The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Community Review
by Stuart Davidson - 17th November 2011
Skyrim, for those who haven't paid much attention to it or the prequels, is a traditional RPG where we take the role of a character that plays through a main plot, taking it to the conclusion. This isn't a straight line of quests though as we have an open world environment which allows the player to explore, interact and weave their own story and experience through side quests and the progression they bring.
The basic gaming mechanic is standard for the genre with WASD moving our character on PC, left stick on the consoles. We have a button for jump, others for firing weapons (or casting spells) and we can enter a menu system for detailed control of our attributes or to access maps and the like. These controls and the requirement to complete the main quests are really the only standard aspects of Skyrim though as the opening to the game allows us to take on different character attributes and from there we are free to play in our own style.
Our players went for a real mix of characters, those who favoured Melee combat such as Judas opting for Khajitt whereas mkk, despite trying to create an attractive female elf character initially, ended up with a high elf male magic specialist so that they could try the updated magic system within the game. Dyre Straits who previously played as Dark Elf in game such as Oblivion this time went for Breton, a half elf battle mage as did Synthesis204. Our final gamer, Neshi went for Female Woodelf, an archer.
In terms of the overall feel of the games feedback from our players was positive. Many however commented on the sluggish feel of the PC version at its default settings but that is one of the key aspects of Skyrim, at least on PC... the ability to tailor the game to the individual user's needs. Mouse sensitivity is one of the key options which was taken advantage of, as was the ability to use a 360 pad, and for the more technically proficient editing the game config files can bring huge changes to the feel of the game, even down to how the character jumps or arrows fly.
Once these control decisions are out of the way advances in the gameplay were immediately apparent to our testers. Favourite weapons was one key aspect as Skyrim allows us to equip items after pressing Q (quick menu) rather than go through the standard menu system which takes time, though is improved over Oblivion. Mention was also made of the expansions to gameplay since Oblivion in areas such as weapon racks, enchanting stations and mannequins which make management of the character and items far easier. The ability to juggle items/spells in the two hands approach of Skyrim was another area which was seen to be an advance though like the perks system it was not universally liked.
Graphics and Sound
As PC seems to be the format of choice for our gamers that is what we are going to focus on in this section and the general feel, and it seems to universally be the case, is that there are aspects of the default Skyrim configuration which are gorgeous to look at and far superior to Oblivion. Breath-taking scenery for example but that said the experience is not consistent and the game filled with low resolution textures and less than spectacular artwork on the NPC faces or less than impressive blood and plant images.
The key to the game, once again, is the range of options available and through editing of the ini file and various 3rd party modifications which are already available our players were able to take the game up a level in terms of graphics quality. Some examples are shown around this text of the quality achievable.
Sound, unlike graphics, is something which was universally praised by our site visitors. It was noted that it was always appropriate to the gameplay at hand, often moody and the quality of voiceovers very good by recent standards.
Given experience with games such as Fallout: New Vegas and Oblivion it has become somewhat accepted (expected?) that with the size of the game world bugs are present in Bethesda games. There is almost no way to playtest enough to find them all before release and we encountered many in our time with New Vegas but nothing significant. The recently released RAGE, another Bethesda title, was also seen to offer a less than acceptable amount of issues which many people felt should have been picked up in testing/development? So what did our testers make of Skyrim?
Well the experiences varied greatly, from those who could play with no stability issues to one player (Judas) who was barely able to get the game stable in any form without significant tweaking to the configuration options to this reviewer who has seen barely one crash to date.
There were also instances of clipping seen, the ability to shoot (or not) through object not working correctly. One rather special bug saw Synthesis204's immortal horse "Shadowmere" die after falling off a cliff.
Other minor issues experienced by our players saw them become frustrated by the companion's which are available in the game. The lack of control over these could result in them heading off into battle before the player was ready, impacting their ability to win a fight.
The key however seems to be save and save often to minimise the impact of any bugs and these, as with other games, will be patched by the developer over time. Alternatively buying the console version of the game could be beneficial as the system related crashes are far, far less likely to occur.
With that mind-set in place, the experience reported by our members was hugely positive. Each and every tester enjoyed their time with the game and those who experience issues were engrossed enough to find solutions and work through them... here is a quick summary of the feedback we received...
"A game with some minor quirks and flaws, but for the price and hours of joy you can take out of it, an amazing experience and my GOTY"... "It's a living world"... "So far Skyrim has been a really good experience and will soak up many more idle hours of my life, without regret"... "the Graphics...are astounding!"..." a living breathing work of art".
Average user score 87%
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