The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Opening Moments

Hiding under the blanket, Bethesda, Fallout, and The Elder Scrolls finally gave birth to the successors of the first series. Skyrim was eagerly awaited, heralding the triumphant return of the series after the controversial Oblivion, drooling over the videos released by the developers and wondering how the land of fantasy Vikings-Nords would treat all sorts of Khajiits and other dark elves-Dunmers. And how exactly to fight dragons. And which adventures to embark on first.

The fifth installment of TES was destined for at least commercial success. We were promised a lot – gameplay, hundreds of hours of content, atmosphere, epicness, and more, and behind all the messages from Bethesda, the echo of “we are making the second Morrowind” was clearly heard. Which, if anyone doesn’t remember, was an RPG for all times, that is, now – for all the times that remained in the breaks between journeys through Skyrim.

Skyrim World Awaits

The beginning of beginnings

Naturally, before fully immersing yourself in the game, it traditionally offers to understand what race and appearance our Nord (or Nordette) will have. The proposed character models are still mostly unpleasant to look at, and the visual editor in the hands of most gamers only further disfigures them, but now – rejoice, brothers and sisters – from a representative of any race presented in Skyrim, you can create a crazy barbarian with a two-handed weapon, and a nimble thief, and anyone else, stereotypical or not, seeking level-ups.

There is no class system as such in the game. At all. The familiar distribution of bonus points among ten different parameters has disappeared. Now The Elder Scrolls system is firmly based on perks, even more so than in Fallout. The humor is that there are no experience points anymore, only skills that improve through use. The hero’s level increases after these skills are leveled up a certain number of times, and at the moment of the next big enlightenment, you can choose something special, since the generous game now gives a whole perk for each level (of course, access to the coolest perks still needs to be unlocked). At the same time, you can choose where to allocate the “physical” bonus – to health, stamina, or magicka (those instantly recognizable three bars of blue, red, and green).

The updated system is very logical and incredibly flexible. As mentioned above, your character can grow into anyone (at this point, there should have been some example of a crazy mix of classes and weapon selection). Choose any race, any skills, and allegiance to any faction – you will still get someone capable of clearing a dungeon, slaying a dragon, and organizing a “Do It Yourself” circle of master craftsmen. If you need them, of course.

A Glimpse of Skyrim's Landscape

We enchant weapons and armor. The necromancer, currently lying dead in the corner, embedded an icicle protruding from the character’s chest.

Most activities in the world of Skyrim are optional. For example, no one forces the player to craft potions themselves, although there are plenty of herbs, mushrooms, hearts of local creatures, and other monsters along your way, as well as a plethora of ingredients and materials used in other crafts. Buying and decorating houses, starting a family, joining guilds, and other countless details can also be ignored, but then don’t ask why Skyrim is so boring. Moreover, in the game, you want to do this and that, to be everywhere and defeat everyone.

Oh, where have the gods of The Elder Scrolls gone? All those constellations under which our character was born and which then influenced their abilities? Yes, at the beginning of the game, you can no longer check the box next to “Born under the Lady, therefore regenerates like a troll” plus “prays to the god Vase, for which they receive +10 resistance to poisons,” but there’s no need to worry about it – the deities haven’t gone anywhere, it’s just that now your worship of them is expressed in, um, worship itself. To receive the blessing of a certain Talos, you need to come to the altar of Talos and pray (that is, activate his statue; although they could have arranged some sacrifices for the pagan gods, especially since, judging by the sacred places of Skyrim, the locals do just that). With such arrangements, you can change divine patrons like gloves. They don’t seem to mind – after changing religions, the old bonuses, of course, disappear, but there is no further punishment from the devoted deity.

Well, and the last useful information before setting off. The premise of TES 5 is as follows: you are caught when crossing the border of Skyrim (where we were going, why we were going, who knows), and you are caught in the same trap where the main local rebel, Ulfric Stormcloak, and his comrades end up. Ulfric doesn’t like that Roman empire has put the Nords in a known position and has been holding them in this position for years, but he doesn’t like it anymore,.. well, he doesn’t like a lot of things, but that’s not important anymore because in about five minutes his wild head will fly off his shoulders. Just like yours. And everything would be fine, but besides a few onlookers, a real dragon, which hasn’t been seen in the north for several thousand years, is also watching the execution. Well, then we’ll see what happens, even though the main plot quest chain is actually just a drop in the ocean.

