Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Here be Dragons: Skyrim Review

As with all Bethesda games we’ve been given an incredibly ambitious and incredibly buggy game. 
I’ve died going through a door and subsequently fallen through the floor into blackness. I’ve been stuck in a few walls, a few rocks and a few treasure chests. I’ve had the game load up the ps3 home screen instead, other times it’s turned itself off completely. I’ve had it crash and the only way to switch my Playstation off was via the plug socket. I’ve heard a way to make these crashes less frequent is to turn the auto save feature off, a helpful solution. These should hopefully be fixed in a patch or three but I doubt it.

Another thing I found incredibly helpful was when speaking to a guard about my 1000septim bounty I was attacked by a dragon – ending the conversation – causing six or so guards try to kill me while a dragon also did.

Most NPCs seem rather generic; they aren’t as smart as they were promised. I’ve been asked to enchant weapons of various soldiers but when tried to actually do it they just cycled through five or so phrases. An NPC thanks you for bringing a Golden Claw back to them – even if you steal it again as soon as it’s returned. Sometimes a shopkeeper will be elsewhere even though the store is open.

Problems aside, though, it’s still easy to love some of the NPC encounters. I quickly developed a deep level of respect for Sven (much like my relationship with Fargoth of Morrowind) after he managed to score the killing animation on a dragon that attacked his town – leaving me dumbfounded while he mounted it and sliced its face. He deserved the Dragon Soul but I got it.

The new skills and perks system is much more streamlined and fun to play around with allowing for more precise character builds rather than just maxing out destruction to be a mage. However removing the star signs (which gives you an overarching class type; thief, warrior, mage) leaves you without an idea for a character build until you’ve tried everything out. As there is no option at the start to finalise your character, I’ll forever be stuck with an accidental perk in two-handed weapons that would be better used on just about anything else. 

The only problem with the menu interface would be that you can return to the menu and select something else, unless you’ve looked at the map. You’ll be frequently checking items, then scroll down to check the map, then want to go back to items. But instead you have to exit the menu and reopen it rather than being able to cycle like in Oblivion. It would also be helpful if you could sort items by quality (or other specifications) rather than just alphabetically – but that is too much to ask.

Followers are really useful when exploring, though it’s a shame they are always stuck with their beginning equipment as it sometimes limits what you can give them instead as they will not un equip some armour. It also means that they’ll always be burdened by an extra 30 weight or so when you could be using them to carry things. If you send them home to explore on your own they’ll keep any equipment you’ve given them but put their old armour back on, making you have to take it off them and give it back for them to wear anything new.

I don’t think it's possible I'll ever be bored of dragon encounters, hearing the thunderous roar of one and then seeing villagers be set alight is a marker for one of the most fun game additions to any series. Jeremy Soule has outdone himself with the music production on this game, hearing The Sons of Skyrim swell up as the battle with a dragon gets more intense builds up a relationship with a game I very rarely feel. It leads to a much more intense fight where I am Dovahkiin (Dragonborn) and must destroy the dragon to save the people of Skyrim, and this choir of barbarians are cheering for me. I’m starting to think that all games should feature a random dragon encounter dynamic just because of how fun it is to slay one. I am stockpiling Dragon Souls at an alarming rate (8 and counting) for the speed I am finding Dragon Words.

On top of all of this though I must say it’s one of the most captivating games I’ve played, more so than any previous Elder Scrolls game. 

There have been times when I’ve been walking to a quest location and gotten distracted by finding a cave, or just looking at the moons and then deciding to try and find things to harvest for my alchemy. I’m around 70hours in and halfway through the main quest, currently balancing another 30 or so quests (all of which are incredibly fun and diverse, my favourite so far starting with a drinking competition). All of the flaws are tiny in comparison to what you get from the game. For £45 you’re getting the content of 10 games or so, 10 brilliant games. I forgive it each time it crashes as soon as I load it up again as it’s just a beautiful experience and I cannot wait to see where Bethesda go next.

In this life or the next I doubt I’ll ever find anything in a game more fun than shouting at a bear so hard it flies off a cliff.

I award this game plenty of stars out of a load of stars.

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