Morrowind on the PC, a game that required a Skynet of specs but one which I hadn’t had so much enjoyment from since I played Elite 2 – Frontier. Years later, I bought Morrowind for the Xbox and the expansion packs – it was a great “open world” experience. Then came Oblivion, even bigger, even prettier and my PS3 had to stay up pretty late as I explored every dark corner, prodded everything with a stick and make a fortune in gold by both honorable and dubious means (thanks Dark Brotherhood!). The expansions were great and its the only game I’ve kept playing for years on end.
Now Skyrim is here and whilst I jumped on board a few days late, I had mixed feelings about getting the game, yes it would be a great graphical leap forward, yes there would be new wonders and missions, but maybe it’s because I’ve played Oblivion (and before that Morrowind) for so long, that the formula and genre is now wearing a little thin?
So last night I powered up Skyrim for the first time and since this is not a review, merely my thoughts so far, I’ll cut to the chase (there are so many reviews on the net anyway)
So what am I liking?
The combat is great, both graphically and its implementation, with camera movement, blood on the screen and cut scenes depicting death blows. Spells look better, character models both in the creation section and the game itself look more real and the game engine seems to have been optimized since there’s no apparent drops in frame rate yet as you would often get on all platforms on Oblivion. A great addition and really something that should have been included in Oblivion is dual wielding, the art of double chopping, its nicely done too.
Theres more (and seemingly less) interaction with scenery, you can burn spilt oil, manipulate objects, however its seems so far, that unlike Oblivion, you can’t knock over some random objects on tables. In oblivion you could make a right old mess of someones table, sending cups, plates and food flying around the room in a foray of spitefulness merely by swinging your sword at it. In Skyrim it seems I’ve found a few objects on tables which refuse to budge no matter what chopper I choose to bash them with. With that in mind though, there are many new skills, most notably smithing in which you can create your own armor, however these do not make up for the fact (in my book anyway) that an integral part of a RPG is character diversity/development, and this as I explain seems a little lacking.
So now we move on to what I don’t like so far and I’ve touched on a “step backwards” above. It seems that everywhere on the net Skyrim is getting very high scores. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great game however the score reduces somewhat the more you have played the previous titles. The main concern I have for the Elder Scrolls range is that after the last two releases it seems to be getting dumbed down for a mainstream audience. Morrowind was a wealth of stats, choices, influences and decisions whereas Oblivion took away some of that complication and made more of an arcade feel to it. I unfortunately don’t feel as much in control of my character with Skyrim and I think with todays consumer in the main, the likes of Morrowind days are long gone.
Skyrim appears to take another step towards that goal. The achievement point system is good, but leveling looks to offer very little variety and I get the feeling at this early stage that everyone will end up with roughly the same character at the end (with a few different perks). The developers seem to think it great that if you get bored with a certain skill you can train another, but I am of the opinion that RPG’s are all about choices, choices which you have to live with (or start again). Now it appears Merlin can become Man at arms and theres no character class to differentiate any of them.
I am enjoying Skyrim so far, its a great story and nice to keep in with goings on in Tamriel I am sure I will discover more great features as I progress through the storyline, however I find myself enjoying this more like Fable, rather than an entirely open, character choice critical RPG of the past. Within 20 minutes of gameplay I find myself a criminal because in the first village a chicken accidently hit its head into my heavy hammer five times. Surprisingly enough, I have to give credit to the chicken who had a damn good stab at taking on a blunt heavy battle weapon.
Graphically it looks nice, although I’m not really that impressed over Oblivion and I don’t think much of an improvement has been made with the in-game faces of human players. For this seasoned Elder Scrolls player, I would give Skyrim (so far) 7/10 certainly not the silly 9 or 10 I’ve seen other sites dish out. Maybe if Skyrim was my first outing into the world of Tamriel things would be different?
For the first timer to Elder Scrolls or indeed the RPG genre, Skyrim should pose no problems integrating them, the menu’s are intuitive (although “hand holding” for a grizzled old RPG’r like myself) but then it would be selfish (and wrong) to think that Bethesda wants to do anything but appeal to as many people as possible ergo sell more copies.
Enjoy Skyrim, I will, however for my true RPG experience I hold a torch for a new franchise that will cater for those who like things a little more in-depth.
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