Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360) Review – Is the Sky the Limit?

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In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,
the action takes place in the northern
realms shortly after the murder of Skyrim's king.
Civil war
is breaking out and, to make things even bleaker, dragons have returned
to threaten the world. The player takes on the mantle of a prophesized
prophesied hero, a Dragonborn, who has the power of The Voice and can
stand against the dragons.

Personally, I’ve been dying to play Skyrim
since details
to emerge from E3 2011.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
is one of
my favorite RPGs - the Assassins’ Guild storyline was one of
the best story arcs I’ve ever seen in a computer game - and I
couldn’t wait to get back to the sandbox style of gaming
found in The Elder Scrolls
series. So does Skyrim
live up to the
intense hype?

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This is how the game begins.
Guess which unlucky person you are?


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
is rated Mature (17+) for Blood and Gore,
Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, and Use of Alcohol. While these
cautions make it sound as if you’re going to be riding
waist-deep through gore-drenched scenes of hellish descriptions, the
fact is that the bite is much worse than the bark. The game has
standard video game style violence. You’ll see worse watching
The Walking Dead.

Gameplay - 95 / 100

I normally play RPGs on the PC, but this time around, I got the chance
to play Skyrim
on the Xbox 360. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy
and natural it was for me to play the game on the Xbox controller, even
with my middle-aged sloth-like reflexes. Controls and menus for moving,
fighting, accessing inventory, and looking up quests and maps were

Long time fans can rejoice as Bethesda continues their open gaming
style with Skyrim.
Players begin by creating their character by
choosing from a number of humanoid races and then customizing their
appearance. Each race has certain abilities that make them more suited
to a certain play style, but it’s not as restrictive as it
sounds. There are no classes in The
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
. The
chooses their own path by deciding on which of the eighteen skills to
improve. As the player levels in Skyrim,
they can spend perk points to
increase the effectiveness of the individual skills. For example, a
player who wishes to fight with one-handed weapons on a regular basis
can spend points to increase the damage dealt by one-handed attacks. If
a player wants to concentrate on certain magical skills, they can lower
the cost of the spells or increase their effectiveness in the same
manner. A player can choose to play as a fighter, a mage, a thief, an
assassin, or any combination thereof. I chose to play as a
fighter-mage, wielding a sword in one hand while casting spells at my
enemies with my other hand.

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Looks like this fight might
not go so well.

The freedom of being classless also extends to the sandbox nature of
questing that
Elder Scrolls
fans love. In Skyrim,
you don’t
have to stay within the lines and concentrate on the main quest. Tons
of side quests abound in the game, and if you were feeling particularly
silly, you could ignore the main quest entirely. Multiple factions
exist throughout the realm that you can join, each with their own
unique quests to take. For those intrepid explorers who love to
explore, Skyrim
boasts over 150 different dungeons for you to go
dungeon-crawling in. If you ever get bored with questing (but why would
you?), there are other activities for you to do such as alchemy,
blacksmithing, cooking, and enchanting.

What really makes The Elder
Scrolls V: Skyrim
come to life
is the
attention to detail within the game. The NPCs that inhabit the world
have their own lives and as the hours pass each day, they go about
their daily routines. You’ll find people working their
fields, fighting with one another, and talking about events happening
in Skyrim.
You can even get some NPCs to join you as a companion. You
can have one companion at a time, and you usually get them from doing
them a service. Some companions you’ll be able to hire and
there are those that you'll need to impress before they’re
willing to join you. My favorite was a warrior woman, so hot-headed and
headstrong that not even the Companions would take her, who became
available to join me after I beat her in a tavern brawl.

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The world of Skyrim feels
alive and vibrant.

Combat is simple enough, provided you settle into a single combat style
and avoid the temptation to experiment overmuch with different weapons
and spells (swapping can get tedious). The left and right triggers of
your controller control the actions of your character’s
respective hands. You can easily assign different spells, weapons, or
shields to each hand and the game pauses as you swap items. Pushing
down the left stick switches you from first to third person quickly if
you need to bob and weave around in a fight, while pushing down the
right stick makes you go in (or out) of stealth.

Overall, the gameplay of Skyrim
is about giving the players the freedom
to do what they wish to do. Want to play a pure fighter? How about a
thief who steals everything he can get his hands on? What about a
spell-slinging caster who is also adept at combat? Do you want to piss
off this city by looting them like mad, then run and live in another
city? Which factions will you join and how loyal will you be to them?
What quests will you take or decline? The choice is up to you, the
player, and it’s amazing. Skyrim
is the closest
that  video games have come to tabletop pen-and-paper

Graphics - 90 / 100

The visual style of The Elder
Scrolls V: Skyrim

unapologetically draws
from Nordic architecture, dress, and environments and does so
extraordinarily well: the game looks gorgeous. The cities, countryside,
denizens, and dungeons are  painstakingly detailed and the
setting looks and feels alive.

