Rated Mature; Reviewed on PS3 and PC
Skyrim is the kind of game that people either love (and almost definitely already know they’ll love) or hate (and almost definitely know that they’ll hate). My time with Skyrim trailed off after just shy of 190 hours of playtime – to which category do you think I belong?
I had planned on playing the game on the PS3 but after getting the Collector’s edition on Christmas my son started playing it. Knowing that my time with the game would be indefinitely delayed I took advantage of Steam’s one-day 50% off sale and bought the game on the PC. This resulted in us playing the game in the same room most of the time.
While he played a male warrior/craftsman role I opted for a female thief who dabbled in magic. Unlike previous Elder Scrolls games there are no set classes: the skills you use are improved and perks allow you to customize those that you want to specialize in. This freedom is double-edged in that it allows the player to find their own groove early and make corrections or try new things later but also allows massive over-powering in the late game.
While we took different paths and put in well over three-hundred hours between the two of us I’m sure that we’ve not seen everything. The game is enormous. It features eight large cities, hundreds of other locations (including a massive, mile-wide underground complex) and more fully voiced NPCs than you’ll ever meet. There are also four optional quest lines that are just as expansive as the dozen-plus hour main quest plus hundreds of other jobs, tasks and assignments.
The game is gorgeous. Besides the obvious difference in playing on a 20″ computer monitor versus a 55″ TV there’s no distinguishable difference between my high-end PC and the PS3. The main difference between the two is the mod-ability of the PC version. Modding is still more difficult than I’d prefer but can dramatically improve nearly every aspect of the game. Looks, controls, menus, characters – everything can be changed often for the better and for this reason only I’d recommend the PC version.
The biggest single draw of the game – some of the best looking dragons ever seen in video games – are a mixed bag. They’re breathtaking and exhilarating to see in motion but the rather loose combat system never gives you the feeling that you’ve truly engaged them. These large battles should be centerpieces of the experience but end up being more frustrating than anything else. Combat with more mundane enemies is better but still fairly uninspired: enemies run toward you, you press “attack” until they (or you) are dead. There are deeper options but as this works for nearly everything there’s rarely any reason to use them.
Although this is perhaps the best open world game ever created it suffers from the same issues we’ve come to expect from the format. You can do a lot things but all of them feel just a little shallow in execution. The range of enemies would be large for most games but seems very small after the first few dozen hours (and the 10,000th Draugr). Quests tend to blend together when the (vast) majority are of the fetch-and-return variety. You’ll wander around hundreds of people but most of them say the same few dozen things (there’s a reason that “taking an arrow to the knee” has become a meme).
All of these complaints tend only to surface after you’ve played the game at least 50 or 60 hours… and honestly some kind of “self-destruct” is probably a good thing in this case or else you’d never see your family again. As I started with, the only people who are going to start this game are those that already know if they’re going to like it: and those people are going to love it. Hands down, no questions asked, those people are going to love it. Of course those people, like me, probably spent the last five months playing it.