Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Please note that this review will contain MASSIVE SPOILERS for the Elder Scrolls series, particularly Oblivion and Skyrim. You. Have. Been. Warned.

I’m still in a bad mood, so, to cheer myself up, I am going to write a review of something I really like. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll already know my feelings towards Skyrim that it’s fucking awesome, but I don’t care how pointless this exercise is, I’m writing this anyways!

I was first introduced to the Elder Scrolls series with TES III: Morrowind. I saw the Game of the Year Edition in stores and, although I’d never heard of the Elder Scrolls, decided to bring it home.

I had a very love/hate relationship with Morrowind at first. I thought the graphics and soundtrack were GORGEOUS! (What? The graphics were awesome for the time!) And I’d never really been exposed to a game where you could just wander everywhere. I remember freaking out because I thought the in-game thunderstorms were actually happening outside (and vice versa).

The one area where the game fell short though, was combat. It was a choppy clickfest and even though I made a hybrid custom class, it always seemed as if the enemies were twenty levels higher than me. I finally gave up playing when a fucking guy on a bridge kept killing me on my way to one of the early dungeons.

So I set Morrowind aside for a year before picking it up again….

A year later, I rose up the ranks in the Mages Guild, made friends with the Telvanni, became Hortator of the Great Houses (and given my previous affiliation, that involved summoning a bunch of atronachs and a whole lot of fireballs) and finally, FINALLY, beat the game. To this day, I still haven’t beaten Bloodmoon or Tribunal, I so don’t want to subject myself to that clunky combat system again…..

Anyways, eventually TES IV: Oblivion was announced, which is noteworthy for me because it was one of the first games I paid full price for. (I usually waited a year or so for a price drop.) My first character was, as in Morrowind, a Breton custom class.

A large chunk of the fanbase can hate on Oblivion all they want, I loved it. Sure, combat was still a little clunky, but it definitely wasn’t as choppy as Morrowind, and you know what? There wasn’t as much to do in Oblivion, but I think where Oblivion really shone was the sheer epicness of its plotlines. I still remember how Mannimarco utterly destroys the Bruma Mages Guild, and how I really didn’t see it coming (well, I knew something was going to happen, but actually destroy a part of my precious faction? Nah!). I loved the Dark Brotherhood quests (my favourite is “Whodunnit?” but the whole faction line is awesome) and even some of the minor quests, like “A Shadow Over Hackdirt” and “A Brotherhood Betrayed” (the former an obvious nod to H.P. Lovecraft) still occupy a spot in my “awesomest quests of all time”. I even liked the Knights of the Nine DLC questline (which, from what I understand, really isn’t that popular). Did Oblivion have room to improve? Hel yes, the dungeons were some of the most repetitive I’ve ever seen, and ALL THOSE OBLIVION GATES, GAH! Still, if you’re in the market for some great quest lines and don’t mind the dated graphics, go hunt down a copy of Oblivion, here’s a link to the GOTY edition on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/900883/

So now we come to Skyrim. It was released last year on November 11th, but since Dawnguard and Hearthfire have recently come out, it’s totally still current.

Oh Skyrim, what can I say about you?

For starters, the combat system has improved somewhat from Oblivion, it feels much smoother and while there are challenging fights, most enemies can’t steamroll over you if you’re a decent level (with a few exceptions, see below). There also seems to be much more variety in the game than there was in Oblivion (but I’ve noticed how Morrowind fans are still complaining about how there’s not as much as Morrowind, but they can STFU). The graphics and soundtrack are (as usual) gorgeous (I was so impressed with the music that I actually purchased the soundtrack separately).

For those of you wh0 aren’t familiar with Skyrim, the game takes place in the titular homeland of the Norse Nords, who are basically, you know Manly Vikings, big burly warrior types who like swords and axes and will TAUNT YOU LIKE MAD for using magic (’cause True Warriors use weapons. Skyrim is home to a wide variety of creatures, including draugrs (who don’t seem to be particularly weak against fire), giants, and dragons….

