The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios / Publisher: Bethesda Softworks / Price: $59.99 / Rating: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol] / Played on: Xbox 360

Do you have a job that you care about? Or perhaps a family that loves you? Maybe some life goals or ambitions? If so I can’t, in good faith, recommend that you play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Not because it’s a bad game, no. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Veterans of Bethesda’s particular flavor of open-world RPGs know all too well their unparalleled ability to suck hours, days, and even weeks away from your real life with their rich and expansive game worlds. And the latest installment reaches new levels of dangerous with improvements so numerous it’s difficult to believe that the previous game, Oblivion, was even part of the same hardware generation.

Archmage

Story

Skyrim, the Northern most province in Tamriel, has seen better days. The only thing worse than the civil war that rages within its borders is the return of the havoc-wreaking Dragons, making their appearance for the first time in hundreds of years. It’s these events that act as the backdrop for your own adventure. As with all the Elder Scrolls games, you start off with a blank slate. Your tale is for you to define and Bethesda has proved consistently to be an expert in providing the ideal tools, mechanics, and world to foster that flexibility. You are the painter; they provide you with the brushes and canvas. Do you want to be a treacherous Dark Elf that hails from Morrowind or a badass, axe-wielding Nord that’s out to save the innocent? It’s incredibly satisfying to immerse yourself in the mind of your character, think like they would, and create their history; the world of Skyrim provides near countless opportunities to do this.

While Skyrim’s non-linear nature means that the main quest lacks its sometimes-attempted sense of urgency, it’s also, like, one percent of the consumable content. There are so many rich storylines and interesting encounters to discover off the beaten path. You may choose to research strange artifacts at the Mage College of Winterhold or take part in the double- crossings and intricate plots tearing apart the mysterious members of the Thieves’ Guild. Or maybe you just want to butt into the day-to-day drama of townsfolk. The mundane times in Skyrim are just as engrossing as the dramatic times.

Execution

Gameplay

Without a doubt the defining characteristic of Skyrim is player autonomy. From the moment you escape the game’s opening dragon attack, you’re free to go wherever you please. There’s plenty to point you in the direction of your main objective to unite Skyrim and vanquish Dragons, but you’ve got the freedom find that route how and where you want. You’ll find that, even more so than Bethesda’s previous RPGs, exploration is always rewarding. Just pick a direction and walk. You might come across a group of Orcs hunting a bear or an abandoned farmhouse full of loot. Go visit a city and chat up its citizens. They all have something interesting to say and, in many cases, have a task for you, too. I can’t express enough just how much there is to do in Skyrim. It’s especially impressive considering how each of these experiences manages to feel unique and impactful. The amount of worthwhile content here is really staggering.

FireStorm

Melee combat still kind of feels like you’re whacking enemies with a Nerf sword rather than an actual blade, although the newly introduced cinematic–you might say VATS-like–finishing moves definitely helps give your bludgeonings some punch. But the greatest improvement over Oblivion’s combat comes in Skyrim’s spell system. The ability to apply a spell to each hand (and quickly swap between them with the game’s totally awesome Favorites menu) generates huge potential for getting creative with your spell combinations. One of my personal favorites was popping enemies with the Fury spell that would cause them to start attacking the closest entity (usually another enemy), waiting for one of them to die, then reanimating their corpse to fight for me as a mindless zombie. Layer on your Dragon Shouts (that provide powers as varied as slowing down time to summoning a dragon to fight for you) and even a couple of secret abilities (yes, you can become a werewolf) and it’s easy to see this is a pretty robust combat system. And that’s without considering all of your crafting skills like enchanting, alchemy, and blacksmithing, which can be used to enhance or augment your combat skills.

Giant

Speaking of skills, Skyrim’s streamlined system does away with classes altogether and instead opts for more of a “specialize as you go” methodology. As you play the game, you can level up your 18 skills (which includes everything from two-handed weapons to speech to destruction spells to enchanting). The more frequently you use them, the more they level up. Additionally, each skill has a perk tree associated with it that you commit points to each time your character levels up. It’s an interesting twist on the standard leveling structure of RPGs because rather than locking you into a specific play style from the get go, it encourages you to play around with everything until you find your preference. It’s perfect for indecisive players like myself.

