The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

The Massively SINGLE-Player Offline Role Playing Game

This has got to be the winner of the “Most time spent on a review” award for me. Clocking in presently at about 270 hours, I finally beat this game. I could have beaten this game much quicker, but I resolved to do as much for side missions, collecting, and leveling as I could before messing with the main story and finishing her up. And, even at 270 hours clocked, I am not able to say I did everything yet because I was trying to be a good guy so I didn’t do some of the more sinister side missions. Anyone that’s been around me recently probably knows this game already. This is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, brought to us by the life-draining people at Bethesda Softworks, and is sequel to other games that have stolen many more hours of my life known as Elder Scrolls, Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Oblivion. Throw in Fallout and there’s no telling what diseases I could have cured had my time been spent there instead. Bethesda can now be blamed for cancer.

It’s nigh impossible to describe the story in total of this game, so I’ll stick to the main story as I did it. You start off as a player type of your choice who is being transported as a prisoner to his execution with other prisoners. For some reason, a dragon attacks and creates a havoc that you use to escape, either with your captors or with fellow captives. I went with the fellow captives ’cause fuck those other guys, am I right? This set me on a path to a town called Whiterun. Shortly after I arrive, a dragon attacks and I’m recruited to throw down on it. I kill that bitch, and then I absorb it’s soul. This is apparently not a common thing. Everyone starts telling me that I’m the Dragonborn, a person that can speak in the language of the dragons and absorb their souls for power without training to do either. I’m told to go to meet with the Greybeards, who train their whole life to speak in the language of dragons. I assume I’m going up this mountain to rub it in to them. After a few well-timed “nah nanny boo boo’s”, they teach me some dragon words and send me on my way. I find out that there’s a big bad dragon named Alduin that has returned and is going to destroy the world unless I can stop him. In the mean time, probably around 250 hours of side missions.

This here is a really good game. When I got to thinking about it, it’s not the best video game experience I’ve had this year. I’ve probably preferred the game experience I had in Batman and even Uncharted better. What no other game I’ve played so far has given me the same value as this game. It’s a quality game, to be sure. But it’s true quality comes from how much game and how much game time you get for the same price as those other games. Batman and Uncharted were really good games, but I was all the way done with them in about 20 to 30 hours. After 280 hours, I wish there were more to do in Skyrim. I’m going to start another playthrough, and not just for the achievements, but for the fun in getting them. I like the first-person, open world RPG’s that Fallout and Borderlands gave me, but I’ve never been nearly as big a dystopia and guns lover as I have been a fantasy and swords lover. Describing the gameplay of this game is difficult as well because you have so many options. Though I finished the game fairly well rounded, I started off playing a game of stealth: sneaking through shadows, firing arrows, watching them run around in circles looking for me, then shooting another arrow when they gave up. As I got better, I would sneak closer and stab them for more damage. But you have many other options. You can do what I did when stealth failed: bust out a sword and shield and throwdown. You can also say “fuck the shield”, and whip out a two handed warhammer, throw on some heavy armor, and start beating the shit out of people. Or get rid of the weapons altogether and blast some magic at some bitches. You get better at these things as you use them, and as you level, you can add perks to different skills to get that much better at them. One problem with this is the lack of respec options. Non nerds may not know, but to “respec” is to start from scratch with your perks but at the same level, in order to basically fix any mistakes you had made. Some gaming purists think you shouldn’t be allowed to do this, because they’re shitheads and probably write C++ programs to map out their ideal perks. Me? I wasn’t sure which way I wanted to go at first. They would say “Start Over”. I would say “Fuck you”. If you don’t want to respec, don’t. For those of us that do, you should add it into your game at release. Gaming purists will buy the game regardless. My point is you have plenty of customization options in the game. I do wish I could get some of the cooler abilities (like breathing underwater, seeing in the dark, etc.) on characters that weren’t humanoid kitty cats or lizards.

