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Great game but with small flaws that kept it from being a 10

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    The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    Great game but with small flaws that kept it from being a 10

    I had played both Oblivion and Skyrim for the PS3 and was eager to see the improvements on the PS4. I purchased Skyrim Special Edition and fired it up, and for the most part I found it to be an outstanding game. The open world RPG set up is much more immersive than most of the RPG’s available, and it allows for you to approach the game from many different directions. Here are my thoughts on the different aspects of the game.

    Character development: The game has an outstanding character generation engine, which allows you to pick any of a number of races and both genders, each combination providing different strengths and weaknesses. Do you want to be a kick-arse mage? Then Breton is probably your best race. Want to be an almost unstoppable tank? Try Orc. A stealthy marksman? Wood elf might be your best bet. The good news is that the game allows you to design your character around your preferred playing style and then level the character based on that style. Add to this the fact that you can use the graphics modifiers to change your character’s appearance significantly, and you have a character that looks and feels just like you’d want to look and feel like if you were in the game. 10/10

    Graphics: Top notch. The characters are well-rendered, they don’t have the "cookie-cutter" feel that many other games have, and the animation of the characters matches the speech and the mannerisms. The cities are well-conceived and laid out, the caves, fortresses and other dungeons are well thought out and are shaded so that they fit the time of day/ambient lighting available. The creatures are very detailed, from the multiple eyes of the abundant frostbite spiders to the glowing eyes of the many vampires, and the countrysides are incredibly lush and well detailed. When you are traveling through Skyrim it is very easy to pretend you are actually walking through Skyrim instead of watching it on a TV screen. 10/10

    Speech/Script: One of the challenges in such a massive open world set up is that the dialogue can get repetitive, and the developers of this game have done a pretty decent job of avoiding that trap. Clearly in the shops around Skyrim there will be repetition; after all, how many ways can you say “Can I help you?” However as you complete tasks associated with the different side-quests and the main quest you get a real feeling of events moving forward. As the Thief’s Guild sidequest moves forward for example, you feel like you’ve been drawn into a mystery that only you can solve, and as you find the missing pieces of information the puzzle becomes clearer. Each enduring sidequest (quests like the Thief’s Guild, the College of Winterhold or the Companions quests for example) gives you a chance to advance in the ranks of the different guilds/groups, gaining fame, riches and status as you go along. Each quest is well-conceived and executed well, and the dialogue between the different characters enhances the fun associated with each sidequest. If I have any beef at all it is that sometimes the dialogue doesn’t quite fit the situation. For example I had just killed a dragon, it was literally flaming up to give me its soul, and a guard walks through the dragon and says “Guard might get nervous if a man approaches with his weapon drawn.” Really? Just got done killing a dragon and you’re busting my chops for not sheathing my sword? Get a life buddy! All things considered though the speech and script are very well done, and it is only the occasional dialogue head-scratcher that keeps this from being a 10. 9/10

    Level up system: Gone is the convoluted level up system from Oblivion. This system is fairly easy. Once you have leveled up skills to a certain point the overall level advances. Once that happens, you get to choose one of three character statuses to boost; either magicka which controls spells and spellcasting, health which controls overall ability to take damage, and stamina which controls both recovery rate in battle and carrying ability for loot, weapons and other valuables. You also receive a “perk point” which can be used in a number of different character skill trees to strengthen your character’s abilities. These skills are loosely collected into three classes. Battle governs things like two-handed and one-handed attack ability, blocking and heavy and light armor. Stealth covers things like pickpocketing, lockpicking, sneaking and other ninja like abilities. Magic covers things like conjuration, which allows you to call powerful allies to fight for you, restoration which allows you to heal yourself and others, and destruction which allows you to employ powerful environmental spells such as fire and lightning. There are other categories such as smithing, which is the ability to make weapons, armor and other useful items, and enchanting which allows you to add powerful magic enchantments to weapons, armor and other items like jewelry. The combined set of attributes allows you to personalize your character to fit your style of play. Want to be a hit and run archer? Strengthen skills like archery and sneak. Prefer the full frontal approach with all guns blazing? Concentrate on two-handed, one-handed and the armor skills. Your character can be anything you want, which really enhances the replay value of the game. There is even a legendary status, which allows you to reset a skill back to level 15 when it reaches 100 (this can be done an infinite number of times for any skill, allowing you to level up your character as high as you want). Doing so frees all of the perks points used in that skill tree. My only beef with this setup is that it is often difficult to level skills that your character doesn’t use much. For example my character build is an archer with significant stealth skills. As a result skills like block, two-handed, one-handed and others don’t get much use. In order to keep leveling my character up I had to take some of my 100 skills down to 15 with the legendary option. While this option does give you the perk points, it also took those perks away so that you have to go back and grind again to build them back up. For example, if I take the smithing skill back down to 15, I lose all of the ability to work the different weapons and have to build that back up. The perk s that I had enabled in that skill were intended to be used as I continued on, but I have to grind away again to build them back up to working things like ebony, daedric or dragonbone weapons and armor. Another possible idea would have been to give the player the option of keeping one skill perk (regardless of where it fell on that skill tree) each time they used the legendary option. This would have allowed the perks to be used in other skill trees while still maintaining one very good perk in the skill you’d already built so that you could build all attributes of your character instead of a select few. Overall the level up system is easy to understand and gives you wide latitude in developing your characters. I just wish they’d have put a bit more thought into the legendary status so that you didn’t have to rehash ground you’ve already covered again and again. A very good system that could have been just a little better. 8.5/10

    Storyline: As with all RPG’s the storyline can make or break the experience and Skyrim’s main story doesn’t disappoint. The events in Skyrim take place roughly two hundred years after the Oblivion crisis that was the focus of ES4: Oblivion. Without giving too much away your character is a dovahkiin, which in the dragon language means “dragonborn” or “dragonchild.” You are born with the ability to learn and employ powerful verbal magic called “shouts.” These shouts can do things like physically assault an enemy, slow time, reveal life, call forth powerful magic like fire and ice and many other things. As your character progresses in the main storyline he/she learns more words to these shouts and becomes more proficient at their use. The Dragonborn is intended to defeat the dragons, which have reappeared after several generations to attempt to subjugate humanity and the other races under vicious, vindictive dragon rule. Of course what is such a quest without a few land mines to step over eh? In Skyrim Special Edition these land mines come in the form of vampires which form the main enemy for the Dawnguard sidequest, and cultists who believe your character is an imposter and not the real Dragonborn and thus make up a good portion of the Dragonborn sidequest. These enemies can and do attack at any time, in cities or in the field. As you move through the main quest, you also have the option of following these larger sidequests in parallel with the main storyline. As I briefly mentioned previously there are several other large sidequests (Thief’s Guild, Dark Brotherhood assassin’s guild, the Companions fighters’ guild and others) that will keep you plenty busy. Add to that literally thousands of go here/kill this/fetch that quests that are available all over Skyrim and you have a story that is every bit as extensive as the open world it covers and lends itself greatly to this game being more of an event and less of a game. 10/10

    Overall: There are things to nitpick in this game, but frankly they are very few and far between. The game moves along, immerses the gamer in a world that is so well rendered and written that it seems perfectly natural (if a bit harrowing) when a giant frostbite spider “drops” in on you when you’re dungeon diving. There are so many things to do that you could literally play the game for weeks and never touch the main quest at all. You can replay as often as you want, approaching the game from many different perspectives and creating characters that fit each perspective. All things considered it is one of the most immersive RPG’s I have ever played and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried it. 9.5/10

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