The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Reviews

With its release slated for tomorrow, today the first batch of reviews for Bethesda's highly anticipated fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls franchise Skyrim has been released, and it's predictably made of enthusiastic ones, although it's worth noting that early reviews always tend to be the most positive.

Eurogamer notes that the melee combat is still far from perfect and some not exactly impressive textures, but is still extremely impressed and awards it a perfect score, 10/10.
The melee combat is less perfected, but has nevertheless been evolved. Those who specialise in it may not be left feeling quite as satisfied as those who prefer to dabble in the darker arts, but it's still a sweeter deal than the rote, block-and-retaliate combat of Oblivion. Enemies will circle and prod at your defences more effectively, displaying a little more intelligence when exploiting your weaknesses. A similar degree of refinement has been made to Bethesda's famously floaty third-person animations.

On the thorny issue of enemy scaling, you will certainly face insurmountable enemies in your travels - but with the trade-off that you will later destroy them with righteous firepower as you evolve your character. And of those fearsome creatures, the dragons themselves - whose souls are so essential to enhancing your dragon shouts - aren't the nuisance feared by some, instead acting as grandiose events that breathe further life into the world. You'll want to save the cities and people from their wrath.


It evokes a word that's overused in reviewing of all kinds: one that's best kept in the cellar in a plainly marked box and reserved only for the most special of occasions. For Skyrim though, I'd like to blow the dust off it, open up the lid, and enjoy a masterpiece with you.

GameSpot is just slightly less enthusiastic, going for a 9.0/10 while noting that plenty of glitches plague the title.
It's impressive enough that there's so much to do; it's even more impressive that most of it is wonderful. Not every dungeon is a joy to explore. Stone-turning puzzles occasionally bring the fun to a halt, and a few repeated cave designs could dampen your spirits. But overall, every task has an excellent sense of context, and surprises lurk around many a turn. Searching for a lost dog turns into a grander quest than you could have guessed--and witty writing and voice acting shine some light into this somber world. Even a simple "go there, kill that" bounty can be a thrill. After all, how often do you face a towering giant and a couple of woolly mammoths? It's too bad that as you approach the giant's camp, one of those mammoths might spawn 100 feet in the air and fall to its death, or land on another mammoth and ride on its back for a few seconds before sliding off.


Many of Skyrim's delights are the touches that occur outside of the action. Citizens go about their daily lives, selling their wares in shops during the day and closing down at night to hang out in the pub or head home to rest. Under some circumstances, they may comment on your rancid breath or remark on how sickly you seem to look. Children run up and down the streets; one may even ask for you to stop a bully from picking on him. Citizens move somewhat stiffly, but with more grace than in previous Elder Scrolls games. Before, conversations brought the world to a halt and focused the camera on some character's waxy face. In Skyrim, certain dialogues limit the camera and temporarily paralyze you in place, but overall, conversations feel more organic than before--a nice improvement that enhances your sense of immersion. .


If you've played previous Elder Scrolls games, glitches and oddities don't come as a surprise. Nevertheless, Skyrim comes in a year graced with multiple quality RPGs that feature tighter combat, fewer bugs, better animations, and so forth. But to be fair, none of those games are endowed with such enormity. Yet The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim doesn't rely on sheer scope to earn its stripes. It isn't just that there's a lot to do: it's that most of it is so good. Whether you're slashing a dragon's wings, raising the dead back to life, or experimenting at the alchemy table, Skyrim performs the most spectacular of enchantments: the one that causes huge chunks of time to vanish before you know it.

PC Gamer, 94/100.
It's hard to walk for a minute in any direction without encountering an intriguing cave, a lonely shack, some strange stones, a wandering traveller, a haunted fort. These were sparse and quickly repetitive in Oblivion, but they're neither in Skyrim: it's teeming with fascinating places, all distinct. It was 40 hours before I blundered into a dungeon that looked like one I'd seen before, and even then what I was doing there was drastically different.

These places are the meat of Skyrim, and they're what makes it feel exciting to explore. You creep through them with your heart in your mouth, your only soundtrack the dull groan of the wind outside, to discover old legends, dead heroes, weird artefacts, dark gods, forgotten depths, underground waterfalls, lost ships, hideous insects and vicious traps. It's the best Indiana Jones game ever made.


The enemies you encounter are, in some cases, generated by the game to match the level of your character. In Oblivion that sometimes felt like treading water: progress was just a stat increase, and your enemies kept pace. That doesn't apply now that your character is defined more by his or her perks, because the way you play is always changing.

