The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I was going to wait until I’d finished Skyrim before delivering my verdict, but I started playing Morrowind in 2002 and can’t really say I’ve finished that, either.

Skyrim is the best game of 2011. I think that goes without saying. The ever-reliable Adam Sessler at G4TV – one of those rare critics whose opinion you can pretty much take as gospel – put it this way: “Skyrim … is the apotheosis, not only of the open-world format, but of what games can accomplish. It is perhaps the finest experience ever made available in the medium.”

That’s not even exaggerating.

How to even begin? OK. I’ll put it this way. After spending quite some time exploring the realm of the Nords, I worried that I wasn’t “feeling the love”. I couldn’t find anything to dislike, or criticise, or anything that wasn’t absolutely as it should be (and, no, I’m not going to count the occasional minor glitch – such as an overlapping texture – in a game with 300 hours of gameplay). It was just that I didn’t have that jaw-to-the-floor astonishment that I had been anticipating in the many-years wait for the fifth Elder Scrolls adventure.

Then it occurred to me that I was simply taking everything for granted. The world was so fully realised, so whole and so real that I had become entirely immersed in it and was taking everything at face value. Of course I didn’t find anything outstanding because everything did exactly what I expected it to do rather than jolting me out of the moment by doing something wrong.

After 20 hours, I reached the north coast and had my first sharp-intake-of-breath. I was watching the Northern Lights over Solitude and standing, awestruck, at that shimmering curtain of green. A mundane sort of magic.

Later, there was a time when I was in a ruin and there was some jaw-dropping flashy magic of the more ethereal variety – pure end-of-Ghostbusters don’t-cross-the-streams stuff, and it was beautiful. It also reminded me of Morrowind, which is always a good thing.

Bethesda have really hammer(fell)ed home the Morrowind reference, even reusing parts of its score. Every inch of Skyrim is like a love letter to those oh-so-demanding Morrowind fans, and there really is no option but to love it back. Almost every oft-mentioned point about what made Morrowind such an incredible experience is faithfully and lovingly recreated. It might lack the “alien” quality that made Morrowind so entirely unique, but if you felt that expansion Bloodmoon would have held up as a standalone game, Skyrim is that with bells on.

Skyrim goes for a more Conan feel (Barbarian, not O’Brien) – call it “low” fantasy or “hard” fantasy, but while there are elves and giants and dragons, it’s gritty and dark and somehow believable. Like Morrowind, everything is matter-of-fact, in a world that feels like it isn’t much interested whether you’re there or not (in contrast to The Truman Show feeling you got in Oblivion).

The interweaving quests are engaging and the characters intriguing, but the best part of the game is the dungeons. Each of them that I’ve seen so far is a work of art in itself. They’re as elaborate as Fallout 3‘s various vaults, but breathtakingly beautiful – filled with waterfalls and ancient treasures. Oh, and traps and puzzles and undead hordes.

If you have a choice between buying the game on the 360 or the PC, I’d recommend the console version as the interface does handle better – but you’ll need an HD TV or the text is annoyingly small. Luckily I’d done the bulk of my playing on the PC beforehand so didn’t need to read much when I switched to the console version.

I can’t say too much more without just retreading what’s been said many times better by other people. It just does everything so well, and makes it look effortless.

I didn’t know how Bethesda could top Fallout 3, but Skyrim makes it look almost shoddy in comparison.

I’m with Sessler on this one.



4 comments on “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

  1. Loved reading thoughts from a comprehensive person. It’s time to duel! WITH MY FAVOURITE DRINKING BUDDY.

    I got to 120 hours in gameplay and I’m burnt out. I’m on the fence with exactly how much I enjoyed it, because for those 120 hours I was glued into the game, but now I’m totally done I’ve lost interest. I even tried to start enough character and I realised that I just couldn’t face the game again.

    In general I think my being not impressed with the game just boils down to the majority of the world being so bland/nothing special. I think the ‘alien’ aspects of Morrowind, most notably the environment, are what made it so exquisitely esoteric and gave the Elder Scrolls the edge over other RPGs. Skyrim’s langscape seems like it’s nothing special since I’ve been to places around the world that look exactly like it, played games that have had identical settings and seen movies that have created the same set up. There is snow and ice and pine trees and disgusting little children, like every other RPG (Dragon Age ugh).

