The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review – Still One of The Greatest RPGs In 2023

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

  • Story And Setting
  • Gameplay
  • Visuals And Performance

Verdict

While time has weathered its visual sheen and brought forth many contenders, its soul blazes like the eternal fires of Oblivion.

  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studio
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Release Date: November 11, 2011
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch.
  • Tested On: PC, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5

Pros

  • Beautiful Setting
  • Rewarding Exploration
  • Deep Lore
  • No Gand-Holding
  • Great Soundtrack
  • Mod Support

Cons

  • Weak Story
  • Bugs And Glitches
  • Dated Visuals

Among the pantheon of iconic games, there’s one dragon-slaying epic that refuses to fade into the annals of history – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The game has seen more reincarnations than a cat with nine lives and it continues to beckon adventurers into its snowy peaks and cryptic dungeons.

But how does this once-revered gem hold up in the face of today’s gaming renaissance? Well, strap on your Daedric armor, guzzle up a Potion of Strength, and join us in our review as we Fus Ro Dah through Skyrim’s rich and captivating world in the modern gaming era.

Story And Setting

Story and Setting.
Story. (Image Captured by eXputer)

Originally released back in 2011, Skyrim continues to command an immense following and still holds a cherished spot among RPG enthusiasts. And with this review, we will go over the game and all of the changes made to it over the years.

The lore of the Elder Scrolls universe, which of course predates the fifth game, is one of the most intricate and profound in the video games industry, and Skyrim does not shy from this grand legacy. It leisurely draws upon a treasury of histories, legends, and cultures built up over several games in the series, while also expanding it through an almost overwhelming amount of books, characters, and artifacts that reveal tidbits of history, adding layers of depth to the world. 

Skyrim isn’t just rich in lore though, it’s rich in beauty too. It is the northernmost region on the continent of Tamriel and is home to the Nords, a hardy and rugged people. The land is rich and immersive, teeming with mountains, forests, rivers, and ancient Dwemer ruins making exploration one of the most rewarding aspects of the game. Each mountainside hut, each ruin, and each bandit camp has a different tale to tell. 

Moreover, the subtlety with which the soundtrack can shift from calm to ominous is masterful. When delving into ancient crypts and facing supernatural entities, the music creates an atmosphere of tension and unease. The foreboding sounds lurking beneath the melodies serve as a constant reminder of the dangers that lie in the shadows. In many ways, the soundtrack acts as the emotional narrative of the player’s journey. Through its sweeping orchestral pieces, haunting chorals, and subdued ambient tones, it reflects the soul of Skyrim‘s world, giving depth to its history and life to its landscapes.

The main story, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. On one side, it offers an epic narrative where the player becomes the Dragonborn, a hero born with the soul of a dragon, destined to save the world from a draconic apocalypse. This sets the stage for a grand adventure filled with epic battles, ancient magic, and powerful artifacts. However, on the other side, the storyline can feel too archetypal, bordering on cliché. The main expansions “Dawnguard” and “Dragonborn” do show improvements in this regard though.

Alduin Reviving Dragons
Alduin Reviving Dragons. (Image Captured by eXputer)

Another merit lies in the interwoven subplots and faction quests that run parallel to the main story. Players can join guilds, take part in a civil war, and uncover hidden conspiracies. However, not all storylines are created equal, and some quests can feel repetitive and uninspired, with the now infamous “Radiant Quest System” sometimes generating bland and generic tasks.

Moreover, the choices that you make in the game can feel inconsequential to the world at large. Contemporary RPGs have evolved to incorporate intricate decision-making that affects the story’s outcome. In contrast, Skyrim’s world is more static and, aside from a few exceptions, is relatively unaffected by the player’s choices. 

Gameplay

Skyrim Review Gameplay
Gamplay. (Image Captured by eXputer)

One of the game’s greatest strengths is the freedom it offers, and from the moment you escape Helgen, the world is your oyster. The game offers a non-linear approach, letting players craft their own stories and adventures, which is its greatest strength.

