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SummaryI used to like Elder Scrolls, but then I took an arrow to the knee
The GoodIt is big and pretty. After the nauseating mess that was Oblivion, I enjoyed playing Skyrim much more than I expected to. In fact, looking back, I wish I had played a bit slower, and taken more time to appreciate the details. I will definitely replay it in a couple of months when mods start shaping up and certain bugs are fixed.
The BadThe world is generic. Trees, wood houses, stone ruins, bears, cats, foxes, mammoths, giants, skeletons, dragons, ... where have I seen this before? Oh yeah. Everywhere.
The main quest is poorly designed. If you happened to live in a cave during the Skyrim media promotion, then don't worry. Everything is revealed in the first ten minutes: Alduin, the eater of worlds, has awoken again, and you are the dragonborn destined to defeat him! Still, unlike the guild quests, the main quest is relatively okay.
Guild quests are very poorly designed. Everything is Epic and Extreme! Day 1 in the mage's guild: five minute lecture on how to cast spells. Day 2: I'm crawling through a dungeon killing epic undead left and right and discovering epic artifacts. Epic! Day 5: I became the chosen one for an ancient order of super wizards, saved the world and became the arch-mage, even though my skill and knowledge of magic is far less than anyone else's in the guild. Extreme! This is probably the best guild quest in the game too, the others are far worse. The Stormcloak/Empire quests aren't even funny, they're just plain bad.
After you achieve something great, nothing in the game changes. Defeated Alduin? Dragons are still flying around just like before. Defeated the Stormcloaks? There are still respawning Stormcloak outposts just like before. I guess in Morrowind it made sense because it was all hush-hush. You could boasts about your deeds but nobody would believe you. In Skyrim everyone seems to be perfectly informed about everything. Guards will randomly tell you that they know you are in the Dark Brotherhood for example. Or that you're a conjurer, or that you are good at lockpicking. They even comment about artifacts you have equipped. It's incredibly incoherent too. You can kill a dragon and absorb its soul in front of a guard and he'll still say "I got to thinking, maybe I'm the dragonborn and I just don't know it yet". No, bro. I'm the dragonborn, as you damn well know.
It's like Bethesda put no thought into the logic of the world at all. They just made content for content's sake.
Finally, the gameplay itself feels better, it has lost something. It's become far too easy and monotonous. In Morrowind, mages had to invest some thought into what they would cast because magicka didn't just regenerate in a couple of seconds, and the spell selection was bigger. In Skyrim you can let loose everything you've got in every encounter. This is just one example out of many of how the gameplay was dumbed down.
The Bottom LineIt's Fallout 3 with swo... I mean, it's a new TES game.
It's much better than Oblivion, but lacks the artfulness, consistency and weirdness of Morrowind.
However if Bethesda improves in the next game as much as they have improved from Oblivion to Skyrim, then perhaps there is hope yet.