Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

3

The game that will never die is back. Again.

Picture Fallout 3. No, not the shambles that was New Vegas — I mean the GOOD Fallout, 3. Ditch most (well, a bunch) of its weird bugs, change out the nuclear wasteland for gorgeously lush, picturesque vistas, and replace your Pip-Boy and guns with magic and maces instead. Oh, and add dragons. We can’t forget about the dragons.

The result is an engrossing and engaging fantasy where you basically control what you want to do, when you want to do it. Whilst shouting at things (but in the name of magic).

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I’m not really into fantasy, so that could be the reason I enjoy Fallout‘s lore more than The Elder Scrolls’. Even then, Skyrim’s main questline is still rather engaging. After some quick exposition where you learn your character’s lot in life (and get to orchestrate a bit of it yourself), you get thrown into the character creator pretty quickly. There, you have to choose between one of several races or human factions, each with their own pros and cons; in the end, I chose an Imperial cause I thought I could make him look the cutest.

Finding my decision-making process flawed, I learned I could fix this as I progressed; you’re able to tweak your character’s attributes with every level you earn. You also get to choose between increased health, magic or stamina, providing drastically different loadouts from those your friends are rocking. On top of that, you gain XP in armour, magic, weapons and more each time you actually use that item in-game. I wasn’t a magic (or, more accurately, a “Destruction”) user when I started off, but through persistence, I’m fairly adept now.

Skyrim is designed for you to explore. By venturing off the beaten path, you’ll encounter Giants with pet Mammoths (no, really), gangs of bandits, wolf packs, dens of zombies, Witches’ covens and so much more. You can’t help by feel like a rockstar when you find some cool new place, or beat-down a pack of enemies. Epic moments will be had, where after rounding some new corner, you somehow manage to fend off a surprise Frost Troll attack using unconventional means.

This is good and bad. Save often.

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The Autosave in-game is WEIRD. It’ll ensure it has saved you a checkpoint as you enter a some new areas, but won’t kick in after you manage to, say, kill a huge dragon! I spent about twenty minutes slaying my second dragon in the game, only to immediately fall off a cliff. I loaded up my last save literally JUST before the dragon and had to rinse and repeat. Frustrating? Hell yes.

On the topic of dragons, they get built up to be SO much and turn out to be rather anti-climactic. They appear at random (and at times, in scheduled) intervals, but once you’ve seen one or two, you’ve seen them all. They have the same attack animations and patterns. Dodge, wait til it lands, hit. Dodge, wait til it lands, hit…

Even with a new engine, the game still suffers from the same shortcomings as Oblivion and Fallout 3. The inventory system is a mess. It’s hard to find, equip, sell, drop, and generally manage your alphabetically stored potions, weapons and armour. Hoarding items like I usually do, you’ll often find yourself weighted down to the point where you can barely move; buying a property quick is essential to store your gear (and become a virtual “Hoarders” TV episode waiting to happen). As you progress through the game, you’ll also pick up magical Shouts, which can be mapped to your right bumper (I played the Xbox 360 version); I had the hardest time figuring out where to access my Shouts, and then how to map them once I did.

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Enemy AI sometimes goes ultra-wonky; you can get foes stuck in your environment by doing the standard Fallout “circle around the enemy til it breaks” tactic. Also, at one point, my companion went homicidal and started killing everyone in a village that was friendly to me. That went over well. It’s really something when potentially game-breaking bugs come off as charming, eh?

While I’m not nearly as drawn into the world as most others, Skyrim boasts an epic story, decent combat, and limitless opportunities to explore. That alone will keep me coming back to the title until I feel I’ve exhausted all my options — and that will be a very long time coming.

Update 1 [Skyrim Special Edition on PC, Xbox One, PS4]: The Special Edition of the game, complete with DLC and available on Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4, manages to look great and old at the same time. Uprezzed assets manage to impress as they confuse, and outdated character animations are very off-putting. Skyrim is a double-edged sword; it’s easy to fall back into it on current-gen, but that means you’ll have to sink hours and hours into the title as a result. With myriad ways to play, you’re definitely not going to have the same experience as on last-gen, and new mod support on consoles (admittedly, better on Xbox One than PS4) means what’s old is now new again. Plan your time accordingly.

Update 2 [Skyrim Switch]: The Switch version of the game is closer to the Xbox 360 and PS3 release than its current-gen counterparts, missing out on the opportunity to mod but bundled with the game’s DLC. New motion controls can be used for bow and arrows (mirroring functionality within The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) and for combat in general (ie twist the Joy-Con to block an attack, etc).

It’s good if you’re Skyrim obsessed or if you’re a Switch owner who’s (somehow) never played the game before.

Update 3 [Skyrim VR]: This is the version of the game most likely to make you motion sick.

The good

  • Skyrim‘s back, buggy as ever!
  • Epic story, limitless exploration.
  • The best kind of time sink.

The bad

  • Inferior to the Fallout franchise.
  • In the end, a game you’ve played before on last-gen.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was originally reviewed on Xbox 360, and later Xbox One, Switch and PS4 using PlayStation VR. All review codes have been provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.