By Tye Van Horn
Elm Staff Writer
The new Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had promised much to gamers when it unveiled itself at the E3 gaming convention last year, boasting a revamped graphic system, new animations and innovations, and, most importantly, pulse pounding fights against fierce fire breathing dragons. The final product fails to dissapoint from the second you put the game into the tray and choose one of ten races, including humans, elves, reptiles, orcs, even a cat person.
As soon as you pass the opening tutorial you must brace yourself to get lost in a world unlike your own. Skyrim is a world of absolute escapism as you can role play in a believable land filled with migratory giants, arcane universities filled with blue robed mages, dark caves filled with undead and other monsters, and, most importantly, dragons. The sheer scope of this open world can get a little bit overwhelming. The game boasts up to 300 hours of gameplay and most of that is no where near the main storyline, yet the side quests get the same royal treatment in writing that the main one does.
The graphics are a great improvement over the previous Elder Scrolls but still not up to par with other games. From a distance the world looks beautiful and full, but the textures up close are quite rough and muddy. Pop in textures are also frequent. The character models still feature wooden expression but this too is an improvement over the previous game.
The music was by far the most impressive aspect. The themes for towns creates the right atmosphere for intricate storyline and dialogue, or for the hustle and bustle of a lively group of people going about their daily lives. The world themes gave the perfect background of mystery and adventurous exploration. And the battle music. My God, the battle music. I found myself getting lost in the intensity of the world around me as my mighty blade cleaved through flesh and bone. The Nordic influence is apparent as a choir of burly men shout out the Elder Scrolls theme in the Dragon Language while I fight off a frost troll with my fire spell. Skyrim’s composer Jeremy Soule really outdid himself for what I must admit is one of the best video game soundtracks ever made.
Voice acting on the other hand wasn’t quite as impressive. I expected more when Bethesda Studios Director Todd Howard said they were upping the voice actor count from nine to 90, but you still get the awkward accents, the repeated voices, and the generally cliché line delivery. This is only saved by the strong writing behind all the voice acting.
Unfortunately in playability there is another area where the game falls a little short. After all this is a Bethesda game, and a Bethesda game isn’t complete without its list of hilarious bugs and glitches. I’ve seen floating objects, voice acting from ceilings, death animations that launch you hundreds of feet in the air, players and NPCs getting stuck in geometry, and even wooly mammoths that spawn in the sky and inevitably fall to their deaths. While these are annoying and a bit too frequent for my taste they are very easy to overlook when faced with such a stupendous game.
The actual gameplay though is another improvement from the previous title. The new menu system is the best I’ve ever seen in a game and is thoroughly intuitive, making the switching of weapon and spell load outs as painless as possible. Fighting has far more solidity and there is much more strategy this time around, while still the fighting can still get a bit floaty, this isn’t nearly as much of a problem. Magic is now far harder to overlook when it gives you the option to turn your self into a human flamethrower or lighting finger-tipped sith lord from level 1. The dual wielding system works better than I could have hoped, giving you an option to have any combination of items or spells in either hand, giving you the option to have a sword and shield, a mace and an axe, a spell and a dagger, or even two different spells simultaneously. The options are endless and help add to the endless lists of customization and choices presented to you throughout the game.
After all the time I put in The Elder Scrolls IV, this has become a new level in gaming as a whole. It is one of the biggest, most content rich games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, and I can’t wait to spend many more hours getting lost in what looks like a major contender for the game of the year.