So, turns out I ended up doing the Skyrim review after-all. I wasn’t planning on it – I’ve never played an Elder Scrolls game before, and we had other writers who had more experience so with the pre-order guaranteeing me getting it anyway, I figured I’d just leave it to someone else to do.
Due to various reasons we had to change things: the console version was sent to me whilst the other writer got the PC version, and so I preceded to spend fifty glorious hours reviewing what I think is a major contender for Game of the Year. I honestly couldn’t convey to you in words how damn good this game is – the mixed opinions I had heard about the previous Elder Scrolls title, Oblivion, is what prevented me picking it up, but there is no two ways about Skyrim: it’s fantastic and if you haven’t tried the Elder Scrolls series before, this is a perfect entry point.
It’s strange, because my first encounter with the ‘Bethesda School’ of RPG design was when I reviewed Fallout 3, and whilst it was enjoyable enough it didn’t really compel me to play it much, even if it did have Liam Neeson in it. Then came New Vegas a couple of years later, and that managed to get me hooked (although sadly I still haven’t gone back to it since I reviewed it – must get on that). I think I managed to sink about 35 hours into it, although at the time I kind of put it down to Obsidian’s influence. Despite those guys never seeming to be able to release a finished game (KOTOR II, Alpha Protocol… even the PC build of New Vegas was a bit dire), they do make engaging games to say the least. I actually much prefer KOTOR II over the first one, although I did play the second one first so that might have spoilt things for a bit. Anyway, I went into Skyrim cautiously optimistic – the game’s been hyped to high heaven all year, but not being a fan of the franchise I managed to avoid getting swept up in it. Still, the brief hands-on session I’d had a few weeks prior made me think that, actually, there may be something here after all.
Man, was that an understatement. Like I said in my review, with a game like Skyrim, the sheer openness of the game means that it’s easy to get lost, or be given too much choice that you don’t know where to start (Little Boy in Big Toy Shop Syndrome). Whilst Skyrim does succumb to that at times, it does a really good job at pulling you through the various threads it has available. There’s the main quest, the faction quests, various independent quests… plus the myriad of ‘Miscellaneous’ tasks that you can do. I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, and I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun reviewing a game, and that’s saying something.
Sure, it wasn’t perfect though. Inventory management is a bit weak, despite them adding in a ‘favourite’ quick-menu that you can customize. The problem is, you end up with so many things you feel the need to ‘favourite’, that you end up right back where you started – facing a long list of stuff you have to sift through. Perhaps adding in the ability to create ‘sets’ of items of something would have been a good idea. There was the odd bug, oddity – full on crash once or twice, but none of these things detracted much from the overall experience. I’m sure a lot of it can be patched out anyway.
I picked up Skyrim on the PC today as well. With my new rig imminent, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out the game on the PC, as that’s going to have the better visuals and it will be interesting to see what the modding community comes up with. Still going to stick with the 360 version though, as I’ve sunken so many hours into it already that I really should continue. Plus might try and pick up some achievements as well. If you’re looking for a game to spend your Christmas vacation playing, I can’t recommend this enough. If you’ve heard a lot about the franchise, but like me have never actually played one, then Skyrim is also a great place to start.
Oh, and I got this rather nifty map with the PC copy, pictured above. Wish I had that during the review…