Levelled content is also just used less: at level 30, my most common enemies are still bandits with low-level weapons. And I still run into things too dangerous for me to tackle.

IGN, 9.5/10.
The only downside of the PC version is the interface, which is elaborately presented and a breeze to use on consoles, but is inefficiently laid out for keyboard and mouse controls. To cut down on time spent in menus with both versions you can assign almost anything armor, weapons, spells, shouts, pieces of meat as a favorite. This menu can then quickly be brought up during a fight, pausing the action, so you swiftly adjust to the changing nature of a battle without having to page through the main menu system, though on PC an option to also bind items and spells to number keys would have been appreciated.


It's difficult to ever feel completely satisfied with a play session of Skyrim. There's always one more pressing quest, one more unexplored tract of land, one more skill to increase, one more butterfly to catch. It's a mesmerizing game that draws you into an finely crafted fictional space packed with content that consistently surprises. The changes made since Oblivion are many, and result in a more focused and sensible style of play, where the effects of every decision are easily seen. Featuring the same kind of thrilling freedom of choice The Elder Scrolls series is known for along with beautiful visuals and a stirring soundtrack, playing Skyrim is a rare kind of intensely personal, deeply rewarding experience, and one of the best role-playing games yet produced.

Joystiq, 5/5.
To keep the weapons and abilities you're focusing on top of mind and easily accessible, you can create a list of your favorites, accessible at any time with a single button press. It's convenient, but still not an elegant enough solution. If you, for example, want to alternately cast healing and fire spells as you attack with your right hand, you're going to spend a lot of time stopping the fight to swap between the two. A radial menu of favorites might have alleviated the problem, but the simple alphabetical list of spells, weapons and armor is a chore to dig through.

Speaking of chores: What should be thrilling fights in Skyrim are often weighed down by the same clunky melee system Oblivion suffered from. In fact, even the word "system" is pretty generous considering we're just talking about hammering on the right trigger. While Skyrim has expanded the series in almost every conceivable direction, its mindless melee still feels rooted in the past. Having a lightning bolt in your left hand helps, make no mistake, but it's no substitute for real variety in the swordplay.

EDGE, 9/10.
Large, aggressive and persistent, the epic rolling battles against these beasts show Skyrim at its most theatrical. Dragons handle the changing landscape confidently, staying airborne when they need to but coming in close when they have the chance. They expose the best and worst of Skyrim's combat. Waiting for them to land so you can batter them to death while staring at a screen full of scales is hard work, but archers and magic users will find a flying dragon presents an irresistibly tricky target. Dead dragons relinquish souls which in turn unlock Shouts ensuring that, even when outmatched, there's always a temptation to stand your ground. Try to run, however, and they'll harry you for miles. And when a defeated dragon finally crashes upon a barren hillside, its flesh melting off to reveal a skeleton that will remain there, a monument to your victory, for as long as you continue playing, it's a moment of emergent grandeur in what, at times, can feel like a clockwork environment.

These moments are why you play Skyrim, because in the instance of breathless excitement, triumph or discovery, you invest completely in its world. You don't play because you care about the fate of Skyrim's people no matter how many prophecies claim you must. You play for the moment a hidden switch unveils secret catacombs in what you thought was a ransacked tomb. You play for the moment a dragon's silhouette fills the sky, backed up against the otherworldly colours of the northern lights. You play for the moment a diary clutched by a desiccated corpse sends you on a country- wide hunt for some ancient, forgotten loot. The illusion frequently falters and sometimes completely breaks but when it does you'll want to conspire with the game to pretend you didn't see. You play on, for the moments of clever design, fortunate coincidence or downright inspiration that turn you from suspending disbelief into utterly convinced

Giant Bomb, 5/5.
There's a lot going on here, but the crux of this game is dragons. After an absence so long that most of Skyrim's residents suspect they never really existed at all, the villainous wyrms have returned to scorch the countryside and terrorize its populace. As the first Dragonborn warrior to appear in an age, you're the only one around who can permanently kill a dragon, and thus the person responsible for discovering why they're back and what can be done to stop them. That quest forms the backbone of Skyrim's core storyline, and it's a story well worth seeing through to the end, with genuine twists, intrigue, and momentum that drive it forward in a way Bethesda's past games really haven't. For reference, I found Fallout 3's main storyline mostly forgettable and only finished it from a sense of obligation, and Oblivion's I hardly touched at all. I suspect Skyrim's story will prove more engaging for most players; I know it was for me. And in contrast to the disappointing/vault-tec-assisted-targeting-system/92-1807/ finality of the last two Fallout games, the way Skyrim's main story "ends" is also wholly appropriate for a game as open and non-linear as this one. After the events of the final quest play out, you're simply left standing there, free to continue exploring or marauding or whatever it is you want to do. The only way to view the credits is from the title screen. That struck me as a really elegant way to handle things.


