Graphics:
9.5
Gameplay:
9.8
Sound:
9.7
Control:
9.5
Replay Value:
10.0
Overall Rating:
9.7
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
Bethesda
Developer:
Bethesda Softworks
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
RPG
Release Date:
November 11, 2011


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a big game. …look, the understatement of the decade! The latest entry in the long-running role-playing franchise is a gigantic masterpiece; those who wish to indulge will embrace sweeping vistas, intimidating dungeons, soaring mountain ranges, picturesque plains, farms and homesteads, cozy villages and lively towns, and a literally limitless adventure that is dangerously absorbing. Drop everything else you’re doing because Skyrim is here.

Graphically, the game is a mammoth achievement, despite the lackluster up-close textures. Given the sheer size and scope of the production, the excellence of the visual presentation is absolutely mind-boggling. Water is beautiful, the far-reaching landscape will take your breath away, and when snow begins to fall in the mountains at night, you’ll feel the chill sitting in your recliner at home. Combat effects and animations are top-notch, even if character refinement isn’t as stellar the more cinematic titles like Uncharted . The attention paid to detail is endlessly impressive.

Side note- I know everyone is wondering how the PS3 version stacks up against the Xbox 360 version. As some of you know, I had the 360 version to review, but recently, I’ve also been able to see the game on Sony’s machine. Really, it’s basically the same; both look amazing. I also didn’t notice any frame rate issues in the PS3 version, a common problem in past Bethesda productions. Check other PS3 reviews for further info.

The sound continually adds to the gripping immersion. Tons of competent voice actors were used, the ambient effects when exploring the wilderness remind us of our vulnerability and inherent human fear, and the soundtrack’s classically orchestral vibe solidifies the experience. The music kicks up a notch in particularly harrowing situations and while I actually wanted more ambient audio when exploring, this remains one of the most complete and accomplished sound efforts of the generation. Use headphones for ultimate absorption.

As for the gameplay, I really don’t know where to start. This is one of those times when a review could go on for pages and pages, but one has to refrain from rambling. That gets boring, doesn’t it? Let’s start with the basics- in terms of control, you can select either a first-person or third-person view for your character. Both viewpoints are perfectly functional, although I prefer the first-person camera as it amps up the immersion, which is the primary goal of Skyrim . You’ll start your endless quest by choosing one of eight classes.

As you might expect, these classes range widely and you should pick the one that caters to your play style. Mostly for the sake of this review, I selected the Imperial, as he is capable in both melee combat and magic, so I could easily test both aspects of combat. But in truth, the game isn’t as restrictive as you might think: as an Imperial, I can still wear most anything I want, and equip most anything I want. I can use a bow, too; I may not be as good at it as the elf, but I can use it. This freedom for all classes is absolutely fantastic.

You’re never really forced into a mold. While it’s certainly true that it makes more sense to go with the Khajit class if you wish to play stealthily, there’s nothing saying you can’t sneak about with the Nord. You just won’t have the inherent skill in your blood. But I really love the fact that the game never dictates to you; it never really tells you what you can and can’t do. True, you’ll be better at certain things, but the gameplay is entirely up to you. Dual-wield with magic in your left and a weapon in your right? Fine.

In fact, that’s what I started doing a lot, although I’d switch to the shield in my left hand when up-close-and-personal, and I even used the bow and snuck around at times, too. When your character levels up, he or she can add 10 points to Magicka, Health, or Stamina, and then one point can be used in a skill tree. The trees range widely, from one-handed, blocking, and destruction, to restoration, conjuration, illumination, speech, smithing, alchemy, and more. And within each tree are plenty of abilities, some of which can be upgraded several times.

The individual skills require that you hit a certain level for that particular discipline. For instance, the more you block with a shield, the more your Block number goes up. The more you take damage, the more your light or heavy armor discipline rises. Therefore, the more you do something, the better you’re going to get at it, which makes perfect sense and believe it or not, it encourages experimentation to some extent. As you progress, though, you’ll want to focus on the skills and disciplines you use most often, so you can master a certain style.

