Solo Gamer Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Page 2
The graphics, music, and sound in this game are simply amazing. Despite a handful of blocky textures and a certain body-type homogeneity among all the people and races of Skyrim, this is probably the most beautiful game you will play in this console generation. Whether its the weather effects, the lighting, the fluidity of motion, the attention to detail, the incredible draw distances, or the vibrant colors, something about the game's stellar graphics is bound to impress you. I still can't comprehend how the game designers managed to fit such a technical masterpiece on a single Xbox 360 disc. Clearly, dark magic is at work. Granted, the load screens can be tiresome (and why the hell can't I rotate the object in three dimensions?!), but they are actually pretty short when you compare Skyrim to similar games. On a similar note, there are, naturally, graphical hiccups and world-breaking glitches, but compared to other open world games (especially other Bethesda games), they are amazingly rare.
|You can spend hours just looking at stuff|
The music is truly epic when it needs to be and suitably subdued during down times. There are few memorable themes, and the music is sometimes slow to change as circumstances dictate--leading to awkward moments where you'll be creating potions to battle music or having a life-or-death struggle with a giant to a pastoral score--but don't let these nitpicks detract from how good the soundtrack is. I have a hard time imagining anything that would better match the feel of the game.
The voice acting is quite good, but like with previous Elder Scrolls games, there are several voices that will go from familiar to annoying when you come across the fiftieth character who sounds the same. Given how much time the game designers put into the dialogue, why do they continue to hire only ten people to do all the voice work? And then there's the incidental dialogue, such as the now infamous "arrow in the knee" line. It's great that the guards will comment on recent events and will talk to you differently depending on your race, gender, and skill-set, but there are still way too many lines that you will hear way too often. Play for just a few hours, and you might find yourself shouting, "Yes, somebody did steal my sweetroll, you asshole, and you should help me!"
|He's no Patrick Stewart, but Max von Sydow does lend some gravitas|
There are also a few weird quirks that result from poorly-handled scripted events. For example, you might walk up to somebody standing all alone in the street who hasn't said a word, initiate a conversation, and have the option to say, "What were you arguing about?" There are hundreds of scripted events in every town and throughout the larger world, and they start when you get close to them. If you suddenly turn around and happen to completely miss an event, the game will continue to operate as though you witnessed it, and you might feel lost when people start refering to an event that you have no knowledge of. Worse, you might be interrupted in the middle of doing something important. I remember getting into a brawl with a horse trader, with money on the line, that was rudely interrupted by a guy running up to me to ask if I saw some thief run by. The game forced me to drop my hands, turn to the guy, and have a conversation, even though the horse trader continued to wail on me the whole time.
There are also some oddities in how the game world reacts to you. For example, you could assassinate somebody from a distance, while completely invisible, lower your weapon, change your clothes, and start walking away, and somehow, despite a complete lack of witnesses, the guards will know you are responsible and will start to attack, even if they haven't noticed the dead body yet. This makes the Dark Brotherhood questline, in particular, unnecessarily frustrating.
|Oh, look, another room full of zombies. Yawn.|
However, you have to consider how incredibly far down the rabbit hole the game allows you to go. You can explore the game's extensive mythology as much as you want, through in-game literature, enormous dwarven ruins, and weird mysteries that wait around every corner. It's nearly impossible to take a hundred steps without initiating a new side mission or catching a hint that could lead you to something much bigger. When you finally think you've seen it all, for instance, you might suddenly find yourself emerging into a giant underground realm with its own separate ruins and resources (it's called Blackreach, and I nearly peed myself when I first stumbled into it).
Still, like everything else in Skyrim, exploration can get monotonous. While dungeons are more varied and interesting than they have been in past Elder Scrolls games, there aren't more than four or five general templates. You'll know what to expect once you get a feel for what kind of dungeon you're exploring--be it an ice cave, a dwarven ruin, a crypt, or an underground river--and the novelty of these admittedly beautiful landscapes doesn't last long.
[PRESENTATION: 9.5 - Scripted events are handled poorly and some locales are overly repetitive, but the game is so breathtakingly deep and beautiful that it more than makes up for it.]
Don't let my nitpicks fool you into thinking that Skyrim is anything but an astonishing accomplishment that every hardcore gamer should experience, even if it's just for a few hours. It's easily one of the most ambitious games ever made, and it largely deserves its sterling reputation. If you've never played an Elder Scrolls title, Skyrim will blow you away, and if you're a die-hard fan of the series, this latest installment won't disappoint. Bethesda has crafted the ultimate single-player RPG, and though I wouldn't call it perfect by any stretch of the imagination, the fact that I have devoted over one hundred fifty hours to it and am still playing it should be enough to tell you where I stand.
SOLO GAME SCORE: 10
TOTAL SCORE: 9.3
Though it has its fair share of clunks and cracks, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the finest single-player RPGs ever made.
-e. magill 1/17/2012