2011-11-21

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – So Much To Do…And Dragons Too

by Yo Snyder

This is a huge game. So don’t think of this as a review, but just
some impressions from several hours with the game that should provide
you with enough information to decide whether or not you should get it.

The
Elder Scrolls games have always been about vast realms into which the
gamer is placed to explore as they see fit. Do what you will and see
what the game world has for you. Follow the main plot or don’t. Do some
side missions or don’t. There’s so much to do and so much freedom that
it can almost be paralyzing. In just a few hours of play my quest log
was already filled with interesting side-quests and adventures for me to
explore that I didn’t know which to try. So I didn’t do any of them and
narrowly focused on the main adventure. Yet even doing that didn’t keep
me from wandering off the beaten path in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Skyrim, in many ways, is like a fantasy, Lord of the Rings version of Red Dead Redemption.
You have a huge, open, living world to explore as you see fit. Although
I determined to follow only the main quest, that didn’t keep me from
wondering. As I traveled the mountainous realm, I couldn’t help but
constantly wonder, “What’s that over there?” or “What’s this place over
here?”. Once I encountered a giant, who promptly launched me literally
into the stratosphere. Another time some old ruins happened to house
some bandits who thought I was an easy target (they paid for their
assumption with their lives). Yet another time I stumbled across an old
fort where some dark mages were learning the arts of alchemy and
potions. They were none too happy to see me, but I was more than happy
to loot them for goods and knowledge after defeating them. I found
mysterious caves and old ruins. I encountered wild life and roaming
bandits. Pretty much every where I turned there was something begging
for my attention and making me stray from the path of my quest.

This isn’t because the main quest isn’t interesting, because it is. Dragons are always cool, and in Skyrim
it’s up to you to determine why the dragons have returned. You are
uniquely qualified to do this because you are one of the “dragonborn”;
which gives you some unique talents and abilities. It’s an intriguing
storyline and one that I was anxious to explore…it’s just there are so
many other things to do that are also really interesting. Still, in the
time that I stuck to the path of my quest, I met some interesting
people, I fought a dragon (which was truly epic), explored a dark and
dangerous ruins, solved some simple puzzles, and much, much more. If all
you do is the main quest in this game, you will enjoy a fun, epic
story.

However, not everything is flawless in the realm of Skyrim.
Graphically the game is quite gorgeous. The snow covered peaks, the
rich forests, and the barren plains all look fantastic, just don’t look
too closely or textures might get a bit blurry and the trees might look
more like paper cut-outs. Characters are all rendered well, but they
animate stiffly, especially during conversations. Speaking of that,
maybe I’m just spoiled by games like Mass Effect, but I thought the
conversations were one of the weakest elements of the game. I never felt
like I was interacting with the characters, but rather that they were
simply reading off information that I needed to know based on the
selected input I chose. Plus, there were times where my proximity would
trigger a conversation without any input, but I could still talk to
someone else while others were talking and all that talk simply
overlapped and was just confusing. Skyrim has a rich and
interesting history, and as dragonborn, it’s actually pretty important
to know some of it. Too bad learning about it by talking to people is
like trying to sit through a boring university lecture. 

Combat
isn’t stellar, I never really felt like I was actually hitting something
with any sort of impact, but you do have a lot of options to keep it
interesting. You can dual wield weapons, which is fun, or use a shield,
or use a weapon and your magic; an especially advantageous option. The
leveling in Skyrim works really well as it’s the things you use
most that you level up. So, if like me, you use a one-handed weapon and
wield magic with the other, those are the elements that will improve.
Other skills like lock-picking, smithing, crafting, alchemy and more
will level up the more you do them. The great thing about this system is
your character naturally grows in the areas you enjoy most, so it’s
easy to have a character that fits your preferred style of play. 

The other thing I noted about Skyrim
was some of the crazy glitches that occur. I already mentioned how at
times several characters will all talk at once, but even wackier things
can happen. I was walking along a path at one point when a dead giant
suddenly fell out of the air. How or why, I don’t know; it just
happened. Also, traveling along a mountain path I noticed some wolves
suddenly appear in mid-air, drop to the ground, remain frozen for a
moment, and then suddenly they came to life and attacked me. Weird. I
also gained a traveling companion, but one moment she’d be with me, the
next I’d be all alone, and then suddenly she’d be there again to help.
It kind of made it hard to think of her as an important person to
interact with when she was there randomly. These are just some minor
things I encountered, there are far crazier ones that have been
discovered, so just be aware that while this game is massive and quite
beautiful, it’s also rather glitchy. 

Content wise, the game is rated M, but that’s perhaps to just cover all the bases of what you might possibly
encounter in various situations. The combat has, what I felt was rather
random, splashes of blood with every swing, and also there’s the issue
of magic and dark magic that might give some pause. There are also lots
of scary creatures from zombies to vampires to werewolves to giant
spiders (ick!) and much more. Definitely not a game for younger players,
and some of the issues raised so far as magic, worship, gods and
legends and the rest should raise some interesting conversations for
slightly older gamers. Just some things to be aware of.

I’ve played about ten hours or so of Skyrim,
and I’ve barely scratched the surface. My friend has played about the
same amount and hasn’t even properly begun the main quest yet and
instead has filled his time with side-quests and plots. There is a LOT
to do in Skyrim, and a lot of freedom and a lot choices. This
game can easily become your new life if you aren’t careful. The richness
of the world and the content make up for the awkwardness of the
glitches and the stiffness of many of the characters, so if you’re
looking for a massive time sink, think slaying dragons are cool, and
love anything that has that fantasy, Middle-Earth vibe, this is the game
for.