As people have come to expect from games that start with the word “The Elder Scrolls” The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has absolutely beautiful graphics. Most of the beauty is concentrated, however, on items that are in the foreground of a particular scene. Objects and pieces of scenery that are a little further away, such as when a player is walking towards a city or a settlement, will succumb to a lot of screen tearing and texture popping that just brings down the overall quality of the on screen visuals. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a gorgeous looking game, and there are a lot of things being rendered at any one particular time so it should get a little bit of a pass, but the fact of the matter is that these kinds of texture and graphic issues do happen and even if they are very few and far between, it’s still a little disappointing.
The gameplay feels very similar to how Oblivion felt for the most part, the ability to mix weapons and magic feels very cool with the ability to mix two different spells, equipping one of them to one hand and another one to the other, feeling even cooler. Is there anything more epic than burning a problematic wolf to a crispy sizzling heap on the floor and then zapping him with a little bit of lightning for good measure? No? I didn’t think so. I can only hope that the final game will have more of an in depth look at how players will be able to use a combat system with such a range of diverse choices that are available to make. I think that most people would just go for the trusty sword and shield combination and not realise that there are so many more variations of weapons, magic and shields that they could possibly be missing out on. As with a lot of things however, that’s just something that we’ll have to wait until the finished product has been released to find out.
One of the major problems I had with the demo that was available to play at Eurogamer Expo 2011 was the fact that it can be difficult to figure out what needs to be done. When I first started the demo there was nothing displayed on the screen to tell me what I was supposed to be doing. This helped with the immersion of the game, but with a world as vast and open as the Elder Scrolls games have become popular for, having that much of the world available for exploration but without any focus could lead players astray a little bit. The other thing I noticed about the questing aspect of Skyrim is that most players will assume that the quest screen will be on the same menu as the map, skills, magic and other important menu systems (the B button) but it’s not, the player needs to press the Back button to get to a totally different menu system to see any quests that you may have picked up along the way.
In a similar vein, it was difficult to see which of the citizens of the towns were quest givers, this could have been down to the fact that they weren’t giving any important quests (the mission I ended up getting was about crafting armour and weapons) but I could have totally missed that mission if it wasn’t for the fact that I was randomly going around each of the citizens and trying to talk to them. Hopefully the main objective quest givers are a little more obvious but I didn’t get the chance to see any of those so I couldn’t say for sure. Talking to people using the A button felt quite sluggish a lot of the time too, I often had to highlight a person a tap the A button multiple times before anything would happen. This got really frustrating quite quickly, and if this is the case with the final version of the game, would get even more frustrating over the hours and hours that the game is going to take people to complete.
One of the more positive points of my short time with Skyrim was the kill cam. When a player takes down an enemy in a single hit, or by sneaking up to them and silently killing them, they will be treated to a very nice looking kill camera that basically shows a third person viewpoint of the player executing their intended target. This makes the player feel like they’ve done something particularly special and certainly helps towards the whole epic feel of the game overall. When I finally do get my hands on the final version of the game I can assure you that I’ll be putting everything I can into being as stealthy as possible, just so I can see the kill cam executions more often. They showcase the graphical quality of the objects and characters that are close to the player and look really awesome while they’re being performed. In slow motion no less.
One very annoying thing that I kept coming across during my time with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was that it still takes a very long time to load the outside world, this means that if you accidentally walk into a building you didn’t mean to, and turn around straight away and walk back out, you’ll be facing some pretty hefty loading times. At one point I even thought the game had crashed because I’d totally forgotten about the massive load times that plagued Oblivion, and the loading screen on Skyrim doesn’t seem to move all that much. All I was seeing was a map of the current region while the game continues to load in the background. I suppose, as players, we’ll just have to make sure that we want to go inside that particular building before we push the A button, to save ourselves the annoyance.
While most of the points I’ve made seem to be quite negative I am looking forward to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. If you liked Oblivion then you’re going to love Skyrim, it’s more of the same only with multiple improvements. Most people will have just got their hopes up by watching trailers and reading coverage and I don’t feel that the game, or at least not the Eurogamer demo, lived up to the hype that the game has received so far.
The final judgement will be made when the game finally sees release on the 11th November 2011, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.