I have played Skyrim before, many hours have gone into the beautiful open-world, RPG, action, adventure-filled world. A fun game to be sure, but as I had originally played it on PS3, over time my game became buggy, and eventually unplayable. This caused me to quit my game, and give up on my dream of ever becoming the Dovahkiin I wanted so desperately to be in 2011. Now I finally have a chance to play ESV: Skyrim the way it was meant to be played. After putting about 100 hours into the original version and about 30 hours into this "special" edition I feel I can warrant a review that will explain everything that I know about this game.
The Elder Scrolls games as a series has had a lot of ups and downs, and for me, this is the middle of the line. Morrowind had an okay story, I didn't personally love it, Oblivion's was great but simple, and Skyrim's is something of a comic book story. The basic story of it is good enough to make you feel important, but it is also a little out there and feels out of place in the world of Tamriel. I'm not going to go too deep into the story, since most of you have played through the game and it would be redundant, however, this review will give a good basis of the story concept as well as if anything has changed.
In every scrolls game you start off as an undefined character, you are just a cog on its way to death. Turns out you aren't supposed to be here, shocker, so you spend too much time making a character and then you're told you are going to be executed. On your way to the chopping block dragons attack and you are quickly left to make decisions on who you are going to side with, guys that look like guards, or guys that look like Norsemen. You pick a side, fight through some enemies and then you find yourself out in the open world of Skyrim. The magical thing about a game like Skyrim is that you are left to your own devices. There are story plots and the such, but you never have to indulge yourself on them if you don't want to. You can just go and kill bad guys and discover all of the environmental storytelling or even self-contained quests in one of the many, many dungeons.
If you follow the story you end up telling a nearby city that there are dragons, and eventually you get into a fight with one. You fight, you kill it – way too easily might I add – then you start to absorb his soul… No, really, you absorb the dragon's soul. So you find out you are a special kind of person, you are the Dragonborn. A man that is capable of speaking the dragon language with ease and able to "shout." These shouts are actually portions of the dragon language and allow you to do all kinds of things like breathe fire, turn into a spirit, or just push people back with the power of your voice. You find out that there is a cult of people who spend their entire lives dedicated to this art; you visit them, they tell you that you are special, teach you to use your powers, and then you go out to discover why dragons are coming back to the land of Skyrim.
That's the entire story; it's not a bad one, but in an Elder Scrolls game you do start to feel overpowered quite quick, and even though you are essentially a god, it doesn't feel right in the context of past scrolls games. Oh well. The story works and it gets you through, it is a 15-20 hour campaign story, but there is always much, much, much more to the amount of story content here. There are entire guilds you can train with, like the Thieves guild, Mages guild, the Companions or even the Dark Brotherhood, so no matter what type of character you play, there will be a guild for you to join (and even if you have no magical ability you can still join, you just won't get as much out of that guild). The story in this game is just overwhelming, and if you don't like the main story, there are about a thousand little self-contained missions stories out in the world for you to discover at your own pace.
This game is beautiful and every time a new entry in the series comes out it constantly one-ups itself. I'm not going to talk about the remastered graphics here, that is lower down in the review, where I talk about the differences between the remastered and normal version. Presentation, though, is spot on. I have never been to freezing mountain tops fighting dragons, but if I was, I think that this is the perfect representation of that. You can just tell from the foggy mist that is leaving your mouth that it is cold. The light that barely breaks through the tree tops, or even the does that are drinking from the stream. This game is beautiful.
This does not hold up when we start talking about the indoor portions of the game. The outside is always gorgeous but once you go into the dungeons and ruins of the past, the game starts to look a little muddled. Outside, you won't notice if textures don't look great up close, because you are constantly far away, in the ruins though it is hard to miss. Stone walls look like stone, but none that I would build my house out of. Doors look like doors, but they seem to be really one dimensional. These types of presentation issues are small, but they do take you out of the moment for a few seconds and some character models/monsters feel really one dimensional and flat, especially when you talk about the dragons. My biggest gripe about design has always been the dragons; they feel fake. The way they die, the way they attack, and even the ease at which you fight them. I like how they work within the confines of the story, but I think it feels like Bethesda tackled a bit more than they could chew. Overall it looks great and exudes those traits with ease, but not everything looks as great as you wish it would.
ESV: Skyrim has some of the best combat to date in an scrolls game. Oblivion introduced us to the concept, but Skyrim really brings it to a whole new level. The combat may not be the best feeling in the world and combat can become a bit of a slugfest, but it is still very enjoyable and Bethesda knows what they are doing.
Whether you decide to play with bows and arrows, swords, axes, fireballs, ice, or prefer to summon minions to do your bidding, there is no wrong way to play this game. Every system has its own advantages, and if you want to focus on three of them you can, or all of them if you want to. You want to be a mage that uses two-handed weapons and wears heavy armor, you can. You want to use a bow and arrow and be able to summon fireballs at any time, you can. Do you want to stab enemies in the back while you turn their allies into chickens….You can do that too….You monster. The fact of the matter is the level of freedom that is given to you is overwhelming, but it never gets to that level.
You are introduced to concepts slowly, and in many cases, you may never discover certain things unless you start to investigate. You never want to pick a lock, that's fine, just go into alteration and level that skill up and you can cast spells that will automatically unlock the world for you. If you don't want to carry weapons, level up your alteration and you can just create magical weapons that don't weigh a pound. You can enchant your own weapons, craft weapons, armor, or just about anything that you want to. That's the whole point of this game, you decide how it is played. The developers never force you into one corner and say "do this" or "do that," in fact they just tell you to have fun and figure it out.
