The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

It finally happened. I did manage to get my hands on Skyrim so I could play it at my leisure. This will be the jump off point for pages to come. As I only have one segment of text at this point it will be below, and additions will be posted here as well. If I decide to split things up there will be links to appropriate sections as I build them.

Second Chance for a First Impression

I had played Skyrim at a friends’ house and honestly my first impression was simply this: I was not impressed. This failing comes from many sources, the bulk among them is that everyone I knew and everyone they knew went on and on about how WONDERFUL Skyrim is, how SUPERIOR it was in EVERY WAY to Oblivion. Sadly, this build-up meant that my subconscious expectations were rather high. They were not met. I think the biggest issue why everyone loves it and I’m not impressed is this:
It uses the same framework as Fallout 3, and perhaps Fallout New Vegas, and I veered away from those games for many reasons.
My time with Fallout 3 was very short. Whenever I played it glitched during the training stage. Once I managed to make my way to Megaton and… the Tower. I played around with blowing up the city and not, and tried a few quests. I was not pleased with how combat with firearms worked, but that has no bearing here. Outside of what I considered to be bad handling, I found the bleak desolate world to work for the tone of Fallout, but I did not prefer it to Oblivion. Upon opening the game, I immediately recognized the Fallout engine. My thinking was “Well, we’re in a mountainous region. This could work.” I am not as drawn in by Skyrim as I am Cyrodil. It works, but as of yet I haven’t really enjoyed everything. Outside of the Fallout look, I find the graphics to be consistent. The people move more, which I do like to see. In Oblivion and Fallout 3, the face would be honed in on. In Skyrim, one continues to see the whole body, which moves and is expressive. Sometimes it gets to be… distracting. A character within the Theives’ Guild equivelant moved so much with slight steps that I had to turn my camera because she nearly walked behind me.
The camera is rather tight, even in third person. This change has been something of a hindrance. I prefer third person games as there is little to no way to account for input from other senses from a first person view.
I am enjoying the ability to use both hands in this game. For those people who are left handed by inclination they are able to more accurately reflect themselves. For me, I am someone who enjoys using magic. One of the things I considered a failing in Oblivion is that all the magic was of a “burst” variety, and not really suited for combat. In Skyrim, it is of more of a “stream” variety. Take a fire spell. In Oblivion you would have a Fire Bolt/Ball animation. It was single shot, and if you missed, that was it. In Skyrim, a spell can be maintained, and a basic fire spell is more like a flamethrower, putting out constant damage. Essentially, in my own technique, this makes the spells more combat geared. For those that went “sword and board” had the variety of stable attack and defense, likewise, using an attack spell and a defense spell closes the gap for mages. I’m enjoying being “Sith Lord”-like with all my lightning and persuasion.
One of my greatest accomplishments from Oblivion was that I perfected the leveling, but this one is different, primarily from the lack of Major and Minor skills and separate Stats. The leveling scheme is very similar to Oblivion. While in both gaining ten levels in assorted skills will earn you a new level, in Skyrim it is not set apart by major and minor skills. As such, it is my assumption that the max level in Skyrim will be much higher. I am afraid of the game becoming more based upon “archetype play”. Most oft, people would adhere to a Warrior, Mage, or Rouge archetype. I was able to overcome this and max out all the stats. This gave characters a solid baseline for anything they wished to do. Skyrim has eliminated stats (Strength, Speed, Agility, Luck, etc.) and has based most of the advancement solely on Perks. This has essentially confined all growth not to what skills are leveled through applying points into Perks (One-/Two- handed weapons, magic types, Alchemy). Comparatively, characters in Oblivion were separated in effectiveness by their stats. Two Blade Masters would have different levels of effectiveness based upon their Stength stat and those adding to collective Stamina. In Skyrim, from what I surmise, this difference will be based on Stamina and then the selected perks in relation to sword types. It is more real-to-life in that it is broken up between One and Two handed weapons rather than Bladed and Blunt (which included axes). Plus, if the balance of weapon availability holds from the last game, there are more swords that axes ready for use.
Thus far, as writing goes, I have not breached any depth inside the story. By this time in Oblivion I felt that the story was introduced and that I was a part of it. This time, based solely on outside experience, I know the Dragons are important. I know there will be some interaction between the Stormcloaks and Imperial Legion… probably a rivalry (thank you achievements… -_-). But all in all, I’m still new to the world. And again… there is a lack of backstory for my character which is both liberating and maddening.
All in all, Skyrim has yet to live up to the hype for me. There are some unique elements, and like its predecessor, is a solid title. I think in the end I will enjoy it for its own merits and style.
09 January, 2013
Christmas came, and having beat all my other games at least once I finally sat down with Skyrim… and got done with it a few days ago.  Without further ado… my review!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

