Big Raptor Pouncy, Mace Bashy Fun Time

While there have been more than one game keeping me quite enthralled as of late, I’ve yet to figure just how how to best describe my thoughts on Saints Row the Third, so instead I’ll take the time to ramble on the game which I haven’t finished yet – part because the thing is nigh endless. So, with that in mind, let’s talk The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The first thing that really comes to mind, and what seems to have been my opening statement each and every time I’ve been describing Skyrim or basically any piece, improvement or flaw of thereof to anyone I know is that Skyrim, for better or worse, is an Elder Scrolls game. This essentially means that it’ll have quirky mechanics, awkward controls, clunky UI, unimmersive generic NPCs and amazing bugs – and it has all of those things; some not to quite as critical degree as Oblivion did, but it definitely has them. That said, it also means that it by default will be one of the largest, most immense and most free-form sheer pre-made world exploration games on the market, and that its fans will typically forgive a whole lot if the aforementioned issues because few other companies and titles offer the kind of worlds (and the kind of freedom to explore them) like Bethesda and Skyrim does.

And let’s be clear here – Skyrim is really good at what it does. Being the culmination of the move from scale to detail that started with Morrowind, Skyrim is packed with all kinds of incidental detail. A large chunk of the many dungeons, landmarks or just random burnt down houses or whatnot seem to have some kind of story attached to them; it might not be a deep and complex story, nor does it have to be one told overtly in text, but many places have these small things you can discover that hints at there being some sort of story behind them. From a broken cart in the mountains containing a journal telling of a family trying to move, to a cavern filled with spiders hiding a secret side tunnel containing a vampire coven, to a burnt out corpse by the shore surrounded by other burnt out object with a book on the Flame Cloak spell… everywhere you turn in the land of Skyrim you’ll likely stumble over some detail, some quest or some story to catch your interest. Of course, as stated, none of these stories will be very in-depth or especially complicated, but the sheer amount of them provides a realm that can be explored as you go. Unlike most games, the Elder Scrolls series typically doesn’t care if you don’t want to follow the main story arc – if you’d rather run off be a great dungeon explorer, or rise within the Mage College, or fight for Honor with the Companions, or restore the glory of the Thieves Guild, or help re-establishing the Dark Brotherhood assassins, or pick a side in the Skyrim Civil War…it’s totally fine with you going off to do that instead – or doing nearly all of the above if you so like. Of course, it won’t really try to excuse how, say, the Companions question the martial ability of the dragon slayer/world savior/war hero/arch mage/thane/whatever armoured in the bones and scales of the dragons they have slain that stand before them either, but, well. Elder Scrolls game.

The thing that surprised me the most though was how Skyrim has several decisions you can make that I actually found somewhat difficult to make – in my case most notably picking a side in the Civil War. Of course, you don’t have to pick a side and can sidestep the choice entirely, but as much as I’ve been wanting to actually see the civil war through, I’ve yet to decide which group I’d throw it in with. I find there’s no obvious right or wrong since you can make any number of argument for really either side of the conflict, so it’s entirely down to which faction speaks to you – or your character – the most. And to be honest, I like that it’s a difficult choice to make – if it was simple, then it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

Skyrim is also possibly the first Elder Scrolls game that actually succeeded in making me interested in, well, it being The Elder Scrolls, as opposed to The Whatever Things where the first thing I tend to do being locating as many interesting-sounding mods as I can, plug them all into the game and then go about mucking up the canon about as much as I possibly can by indulging in all sorts of strange races and artifacts. With Skyrim, I suddenly found the actual setting itself interesting, rather than just some strange backdrop for unrelated adventures, which is quite the change.

Velociraptors like to cunningly disguise themselves as humans in order to better confuse and surprise their prey.

So clearly, my only recourse was to make my first character an Argonian a Velociraptor named Bites-Faces.

It really served a whole lot of angles, starting with how I happen to be quite fond of Jurassic Park and continuing in that argoniansvelociraptors are generally the most alien of all the races of Tamriel, which felt fitting going into a setting that for all my prior visits to it in earlier games still came across as very alien. It also played right into my tendency to focus on stealth in Elder Scrolls games, and eventually Bites-Faces evolved into a sneaky, aggressive, knife-stabbing ambusher. Or rather, she would have, but due to a strange quirk with the dual-wield perks that made the attack speed bonus only apply to power attacks if your mainhand was a full size (ie: non-dagger) one-handed weapon, it eventually became knife-and-sword-stabbing ambusher. But oh well.