Character creation and progression are other areas where Skyrim shines. You can customize your character’s race, appearance, and skill sets. As you progress, you are not bound to a rigid class system, instead, you can develop skills by using them, enabling a plethora of playstyles. You can be a mage who dabbles in stealth, a warrior skilled in alchemy, or any combination that suits your fancy. However, this feature has irked many RPG fans, as a good traditional RPG should require you to make hard choices and a few sacrifices. Skyrim offers too much freedom in this respect and lets you do that which renders the skill allotment at the start of the game useless.

Although there are 18 skill trees, the leveling-up system is designed in such a way that can lead to a paralysis of choice or inadvertent development of a ‘Jack-of-All-Trades’ character who is mediocre in multiple areas but excels in none. Additionally, some skills and perks within the trees can feel underwhelming or unbalanced compared to others.

One of the greatest strengths of this game is its enemy variety. Adventurers face an array of adversaries that range from the mundane to the mythical. The frost-laden land is peppered with bandits, rogue mages, and fierce Forsworn, while the ancient barrows groan under the weight of the undead Draugr. However, while the enemy types are diverse, their AI and tactics can feel somewhat basic and repetitious, which is where mods come in to offer more complexity and variety.

Skyrim Skill Tree
Skill Tree. (Image Captured by eXputer)

And although the game offers a wide range of weapons, spells, and abilities, the combat mechanics themselves can feel clunky. Melee combat lacks responsiveness and physicality, and the AI is often easily exploited, so you can spam certain builds to clear our entire dungeons with ease. Spellcrafting can be fun though, but not everyone wants to be a mage.

Additionally, Skyrim is notorious for its bugs and glitches, some of which can disrupt quests and gameplay. The modding community deserves a special mention in our review as they have been instrumental in fixing many of these issues, and this brings us to one of Skyrim’s biggest merits: mods. These have kept the game alive for all these years. From graphical overhauls and bug fixes to new quests and gameplay improvements, mods have enriched the game exponentially.

Visuals And Performance

Visuals. (Image Captured by eXputer)

Skyrim’s initial release in 2011 was visually impressive for its time. It was further complemented by the art design, particularly the architecture, and costumes, which is still commendable for the way it draws from various real-world cultures while maintaining a distinct identity. The weather system and day-night cycle add a dynamic element to the visuals, contributing to the realism and immersion. From the harsh snowstorms in Winterhold to the autumnal forests of Riften, the game makes you feel like you are journeying through a living, breathing world

However, by modern standards, the original version’s graphics are unmistakably dated. Textures can appear flat, character models lack detail and their animations are often stiff. Facial expressions during dialogues leave much to be desired and fail to convey the emotional depth seen in more recent titles. Furthermore, the game’s original user interface is often criticized for being clunky and not optimized for PC use.

The Skyrim Special Edition, released in 2016, sought to address some of these issues. It introduced updated graphics with better textures, Volumetric Lighting, and reflections. While this was a substantial improvement, even the rerelease couldn’t compete with modern games of the time.

The performance is another aspect that is tinged with both praiseworthy and problematic elements. On the one hand, the game is relatively well-optimized and can run on a wide range of hardware, which is part of why it’s been ported to so many platforms. However, it’s also infamous for bugs and performance issues. Some of these have been fixed over time, but many others have not.

City of Solitude
Solitude. (Image Captured by eXputer)

The saving grace have been the modders once again, who have created a plethora of mods that can transform Skyrim into a visually stunning experience. With high-resolution textures, new character models, animations, and even entire overhauls of the weather and lighting systems, modders have brought the game closer to current graphical standards. Additionally, mods like the Skyrim Script Extender have allowed for vast improvements and customizations to the user interface.

Verdict

Greybeard
Verdict. (Image Captured by eXputer)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is not just a game, it’s a masterpiece in the world of fantasy RPGs. While time has weathered its visual sheen and brought forth many contenders, its soul blazes like the eternal fires of Oblivion.

Here, in the cradle of Tamriel’s frost-bitten north, lies a world where every stone has a story, and every shadow a secret. It’s a place where heroes are forged, where dragons’ roars pierce the heavens, and where adventure cascades like the rivers of the Throat of the World.

And while it’s true that age has taken its toll and the visuals and AI are showing wrinkles, the game has a modding community that could rival the Daedric lords in their craft. So draw your sword, whisper your shouts, and step into a world that will consume you, body and soul. This is Skyrim – an undying legend for the ages.

This has been our Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles. 

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