GeneralTulius

Visuals

The scope and beauty of the land of Skyrim cannot be understated: the far away mountain vistas and snowy landscapes, the lively cities and the dark and varied dungeons all characterize the world. The lack of copy-and-paste level design that’s plagued Bethesda’s previous games is gone, giving a lived-in and handcrafted look to the world. Few can create a sense of “place” like Bethesda.

Of course. this is a Bethesda RPG so expecting technical weirdness is not unjustified. Aside from frame rate drops and some texture pop-in, I occasionally witnessed more jarring issues like unnatural looking character animations, missing sky boxes, and my character’s frighteningly disappearing face. But the fleeting nature of these occasional issues means they will hardly detract from your experience but are worth stating nonetheless.

MageDraugrLord

Sound

I felt many emotions while playing Skyrim: tranquility, tension, awe. Sure, this was partially due to a lot of the moments  I’ve already talked about here but none of it would have really made as much of an impact if it weren’t for the game’s tremendous soundtrack. It’s serene, it’s epic, it’s loud, and it’s subtle. And despite your free will, it always manages to kick in the right track at just the right time.

Mining

Bottom Line

Sometimes I feel like role-playing games have forgotten about the whole “roleplaying” part of the genre. So it’s refreshing to play a game like Skyrim that imbues so much effort into immersing you in its world. Quit your job. Divorce your spouse. Give your children up for adoption. Do whatever you need to do to find the time to play Skyrim.

9.5 / 10

  1. Woww.. Im exicted!
    But I can’t seem to find my pants anywhere… :/

  2. I’m wondering what exactly was missing from Skyrim to give it that perfect 10. I understand it has its glitches and such but what exactly took off the .5?

  3. I’m sure those technical issues will be fixed soon enough. That never bothers me. And in terms of the NERF-like melee combat, that won’t be improved until they come up with a new engine. Oh well. In my opinion, you come to an Elder Scrolls game for the story first and foremost, not the fluidity of combat. But excellent review none the less, Mr. Shibley.

    Cannot wait for 12pm Pacific today to see the live stream, and midnight tonight to pick it up. Been waiting 5 years for this baby.

  4. Ohh man. So pumped to play this. Great review. not to sure how I feel about the level up as you go aspect though, I guess I’ll find out tonight though <3

  5. Bullshit that MW3 got even close to this score, let alone the same as this masterpiece.

    • I second that opinion. I know different reviewers have different gaming preferences, but seriously. Modern Warfare 3 is another game in a long line of similar games without drastically changing the formula or engine. Sure it’s fun, but I feel like Skyrim is the type of game to push the boundaries of what games can be. Games that raise the bar should get better scores than games that just use the same formula as before. But whateva. I’m not a reviewer.

      • David D. Davidson

        Why change the formula of the game that everyone knows and loves just the way it is, people already know what to expect when the buy a CoD title, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    • Eh, I wouldn’t compare the two, but I do see where you are coming from. MW3 is a good game, just not as hyped. The whole number scoring is a bit iffy anyways, it’s way too broad in my opinion.

  6. I cant wait!!! Just seems amazing. Not that i judge games by their score, but 9.5 from IGN (but thats not to be trusted though) and 9.5 from Machinima.
    Thats a pretty solid score!!

  7. its good to be in New Zealand cause Skyrims out today as were a day infront of you

  8. I want news that somebody screwed up something because of Skyrim ’till Tuesday!
    CAPICHE!?

  9. LESS THAN 12 HOURS!

  10. I’m excited for this game, and I’ve barely even played the franchise. I’ve started Oblivion to prepare myself for this game, I just lack a sense of direction or understanding of the game.

    Personally, I’m more excited for the next Fallout running on Skyrim’s technology. >:D

  11. As the clock ticks, I can only read the review over and over, playing out the adventure in my head.

    Curses.

