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Review – The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (PC)

Aside from Saints Row the III, I’ve been spending a decent amount of my gaming time playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I have made it no secret that I am a huge fan of this series of games. I like free form games in general, Skyrim is no exception. While it is very enjoyable, there seems to have been some core focus shift in the design of this game, especially when comparing it to Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout, and New Vegas.

Here’s a few general observations…

The game seems to be much more story focused. Or possibly the story is just more interesting than Morrowind or Oblivion were. I have played a lot of Morrowind. on the main quest, I think ONCE I delivered the letter or whatever, that was involved in the first quest. I have never done anything else quest wise in Morrowind. For Oblivion, i did stick somewhat with the quest, but I took an approach I like to compare to the old Xena and Hercules TV shows, where I’d do little side jobs and missions as they came up, you know, to help people out, and maybe make a profit. So I did pretty well on the quests, then, after destroying a Black Gate i happened across, I stumbled upon the Shivering Isles.

I mentioned this once to someone who said they thought the idea of just stumbling in was kind of funny. Anyway, I rolled with it and set a rule that, even though I could leave, I was “trapped” there until I completed it. I may get there eventually. I think I’m maybe 75% of the way through.

In Skyrim, so far I have been fairly compelled to stick to the main quest. At this point though it’s become a bit hard since I’ve been put on a quest to find some junk in a cave clear across the map by these monks (Davokin or whatever). This is so I can become the Dragon Born Master or some rubbish. Basically, it’s starting to become a chore, and so I’ve started heading after other quests.

Combat is pretty epic. This is not a hard and fast rule, but combat in this game feels better than the previous games. My chief complaint with all of the Bethesda games is that the combat sucks. The enemy AI is dumb as hell and everything is very similar and stiff. This is very obvious next to say, Saints row III, which has people ducking and dodging behind cars and peeking around corners etc. I’m not saying SR3 has the best combat engine or anything, it’s just not “most of the guys just run at you blindly”.

Skyrim seems to have improve this quite a bit. It is still kind of weak but at the very least all of the humanoid characters don’t feel like direct clones of each other with different faces. Also there are interesting enemies, like Giants, and mammoths and Giant Spiders and Giant Dragons. You know, BIG ENEMIES.

The Dragons are a central focus to the plot and have very fun combat. They will swoop off and around and dive down to land nearby and snap at you as you get close. It’s very cool. It’s also a little creepy. I’m not sure if there are a set number of dragons but so far I have faced three. The first is scripted for the introduction. The second seemed ot be a scripted attack on a tower for the plot, this was the first one you actually get to fight. The third, I was simply exploring and suddenly i hear a low roar overhead. Next thing I know, I’m being assaulted by a dragon. i got killed due to the combat being outside some temple and me being pretty restricted in my movement area. I reloaded and left the place assuming that the Dragon was a scripted event I wasn’t meant to face yet. Still, the dragon apparently followed or something because soon out in the field I was attacked a second time. This time I had more room to maneuver to shoot arrows and whatnot, and I was victorious.

Like I said, it’s pretty epic.

The Level system is streamlined. Skyrim seems to have done away with stats. I’m sure the planning session behind this used the term “accessibility”. People who play Modern Warfare all day don’t want to screw around with picking strength or Dexterity. They just want to kill things. You still naturally improve abilities as you use them and you also get to buy perks themed around different abilities based on level. For example, because I shoot a lot of arrows, I have leveled up my Archery stat. As a result I have unlocked Zoomed aiming and bonuses to damage.

They also, thank god, removed the need to “sleep and rest on what you’ve learned” when you level up. This was probably the most annoying feature of the previous games. There’s nothing better than leveling up early in a dungeon, now you’re stats are stuck until you burn your level off, but you can’t sleep because there are enemies everywhere.

On a related note for “accessibility” they need to dump the random useless loot gimmick. Back in Morrowind, when I found out i could pick up every cup or pitcher or cracked plate, I loved it, it was neat and gimmicky and I quickly amassed more crap than I could carry. Now, it’s tired and pointless. This stuff isn’t even useful to sell off for quick cash.

Everything looks nicer. My second complaint about these games, is how vanilla all of the characters are. Because there has to be this “one size fits all” aspect to armor and helmets and clothing, every humanoid in the entire world is the same height and build. They also have some of the ugliest face meshes around and they are topped off by worse hair. I have modded Oblivion fairly heavily for visual appeal and it’s still fairly iffy in some points. I have yet to apply any mods to Skyrim. It’s not perfect, but it is better. Even the clothing itself seems a bit better. The armor looks like armor, and it’s kind of ornate, but not garishly so. I always hated that the better armor in the previous games was ugly as heck. This actually is part of why previously (not in Skyrim) I play these games in “god mode’. So I can wear some of the earlier better looking armors.

Anyway, it’s quite a bit of fun. I know there are some mixed reviews on comparisons, and I do kind of wish the world were a bit larger, but I would say Skyrim is probably better than the previous titles. I need to go back and replay Morrowind some probably, a lot of people still tout it as the best game in the series.

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