Mysterious Skyrim Terrain

“Ordinary” representatives of Skyrim’s fauna are also serious opponents.

A journey lasting for eternity

With hundreds of hours of gameplay, the developers did not lie to us. Skyrim is huge, simply huge. After the gigantic northern expanse, filled with various castles, dungeons, temples, cities, and everything else you can imagine, Dragon Age 2 feels like a bad dream. If BioWare’s creation had been released a week after Skyrim, the critics would have simply trampled the game.

Simple journeys through the different degrees of beautiful landscapes – without visiting any mines or anything like that – can take hours, and if you also take the time to explore inhabited landmarks with bandits and various monsters, you can forget about reaching your destination for about five hours. At best. And even then, you have no idea what awaits you around the next turn. Any lonely ruined tower, instead of being a small shelter for a couple of bandits, can turn out to be a huge secret dungeon where a powerful broken artifact lies, and repairing it becomes a separate quest that takes three intense evenings of gameplay.

There must be a catch somewhere, I thought. Perhaps the developers are subtly pushing me to go exactly where I need to go and to stumble upon important story quests and “accidentally” encounter dragons. So, I abruptly turned off the planned path and headed into the forest. Nothing changed. In the forest and the sorrow hidden behind it, there were also wagons full of endless nonsense, leading even deeper into the forests-mountains-swamps, where even more nonsense awaited its hero. I still have no idea at what hour of gameplay this tangle will finally unravel. It’s scary to think about DLC.

Meanwhile, Bethesda did manage to lay down its own storyline tracks through Skyrim, but to spite my inflamed imagination, it doesn’t hide them from anyone and doesn’t force urgent rides along them. Oh, by the way, it would have been necessary up to a certain point. One of the key gameplay mechanics, shouts-spells in the dragon language, becomes available only after completing a more or less initial story quest. You can still play without combat shouts, but firstly, why deprive yourself of additional pleasure for a long time, and secondly, visiting many places and fighting actual dragons loses half of its meaning. For all aspiring seekers of northern adventures, take note: don’t deviate from the main path until you kill your first dragon. And then do as you see fit.

Enchanting Skyrim Scenery

The beauty

And we haven’t even talked about the cities and the bustling life in them. Even in the smallest settlements, there are always unhappy people with their own problems that no one can solve except for a passing traveler who listens to conversations on the streets and in the inns. The more attentive the traveler is, the longer he risks staying as a guest. Almost all the tasks given to us have their own, sometimes small, sometimes very deep and intricate stories behind them. However, it is not necessary to understand each of them: who lost what, who wants to kill whom, what the whole fuss is about, why it all matters – you can often calmly do the job, even without knowing all the details.

On the other hand, all these various conflicts are presented very cleverly. No one will stand on the road with an exclamation mark above their head and immediately share their secrets and problems. The gamer must take the initiative and ask why the blacksmith is arguing with his apprentice, what the dark-skinned Redguard is doing in the northern region, why the alchemist is buying those herbs, and so on. It turns out that the story behind the quest is at least partially told before the character decides to get involved. And if the everyday and other problems of the people of Skyrim are not of interest to the hero, then no one will send him to solve them.

Sunsets and dragons

Bethesda knows how to create an atmosphere, if not unquestionably beautiful, then certainly atmospheric. The dungeons themselves are mostly dull and unattractive, but often behind every stone of the next catacombs lies a piece of the overall picture, shedding light on the history of the place where the gamer finds themselves, the past of its inhabitants, and so on and so forth. And as soon as you emerge from the mine into the daylight, the infamous beauty joins the atmosphere. Skyrim is a country. most picturesque northern landscapes Sometimes there are clichés like the northern lights, another Rohan on the hills, and autumn birch trees, but at the same time they are invariably enchanting. You can nitpick about not very attractive human (as well as elven, Khajiit, and all the rest) models and smeared textures, but to say that Skyrim is ugly or even just mediocre, would be a lie.

