Games reviewed in 10 straight-to-the-point questions.
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed) / Xbox One / Playstation 4 / PC / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / Alexa / My microwave
Time to beat: 30 hours for normal / 150+ hours completionist, although it’s technically endless due to automatically generated missions
Q1: Who’s it for?
- Fans of western Role-playing Games (RPGs) that include an involving story, a deep leveling system, and tons of customization options ranging from creating your own character, to modifying your own weapons and skillsets
- Fans of fantasy worlds. This one in particular is set within Norse mythology, including orcs, elves, giants, mages, witches, werewolves, vampires, and of course… dragons!
- Fans of open-world games. Skyrim is open from the get-go, and you’re free to explore without constraints, barring the odd leveled up enemy that will teach you a thing or two if you engage them unprovoked (stay away from those chickens!!)
Q2: What’s the learning curve like?
For newcomers, the wide range of options available may seem overwhelming at first, as there is a lot to learn. The main leveling up system has 18 skill trees that can be built as you play. Considering mostly everything you do helps you level up, it’s good to keep track of what skills you’d like to improve, but it’s hard to anticipate whether prioritizing a specific skill will pay off in the long run.
The best approach in this game is trial and error, but if you really are stumped, you’ll find numerous wikis online that will help. Now that my time to play has become more scarce, I’m a firm believer there’s no shame in looking something up if you’re stuck and frustrated with something.
As far as the actual gameplay goes, enemies actually level up as you do, although certain enemies, like the giants, will have no problem killing you in one hit.
Q3: What’s the story like, and does it require any pre-existing knowledge?
I played this game without any prior knowledge of the Elder Scrolls universe, and the game stands well on own. You start as a prisoner sentenced to death, but once you break free and pick an alliance, you’re free to explore the world and its story on your own. You are actually able to skip the main story altogether if you want, but I’d recommend going through it regardless.
There are numerous references to Oblivion and other games, so I guess fans of the series would enjoy finding those throughout the game, but they are not an essential part of the experience.
Q4: What are the controls like?
At least on the Switch version you are able to play both in first and third person, and you can also play with motion controls. I personally prefer the regular scheme.
If you’re used to fast-paces first-person shooters, the controls may feel a little clunky, especially when using melee weapons like maces or swords. Spells tend to work a little better. You can specialize on either scheme to make it work better for you.
Q5: Does it have split-screen?
Nope, this is an entirely single-player experience.
Q6: How’s the online component?
Q7: How’s the presentation?
Even though this game came out in 2011, Skyrim’s landscapes and interiors are still beautiful to look at, rivaling sights found in games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
Animations and character models do look dated sometimes (particularly facial animations), and the ever-endearing glitches can still be found, although not as frequently as I expected to.
The music remains as powerful as always. It’s no wonder Skyrim’s main theme is still one of the most recognizable in gaming:
Q8: What are similar games / alternatives you’d recommend?
If you’re playing in Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the first choice that comes to mind. Even though the setting is different, the game design is very similar: open world game that give you the freedom to tackle it any way you can, ability to customize your character, resource gathering, and experiment with things like cooking or potion creation.
In other platforms, the most similar games would be the Fallout series, made by the same developer (Bethesda Games), set in a post-apocalyptic world.
If you’re looking for immersive stories where decisions affect the story and endgame, the Mass Effect series is another RPG worth a look.
Q9: Anything you wish you knew before going in?
Besides Fallout 3, this was the first Bethesda RPG I played. As mentioned before, the sheer amount of options and choices to make at first made me feel like any decision I made may be the wrong one.
After playing for close to 100 hours, and if I were to start this game from scratch, I’d do the following:
- Save my skill points to focus on EITHER weapons or magic. I feel like trying to handle both at the same time made me master of none
- I wouldn’t worry too much about leveling up lock picking, as it’s not too difficult to master without leveling up. You can also buy/make accessories that make you better at it
- Only focus on Miscellaneous missions if I need to level up, since they are mostly procedurally generated, you may end up spending too much time on errands rather than main storylines
- Leave the DLC until after you’ve leveled up enough and have finished the main story
- Carrying food isn’t nearly as useful as potions, so I started ditching food in favor of the lighter, and more efficient potions
Q10: Should I buy it?
This is one of the most refined, deep and complex games out there, and you definitely owe it to yourself to play it. It’s on pretty much every platform out there, so you can probably find it for a reasonable price. Due to the scale and time required to play, I’d recommend the Switch version, to have the option to play on the go.
However, there are a few things that you should be aware of before going in, which aren’t deal breakers, but are worth noting nonetheless: The puzzles in the game tend to be very simple and repetitive, so don’t expect any complex head-scratchers here. After reaching level 45 and 95 hours of play, the game started feeling like a chore, which made me want to take a break from it. I’ll definitely go back to it at some point, but for now it feel like I’ve had enough from the world in Skyrim. Finally, this is a 2011 game, so if you’re looking for something a little less dated, try Fallout 4, or wait for the upcoming Elder Scrolls VI (although you may have to wait until at least 2020).
8 out of 10 cheese wheels
I've been a gamer since the SNES days and Donkey Kong Country was the first game I ever owned.
I currently work as a management consultant, and my console of choice is the Nintendo Switch, which I carry with me during my travels.