This is a hard game to review because I both love it and find some parts of it really crappy at the same time. On the one hand, you have a sprawling open world that’s ripe with history and a life of its own. On the other, you feel like a disjointed character, never taken seriously by the NPCs you encounter and forever tasked with fetch quests and escorting duties.
The game starts on a positive note. Your character, in the tradition of the series being a prisoner, is in the midst of determining their ultimate fate when destiny comes calling in a big way. Those first ten or so hours of vulnerability as an untested warrior/thief/mage are both exciting and new as you struggle to overcome difficult challenges and get a handle on the game itself. The next twenty or thirty are spent with a goal in mind, taking some chances and planning your character’s development. The next twenty hours or so after that are about wrapping up business and getting serious into long-term character leveling based on the first few dozen hours and what skills you feel you need to improve. After that it becomes a routine of same ‘ole, same ‘ole.
So with 130+ hours under my belt, a level 57 character, the head of all factions and all achievements earned, here is my list of pros and cons for Skyrim:
- Huge world to explore.
- Enormous bang for buck as far as game hours.
- A fair bit more humor than previous games.
- More options for crafting that give a higher sense of independence.
- Nice visuals.
- Good sound effects and solid, familiar sounding music right at home for this series.
- Ranged combat is excellent.
- Excellent voice acting.
- Good menus, easy to navigate.
- Many quests are tedious with worthless rewards.
- Melee combat is a bit stiff and chaotic.
- Leveling can be a real chore later on.
- Perk system seems a bit disorganized.
- Two handed weapons make casting spells a pain in the a**.
- Followers tend to hinder more than help, especially in stealth.
- Movement speed seems slow.
- Having to choose between health, magicka and stamina at level up causes sacrifices for mix and match skill set players.
- Very few voice actors for far too many roles.
- No co-op gameplay is a real shame.
- Dungeons are repetitive.
- Questionable value to many of the offered perks.
- Story is a bit bland, as are the factions.
- Some bugs can be game breaking and require patience or research.
- Not as much variation in enemies as one would expect.
- Map is of only limited use, especially when climbing mountains.
Despite the lopsidedness of my list, I really think this is a good game. Not a great game mind you but a good one. A solid, familiar feeling entry in the Elder Scrolls series that doesn’t quite feel like an evolution as it does an improvement. Perhaps that’s because Skyrim and Oblivion are on the same system. Or maybe because of how much of Oblivion and Fallout 3 are mixed into this game. Only time will tell if patches and extra content can bring this game to a level of greatness it currently has the potential for.