  12. I’ve never played an Elder Scrolls game before, heck, I don’t even think I’ve played a Bethesda game before! Anyways, hearing all this good stuff about this game, especially from my favorite video game news source, I am eagerly awaiting to play this! Also, glad it seems that I don’t need to have played the previous games to jump into this one and have a blast. Most of my FPS-addicted friends are like “OMG therez Modern Warfarez three! I canz shoot every’ting in me sight again! :D” while I’m like (1) Skyrim!, and (2) I’ll be buying Battlefield 3 before I buy MW3. This of course appalls them. That is why my best friend is not like that. Anyways, back to topic… sorta, since the most epic RPG I’ve played is probably Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (which is still my favorite game ever, regardless) this is gonna be epic. Thank god I’m 13 and don’t have much important to do! :D

  13. Yawn. Next game? I honestly think this is going to be awful. I love these kind of games, just not the Elder Scrolls.

  14. im so new to rpgs but this game makes me…erect

  15. I have a question. Do you have to play the games before this to understand the story or anything like that?

  16. to the person above me. No you do not. Skyrim has it own story to tell and even tho the lore to this game is the same with the other, you can start off with this game and not miss a thing. If you wish to go back and learn about some of the lore I would recommend morrwind. I played about 2 hours into the game (not even 1% done) and I have to say I’m depressed right now :(

  17. I wish I can leave work now and go home and play. To bad my gf will also force me to get off. God why can’t I just be alone……

  18. my quiver is stuck to my back

  19. This is epic, the Only thing is the loading screens bug out allot and I have to restart the game.
    Over all epic as cod and as smooth as halo I highly recommend this game:D

  20. Syrim Release Review for PC-

    I have to start by saying minimum requirements are much lower than is being told. I have a Compaq Presario CQ56-115DX running a single core V-140 on 8 gigs of ram with a weak Radeon 4250 and the game looks just as good as Oblivion on ultra with the Catalyst AI settings to max and CPU set to 73%-100% continuous and the game set to LOW with medium textures. Everything runs smooth with a hang up once in a blue moon, maybe once or twice an hour. Single Core 2.1 Ghz……

    So my most troublesome complaint is that of the mouse movement which is terribly annoying, yes even with max settings for mouse speed the up an down are hampered making for hard looking at stuff on the ground by your feet or dragons in the air over head. I actually have to lift my hand off the table to scroll, like my mouse space needed to play is HUGE like a square foot space is needed to mouse around.

    My next issue is with the space bar, why did bethesda make it so you can not choose to set the controls like Oblivion??? I hate having to reach and change hand positions just to look in a box, I can open but not close due the space bar being reserved for selecting items in the containers, I thought the mouse did that just fine and even take all (R) closes you out quickly but what if you only want half the stuff, I should be able to just click what I want and close out with space bar for quick and easy searching though containers. Bad choice to change that, Horrible choice.

    So besides the most ruined and bullshit changes that were made I find myself noticing a HuGe lack of information, all throughout the game, missing knowledge that is making the game less attractive and engauging. Things that should have been upgraded and brought into the new game, things like item comparisons when changing armor and weapons, things like an indicator for how much air you have when diving under water, things like item descriptions and back log/history of item. Apples just say apple an show a picture, axes just show you what you can have for an attack if you choose it not what it really holds for attack values, armor does the same thing, it doesn’t tell you the rating of the armor just what it can do for you, up or down in defense maybe if it has cold resistance too but then how do you know if you want to use it more than what is equipped? No comparison layout or info. What if I have a pair of boots that have magical properties to give me 50% fire resistance and see a pair of steel boots that say (+3) to armor but that’s it, maybe I forgot the special properties of my boots and didn’t even know what I gave up??. And further more, why can’t I see my character when choosing clothes? Maybe some people actually care what they look like and want to see if the combination of item looks funny or not, where did the character model go that you dress up???

    The one thing they did very well was the graphics, that’s about all they did well, I admit I love the new combat system and spells are nifty being able to double hand two different spells.

    All in all the lack of information bothers me just as much as not being able to look up when I see a dragons shadow zip by on the ground or close a chest with space bar after I just looked in it and want nothing from it. Where is all the descriptions though for real? For instance when I open the journal and look through the quests and want to continue doing a quest in the miscellaneous section, well I click on the title of the quest and that’s it, nothing more, no history or directions, no previous taken actions or steps, nothing about the quest at all just the title you click on. What in the world, and the lack of info doesn’t stop there, apart from titles and names of items there is little to no info about them, just a picture and a name with minimal effects like armor plus one or two, or the value being $5, no breathing meter for swimming, no descriptions Or info for weapons armor foods or anything, like deer hide says nothing about what deer hide is, what it can be used for or that it come from hunting and killing a deer, no info on regions where deer live like mountains and rolling hills in all of Skyrim, or that the meat, venison can be used in stews and cooking. There is no info for anything, just a stupid picture and a lot of guessing. I guess they thought it would be cute to make the player assume and learn how everything is used as as well as what it is all about, like elven weapons and armor should have a description panel somewhere telling of elven military history or famous tales that will shed light on the elven armor you just picked up, how rusty common iron armor can be made and found in any place throught out Skyrim.