You'll probably have your own set of stories about the crazy things that happened during your many hours in Skyrim, including a horse fighting a dragon, and a conjurer who raised a slain chicken as her undead minion during a battle. Those both happened to me, by the way. Aside from the infrequent hard lockups and such, the oddities that tend to pop up in Bethesda's games have almost become part of the charm for me, though you know yourself how much those things detract from your own experience. But it hardly matters. No other game I know of operates with this many moving parts to create such an immense world filled with this much choice in how you engage its excellent, endless fiction. It's one thing when a game offers dozens of hours of gameplay; it's quite another when that gameplay is good enough you'll want to live in its world for that long.

Destructoid, 10/10.
The winged lizards swoop across the sky, raining down fire or frost on everything in their wake. They'll land on buildings, smash into the ground and provide truly memorable battles every time they show up. As a choral rendition of the Elder Scrolls theme strikes up and players struggle valiantly to bring their reptilian foe to the ground, only a heart of stone could fail to be roused. Once the dragon finally draws its last breath and begins to burn away, leaving behind only its huge skeleton, most players would be hard-pressed to not just stand there silently for a few moments, taking in everything that just happened. The surrounding NPCs will be doing the same thing, too, making these reflectively calm moments almost as engaging as the fights themselves.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is every single reason to love a Western role-playing game, condensed into a single comprehensive experience with nothing lost in the conversion process. It is a game that will drown those who step into its absorbing, overwhelmingly detailed world, a game that will bury you and refuse to let go. Yet your submergence will be agreeable, your burial ecstatic, and the hands placed around your throat welcomed like those of a lover's. To play Skyrim is to enter into a relationship, one that provides feelings of empowerment, yet demands total submission.

Neoseeker, 9/10.
Dragons can be damn tough, but you rarely ever need to fight alone in Skyrim. The newest Elder Scrolls adopts a party system similar to what we've seen in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, though not quite as robust. Bodyguards are awarded by each major town's ruling Jarl for gaining their favor, and mercenaries can be found in every tavern, charging a modest fee for their services. Unlike the companion characters found in Fallout, however, none of the characters are given much of a backstory or a place in the ongoing plot, and conversational dialogue is extremely limited. Still, they're a great asset to have in battle. Mercs come in several varieties, meaning you can choose a follower who suits your personal style of play, like a mage or tank.

What else are followers good for? Marriage. That's right; you can now get married in Tamriel, regardless of race or sexual orientation. The idea is new to TES but isn't a major part of the game, so the majority of Skyrim's population is off limits, including quest NPCs and vendors. After getting married, your spouse will hang around your primary home and bring in supplementary income. Sharing a bed with him/her grants the Lover's Comfort stats effect, over Well Rested or Rested, and your husband/wife will never object to following you. It's a cute little novelty, if nothing else.

This new system does have its problems. If you have more than one follower, friendly fire becomes a major concern, because if one follower hits another by accident, they'll turn hostile and fight to the death. The only way to fix this, as far as I know, is by teleporting to a different zone, whether through fast travel or a nearby door.

Atomic Gamer, 10/10.
The main storyline in Skyrim takes a good twenty-plus hours to get through if you're not trying to rush to the end as quickly as possible, but there's at least four times that in additional content through side quests and many more hours in aimless adventuring, too. Just like with their past games, Bethesda allows you to get sidetracked many times over, but the new journal system makes it easy to stay focused. The world is jam-packed with content, and most of it is of a higher quality than any past Elder Scrolls title.

If you leave the confines of quests, you'll find that Skyrim ditches the old system that always tailored enemies' strength and loot precisely to your level - I proved this by dying in one or two hits quite often when out exploring. You'll also find that if you stick with completing quests, the challenge increases with you, but it happens in jerks and jumps like you'd expect out of other RPGs rather than smoothly adjusting to perfectly match your exact power level. Sometimes things are much harder than you'd expect, and other times they're a bit easy, and it makes it seem much more like you simply inhabit the world, rather than having all of its inhabitants level up every time you do.


Many gamers and critics hailed Oblivion as their game of the year for 2006, and most of those wound up picking Fallout 3 for the same honor in 2008 - and I don't see that streak breaking in 2011, either. While other games this year have delivered tighter storylines and intense multiplayer action, nothing satisfies my gaming needs quite like Bethesda's core studio of developers can. Portal 2 boiled over with charm, Deus Ex: Human Revolution demonstrated true artistry, and Battlefield 3 is my multiplayer FPS of choice, but I'm calling it now: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is easily my favorite game of 2011.

