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Out Of Control - Video game reviews and news
2011-11-11 at NOON

75 Minutes With: Skyrim

The point of my 75-minute reviews is not to get a full and detailed look at a game. Instead, I want to explore the game’s hook, and find out how quickly and deep it can sink that hook in.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim didn’t need 75 minutes. It hooked me at about three.

My opinion of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is critical. I found the main story failed to push me forward into the game world.  Even meeting Capt. Picard didn’t do it for me. But this isn’t Oblivion; this is Skyrim. And in Skyrim, the initial presentation of the main story ark makes the player want to be a part of this world.

Without getting to spoiler-ish, I can tell you that you find yourself as a captive in the opening moments of Skyrim. As you are hauled away, bound in the back of a horse-drawn wagon, to your execution grounds you quickly understand that you're in the middle of something large and very serious.

Your character, at this point, appears just as ignorant as you. This means your confusion and curiosity is the same as his – or her's.

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Spoiler alert: there is an intervention and you are not executed (giving you more than four minutes of gameplay). This intervention is exciting and draws you into the story, action and the mythology of Skyrim.

This action, combined with my curiosity and the other non-playing characters I am surrounded by encouraged me to keep moving forward. I immediately wanted to know more about this world and how I can help shape it.

Aesthetically, calling Skyrim eye candy would be an understatement. This game, on PC at least, looks gorgeous. The beauty is at its greatest from a distance, so try not to inspect anything too closely.

The distant mountains, the northern lights that stretch across the night’s sky (which thankfully entered my game at minute 73) all led me to stop playing and take a moment to look around.

The massiveness of the game world is also immediately obvious. Before the first scene, we’re probably already aware that this game feature's a huge world. Just like how we knew the game world was large in Fallout: New Vegas, Oblivion and other Bethesda games.

But there’s something about Skyrim that really makes you feel its size. Very early on I was chasing an NPC down a trail in a wooded area. Something about that forest and the mountains in the distance really made me feel like a small being in a big world.

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Before I get too wrapped up in the game’s stunning visuals, I do have a warning for PC users.

Out of curiosity I turned my video settings down. The game looks OK on Medium settings at 1080p resolution. But drop below medium, or even bring the resolution down slightly, and the game’s beauty disappears. 

So if you are a PC user and expect to play on medium-to-low settings, you may want to lower your graphical expectations. 

Character interaction is another feat worth mentioning. Conversing with an NPC is much more natural than it was in Oblivion, and the voice acting seems more consistent and improved.

But it’s not all good in the world of Elder Scrolls V. Combat, specifically melee combat, is lackluster.

There’s an awkwardness when your character swings an axe or sword. That awkwardness is magnified when you – apparently – make contact with a foe.

Other than a modest animated reaction, it’s difficult to tell if you’ve made contact. The problem is similar when you are struck. While there is evidence that you’ve been hit, you are never really can believe it.

This isn’t an issue for some other RPGs. A game that comes to mind immediately is Dark Souls. When you make contact in Dark Souls, there's no mistaking it. When contact is made against you, boy do you feel it.

Back to Skyrim, and I just can’t help but feel that the contact I make with thin air is the same as striking raw flesh or hide.

This is a rather small gripe, and one I found myself forgetting before ending my short game session.

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One thing all readers should be aware of is that 75 minutes didn’t allow me even start scratching the surface of Skyrim. 

But that didn’t stop this Elder Scrolls installment from invading my mind. Waking up this morning, my first thoughts were of my plans to explore this vast and intriguing world. I couldn’t help but debate to myself what direction I should take with my character.

I’ve decided on the path of a Nord warrior, but I couldn’t help but argue with myself (internally so my wife wouldn’t think know I was crazy) while I brushed my teeth that maybe focusing on magic would be appropriate.

Skyrim’s hook is powerful. It’s strong enough to get you thinking about it even when you’re away from the PC. That means there's likely something really, really special waiting for me inside this game world. 

And I know I won’t be able to discover it all with just another 75 minutes.

Game Facts
Genre: RPG
Played on: Windows PC
Also available on: PS3, Xbox360
Meta critic rating: 95/ 100


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