The lights are on
At the time of writing this, I have put about 15 hours into this game and I feel I have barely scratched the surface. The size of the world and the story is mind boggling, especially as I am playing mine on a console and not a PC.
GameplayBethesda has put some serious time into adjusting the controls from Skyrim’s predecessor, Oblivion, and it shows. The favorites menu has actually become one of my favorite features about the control overhauls (is it possible for your favorite feature to be the favorite feature?). Rather than have to fumble in a menu to try and select the correct item in a wheel, you simply press the up or down arrow on your D-Pad and select the item(s) or magic(s) you wish to equip, all the while the game has paused, giving you a chance to ponder on your selections.
In addition to the streamlined favorites system, the system menu has also been streamlined. You no longer need to fumble with the inventory system and the save menu in the same screen at the same time. However, this leads to the one drawback about the controls I am still struggling to adapt to: the use of the B button. To streamline the system menu, they had to move your map and inventory screens elsewhere. To get to them, you need to press the B button and select the feature you would like to access. My years with the Xbox have trained me to use the B Button to go back from a menu, not open one. Though not a major problem, it has caused a few moments of distraction from the game which I did not appreciate. I think these options would have best been served by either pressing right or left on the D-Pad or using the left bumper or Back Button.
Combat is fluid, and the ability to mesh magic combat with melee and ranged combat is fluid and awesome. Battles with dragons are epic and enthralling, sucking you into them in heart-pounding and intense combat. With so many side quests, jobs, guilds, main story quests, etc… you will never find yourself bored in the world of Skyrim.
To top it all off, the game now permits the player to purchase homes and even get married, quite similar to Fable, but without the requirement of exceptionally long courtships. You can even purchase your home fairly early on in the story. Unfortunately, the 5,000 price tag on a home seems quite high that early on and I found myself trying to raise it, which led to another drawback: the inventory: With the ability to only carry a bit over 300 lbs. at the start, you can only loot a couple of corpses before you have to unload all the goods to make a profit. This makes it difficult to raid a dungeon in a single pass. I found myself killing a few enemies, looting the corpses, and then fast traveling back to a city to unload some weight, rinse, and repeat. It would be nice if I could drag a handcart or something to the sight and unload into it as I went to save a bit of time.
The selling issue brings me to my final gameplay complaint: the lack of a buy-back system. I found myself selling something I did not intend to sell for a mere 50 coins, only to have to buy it back for 300 coins. Having learned from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, why not include the buy-back system just in case I accidentally sold something I did not mean to? Again, not a deal-breaker but it is a distraction nonetheless.
StoryEven with hours into the game I have not yet moved too far into the story, I find myself distracted by fun little side quests and looting for cash. However, the concept of being Dragonborn and running amok is loads of fun. Unfortunately, Bethesda isn’t known for their brilliant story-telling techniques. Throughout most of the story, and even now, I am confused by this tertiary war between the Imperials and the Stormcloaks and my conversations with townsfolk makes me feel stupid as I have no clue what they are talking about half of the time. I think Bethesda could have done with a nice opening sequence akin to The Lord of the Rings to give us some back story and fill us in on what is going on around us. As it stands, the opening sequence just adds to the confusion as I was apparently trying to jump some borderline and got caught while some other guy is sitting in the cart with his mouth bound shut and I am supposed to know who it is. This lack of back story is distracting and affected my rating of the game quite a bit.
GraphicsBattlefield fans, as far as I am concerned, your little Frostbite 2 engine is nothing compared to the sprawling landscapes and beautifully rendered dragons in Skyrim. At one point, your character has been summoned to meet with “The Greybeards” atop a massive mountain with a path known as “The 7,000 Steps”. Looking at the peak from the ground gives you a sense of just how small you are in this virtual world and the view from the pathway as you ascend causes an odd sense of virtual vertigo.
From a distance, all looks great, but when you get close it starts to get a little hazy. With any luck, the upcoming patch for the graphics will fix that issue and allow me to install the game to my hard drive without having to pay a price for it.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the varying environments and designs in each dungeon, keep, and town are obvious and visually appealing. From spider webs, to snow, and creeks, each area has its own distinctive feel.
The Collector’s EditionWhat I have to say about the collector’s edition did not affect my overall score of the game, but I did want to let people in on what was included if they were planning on buying it from someone. So, below are the contents and my thoughts on them:- The Art Book: The concept art book is probably the most quality art book I have ever owned. The binding is well done, the spine is tight, and the quality of the cover is amazing. This art book is not tiny like many that come with games; it is a couple hundred or so pages of amazing drawings and concept art from the game. I would imagine that this would sell on its own at a bookstore for around $30 or $40, if they sold it.- The Map: I’ll be honest, I was really hoping for a roll-up/folding cloth map, but this isn’t bad. The paper feels like it is quality and will last for a good amount of time, I just don’t see myself pulling this out when I play the game nor will I be framing it any time soon.- The DVD: I have watched a bit of the DVD, and it is your standard fare when it comes to “the-making-of” you get whenever this is included with a game. Cool, but not insanely special.- The Alduin Dragon Statue: I would have loved to see this as a statue with a little more substance and weight behind it, but that would be asking a lot. For the money paid, the PVC statue is actually pretty sick and now sits as one of the centerpieces of my display cabinet in my home office.With everything you get, I would say you are not getting a bargain price on the items, but you are getting what you pay for with your $150. Non-bargain price aside, I think this is one of the best put together collector’s editions out there and I am glad I paid the extra cash for it. That being said, I think some kind of an avatar item or in-game bonus would have been nice, just to sweeten the deal a bit.
OverallThe game has some mechanical quirks and some story issues, there is no denying it. However, even with these inconveniences, the game is grossly entertaining and never gets boring, even if you are walking an exceptionally long distance from one town to the next. When it all boils down to it, I give Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim an 8.75/10.