The depth is obviously there. You can only carry a certain amount, but if you purchase a house, you can drop off items you wish to keep and walk around with a lighter load. You can also sell your loot to merchants and purchase items and equipment. To enhance the effectiveness of those items and equipment, visit the blacksmith to sharpen a weapon (grinding stone) or create all new weapons in various metals (the forge), find an alchemy lab to make new potions, or magically enchant weapons and armor.

But beyond the insane depth and solid control, the rest of the world grabs you and refuses to let go. For the first few hours, you’ll be on foot and the vast environment will prove daunting. That’s why you should buy a horse at the earliest opportunity; it allows you to travel much faster, and you won’t sacrifice that “oh, wow ” factor that is routinely part of your exploration. You’ll still get attacked on the horse, although it can outrun most things; if you wish, just get down and fight the thing. The control here is fine, too.

There’s just so much to see and do. It’s completely ridiculous. Because the world is so tremendously huge, the game allows you to discover a location and fast travel to it later. So in other words, all you have to do is see “Discovered ‘Enter Landmark Name Here’,” and from then on, you can highlight it on your map and just hit Fast Travel. It’s a huge help and a damn good idea. I can’t imagine what the game would be like if you couldn’t do this. But when you go to complete a mission, don’t be surprised if you come back with a half-dozen more.

The game just doesn’t seem to end, and that’s due to the radiant quest system. The game will continually deliver new quests depending on your progression; someone may send you some place you haven’t discovered yet, for example. In general, the quests force you to fully discover the very large world of Skyrim, so you rarely end up going the same place twice. While you’re outside, you could up fighting a giant spider, a witch, or any number of fearsome, fantastical creatures that inhabit the dangerous wilds. It’s just plain intoxicating.

Now, many readers know that heading into this review, I was not a fan of The Elder Scrolls . I desperately tried to get into Morrowind and Oblivion but I couldn’t do it. So what’s different about Skyrim ? I think I’ve pinpointed the reasons: firstly, I didn’t feel like a pathetically weak individual at the start. I was taking down wolves and bandits immediately and while my progression had only just begun (and there was a loooong way to go), I was still swinging swords and maces and casting cool spells, and emerging victorious. And yet, the challenge was still there.

Secondly, the world just seems to have much more character than past Elder Scrolls entries. Maybe it’s the mountains or how the landscape is constructed, but I adore this environment because it matches the image in my head of a dream fantasy universe. Thirdly, I mentioned before the fact that you’re not restricted at all and while that may have been the case in past titles, I feel like any class could be great fun to use. Being a mage in Morrowind , for instance, felt needlessly tedious. Fourthly and lastly, the missions seem much more entertaining and diverse.

Problems? Oh, there are a few minor ones, I suppose. The “follow” mechanics don’t work right, for instance. You can hire mercenaries and other characters to accompany you on your travels – which can be a big help – and that tends to work out okay. But when I tried leading a civilian to a sanctuary (he asked me to), it was frustrating. Once, he went off to attack a deer that I didn’t engage, and he ended up dying ‘cuz he only had his fists. Another time, he just walked off into the river and disappeared. And when I finally got him there, I got nothing for my trouble.

And there are a few small glitches and hitches seemingly common to open-world Bethesda games. Pop-in is a definite issue throughout, and NPC animations can be jerky and totally bizarre. Collision detection is a tad off, too. But these are very minor, primarily because after about 12 hours of play, I had only seen each a few times. And the bottom line is that none of it significantly hampered my enjoyment. I had to laugh when a giant I wasn’t supposed to fight clubbed me to death and sent my body spiraling off into the stratosphere. But really, no biggie.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a beast of an RPG. It’s the ultimate in freedom, exploration and immersion. It features a fantastic and diverse visual spectrum, excellent audio, solid control, limitless choice and almost no restriction, and above all else, a world that opens our imaginations and begs us to return. There are a few small drawbacks that can’t be ignored and in truth, all those missions detract from the central narrative and almost make it disappear. But for the first time, I’ll say I don’t need it. This is about personal envelopment and progresson.

