Zero Lives Left – Skyrim

Game: Skyrim
Released: 2011
Available On: Xbox 360 (Review), Playstation 3, PC
Genre: Role Playing

Like my Modern Warfare 3 review you can easily start this one by saying ‘It’s about time, huh?’ Yes, I don’t really keep up to date with my reviews but that’s the glorious thing about video games: you can play them whenever you want. It’s pretty much impossible to not play a game anymore due to new virtual console releases or emulators making them available. And if you aren’t a fan of my random review schedule just you wait for the next two Nintendo DS reviews coming out in the next few weeks. Anyways, let’s get back on hand and focus a bit more on actually reviewing Skyrim. I don’t want a repeat of my Modern Warfare review where I just rambled on and on about everything but the actual quality of the game.

For those that have been sleeping under a video game rock Skyrim is the newest large scale open world fantasy role playing game by Bethesda and is the fifth in the Elder Scrolls series. Previously instalments are Morrowind and Oblivion. It puts you in the place of a hero who is pretty much the only competent one and, in turn, the only one who has any chance of saving the world. Of course you can choose to ignore the main quest and leave saving the world on stand still and go and do other stuff too. The world is open enough that you can go and farm if you wanted to, although I’m not exactly sure how entertaining of a game that would make for you.

Or you can become a fantasy world Gordon Ramsay!

I started the Elder Scrolls series with Oblivion on my PC ages ago when it came out. I absolutely loved that game. I started that game upwards of thirty times and I could do the same quest lines over and never get bored of it. I’ve thought that maybe all my love of the game is nostalgia glasses, but I popped it into my Xbox a few weeks ago (yes, I love it enough to buy another copy) and I loved it just as much. Walking through the Shivering Isles was enough to get my nerd fantasy boner to go crazy. With all that in my mind I knew that this would be my basis for comparison to Skyrim and a lot of the quality of Skyrim would depend on if it met my set expectations.

So with that known, does Skyrim succeed in being a great game and a good follow up to Oblivion? Yes. And, well, no. Mostly yes, but there’s a bit of no. Like it’s great but there’s also just something about it that didn’t leave as strong of an impression on me. Maybe it’s because the magic of playing Oblivion is gone and seeing the big scope of a fantasy world just isn’t the same to me. I mean the feeling of stepping out of the sewer into the world of Oblivion and being told ‘do anything, my son’ was just so awe-inspiring. When I had that happen in Skyrim it was just by the numbers at that point. When I bought Oblivion I didn’t know as much about open world fantasy; a genre I craved. At this point I’ve played open world fantasy enough times to become bored of it.

Let’s start with the positives!

Skyrim looks fabulous and the world that it exists in is amazing. One of the best moments I’ve had in gaming ever took place while I was walking around the over world of Skyrim. It was night and I was ignoring quest lines and my mini-map and just focused on loving everything around me. I found myself walking up towards a large bonfire, suddenly after a mammoth walked in front of me, followed by a giant. I stepped back and was shocked by all this, the giant shook his club at me and proceeded to become passive as I walked further back. There was something about this moment in gaming that just hit a certain cord in me. I was in awe, this moment and world was just something of magic to me. I never had a moment like that again in the game but that didn’t matter, that first moment was so strong that it will stick with me for a long time to come.

“Aim for my mouth!”

The role playing portion was definitely more badass this time around. I took the opportunity to give my character a blind eye with a sabertooth tiger claw scar going through it. This was a nice step up from Oblivion where I played a generic white dude. Now, thanks to Skyrim, I get to play generic white dude with a badass mo’fuckin’ face scar. Yes! You’d think that would be sarcasm, but it’s really not; I loved my character this time around. The game world itself is also has much more immersion to it. This probably in some part due to the characters not looking like greased up monkeys, but a step in the right direction is never a bad thing. The world itself does seem more alive with the NPCs having their daily task, but that will wear paper thin soon when you really dig into it. It does help, don’t get me wrong, and I’m certainly not  saying that as an extreme negative. Skyrim’s NPC system is probably one of the more ‘alive’ systems in my recent gaming memory, if not all completely.

