Platforms:  Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Developer:  Bethesda Game Studios

Publisher:   Bethesda Softworks

Rating:  “M” for Mature

Written by Nick Cohen

Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V:  Skyrim is probably the most talked-about game of 2011.  Amidst all of the hype for Call of Duty and Battlefield, Skyrim launched on November 11, 2011 (11-11-11, get it?) to heaps of critical praise and would go on to win numerous game of the year awards.  In my “Top 10 Games of 2011” list, however, the game only came in at #6, having been beaten by other RPGs such as Deus Ex:  Human Revolution (#4) and Dark Souls (#5).  Now that I’ve played much more of Skyrim, here are my thoughts.

The Elder Scrolls V:  Skyrim is a massive game.  It’s far and away the most epic game I’ve ever played in terms of size and scope.  Everything you’ve probably heard about this game’s impressive scale is true; there are literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of content in Skyrim.  I’ve put over 100 hours into the game so far, yet I feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the game has in store for me.

Besides the game’s massive scope, the main reason I believe that Skyrim took home so many game of the year awards is the huge number of “water cooler” moments.  “Water cooler” moments are those moments in a game that get people talking; think of Uncharted 2’s train sequence or Dead Space’s ending as examples of these.  Skyrim has more “water cooler” moments than perhaps any other game in history.  The first time you fight a dragon, that dungeon you stumble upon that plays host to a group of vampires, the first time you manage to barely take down a Giant; all of these moments (and many more) will get you talking/bragging to your friends.

Then again, the game’s amazing moments aren’t its only “water cooler” moments; unfortunately, Skyrim may or may not resemble a car that has seen far too many miles of hard driving.  Glitches abound in my copy of the game; I’ve experienced everything from funny bugs such as mammoths floating in midair to game-crippling things such as numerous crashes and an entire dungeon that was plagued by the worst slowdown I’ve ever experienced in a video game.  I’ve also had an interesting quest become far less interesting due to bugs that caused it to not function properly, causing numerous resets and forcing me to scour message boards for answers.  The strangest thing about all this is that numerous people I’ve talked to have had no problems with the game whatsoever.  The PS3 version is reportedly the worst in terms of bugs, but playing any version is like playing a game of Russian roulette—you don’t know whether the game is going to work properly or whether it’s going to be nearly unplayable.

Skyrim's story revolves around the reemergence of dragons, not that you'll be paying any attention to the story.

When things are working right—as they have for me approximately 80% of the time—Skyrim can be an incredibly immersive experience.  Walking around just taking in the sights is a ton of fun, as are completing quests and fighting monsters.  The game has a solid RPG foundation that is both deep and incredibly accessible—even if you’ve never played an RPG before, I think you could understand the basics of how to play this game.

The thing that still gets me is that I’m not always having fun in Skyrim; the world is huge and there’s a ton of stuff to do, but I’m not fighting for my life every second like I am in Dark Souls or getting into amazing multiplayer matches on a consistent basis like I am in Battlefield 3.  The big question to ask yourself about Skyrim is this:  Would you rather have a ton of fun every single minute you play a game for 10-40 hours (depending on the game), or would you rather have 100 hours of exciting stuff to do counterbalanced by 100 hours of boredom?  If you answered “constant fun,” then Skyrim is still worthy of a look, but probably won’t be your game of the year (as it wasn’t mine).  If you answered “epic amount of good but not great gameplay,” then you should go out and buy Skyrim right now.

I’ve now put over 100 hours into my Xbox 360 copy of The Elder Scrolls V:  Skyrim.  Looking back at my “Top 10 Games of 2011” list, would I change Skyrim’s position?  Nope.  It’s a great game, but in a year like 2011 that was absolutely packed with great games, Skyrim is certainly not the best.  Of course, I still have tons to do and see in the game, so maybe things will change.  Keep checking back at for my full review sometime in the future.



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