POPCulture Online’s Kenneth Wong takes time off his regular Dragon Soul raiding to share his experience with avoiding arrows to his knees while shouting “Fus Ro Dah!” in Bethesda Softworks’s latest RPG, SKYRIM.
*The final edit to the review is based on version 1.3 of the PC version*
The world of The Elder Scrolls(TES) have been entertaining players with a unique blend of RPG that meets an open world where you can spend more time doing everything else but the main storyline since the first game, TES: Arena. And since TEST II: Daggerfall, I have never failed to jump into the game world to be a thief that hides in a shadow, a spellsword that slices with my long sword and dices with my bolt of thunder or even the righteous Paladin who smites the undead, heals his companions and sink blades of steel into the enemy.
Enter into the land of Skyrim, up north in Tamriel where the Nords call home. While not a direct sequel to the previous TES game Oblivion, Skyrim takes place 200 years later instead. The land has been plunged into a civil war that has split Skyrim into half and rumors of an ancient enemy back to cause terror doesn’t sound too good for everyone living in the land.
What Skyrim now needs is a Hero to save everyone and this is where you, the player comes in. Of course as with the later TES games, the hero doesn’t ride in with shining armor on a horse with a big sword that drives fear into the hearts of enemies. Instead he starts off getting caught by the authorties for being at the wrong place at the wrong time and is sentenced to get his head chopped off.
Without revealing too much of the main storyline and risk getting everything but the kitchen sink thrown at me, lets move on with the review.
The graphics of the new engine is one resource hungry beast to say the least. Nothing to worry for console gamers but for PC gamers, be prepared to tune and lower the graphic settings if you not running the recent quad core processors and a very decent graphic card. Even on my i5 with 8GB of ram and the 570GTX card, my system can only manage between medium to high while playing at 1980 by 1080 or full HD.
But even on medium, the world of Skyrim is one to behold. Lush greenery and clear waters that look better than the ones at east coast beach, you can just spend 5 minutes just doing nothing but admire the game environment. Even the cities are pain stalking constructed to fit into the context, be it one built on top of dwarf ruins to the capital city itself.
Gameplay wise, veterans to previous TES games should be comfortable in no time while gamers coming from other RPG games might take a while to get used to the system. While previous TES games had slight hints of classes that the player can choose from, in Skyrim, Bethesda Softworks has removed the class system totally.
What you get instead is total freedom to be who and what you want. Players are free to mix and match what skills they want to use and you level up those skills as you use them. Successfully created a new steel legion armor? Congrats, you have just upped a level in smithing. Burned a bandit to death with your firebolt spell? Congrats, you have just upped a level in destruction. And you get the idea.
While this means that you can be a jack of all trades. Do take note that your overall level increases as you level up each skill. And this overall level in turn decides the game level you play in and this also means you will face tougher enemies.
Sound wise, the people at Bethesda Softworks have outdone themselves again. From the carefully scripted spoken dialog (which comes in different languages such as Japanese depending on your region) to the amazing soundtrack which just begs to be released as an official disc.
You can just imagine the emotions of the character speaking thanks to the great cast of voice actors and the shouts of “Fu Ro Dah” just sends shivers down your spine especially when you see enemy archers get blown off their ledges to their deaths.
But just a disclaimer here, I was playing on a full 5.1 speaker setup that my parents complain when I forget to close the door while playing at night. So if you are the type to blast away on the volume, I do recommend getting a decent set of headphones.
This is probably the one of the hardest game to rate with countless edits on the final score. Part of me would like to give it a perfect score as no other game has burnt 3 days of my leave straight in quite a while. This is one of those game that sucks you in straight away the moment you are done creating your character.
Yet there are little things here and there sort of bugged me coming in both as a fan of The Elder Scrolls series and also as a long time gamer. Guild quest somehow do not feel as epic as compared to some of the misc quest and the main storyline could be a tad longer. Little technical problems such as floating creatures when clipping happens still bug the game.
With these in mind, I was set on a rating of 4 out of 5 stars but seeing how some of these little things can be settled like the slow mount speed thanks to the hardworking modding community, I decided to raise it up to 4.5 stars. Yup this is one of those games where developers encourage the modding community which help to polish up the game even more.
Bottom line from me: “If your computer can handle it (or if you are a console gamer) and you are looking for a RPG game to blow you away, Skyrim should be the number one contender sitting on top of your wish list.”
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Review © POPCulture Online 2011, All Rights Reserved.
Skyrim & The Elder Scrolls Games are property of © 2011 Bethesda Softworks LLC, a ZeniMax Media company.