The combat is, as you’d expect, typical Elder Scrolls combat. This is basically saying that it’s there, and you may enjoy it (if you’re weird) but it really isn’t all that exciting or fulfilling. It’s a step up from Oblivion’s, but anything is a step up from the feeling of punching brick walls with your first, and it’s definitely more visceral. The random kill-cams are nice, especially when you behead the fuck out of some smarmy bandit who has been eluding you for the last little bit. I played, and will always play if the option exists, a stealth character. Of course, with this, my main tactic was sneaking and sniping with a bow and arrow and although the combat isn’t rewarding, avoiding combat by killing everyone at a distance is always rewarding in this game. I haven’t played it since the addition of the arrow kill-cams, but I am sure that would just further add to my enjoyment of it.

I rarely, if ever, use magic in fantasy games, so I unfortunately cannot comment much on the magic portion of the combat. However, a small reason I am reviewing Skyrim is to avoid having to go into this details when I eventually review its DLC Dawnguard. I’m thinking of rolling out a mage character for Dawnguard, with that I’ll be able to have a full knowledge of the combat system of Skyrim.

Now, with all this out of the way, I am going to get to my biggest gripe of Skyrim…

This game is purdy.

The quests.

You know how I said earlier that I could play Oblivion over and over and over again? Skyrim? I was perfectly content with playing through once. There are very few quests that I can say that I loved, no less actually enjoyed. This is bad because a game like this stands on its quest. Sure, it may look pretty and the combat can be passable, but if the quests aren’t memorable then your game won’t be memorable. I can say confidently that there are no quests that I hated, but there wasn’t much to them to make them sort of unique. Furthermore with the new radiant system – a system that makes certain quests run forever – there was less thought put into the side quests of the game. The side quests made Oblivion. Hell, even the Dark Brotherhood, one of my favorite guilds in the existence of ever, has a bad quest line. Sure, the scope of it is pretty exciting but the execution is just a total snoozefest.

There is a glimmer of hope in the quests though. This sits in the entirety of the Daedric Quest lines. This should be no surprise. A group of demons, Gods and general chaos causers order you around to make you cause more chaos in Tamriel for their name. The diversity in these are pretty awesome, and some of them are particularly memorable. One of them is actual an homage or rather, retelling, of the film The Hangover. If that doesn’t interest you then you have no soul. Most of them are incredibly dark and your character has to do some unquestionably evil things, but the rewards are usually worth it. If you’re playing Skyrim make sure you play all of the Daedra quests, it’s filled with ghost houses, talking dogs and missing goats. What’s there to lose?

Now Skyrim is not a perfect game. It is a great game and I had a blast playing it. I’m looking forward to the Dawnguard expansion when I get it; I hear the content in it is pretty solid. I have a friend who doesn’t like the fake ‘open-world’ that the game boasts, and, yes, you can say that the game isn’t as open as it seems, but it’s a pretty damn open world when you take away all the scrutinizing of details. You can play the game how you want, even as a farmer as I mentioned earlier. The world is beautiful and you’ll really be able to immerse yourself into your character if you take the time and little effort required to do so.

Go into the game expecting to enjoy it and you will. Go in expecting to dislike it and you’ll find all the reasons to nitpick. I was lucky (as I usually am, knock on wood) and I didn’t run into any game breaking glitches. Just make a character and form him how you want him to be. It’s a role playing game so make a god damn role and play it. I promise you it’ll make the game more fun. Make the decisions honestly in your character and you’ll feel like you’re in the world. It’s the entire point of the game!

Oddly enough this review made me want to go back and play the game some more. I think I’m going to buy the Dawnguard expansion tomorrow. Then I’ll be able to have a triple header of fantasy gaming: Dragon’s Dogma, Dark Souls and Skyrim.

BRB, Skyrim.

Skyrim: 9/10

Aren’t you just adorable?

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