Monday, November 14, 2011

First Impressions: Skyrim

[Warning: This could possibly be the nerdiest post I've ever written.]

Oh, but how beautiful it is!  The ragged peaks, the deep valleys, the shimmering falls.  Everywhere you look in Skyrim you see the beauty of nature.  But wait, is that a dragon?  Oh lordy lordy.

So I wasn't planning on buying the fifth installment in the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim, which released last Friday.  Instead, and smartly, I went to the Redbox and actually rented the game.  Whet my appetite, enjoy a weekend with my little brother-in-law immersed in a new game.  Little did I know that the masters from Bethesda Studios were so devious.

My history with RPGs goes back to when I was a wee lad first discovering FFVII, which led to an unhealthy habit of staying up very late and saving/destroying imaginary worlds.  This habit thrived throughout adolescence and the teenage years, and I spent a lot of time with them.  Then came college and adulthood, where I (mostly) learned to relegate my time and act responsibly.  Sure, I might have blown off a class or four whenever KotoR II came out, and Fable held me spellbound for way too many hours, but by and large, I was getting out of my RPG phase.  My tastes were changing to something more active, less expansive, less turn-based.

The shift in preferences came with Fallout 3, a game my best friend purchased.  I loved the open-world, non-linear style it offered, and behold, a new obsession was found.  But it could last only so long, and soon college days ended and we moved several hundred miles apart.  And a year or two passed without me playing much of antying.  I bought FFXII, but only spent an hour or so with it.  And all was well.  Then along came a game called Oblivion, from the same company that made Fallout, and again my preferences were tingled.

I put a lot of hours into Oblivion.  It was humongous, but it had its flaws.  Fastforward to Fallout: New Vegas, which was/is definitely fun and immersive, but not as much as its predecessor.   Fastforward another year, 11/11/11, and Skyrim is released.  I'd read the buzz.  Followed the videos.  It looked great, but I didn't have the ummph to spend $60 on a new game, plus the time I knew I'd spend in it.  So I rented it and kept it for two days.  And in those days, escapism reigned, heroics flared, and Keisha tells me that I was smiling like a little kid.

I made myself a Wood Elf, complete with pointed ears, a thin nose, a dirty face, deep eye shadows, one dead eye, and oily, black hair.  Named him Clögan Darkhair (original, I know, but Clint+Logan can only yield so much). I've a fondness for Sneak, Stealth, Theft, and the general skullduggery of a petty criminal when it comes to these games, yet I don't (rarely) kill innocent civilians. Still, the dark look suited us, and we were off.
The opening scene was wonderful, and I loved how you get the vantage point from the headblock after watching a fellow criminal get beheaded. I've been mesmerized by the enormous size of the world, made even more so by the 3d elements of mountains and caves. It's definitely the biggest game I've played, and likely the most beautiful video game world ever created. I've already done several side quests and feel like I've not even put a toe in the water yet. The game is much less glitchier than New Vegas (one of its major weaknesses), and so far I've only had one instance of freezing. The giants are intimidating, and I've foolishly fought and died many times over because of them. (Anyone (Dave, I'm guessing, is the only one down here) actually killed one yet?) Trolls are somewhat of a challenge, too, but I've got a slash-block-flee combo down that proves mostly effective.

In short, Skyrim seems to take Oblivion and put it to shame, and pretty much treats almost every other game similarly.  I've never been more impressed by a game in all my years, and that's saying something.

I took Skyrim back to the Redbox yesterday. While at Walmart, I purchased a copy of the game for myself. I'm on vacation next week, so I'm hoping to get some time there, but Real World still takes priority. I have a lovely and wonderful wife that supported my decision in buying the game (Thanks!), and a beautiful daughter that still gets all my love. Still, Skyrim won't save itself.

Anyone else get this game yet?


Anonymous said...

my friend Morgan has been calling herself a skyrim widow these past few days. bet Tim got ahold of this game and is as geeked as you... great post!


Sarah Bible said...

I'm not a gamer (I'm fairly ok at Reversi, Dominoes, Gallaga, aaaaannnddd that's about it, lol) but talk around the office today has been about this game and I'm tempted to buy a game console (letting my husband pick because I know he has his preference) and try this game out.

Jonboy said...

My story is actually the opposite of yours. I somehow avoided Morrowind, Oblivion, and New Vegas entirely. I dabbled in Fallout 3, but was never really hooked.

After reading all the preview for Skyrim though, I had a strong feeling it was going to be great. In short, I love it. I literally fell like I've stepped into the pages of my favorite fantasy novels (which as an aside, I have yet to finish the final Inheritance book because I've been playing too much's that good).

I always avoided the aforementioned games because I didn't want that feeling of being overwhelmed. Being an open world game is fine, but I'd heard stories of how people were totally consumed by those games.

With Skyrim, I don't feel overwhelmed and while others may say I'm consumed by it...I would say captivated is a much better word to describe how I feel.

Yes, the game is massive, but I don't feel the urge to avoid all side quests and focus solely on the main quest. In fact, any gamer who does this just might miss the true beauty of Skyrim.

For example, on my way to a new task I happened across a town with a cozy inn where a polite gentleman was taking lute requests. I suggested a tune and he proceeded to play a cheerful tune that told the story of Radbard the Red.

