Skyrim PS3 review

DragonCombat

It should be game of the year. Best thing ever, gold award, a ‘where were you when you first played Skyrim’ memory. It’s not. That experience is in there somewhere, but choked and held under by a bug that slows the frame rate as your save file expands.

The worst thing is it’s a random affectation. Some people’s game is unplayabley broken after 20 hours. Others are stuttering along with a choppy but bearable frame rate 60 hours later. I’ve had no big issues at all at 50 ish hours in. So far. You might find this is a 21-day aged sirloin steak, or a sh*t sandwich. The only way to find out is to chew…

A patch improves the issue but apparently only for a short while. In my case it also has mysteriously given me a horse I never owned before. Every time I fast travel it appears, gives me a wistful look and wanders off. Sad existential horse is sad.

So I can only really review my experience of the game, which has been mostly incredible. What Skyrim is, is a huge open world with no predetermined rules about how you approach any of it. No guidance on which missions you do, in what order, and with no constraints about how you play it thanks to a huge range of skills and abilities to blend together. Rather than a game to be moved through from start to finish it’s a loose collection of potential narratives to be discovered and ‘told’ as you play. GTA? GTA’s a rail shooter by comparison.

Skyrim PS3 review after the patch

Case in point: for the first two days of playing I didn’t do any real missions. I just wandered. I uncovered castles full of necromancers experimenting on vampires, bandit camps, searched out treasure scrawled on maps found on dead bodies. I even discovered a temple shrine surrounded by the corpses of an apparently suicidal cult that I still haven’t followed up. There was more story, excitement and action in those two days of ‘messing about’ than some games fit in an entire campaign.

If you want a structured experience then you can still drill through the main quests. Any one of several storylines could be the central ‘back of the box’ plot – you can work your way through the ranks of being a mage, warrior, assassin, pick sides in a civil war, and more. Each comes with a fully formed web of characters, narrative arcs, surprises, betrayals and so on.

Skyrim PS3 review after the patchEven incidental events can turn into hours of heroic adventuring. Something you overhear in pub is just as likely to provide an evening of questing as a job handed out by royal decree with ‘please save the world from the angry dragons’ written on the envelope. In red ink.

The vastness can almost be a downside. Within a day I had picked up 15 missions and uncovered numerous locations, only to look at the map and realise that I’d barely touched it. Then again this is a game to be enjoyed over months rather than days.

The actual ‘main quest’ sees dragons returning to Skyrim’s very Game of Thrones flavored world. Conveniently, the main character is a Dragonborn, with the mythical ability to use Shouts, a vocal form of magic that can let you blast out fire, slow time or teleport forward in an instant. The words of power you uncover can be found scattered around the world, either by accident or as part of set missions. Dragon souls are needed to unlock them and, again, encounters with the big lizard stars can happen as you wander, or as part of the story.

1/2

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