My (long and detailed) Review:
Skyrim is clearly an Elder Scrolls game through and through. Just like Oblivion and Morrowind (and to a lesser extent Daggerfall), it has a myriad of dungeons and cities to visit, places to discover, loads of crap to pick up, crafting elements, etc.
When Oblivion was released, people were quickly comparing it to Morrowind so of course, Skyrim is going to be compared to both of them. Morrowind was still considered to be the superior game next to Oblivion for many reasons (dungeons being randomly created and mostly generic, monsters & loot levelling along with you, the experience system that was broken, the horrible Oblivion gates, etc.) so it's interesting to see how Bethesda are trying to look towards Morrowind for inspiration of how to improve on Oblivion.
Dungeons have received a lot more attention as a result and it's clear that a bigger team has been working on them: there's often a small story to be found in every location. Be it an evil necromancer doing experiments, or bandits planning to raid a town, it adds a level of realism to the game where Oblivion just had faceless and nameless arrow/sword fodder. A big improvement? Yes, and ... no. Because Bethesda did it the wrong way. Instead of just sticking to giving areas a backstory or setting, they gave it a ... plot too. A very primitive plot, sometimes involving notes or books to read, sometimes an NPC joining you - but in the end, you'll still end up running down a linear path through the dungeon, finding some side doors leading to treasure rooms here and there, but don't expect any major branching or many large side rooms to explore. Disappointing since they went and killed the feeling of exploration as a result. They also consistently use three tricks to make these completely-linear dungeons work:
- a door near the entrance of the cave which is barred from the other side
- the end of the cave leading to the start of the cave from some elevated position you couldn't get to, only exit (like due to a bridge that falls down)
- another exit which isn't marked on your map so you end up on the other side of a mountain when you leave.
Verdict dungeons: B-
Crafting has been expanded. Instead of merely alchemy, you can now enchant properly, cook and craft weapons & armour. A good step in the right direction it seems, but here as well, Bethesda makes some mistakes:
For starters, just like in previous Elder Scroll games, Alchemy is mostly useless unless you invest a lot of time into it which means gathering every ingredient you see. Right now, I'm level 25 and I've stolen every ingredient and picked every herb I've spotted and this let me craft about 200 potions. Mostly utterly useless ones, too. Damage health 8 points for example. Sure, you can apply it to your sword and get one (yes, just ONE) hit out of it that does 8 points more damage. Woo, colour me NOT impressed. After those 200 potions I'm still only level 40. Potions only become useful when you hit 60-70 at least, and then you need to get the perks as well.
Not only that, but you won't even know a single property of items you've picked up unless you've eaten it (I'm not kidding). Then you get the first one. The rest, you discover by accident. You have to randomly combine potions until two share a common property and then they will be uncovered. For example, ingredient A has frost resistance, ingredient B has it too, but you've only discovered it for ingredient A. It won't show up in the "Frost resistance" folder unless you mix it at random to uncover the property.
Oh, and you can no longer make potions on the road - you have to find an alchemy station so the biggest benefit of alchemy is gone - if you find a lot of heavy ingredients, it means even more trudging back and forward.
For cooking, it's even worse. You can pick up all sorts of food yet when you actually cook them, the result is incredibly mediocre. +5 health, +10 health ... when you need 3 items that each heal you for +5 health on their own :roll: . Not to mention that these amounts are so ridiculously low, that they serve no use anyway. You auto regenerate health pretty easily and restoration spells are far less hassle.
Blacksmithing is fine although too much a hassle considering what you get out of it. First you mine ore, with an animation that gives me MMO flashbacks (a big muscular guy mining ore as he was afraid to scratch it - so weedy-looking) THEN you find a place to smelt it to bars, and then you can craft it. Of course you need more than just metal - you can need metal straps too, which involves hunting animals, skinning them, then turning their skin into leather and then into straps. For role players this may be fun but so far, I've seen no real use for it because any average dungeon will throw far better stuff at you than you can make, not to mention you won't need to spend hours searching for enough ore to make a single suit of armour. So yes, this is quite pointless too. Oh, and you don't need to gather schematics or anything - it's purely limited by resources. Unlike in Fallout 3 which did it a LOT better.
Enchanting is definitely the most important of the crafting skills because, let's face it, all the best gear is magic. And yes, once again it's flawed. The flaw is of a different nature, though. While the pay off is worth it when you get better, it's very costly to get there. VERY costly. You need to basically destroy magic weapons to learn the magic inside - these weapons are often worth 1000+ gold and you need to destroy dozens of them to learn the different magic. THEN you need to find a good piece of armour or a good weapon and pick the magic to enchant it with. THEN you need to pick a soulgem. The soulgem combined with your skill, determines the amount of charges your item will have and how powerful the magic will be. And here lies another big weakness: you'll find much much better stuff during exploration than anything you could make yourself until you reach level 80 or so. Then you can make stuff on par with just about anything you find. It takes too long, in other words. They should have added limitations that still made it fun.
In the end, while crafting is always a good addition to a RPG for me, Bethesda has clearly not been balancing the skills but rather went for quantity over quality. Cooking is pointless, alchemy and enchanting take too long to become useful and both have other flaws and blacksmithing takes too many resources and effort to be worth it.
Verdict Crafting: C-
GRAPHICS & ATMOSPHERE
Graphics and atmosphere were always the strong suit of Bethesda and while the engine is clearly still Gamebryo with slightly new clothes (despite what they claim), it still looks quite decent for a PC game. It can't hold a candle compared to The Witcher 2 but they still managed to create a vivid and immersive world to explore with the ugly textured hills from Oblivion being replaced by beautiful misty mountains. The music is top notch too, and is a delight to hear. Animations are still pretty horrible, though.
Verdict Graphics: B+
THIEVERY & ARCHERY
My favorite character in any RPG, is the thief. Why? Because they strike from the shadows and are crafty - unlike the dumb oaf sword fighters who only need to block a shield and flail their sword. And if Skyrim did anything right, it's this. Sneaking is hard to pull off but a pleasure to use - it works much better than in Oblivion and it's possible with skill, to take out an entire horde of monsters by doing it properly with a bow and arrow, and retreating at the right time. It's not easy, but it's very rewarding when they never even spot you. Triple damage headshots causing insta-kills even more so. The ability to add poison to your bow, to get up close and steal the armour and swords of your enemy, leaving them in their underwear punching you is great fun to be sure. Downsides? Pickpocketing makes you level up WAY too quickly despite it being pretty easy (and rewarding) to do so.
Verdict thievery: A
Post edited November 17, 2011 by Red_Avatar