    MORE INFORMATION PLEASE. Say you found a giants toe in a witches hut, there should be folk lore and back log that comes up in the item menu to describe what a giant is and where they dwell, what a toe can be used for like some people cook them in soup or used for alchemy or potion. Milk title should tell of its uses in healing or cooking or that it is a common plant found in open plains, something, say something beside its name, more information would be nice. I mean I offer to sit and learn about Skyrim and write description my self, anything to help make this the best game I have ever played, it looks the best, fights are beautiful and the game is very interesting, BUT there is not enough information and details for the Legacy of Skyrim, kinda makes the game feel empty and just visual. Most the game is just icons and pictures with little, very little description, basically the only things described are the critical values like weight, armor, value and name, LAME, the future of gaming wants more knowledge, more understanding, more depth. Everything should have a description panel some where in the menu/tab section, make (M) or (K) buttons for More Info or Knowledge, this would bring up a history/back log of the items, like when you look up apple on wikipedia it tells you that it is a fruit and grows on trees, mostly in moderate climates so on an so forth. Make the game teach and educate, push people to learn real world knowledge from the game, like how kool would it be if you child told you at dinner that they learned today in Skyrim that the potatoes there eating came from the ground, or that the cheese on top is made from a cows milk, little pieces of knowledge should be hiding in descriptions and info panels, like when you find a battle axe it should fill you in on specific types of soldiers that used battle axes and the fact they their weight makes you swings harder to throw and ware you put faster and take two hands.

    Speaking of two hands, where are the info panels telling me if a weapon is one handed or two, there is way to much info and knowledge being expected of us gamers to already know. What if a kid finds a pick axe and never before knew what it was for or possible what it is for? There should be a back log info panel available to give them a brief description of it and it’s possible uses, like this a mining tool workers use to mine and collect ore and other earth minerals. Something to feed our growing need for information and detail.

    Most of Skyrim is perfect in everyway, but detail is hampered, it seems like Bethesda spent most their resources on graphics and looks this time around and left the games interior details and features undeveloped and just as plain as Oblivion, identicle almost. Seems like the only upgrade is graphics with a hampered menu system.

    Verdict: I think Skyrim is the best game I have every played, even with these minor set backs (space bar, free look, under water breathing meter, item descriptions, quest log data). Most of these issues can be dulled down by just shutting up and getting comfortable with the new standards of gameplay. But why should we have to change our style of gameplay from oblivion to Skyrim? The switch should’nt be auk ward and troublesome for the user and the ability to look up and down makes it super frustrating and difficult to look past when it is always a constant issue.

    I give Skyrim a 3 out of 5 or 7 out of 10 being that the game is beautiful but has a lot of tweaking to do, I can’t believe they actually released the game with hampered looking abilities and such lack of description. Hope they release an update to fix most of the user issues and maybe even add a huge file full of descriptions and history/lore for everything even skulls or snow berries, shovels and lick picks, more knowledge please.

    • Dude,the lack of graphs and indicators are to make you more “immersed” in the world,to forget that you’re playing a game,but to become the character you’re controlling.
      I think that would be the answer to your complaints from the devs :D
      Also doesn’t the game have control options?Hell,try tinkering with the .ini files,look up some tweaks for the game.It’s a Bethesda game,of course it has a buggy release,and they need their community as an extra extra large QA team xD
      My personal complaint is that they buggered the animations,AGAIN,when something moves it just doesn’t belong in the environment,you can tell that and get that uncanny feeling,that’s why I believe that immersion is bulshit.

  21. Also, Where the hell are my pants?!?

  22. Great game great review i would have given it a 10/10 myself. just because the game is fucking fantastic. ofc randoms bugs here and there are expected. besides they give me a good laugh.

