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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

After the industry crash of the early eighties putting the kibosh on electronic gaming, Dungeons and Dragons became my middle school obsession. With graph paper and twenty-sided die in hand, my stalwart fighter was capable of all the things I was not- like emerging triumphant when pitted against a horde of antagonistic foes. Despite an exodus from oft-sadistic school yards and roughshod locker rooms, the cathartic virtues of role-playing have stuck with me through the years.

While contemporary franchises such as Dragon Age and Divinity have provided worthwhile forays into fantasy, neither has approached the level of escapism exhibited by the Elder Scroll series. Crafted around the notion of choice, Bethesda Softwork’s magnum opus has granted players the ability to modify every nuance of their character- from instrumental decisions like moral alignment and class (which in turn, affects how other NPCs treat them) to minute details such as the sharpness of a Bosmer’s ears. Recent release The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, advances the concept even more, delivering the most immersive world gamers have ever stepped into.

Expertly, Bethesda has created a high-fantasy sandbox which surrenders both scalable complexity and autonomy. With a class system that ditches the genre’s rigid archetypical roles, as well as a leveling system which augments the skills players actually use, strength and sorcery are longer diametrical. With Skyrim’s clever mechanics players can map a spell to one hand and cold steel in the other, creating the quintessential orc-slaying badass. With the retooled menu system accessing your inventory, skills, map, and quest log is always a few stick pulls away; players can even use the directional pad for a quick hot-swap of gear. Complementing the revamped interface is the title’s noninterventionist approach, which allows gamers to follow a pre-established storyline or create their own unique adventure.

Whether players assume the role of a sociopathic Imperial whom habitually kills shopkeepers (removing them from the world forever), a heroic Nord hell-bent on scaling Tamriel’s summits in search of vile dragons, or just a nomadic Khajiit attracted by the glint of activity on the horizon, Skyrim accommodates almost any style of play. Bolstered by a gargantuan spider’s web of pursuits, conspiracy, conflict and intrigue, the title’s procedurally-generated quest system creates impromptu errands which are indistinguishable from the game’s own preprogrammed missions. More than likely, pursuing one undertaking will bring a handful of additional tasks to light. Yet, to keep Skyrim from becoming too predictable, a sporadic activity will reach a brief and satisfying coda. At times, it seems as if director Todd Howard and company are actively watching our every move, pressing buttons to summon a dazzling skirmish between dueling wizards onto our pathways and betting on the outcome.

With countless ways to circumnavigate the realm, Skyrim could have easily developed into a malicious pit of difficulty spikes. There’s the occasional creatures capable of a one-hit kill (I won’t soon forget the giant squashed me like an ant), but generally a player’s demise comes by rushing into areas too quickly. For the most part, Bethesda does a masterful job of conveying your journey from commoner to conqueror, although I wished characters teeming with malice would move with gait which suggested their ire. As such, it’s likely for characters to morph into preemptively striking misanthropes.

As with previous entries in the Elder Scrolls universe, Skyrim’s lofty ambitions are bound to produce a certain amount of glitches. Without two minutes of putting the disk into the drive tray, I saw my first game-stopping bug, as the cart I rode on was left immobile when the town’s front gates refused to open. More common where environmental snags, which left my characters inexplicably glued to a dungeon interior or a game crashes which were rendered bearable by the game’s frequent auto-saving. Although load times can be sluggish, they are elevated by the display of rotating, in-game objects, from helmets to statues.

Pleasingly, every item in Skyrim is modeled in three dimensions, allowing players to open their inventory and examine the glossy icing on a sweet roll or the craftsmanship on a piece of chain mail. Likewise the game’s environments are fastidiously rendered- from hamlets illuminated by the soft glow of torch light to the nasty blizzards or layers of fog which can obscure the game’s less hospitable regions. Sonically, the Skyrim’s orchestral accompaniment is every bit as stirring as the telling environmental sounds which forewarn of imminent danger.

While cynics might assert that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is little more than a reworked Oblivion, this claim is without merit. By revamping nearly every crucial mechanic in the game- from character management, autonomy of NPCs across game world, and an unrestricted combat framework, Bethesda has created a world unrivaled in interactive media. As such, Skyrim is destined for more than game of the year accolades, and is quite likely to be remembered as the definitive title of this console generation.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. If this has got anything less than a A I would have lost all faith in your Deagle.

  2. I just heard about the install bug that displays low res textures when you install the game to the HD. Now how the hell did Bethesda not find that?

  3. Whoa, game of the generation! Thems powerful words!

  4. Time to kiss the GF goodbye, I won’t be seeing her until Xmas.

  5. So far, I’ve almost played non stop since Friday at midnight. My main complaint is that the dragon fights aren’t really varied. You killed one and you’ve killed them all.

  6. So tough guy Deagle got picked on as a kid? 😉

    I will buy this tomorrow, soon as I have some free time.

  7. This game made me completely forget about Dark Souls. I’ve been playing that religiously for 2 week now. That’s saying something.

  8. Occupy Skyrim!

  9. Here’s my review after 4 hours with it: beg, borrow or steal to get this game!

  10. Ive never seen or played a game as detailed as this. People talk about whats going on in the world and come up to you to help them sometimes.

  11. Did you get married yet, Deagle?

  12. The one thing that kind of drove me crazy about Oblivion was keeping on track. Sometimes I’d forget what I needed to do when I’d get a whole bunch of mini-missions thrown at me. Is it still like that?

  13. How come some missions don’t come up on my map? I can’t seem to set a waypoint…

  14. Why was this not posted on 11/11/11?

  15. With this and Uncharted 3, November is my favorite month of the year.

  16. I meant 31st, not “32st”! damn typos!

  17. I can’t wait to play this. Tonight is going to be nothing but Skyrim and diet coke.

  18. Why not A+? I want to know!

  19. I wasn’t going to buy this until next month, but I really don’t think I can wait much longer.

  20. Great review Deagle. I didn’t know you were a D&D player? Do you still play?

  21. So I thought Oblivion was a total snooze. Any change in hell Id like this?

  22. This should easily win GOTY. There’s just so much to do in the game that its crazy.

  23. Bought it on Steam as soon as I get. The first game in a while that hasn’t given me the feeling of regret.

  24. Great review. I really want to try this one out, even if fantasy isn’t my thing.

  25. I’m not a big fan of Western RPGs, but this one sounds so good and is reviewing so well that I might have to try it.

  26. Leave it Kotaku to piss on a great game:

    Some people are never happy.

  27. I must get this game.

    Thanks, Deagle.

  28. Why no BF deals on this game? Anyone know of any place that has it for less than $60?

  29. Good write-up thanks for not having too many spoilers!

  30. “With graph paper and twenty-sided die in hand, my stalwart fighter was capable of all the things I was not- like emerging triumphant when pitted against a horde of antagonistic foes.”

    HAHA. QFT! games has always been that get-up for me, too. I guess that way superheroes are always popular with the frail kids 😉

  31. This game keeps amazing me. It does things in the world that I always wish games have done.

  32. didn’t attach comic. Lets try this again.

  33. If Skyrim doesn’t get GOTY from an outlet, I’m assuming they are all ok with wearing money hats.

    So speaking of…will you guys have picks this year?

  34. Good review. Love everything about this game. Damn its so cool to live in the world

  35. This is an amazing game! It is a great game for any fan of the Elder Scrolls! Check it out at: