Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Living - My Skyrim Impressions

Dragons are bad for your health... really...

As you saw from my previous post, I've been playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a bit. I have clocked in 25 hours of game-time so far and I can't even say that I've just scratched the surface. I can't even scratch the thing.

It doesn't take hours to feel how massive the game is. The feeling hits pretty early on. The engaging introduction, the way character customization was integrated. But it's really when you first step "outside" the introduction and you take those first few steps in this World.

Soon after you see what I consider is Bethesda greatest achievement: Making a virtual world feel alive. I'm not talking about graphics here. From Gameplay mechanics of jobs and crafting, to all the events (scripted and dynamic) that happen with NPC's interacting to almost everything, it all feels alive. It doesn't feel like other games where NPC's either have an obvious set path (linear or not) or NPC's that feel robotic with all the scripting. Even though fundamentally a bunch of things happen between NPC's because you're there, it really doesn't feel like it matters whether you're there or not. Yet, you feel like your character belongs. Someone (in the game) wants me dead and contracted the Dark Brotherhood to assassinate me. I got a group of hired thugs who tried to rough me up because I got inside a [competing] faction. Add to the mix dynamic jobs and tasks and you get a virtually living world.

Presentation hits a high mark. From design to overall graphics, the game is pretty. There are some graphical hicks here and there, but it's very pretty to look at. I feel like I could take a screenshot every minute and it would be Photography. The attention to details add so much to the immersion factor. The UI is simple and definately has a Celtic feel to it (that I absolutely adore!). The music is in a class on its own. There's so much passion and intensity in the score. The choir succeeds in reproducing the Nordic feel of the game.

But, it's not all bright and shiny. Outside of the usual "Bethesda building bigger games than the tech can handle", there's a bunch of other things that bothers me a little. The level-scaling system for example, albeit better than The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, is unforgiving to adventurers unfamiliar with the World.

But, looking at the overall picture, it's either all logic or all balanced. The best example is that you can't sell virtually unlimited items to a single vendor at one time. However, unlike Oblivion, you no longer face the "favorite vendors" where because you keep selling to the same vendors, they end up liking you a lot and allow you to barter much higher prices. Vendors in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are all around fair. You won't get very different prices between different vendors because you have a few main merchants. Another example is how you cannot block while Dual-Wielding. Seems strange since we see a lot of TV shows and movies where fighters don't have the problem. In the game, it's just balance. Dual-Wielding greatly increases damage output and DPS. If you could block, there would be no reason to play with other wielding-systems/weapons.

Looking at the bigger picture, I realize that these very small pet-peeves exist just because of The Elder Scrolls V series. Unlike other series where each iteration is built up over the frame of the previous installments, The Elder Scrolls V series are all fundamentally different games, even if it's in the same world/universe. As soon as I push away the mindset that this is a sequel, it all becomes comfortable.