Skyrim - Released, Review Roundup #1
Well, it's midnight down here and Skyrim has unlocked - and the review embargo has lifted and reviews are out. I'm going to post a selection -- and then go to bed.
IGN calls it "amazing", with a score of 9.5/10. They note some PC interface issues and minor bugs but it's also "utterly engrossing":
I was stacking books on a shelf in my house in Whiterun, one of Skyrim's major cities, when I noticed a weapon rack right beside it. I set a sacrificial dagger in one slot, an Orcish mace in the other. They were on display for nobody but me and my computer-controlled housecarl, Lydia, who sat at a table patiently waiting for me to ask her to go questing. The chest upstairs was reserved for excess weapons and armor, the bedside table for smithing ingots and ores, the one next to the Alchemy table for ingredients. I'd meticulously organized my owned virtual property not because I had to, but because tending to the minutia of domestic life is a comforting break from dealing with screaming frost trolls, dragons, a civil war, and job assignments that never seem to go as planned. It's even a sensible thing to do; a seemingly natural component of every day existence in Skyrim, one of the most fully-realized, easily enjoyable, and utterly engrossing role-playing games ever made.
PC Gamer calls it "vast and gorgeous" on the way to a score of 94%. On the variety of dungeons:
It’s hard to walk for a minute in any direction without encountering an intriguing cave, a lonely shack, some strange stones, a wandering traveller, a haunted fort. These were sparse and quickly repetitive in Oblivion, but they’re neither in Skyrim: it’s teeming with fascinating places, all distinct. It was 40 hours before I blundered into a dungeon that looked like one I’d seen before, and even then what I was doing there was drastically different.
These places are the meat of Skyrim, and they’re what makes it feel exciting to explore. You creep through them with your heart in your mouth, your only soundtrack the dull groan of the wind outside, to discover old legends, dead heroes, weird artefacts, dark gods, forgotten depths, underground waterfalls, lost ships, hideous insects and vicious traps. It’s the best Indiana Jones game ever made.
At CVG, they call it a "generation defining RPG" and the score is 9.5/10. On quests:
So, you have the world, but what about the quests? As expected, there are hundreds, all offering something different. Some are brief, some span hours. You might join the Thieves Guild and make a name for yourself as a notorious criminal. You might swear an oath to the returning Dark Brotherhood and become a ruthless assassin, killing in cold blood for gold. Or perhaps you want to get involved in the civil war that's tearing Skyrim apart, siding with the invading Imperials, or the rebel Stormcloaks.
There's so many more - like forming an uneasy alliance with a Daedric Prince and leading an army in the invasion of a city - but one of our favourites saw us leading the hunt for a serial killer. This is a game full of stories, of ways in which you can directly affect the lives of its citizens, and even the politics of its world, and the variety is astonishing and, at times, overwhelming.
Eurogamer go straight for 10/10:
In arcane combat, there's a tangible, almost physical sense of feedback from the hiss of a furnace just before those jets of flames engulf your enemies. Thunder echoes quietly in the aftermath of the electrical storm that flows from your fingertips. There's a tremendous sense of connection between caster and cadaver, and the effects themselves are breathtaking. Throughout one evening in the game I stood in the mountains beside a peaceful village, gleefully working through my repertoire of magic tricks while the locals slept below (uneasily, no doubt).
The melee combat is less perfected, but has nevertheless been evolved. Those who specialise in it may not be left feeling quite as satisfied as those who prefer to dabble in the darker arts, but it's still a sweeter deal than the rote, block-and-retaliate combat of Oblivion. Enemies will circle and prod at your defences more effectively, displaying a little more intelligence when exploiting your weaknesses. A similar degree of refinement has been made to Bethesda's famously floaty third-person animations.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun note the engine still feels like the old one and the characters still have a way to go but say this is the best Elder Scrolls gamer ever:
Every time Bethesda reveal a new game, one of the first queries they have to deal with is how big its world is compared to previous games, with the general onlooker sentiment being that their open worlds are shrinking with every new generation. I can promise you that Skyrim is an enormous game, perhaps Bethesda’s biggest yet in my perception of it, and that isn’t anything to do with landmass (of which there is a vast and wonderfully varied amount). It’s because there’s so damned much to do. Hours fly by, great adventures are embarked on, and it barely dents what’s on offer. The thieves’ guild questline alone, the closest thing my time with the game had to a fixed purpose, offers more than do most other big-budget games’ singleplayer modes.
And it’s good stuff too, this thievery corporations’ tasks: long, ambitious, twisty quests that take you all over Skyrim, require lateral thinking and exploration of the outer limits of stealth, plus offer bona fide drama and intrigue whose outcome I was invested in for reasons beyond money and power. I’ve only made early inroads into the Companions arc and that seems similarly huge – add in the other guilds and factions, and the reputation quests offered by each city’s rulers, and the purportedly infinite roster of procedurally-generated favours for random NPCs, and you have something of grand magnitude, and an RPG that no sane person would consider writing a review based on a mere four days’ play. Sigh. Still- expect follow-up pieces, particularly on the main, dragon-y questline that I’ve seen nothing of, so happy was I in doing my own, primarily kleptomania-based thing.
Joystiq scores 5/5 but I'll take a quote on technical issues:
Sadly, I can't extend the same pass to the game's wholly unsurprising yet still pretty disappointing technical problems. I don't mind a little jank in a world this big, but five hard freezes, a mask that made my face disappear for much of the game and an entire dungeon where I inexplicably had unlimited magic? It's too much. Will it all be smoothed out eventually? Sure. (A day-one patch has already been deployed.) But is it a frequent distraction from what should be the ultimate immersive experience? You bet.
Kotaku says you should buy it:
But Skyrim is more than its graphics or its animations—this is a game about wanderlust. Take it from me: once you've wandered in Skyrim, you won't want to wander anyplace else.
Hear my dragon-shout: Yes.
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3