The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

By Alex Silver

Everyone remembers the first time they truly connected with a video game. For myself, that occasion was when, mostly due to the nagging of my friends, I invested in a gaming PC in 2001. The very first software purchase I made (as per the rather adamant recommendation from the salesman at Best Buy), was a title called “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind”. I went home, excitedly assembled my new toy, and installed the game. From the initial striking chords of Jeremy Soule’s epic string and horn based instrumental score, to the moment I took my first steps into into the kingdom of Tamriel, I never looked back. The sheer sense of expanse and immersion the game presented was completely unrivaled until slightly over a decade later when, in November of 2011 I unboxed the fifth entry in the highly acclaimed Elder Scrolls series, “Skyrim”. While Morrowind remains my favorite game of all time despite its uncountable amount of issues, Skyrim may take a spot in the top ten.

Depending on how observant you are, you may or may not have noticed that I completely disregarded the fourth entry in the series, Oblivion. This is because, while it is still a great game, Oblivion lacked almost all the ingredients that make up a great Elder Scrolls title. One of the main complaints about Oblivion was the severe lack of atmosphere. While Morrowind could jump around from dark and gloomy to bursting with energy in a split second, Oblivion oftentimes felt like every square foot was a carbon copy of the last one. Skyrim completely remedies this issue. Whether you’re strolling through the wide breezy plains outside of the first city you encounter, Whiterun, or you’re making the hike up the seven thousand (count ’em) steps up Skyrim’s tallest (and snowiest) peak, High Hrothgar, every single detail feels as if it was built from the ground up, specifically for the location it happens to be in. Not only does that completely blindside you when you first begin to play, it’s the little things like that which keep you feeling as if you’re an actual citizen of Tamriel. Immersion has almost never been done so well in a video game before, and I say that with utmost certainty.

All the new mechanics Skyrim adds to The Elder Scrolls arsenal is where the title shines, though. Almost every aspect of gameplay or character development touched upon is improved over the previous titles. Things like alchemy and smithing (both of which I completely ignored in Oblivion and Morrowind surreptitious because thy were too tedious) are improved to the point that they’re almost fun to use. After creating my first simple Potion of Restore Health, I felt like I’d actually accomplished something. Leveling is also greatly improved from Oblivion, as Bethesda completely ditched the scaled experience system that frustrated so many gamers. No longer will you, at level one, be able to storm around the countryside, fast-traveling from town to town, beating quests, slaughtering civilians without the need to gain experience, nor when you hit level twenty will you begin to see bandits running around in high-level Daedric and Ebony armor. Everything, rest assured, is balanced with utmost care.

Now I warn you dear reader, whenever I talk about The Elder Scrolls, not unlike when I talk about Dungeons and Dragons, Return of the Jedi, or all you can eat Chinese food buffets, I tend to strap on blinders so as to block out any bad stuff those things might contain (especially that last one). No, Skyrim is not the perfect game. Many issues that are considered commonplace in Bethesda games are still present here, including wonky A.I. that results in NPCs occasionally staring you down while they’re in a conversation completely unrelated to you, and some strange physics bugs including one that that lets you ride your horse up completely vertical surfaces. That being said, it wouldn’t be a Bethesda game without these strange little quirks that we’ve come to know and love, would it?

There is one very large aspect of Skyrim that I’ve left out-the voice acting. Oh dear god, the voice acting. With a cast that includes Max Von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, and Joan Allen, Skyrim sees its fair share of incredible emotional performances.

Skyrim is the exact reason I insist that games are, in fact, art. No medium that can result in something as organically beautiful as Skyrim can possibly be looked at as culturally irrelevant, and every gamer needs to experience the incredible journey firsthand. I’ve dedicated over sixty hours to the game, and still can’t stop playing. For this reason, I give The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 4 gravity defying horses out of 5, and name it as my runner up for Game of the Year.

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