From the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
The Total Perspective Vortex is allegedly the most horrible torture device to which a sentient being can be subjected.
When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, “You are here.”
This is Skyrim, or rather this is what writing a review for Skyrim is like. Where the hell do I start? I’ve played over 40 hours of Skyrim and can confidently say I’ve seen less than 20% of the content. I could tell you how I’ve been to a tea party with the god of madness or maybe how I transformed a dragon into a chicken but you’d get the wrong idea, so let’s start off small. Skyrim is a game about dragons in an open-world RPG adventure. You are the first person in an age that is Dragonborn, with the body of a mortal but the soul of a dragon. You must furfill your destiny as a dragon hunter and do some stuff or something, humans prevail, cats lay with dogs, happily ever after, I guess? I don’t know. Did I mention the tea party?
The fact is Skyrim is a massive game. If one were to concentrate entirely on the main story you may be done around the 25 hour mark, possibly. However, only completing story missions would be an exercise in futility. You would have to make the conscious effort from minute one that you were going for a speedrun. The fabric of Skyrim is densely woven, in an accurate portrayal of reality all people are strung together with some tenuous thread. The auspices of a cognitive society are bonding. Black and white isn’t an option, grey matters…
I am acutely aware I haven’t told you anything about Skyrim. My job as a reviewer is to succinctly inform you of a game’s pros and cons to give you a well-rounded account of a game but this day I am found lacking. Skyrim is filling a glass with a waterfall, the stupefying amount of content is ever-present. Looking in quantifiable terms, Skyrim looks the part, despite not having the high quality up-close textures of Battlefield 3, Skyrim takes the entire scene into account and considers the entire landscape as your backdrop. Often is the time I’m caught agape by the juxtaposition of a towering snow-tipped mountain as the background to my own personal saga. Although acutely aware of the faults of installing on the Xbox 360, the immediate lack of textures pale in comparison to the visual scope of the game. In the “way-back-when machine” Skyrim won’t be lauded by its graphical finesse, but in the overall sentiment it isn’t found wanting.
Being the direct sequel to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, this game has a lot to compete with and equally a lot to overcome. General reception was mixed, with the restrictive levelling system and audio cast of two actors, Oblivion was perceived as a rough gem overall. Although some of the content was stellar, the average mean came up short. This time around the crucial difference can be calculated in man-hours. Where Oblivion had length, Skyrim has length and depth, with the quest construction varied and sublime. The very laissez-faire or nonchalant way that the innumerable side-quests aren’t forced into the forefront with their fantastic writing is crazy. The cutting-room floor of Skyrim is more significant than the main storyline of any modern game.
A big part of this side quest quality comes from the dynamic quest content generated randomly. Skyrim citizen will always have problems for you to solve. And even out in the field you’ll witness dynamic events. Bandits battling citizens, guards and wildlife fighting among themselves, and then, 0f course, the magnificent dragons causing problems for all that dwell in Skyrim, swooping down at random with intent to maim. Skyrim is a living and breathing world.
There are niggles, one of the more frequent complaints of Oblivion is the combat system. Traditionally the first person melee combat game has always had problems - Zenoclash an exception to the rule. While the true tactical means of the combat dictates that you can’t mow through swathes of foes a la Dead Rising, the general feeling of lack of tactile feedback is ever present here, canned animations eschewed for gritty realism. However, the system is improved. Dual weapons, sword and shield, dual magic, bow and arrow, and any mixture from the aforementioned, allows you to perform violent acts with ease and variety. Additionally magic attacks have been reworked to feel more dynamic and flowing with the majority of chosen spells gushing from your hands like fountains of power than sparks. Add to all this a quick access favourites list for weapons and spells that allows for speedy switching and you’ll certainly find combat significantly improved.
A welcome change is the levelling system. In Oblivion you would level up when one of your pre-chosen character staples would level up. Such a system was crucially flawed however when enemies would also level up with you creating a more unfair combat experience. Players would choose the exact opposite of their main skills so that increasing their chosen skills would constitute a definite advantage. Now your level is dictated by all skills. As you meander through the world you will level up a multitude of attributes. Naturally as you use more skills than another it is those that will level up more. With a perk system similar to Modern Warfare you can invest level points into various perks as they gain in levels with some game-changing effects.
The other consequence of such an open-world game are the glitches. I’ve personally been propelled several miles by a giant’s club and seen NPCs sitting on invisible chairs. Rarely are these foibles game breaking, more of a talking point. I suppose it is testament to Bethesda controlling this complex and crazy world 98% of time time. So whilst the odd deer may come falling out of the sky, the fact is they aren’t always raining. Like The Matrix we are bound in this world, certain un-pleasantries have to be expected because if the system existed where everything happened as scripted, it just wouldn’t be an Elder Scrolls game.
Skyrim is a game years in the making. This game has volume in the truest sense of the word, length, breadth and depth, it has all three in spades. In a sense the acute faults of Oblivion have been wheedled out with the development of Fallout 3, the few detractions that are there are but a drop in the ocean. I hope the fantastic feat of the sheer magnitude of Skyrim is remembered in gaming history like it deserves. If you’ve even a fleeting interest in adventure/RPG games, you’d be a fool to miss out on Skyrim, a true genre-defining game for this generation.
MLG Rating: 10/10
Platform: PC/Xbox 360/PS3 Release date: 11/11/11
Disclaimer: A physical version of Skyrim was supplied by the reivewer and played over the course of one week on a high-end gaming PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.