The people of Skyrim
don’t have the cadaverous appearance
that I found in
here they look, talk, and move around like
real people. The enemies that players face look damn cool, especially
the undead and dragons. The undead appear menacing and deadly, unlike
the reggae-looking zombies from
World of Warcraft.
Getting a face full
of dragon breath  is an extremely memorable visual experience,
but isn’t so good for your health.

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The visuals are just beautiful
to look at.

Weather not only looks realistically miserable in Skyrim,
but it can
affect gameplay. Fighting bandits (or a dragon!) in a snowstorm when
there’s only a few feet of visibility can be daunting. While
I loathe snow in real life (born and raised in Florida), I do admit
that it looks beautiful in Skyrim.

My one knock on the graphics in Skyrim
is that some of the fight
animations can look a bit stiff.
As with the Skyrim's
antecedent, Fallout
, some of the killing blows
just don’t look all that
special. While there were plenty of times I ran my sword through the
belly of an adversary in slow-mo, there were some instances where at
the end of the fight, my big spectacular finishing move was simply my
axe gently tapping their forehead or chest.

Sound - 95 / 100

composer Jeremy Soule makes his return, and his Skyrim
soundtrack helps set the tone as you travel through the realm. While
the orchestrations vary from sublime to pulse-pounding excitement, it
can get repetitive after a while. However, this is to be expected in a
game you'll be playing for dozens of hours.

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What sound does a giant make?
It's usually "squish" with its club beating on your noggin.

All of the NPCs in the world are voice-acted. While quite a few NPCs
have only a few canned responses, many others have a surprising amount
of dialogue. The vast majority of the voice acting is extremely well
done. -  I can only recall one or two instances where the
delivery fell flat.

The ambient sound effects are simply superb. The clash of swords, the
swirl of water, and the chatter of conversation is magnificent. As you
get closer to the source of a sound, it increases in volume. If
you’re sneaking down a corridor, you can hear your enemies
speaking from the next room. As you approach, the conversation becomes
more distinct and louder. The sound is also directional. If somebody is
walking towards you from the left, you’ll hear their
footsteps (or speech if they’re talking) from your left. If
you swivel towards them, the sound flows from the left to center stage.
While other games do hav directional sound, the quality and production
values found in Skyrim
are top-notch.

Value - 90 / 100

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
has great value. While the game
isn’t cheap at $60, there is a ton of content to be found
within the game. If you’re one of those psychos who just want
to tear through a game and get to the final encounter, then I would
recommend waiting until the price goes down. For those who
crave ultimate RPG immersion to sink into for weeks of world exploration and
questing, Skyrim
a must-have. I imagine quite a few people are going to
strain their marriage by getting addicted to this game.

Xbox players can further rejoice in that they will receive a month of
DLC exclusivity, which will probably infuriate PC users.

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Smart mages bring armored
companions with them in dungeons.

Lasting Appeal - 90 / 100

definitely has lasting appeal. Most players will want to create
different character types to go through the game and also to see what
changes occur due to making different choices made along the way. Those
who played as a fighter who pledged his loyalty to the Companions the
first time around will want to perhaps try their hand as a sneaky thief
who disdains the heroic Companions and ally themselves with a more
sinister group.

I want to replay the game and choose to join the rebel forces since I
joined the Imperial forces the first time around. There are so many
choices that a player can make in
The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim
it’s incredibly tempting to go back and see how much you can
do differently.

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Ah, the sweet outdoors. Surely
there's no danger?

Pros and Cons


  • No classes allows great
    flexibility in play style
  • Open sandbox style of
    gameplay breathes freedom into your gaming
  • Great sound and graphics
    immerse you fully into the world of Skyrim
  • Combat is easy and intuitive


  • Some combat animations are
  • Music can get repetitive
  • Workplace productivity will
    decline in the first few weeks of the
    game’s release
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Hitting a market to sell some


Overall, The Elder Scrolls V:
delivers on
promise of putting out an incredibly immersive RPG. The experience of
is that the player can create the type of hero that they want,
explore the fantasy world in the manner that they wish and at their
leisure, and not be forced to follow a rigid quest chain of A, then B,
and then C. You will get sucked into the world of Skyrim
and lose track
of time. On the back of the game box, it states, “Epic
fantasy reborn.” They got that right.

Overall 93/100 - Outstanding


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