls adventure, this new beginning is perfect for gamers who might have missed the previous Elder Scrolls titles. Unparalleled, Skyrim is the crown jewel of the series. Injected with the same style of weaving plot lines, a plethora of side-quests and countless hours of exploration, Skyrim cannot be bested. Layered on top of all this is a foreboding tale of the 'Dragonborn' and the return of the 'Nordic God of Destruction, Alduin.' Without discounting the other tales of squabbling politics, the main venture is effortlessly the most striking. Either fighting dragons or making sense of a Civil War, the amount of content poured into Skyrim is utterly staggering. If you're concerned about bang-for-your-buck, you've hit the jackpot. Purposely blasting through the main campaign whiles trying to avoid the call of the highly addictive side-quests, I managed to complete 38 quests and 45 objectives within 36hrs. The proverbial tip of the ice-berg, you betcha.
Aside from the dragons you will see other new creatures like trolls, spiders, mammoths, ice wraiths that coexist with the regular assortment of beasts and mortal anarchists. While the importance of Radient A.I. has been increased, don't expect the combat to stray too much from its pre-established foundation. This doesn't mean the combat isn't fun, because it is, just don't expect any groundbreaking challenges aside from the enemies being much larger/stronger than you. Additionally, the environment can still be exploited to best those "tougher" assailants. Shameful or smart, who's to judge.
Adding more to the warfare is dual-wielding weapons. Equipping each hand separately allows for countless combinations of skilled weaponry. Not only does this introduce a new tactical ingredient, it helps Skyrim disconnect from its former class system. No longer do you have to be a mage in robes. Now you can wear heavy armour and shoot fire from one hand while blocking with a shield with the other. One more new element to the combat are 'Dragonshouts.' These Dragonborn exclusives are discovered by reading 'Draconic words of power,' a language created for the game that unlocks powerful magical skills. The first shout you will learn is “Unrelenting Force,” a power that uses the raw power of your voice to pushing aside anything or anyone in your path. That is only the beginning as you will gain some truly powerful abilities from searching out ruins or quest-driven unlocks. I don't want to spoil any surprises, so you'll have to find these out on your own.
Lastly, the highly criticized auto-leveling that existed in Oblivion has been exchanged for a process that calculates location as well as the players level. Comparable to 'Fallout 3,' there are spots with tougher enemies, but for the most part you will be combating foes on similar levels. Refined, Skyrim feels more progressive in balancing its own difficulty without too much alienation. While it's not going to please everyone (some people wish auto-leveling abolished altogether) Skryim plays it right down the middle.
The perks are in the sky
Heading into character progression, Skyrim handles things differently then before. You can now train in the 18 skills provided with three abilities (health, magika, stamina) at your core. The skills are divided into magic, creation/social, combat/armour, and skills of the thievish kind. Leveling is done when you use your skills in game and is related to your base level that increases when used. So rather than this being judged on one skill, leveling up reflects them all. This approach is more practical making character development feel more natural. In basics; the more you lockpick the more adapt you will be at lockpicking. Additionally, leveling isn't capped, but is significantly reduced after level 50.
Developing each skill when leveling up you will be given points to spend points on perks. The perks are presented in an astrological-like skill tree that is filled with an overwhelming number of options. From here you choose from a whopping 280 perks that will improve each proficiency. For example lets take a look at the “Sneak” tree. Starting with “Stealth” 20% increments of the skill you can upgrade with the following perks; “Backstab” (sneak attacks with one-handed weapons do 6x the damage. “Deadly Aim” - sneak attacks with bows do 3x damage. “Assassin's Blade” - sneak attack with daggers do 15x damage. “Muffled Movement” - noise from armour is reduced 50%. “Light Foot” - you won't trigger pressure plates... and so on. I won't ruin the final three skills, but the last one is well worth investing in.
Lastly large stone obelisks called Guardian Stones are scattered around the gamespace. Found during your travels, they grant you the ability to boost the rate that certain skills upgrade. While I thought Guardian Stones would have played a larger role in the game, it's just one more indulgence Bethesda has made to further epic sized RPG.