Skyrim PS3 review
As I said before this dragon hunting ‘main quest’ is that in name only and it’s because Skyrim doesn’t compartmentalise between ‘main’ and ‘secondary’ missions that it becomes such an organic experience. You talk to people, find clues, follow up leads and uncover objectives. Most importantly you go with the things that interest you, creating a story that’s built around you. Want to hit people with big swords? Go for the fighter’s guild, known as the Companions. Want to creep around slitting throats like a medieval Agent 47? Find out more about the Dark Brotherhood, and so on.
Actually, that last bit’s not strictly true. The guilds might focus on fighting, magic, assassination etc from a career point of view but you can approach them however you want. The same narrative freedom extends to the character creation system – you level up abilities by doing them. If you use a bow, you get better at archery. If you want to bludgeon through enemies with enormous warhammers then your two-handed combat improves. There are also sub categories like light and heavy armour, and a range of magic abilities that cover things like healing and offensive magic.
It’s a simplified version of Oblivion’s character creation system that makes the game hugely accessible to anyone. The hardcore (i.e. me) might have a few issues. The main thing I don’t like is the perk-based skill tree. Benefits are tangible – more damaging attacks, faster regenerating magic – but the structure means you have to unlock some things just to get at what’s behind them.
So, in order to use Speechcraft – an ability to persuade people and a way of getting information and options you wouldn’t otherwise have – you have to start with the haggling perk to get lower prices in the shops. I don’t want lower prices in the shops. I’ve got 9000 gold coins, I can buy the shops. The skill I really want – the ability to persuade people more easily – languishes a few tiers behind a bunch of other crap I don’t want.
This has the potential to be whatever game you want it to be. You can roam freely, absorbing the world’s ambiance or follow a tightly scripted story. You can play melee, stealth, magic, close range or distance combat (pick the right spells and you can basically have a slightly more fluorescent FPS). The options are massive as well – you can get married, invest in shops, craft clothes and weapons (to use or sell), cook and more. Think about that dream game you would design if you could – it’s in Skyrim somewhere, waiting for you to find it.
Shame the tech still carries with it some of the issues of Oblivion and worse. Visually things suffer at range with a gridwork of repeating textures that looks exactly the same as 2007’s installment. Close up it looks great with beautiful towns and atmospheric dungeons, all brought to life with amazing music, but occasionally glance into the distance and the illusion is ruined by what looks like a mountain path that hasn’t loaded properly. And never will.
Most problems relate to stuff that takes you out of the moment. Things like repeating or misplaced dialogue. One character only ever says one thing to me. Others greet me like I’m their bestest friend even though the story we’re mortal enemies. Other issues include AI that can see companions block doors and passageways. At one point I conjured a familiar (a spectral wolf bodyguard) only to have him appear in front of me, blocking my way, while my mage guild buddy closed off the route behind. I’ll just wait here then…
The big issues I’ve had haven’t been frame rate; it’s been two mission critical characters that simply disappeared, leaving their marker arrows hanging over an empty, progress-blocking void. As a result I had to backtrack though old saves to find them, then replay about eight hours to get back where I was. Annoying but as I love the game I endured it. The same way my friends are gritting their teeth through zoetrope rendering and freezing screens.
Touch wood I’m still without any of those issues, but talk of lag returning post-patch doesn’t bode well. I clocked up 350 hours in Oblivion. Am I going to be able to do that here? Or will my ballooning save file eventually cripple my game? “Review your experience,” they said. So far I’m having an incredible time. I don’t want it to end but it could at any time. The patch seems to only be a temporary fix, and what about the people who aren’t online? I love this game, I really do, but I can’t give it the score I want in its current state. That would be unfair to anyone forking out £40 for a something that might work. It might not. The most amazing game of the year is in there somewhere. I really hope Bethesda can get it out.