Review: ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ (PC): Awaken, Dragonborn

Review: ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ (PC): Awaken, Dragonborn

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DISCLAIMER: Because it’s been so long since Skyrim‘s initial release and given its mod-friendly nature, I was unable to write a review for one of my favorite games of all time since I could no longer play it in its rawest form (I’ve grown too used to my mods and it was almost painful to go back, let alone have an unbiased review after the fact). Luckily for me, I stumbled upon my old blog and with it, a review I wrote on December 16th, 2011. I apologize in advance if the quality of this writing isn’t up to par with my more recent works, however I think it would be neat to see how much my own voice as a writer has changed (with a few formatting edits). If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it after all. That said, a present a review from yesteryear.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the newest installation to the Elder Scrolls series, the universe of Men and Mer (a blanket term for humanoid creatures like elves and orcs). Fanboys of the franchise (myself included) have waited patiently for this game, namely to face off against dragons and explore the highlands of Skyrim, an Imperial province in northern Tamriel (the continent where the games take place). See, the return of the dragons is prophesied to be a sign of the end of times, along with a civil war that threatens to tear Skyrim and the rest of the crumbling human empire apart. So what will you fight for?

The Imperials trying to keep the peace within and without their borders or the Stormcloaks, a rebel faction trying to reclaim Skyrim’s independence? Perhaps you’ll ignore that and just focus on sending the dragons back to the ancient depths from whence they came, absorbing their powers, and becoming some sort of demigod referred to as a “Dovahkiin” (or, in English, Dragonborn). Mind you, this brief rambling summary is that: very brief. Skyrim was well worth the wait given the depth and scale of this game is enough to fool you into believing you’ve been cast in the starring role for some fantasy film.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you: there were a few kids in my IT class this semester that would always watch gameplay trailers and I wasn’t too impressed with what I saw. It just looked like a prettier version of Oblivion with an updated graphics engine. I was wrong.

Sure, a slight resemblance remains, but that’s all it is. I find myself randomly taking screenshots because of how picturesque this game is… picturesque where, if I just added a slight filter to soften the polygons a little, I could probably trick people into believing this place actually exists. Smoke effects are smooth and silky, billowing realistically while being pulled by the wind. Snow accumulates on ground and objects alike, given the area you’re in; water flows and laps against river shores and fire crackles with heat waves rippling around the tongues of flames.

It’s pretty amazing how realistic these games are getting and if you’re like me, the shininess of the game has a lot to do with how immersed you’re able to be. However because of my outdated graphics card, all I could play this game at was at medium quality and it still looked awesome. And now that I have a brand spankin’ new card (Nvidia GeForce 560 GTX) and I can play it on high–not ultra.. just high–I honestly just stop and stare sometimes to take in the scenery.

With that being said, however, Skyrim’s visuals aren’t perfect: there will be some times where I’ll enter a new area and then certain textures won’t load, leaving exposed blue polygons without their skins, and that’s just one form of glitch I’ve noticed, but given Bethesda’s track record, I’m sure there will be patches soon enough that’ll address these issues.

So, given that I wasn’t really that excited for Skyrim compared to a lot of other people, I might as well come clean and explain why: though I love the franchise, I played it for the environment rather than the story. I found Oblivion to be rather cliche: you’re a prisoner whose destiny was somehow entwined with cosmic events and now you have to stop a demon prince from coming into the mortal realm. I found it hard to give much a damn, to be honest.

Skyrim thankfully put my mind at ease. Right away, you’re thrown into the action and the quests keep you in the spotlight. Without spoiling too much, in one of the initial quests walking up into the mountains, I turned a corner and the wind and snow is blowing into my (character’s) face. Past the blizzard I could make out the silhouette of  ancient Nord ruins built into one of the mountains. The scene was so breathtaking that I actually forgot I was playing a game.

The triumphant adventuring music, the sheer ambiance and environment, the gossiping villagers and the emphasis on your character’s involvement in the world simply captivates you–so when people remark about the days of their lives that have gone to this game, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

What’s so interesting to me, all story-telling elements aside, are the Norse/Viking/German lore influences on this game, especially in Nord speech and culture.  Hopefully this starts a trend in the industry, given WWII, the Medieval era, terrorism/Third World War, and zombies are starting to get beaten to death. The only two gripes I have, though, are that:

  1. NPCs are way too vocal about their problems. Why do I care that you took an arrow to the knee?
  2. How does fruit manage to stay fresh for hundreds of years in a broken barrel in a tomb?

Hmm.

With regards to the audio, the musical score is pretty sick. To be honest, for the first five minutes after starting Skyrim up, I sat and listened to the theme being song by a choir of what seemed to be monks. Perhaps I’m just partial  to epic choral arrangements (*cough* Halo *cough*), but like I said before, the music helps complete the ensemble of a great environment.

I have to give Bethesda a lot of credit for their new questing system. Called “Radiant A.I.,” Skyrim is able to produce virtually an infinite amount of quests by finding a place where you haven’t been yet, picking a scenario (let’s say, clear out a bandit leader), and then appearing as a bounty letter at the local inn or a random note given to you by a roaming courier.

Sadly, my OCD has compelled me to finish up all these “miscellaneous quests” before I continued with the story line, so don’t worry, you’ll have plenty to do. Whenever the miscellaneous quests were “too high a level,” I’d eventually find myself focusing on my journey to learn all the Words of Power (dragon powers that allow you to summon forces of nature).

Since there are so many decisions with the variability of infinite quests, I actually get a kick playing Skyrim side-by-side one of my friends, just to see how the same choices can still manage to produce different results, depending on character race, relationship with the quest giver, or how we go about completing (or failing) a certain quest. And with crafting, I find myself walking to my destinations so I can hunt, gather ingredients, and mine.

Though, one thing I thought was strange is that given all this detail, there wasn’t a hardcore option akin to Fallout: New Vegas, but I’m sure someone with decent modding expertise will get on that.

Speaking of which, with respect to replayability, Skyrim doesn’t need any help. There’s so much going on with so much attention to detail that you’ll be pretty content as-is. Then again, considering there’s a mod in the works that’ll allow online co-op, it’s safe to say replayability won’t be an issue; it’s trying to fit enough Skyrim into your day that’ll be the issue.

Wow. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle writing this puppy. Not to say that I didn’t want to (I did, really), but Skyrim can’t be summed up in mere mortal words. If you aren’t a gamer, Skyrim is already invading the lives of countless thousands, and I’m not even talking about gamers. Where do you think this FUS RO DAH or arrow-to-the-knee nonsense came from? Yup. T’is a simple omen: play this game.

Wow.. to think I was content with the game without mods. Oh, 19-year-old me, how innocent and naive you were.

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Anthony Magestro

Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.