Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Warning: This post contains a few graphic images of Skyrim combat and a small spoiler of who the end boss is, but that’s not really a secret anymore. But spoiler alert anyway!
After milking Oblivion dry of as much content as I could, I found myself waiting along with other fans, for over half a decade for the next instalment of the Elder Scrolls Series. What we were given, was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and it was incredible! The game ultimately simplifies some of the mechanics in Oblivion and improves on them, which is what every sequel should achieve. To this date, for me Skyrim reigns as the top open world RPG game despite its flaws, and I’ll tell you why!
The story basically revolves around your character and his/her journey to defeat the evil protagonist, Alduin the World Eater. The quests that you complete as you go through the story were tense and enjoyable, but the final fight was severely underwhelming for a big bad dragon. The setting for the final fight wasn’t the issue, it was just how the fight played out. Also, after fighting dozens of dragons, you become less impressed at the next one you encounter. I think the sheer number of dragons you face see is one of the problems that the final fight had. There are mods however, to increase the difficulty or alter the fight to make it more challenging, which I did end up using the second time round!
Honestly, some quests were a little dull and many and you could see that there was some repetition going on, but at most times you were in for some wicked fights and obstacles that you had to overcome.
Before I get onto the core mechanics of the game, I want to quickly point out that originally, I had logged 40+ hours on the PS3 before moving onto the PC version of the game. The reason for this was because the console versions were absolutely dreadful and were plagued by dire loading times, bugs and occasional frame rate issues, all of which I experienced throughout. With the PC version, these issues didn’t seem to be as much of a nuisance and this is why I never really touched Skyrim on the PS3 ever again.
Another feature that the PC version has that the consoles don’t, is the ability to add mods and personally, any game that does this is a winner in my book. Mods are basically free content made by fans that you can enjoy and there’s almost an unlimited amount of mods available and whatever you want to add into the game, there’s a chance that it’s already been modded! Honestly, without Skyrim mods, the base game can be a little stale with the repetitive side missions you’ll eventually encounter once you’ve completed the story and the ones from the DLC packs (which I definitely recommend getting as there are some really cool features you’d be missing out on!). Also keep in mind, there are some mods that require you to have a certain DLC pack.
To give you an idea of how much mods impact the continuity of Skyrim’s gameplay, I’ll share with a few examples of mods that I’ve used in the past!
- Magicka Sabers – This literally gives you access to lightsabers, while it breaks the immersion, who wouldn’t want a lightsaber?
- LOTR Character Pack 1 – As I’m such a Lord of the Rings fan, it was inevitable that I was going to add a LoTR mod. It was very satisfying seeing Gandalf running around in Skyrim.
- Zelda Music Swap – Swaps out most of the Skyrim music, including the title screen for Zelda soundtracks. One of my favourites as it changes the whole mood of the game and make it that much more enjoyable if you’re looking for a change.
- Midas Magic Evolved – This beast of a mod adds 250+ spells to the game and I do have to say, this is a must have mod for anyone who loves a good spell. Some of the spells can be little overpowered, but there are mods to increase the difficulty of enemies!
Without mods, I wouldn’t be playing the game still!
The combat was hands down, the most improved feature to what it was like in Oblivion. Although melee and ranged combat still feels a bit static at times (especially with 2-handed weapons), there is a significant improvement. Also, I shouldn’t forget to mention the ability to dual-wield weapons and spells! This was one of the things that interested me most about the game. I could finally be a fully powered wizard with destructive spells in each hand.
The kill cam is new to the Elder Scrolls series and it’s a welcome addition. Seeing your sword slice through the enemy or an arrow reach its target in slow motion is honestly one of the coolest features of the game! Even spells get kill cams!
As I said before, the simplification of the stats, perks and the levelling system in Skyrim was ultimately a good direction for the game. I think clarification is a better word than simplification because when I first started out in Oblivion I honestly didn’t know how the level up system worked! At one point I wasn’t levelling up because I didn’t know that sleeping while you have the experience required to level up, causes you to go to the next level! While this wasn’t particularly a bad concept, it just felt a bit too confusing for newer players new to this series.
Now in Skyrim, Bethesda have kept the system where advancing the levels of your skills grants you experience to level up. There is no need to find a bed and sleep to get to the next level, which felt a bit unnecessary. However one of the things that has kept me coming back to Elder Scrolls games is the different levelling system. You don’t gain experience from killing enemies or from quests. In fact the only way to advance in level is to increase the skill levels of your Perks! For example if you get your Destruction skill from 20 – 23 (max being 100), you may go from level 1-2. However if you were level 20, you would need to increase your Destruction skill, or any other skill(s) a lot more times to proceed to the next level of your character. So why is this so good you might ask? Well you’re constantly improving your character as you play! Could you ask anything better from an RPG? I promise you, it isn’t as complicated as it sounds!