 

Two hundred years after the close of the Oblivion Crisis, a prisoner is taken to their execution. Forced to watch another lose their head, their time is near. The intervention of a dragon, a creature thought hitherto to be extinct, throws the outpost into abject chaos. In the confusion the prisoner finds the mean to escape. Now free, they are allowed to take the reigns of life again with a a whole world to do it in.

 

Welcome to Skyrim.

 

If you are familiar with any of Bethesda’s games this is certainly up your alley. If you are a RPG adherent looking for something new, or a first-person specialist tired of simple gunning, I’d recommend this game to you.

 

Controls: Having played a lot of Oblivion and some of Fallout 3, the controls matched my memory with near perfection. Even if you have not played other Bethesda games you should have no problem making your way through the game successfully. There is a tutorial section that lets you know the basics, and you will be told how to do other things on an as-acquired basis.

 

Story: The story of Skyrim does a wonderful job of thrusting you right into the middle of a conflict. In fact, one of the few things I have not done is the Civil War quest line, in large part because I don’t particularly like either side of the argument. The main story positions you as the worlds’ savior rather than the protector of one, and the finish is very satisfying. Being as intimately familiar with Oblivion as I am, it did not take much to tie back into it. Everything matches up wonderfully. Considering the events of Oblivion’s The Shivering Isles DLC bumping into Sheogorath was rather funny. I felt a bit of sorrow when I found one of my favorite Skill Trainers’ body. I was upset to hear that the Mages Guild, Thieves’ Guild, and Dark Brotherhood had all fallen from their glorious heights. These things evoke emotion which a good story should.

 

Characters: The characters were… interesting. The culture of the Nords is everywhere and bleeds through in a very convincing way. And, for lack of wanting to be circular, the Nords are racist. The reason for this is a war with the Aldmeri Dominion comprised mainly of Altmer (High Elves). I played an Altmer, and I was all but spat upon toward the beginning of the game. This hostility was actually why I avoid people, cities, and thus much of the game. Funny for a game to do that. I have a strong affinity to the Dark Brotherhood because my humor is… well, dark. I can appreciate a group laughing up a particular kill, especially Babette. I love Babette. From the Dawnguard DLC I also have Serena with me. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t want to play my game without her.

 

Music: The music is a bit odd. There seem to be three to five “Field and City” scores that will rotate. I never know which song I’m going to hear in such places. Typically when delving through dungeons there is no music, which is helpful when trying to listen to a group of people chatting so you can peg them with arrows. I’ve tinkered a lot with the sound output, but a lot of times the voices seem to not act correctly or as expected.

 

Reply Value: Considering that I am not even done with my first play through, I can still say a second run would be satisfying. Taking what I have learned from this go-round should make a second one more appealing. I have a better idea of the skills I would focus on, which perks I would get. There is a lot in the way of skills and nuance that I feel I need to know. Variations in the story, namely picking a side in the Dawnguard DLC, will be the major twists I apply. Outside of your personal knowledge I have heard nothing of any traits or items crossing game play.

 

As of now there are three sets of DLC to Skyrim:

 

Dawnguard brings a conflict between a group of powerful vampires and those who hunt them (the DLC’s namesake, the Dawnguard) to the forefront of the world. I am not 100% certain at what level you can begin these quests, but people in towns will be regularly beset with attacks from Master Vampires, their underlings, and untold number of Thralls. In this DLC you may join the Dawnguard in their crusade. Not far in you have the ability to fore go them and join with the Vampires. I have only been through this DLC once. I imagine that both paths end the same way, but it is possible for much variation. I will have to keep an eye out on additional play throughs. Guided in large part from the Achievement list I decided to side with the Vampires. I do not use the phrase “powerful vampires” as a dramatic trope. While you are subjected to the same set of drawbacks and benefits of normal Vampires you are given the capacity to transform into a Vampire Lord. This transformation can be used at will, and while you are dampened by sunlight, this form increases your abilities in an almost perfect negation… which says nothing about using it at night. This form has it’s own perk tree, and as you kill enemies with the melee Bite attack or the Drain Life magic spell unique to this form you will earn the ability to complete the perk tree. I enjoyed using it a lot, especially since I tried to run a Mage archetype and died regularly. Little things made this for me. The Perk tree, the “unlimited carry” capacity, and the flight (it’s actually hovering) over water just made this fun to play. Worth note, the ability to transform into a Werewolf was present in the original release of the game. This DLC added a Perk tree to that form as well.