If most games want their graphics to instantly make gamers drool, then in our case, these jaws drop slo-o-owly. Take the dragons, for example. The first encounter with a fire-breathing reptile is not impressive. Well, a scripted creature flew in and spewed fireballs on the roofs. The second encounter is also nothing special, but then… You’re walking through a swamp, and suddenly this creature flies out from behind the mountains. It flies in the distance – flapping its wings against the backdrop of the setting sun and a pagan altar nestled at the foot of a cliff; you are completely indifferent to it – the dragon is swirling around the poor mammoth with an icy whirlwind. The mammoth defends itself against the huge lizard as best it can – you’ve already sneaked closer and see that the dragon’s face is covered in blood. Then the giants, peacefully walking their pet mammoth, rush in and start giving the dragon a good beating. A sniper shot from a heroic bow – and the flying creature is finished off, and you’re already running towards the spoils with all your might, trying to both collect dragon bones and not get sent flying by a giant’s club. After barely escaping the hot spot, you raise your head – it’s night outside, and not only that, it’s a bloody moon. It’s at this moment, as they say, that your jaw drops.

Epic Skyrim Battle

The main thing is to wait for the right moment.

By the way, the advertised epic battles with the infamous dragons turned out to be only partially true. The intensity of the confrontation with the giant reptile depends on where exactly you (or it) caught each other. On some plain, any fight with a dragon is pure hell and exactly what the developers told us about. Fire all around, a healthy beast circling above you, one wrong move and you’re dead, your health rapidly draining, desperately searching for a more fire-resistant stone, shooting arrows from your bow, suddenly being chewed from behind, turning around – and swinging your two-handed weapon… But in the same mountains, you can easily find a magical spot and calmly shoot at a miserable snake suffering from a pathfinding algorithm that couldn’t handle the landscape. Well, two or three really intense dragon battles are worth a couple dozen clumsy reptiles from a distance. There are good dragon fights, all fair and square, and we’ll forgive Bethesda for not every first encounter turning into a memorable battle.

The sound design also contributes more to the atmosphere than anything else. In such a big project like Skyrim, it’s probably impossible to maintain a consistently high level of voice acting – you believe the voices of some characters as expected, while others you simply can’t take seriously. Especially when twenty guards in five different settlements tell you that their brothers are all out there, fighting dragons. And then they all ask you to enchant their swords. And why not give every NPC a voice now, so they can chat with passing players, even if they all learned etiquette from the same Standard Order Guard Conversationalist?

Of course, a new game in The Elder Scrolls series wouldn’t be what it is without a ton of bugs —most gamers were prepared for them in advance, and a large number of technical quirks did not surprise anyone. What was pleasing was the truly negligible amount of glitches that actually broke the game. Flying horses and the aforementioned space flights after meeting the giant’s club – it’s funny and definitely not as annoying as getting stuck in some rocks (although it is still possible to fall through polygons in some places, but I have never managed to get stuck somewhere without loading the last save). Some players reported crashes of the Skyrim client, but personally, I have never encountered such misfortune. Moreover, Bethesda is constantly releasing patches (several of them have already been released in just over a week) and shows no signs of stopping.

Journey Through Skyrim

In a sense, Skyrim is even too big of a game. If you play it for, let’s say, three hours a day, it will take at least two-thirds of it to become familiar with it after two months. It is impossible to “finish” it in principle: “completed Skyrim” is some kind of oxymoron. You won’t kill all the dragons (they respawn, muahaha), you won’t complete all the quests, you won’t find all the secrets. You won’t be able to finish Skyrim, but you will be able to enjoy it as much as no other computer RPG has provided for many years.

The Elder Scrolls 5 Skyrim – Dragonborn

I am head over heels in love again and it is a wonderful feeling. My A novel about Skyrim last winter. “How quickly time flies!” was bright and reckless, but after months it managed to cool down significantly. The character is maxed out. All locations have been explored inside and out, and the only thing left to do is finally test one’s skills in alchemy.

The lackluster DLCs did not soften, but only intensified my ailment. Dawnguard tried to reignite the former passion, squeezing a shabby plot into a world already filled to the brim with various stories, but relying too much on the mediocre trick of turning the player into a clumsy Lord Vampire who can’t open cabinets or squeeze through doorways, as if such a metamorphosis is all I ever dreamed of. Hearthfire attempted to persuade me to settle down, offering three plots of land on which to build identical buildings, and then furnishing them if I don’t object to what furniture it is and where it should be placed. Yes, this add-on also allows for adopting children, but the life of a traveler leaves little time for raising a creepy digital child, repeatedly using the same voice commands.

