Sunday, January 29, 2012

Game review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I am a long time fan of the Elder Scrolls series, playing every main title in the series. I thought that Oblivion had been a step down from the expectations set by Morrowind, so I was a little unsure when Skyrim was announced back at the 2010 Spike VGA's. But, as I read more and more about Skyrim online and on Gameinformer, I became very excited. I had hoped that Skyrim would find the perfect balance between Oblivion's oversimplification and Morrowind's awe-inspiring, massive game world.
I waited anxiously for 11-11-11, and even went to the midnight release at Gamestop.

I was not disappointed. From the moment I started playing, I knew that this was the game I had been hoping for. Bethesda fell through with many of their "promised features" back when Oblivion was released, but they made up for it with Skyrim. Player freedom, a huge, fun to explore world, and a great main storyline are only a few of the traits that Bethesda games are known for, and in Skyrim, they all came together. My first character was a reincarnation of one of my main Oblivion characters, an Imperial warrior named Kelos. I oohed and aahed at the multitude of customization choices in character creations before escaping Helgen and venturing out into the world.

I can only imagine the amount of work that was put into the game world, from all the dungeons, to the impressive, towering mountains, to every little detail on the smallest plants. As Todd Howard, lead developer of Bethesda Game Studios, put it, "Micro-detail and macro-detail." Every last detail in the game world has been painstakingly put in place by the level designers. While you will probably see the same creatures constantly, there is still a good variety of unique creatures and enemies in the game.

All Elder Scrolls games have been plagued by shoddy combat. Bethesda addressed this issue nicely in Skyrim, with dynamic, fast paced combat. There are now several options for combat, and you can assign a different weapon, spell, or shield to each hand. There are also new "finisher moves," which are cutscenes in which the character kills an enemy in several flashy manners, depending on what type of weapon(s) they are using.

The stealth system has also received a much-needed overhaul. An eye replaces the crosshairs while sneaking, widening when an enemy is close to detecting the player. There are also plenty of perks available to mold your character into several different stealth specialties. 

The main questline is intriguing and rewarding, as the player learns more Shouts, or Thu'um in the dragon language. The player is a Dragonborn, meaning they can kill dragons and steal their souls, using these souls to unlock new Shouts. These Shouts are a refreshing new idea, and are quite fun to play around with.

What I have described here only scratches the surface of what Skyrim has to offer. All in all, I believe that this latest chapter of The Elder Scrolls has earned its spot as Game of the Year.

Catalyst King's Rating

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