The fighting is pretty well done here. You can play this game third person, but I never did. I would only switch to third person to check out my sweet gear and look at my ass. Combat was all first person. With most weapons I used at first, I noticed no real difference from Oblivion or Morrowind. I typically used two-handed weapons like bows and arrows, big swords, or a sword and shield, but there is new variation to be had. Over time, as my skill in magic improved, I would do a lot more one handed sword fighting with a fireball in my left hand. And, even though you have so many options, the ability to make something a ‘favorite’ that can be accessed by pressing up on the digital pad made getting yourself ready a breeze. Another new thing for this game from other Elder Scrolls games is that they brought in the slow motion finishers from Fallout. These were much more interesting than they were in Fallout because you got to watch in slow mo as your character did some cool stabbing or slashing move to kill the shit out of your foe. The problem with this is that the same ability you love so much when it takes out an enemy can be used on you, and sometimes when you still have a pretty good amount of health left. When this happens, you will want to smash something. I never really figured out what caused them or if there was something I could do to stop it from happening, all I did was die and restart from very far back because I’m a lazy saver. I’ve gotten to believing that it has something to do with your level in comparison to the guy you’re fighting, problem is: you’ll have no idea what their level is! You find out if they’re a higher level by running up to them and getting killed in a hit or two. It would be nice if they took a cue from Borderlands and made their name appear in red or orange, or just flat out put a level on them so I could know how seriously I wanted to take this fight.

Graphically (though there are a few hiccups) this game is top notch. Someone more pessimistic than myself could focus on the parts where the landscape doesn’t meet the ground and there’s a hole, but I prefer to see the forest and ignore the small, ugly trees. Generally you get a fantastic grasp of how huge the world is, how lush or dark and foggy or how cold and mysterious the world can be is such great detail that should not be technologically possible. Textures are great, water effects are fantastic, the lighting in different dungeons is great, all of it is a pleasure to look at. There are many different types of enemies to fight in the game – from humanoid to animal and other – but they get repetitive, more from the amount of exploring you do than the lack of types. The much talked about dragons of Skyrim inspire both awe and anxiety in their approach, just as they should. There are different types but all are pretty awesome, they shake the ground with their approach, and some of them can kill you instantly if you don’t take them seriously.

I wondered whether or not I should bring this up, so I’ll give you my justification for it first. I was enjoying myself in the world of Skyrim a great deal for a good while until Bethesda released update patch 1.2 for the game, which ruined the game in many ways. I wondered whether I should bring it up or not because it wasn’t part of the release of the game. I decided to add it into my review because it came up during my review process. Unfortunately for Bethesda, their already-announced fix for this patch will not be released by the time I put this review out, and I ain’t going back in and fixing it. This patch was apparently intended to fix problems with textures loading, a problem I never experienced or noticed. What I did notice was that, after the update, dragons were flying backwards and into the ground, the game was lagging like I was playing it online via dial-up, and it would freeze more often. EPIC FAIL, BETHESDA! And it’s sneaky about it, so you might not notice it for a little while after the patch has been installed, so when I realized it was problematic and tried to take the update away, the files saved using 1.2 would not work without the update, so I either play with the game fucked up or don’t play at all. We both know what I chose. At first, it was easy to ignore, but over time I got a quest or two that required me to kill some of these backwards-flying, game-freezing dragons. I still haven’t been able. Hopefully 1.3 will fix it all, and it should be released within a week or so, but I couldn’t leave it out as it caused me a great deal of frustration.

If you are the type of person who only buys a game every once and a while, only Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 could possibly contend with this game for value for the dollar. And if you’re not into multiplayer or shooters, there is NO game that gives you such value. 280 hours of gameplay and counting, people. I’ve not “tried” for a single achievement, but I’ve gotten 43 out of 50 just playing as I want to play. They’re not too time-consuming, and it’s all fun to get them. The gameplay is great, the customization is fantastic, fighting is great, graphics are great (except for a few small hiccups), this game is great. I just wouldn’t update it until 1.3 comes out if you can avoid it. Even still I give this game “What day/time is it?” out of “280 hours!”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!