Damnit…said I wouldn’t ramble but I think I did. Well, the game deserves the attention. 😉

The Good: Unbelievable graphics for such a huge environment. Fantastic audio. Great control. Diverse, engaging missions. Radiant quest structure elongates the adventure indefinitely. Ultimate freedom in gameplay and exploration. Meticulously designed and constructed fantasy world.

The Bad: A few of those familiar glitches. Follow mechanics aren’t exactly perfect.

The Ugly: “Goddamn you, Skyrim, I have all these other games I want to play and you won’t let me escape!”

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Nas Is Like
Nas Is Like
9 years ago

9.7? Amazing score.

I might have to check this game out, but I'm afraid I'll stop leaving my home for a good couple of months…

Shams
Shams
9 years ago

The first Elder Scrolls and Fallout 3 got 9.6's (from Arnold) way back. Vegas got a 7 something. So, Skyrim must've done plenty right, especially with Ben not being a fan of former titles.

I just got a fancy-schmancy Asus laptop on the cheap, and I also gotta pc copy of Fallout 3:Goty a while back that I haven't played. I'll have to try that out first.

Nerull
Nerull
9 years ago

I'm not reading the meat of the review til I get a few hours in. I've got some mailing to wait for but preorders are a rarity for me.
As the score suggests though it doesn't disappoint and Raiden knows how many hours it provides.
Here's a touch of what I'm listening to fill the wait.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVAIj_2rjxA
Koivu Ja Tähtiob=av3n

cheers

riptide8
riptide8
9 years ago

all I can say is wow… a tri platform game and a mark I have seen only a few times. I cant wait till tomorrow….Sounds like it was a solid purchase


Last edited by riptide8 on 11/10/2011 5:32:41 PM

TheAgingHipster
TheAgingHipster
9 years ago

Tomorrow? Hell son, go hit a midnight release! You'll get it tonight, AND you'll likely score some swag!

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

Thanks for that Ben, righteous review as always. Sounds like just like I hoped, Oblivion on crank. The only thing I have issue with is the inability to block while dual wielding weapons but I'll survive.

So 'cited for tomorrow.

ImTheMan
ImTheMan
9 years ago

On Crank? Jason Statham! lol

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

Jason Statham is a pimp

Alienange
Alienange
9 years ago

You sure about that? I think you can block with dual-wielding weapons, it's just not as effective.

Yukian
Yukian
9 years ago

@World He's the PIMP of the pimps… he pimpslaps!!! lol


Last edited by Yukian on 11/10/2011 9:19:46 PM

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

Maybe they changed it, but I read an interview where Bethesda said you can't.

Alienange
Alienange
9 years ago

That WOULD be slightly disappointing.

Vivi_Gamer
Vivi_Gamer
9 years ago

I'm still sceptical over my experience with Oblivion, sure this game has a lot of content, but I ask this simple question. Is it interesting? I have been watching my flatmates play Borderlands recently and all it is is just a bunch of side quests/fetch quests with no real relevance. The game is just bland.

I played Oblivion, for 15 hours at least. But once I got to a certain ability and had a certain amount of items, I felt content. I felt no need to complete the story, as It just was not interesting.

I like my stories to have in-depth characters, in Oblivion, I could not care less for anyone. Same for FFXII for that matter, hence the massive disappointment. Maybe this just simply isn’t for me.


Last edited by Vivi_Gamer on 11/10/2011 5:39:29 PM

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

probably not, as the main story is never the point of these games. Though I hear this one is supposed to be better than Oblivions.

Palpatations911
Palpatations911
9 years ago

It definitely sounds more polished than some of the previous games, but as I was reading the review I felt that I could have been reading a review for Oblivion or Morrowind, because all of the gameplay elements you mentioned are familiar to me except for the ability to dual wield.

I still have it pre-ordered and can't wait to play it though.

