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SummaryMediocrity all over
The Good- Visually quite stunning. - A lot of customization. - Interface is pretty easy to understand. - Strong writing.
The Bad- Poor fighting mechanics. - Useless shouts. - Lackluster storyline. - Boring scenery and world design. - Doesn't feel epic in the slightest. - Too easy. - Too many inexcusable glitches.
The Bottom LineI already reviewed this game, but I wasn't quite satisfied with the first version of it. Not only was it very rushed, but it also lacked some of the details I wanted to include and it was more positive than intended, so I figured I would give it another shot.
As the game starts we are treated on a little cart trip through Skyrim along with some other prisoners (we are going to make a running gag out of this, aren't we Bethesda? -_-). Turns out we were trying to cross the border and for some reason that is illegal and punished with a trip to Dead Row and no trial. As far as opening scenes go it works pretty well as it does a pretty good job at getting me in the mood to play it and it at least contains more action than that boring prison-scene at the start of Oblivion. So naturally you escape from the man with the axe and soon after you end up in the great outdoors, beautiful Skyrim.
After this intro I went straight for the main quest which involves an evil dragon who wants to cause an apocalypse and reset the world. I wasn't expecting to be dumped straight into a great storyline, but after like five hours of playing the "peak" of the whole storyline had already occurred. The first time I had to fight a dragon was amazing, it seemed so big and so challenging to slay a beast of this size, but this was two hours in and the rest of the story was rather boring. Every quest you got was either telling you to go somewhere and talk to somebody or to go into a copy & pasted cave and fetch something.
It was around this time I figured a little break would do me some good and I dived into one of the side-stories, namely the whole rebellion that is going on in Skyrim. It is the Empire versus the Nords and I wanted to get in on the fun, so I headed straight for the Nord city of Winterhelm (or was it Winterhold?), It was around this time that I started to notice that the world design is pretty boring, sure it is amazing at first when you first emerge from a cave and see an endless field of adventure before you, but there is just very little to do in this world and the moment you see your first mountain you have pretty much seen it all. Broken down into percentages Skyrim is: 5% city, 2% mountain and 100% snow. No matter where you look, you'll see f*cking snow.
Anyway I got to the city and for the first time since I started playing I was send to an area with different scenery. As exciting as it may sound, I am sad to inform you that the answer to your question is "ice" and well... more snow. Another thing I started to notice was that as I started looting more valuable treasure and I could carry more and more items the shops weren't doing a very good job at keeping up with my desire to sell them stuff. In Oblivion all shopkeepers had a maximum amount of money they could give you for each item, but here they only have a limited amount of cash to spend per day. This means that selling one treasure will likely bankrupt them instantly and by the time you find another vendor you'll already have found more treasure, creating a loop that you simply can't escape.
The whole rebellion sidestory was okay, but it heavily relied on assaulting cities and settlements. Again, just like with the dragon, this is amazing the first time, but after you do it five times in the same hour it starts to grow rather dull and predictable. This is a major problem in Skyrim, everything that could be an amazing setpiece is leeched of all impact because you will start doing it at level 3 and continue to do it for as long as you play with no tweaking in difficulty. Every dragon or city you take down feels like something that should have been the finally of the game, which instead of putting you in a constant state of amazement, makes you immune to its attempts to impress you by constantly doing the same elaborate tricks. It could have been paced better is what I am trying to say.
A big argument I keep hearing however is that the combat and leveling are the best they have ever been in the series, something that around this time started to strike me as rather odd. Leveling in Skyrim isn't in any way different from leveling in Oblivion and neither is training your skills. Sure, you no longer select primary and secondary skills, but that only allows you to level yourself in a corner if you only train skills like Alchemy and Smithing. "But now you can play however you want and that is what your character will get good at" doesn't make any kind of sense because that is always the case in every RPG. The fighting is for the most part okay and feels like it has remained unchanged, but this is the first time we actually get to fight big battles with both friendly and enemy NPC's. Sometimes you'd get lucky and some random guards would help you beat down a bandit in Oblivion, but in Skyrim there are a lot of organized attacks and they aren't as fun as you'd think. Been an archer and sneak combination I was pretty much forced into fighting with a friendly army during the rebel quests and this turned the combat into an uncontrollable mess where dozens of soldiers danced around each other and friends were hard to differentiate from foes.
After rounding up the rebel business I returned to the main quest just in time to finally see the game's most hyped, new feature. Using the Right Button you can unleash a shout that will have a magical effect on enemies and your surroundings. Wait what? Magical effect? You mean like a spell? Yes, I am dead serious, the shouts are a 1 on 1 copy of the magical spells every fantasy game has used since god knows long. You have shouts for shooting fire, ice, wind, becoming invisible and stopping time just to name a few, but is this the great feature everybody was hyped for? In the time it takes my character to shout some random gibberish I could have already opened the menu and equipped a magic spell that does the exact same thing.
I continued working my way through a few more dull caves and pretty good character dialog until I finally made it to the last boss, or so I though. Though technically a Round 1 of 2 the first fight with the big, bad dragon was an absolute nightmare. Not because it was hard, but because it was more glitched than Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Big Rigs combined. After dying once because I got a little too excited and forgot to watch my health, the boss just went into insanity mode. I couldn't inflict any damage on him with anything I had, not even my backup could do anything to harm the dragon who was casually spewing fire on us while we were putting enough holes in him to make a bunker fall apart. Eventually I solved the glitch and in my very next try he managed to get stuck in the scenery. Fantastic. What makes this so weird for me is that I can't seem to figure out how you can possibly cock up so badly that a boss becomes completely invulnerable? How did you get that programmed into the game? And while we are on the subject: Why didn't this get taken out in the two patches we have seen since the release of the game?
Anyway, I finished up the main storyline which I won't spoil for you, but after that I kinda stopped playing. While I accumulated a total of 500+ hours played in Oblivion, I don't even think I reached the 30+ hours that I got on Kingdom Hearts and Skyward Sword with this game. I tried getting into the Thieves guild questline, but yeah... lots of dark caves.
My main problem with the game is that everything it contains could potentially be very amazing, but because you see everything in the first five hours of playtime and then just continue to wallow in it, it takes away from how epic it could have been. Consider it has also been a while since Oblivion came out, I kind of wonder what all the time went into because it certainly wasn't the storyline or the bug fixing.
While Skyrim has received a lot of praise from the press, I don't think it deserves such awards as the Game of the Year from the Escapist, simply because personally trying to enjoy this game felt a lot like clinging to the nostalgia I felt for Oblivion. I am not sure if this is the case for everybody, but the way I see professional websites handing out 10/10's makes me feel like these people weren't enjoying Skyrim as much as they forced themselves too and that is a pretty depressing thought.
If you are a die-hard fan of Oblivion than you may be able to see past the many problems of Skyrim, but everybody else will just see it for the mess it actually is. It is a big realm filled with a lot of copies of the same three areas and that occasionally pisses itself and dies. All-around mediocrity.