Sunday, January 22, 2012

Skyrim Review/ Retrospect

The Elder Scrolls VI: Skyrim is a not easy game to summarize. Frankly, I’ve spent such a long time with the game that whether or not I actually like it is questionable. It’s a time suck: I’d never recommend Skyrim to an open-heart surgeon or something…they should have better things to do. When characters that you don’t play as have lives, and the world around you goes on even when your not there – it’s a sign that this is more than just a game.

All the Elder Scrolls games are massive adventures. But Skyrim doesn’t reinvent anything it just piles on top. Skyrim starts out as plain vanilla ice cream, then turns into a massive sundae with all the toppings – and sometimes too much of a good thing turns your stomach.

Fighting dragons is by far the highlight of Skyrim. You never know when and where they’re going to attack. They can terrorize any town or city; caves are possibly the only refuge…although I’m not sure on that either. On more than one occasion I fast traveled to a settlement to find it under siege from these flying lizards. The townspeople were running; guards unsheathed swords (for all the good that was going to do), and I began to sling arrows at the fiend. Dynamic and unexpected interactions like these are the bright spots of playing.

Fighting dragons is unsurprisingly always fun in Skyrim.

It’s these spontaneous reactionary creatures that make Skyrim so appealing. If dragons weren’t included or if they had scripted behavior patterns, Skyrim would only feel slightly different than Oblivion, it’s predecessor.

I frequently find myself exploring the vast wastes just for chance meetings with these aerial menaces. Battling dragons is the true fun to be had with this game – the same can’t be said of the main story.

It’s shocking in many ways. Yes, Oblivion had a dreadfully mediocre primary quest line. But Bethesda rebounded and landed with a ten with Fallout 3. Not just the quests but from point A to B Fallout 3 was a complete quality shift in storytelling from Oblivion’s, “Go in this cave, and kill this guy”, structure.

Unfortunately Skyrim gets its chain boots stuck in the mud of stale quest structure. I’ve yet to feel compelled to do anything for an NPC, even with promises of a reward. There’s a few key elements for why the main story isn’t very engaging and why the side quests don’t feel as rich as Fallout.

It think a big portion of someone’s reason for undertaking a task lies in the reward. Rarely in Skyrim do you get repaid with loot – but what bothers me most is you don’t receive any experience for completed a job. Nothing.

The way you level is purely based on the usage of a skill. Use one-handed weapons, and the experience bar fills as that skill grows. The higher the skill level the slower it levels, but when it does your character will gain more experience. This is a terrific system for combat -- but when you have a game that is filled with this much content I don’t want to get just a pat on the back and a handshake for my efforts. I want that classic experience gain for completing a quest. Otherwise, why the hell did I do it?

Well because it’s supposed to be fun, right? Well I think that’s the biggest problem with Skyrim. The fun, the pure enjoyment of playing is buried. The combat is better, but not great. Visually I had to look twice to remind myself that this wasn’t an expansion for Oblivion. It’s just an ugly looking game on console. Animations and bugs are abounding. So many negatives make me feel like I’m working when I play Skyrim. I have to get myself out of bed and coax myself into playing. Now that’s not fun at all!

Most areas are a step up from Oblivion. But the changes aren't Earth shaking.  

I don’t think Skyrim is a bad game. There’s gold here, you just have to dig for it. But after putting 70 hours in and getting thoroughly bored with the main adventure I don’t feel enticed to continue playing.

Now everybody will go through his or her own experience with this game. I for one found it maddeningly difficult at first. But at this point my character is so powerful (through the use of skill building and grinding for the best armor and loot) I find little challenge even when fighting the biggest meanest dragons. And that was just my chosen path. The game became easy because I knew how to exploit the system, not through cheating; I just saw the strings and manipulated them to the unintentional point where I stopped caring about the game.

This is still a massive game with lots to do. And while there are large complaints about bugs and just questionable game design, Skyrim is still enjoyable in spurts. It’s not a win by any stretch and I question so many news outlets giving it game of the year – that said it seems like most of the entertainment is lying dormant on this disc: it takes lots of effort to get the most from Skyrim. And the appeal has fallen flat for me.

Skyrim is what you make of it. And if you only scratch the surface you’ll be disappointed. Below that surface you’ll find a really good game…but even further below you’ll begin nitpicking everything to the point of dislike. For me, beginning, to end, Skyrim wasn’t great, and at some points it dipped below average. Like I said everybody would take away something different upon playing – make no mistake though when it comes to slaying dragons, Skyrim is number one. In the end that’s some type of accomplishment. 

No comments:

Post a Comment