Dragonborn in Action

But as soon as I got used to the idea that our paths with Skyrim had diverged, Dragonborn appeared and all the magic, excitement, and passion rushed back with incredible force.

This is not a DLC. This is a full-fledged expansion, like in the good old days. Completely new location, a pristine map waiting for its explorer, filled to the brim with new quests, dungeons, barrows, ruins, and tombs. It’s an absolute monster: the main storyline will keep you occupied for hours, and the various additional content will keep you glued to your computer for weeks.

Solstheim Island is a place that will feel very familiar to those who played the Bloodmoon expansion for Morrowind. A desert area located on the edge of Tamriel, plagued by constant volcanic eruptions. There is a kind of city called Raven Rock, ruled by aristocratic Dark Elves; the Skaal, a people of resilient hunters and gatherers; and small bands of bandits and pirates, eager to plunder anything they come across.

However, Solstheim is not peaceful. Its people are drawn to strange stones and build temples around them under the influence of an unknown force. There is also a cult operating there, and its followers will attempt to kill you, leading you to the shores of Solstheim. They worship the first Dragonborn, the corrupt priest Miraak, who was imprisoned in Oblivion, where he plotted his return. Who would have thought that you would have to put an end to all this madness.

Dragonborn's Fierce Encounter

The main plot consists of seven sub-tasks, each of which has unique features. Particularly notable is the expedition to Apocrypha, where Miraak resides. It is a mysterious place where Lovecraftian tentacles hang from the sky and the corridors made of books, containing forbidden knowledge, constantly change. Your main enemies here will be Seekers, the guardians of this knowledge with squid-like faces, and Lurkers, giant pumpkin-headed monsters with monstrous physical strength and magical abilities.

Like in most games of The Elder Scrolls series, the main story of Dragonborn resembles a “connect the dots” game, meaning you need to step back and understand what is required of you. All the plot elements are connected to each other very neatly, so there is no feeling that any of them are out of place. However, the ending in this sense is somewhat disappointing. The antagonist in the form of Miraak appears to be only a conceptual sketch, and his potential as a mirror reflection of the player remains unused. In the end, it all comes down to a battle with the main boss.

Dragonborn in Battle

Oh, and now you can fly on dragons. It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook this fact. The ability is one of the new shouts of the Thu’um that are unlocked in the main campaign, but I’m not thrilled about it at all. Flying on dragons is inconvenient, the controls are unintuitive, and the camera starts shaking every time you get close to the ground. I’m not sure if this rough imitation of a Lair is necessary in Skyrim, but nevertheless, it exists. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with this new feature. But using it for map traversal? No thanks. At least this ability is optional in Dragonborn, unlike the Vampire Lord form in Dawnguard, which is just as inconvenient but impossible to avoid.

Dragonborn is best enjoyed after completing the main campaign. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of adventures and incidents that Bethesda managed to cram into such a miniature piece of land like Solstheim. However, a good portion of the appeal of The Elder Scrolls series lies precisely in this, in the understanding that no matter where you go, you’ll always come across something interesting. Dragonborn is no exception.

Dragonborn's Mysterious Quest

In Dragonborn, there is a side storyline, in terms of importance and size, almost comparable to the main one, where you investigate a conspiracy against the Dark Elves family who rule the island. There are also mines where you will have to fight Draugrs – dark lords and search for “black books” that lead to the realms of Apocrypha, each of which is a kind of spatial puzzle. There is a treasure map and several archaeological expeditions that you can join. If you are a werewolf, don’t forget to visit the mountains, there will be something interesting exclusively for you. There is a quest to join the Thieves Guild. And even the “Lusty Argonian Maid” can open the way to new adventures. You just need to know where to look.

New old (from Morrowind) enemies have appeared: creepy jellyfish-like Netches, similar to Hanar from Mass Effect, clumsy boar-like Bristlebacks, and formidable Ash Spawn, using both heavy melee attacks and fire magic. There are also new materials for crafting: Heart Stone and Stalhrim, tempered ice, which is used in creating weapons and armor. New ingredients and plants have been added to the recipes.

Any game that claims to take away hundreds of hours of a player’s free time should be geared towards long-term relationships. And these relationships should not get boring. In Dragonborn, adventure awaits you around every corner, giving fans a great opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of Skyrim for another winter. Lizard, here we go!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Bethesda Softworks
Bethesda Game Studios
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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