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Skyrim review roundup: The best Elder Scrolls yet?

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim hits shelves tomorrow, and according to the reviews, this fantasy game is (mostly) a masterpiece. 

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The world, part two

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"[M]aybe you'll follow the so-called 'main story,' easily the series' most mature, but whose purpose, fittingly, seems to be as introduction to Skyrim's footpaths, locales, and wilds, after which the real story – the one you'll craft as you discover just how much unprecedented detail Bethesda's baked into every square inch of Skyrim's vast geography – can begin," writes Matt Peckham of PC World. "Maybe you'll do your best to confound the game's logic, flaunting the law, even killing capriciously. Or maybe you'll just wander, an itinerant swashbuckler, taking work as you find it. It's hard not to wander. The game world's so thoroughly realized and lovingly rendered, well, good luck not abandoning whatever quest you're tracking just to see where the river over there goes, or what that strange light halfway up a mountain is." 

The graphics

Over at VentureBeat, Sebastian Haley calls the Skyrim visuals "underwhelming... Seeing characters not react realistically to events and damage rips me out of the intended immersion. And yes, there are some very rough patches in the graphics throughout the vast world. The much-touted animations can be particularly wonky, but there are also some extremely notable textures that stand out, not just compared to the rest of the game, but compared to all other games from 2011 as well," Haley writes. "It’s almost as if you can chart which areas or items were created earlier in development and then never retouched to meet the game’s generally high standards." 

The supporting cast

"Non-player characters also have their own look and feel," writes Larry Frum of CNN. "But it's this person-to-person interaction where some of the detail breaks down. When your character walks into a room, everyone turns to face you. On one quest, I entered a party and all the party-goers kept looking at me while they were walking around the room -- or even into each other. Even while talking to someone else, their eyes were locked on my position. It was creepy. The animation of the non-player characters also seems stiff and repetitive when compared to the rest of the richly detailed and free-flowing environment. They will also occasionally walk themselves into corners and not be able to figure a way out. Poor things."

The last word

"Other RPGs such as Disgaea and Final Fantasy XII may rival the total hours of gameplay one can derive from Skyrim," writes Haley of VentureBeat, "but they can only do so through mass quantities of grinding. What they can’t rival is Skyrim’s incalculable amount of content and the sheer variety it has to offer, which I’m fairly certain topples even that of several existing MMOs. Whether it’s story quests, randomly stumbling upon a new dungeon, seeking out dragons, micromanaging everything you’ve collected and crafted, or doing dastardly deeds for the Daedric gods, Skyrim is indescribably massive. And, despite a handful of notable shortcomings, more often than not it is jaw-droppingly beautiful and thoroughly satisfying to play."

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