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News NetworkThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review (Part 2)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review (Part 2)

By Christopher Britt (01/06/2012)2514 words
Tagged: elders scrolls v, review, skyrim, the directo, the gaming monolith

Gameplay (Continued)
A lot of times, these Shouts will give you the edge you need to best a particularly vicious enemy and in a satisfying way as well. Now, you might be wondering how you procure such amazing abilities and here's how. They're called Shouts for a reason and in Skyrim's story, these abilities are actually words in the Dragon language that cause a certain affect. Each Shout in the game has three separate words and you must find each one on word walls spread over the world of Skyrim. Just walk up to one of these word walls and you'll basically "read" the word and gain the power. Each word you unlock gives that particular shout a little more power at the cost of a longer recharge or cool down time. That's right, your Shouts do not use your magic meter which is a welcome addition considering that would be a little too much stuff attached to one meter, instead, they just recharge overtime and obviously, the more powerful the shout, the longer it will take to recharge them.

Finding these word walls isn't enough either, you see, you'll still have to unlock the word that you just found with a currency and it's not gold, it's dragon souls. How do you get dragon souls, you ask? Well, you have to fight and kill the dragons that are randomly found in Skyrim, which brings me to dragon fights. Anytime of the day, as you're wondering the world of Skyrim, a dragon may suddenly appear and although, you can escape, most of the time you will have to fight it but this is nothing less than a great thing because the dragon fights themselves may be the most rewarding and most enjoyable fights in the entire game.

Dragons will fly high above you and blow fire or ice onto you and they can do some hefty damage. When they're in the air, cover and ranged weapons, such as bows and magic are your best friends. Unfortunately for me, I've made my character into a physical combat juggernaut so I pretty much have to wait for these behemoths to land and when they do, just go to town, slicing and dicing them up. The amount of health they have is pretty outrageous so it may take you awhile but it's just so damned fun. If you are using the handheld weapons, most of the fights will end with an extended, brutal finishing move as well and it is oh so amazing.

After you finally beat one of these assholes, you'll have the chance to loot some stuff off of them, usually dragon bones and scales, which can be sold for a healthy profit or, later on, forged into some awesome looking armor and, of course, you absorb the thing's soul as well. Once you have a dragon soul, just go to your shouts and you can now unlock a word of your choosing, making it usable. Don't worry about running out of souls either because the dragons are infinite and they spawn randomly so be ready for a fight every time you step outside. You'll be glad that a dragon showed up though, so%u2026much%u2026fun.

Finally, to end this extremely long section, I'm going to talk about Alchemy and Enchanting. Throughout your journey, you'll come across all manner of potions that do everything from restore health and stamina to poisoning your target to make you resistant to fire or frost attacks. Alchemy is the skill of crafting your own potions through discovering different ingredients throughout Skyrim. What you do is you eat a certain ingredient first to learn what kind of properties it has and once you know a lot of them, you can visit an Alchemy lab and create your own potions instead of purchasing them from any of the traders spread throughout the world or finding them.

For the hardcore RPG fans, this will no doubt be a welcome addition but for me personally, I think it's a little much. I've put about forty five hours into the game and I haven't created one potion because I don't feel the need and I honestly don't care, this will not affect the overall score because this is just a preference but I would have rather seen it omitted.

Now, let's talk about Enchanting. Enchanting is the activity of adding magical effects to your weapons and armor. There are numerous effects you can add and some of them are quite useful. My personal favorites are increasing your health by a certain percentage or making your one handed attacks do more damage. Those kinds of affects are for your armor. Effects that you can put on your weapons work a little differently. Weapon effects work to increase the damage output of your weapon through magic, like, twenty points of frost or fire damage or making your opponents flee for a certain period of time.

The way you enchant something is pretty complex if you ask me. First, you need to learn the enchantment and the most common way to learn one is find an item in the world that is already enchanted and then destroying it. You will have to make a choice whether or not to keep the item that's enchanted or to put it on another weapon that is better. Say you find a dagger that drains so many points of stamina from your target and you want to attach that enchantment to your sword. Just head on over to an enchanting table and disenchant the dagger, allowing you to learn the enchantment, and then re-enchant the weapon of your choosing.

The cool thing is that once you know the enchantment, you know it for good. If you find two weapons with the same enchantment, you only have to destroy one of them to learn it and then you can attach it to any number of weapons you want. Weapon enchantments will greatly enhance your damage output but there's a price. With each successful hit, the weapon's enchantment charge goes down and once the charge runs out, the enchantment no longer works until you recharge it. How do you recharge it you ask?

Well, there are gems scattered around Skyrim called Soul Gems and I'm sure you can guess what they're filled with, souls. The different kinds are lesser, common, grand, and black and each one with give more charges and a better overall enchantment. Say you enchant something with an enchantment that increases your one handed damage percentage. If you use a lesser gem to charge it, you'll only make it a seven percent increase in damage, whereas if you use a grand gem to charge it, you'll probably get around twelve or thirteen percent increase.

Once you have emptied a gem, you either have to refill it using a spell or buy a new one and they're not exactly lying around in droves so be sure to think about what you're enchanting before you go wasting all your good gems, make sure it'll be worth it in the long run for you.

Whew, that was a lot of writing but as you can see. Skyrim offers a wealth of options for just about any type of player out there and barring a few exceptions, it's all done very well and it's all extremely satisfying and fun to do. Boredom is probably not something that will happen easily with this game and neither is actually finishing it or doing everything there is to do.

