This Review is as Late as the Patches Were

Our review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is finally here. We know we're a bit tardy but there's a pretty good reason for that. Please don't give us any demerits.
Author: Scott Rodgers
Published: December 21, 2011
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There has never been a review that has pushed me to the brink quite like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This review is late, I know, and most of you have probably played the game and moved on to other titles or you’re wrapping up the final few trophies in your quest for a platinum. The road to this point has been one that I hope to never return to in another review and that’s why I am deviating from the standard path. As a video game reviewer I know the cracks that many make and I also know that transparency is something that is sorely lacking in the field. Reviewers, especially those on bigger sites, tend to get caught up in the rat race of being the first to attach a number to a game. After that first score is laid down everyone else, for the most part, follows suit and that’s it. We hardly ever get the chance to score and talk about patches or updates because time just doesn’t permit that extra attention. Sure, we still play the games and revisit them months or even years later, but we hardly ever get a chance to put our critic hat on in those instances.


That’s why my time with Skyrim is so different from anything else I have handled here at TPS. I knew from the moment I was first assigned the game that it was going to be one that required a lot of time and attention. It’s not like I could just play through the campaign, handle a few sidequests, and call it a day. If you know The Elder Scrolls series, you know that these games can tens to hundreds of hours to complete and even then you may not experience everything the world has to offer. As strange as it may sound, I had to mentally prepare myself for an undertaking of these proportions on top of the other reviews that came my way. Amusingly enough, when our first copy got here it was actually the Xbox 360 version. This was done as a courtesy by Bethesda because they didn’t have any Blu-ray copies on hand, and while I appreciated it, I don’t own a 360. So the other staff members that own the console or purchased the PC version were ahead of me. While waiting for the PS3 version to come in the release date passed and any of you that got the game on launch also ended up ahead of me. While it was a relief for the game to finally come in I also knew that I was a behind the eight-ball so to speak.

After putting in around 25 or so hours into the game, I sat down and wrote up my first copy of the review. I ended up around the 2800 word mark before finding out that a patch was coming after Thanksgiving. Fair enough, I thought, my biggest complain was supposed to be fixed (the awful slowdown from a bloated save file) so I would wait for the patch to come out before handing down a verdict. The entire staff here at TPS takes pride in not only completing the games that we received, but really examining the different difficulties, modes, controls, and whatever else. It’s a treat that we get to review games and be a small cog in the entertainment industry machine. So why not wait a few more days, let the patch come out, and then grade it accordingly? Thankfully Sam Bishop, the man I have to answer to and supreme overlord of this very site, agreed that it would be unfair to talk about the game in its current state with a potential fix looming in the wings. By the time you all read the review there was a good chance that the patch would already be live and it could nullify my complaints. It wouldn’t be fair to Bethesda, so we agreed to run the review out around December 3 or 4 to give myself ample time to see the pre and post-patch world of Skyrim.

Well, as I’m sure you all know, things didn’t work out so well for patch 1.02. Between my S.O. and I, we managed to put in another 15 hours or so. At first, things seemed grand and the slowdown was an issue of the past. I took to my computer shortly after beating the campaign and felt confident in pounding out the review. It wasn’t until November 30 that I noticed something a bit odd and out of place. One of the dragons, which spawn even after you complete the story, had this odd behavior of what looked to be like flying backwards. I paused, got some water, came back and lo and behold there it was: tail leading the way, fire breath trailing behind it. After that I hopped on to some of the various video game forums I visit and found that this wasn’t an uncommon issue at all. In fact, it seems like patch 1.02 had done a whole lot more than inverting the flying beasts’ controls. I went through and tested things like the failure of magic resistance in armor, the broken wardrobes, the crazy companions, and much, much more. Some of the problems I encountered, some I didn’t, but overall, I thought to myself, Bethesda had somehow managed to break the game even worse than it was before. It also didn’t help that my save file passed the 10 MB mark during this time and then the slowdown returned like a bitter ex-girlfriend.

So as I’m writing this up the news has come down from Bethesda that they will be releasing another patch sometime next week to fix the problems of the previous patch and, hopefully, the original issues that the game launched with. I can tell you that the game in the box would have received a higher score from its patched version and, hopefully, this fix will buck that trend and return it back to the number I had in mind with my first draft. I would hate to see what is a really great and awesome experience tarnished by a developer’s inability to plug its own holes. It’s not like Bethesda is new to this, they have been in quite a few rodeos with the open-world RPG experience. I said that this review will be a bit different, and it needs to be, because I have been given, albeit in a roundabout way, a luxury that I never really get. Luckily I saved both of my previous drafts and I have kept what I will call a small mountain of notes on the game. This review will take into account all of that and, hopefully, give you an inkling of what it was like to play a game that changed so drastically from one patch to the next. So with all of that said, I give you The Tale of Three Skyrims.
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