Skyrim – PC Game Review
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. PC Game Review. Publisher: Bethesda Softworks. Developer: Bethesda Game Studios. $59.99
Passed Inspection: Amazing visuals and sound FX. By far the most in-depth sandbox-style RPG game on any platform, bar none. Supports an Xbox 360 controller right out of the box. Top notch voice acting throughout. It will be months before even the most die-hard gamers run out of things to do in this game. There are many different dragons to encounter. Fully voiced NPCs. There are already loads of user created mods for the game, too.
Failed Basic: The random crashes to the desktop were very frustrating (though possibly fixed with the first patch), and the menu system is better suited for a console than a PC. No multiplayer support, but it is after all a single-player RPG.
Tis the season for the year’s best games, and Skyrim is the kind of game that somehow already has ended up on many Game of the Year lists even before its release. Skyrim is the latest title in a long line of RPG games from Bethesda Softworks set in the Elder Scrolls universe.
This time players will spend hundreds of hours role-playing their hearts out in Skyrim. Skyrim is the great white Northern region of the continent on which the previous Elder Scrolls game Oblivion took place within, but set 200 years later. Skyrim is the home of the Nords, which is a Viking-like race. While you can select from a variety of the signature Elder Scrolls races when you create your character, the premise stays the same: you are a dragonborn, one who can speak the language of dragons through what is called a “shout.”
The dragons are insanely awesome looking too. Not only do you hunt dragons, but at some point you can learn a “shout” to call up one to help you out as well, even to fight another dragon with. The whole dragon angle is taken to the extreme in Skyrim, and even movie dragons never looked this impressive.
Also let’s not forget that being an Elder Scrolls game, players can expect a deep and engrossing RPG experience like few other games can offer, because there’s so much to do that players can easily spend days roaming around hunting wildlife, attempting to steal from shops, crafting and just taking in the sights before ever picking up a single quest.
The biggest distraction for most will be that the degree of interaction with stuff in this game is mind boggling. If you see an anvil, you can utilize it. If you see some herbs growing on the ground, you can stop and harvest them. If you see a book, yes you can actually read it. As crazy as it may sound, you can even eat and digest almost any item you can loot and keep in your inventory. Some items may have a negative effect on your stats by consuming them, but many items can be used by the alchemy system in-game one way or another.
Class-wise there are no different classes to choose from, instead you pretty much fine tune your abilities from three different pools of attribute trees. There’s a pool for Warrior, Thief, and Mage. For example, you can decide to concentrate on say Two-Handed weapons, Destruction Magic, and Lockpicking, in addition to any of the other selections as you go, instead of spending all of your points on one standard class pool for Warrior, Thief, or Mage alone.
Additionally the various skills are leveled up by doing things in the game associated with them. The perks only help you fine tune each tree. If as a player you tend to use one-handed weapons and heavy armor, as you engage in combat you’ll get updates at the top of the screen telling you those skills have leveled up.
Dual wielding is also an option which I found useful, because I could arm an ice sword in one hand, and a fire sword in the other and hack and slash my way through almost any enemy.
Gameplay-wise there’s a main storyline to speak of, but you can choose never to undertake it, instead doing side-quests. This departure from the main plot will still yield an amazing gameplay experience. The sandbox that they’ve created is massive in scope. All of the interaction with every NPC is fully voiced as well. There’s so much to spark your interest that’s it’s hard not to just wander off to see what’s over the hillside, and before you know it the sun has set and risen again already in real life.
Being this is a PC version the standard WASD key setup works well with a decent mouse. If you’re like me and prefer the arrow keys for movement, you can remap everything as needed without difficulty. There’s native support for the Xbox 360 controller, and overall that appears to be the best way to navigate the menu system. The problem is, without a 360 controller on the PC it’s a bit clunky attempting to switch quickly to disarm your weapons to utilize your magic healing powers, and then back to your weapons, or to access your favorites menu, inventory, and so on.
Technologically speaking Skyrim won’t disappoint either. The game engine doesn’t just look amazing, it brings every tiny bit of the environment to life in painstaking detail. The PC version as one might expect takes things to the next level as well, because all of the bells and whistles a new video card can harness are taken advantage of in Skyrim.
Even at medium detail on a first generation quad-core AMD Phenom CPU-based machine with an entry-level GeForce 430 video card the experience is breath-taking, and it’s smooth enough to lose weeks’ worth of time within Skyrim. On an i5 2500k CPU-based machine with 8gigs of PC-1600 memory and dual GeForce 460 1gig video cards in SLI mode the ultra settings are pretty mind blowing.
The only frustrating thing about the game is that, like previous Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim also has its share of little issues and bugs. Personally, I feel that most are laughable, like how hard a giant can hit you, propelling you or anything they hit miles into the air. I myself haven’t experienced any game-breaking bugs, aside from the random crashes to the desktop. Right before finishing this review Bethesda released the first patch. So the good news is they’re already hard at work addressing things. Either way, saving the game a lot is the best advice I can give anyone. I will, however, say that this first patch was supposed to address the crashing, and I’m glad to report that I haven’t crashed once since I applied it.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve never been a big traditional RPG enthusiast. I’ve always been more of an action/RPG gamer who engaged in the Diablo or Torchlight games. However Skyrim continues to scratch an itch I never knew I had. I did like Oblivion, but it didn’t hold my interest long. Skyrim, on the other hand, continues to draw me in. For the upcoming cold winter months that we’re in for, I can’t think of a better game to lose yourself within.
Best part is it’s hard to tell where the game ends, because there’s so much to do. Even if you were to make it to the end of the main quest, starting a new character of a different race, and utilizing different skills extends the experience, and it’s still great fun even a third time around. Taking the thief route, or that of a mage, is so different than that of the warrior/brawler type. By design you can create the hybrid class you want to play, so the possibilities are endless.
Overall, you’re the ultimate hardcore RPG gamer if you can find and complete everything in this game that there is to do. It’s that deep and that engrossing. You can’t say that I didn’t warn you at least. This is the kind of game that relationships end over—but that’s a good thing, right?
Armchair General Rating: 93%
About the Author
Rod White is a veteran writer with almost two decades’ experience covering games, hardware, military aviation and combat simulations for the PC, as well as diecast collectibles and various tabletop miniatures war games. Formerly co-founder and owner of PC Multimedia & Entertainment Magazine, one of the Internet’s first true online gaming publications to cover PC games, simulations and hardware, he also hosted the ground-breaking RealVideo/RealAudio show called CombatReporterLive! for the AllGamesNetwork/Pseudo, Inc.