That is half of the fun of the game, though, you want to discover new things, what happens when I get bitten by a vampire, do I die? What are the negatives of contracting vampirism? WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I STEAL THIS GUY'S CHEESE!?!?!?!? They are all important questions, regardless though you decide how and when to do all of this. This level of freedom is staggering even in 2016, considering that games like The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 have come out it's nice to know just how much freedom you are allowed.
Combat can fall in one of two categories in this game, however, either really good and satisfying, or airy and floaty. If an enemy is currently blocking or trying to attack you with melee weapons combat feels great because there is vibration in the controller and it feels active, however, this feeling fades as you get further into the game and you start killing enemies in just one or two hits because it is just one click of the button with no resistance. This is where the gameplay starts to get a little old for me. It is fun to do combat, but for some reason the longer you are in combat in this game, the older it starts to feel.
The saving grace, however, is skill trees. Every time you use a certain "class" of abilities, you level up a specific tree. You swing one-handed sword, your one-handed skill goes up, you take damage while in heavy armor, your heavy armor skill goes up. Everything you do is constantly building you up. Whenever you level your skill ranking allows for you to invest points (1 every level) into a respective tree. These can be as simple as ranking up how much damage you do with certain skills or can be amusing things such as lock picks that never break.
I don't think I need to tell you that in the ESV: Skyrim, gameplay is king and I wish that was where I could leave it, but there is one big thing that the special edition has that I really need to talk about and that is….
For a game that came out five years ago, I really expected a level of polish and shine that should have been evident and present. The problem is, though, the game really does not have that polish or shine that even the original had. When Skyrim first released there were bugs and glitches; but nothing like the sorts that I have seen in the last 20-30 hours. These bugs can be anything from missing textures, invisible walls, invisible objects, half loaded people, enemies getting stuck but can still attack you while you cannot attack them, dragons flying but melee attacking you…to name a few.
This is unacceptable. I'm sure that you have heard of the whole Bethesda coming out and saying no more early review copies of the game will be sent out, well don't worry Bethesda we hear you loud and clear. We are going to start waiting a few weeks to buy our games now. This game feels like there is literally no QA done at all. Every dungeon, every quest, every village has some major bug in it. None of them is game breaking, but good lord it feels like I'm running a debug version of the game and I am trying to find the millions of problems wrong with the game. Not only to include that but there have been reports of downgraded audio, visuals being worse than the original, this is not okay.
In short, fix your game, don't release it if it's not ready. This game is readily available on previous gen platforms and PC. I don't think anyone would have been upset if we had to wait, but no. We get a buggy game that is still great, but so buggy that I feel like I can't even recommend you buying this game until some of the bugs get fixed.
The Special Edition Difference
So here is the part of the review for those of you who have played Skyrim will care about. What is new? Did they fix anything, add anything? The short answer is no. There is no new content, they didn't fix anything, and in fact, it feels like there are more problems than ever in this game. The biggest thing that was being touted was the upscaled and remastered visuals. I have a problem with this. The game doesn't look any better than it did five years ago. I have watched videos comparing the two, and the biggest difference is the outside lighting and character models look a tad better, no really, only a tad. If you were thinking you were getting that 4k Skyrim you thought you always wanted, better go look somewhere else.
I can't recommend buying this "updated" version for players who already own it on PS3 or Xbox 360, if you owned it on Steam, however, you do get it for free, but the biggest caveat there is if you owned it on Steam, you probably have it looking better via mods anyways. Speaking of mods, in all versions of this game, there are mods. There are some big caveats as well, for Xbox and Steam it seems like anything goes, which is scary for reasons such as the possibility of killing your console if it is incapable of running said mod, but, you know, take the risk. PS4, however, will only allow mods with original content from the game files, meaning that if you want to use the Macho man Randy Savage mod that turns all the dragons into Macho man, you can't.
The method of downloading these is also a little more complicated than I would like. You have to go to Bethesda's website, click the ones you like, save them in your account, get on your said console find the ones you saved then download them to your console. Why they couldn't have just had a type of in-game store for that, I will never know, but you can't change anything there. The last difference or thing I would like to point out is the price. On PC, the game is $39.99, and you get all the DLC, mods, game, and "upgraded" visuals. PS4 and XboxOne, 60 bucks…. Why? This game is 5 years old, why charge that much for this game? Don't get me wrong, I bought it, but it's a little pricey for a five-year-old game that looks the exact same as it did on release and has as many bugs as it does. This is wrong and feels like highway robbery, way to mess over some big fans of this series.
ESV: Skyrim, is a great game bogged down by texture issues, bugs/glitches and a lack of reasoning on why you should ever buy this game a second time. The DLC is there and you can now mod on consoles, but it is limited on PS4 and even so is it really worth that $60.00 price tag? In the end, though, this is a good game and it is the most freedom ever offered in a game. There are a million answers to every question and you can never go wrong with what you choose. If you want to play a game where you could put in over 500 hours and barely scratch the surface, you found your game, but you may want to wait for them to apply some more polish to the surface first.
|+ Variety in the ways to play||– Still looks the same|
|+ Amount of content||– Mod supports is very limited|
|+ Gameplay is fun no matter what you play||– Price is too much on console space|
|+ Skyrim feels unique and real||– Bugs, Bugs, Bugs, Bugs|
|– Some stale swordplay|