Normally I’d dedicate more time to a game of this scope and depth, but I’m spending too much time actually playing the damned thing. There are also more than enough reviews out there that go into the nitty gritty details of it all, so I’ll be as concise as I can. This is, after all, a 5 Minute Review.
Skyrim has depth. It’s astounding exactly how much there is to see, let alone do. I’ve read accounts by elderly gamers who spend days simply wandering the hills and woods, encountering hamlets, towns and cities, surmounting alps during the day and following the streams at night. Quests soon heap up as you speak to more characters and further involve yourself in the affairs of Skyrim. Some may simply feel like fetch quests, but they run in tandem with other major quest lines, so if you happen to be in the area, you can fulfil commitments as you go. The game very rarely feels like a grind because your progression is consistent with your actions in game.
The combat system is progressive – for every successful action that occurs, you will gain experience. The more you use Heavy Armour, the more proficient you will be at using it. The more you Sneak and Pickpocket, the more those abilities will progress. Dual wielding abilities is also efficient – want to cast Flames in one hand and block melee attacks with the other? Wield a Stamina-sapping war axe in one hand and a life-leeching mace in the other? Go ahead.
The depth of Skyrim can get to the point where it becomes intimidating – where does one begin in a world where you are allowed free reign? For those gamers that need direction and clear cut instructions on what to do or where to go, they may find the whole affair frustrating.
The number of NPCs is impressive, but the voice acting may sound familiar after a while. I guess a Jarl can sound the same as a blacksmith. What truly stands out is the range of personalities you’ll come across. Maybe you’ll run into the aging orc warrior, lamenting for a glorious death. Perhaps you’ll see a farm owner, terrified to enter a fort occupied by bandits to save his captured wife. Maybe you’ll bump into a dispute between miners and brigands over a matter of unpaid taxes. Or perhaps you’ll encounter a Daedric lord, eager to end the lives of mortals on a whim. Characters have their own agendas, and will either reach out to you or twist you to their advantage (if you let them).
Skyrim‘s attention to detail is excellent. Townships and cities have their own unique feel – the cold hardened setting of Winterhall is a stark contrast to the temperate, sunny disposition of Whiterun. Dungeons range from Nord catacombs to underground Dwarven manufactorums. The land is peppered with wild bears and wolves, mages attempting to perform rituals in clearings, and the occassional dragon circling overhead. The presentation as a whole is amazing, and also scales rather well on mid-range hardware.
However, the game is not without its faults and shortcomings – bugs and glitches will create immovable NPCs, broken animations, bizarre physics and unfinishable quests. The good news is that these are either fixable or able to be ignored, but it does kill the immersion somewhat when a dragon you’re attacking suddenly starts floating through the air, and then you’re unable to absorb its soul after killing it.
The first few steps for an early level character can be tedious, too – it’s not quite at the same level as hacking at a dungeon rat with a bone for 5 minutes in a tutorial, but it can be intimidating to be sent flying into the air by a Giant’s club or attempting to perform a quest against a legion of Redguard warriors. In a way, it makes sense – scaling enemies with a player’s level offers no sense of advancement, and there is satisfaction in building up a character that can take on a pack of bears with a few swings of a warhammer.
I have barely scratched the surface in this review, because that would be a disservice to you, dear reader. It’s one thing to go on about Skyrim‘s world, and another to become a part of it. If you’re interested in getting lost in a world for a good 50 hours or so, you will find that $1.20 an hour is a pretty good investment.