Xbox 360 Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Does Skyrim soar above the clouds or descend into darkness?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is perhaps Bethesda’s ambitious title to date. It’s been a long time since Oblivion, but has the wait been worth it? Without a doubt, Skyrim is the best game that the team have ever made and is perhaps one of the most epic games ever made, not to mention probably the longest with the game taking well over 100 hours to complete, and that’s without attempting to get to Level 50.

The story follows your character as he is about to be executed, but a dragon starts torching up the town and you manage to escape, but also after slaying the beast, you absorb its soul and are sent on a quest to find out what this means. Skyrim itself is mostly snowy mountains and towns, think of it like Game of Thrones and you’ll be close to the mark on the setting. Outside the main questline, there are plenty of sidequests like the Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild and so on which can take dozens of hours to complete. There are infinite numbers of quests that you can be given, which helps get to that important level milestone.

If you ever played Oblivion, then you’ll feel right at home in Skyrim. You choose your own character class, decide what to specialise in be it combat, magic, sneaking and so on. I personally have an Imperial character that is specialised in light armour, sneaking, one-handed combat and regeneration. I have a number of Daedric artifacts which can be weapons or jewellery which add bonuses to your character, but other items also do this. You can also craft your own armour, weapons, spells and enchant items. The list of possibilities is endless if you have the right materials, adding in even more of a reason to go hunting through the dozens of caves, camps and temples.

You can choose to fight with swords, axes, maces, bows, daggers, staffs or you can put your magic to use and there are some great spells to be learned. I have a Power where I summon the spirit of Lucien Lechance from Oblivion’s Dark Brotherhood to attack for me once a day. Simply exploring Skyrim will take ages, but luckily you can still fast-travel to areas you’ve been to, which saves a lot of time…otherwise it’d probably take 10 times longer than it is!

The variety in quests is quite amazing. One moment you can be slaying dragons on the mountainside, the next you are round a dining table preparing to eat someone, or poisoning someone’s drink supply. One hilarious quest starts when you go on a drinking challenge with someone and wake up a few towns over to find out that you trashed a sanctuary, sold someone’s goat to a giant and you need to find your drinking buddy to claim your prize.

The game just feels so in-depth and even now, I feel I haven’t touched the surface of what it has to offer. I’ve still got tons of miscellaneous quests to do, tons of gold to earn and artifacts to find. You will also be ambushed from time to time by dragons and you spend their souls on unlocking Shouts, which are another variety of spell which can blast objects and people flying or make you sprint across an area quickly.

It isn’t all good news though; there are a number of bugs that I’ve come across. The biggest being actually quite helpful with a horse, you can keep sprinting up mountains to reach high destinations without having to walk all the way around, but there are a few instances with floating objects/NPCs, freezing and if you install the game to your 360 hard drive, the visuals take a beating as the game caches a lot.

In terms of visuals, Skyrim is a beautiful game and the setting is just brilliant to look at. Characters do lack detail, lip-syncing is way off and the animations are a bit dated, also for characters to just vanish when they open a door is pretty funny, but long in the tooth now. The soundtrack is just epic beyond words, while the voice-acting is the best I’ve seen in a long time. You truly believe that each character is either in peril, distress, happy, sad or just plain mad.

The Verdict

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the biggest game of 2011 in terms of content and the best in terms of quality. It’s gigantic in scale and I’ve still got so much more to do, it is a game that will consume you and if you are in a relationship, prepare for the partner to become a Skyrim-widow as you won’t be putting it down for anything other than sleep.