Sound
The sound design in this game is absolutely amazing. Every type of enemy you run into will have a different snarl or growl associated with them. Sword and other sound effects particularly vicious when you're running them into the flesh of one of your enemies and even the simple act of sheathing and unsheathing your sword sounds awesome and you might find yourself doing that over and over just to listen to it, I do...don't judge me.

Every time you release one of your Shouts, it sounds terrifying and extremely powerful and the same goes for when the Dragons breathe fire or frost at you. Fire and frost specifically sound amazing. Fire really sounds like something is burning and frost sounds like it's really freezing something. The voice acting throughout the game is hit and miss. Sometimes it's really good, you may even recognize some of the voices. Be honest, who didn't notice Christopher Plummer as Greybeard Argneir. Unfortunately, for every good performance, there are two or three that fall a little short.

This might be because a lot of the same dialogue is repeated as well. I'm sure we've all heard of the "arrow in the knee" joke, which EVERY SINGLE guard will say if you talk to them long enough, apparently everyone in Skyrim loved adventuring and apparently there were a lot of stray arrows going every which way. Don't get me wrong, it provides a laugh but in the wrong way. For every goof conversation I listen to, there's one right around the corner that I end up skipping but overall, it's a small price to pay for such a huge game.

On the flip side, the orchestral soundtrack to this game is outstanding. The low key, subtle tones in the background when nothing is happening almost seem poetic in how they are performed and then when a fight breaks out, especially with a dragon, the heart pumping soundtrack kicks in and puts you in the mood where you feel like punching a rhino, or a dragon, right square in the face, it's fantastic.

Technical Flaws
Alright, we've all heard the saying that good things never last forever and although Skyrim is one hell of a game, it does come with its fair share of issues, so many, in fact that it deserves its own section. For starters, the game can be VERY laggy at times. Most of the time, it's just constant stuttering for a few seconds, which isn't really a problem considering it doesn't last too long but there was also one time where I actually got killed because the frame rate just tanked to probably around two or three frames a second, which is really unfortunate.

The other big problem I've seen is freezing. I've only played the 360 version so I couldn't say anything about the other versions but my game has frozen up quite a few times. It's usually during load screens for whatever reason but you can't get out of it, I had to restart my console every time, I couldn't even get back to the dashboard. There was even a period where I played for two or three hours and it locked up three times in that span, which is kind of unacceptable BUT, in a game this big, these things will only make you mad in the moment and once you're back to playing it with no issue, you'll love it again.

The third problem is the load times, which is really no surprise but that doesn't mean they're any less annoying. Load times are everywhere in Skyrim. Every time you fast travel, every time you walk in and out of a store or a house or anything, there's a load time and although I've installed the game to make it less extreme, I've heard if you don't install the game, the load times are pretty egregious so I would definitely recommend installing the game if you have a chance.

Finally, the last flaw I'm going to mention is the texture pop in, it's abundant, once again, in a game this massive, it's pretty much a given that something like this would happen and I'm not docking nearly as much as I would if it was a game that wasn't this good but it still bears mentioning. However, in no way, shape, or form, does the pop in detract from the overall visual experience because, most likely, you'll be too busy cutting someone to shreds or gawking at the amazing art design to really take notice but when you do notice it, it sucks.

Overall

Story - 7.5
The story, although good, ends up being hard to follow and kind of strange with all the medieval stuff contained in it. That just doesn't interest me. The abundance of so-so voice acting brings it down even further but what's there is more than you could ask for in a game that contains so much content.

Graphics - 9.0
Not the sharpest looking game out there but in the end, it doesn't matter considering the art design creates truly mesmerizing and downright beautiful sights time and time again and I would much rather have that than higher resolution graphics and lighting.

Gameplay - 10
The fact that this game comes on one disk is astounding. There are hours upon hours of content in this game and they are all unique. From the combat, both weapon and magic, to creating potions and crafting your own weapons. Enchanting all your stuff and going on the immense amount of quests that you can undertake, needless to say, no one will be completely finishing this game anytime soon unless you just spend twenty hours a day on it.

Sound - 9.25
One of the best sound designs I've seen in a long time. The sounds of the enemies and weapons are pitch perfect and every second of the game is accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack that can be both beautiful and heart pounding at the same time. Wooden acting brings it down a notch but it doesn't detract from the experience in anyway.

Overall - 10
If you look at each individual score and think about it, you might think that a perfect ten is a little much but considering the amount of fun stuff you can do in this game, coupled with the decent story, awesome soundtrack, and jaw dropping art design. I wouldn't consider giving this game anything less than a perfect score. My take on RPGs has been completely revamped with this game and I do consider this to be one of the best games ever made. You will be doing yourself a number of favors to go out and get this immediately.

Special note: This score does not, in anyway, reflect the scores of the other version and I must warn PS3 players that there is an apparent lag problem that makes the game nearly unplayable as your save file gets to be a decent size. Some players haven't had that problem but a lot of players have so I'm not recommending the purchase of the PS3 version until a fix is, for sure, in the works but so far, Bethesda hasn't released anything that has completely fixed the problem. If you own a pc that is decently powerful and no Xbox, get it for the pc and if you only own a PS3, I'm sorry to say, but I would wait until you get a chance to either get a different version or until they have fixed this problem.

Author - Christopher Britt (thumbnail)
Author - Christopher Britt
My name is Chris and I am the founder of The Gaming Monolith; a brand new review blog for video games and movies. I've been a gamer since the Atari days but it was Goldeneye and Mario 64 that really got me hooked. I also got into writing at a young age. I figured why not write about stuff you enjoy doing? The rest is history.