Two or three years late but whatever! We can't all buy stuff day one, right? Anyway, if you've been following my journal entries as I've started playing Skyrim you can probably tell how this review is gonna go down.
I hate complicated things, and Skyrim is a game with a deep and rich history that can be very difficult for newbies like me to get into. Right off the bat the game throws all sorts of names, races, powers, legends, lore, etc at you. Too much of that can be a big turn off (heck I know people who still haven't read Lord of the Rings because there were too many names), but luckily Skyrim does a good job of easing players into the game.
There is a main campaign you have to follow to technically "beat" the game, but you don't have to follow it. The moment I had a chance to break free of the story I did so and I went exploring. That allowed me, a new person unfamiliar with any of the lore of the Elder Scrolls series, to experience the world at my own pace. The world is so enormous and diverse and full of nooks and crannies, it's incredibly easy to get lost in it. And bit by bit, you slowly start to learn the history of the land and it's people. I'm sure some will say "that's what the main quest is for!" but for my part I disagree. The main quest hindered my experience and being allowed to enjoy it on my own terms made it much more personal.
And that's one of the key aspects of Skyrim which is so unique. Every play-through is personalized. Your character grows as you play through an imaginative automated level up system. What you do affects how your character grows. If you hack and slash a lot, your aggressive attacks will automatically rise faster than others. If you sneak more, that will rise. The game keeps tabs on literally every single thing you do, and it uses those stats to make your character highly personal. You can be a jack of all trades, or you can focus all your energies on a single skill and obtain amazingly strong perks.
The world in Skyrim is enormous, another big draw. It's so massive and huge that even on multiple play-throughs you'll still find new places to explore and discover. The graphics don't always live up to the grandeur, as things can sometimes get a little sharp and polygonal, but there are moments when the graphics just astound me and paint beautiful landscapes with gorgeous skies. I've always enjoyed the woods and mountains, so being allowed to explore and play in such a tremendously huge world was a big bonus for me.
This is the sort of tech that I talk about wanting to see more of. GTA is a series with a huge massive over world where you can do practically anything you want... but the setting is someplace I don't want to play, with characters I don't want to play as. I love the tech behind GTA, but I hate the world it exists in. Skyrim gives me the same freedom but places me in a world that's much more conducive to my imagination. And the game allows me to create my character however I want. I can be male, female, fat, skinny, white, black, human, cat, lizard, gay, straight, etc. The amount of variety and options keeps making it such a personalize experience.
It's not without it's flaws, of course. With such a massive game there inevitably will be a lot of bugs and oddities you'll run into. Physics, for example, work on a very floaty rag-doll simulation that makes certain things feel like they're drifting in transparent water. Some characters and enemies can get a little blocky when up close. Even on the lowest settings the game can stutter and jerk in the frame rate department depending on your computer specs. And the characters are often portrayed as stiff lifeless robots with only a handful of voice actors doing everyone, resulting in a lot of people sounding the same. For me, hearing Jim Cumming's voice kept breaking me out of my immersion because instead of a curmudgeonly old man I heard Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
But the wonderfully diverse range of options, quests, freedom of the player, and occasionally spectacular graphics far overshadows any technical shortcomings. It took me a while to be able to play it (being on a MAC and having to run it in a Windows emulator), but it was still worth it. Skyrim was a phenomenon a few years back and for damn good reason. If you haven't already played it, go and play it. Find a copy however you can and just experience it for yourself.