    I agree that the character’s approach was much better than the Truman show (lol) of Oblivion. Though the characters are little c-words. I walk past a guard and I recieve the obnoxiously recycled “SO YOU CAN CAST A FEW SPELLS, AM I SUPPOSED TO BE IMPRESSED?!” (yes, I’m the Arch-mage of Winterhold).

    Children. Horrible addition. Shallow and pointless. I see we can only have human children (boring). The snotty children sprout delights such as acting as though they’re 150 years old (do Bethesda think it’s funny or something, because I’ve met 3 characters that have done that) or recite mantras such as “I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE MY ELDER” and “AH EXCELLENT ANOTHER ADVENTURER TO LICK MY FATHER’S BOOTS”. Thank FUCK there is a ‘disable’ option to get rid of the little shits. They serve no purpose, and they’re just little bitches – they’re not even polite or likable, just rude and loud mouthed.

    Skyrim’s setting just isn’t anything special. I’m glad that Bethesda have exhausted their share of boring settings (Skyrim, Cyrodil, Hammerfell. High Rock – all the ‘men’ race provinces – have been visited and I don’t think Bethesda will visit them again unless they do a reboot. Which I hear they are. Ugh), so hopefully we’ll now get a glimpse of the beautiful and unique places like Elsywer, SUMMERSET ISLE (I would die if the next one was set there), Akavir, Blackmarsh. Valenwood may suck, but we’ll see. We need to see some more unique and magical settings because the transition of a stock ‘medieval’ setting in Daggerfall to the incredible landscape in Morrowind was really what distinguished the company from other works.

    I think my standards of RPGs is largely evaluated by architecture. !

    Hate the interface and agree with you – if I could I would buy the game for XBox/console rather than PC.

    Dragons are my least favourite part of the game – they are more annoying than Cliffracers. They have a similar rate at how often they turn up, but unlike our skylamp pals they don’t swoop down to kill you. They fly around like stupid little children and take a good deal of time to fly down. If I hear a dragon shriek and hear the dull hackneyed yodelling theme begin, I turn God Mode on and go and make a sandwich. Often the dragon still hasn’t dropped to the ground.

    Questlines are too brief. The main quest can easily be done in about 4 hours (from my guess). Faction quest lines are around 10 quests long and they all just follow one main quest, every quest is linked to the final outcome and there’s no sense of doing it just for fun. Like in Morrowind when Habasi is like “Go get me a diamond” -> that diamond doesn’t come back in the final quest to reveal it’s your grandfather, it was just a normal quest. I killed two people for the Companions and they were like “YOU ARE ONE OF THE FINEST WARRIORS OF ALL TIME” (I’d used magic) “AND YOU SHOULD JOIN OUR TOP SECRET CIRCLE”. W/ever.

    Also, Sheogorath’s crap isn’t funny. It never was. CHEESE is not funny.

    Dungeons are leaps and bounds better than Oblivion, more variety but of course the sort of lay-out. I’m sick of running into the Draugr in every single dungeon, all the traps are the same and I’m bored of having to do the elaborate waiting for magic to regen while fighting Deathlords, who aren’t tough, but have a LOT of life. They have their moments but – oh sweet fuck, EVERY Dwemer ruin is infested by fuck ugly Falmer. They’re beyond grotesque. I really loathe any type of dungeon crawl, and Skyrim is all about the great outdoors. Puzzles are stupid – the answer to everything is that you look on the dragon’s claw. Truly a marvel.

    The music, as always, is pretty and ambient and suits the environment, but the dungeon ‘music’ and the battle drones are typical Jeremy Soule bullshit. I loathe and avoid battles because I can’t handle the music (it’s so over the top as it is). Didn’t think much of the Oblivion and Morrowind appropriation either.

    I’m just impossible to please. 😛 It’s just in my nature to focus on what I DON’T like. Assume everything else is perfect…

    • I hate to do this to you, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to fire you from the internet. How can you not love the dungeons! Sheo not FUNNY? *gasp* *choke*

      Wrong, wrong, WRONG!

