Last Friday I put Elder Scrolls V; Skyrim into my 360s disk drive. Knowing my wife and daughter we’re heading out for a girly holiday next week without me I wanted a juicy game while I had time in my hands and the house to myself. I knew by reputation Skyrim was big and was more then enough game to fill a week so I popped it in earlier than scheduled to get a head start. Here are my thoughts so far…
I am utterly addicted to this game. It has swallowed me whole and I am, to all intents and purposes, living a second cyber-life though this game. I wanted something big and juicy to fill some time and, wooah boy, did I get it.
The premise is as follows; you play an adventurer in theland of Skyrim. This land is in the throws of civil war between two factions; The Empire and The Stormcloak Rebellion, following the Kings assassination by the Stormcloaks leader; Ulfric Stormcloak. In parallel to this is the mysterious reappearance of Dragons in the realm after being thought extinct for hundreds of years. As an adventurer in the game you get to explore Skyrim, meet NPCs, and go questing through the land.
The sheer depth of this game is astounding. It’s sandbox on a truly epic scale; I’ve visited over one hundred locations with many more unvisited yet, all with quests to complete and treasures to find. I read somewhere there are over 200 quests (Skyrim talk for ‘Missions’) – I’ve literally sunk hours into this game (basically a couple of hours a night after the family have gone to bed) over seven days and have maybe done 30.
Playing the game is like living a second life.
The core concepts of RPG; levelling up, earning gold and gathering the best equipment are the keys to success. There is an enormous amount of flexibility and customisation available to the player to achieve these goals; want to earn money as a thief? Go ahead, spend your experience on pick pocketing & lock picking skills and gather up enchanted medallions & light armour to magically improve your sneakiness or success percentages. Want to be a Mage? Make money from mixing potions & enchanting weapons to sell, and level up your spell casting abilities. Want to be a knight in shining armour? You get the idea.
Inventory management is a big part of the customisation, and a key aspect to success in the game. I’d recommend new players seek out the Steed Stone location ASAP to improve carry weight, because you’re going to want to carry lots of stuff. I’ve found Myself changing outfits, armour and weapons to best customise my character to suit different situations, such as a sword I carry that pwns the undead, and the hood I carry that provides haggling bonuses. Securing a property can be very helpful for this element too, providing a much needed homemade to stash your stuff in.
Combat is pretty much a straight forward first person affair. I’ve found it challenging at times (frustratingly so on the odd occassion) but returning to the scene of my defeat after learning a nasty new spell or picking up a sexy new axe (and after levelling up a bit too) has made a difference. At times there has been a near maddening sudden jump in difficulty that has wound me up, but some timely Saves and persistence has got me through. And slashing up the scrubs is always fun, particularly when the critical hit little animation kicks in.
The game is a collector’s dream. Whether it’s food for recipes, fauna for potions, scrolls for enchantments, books for spells, or raw material for weapons & armour, there is plenty to hunt and gather. There’s no shortage of supply for any or all that you may choose; I personally have been using potions to keep strong and healthy, as well as mixing some valuable brews as a source of income.
I am a little concerned that things may get a little repetitive before too long. While most quests are dressed up in some narrative, which is all part of the role playing experience (Skyrim obviously has an extraordinarily rich and detailed fictional universe that is referenced in the game), I can’t help but think each quest’s core structure is the same; talk to NPC about a maguffin, go search appropriate cave/fort/ etc, kill baddies (usually with a ‘boss” type someone at the end), collect maguffin, return to NPC for reward. I’m not really one to engage with the narratives, just interested in the hack n’ slash piece and the customisation element, so I’m fearful it might get tiresome. I suppose I’ll find out as I play on. To be fair, the sheer addictive nature of the game has drawn me in so much I’m putting in more hours right off the bat than most other games ask for, so Skyrim may be a victim of it’s own size and how much it’s got me on the hook. Also, it’s not this games fault I’m not so much into the more roleplay-y elements of chatting with NPCs and getting all involved in back story.
Finding new locations, especially ones marked on your map for quests, can be annoying at times. While I love the fact that there is lots of locations to visit and investigate (I love rinsing every last bit of treasure everywhere I go) there have been a few places I’ve needed to go questing in, usually in one of the more mountainous areas, that has taken too long to trudge too only to find the path I need to get there is on the other side of the mountain range, or obscured and difficult to locate. The map is no help at all in these situations, as the map functionality is too limited (no zoom of use, no 360 rotation, no marked paths).
Technically the game has got some wonderful touches and is overall pretty good. Animation generally is of a reasonably high quality; the NPCs can be a bit stiff at times, but have great little details like moving the head towards you as they talk to you or gesture in your direction. I will admit, after just finishing Max Payne 3 and moving to Skyrim I could sense the difference in animation, but it hasn’t effected the gameplay or my enjoyment, and I can appreciate the practical concerns. Looking at the landscape it’s apparent there’s been a lot of effort gone into making the distant scenery look good; check some mountain ranges on the skyline in the distance and you’ll see what I mean, or look up at the on a sunny day and see the detail on the cloud formations.
So far I’ve scored 280 GS, with plenty more gameplay to go. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the list that stands out as unachievable in the game – it’s just all a matter of time really.
It may be that I’ll need to use the Wiki or True Achievements guide a bit later on, mostly to check maps for locations or to source the NPC that initiates one of the quests needed for an achievement.
Would I Recommend it?
I most certainly would, with addendums regarding particular Gamer tastes. So far Elder Scrolls V; Skyrim has been a thoroughly enjoyable game to play and, despite a few minor niggles/frustrations and the potential to become repetitive, has engaged me greatly and has been highly addictive, even the time to write this cast cost me a quest and some valuable potion brewing!