The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – First Three Hours Review

The day has finally come to pass – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been released across all platforms. I attended the midnight launch for the game at Gamestation in Lincoln last night….along with around 150 other eager people in the freezing cold (making it more popular than the Modern Warfare 3 launch, in Lincoln at least). Quite simply, listed below are my first impressions of a game that will swallow up my life.

  • First off, how the hell did they manage to compress this massive game into 3.8GB of hard drive install??? Crazy times, and a sign that Bethesda Games can work their way around a Xbox 360. Also, I really like the map you get with the normal edition of the game – it’s not the cloth one from the special edition sadly, but its printed on a really nice card. Also, the manual is bigger than the pathetic handouts found in recent game releases, meaning you have something to read.
  • I really do not want to be the one to spoil the opening quest, and so I shall describe it as loosely as possible – you are on your way to be executed for crossing the border into Skyrim illegally, and before the deed can be done things kick off in very impressive fashion. The opening quest serves to act as a tutorial for the most basic actions, so newbie’s to the series should not be deterred. This is also where you decide the character that you will play as, and the range of customisation is seriously impressive here, right down to picking the colour of war scars and the length of beards. I decide to pick a male Argonian with a spiky haircut for my first playthrough, giving me the advantage of being able to breathe underwater; which I hope will come in handy. And as soon as you escape the action….
  • The world of Skyrim is bloody huge. It may only be roughly the same size as Cyrodil in Oblivion, but my word it feels bigger – you remember the moment you stepped out of Vault 101 in Fallout 3 to see the Capital Wasteland for the first time? Prepare for a similar experience when you see the open plains of Skyrim for the first time. And yes, that big mountain you see – you can climb to the top of it. Bringing up the new 3D map and seeing the distance of the world is quite a humbling experience, and although you cannot zoom right in on the land, it’s a noticeable improvement upon Oblivion – for one thing, you have to discover places before you can fast travel now, encouraging a sense of exploration.
  • Combat could be an awkward experience in Oblivion, as you would constantly have to go back through the menu to change equipment. Not any more though, with the introduction of a ‘favourites’ feature. In the main item menu, you can mark equipment, weapons, apparel and spells to a favourites menu, which will then pop up in game by pressing up on the d-pad, and then assign your equipment to your hands using the left and right triggers. It’s far more streamlined and allows for much greater flexibility. Also, dual wielding spells is too…damn….good. I happily spent 15 minutes or so roaming the countryside and murdering rabbits with double lightning spells, clearly impersonating Darth Sidious’ Force Lightning from Star Wars.
  • Thus far, the controls and animations have been spot on. I got the Day One patch from Xbox Live straight away and I haven’t noticed any strange glitches yet, although I accidentally hit an Imperial Guard during a random event and he turned on me. Playing in third person mode does not feel anyway near as clunky now, although the best fun is still to be had in first person mode.
  • The levelling mechanics used in Skyrim are also far superior to Oblivion. Rather than creating a set build at the start, you level up your skills by using them frequently – for example, I went around burning enemies, and my Destruction stat rose as a result. Level up enough skills, and you will gain a character level, upon which you can opt for a small boost in either Health, Stamina or Magicka, and pick one perk in the 18 skill trees you have open to you. The initial perks are pretty basic, but some of the unlockables later look pretty tasty indeed
  • And so what have I spent my time doing? The answer to that is….whatever I want. I haven’t even bothered to touch the main quest line yet, and instead I have pottered around caves and ruins collecting stuff. I have travelled to the first town, Riverwood, and done a few side quests there, one of which involved rescuing a golden claw (one that was played extensively by reviewers at expositions). In a genuinely shocking moment, I found there was a puzzle in my way where you have to use the claw to unlock a door, which needs a certain combination of symbols to open it. I messed around for 15 minutes working out every possible combination, and then realised that if you look at the Claw in the main menu (you can freely rotate and zoom in on every object you collect….you can read books page to page such is the level of detail), it has the combination on its underside. Utter genius.
  • I haven’t met a dragon yet, and so unfortunately I can’t comment on that major element of the game. As I closed up this morning however, I found a lost note saying one lies in a nearby cave…..

And that’s about it for my first impressions of this behemoth of a game. I have commented in recent blog post about just how much I have been looking forward to this game, and thus far it hasn’t disappointed. If you are getting the game today via deliveries and so forth, I hope you enjoy your time playing it. Now, time to waltz back into the snowy tundras….

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