      Yeees, like everyone else on the entire planet (other than Todd, obviously), I truly wish Bethesda would leave the human realms behind and make a kick-ass Summerset Isle game. But didn’t you love the Dwemer ruins? (I do love-to-hate the Falmer – aren’t they supposed to be snow elves? More like Fallout 3’s trogs!) The landscape might be very earthly but it is beautiful and varied. You’re lucky enough to have travelled extensively – Skyrim is likely the only way I’ll ever get to experience the Northern Lights.

      I like the kids – would have modded them in if they weren’t there.

      Quest lines too brief? I’ve clocked up about 30 hours on the PC and several more on the console and barely got halfway through the main quest. I forget what the speed run record is on Skyrim – two hours? – but don’t forget that Morrowind could be completed in under eight minutes.

      Not sure what you mean about the faction quests – people complain if there AREN’T ramifications. So, basically in pleasing everyone else, Bethesda have angered you? The side-quests are the just-for-fun quests – go clear the bandits out of the cave. 🙂

      Maybe you found the puzzles easy, but I’ve had to consult the strategy guide for a couple of puzzles that definitely didn’t have claws attached. (One, there is no trick to – you just have to time it right.)

      Nope. You’re just wrong. GTFO. :p

  2. Love love LOVE the Dwemer ruins. I almost started crying from happiness when I found Markarth. Love that they brang (is that spelt right? Firefox says it’s wrong) them back but the fact there is a festering pit of Falmer at the bottom of everysingle one is just gross. I can’t wait to mod some houses with the furniture and tileset though. Also Falmer were Snow Elves but apparently they stayed under the earth too long and were made into slaves or some shit and mutilated themselves. I don’t get what Todd has against actual fantasy, he’s totally holding back the innovation of the company in terms of developing their lore.

    I still don’t buy the landscape. It’s either snowy or foresty. I was over it when they brought in Bloodmoon. Although it should be said that I love towns and cities 2592135626 times more than the outside, so that’s just a preference thing.

    I also hate children and vow I will never become a father in real life either (just you watch me). You’re biased. =P

    I actually got 40 hours into the game and then started a new one. It’s just that Skyrim’s quest lines don’t take you all over the world. Unlike Morrowind (sorry to not reference Oblivion so much, it tried) where the main quest took you to cities all over the world with a variety of quests and tasks to complete. Skyrim just doesn’t have the same depth of involvement from everyone. I remember when I picked up Moon and Star and Azura was like “GO EVERYWHERE AND TALK TO LIKE 20 PEOPLE” and I was gasping at the sheer size of the task. I also didn’t finish the Main Quest until about 80 hours in because I was doing other things – I also wasn’t really compelled by the characters who are a punch of paranoid assholes without any sense of justice (they are, just wait til you get to the end). The ending of the MQ is underwhelming because it just felt so … sudden.

    Take DB Questline in Oblivion. You’re inducted into the family, you perform 6 or so cool really unique killings, then you’re summoned. You kill your family, then you keep going. Another 3 killings and THEN you realise it’s a mistake and then you go from there. Skyrim is one (or two) quest, and then that leads to a major plot breakthrough, and then every other quest you do is to lead up to your contract of killing a certain figure (I can’t say who til you’ve finished it!). Same with Thieves Guild – the person who you are trying to expose in the first, and every quest following, is directly linked to in the last quest. There’s no variation of clients like in Morrowind where it was like “Do 20 minor quests then Gentlemen Jim will ask you to do special jobs that will slowly get people to change sides” and so on. The faction quest lines are like a big filthy incestral family! =p

  3. “brought”

    I also disagree with the part about exploration: ALL Bethesda’s games operate the same way, where you start off as a prisoner and are then brought to a village where you can either move on quickly to the nearest city or hang around and do a few local quests. Then each quest takes you slightly further out until you have eventually explored the whole worldspace. I think the first quest you are given is to join the Imperial Legion, who are based in the far north, so you really have no excuse not to explore.

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