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Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Skyrim Review. Caution: Spoilers and an F-bomb
I feel like shit this morning. I woke up with a headache and it transformed into general mehness and nausea. The edge is coming off after taking three ibuprofen but now things are just fuzzy instead of miserable. Fun.
I played Skyrim all weekend and I’m not certain that it deserves the 9.5 out of ten most critics have been giving it. I think an 8 would be more appropriate. It is a good game, and I enjoy the time I’ve put into it, but at the end of the day, I still feel like I’m playing an improved Oblivion. Skyrim is simply a natural progression of an engine and story. The history is rich and in depth and I enjoy the factions and events I recognize from Oblivion.
My first character was an Imperial thief/assassin, more or less the same character I played in Elder Scrolls VI. I completed the first quest of the “main” storyline and proceeded to wander around looking for the Thieves’ Guild and Dark Brotherhood storyline. (In three play throughs of Oblivion, I never did anything except become the Archmage, the Grey Fox and the Hand of Sithis. Each time.) At Adept difficulty, killing most things with a bow was a hassle, a time consuming event of firing a shot or two and running and hiding til the mobs decided I must have been a figment of their imagination. (I shoot magic arrows from the darkness!) I took to sneaking more often than I killed or running through when discovered until I reached a door. I suppose that’s what a thief would do. The ending of the Thieves’ Guild line was anti-climactic and I should have just kept the Skeleton Key. My new character will.
Before I go on to the new hero of Skyrim (“hero,” Shadowmere is totally worth murdering half the continent for), I want to approach the two underworld plots. Barring the details, they’re the same. Each was once a powerful group now plagued by problems. Through my actions, I brought them back to a historical position of power. In both plots, the current head of the guild betrayed my character and the void I left through their destruction was mine to fill. (This also serves to bring you to power as Archmage, by the way). It’s a little redundant and I fully expect to experience the same rite of passage to fill the already vacant position as the leader of the Companions. Personally, I’d settle for a position of respect underneath one of the leaders for once. Otherwise, may as well just make me Emperor of Tamriel as well, since I assassinated him I see no reason why I shouldn’t usurp the throne. (Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened anyway, the way things are shaping up.)
After twenty plus hours I started a new character. He’s a little more streamlined than my thief, (perhaps one of the issues with my thief character, too many points spread out instead of saving them for perks later). I created a High Elf mage, and after getting my Unrelenting Force shout, I went straight for the title of Archmage. I also turned down the difficulty after a few hours. As many reviewers have commented, magic is fun. I’ve focused in Conjuration and Destruction. I have a bad habit of not using my glyph spells, though I discovered the fire glyph is a great way to assassinate nasty old women who torture children. Did I leave that on the floor? Oh, I’m sorry about that, I should really pick up after myself.
Short of slitting someone’s throat with a sneaking dagger kill, one-shotting weaker targets with the Ice Spike spell is probably one of the most rewarding deaths you can deal. Draugr, bandit or silly mage, it’s satisfying to see their crumpled bodies with a giant icicle still buried in their flesh. I wish the forensic team luck figuring out where the murder weapon went. Fireballs and lightning bolts would be more satisfying if the corpses would smolder or twitch. No, I’m not normally this twisted, it’s just a game.
Conjuration, while immensely useful and macabre fun, needs improvement. My Flame Atronach ends up half a mile away while in the meantime I’m facing down a horde of draugr. This is inconvenient and I don’t really want to use my mana to summon another one at this point. I have similar issues with zombies. Particularly when it stands five feet away while an ice mage is face. . . uh. . . melting my toon or some bandit with a great sword is trying to find a hole in my heavy armor. Battlemage for the win.
Admittedly, with this change, I’ve not spent nearly the hundred hours the big time reviewers have and I look forward to having had a little more experience with more powerful spells and summons. The one time I used a firestorm scroll on a horde of enemies was immensely satisfying.
One other point of contention before I close. Is that a horse or a Hum V? My thief can’t climb some of these rock faces and Shadowmere or any other horse I’ve stolen just heads right up with a little wiggling on my part. It’s quite possibly the most unrealistic part of the physics in Skyrim. Don’t get me wrong, I abuse it mercilessly, but it disappoints me. In a fairly well-built fantasy world in which I can easily suspend my disbelief, I have a hard time with an equine that could climb the Matterhorn without ropes or a helicopter.
Skyrim is still a really good game. If I change my mind later and decide it’s great, I’ll let you know. For now, it’s just not quite there. Bethesda’s finest work has its moments, but it has its drawbacks too. (Let’s not talk about the glitches.) I highly recommend playing it, especially on the PC if you have one good enough. I’ll take the control a keyboard and mouse allows over the limits of a console controller any day of the week. I give Skyrim a solid 8 out of 10 and look forward to many, many more hours conquering the world.
A final note, for those gamers who think Bethesda should add a war between the werewolves and vampires: FUCK YOU.