Oxvial
Oxvial
9 years ago

I agree think gonna pass those games didn't click with me and I really tried putting 10 hours on each one.

Snaaaake
Snaaaake
9 years ago

This is the first time since Dragon Age I'm actually excited for an WRPG.

But then again, I'll wait for the GOTY edition next year.

Nickjcal
Nickjcal
9 years ago

Can't wait to get my review copy tomorrow! Woot!

frylock25
frylock25
9 years ago

i dont have any money for a while but if i do get the money i will pick this up for sure. i really want to see this game and would love to play it. i fear that i may lose myself in it like i have in fallout games. glad to see this game scoring well. another must have for the year.

SolidFantasy
SolidFantasy
9 years ago

Wow. This looks dangerous. I want this, but I don't have the time. It's not easy being an RPG fan / completionist. These kinds of game scare me and yet I want to say I've done everything on it there is to do.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
9 years ago

With a game like this that is specifically designed to be open ended, there is not really scope to 'complete' it since there is always something new around the corner.

This game – despite the apparent high quality – is not my kind of game. That doesn't mean it's poor, it's just not for me.

The Doom
The Doom
9 years ago

But the winner was supposed to be Dark Souls….

Oxvial
Oxvial
9 years ago

Winner at what? Skyrim is a bigger franchise of course gonna pwn Dark Souls at being a RPG, but for me Dark Souls is my winner..better gameplay,cool mp online(still not at Demon's Souls level but time can change that), challenging and awesome boss battles.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
9 years ago

The winner is whatever game you prefer to play.

thatguy6598
thatguy6598
9 years ago

i'm the only one who gets the reference you just made to the ign comments, at least i think i am.

Riku994
Riku994
9 years ago

Ben would you mind discussing character creation a little bit in comparison to Oblivion?


Last edited by Riku994 on 11/10/2011 6:59:28 PM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

I can't as I don't really remember Oblivion that well. I'm thinking it's similar.

Geobaldi
Geobaldi
9 years ago

There's a brief video at the Gametrailers website that shows the character creation in action. Or go to Youtube, I'm sure there are some there that you can compare with. Looks about the same in my opinion but Skyrim has a few more options to choose from by the looks of it, and characters look a lot better and have more variety then Oblivion.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
9 years ago

Nice! Great review! I was going to wait til thanksgiving to get this game because I have a ling weekend that week, but I just bought UC3, BF3, and MW3, although beaten still very repayable. But now I want Skyrim even more!

cLoudou
cLoudou
9 years ago

Wow, 9.7 is certainly intriguing me. I may pick it up at some point, even if I don't like WRPGs. I gave FO3 and Deus Ex a chance I might as well give this a chance even if I didn't like the two I mentioned.

friction
friction
9 years ago

Glad the series finally came around to you ben 🙂 Great review along with all the others out there, 3 hours and 15 minutes to go here…


Last edited by friction on 11/10/2011 7:45:49 PM

friction
friction
9 years ago

Also can you equip your mercenaries and citizen's who follow you? lol @ the deer that took out your citizen 😛

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

No, there's no party mechanic. It's just you.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

You can recruit followers a la Fallout 3.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
9 years ago

Followers are little more than henchmen worlds, not a party in the conventional sense of having party members that can swap in and out of the lead role.

Beamboom
Beamboom
9 years ago

Actually you can equip your companions.

It's the same mechanics for equipping your companions as is the case in the Fallout games: If they like what you hand them they will start using that weapon or armor instead of their own. Basically just give them the same kind of equipment they already use (like heavy/light armor, 2h weapons etc) and of good quality, and they usually will swap. This is very individual though, some use almost anything you hand them, while others insist on using their own stuff.

Personally I think this is a very cool detail in the Bethesda rpgs.


Last edited by Beamboom on 11/13/2011 12:04:07 PM

friction
friction
9 years ago

Yea I know the elder scrolls series well, and fallout, so I knew how they would act, I was just wondering if you could equip them, and lol took bens word for it.

