15 November 2011

Skyrim: Almost but Not Quite First Impression

So, a few days have passed since The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released, and I've had a chance to play it some more. In a nutshell: I'm not disappointed.

(For the uninitiated: The Elder Scrolls is a series of action RPG video games. They are known for their large, open worlds, which you can explore pretty freely. Each game is set in a different region of the games' fantasy world, a continent called Tamriel.)

Like I've said in earlier blog posts, I'm a latecomer to the series, having only played a little of Oblivion earlier this year. So the whole style of the game is still pretty fresh to me. (Knowledge of the prior games isn't really vital. While there are many references, of course, to other regions and earlier events, the stories of the games aren't really connected.) Veterans may of course react differently to various aspects of the game.

Many aspects are, of course, instantly familiar from playing Oblivion. The basic elements of the game are intact, from talking to NPC's and taking on quests to exploring the world and discovering dungeons to loot. Some gameplay mechanics have been streamlined and simplified, which I think is good. For instance, the persuasion system from Oblivion has been removed. (That feature, in my opinion, was only an annoyance. There's plenty enough depth in these games to not have to waste time on pointless minigames.) The removal of classes is also good, allowing more free development of any skills you use.

But the main question in these games is of course that of the setting. Oblivion, though a very entertaining game in many ways, suffered a little in my mind from being rather generic medieval fantasy. Skyrim obviously strives for a setting with a little more personality. Being set in the most northern part of Tamriel, the influences are primarily drawn from ancient Scandinavia. And yeah, it's pretty cool. I haven't explored a lot of the locations yet, but I do think the world feels a little more natural and fresh. Although there are downsides too, like the pseudo-Scandinavian accents of many characters, for instance, which can be a little... silly at times.

The scenery is quite pretty, the views from high places (and in this mountainous region there are some pretty high places) awesome. There's changing weather, snow storms, wildlife, and... the dragons.

Yup. The dragons are of course an important part of the main story. I love the way they can appear out of the blue, and attack a village etc. As an example, I was just visiting a little village when an attack happened. The dragon crouched on rooftops breathing fire while I hurled spells at it. And after it was defeated, I noticed all the NPC's in the village had gathered nearby to see it, then slowly started getting back to their daily routines. Pretty darn cool.

So, I think Skyrim is definitely the video game event of the year for me, and may well be the most significant new release since maybe MGS4. Epic fantasy adventuring in beautiful scenery, what more could you ask for?

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