The Good: Tons of minor changes that were long needed, blacksmithing is a great new feature, perks make leveling-up more manageable, fighting dragons is incredibly epic, dragon shouts add a layer of depth to combat, over 100 hours of content, TES lore is richer and deeper, one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever made
The Bad: Mountains of bugs, glitches, and problems, stock game has ugly models, technically outdated, sneaking still sucks, ending could have been better
Here it finally is! I had so many great memories with Oblivion back in 2007. I could go on and on about that game, but the fifth game in the series is before us and has taken the world by storm. From creating internet memes to lots of weird videos on YouTube, Skyrim is a behemoth that even non-gamers couldn't ignore. Skyrim takes place in well, Skyrim, which is north of Cyrodiil. Cyrodiil was where Oblivion was set in, but Skyrim is also set 200 years after those events. Of course they are talked about in Skyrim, but time isn't the only change in the game.
You are the Dragonborn, or Dovahkiin, who has the power of the Thu'um which means you can shout like a dragon. This is actually a major gameplay element in the game as well as fighting dragons. The map may seem smaller than Cyrodiil, but there is a lot more content in the game. I spent 108 hours on Skyrim and that was 90% completion of side quests, areas discovered, and finishing the main story. I finished at level 45 and had almost 100,000 gold. In Oblivion I was able to finish the game about 95% in 50 hours. That let's you know how much more content there is, so you will be busy for months.
Let's talk about combat first. The game still has the third/first person melee combat like the past two games, but it has been revised. The combat feels smoother, and not so much like you're playing whack-a-mole. There are more elements involved behind the engine, but the thing you will see the most is the perk system that is borrowed from the Fallout series. When you level up you look to the sky and have a bevy of different areas to gain perks in magick areas, combat, defense, and even blacksmithing (more on that later). Concentrate on one area and try to get as many perks as you can. This gets rid of the system from Oblivion where you can only level up something if you use it like jumping around like a bunny to increase endurance etc. If you use light armor you will gain levels (up to 100 in every category) in that area. Use two-handed weapons, or destruction spells and you will gain levels quickly. The perks allow you to gain and build on that area instead of solely relying on use to gain levels.
Of course there are new enemies in the game like Draugrs and dragons. Dragons should be avoided early on until at least level 10 because you will die in one hit. Once you kill these beasts you gain their soul and can use it to unlock dragon shouts. Shouts consist of powers like Unrelenting Force, Slow Time, and Fire Breath. Each shout has three levels, but you need to find those words by exploring dungeons throughout the world. Dragons are just awesome creatures to fight because they are the biggest enemy ever put into a TES game. Of course you need to watch out for wildlife like bears, crabs, leopards etc. The world of Skyim is dangerous and cold so beware. Sneaking is still a huge problem because it seems no matter how high your sneak skill is you still get caught, especially pickpocketing.
Factions are a huge part of TES and Skyrim doesn't leave you out. The thieves, dark brotherhood, mages, and fighters guild are all here, but bigger and better. The stories are more fleshed out and are a lot longer plus your rewards are better. The Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild stories were my favorite, and show you just how deep into the lore and story you can get. Everything else from past TES games you remember are here like choices during dialog, but thankfully the whole persuasion mini-game is gone from Oblivion. There are a lot more main characters, and the voice acting is more varied, but everyone has Nordic accents because Skyrim has a Viking/Nordic setting which is a huge departure from Oblivion's strictly medieval tone.
Looting is a huge part of TES and Skyrim doesn't disappoint here. There is so much to loot that even 100 hours in you will still scour every nook and cranny for stuff to sell at shops. Lockpicking has been improved and is much quicker this time around. Menus have also been improved with a nice four way system leading to items, magic, map, and skills. This gets rid of Oblivion's awful Excel sheet type menus. Of course my complaint here is that you can't compare items anymore which is a major pain. You have to remember stats which is a bigger pain when shopping.
Skyrim has a forging system where you can get ingots for various medals as well as leather. Use these to forge weapons and armor in different categories like Daedric, Leather, Studded, Iron, Glass, Ebony etc. You can upgrade these on benches for armor and grindstones for weapons. This makes the whole armor and weapon system feel more custom-made to your liking instead of just what is out there. The armor and weapons is over double what is in Oblivion. Those are all the major changes in Skyrim, but there is so much detail here that you have to play the game to truly see what I am talking about. You can even read every single book in the game there is so much detail here. Fans of the series will love the deepened and richer lore of the races and past of the TES series. There is tons of that here. You even get to explore ancient Dwemer (Dwarven) ruins.
Horseback riding is back, and even the third person view has been greatly improved as well as animations. There are so many major changes as well as minor changes, that I can't even remember them all. However, there is a huge issue with this game and that is bugs. There were so many bugs upon release that stopped quests from continuing, quest items being lost, stuck in areas, graphic bugs, dragons flying backwards, and everything else you can imagine. Even after a few patches there are still some bugs, and probably a few that will never be fixed. This is unacceptable even for a large game like this. Thankfully there is a huge mod community that fixed a lot of this first, but the stock game has problems that the console gamers can't fix.
The models are still ugly, and the woman still look like men. PC gamers get high-resolution textures which make the game look amazing, but the consoles are stuck with low-res graphics that look kind of dated. The lighting is Skyrim is great, but with so many issues cosmetically you really should get the PC version. Mods out there transform women into beautiful heroines straight out of comic books, amazing new armor, new lighting and graphical effects etc. The stock game is really lacking technically and that disappointed me quite a bit. If you can look past all this Skyrim is one of my favorite RPGs of all time and sits right up there with Oblivion.
Collector's Edition: Hardcore fans may want to drop the extra $90 for the monster collector's edition. You get a giant statue of Alduin that is from an in game model, a giant coffee table style art book, a making-of-dvd, and a steelbook case. The statue is worth the extra money itself and is looks amazing. Of course this is for hardcore fans only, but good luck finding one.
(Based on PC version)