There are also shouts that do stuff like make you move quickly from one point to the next, or turn you into an ethereal wisp that can’t receive or deal out damage. All these have their specific uses and, given the variety of enemies and situations you can find yourself in, will likely get used by you at some point. Just remember that they are in your arsenal.
The beauty of battle comes in its simplicity and the trick here is to remember what abilities and items you have at your disposal, rather than in what combination to press buttons. If you go the route of alchemy, like I have, you end up with a crap load of potions for every conceivable situation in your inventory. You just have to remember to use them. The dragon shouts are another thing – be familiar with the ones you get so you can quickly and easily spot situations in which they will be useful. The sheer number of odd situations makes all these potions, abilities and spells worthwhile.
Bethesda has improved the third person perspective, and I spent some time in that mode, fighting, exploring and just generally bumming around. It is quite improved (although the jumping animation is still pretty lame), but it still feels awkward to me, not because it’s bad, but just because I’m used to this being a first-person experience. There is nothing that is better in third-person, but there are some things that are better in first-person, such as one of the most basic requirements of ranged combat – aiming.
Another thing they did that I really like is practically take the need for pinpoint accuracy out of spell casting. Instead of a single fireball being hurled at an enemy, a plume of fire shoots out of your hand. The need to aim well is diminished because of this, and that’s certainly welcome for those of us who enjoy a first-person RPG, but are not first-person shooter fans. Make no mistake, though, there are still spells that require you to aim pretty well (not to mention the entire aspect of archery, but this is helped along by perks), but generally speaking it is more lenient this time around.
Your character themselves, aside from improving in your preferred skill set, can improve their station in Skyrim’s everyday life, as well. As usual, you still have to work for your gold, but the sheer amount of ways you can get it are vast. My preferred method, of course, aside from random dungeon romps, is stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, namely myself. With the gold you acquire, you can buy your typical stuff like weapons and armor (if you don’t find or build them), however you can also buy homes (much like previous games in the franchise) and furnish them.
When I got the gold, I bought the available house in Whiterun for 5000 coins. It was empty. I was dead broke. I couldn’t furnish my own house. Hey, at least it had a chest upstairs next to the bed that I could unload my keepers into for the time being. A bit down the line, I had some more cash and upgraded the entire house, which you can do by rooms, and it looks so much more inviting now, with a fire in the pit and bookshelves that I can place a conglomeration of books on to suit my fancy.
In addition to everything else, you can craft your own gear, potions and enchant magic into your items. You can also improve each and every weapon or armor piece you come across to make it more appealing from a stat perspective. It’s actually quite fun (for me) to go out and hunt wolves, take their hides, turn it into leather which, in turn, can be turned into gear that I can wear and upgrade – it goes full circle, and that is what makes living in the world of Skyrim so awesomely fun.
I’ve discussed many things in this review that are included in vanilla Skyrim, yet I still feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. Considering in my 60 hours or so with the game so far, I feel like I’ve probably only touched about 25% of the game’s content, if that, you can better believe this is one game we will be playing for years to come.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up a few insignificant (in my opinion) things that are bothering me, however please note that these issues hardly affect gameplay at all, nor change any of my views on the game. They are just things that give me a slight twitch every time I see them.
First off, the shadow quality isn’t the best. I’m playing on the PC with all settings at max (seriously, everything), and still some shadows are pretty jaggy more often than I would like. Typically character shadows, however, are smooth. There might be a slight issue with some of the environmental shadows, and that’s what I’m referring to. Also relating to the world and environment, for such a snowy place, your character (and others) never leave footprints. You get the sound of your foot firmly planted in the snow, but never see any footprints, which drags you out of the immersion a bit.
An issue with only the PC version, also, is this – I find it intolerable these days, especially with a game like this, that you can’t Alt+Tab out and expect the game to remain stable. It’s almost a given that at some point players are going to want to reference a guide for something (hopefully not everything, as that would ruin the experience). The game losing stability when you Alt+Tab is something that shouldn’t happen. (Typically after two Alt+Tabs the game would just shut down completely.)
Finally, the interface is a bit laggy at times and in certain situations. It’s most noticeable when you open a menu (like the Save menu, for example) and options either don’t highlight, or you have to click them multiple times to get a response. I also felt that, at times, the menu system is rather bulky, and switching weapons, using potions and switching hot-keyed shouts can be tedious. The new favorites menu is great, but it only alleviates some of that – you still have to go into a menu, scroll through options and then use/equip them. It only takes a few seconds if you know what you’re doing, but having the ability to assign a hotkey to custom actions (like switching from a ranged weapon to a melee weapon, for example), would have been awesome.
These few minor issues aside, I find it hard to fault such a beautiful, well thought out and engrossing title. Weighed against all the good, if I wasn’t tossing a critical eye to the game, I would probably start ignoring these issues to the point that they become nothing of an issue at all. That’s just the kind of gamer I am. I’m not going to sit here and trounce on what is otherwise a great game just because a few very insignificant problems arise that may very well be fixed in a future patch or, of course, by the modding community.
Ultimately, Skyrim is a work of art, a masterpiece by any measure, a wonderful painting so vivid that you can live inside it and become a part of its world, people, culture, dangers and adventures. It also truly shows, once more, that you absolutely do not need a multiplayer experience to make one of the best games available in the history of the industry. I’ve given out perfect scores before, but more than any other game I’ve given them to, I feel that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim really, truly should be put up on a pedestal as an example to all of what great video games should be.
More than any other games in the franchise to date, as well as any other games released this year, this is one to be played and experienced by anyone and everyone, because there truly is something here for all types. The electrifying world comes alive from the very beginning, inviting you to get swept up in the endless adventures that await you.