So I had some mercenary fighting dragons with me with iron weapons, until I traded him a dwarven mace because I was over encumbered and would you look at that he equipped it 😛 So just trade emm what you want them to wear 🙂

I love that they allowed for this.

hellish_devil
hellish_devil
9 years ago

Ben, I have a question. The only problem I had with Oblivion was that the combat was not fun. I played it on PC and it was all "mash the button, step back, cast a spell with shooter accurancy. Crap I missed. Staart button mashing again. Rinse. Repeat" I loved the atmosphere and all but combat was the worst part of it. Are Skyrim's battle mechanics similar to Oblivion's? Or has it changed and it is better?

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

I think they're similar but that's a way oversimplified description of the combat in my opinion.

hellish_devil
hellish_devil
9 years ago

Oh, ok. What I did in Oblivion was get my Intelligence up to 100, learn the best summons and always summon my giant beast so that he fought and I just watched. I hated combat that much.


Last edited by hellish_devil on 11/10/2011 8:29:00 PM

Oxvial
Oxvial
9 years ago

Well is a great game that gonna make all of you stop getting into other titles, don't worry dudes I'm gonna be playing those ones in your name.

LegendaryWolfeh
LegendaryWolfeh
9 years ago

Hm, but what exactly keeps it from being a 10 instead of an 9.7? I mean if you only complaints are a couple of glitches and the minor problem of the follow command being terrible. Just don't see much reason to not give it a 10 in your review. Just wondering of course 🙂 It seems like you really loved it, which seems quite intriguing since I know you love the traditional JRPG genre quite a bit. I personally am just waiting for it to finish downloading so I can play whenever it's unlocked in a few hours.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

You answered your own question. How can I give a game with glitches a 10, even if they're small? 😉


Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 11/10/2011 9:17:46 PM

LegendaryWolfeh
LegendaryWolfeh
9 years ago

Well, I'm pretty sure there isn't one single game to never have a glitch, no matter how small or widespread it is 🙁 Just thinking, how much can you really go, yeah this is a 9.7 instead of an 9.9 or 10. I think this is probably why I agree with a non decimal based system, though .5's are ok. haha.

Beamboom
Beamboom
9 years ago

There is no such thing as the *perfect* game, ergo a ten blank is impossible. I believe that is essensially bens opinion on this subject, one that I wholeheartedly agree with.

Personally I want to add that to me a 9.7 is virtually a tenner. It place the game up amongst not only the best games this gen, but one of the best games in the history of gaming.


Last edited by Beamboom on 11/11/2011 3:19:17 AM

LegendaryWolfeh
LegendaryWolfeh
9 years ago

But uncharted 3 got a 10? And I've heard some people having glitches and the like in it as well, hell we have one in the forum as we speak. (though that seems more like a coding failure or something)

Fane1024
Fane1024
9 years ago

10 does not mean perfect (or, more accurately, flawless); it merely means top-notch and so is an entirely valid score which should be used when appropriate.

Beamboom
Beamboom
9 years ago

@Wolfeh: U3 was reviewed by Arnold, not Ben. One might even speculate if it was reviewed by Arnold *because* Ben refuse to hand out a perfect ten. But that is of course pure speculation on my part. The thought did cross my mind though.

@Fane: Many are with you on that reasoning. I just think of a "perfect ten" differently. In my opinion a perfect ten (or a 100% score) is like the unreachable, ultimate game. The Nirvana of gaming.


Last edited by Beamboom on 11/13/2011 11:54:47 AM

ZenChichiri
ZenChichiri
9 years ago

Wow awesome. I've never gotten into Elder's Scrolls games for the same reasons as you had, but if you say that even you could get into this one, I think I'll give it a try.

I was on the fence, but I guess it looks like I'll be reaching for the rim of the sky soon! (I'm such a cheeseball)

OverBerg
OverBerg
9 years ago

Great review, Ben.
Damn it. I still have barely scratched the surface of Dark Souls and I haven't even started UC3 yet! I really want this, but I think I would be fired and divorced. I'll just have to wait, I suppose.
Ah, first world problems.

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