RipTen has a review for the Xbox 360 version, 10/10.
The world that is about to unfold before you is perhaps the most daunting and invigorating challenge you may ever encounter in a game. It hearkens back to days long gone, when I sat in a stuffy classroom, pouring over a copy of Beowulf and picturing the frigid north and its terrible demons. Fans of this epic will be instantly smitten by Skyrim and it's distinctively viking style. You'll notice that the character creation screen sets your race to Nord by default, which I highly recommend you play through to experience the proper story. While other races do get their explanation for being the last of the dragonborn, the Nord lineage just fits so perfectly with the lore. You'll take your first steps into this landscape and discover a few things. First, this map was rendered like a work of art. There are moments of photo-realism that took my breath away, I was so stunned by sudden moments of clarity. When you look around, you'll find the picture darkens and lightens, mimicking the workings of the human eye as it adjusts to light changes. Second, the dynamic weather keeps these cities and farmsteads interesting and unpredictable. When I first ascended the Throat of the World, it was snowing impossibly hard. I reloaded the save before my ascent and found it clear, allowing me see across the valley below. Third, the things you will encounter may cause your jaw to unhinge and fall onto the floor. You may never find it again.


This is what we all wanted. It's so refreshing to see what was promised, delivered, and then some. Sons and daughters of Skyrim, I dare you to embark upon a journey of your own and deny yourselves the same snare that caught me.

This is the future I've dreamed of.

GameSpy, 5/5.
On the topic of tightening up the graphics, the game really does look beautiful on my rig which really isn't that powerful of a machine (Phenom II x6 1055T, 6 GB, and a GTX 460). Things like watching the volumetric fog cascade over the mountains, roaming the land and seeing giant mammoths in the distance, or riding on horseback and seeing a castle jutting out of a mountainside really gives it a George R.R. Martin feel in this area of the world of the Elder Scrolls universe. The 3rd person viewpoint also doesn't suck anymore -- in fact I used it quite often -- and I'm no longer laughing at how stupid my character looks while jumping. It's apparent that the game doesn't have a "brand-new" engine, but the team deserves some serious props with how much they've tweaked, modified, and added to their existing Creation Engine. It's damn impressive.


It's great to hear that Skyrim has lived up to all of its potential and more. Personally, I can't wait for the mod community to get their hands on the game and start crafting out even more content. This is a great time to be a PC gamer for sure.

Computer and Videogames, 9.5/10.
If you're an Elder Scrolls veteran, you'll already know what you're in for. This is not the next evolutionary stage of the series: rather a loving refinement of what made Oblivion and the now-aged PC title Morrowind so special. It's those games with better voice acting, a slicker interface, a richer world and an improved story. It's also the most polished and user friendly games in the series, with smarter character progression and a gentler learning curve.

But, more than any of those things, it's an adventure; an escape into a compelling world of myth and magic - and it's the biggest, deepest RPG of the generation.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun do their customary scoreless piece.
Of course, listing all this epic quantity means little without addressing the rather more nebulous question of its quality. I'll admit, I'm in the camp that believes Bethesda's games have been on a downward slide since the hallowed Morrowind. I got plenty out of Oblivion (especially the thieves' and assassins' guilds arcs) but it did feel hollow, bland and awkward compared to its predecessor. Fallout 3 I found boring, contrived and clumsy, though I deeply wanted to like it. I seriously worried Skyrim would, for all its talk of lavishness, depth and dragons, continue the transformation into a trudging, consolified action game filled with clunky acting. It does not. It slams on the brakes then reverses at dangerous speed back into Morrowind territory. Some things are lost (e.g. Persuasion is a sadly watered-down, irregular affair now mostly to do with shopping), many things are changed (e.g. recharging magic items can be done anywhere) and it's certainly not as weird (no flying or Siltstriders), but it truly reclaims that sense of being in another world, rather than a generic soft-focus, over-familiar fantasyscape.


I think, at last, there is a new Best Elder Scrolls Ever.

Shacknews, scoreless.
It may hew a bit closely to its ancestors -- including some of their technical hiccups -- but The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim easily takes its place as the best iteration of Bethesda's modern RPG style to date. The characters are smartly written, the combat is rewarding and varied, and the story feels appropriately majestic. But none of those factors compare to how much the setting itself impacted me. I simply fell in love with the world of Skyrim, and I plan to lose myself in it for some time to come.