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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PlayStation 3) artwork

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PlayStation 3) review

"Shout... Shout... Let it all out..."

Against what I initially thought was my better judgment, I decided to purchase The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The reason I hesitated to acquire it wasn't because I thought it would be terrible, but because I knew I would lose myself in the game and never be heard from again. I was right. A tiny playthrough or moderate taste of what the game had to offer was not enough for me. I had to experience everything I could: crawl through every depth, slay all malevolent beings I came across, and develop my character into the sneaking, sniping badass I imagined her to be.

Fourteen months later, my epic adventure concluded and I turned from the game with a heavy heart. Though I loved the fantastical ride, I couldn't pinpoint precisely what I would miss most about playing Skyrim.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim asset

Perhaps it was the expansive, immersive world packed with gorgeous scenery and glorious details I regretted leaving. I know it sounds odd, but sometimes I enjoyed wandering around the countryside. I'd run to the south and play in the lakes and rivers, or charge toward the north and hunt a saber cat or two. Now and then I'd run to the west and pick a fight with savages known as Forsworn, or spend time in the east climbing crags and brawling with bears. Sometimes I'd climb a vista and enjoy the digitized view, usually consisting of a sea of trees and snow-capped mountains. I'd warrant that such experiences likely don't top actual rock climbing, but at least I don't have to leave my living room to enjoy a view in Skyrim.

There were times, though, that I had an actual destination in mind, usually while engaged in a quest. I eventually found out that the quests themselves were not the enjoyable part about Skyrim, as most of them are either repetitive or asinine. Citizens constantly asked me to fetch this, kill that, delve into a structure over yonder, give an item Bobo Firebeard in Location X... Few quests were anything more than standard RPG fare. What mattered most about them wasn't their details, but the amazing locales the quests guided me to. We're talking about convoluted dwarven ruins riddled with traps, and dank tunnels crawling with nasties like giant spiders and goblin-like Falmors. Some of my favorite areas took advantage of the game's fantasy setting and disregard for natural laws, like lush forests contained within caves.

Most of all, I loved dungeons populated by patrolling humanoid foes. Such areas allowed me to slip into stealth mode, equip my bow, and commence one-shotting unsuspecting suckas with arrows. Sometimes I grew tired of sneaking and assassinating, and preferred to unleash my dual war axes. On such occasions, I'd rush towards my opponents with reckless abandon and take on several at a time. Usually, I could slay a few opponents before needing to regroup. Whatever choice I made, stealth or butchery, I was seldom pressured into it. It was totally my campaign.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim asset

Come to think of it, maybe that's what I dug most about Skyrim... I appreciated playing the game at my own pace, engaging in bits of each story whenever I desired, and seldom being forced to advance a quest line or complete a task. I recall spending whole sessions hunting woodland creatures and skinning them to make leather, all so I could craft equipment and boost my blacksmithing skill. Never mind that the Dark Brotherhood wanted me to assassinate a high profile target, or that I had to deal with a certain guild's traitor, or that the Winterhold College was besieged. It was my campaign, and I was able to play it as I saw fit.

Best of all, quest lines waited while I spent hours gathering alchemy ingredients or slaying vampires for the hell of it. The game didn't fail me for not completing a task within a certain time frame. It chilled out and let me play.

The game's sense of freedom wasn't limited to quests. Character creation, for instance, allowed me to craft a warrior to my liking. I wasn't stuck with a preset class like fighter or mage, but could have made either or even both. Thanks to the recent 1.9 patch, I could've even obtained every perk Skyrim has to offer. I could also reallocate perk points, assuming I wanted to alter my character's build mid-game. For example, If I grew tired of playing as a thief, I could easily switch to a necromancer or heavy-armored fighter.

Even black-and-white alignments like good and evil failed to abate my freedom. Engaging in various shady acts didn't award my character "evil points." Even better, my character wasn't forbidden from initiating certain quests because of her morality. If I desired to, I could go on a murder spree, pay off my bounty, and then commit random acts of altruism.

Of course, none of these actions would be part of a grand storyline. They would be my personal experiences, each of them unique and possibly unable to be replicated.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim asset

Honestly, I think that's what I enjoyed most about Skyrim. The game's cutscenes and scripted events are cool, but they pale in comparison to the unscripted experiences I encountered throughout my lengthy playthrough. Forget the game's supposedly iconic dragon battles--they all play out in the same way anyway. I loved moments like the occasion I decided to steal from giants early on in the game, only to have a trio of them chase me halfway across the plains. I also remember being betrayed by a highwayman. After slaughtering his cronies, I turned to him and executed one of my character's specialty "Shouts," abilities gained through consuming dragons' souls. In particular, I nailed him with a full blast of "Unrelenting Force," which sent him flying off the cliff behind him. I managed to run forward and watch him as he dropped what appeared to be hundreds of feet, eventually bouncing off a boulder and disappearing somewhere in the grassland below.

I adored ridiculous moments the most. At one point I nailed a bandit in the back with a double-shot of a powerful lightning spell. The man not only launched off the platform he was standing on, but somersaulted through the air as he dropped into a subterranean lake below. Not all of my favorite occurrences involved me kicking ass, though. I remember eluding a dragon who had dropped my HP to just about nothing. I slid down a hill to escape the beast and managed to put some distance between us. I thought I had dodged a fiery death, but then an off-camera saber cat leaped from the side of the screen and killed me. It was as though the game badly wanted to reenact Robert Goulet's death scene from "Naked Gun 2 1/2."

I could criticize Skyrim's simplistic combat or the fact the the PS3 version is horribly buggy. No, really, there were times when the game would crash or fail to load, forcing me to reboot the system. I could even go on about how lesser quests became tedious after a while, or how the game became too easy once I obtained reasonably powerful equipment, or how the enemy AI is plain stupid. How stupid, you ask? Dragons often ignored me in favor of attacking piddly river crabs or distant wolves. While such flaws do mar the game enough to deprive it of perfection, they don't damage Skyrim enough to be considered huge setbacks. Skyrim is an immersive, zen-like experience that puts you in control of the campaign. If you so please, you can play all of it some of it, or even forget about any quest lines and just hunt animals for two weeks straight. Like I said before, it's your damn game.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (July 02, 2013)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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