Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)
Bethesda’s newest Elder Scrolls could easily be named Game of The Year at the upcoming VGAs and has received perfect scored reviews all across the web. Also nominated for Studio of the Year, and Best RPG; what is all the hype about? Is it really that good? I am pleased to confirm, for our readers here at GamerfitNation, that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim does live up to the hype. With amazing visuals, an abundance of gameplay, and a completely immersive mythology, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is every bit deserving of the zeitgeist as it has created.
Skyrim is the fifth installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise and as such already had a substantial fan base. Following Oblivion, Skyrim’s 11.11.11 release by Bethesda, developers of other such notable titles as Fallout 3, Brink, and Rage, hit the market during what is arguably the busiest gaming time of the year. Competing with the likes of DarkSouls, Assasin’s Creed Revelations, Uncharted 3, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Battlefield 3,Modern Warefare 3, Rayman Origins, and Saint’s Row The Third, it’s amazing to fathom that Skyrim still set a record with over 280,000 concurrent players, far outdistancing all other titles.
The largest question for me was: Is Skyrim enough to appeal to the player not at all familiar with the Elder Scroll franchise? Because most games on the market create multiple iterations it can create a bit of hesitation to jump into one on the third, fourth, or fifth installment of a long running and popular franchise. Like jumping into the middle of a really good novel, gamers can often skip perfectly wonderful titles for fear of the unknown backstory that the franchise had already built. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is no game to miss just because it is the fifth title in the series. A large mythology surrounding Skyrim, the places and characters within it, are all explained throughout the game through various interactions with people, and objects such as books. While fans of the franchise will appreciate the subtleties of return characters, and the way Bethesda builds upon previous experiences, new players will appreciate the ease with which the Elder Scrolls world is introduced.
Because of the vastness of Skyrim, the complete emersion of experience, and the richness of those experiences, I cannot for a moment pretend that, despite the hitches I encountered on the PC version of the game, I will not rave about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The game is full, engaging, amazing, and worth every penny. After playing 21 hours of Skyrim over the past 6 days for the purposes of this review, I will undoubtedly jump right back into the game after writing this and make an attempt to catch up to the nearly 50+ hours that most of my friends have already put into it. With only 20+ hours into Skyrim at this point (and 4 of 50 achievements) that is a cost value of $3 per hour of entertainment. If, as I suspect, I hit the 50hour mark with this title, that entertainment cost drops to $1.20 per hour of entertainment. This entertainment cost assessment is a common way for me to evaluate the value of an experience and when examined makes it hard to deny the worth of this title. This is no 8 hour campaign with perhaps some multiplayer for good measure, this is game that will earn its place on your shelf.
Skyrim offers you an open world that can be explored as one of the multiple character races who will propel you through the main quest line or experience a variety of side quests. You will have multiple quests simultaneously and can choose which to pursue at any time. The map is large and the terrain varies. As you explore the map and discover new places you will be able to travel by foot, by horse, or by fast tracking between previously discovered points. Once you have discovered most places they will appear on your map so that you may find them again at a later time. The main quest line will take you through the major cities where there are a myriad of NPCs ready to lead you in the right direction and an equal number ready to lead you astray. During your travels you will have the opportunity to join guilds and work through their quest lines, taking you to all corners of the world.
Very quickly you will learn that the story of Skyrim is one that you were always meant to be a part of. As the unfathomed return of dragons plague Skyrim, your appearance, as the only recent dragonborn, means that you are the pivotal key in the destruction of these beautiful but deadly creatures who are ravishing the world of Skyrim. Along the journey you will encounter conflicts between the people of the land and be able to play a part in their stories as well.
In order to progress through the story you will need to learn, build, and fight to increase your sustainability. You will work to increase your health, magic, and stamina all while building skills in weaponry, alchemy, sneaking and lock picking, one and two handed combat, archery, among so much more. The skill trees develop as you level up and the more you explore the more you are able to build and continue to level up. Each time you play this game your experiences will be affected by the areas you choose to develop creating a phenomenal potential for replay value.
So now that I have you eager to try this game for yourself I’d also like to talk to you a little about maximizing your Skyrim experience.
Consider your PC:
I am running Skyrim on the minimum system requirements for PC and it shows. The game is slow, the graphics are at the lowest setting, and load times are lengthy. If you are not running a top of the line machine I strongly suggest picking up a console version of the game. After playing on PC for so long, I jumped over to the 360 version of the game (the platform my BF is currently playing Skyrim on) and the graphical differences are mind blowing. That is not to say that you shouldn’t play this game on PC, you should, but in order to get the most of this wonderfully rich, vivid, and beautiful environment offered in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, consider what your PC is capable of and make the best decision for your gameplay.
You need a Gamepad:
The interface on the PC is not the most mouse friendly. As an artist I use a tablet on my PC. The Intuos 4 allows me to jump from pen to mouse with ease and let me switch back from gaming to drawing with ease. Don’t do this. I made a switch to a regular usb mouse about 2 hours into my experience and the responsiveness improved greatly, yet the interface was still troublesome. Using the WASD to navigate through your quests, skills, maps, and magic, is fine but the movements and fluidity of the game is still hindered with the mouse. After a number of hours with this I then began playing with a 360 style 3rd party gamepad and it was a game changing experience. If you don’t have a gamepad for your PC, consider one for this game, or consider how intuitive you are with the mouse. It’s a little different than your regular FPS, and the gamepad will save you tons of frustration.
Save often. The game’s autosave feature is fine and does a decent job but there is nothing more frustrating than clearing half of a particularly challenging cave only to meet your death and have to restart. Use the save feature and save often, over and over again.
IGN has reported that Bethesda’s new patch will be coming after Thanksgiving to address issues with the game that have been reported across all systems (specifically a texture glitch that many of my gamelist has encountered). I have not encountered this problem but have encountered some bugs, such as getting stuck in the environment’s rockface, that in no way take away from the game’s experience.
For all that it is, for all that it still will be, and even given the time of year that it was released, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an easy contender for the VGA’s Game of the Year and certainly has quickly become one of my favorite Bethesda games. Because of the sheer magnitude of the game, the inspiring graphics, the phenomenal sound, score, diversity of the game, and the engaging mythology, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim gets a 9.5 out of 10 (rounded to a 9 for the slight difficulty in the PC user interface without a gamepad) and has easily made my favorite pick for Game of the Year: 2011.