It progressed rather well up until I stopped faffing about doing about everything but the main quest line only to discover that due to all the thematics involved (seeing how we are in Skyrim and everything), I felt it’d all be much more appropriate if I played a Nord instead.

So I tried doing just that, swapping out dual-wielding stealth for mace-and-shield. And going entirely overboard on aesthetics and deciding to try to stick with Steel Armour and instead just improve it as far as possible. And that too went rather well, up until I found myself having decision angst regarding whether I should run with the Imperials or the Stormcloaks, as Bites-Faces had been neutral. Mind you, after having logged quite a few hours into Skyrim by now, I’m starting to hit a point where I might actually be getting a bit tired of it. Conveniently, the European PC release of Batman: Arkham City seems like it might show up just in time for that.

At the end of the day, Skyrim is a good game – better than I expected, seeing its franchise and creators, even. Of course, it’s still occasionally rather awkward, it still throws up some rather odd and awkward bugs every so often from weird crashing to dragon corpses suspiciously appearing in random places to a great deal of other things. Of course, I expect that most people who have even a mild interest in it are also already playing it, so it’s not like anyone’s going to be looking to me for buying recommendations. Still, Skyrim is better than I expected, and I’m very curious what the game will be like about, say, a year from now when the modding tools will have been out for awhile and people will have had time to fiddle around with the game and see what they can make with it.

Hopefully it’ll involve versions of cowls and circlets that count as heavy armour, if only to further feed my innate aversion to anything even remotely helmet-shaped.


6 Responses to “Big Raptor Pouncy, Mace Bashy Fun Time”

  1. 1 Noriam
    November 24, 2011 at 18:19

    The past week or two have been so cripplingly unproductive for me. The bugs in Skyrim drive me absolutely bloody nuts, it’s everything from outright crashes to glitched quests, textureless armour to conversation menus not responding to mouse clicks properly… But yet, it still clocked well over 60 hours of my time.

    I play an argonian Raptor-Jesus, whom I actually named Artemis instead thanks to the friend who was staring over my shoulder at the time. Using magic makes fights awfully easy after a certain point, but that’s beside the point. It was mainly the aesthetic value of an argonian that I went for, they are awfully shiny and perdy – but I too picked up on how they look… Well, like dinosaurs, rather than natives.

    Ulfric started to get on my nerves a bit with his attitude (especially if you do the main quest before the civil war) so I just sided with the Empire. Their arguments also started to run a little hollow – they didn’t ban appreciation of Talos’ ungodly contributions to history, just worshipping him as a god. Which, even if contrary to tradition, is not totally retarded in concept. Besides, General Tulius is voiced by Captain Bailey from ME2. That’s got to be worth something, right?

    Personally, I want to see how many of the bugs and glitches will be gone in a few months time. Nothing really came close to outright putting me off playing it, but there were a few occasions where I cringed at sinking 1000 gold to a misrepresented click in a conversation menu or the walls became faceless and white from a graphics screwup. And as I understand it, there are already a few decent mods about – I can only guess what Skyrim will look like a year from now.

    Its charm is running a little dry now, but once I play a melee character I’m sure it’ll be another two weeks of my life gone. Beyond that, I will return to my religious FPS/RTSing before dropping back into Skyrim to see what there is to snaffle from the internets later on.

    And maybe the controls will behave… Slightly better…

  2. 4 LoLDrood
    November 26, 2011 at 04:42

    Good news, everyone! The SWTOR NDA is over, and now that actual information about the game is out; any one else finally getting kinda excited about it? I want my Twi’lek Shadow :3

    Also, once Skyrim drops in price by a lot, I’ma make me a raptor named Clever Girl.

    • 5 Nhani
      November 26, 2011 at 06:56

      Well you give me until Monday or Tuesday or so, I’ll try to summarize my thoughts on it by then.

      • 6 Noriam
        November 26, 2011 at 15:41

        Just got a look at it myself too. I’ve seen very little but liked the looks so far.

        And here I was thinking I might have escaped the clutches of the MMO, eh?

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