  23. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this game. Now that I have it, I am tempted to return it. This has to be the biggest disapointment I’ve ever had in a game. The graphics are great but the game play sucks compared to Oblivion. Here here is a few of the problems I have with it.

    They removed the ablitiy to make custom spells!! That was 65 percent of the fun of Oblivion was the ability to create what you wanted for spell combinations and different spell stacks.

    There is no scale to tell how long a spell or affect potion or even being under water. No way to tell when your enchantment is about to run out or your summon is about to disappear. You can’t even tell how much longer you can hold your breath. Are you kidding me? *yes for the haters you can go look in the menu to see spell affects but that is alot of trouble compared to oblivions where it was in the top corner.*

    The level up sucks. No stat points so your base hit points, magic and stamina never go up when you level. All you get is a static 10 points to select one fo the 3. You can’t even split them up and add them individually. You could end up with a level 20 character that still has starting stats on one of the three.

    You can’t fast travel to towns until you walk to them, a long walk, or take a carriage first.

    These are just some of the more obvious problems. There are more. I am sorry to say but the nerfed magic users so much its almost not worth playing.

  24. Sure, lack of custom spells is a bit of a letdown, not that I’m bothered because I prefer to stab people anyway. The lack of those bars is designed to add immersion, last time I checked there wasn’t a little bar in the corner telling me when to actually breathe. The points are annoying but not a big deal. and summons disappearing in the middle of a fight can make things interesting but again it is to add immersion to the game. And finally, the walking to towns is a lot cooler than just fast traveling, Bethesda games aren’t just about doing quests but exploring and finding new things all over the place.

    And about info panes, they might not exist in the items menu but if you look around hard enough in many caves there will be a skeleton with a diary detailing his adventures or a random stranger might tell you a story about the history of the land. Oh and by the way, Skyrim has a mature rating, and if by 17 you don’t know cheese comes from cows and potatoes grow in the ground you have bigger problems

    The fun in Bethesda games isn’t just doing quests and leveling up, but exploring and learning for yourself about the land and it’s history

    Now don’t take this the wrong way I’m not trying to belittle opinions I’m just throwing out my own

  25. You guys who are complaining are letting the time you played oblivion get to you. The game is different to oblivion because if it weren’t then that would just be super weak. I bet that there were tonnes of guys like you who, when oblivion came out, said that morrowwind or daggerfall was way better, and that it should’ve stayed the same.

    You’ll probably find that if you play the game a little more, that you’ll get used to the changes and end up liking the game. And then when the next elder scrolls comes out, you’ll just complain again. And that will keep repeating until the end of time. I like to call it the circle of RPG’s.

    By the way, everything that Bethesda did in this game, thay did for a reason. And if you’re complaining about not being able to fast travel wherever you want at the start of the game, then you have a water-weak point of view on Bethesda games. Think about it.

    I reckon that everyone is getting so used to perfect polished games like COD which lost their awesomeness after the fourth or fifth installment. Enjoy an awesome, massive, seemingly unpolished game by Bethesda and forget about that stuff.

  26. Okay, seriously, SKYRIM ROX! Quit complaining.

  27. I made a replica hat that I think beats the pants off that PAX one. I think you guys would like it.
    Check it out and feel free to message me.

  28. This game is terrific ! Perfect for take photographies like a tourist ;-)

  29. After killing a dragon with the blades are the dragons gone for good?

  30. It sucks I got it today and I’ve been sitting in the carriage thing since 3:00 and it’s like 6:00 now

  31. great game

  32. Hey can someone post a video on how to get the secret boxes in each city

  33. This game is AMAZING!!!!!!!! mw3 is nothing compared to this

  34. this game has the best graphics ive ever seen

  35. Personally I think BF3 over MW3, BF3 is improvement, MW3 is stagnation.

    Single player only lasts so long, and I play fps for the online not single, and BF3 owns online – period.

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  37. how do you get skyrim on pc cuz i have tryed and they all dont work

  38. He haunts my dreams and consumes my days if I could just have him in my arms and In my life I would be a better woman and thee would not be anything that I would not do for him. I love him and I want him,Email is davidbamlaspell@gmail.com

  39. Pingback: The wait is almost over!! | Bethesda Blog

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