 

Hearthfire makes available three new houses. However, unlike those found in the core release of the game, you can actually build these from the ground up. Collect materials and make your house. Every house starts which what I would call a cottage. It is single room, few frills… much like the more humble homes found in both Skyrim and Oblivion (think the house on the Imperial City Waterfront). The next expansion is a Main Hall, a massive room which can have a dining room and some areas for basic sleeping and living. This allows you to convert the Cottage into an Entry Hall. After the Main Hall you can add three additional wings. Each wing has three options to choose from in choice of construction. (Wing 1 has three styles it can be made in individually, Wing 2 has its choices, as does Wing 3) I set out to make my first one a “Crafter’s Villa”. My first wing was an Enchanter’s Tower, my second an Alchemy Tower, and my third an Armory. If I had fully furnished my Main Hall at the outset I may have chosen differently. While the Wings are unique, the Main Hall has the basic stations for these things. The Main Halls’ basement can be upgraded with a Smelter for making ingots. Unlike the Alchemy station from the Wizards’ Tower from the Oblivion DLC, I haven’t noticed any bonuses or perks from using these handcrafted places. A bit sad that. Currently I just have the house called Lakeview Manor, and look forward to being able to construct my other houses. In the quest to get this plot of land I became a Thane of the area, and was given a Housecarl. I love Rayya. Housecarls will protect your land (mine is regularly plagued by a Giant creeping around the door) and serve other house functions. They can be a Follower, acquire materials outright for you (buying Sawn Logs “from Rayya” was a godsend), and can do a large part of passively furnishing your house. This DLC also added the ability to adopt children. There is notably an orphanage you can adopt from, but there are also children in many cities you can take off the streets.

 

Dragonborn is the third DLC released, but I have not purchased it of yet.

 

Fortunately you can have as many saves as you would like provided your memory capacity holds out.

 

This is one of Bethesda’s big titles. It is MUCH longer than Oblivion, due mainly to the dungeon crawling portions of the game being about three times as long on average. This isn’t to say that either story or playing is lacking, or even that the balance has changed. The scope has increased substantially. If you liked either the Elder Scrolls or Fallout pick this up. If you want a game that will give you hours of things to do, I would lead you this way. Thanks to being able to set the difficulty at any time I would say this is worthwhile to play from a casual or curious player to diehard, hardcore gaming fanatics. At this point it is probably cheap on the gray market, and may be due to get a Game of the Year style release. It can be downloaded as well. I know that Xbox Live recently had a one-day only discount on all but the Dragonborn DLC.

 

 

Afterword

 

I am familiar with this series due solely to its predecessor, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I spent a lot of time with it, and it ignited my passion for making a game as well as caused me directly to blow the dust off my writing. (You can see a small bit of the Oblivion Write Up I never fully posted on this site in fact.) As such, I was immediately harsh when it came to the game. I did not pick up Oblivion until the Game of the Year Edition had been released. In fact, Fallout 3 had their Game of the Year Edition out as well. For those that read this and don’t console game, Fallout is another game series released by Bethesda Games. The systems in Fallout 3 and Oblivion are very similar. Due to glitches and my own preferences, I gravitated toward Oblivion. When I first saw Skyrim it was stylistically reminiscent of Fallout 3. The knee jerk reaction I had was an immediate loathing. While working through the tutorial section I noticed many of the things that I had come to love (and admittedly rely on) in Oblivion to be removed from Skyrim. It felt a lot like Fallout 3, which makes sense considering the success of the series. But for me it felt like less of a design/gaming choice, but more of a business decision to get those who enjoyed Fallout to enjoy this series as well. It is possible that New Vegas could be more like Oblivion, but I would have to play it to find out. These elements made me put off the game up until the end of last month. I only picked up Skyrim because I had beat everything else. That said, Skyrim is still a solid title and worthy of The Elder Scrolls series. I am aware of where my emotions shade my opinions evaluations, and you should know that some of it probably leaked through in my review.

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