I’ve been flat out with work lately (as in, writing thousands of words a day for the last ten days) so I haven’t had much time for gaming or hobby stuff. I haven’t even been checking my regular gaming blogs. I did manage to start playing Skyrim a little. That guy up there is my 5th level orc, Krabulos.
As I’ve said many times before, I have a short attention span with video games and I’m not that interested in winning them or getting achievements. Except for Street Fighter. I can’t help trying to win at Street Fighter, against my better judgement.
With computer/console RPGs I often play them on “easy” so I can get through the story without having my suspension of disbelief broken by my hero constantly dying and respawning. It’s awesome, it makes my hard-core gamer friends spin in their graves while they’re still alive.
The Elder Scrolls games I like because I don’t have to do that. You can play at your own pace. I played Oblivion for something like 80 hours and never attempted the main story. Skyrim I am so far enjoying even more than Oblivion. I’ve already spent about 4 or 5 hours of real world time just running over mountains picking flowers and trying (unsuccessfully) to hunt rabbits with fireballs.
The reason I say I like it more than Oblivion is aesthetics. I think the Elder Scrolls games have always fallen short of what they were trying to achieve visually, at least for me. You could see they were going for a natural, woody feel to everything but it just came across a bit bland and flat. The people looked strange, with tiny heads and odd colouring. It was almost impossible to make a good-looking character, unlike in Dragon Age II (and Bioware RPGs in general) where everyone is hot. I always play these games in third person view if possible because I figure since I spend ages making my character and collecting their gear, I might as well see them. And if I’m going to be looking at someone all day, I want them to look cool. Krabulos looks pretty cool, I have to say. And my girlfriend’s character looks like a swimsuit model wearing a sword.
I also didn’t like the armour and weapon style of Oblivion and Morrowind. I’m not a fan of golden plates of armour that look like leaves. I like furs and iron and animal teeth, Hyborian style.
Skyrim has more visually arresting backgrounds. I think they finally struck the right colour balance between vivid and realistic. The people also look much better. The armour and weapons are Conan-esque. I’m enjoying the leveling-up system too. You improve skills with use, but you still have the ability to control your development in a more traditional way by picking perks. It’s a nice combination.
I have a couple of criticisms too of course. The bewildering array of skills from other Elder Scrolls games has been drastically cut down. There’s no hand-to-hand skill for example, so I can’t play a fist-fighter or monk style character effectively. I was kind of looking forward to being an orc brawler, but I pretty much have to use a weapon. I suppose it’s more realistic, but punching armed bandits to death is fun dammit. The dual wielding thing is cool except that it seems like to use a spell you have to have it equipped. This means you’re constantly switching up what’s in your hands in the middle of combat in a very unrealistic way.
All in all though, my criticisms aren’t stopping me playing every chance I get.
Oh and the voice actors are . . . variable. Some characters seem to flow between being Scandinavian, Irish and Transylvanian while you’re talking to them. But a video game with perfect voice acting just wouldn’t have the charm now would it?