Each time you advance to the next level, not only do you get a perk point, you also get a an attribute point. These are for increasing your HP (health pool), Magicka (for spells) and Stamina (to sprint and use heavy melee attacks). You can allocate these attribute points however like to suit whatever character build you’re trying to create, which is great because it adds an extra bit of flexibility, freedom and choice for your character! So if you wanted to be a tank, you’d probably want a lot of HP and Stamina with a bit of Magicka for some extra healing just in case things don’t turn out your way.
The removal of classes and the freedom to create whatever “class” you want as you play the game is a welcome change. While static classes have their place in some games, I don’t think it’s a good system for an Elder Scrolls game because the whole point of the open world RPG series is to promote freedom. What better way than to do so with encouraging freedom of choice with skill trees. You could become a battlemage with a staff and shield, or a stealth fire wizard. There are many paths to go down!
The crafting system in Skyrim is pretty neat and offers some bonuses for those with points spent into the Smithing Perk tree. For example with a high level Smithing, you can upgrade your weapons and/or armour to greater lengths. To image below will show you the different upgrade tiers and what they do!
To get access to the high end weapons and armour won’t require you to have any points invested in the Smithing tree because you can find such things around the world at a higher character level, but it will help if you want to maximise the overall damage/defence of your items. With the Arcane Blacksmith Smithing perk, you can improve magical weapons and armour, meaning enchanted items. Combine this with a maxed out Enchanting Skill tree and you have yourself able to reach insane levels of weapon damage/armour!
Some things are little broken and I think should have been revised. One such thing is the ability to enchant Magicka Cost Reduction of a spell school (Destruction, Illusion, Restoration, Alteration, Conjuration) on armour pieces. These enchants can give you up to 25% Magicka Cost Reduction and enchanting them on four armour pieces can effectively allow you to cast an entire school of spells for free! For Destruction and Restoration spells, you can literally deal damage or heal all day without losing any Magicka! This isn’t even the most broken part because the Extra Effect Enchanting perk allows you to put not one, but two enchants on the same item. Now you’ll be able to cast two spell schools for free! I’ve tried this and it makes things a whole lot easier. Which is safe to say, very imbalanced because there are no downsides. For melee/physical ranged focused characters, there are enchants that increase one-handed/two-handed/bow damage by a % and also stacking these with Legendary upgrades can result in some high damage outputs!
The huge open wold allows for a grand exploration of Skyrim province. There are countless locations to discover where you may find side missions, forgotten bosses, ancient loot or even just a place full of bandits to steal loot from. In Skyrim the dungeons are a lot more varied and less repetitive than the ones you may have seen in Oblivion, however even after you’ve been in your fair share of dungeons, you will find that things start to look a bit familiar. Although if you play on a PC, you’ll have a great time making the gameplay more interesting and varied with the humongous selection of mods available!
While Skyrim’s aesthetics were a huge improvement over Oblivion’s, there are still some things that could improve, texture wise. For a big open world game, it looks great and immersive. However after playing some more of the latest games you’ll quickly see that it doesn’t look “amazing” anymore. Don’t get me wrong the base game perfectly fine as it is, but for PC users there are certain mods that improves the visuals…providing your PC can handle such mods.
The RealVision ENB mod adds ENB effects and post processing to vastly increase “realism” and to make the game look better but at the cost of performance. Even with the ability to tweak the settings, I really don’t recommend you use this if you’re graphics card can’t take it. However, if you’re interested, check this video (which I didn’t make) out to see what results you can get, or you can watch it below!
I’ve played around with a few ENB mods and if you do end up using one, you won’t regret it because it does truly make the game look a whole lot more beautiful and immersive!
There are other things that are less intensive and will make the game look better. The Skyrim HD – 2K Textures mod basically ups the resolution of textures up to 8K (1K- 8K). This is a mod I’d recommend for any PC Skyrim player!
My experience while playing Skyrim has been a grand one, and one of the reasons for it were the sounds and atmosphere of the world. Crawling through dungeons and caves gave an eerie feeling and a sense of danger. As you traverse through a caves you may hear some echoes of water droplets or of something creaking and these are what helped bring the province of Skyrim alive. It shows that even the smallest details have the biggest impact on the atmosphere of a game.
Overall, Skyrim is without a doubt one of the finest open world RPG game that I’ve ever had the joy of playing. While the game is plagued with the usual Bethesda bugs such as long loading times and some glitches, everything from the characters to the sound effects really brought the world to life and it’s more proof that a game can be a piece of art. Even with adding mods the game is perfectly fine to play from start to finish and I guarantee that you’ll be clocking in hours upon hours before realizing you’ve forgotten that one assignment you had to finish for the next day! I recommend and encourage you to play the spectacle of The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim!
What are your thoughts on Skyrim? I’d love to know what you think of the game!