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Skyrim: Elder Scrolls V - Would you like bugs with that, Sir?
on May 21, 2014
Skyrim is the fifth installment in the popular Elder Scrolls series which has rocketted to huge popularity in the last few years thanks to Skyrim. This review will cover my experiences playing the PS3 version of the game only as it currently stands, and will not include impressions from the PC version or XBOX 360 version beyond comparison.
Defeated by the Aldmeri Dominion of High Elves, the Empire is forced to sign the White Gold Concordant, stripping away religious freedom to worship Talos: one of the nine divines in the series. This causes a civil war in Skyrim, half of which wishes to secede from the Empire. However, Dragons are also thrown into the mix as an Ancient world destroying Evil is awoken, and it's up to the main character to end it all.
As is to be expected in any Bethesda Game, the story telling is weak. It's clear that effort was put into other aspects, but not delivering a good story. But Skyrim isn't a game you'd play for the story telling either. There's no character development, no attempt to cause emotional entanglements: it's a story about going here, doing that, killing that, and saving the world. NPC's serve no other purpose than to tell you WHY things are happening, and give you your next quest marker.. not actually play meaningful roles as characters. It's rather disappointing to see Bethesda once again take this approach with their story telling.
(In contrast, the story-telling in the DLC Dawnguard is exactly what should have been done in the rest of the game. Serana has depth, personality, and a story that actually makes you care about what's happening)
Skyrim is an RPG, much like the other Elder Scrolls games. There's not much new to be had here in terms of experiences: it's very much the same as Oblivion, only vastly improved. Armor repair and weapon maintenance has been removed. Perks have been added, with their own skill trees to work on so you can customize your characters abilities. No longer are you restricted to a certain class-type in order to ensure level ups.
Much more was adding for roleplaying value. You can tamper with ledgers, chop lumber, get married, hunting and cooking (the cooking could have been more expansive) mining. You can really sink into a role here. There's a lot of quests to perform - more than was ever in Oblivion. Crafting armour and Enchanting are unfortunately mandatory skills; you need them and there's really no way around it if you want good gear.
The combat is much the same. It hasn't been improved drastically, it's still mashing one button without any strategy involved, really, but still manages to be satisfying. The animations have been considerably improved over previous games and this lends to the experience. Dragons swoop down on you randomly and try to kill you, and victory over them gives you access to some of the best crafting materials in the game (that you can't use until level 100 crafting unfortunately, which defeats the purpose of getting them early!).
Unfortunately, the Final Boss of the game is a Dragon. A dragon with a different skin, approached with the same whack-whack mentality of the rest of the game. (Dawnguard, the Vampire DLC for the game features a boss that uses a shield and heals; requiring you to use a bow to repeatedly break the shield, then fight him, he summons skeletons...Why wasn't the Final Boss more like this?)
Audio & Graphics & Performance
Now this is the section that hurts.
The audio department in Skyrim is vastly improved over previous installments. Swords no longer hurt to listen to as they clash against enemy armour. The sound is varied for strikes. Voice acting is well done in comparison to the previous games, and actually not horrible as a whole, either. The characters still lack emotion/interest in their roles when speaking, and it's rather obvious. Still the voice acting isn't bad, and the lack of these things doesn't detract from the experience as a whole. The music is no longer lazily done.
Graphics....The PS3 can't deliver the same graphical prowess as a PC can. Skyrim still manages to look good, but the performance suffers greatly. Unlike the PC and the Xbox 360 version, it quickly becomes obvious this is a shoddy, shoddy port. If the fact PS3 users didn't have to wait months and months after everyone else was playing the DLC before they could even get it is an indication. Where do I even begin here?
The framerate often drops below ten. Within two hours of playing the game, I crashed five times. I got a fifteen minute loading screen after a death (I'm not even kidding). I crashed when I started the game for the first time and got to the character creation menu. I crashed when I got out of Helgan. I crashed when I got to river wood. The textures were constantly glitching on objects: enchanting table was shining a bright blue, purple trees, purple dragons, textureless dragons. What the hell?
I have seriously never played a game this glitchy before. I have never, ever started a game before and have had it immediately crash. I was tiptoeing through the game praying it wouldn't crash.
I love Skyrim. Anyone who glanced at my Steam profile would know that immediately. With more than 350 hours sunk into the game since its release, Skyrim managed to capture me the same way Oblivion did, but without the need of a thousand mods to make the experience bearable. The PS3 version, unfortunately, is a shoddy, shoddy port. A freak accident that Bethesda should be ashamed of. The Xbox 360 and the PC versions run smooth in comparison, with some obvious performance issues, but why the PS3 version is so much worse than the 360 mystifies me. Completely unacceptable condition to release a game in. Even with all the patches out, it's still a very, very buggy game. I can't recommend the PS3 version unless there is absolutely no other option available to you.