Oh, and you’re basically the Chosen One (Dovahkiin, or, in English, Dragonborn) who was born with the soul of a dragon. This basically enables you to use abilities known as shouts (thu’um) which is basically the ability to speak dragon. Oh, and you unlock these shouts by killing dragons and eating their souls! Oh, and there’s a lot of political tension between the Empire, who is trying to keep Skyrim in its fold (you visited Cyrodiil, the seat of the Empire, in Oblivion) and is unfortunately run by Nazi Elves and the Stormcloaks, who are fiercely pro-Nord and racist as fuck and want Skyrim to be independent, but you can ignore the political stuff for the most part. In fact, you can ignore most of the game for the most part.

Unfortunately (and I know this would earn me a lot of hate in the fan community) Skyrim suffers from a lack of epicness.

Don’t get me wrong–the main quest is chock full of so much epicness that it could almost make up for the lack of it on the part of the faction quests. (I mean, come on, you run around killing dragons.) Thus far, I’ve completed the College of Winterhold (Mages Guild), Dark Brotherhood, and most of the Thieves Guild, and while they are great, it must be said that I felt they just weren’t as memorable as the quests in Oblivion. Do you know what was awesome about Oblivion? You work for this guy called the Gray Fox. You steal a pair of boots, and at first you’re like “WTF do I need these for?” and there’s this guy called the Stranger, he’s really weird, but that’s not the point, the final mission in the quest line involves you stealing an Elder Scroll from inside the Palace, sneaking past the guard, and jumping all the way from the top of the palace to the bottom (those boots you stole from earlier? They negate fall damage, so you’re unharmed by a drop that would normally kill you.) Oh, and the Stranger? Turns out he is the Gray Fox, but he’s not the only one whose held the position. Turns out, the original Gray Fox pissed off the Daedric Prince Nocturnal, who cursed the Gray Cowl that all Gray Foxes wore so that no one remembers who they were before they put it on. “He shall be known by the cowl, and only by the cowl.”

Awesome, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, I never really got that feeling from any of Skyrim’s faction quests. The Dark Brotherhood started off on an awesome (and appropriately creepy) note, and, don’t get me wrong, playing as the token evil faction is fun, but it always seemed like I already saw where the plot was going before my character actually got there. Maybe I’m just jaded from playing too many RPGs, but I knew who the villain of the Mages Guild questline was from their very first appearance, and then afterwards, I was like “That’s it, really?”

This is not the kind of thing I want to say after the conclusion of a faction quest, especially after I’ve been spoiled by the ones in Oblivion.

Even so, I wouldn’t say the game was a complete failure (obviously, I think it’s awesome or I wouldn’t keep saying it). Dragon fights are appropriately epic (and the number of dragons in the game are infinite and are completely unscripted–making them unpredictable) and at one point, I was stalking a deer only to have one land RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, OUT OF NOWHERE and proceed to fry my squishy mage ass. Here’s a screenshot I took as proof:

This didn’t end well.

Oh, and giants? For some reason they are ridiculously overpowered despite being a fraction of the size of dragons. Seriously, I killed my first giant at level 21…..I had killed at least seventeen dragons at that point.

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that all the quests are terrible. I loved being forced into doing things for the Daedric Princes, especially Molag Bal (who isn’t called the Lord of Domination for nothing), Sheogorath (who is always a riot because he’s, well, the Daedric Prince of Madness) and Sanguine. The big cities have their own little plotlines, which you can feel free to get involved in or skip them at your leisure–except in one really aggravating instance I hate Markarth so much. Another thing I appreciated was the effort on the part of the devs to make dungeons unique–no more trekking through nearly identical ruins (although, it seems like all the early inhabitants of Skyrim did was make claw puzzles in between worshiping dragons).

So yes, Skyrim is awesome, and now I feel a bit better for having written this review/retrospective look at the series/random TES ramblings. Oh, and you know what else is awesome about Skyrim? How they included same sex marriage–and didn’t make a big deal about it.

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