As another testament to the game's sheer size, I've spent a handful of hours playing the game with only a few of those moments being devoted to the main quest. I just completed all the quests for the College of Winterhold storyline and I have to say, it was incredible. Doesn't sound like you're using much magic, but if you are, the reward for completing these trials is well worth it..WELL worth it.

I could seriously go on for hours about this game, but I'll summarize with this: gamers often ask one another a playful hypothetical question, "If you could only play one game for the rest of your life, what would it be?" I now know the answer.

Time will tell if this proves to be my favorite game of all time, but the fact that's in the same discussion as Ocarina, Mass Effect 2, and Metroid Prime should tell you how good it really is.

David Wagner said...

I have tons o' games - I get each one with the full intention of playing them through and wringing as much juice out of them as possible. Ultimately, this is not the case in 90%+ of them. Most I'll dabble with, and for one reason or another, they just won't click with me, or won't feel right or whatever. Thus, I have about 50 games on my shelf, and another 90 or so in my Steam library, most of them gathering dust.

There are a handful that work so well with me that I have pumped hundreds of hours into them. Going back through time, the list includes: Wolfenstein 3d (that's WAAY back!), Descent, C&C Red Alert, Unreal Tournament, Titan Quest, Battlefield 2...

And then the Bethesda games hit. Oblivion destroyed me. I got so into, I made custom maps and checklists, documented each location and what types of baddies/loot, tried tons of mods and user-created quests... it was nuts. Didn't quite go that far with Fallout 3 or New Vegas, but both of those were thoroughly wrung out as well. Something about wandering the wastes listening to 3-Dog and blowing up abandoned cars/buses was just amazing fun for me.

And of course, I've been waiting for an eternity for an Oblivion sequel. Skyrim, baby! Now, my computer is no slouch - still, it's 3 years old now, and I have to play it with some of the settings lowered, while my good friend Yanni goes on and on about how amazing it looks on his new gaming rig. I may be upgrading video cards soon...

But the game. I love it. It looks great, I'm enjoying exploring, I love the dragon-element, with the shouts, etc., and I'm plugging along in the main quest (taking plenty of detours to fight bears and bandits), and loving it. This game and I are hand-in-glove matches.

My Redguard is level 10 at the moment, so I haven't played it as much as others I know... but it does crash to desktop quite frequently, and I do have other responsibilities. I've killed two dragons thus far, but I haven't messed with giants or their mammoths yet. I'm focusing on one-handed, light armor and archery.

Anyway, yeah, the game is amazing and will, I'm sure, capture most of my free time between now and year's end, at least. Probably much longer. It sure makes up for my disappointment with Battlefield 3.

But the Steam sales are coming too! Time to get more games from my wishlist! And of course, come March, Diablo 3 will be here. Ah, good days.

logankstewart said...

@L: Ha, thanks! Skyrim widow, indeed. Hopefully I have the resolve to pull myself away some. ;)

@Sarah: If you're a fan of expansive worlds (like, say, Westeros and the like) and unlimited hours of vicarious adventuring, then by all means, this game is ideal. Or you could also play it on PC...

@Jonathan: I've yet to go to the College of Winterhold, but I shall. That inn/tavern experience sounds fantastic. What race/style are you playing? (And agreed. This game deserves to be in company with Greatest Games you've listed.)

@Dave: Oh my, I remember Wolfenstein3d... and Doom and Heretic... I've not done much on the MQ, only past High Hrothgar. I think I'll spend the next several hours just wandering around and exploring. I have killed my first solo dragon (thanks for the help, Lydia!), and that fight was rather tough. Enjoy the Redguard. That was my second pick. (I did Oblivion as a Nord.)

"Owww. Three Dog here!"

Jonboy said...

I'm playing as a Breton. They have resistance to magic, but are also able to learn it pretty well. They have a very nifty ability called Dragonskin that basically absorbs hostile spells (for a limited time) and converts it to magic for you to use. I've focused on destruction spells and a little bit of conjuration. Alchemy is surprisingly addicting as well.

I've now put in over 24 hours and I'm starting to feel ever so slightly obsessed. Every time I play I discover something even more interesting about the game.

Okie said...

I keep hearing absolutely wonderful things about this game. It definitely looks gorgeous and I really want to get into it. I played Oblivion back in the day but never finished even the main quest...part of me wants to go back and finish the central quest in Oblivion before moving on to Skyrim. That would allow me to get back into the RPG world of gaming without paying full retail price for Skyrim. looks like great fun and I may just have to make it a holiday purchase.

Carl V. said...

I actually enjoyed New Vegas as much as Fallout 3 with the exception that I liked the music much better in Fallout 3.

As you probably have seen in my comments on your November ending post, I am really digging Skyrim. I've put in 75 hours and haven't done hardly anything yet in comparison to all the areas I have yet to set foot in and the huge list of missions and side quests that have yet to be done. I'm so surprised you actually contemplated not getting it. I've been aching for this game ever since I first heard about it. I loved Oblivion and knew this one would be even better. And so far it has delivered.

I love games like this where you can just wander and explore. Its the same reason the last two Fallout games were so fantastic. I like being able to go anywhere I want and do anything I want. I think it is fantastic how they've changed the character leveling in this game and love that I can do all kinds of great things with my character that allow me to immerse myself in that world rather than just rushing through to complete the next mission.

Much of the month of December will be interlaced with time in Skyrim and I know that you know from your own experience just how much that excites me.