Grizzly Gaming

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Skyrim afterthoughts: I used to be an adventurer like you, until I took an arrow in the knee

It’s been almost a month with “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” and I still barely feel like I’ve scratched its surface. I hadn’t even completed one play-through yet before I started another and that second character’s game has played out pretty differently so far. I wanted to get out a few more points about the game that I didn’t think I conveyed in my review – so here they are.

-Favorite system is great and all but I wish the indication of what item is in what hand was a little clearer. I don’t have a huge HD TV and sitting across the room, the little L and R in the tiny arrow are indistinguishable. Would an arrow on the left and right side of the word been much more difficult to implement?

-As much as I talked up the outdoor environments, I didn’t really touch on the indoor areas at all. And I should have because Bethesda did a great job giving the myriad dungeons, caves, ruins, and towns each a different look and feel. Whereas dungeons and caves in “Oblivion” all had a similar feel to them, most areas in “Skyrim” have a unique design to them. It’s a real treat to be able to find, on my second play-through no less, new and interesting dungeons and ruins that I haven’t seen before.

-Tons of procedurally generated quests which actually amounts to, or makes it seem like, there are more quests than there actually are because, depending on how you play and the character traits you choose, the game will generate random encounters. For instance, my first character is mainly a melee fighter who uses little magic. My newest character (a Breton mage named Lothar) is already at level 10 and I’ve only played a few quests (including main quest missions) that I played in my previous play-through.

-While the new engine makes character models look great, the voice acting is still hit or miss. I didn’t want to use harsher terms because the voice-overs really aren’t that bad, just nothing special. And add in the repetitiveness of many NPC lines (you’ll hear the same lines from guards, blacksmiths, bandits and merchants all over Skyrim) and the voice acting in Skyrim can start to get on your nerves. A meme has already been born out of the repeated guard line “I used to be an adventurer like you until I took an arrow to the knee.”

-The difficulty of “Skyrim” is fairly well balanced. You’ll never feel too underpowered but by the same token, you’ll never feel too powerful either. Only one time (in over 70 hours of play) did I get stuck at the end of a long dungeon and needed to bump down the difficulty level so I could defeat an enemy.

-Speaking of the landscape, traversing it is fairly easy. In Bethesda games, I usually spend a fair amount of time jumping around on rocky cliff faces, trying to see if I can find/create a more direct route over rocks I know I’m not intended to be jumping on. In Skyrim, this approach seems more forgiving and it’s quite easy to get over some imposing obstacles. Companion pathing is not exactly great and they often have a hard time keeping up with my rather adventurous routes though.

-Lots of crafting available – smithing, enchanting, tanning, alchemy – and many schools of magic to learn spells in. Skyrim is a hostile land so Destruction and Restoration will probably be the most important to learn but each school can be useful in its own way.

-Speaking of crafting, there is a neat, easy trick to upping your Smithing ability. Despite your ability at the forge, you can always craft iron and hide objects. What you’ll need for this trick is a ton of iron ingots and leather straps. Once you’ve acquired those things (I’d recommend doing this in Whiterun since it has all the smithing tools you’ll need, plus it’s the only town I’ve seen with a smelter), go make as many iron daggers as you can. If you’re, let’s say, beneath level 40 in smithing, you should gain a new Smithing level for ever 3-4 daggers you make. I did this with my Ulf character (it’s especially helpful if you own the house in Whiterun, too, since it’s right next to the blacksmith shop) and went from never smithing anything to maxing out that ability in two days, tops. I’ve seen some people on the internet calling this strategy cheating – even though it totally isn’t. It’s a part of the game, folks. If Bethesda didn’t want you to take advantage of it, don’t you think they would’ve changed the amount of XP you receive from smithing daggers?

-The last point got me thinking about this – this is a Bethesda game so there are plenty of bugs. No game breaking glitches or anything outrageously serious, but in a game like “Skyrim” that contains so much content, it’d would be impossible for Bethesda to catch them all. Sure, some are annoying (a major quest in Dawnstar was pretty much shot for Ulf after the quest giver, who I was supposed to follow, decided to disappear forever) but most are kinda funny, like dragons flying backwards.

-I don’t know if there’s a level cap or not – I’ve read conflicting reports around the internet. I do know that skills are capped at 100, though. On one hand, I read that there is no cap. As long as you continue to upgrade your skills, you’ll continue to earn levels. Ulf, my warrior, is around level 43 and I’ve found that I’m running out of levels in the skills I use most often (like blocking and one-handed weapons). But on the other hand, I’ve heard that there is a soft level cap of 50, meaning that once you hit level 50, it is much harder to level up.

UPDATE: After a little searching I found a picture posted on reddit of a player who, allegedly, leveled up each skill tree and has an overall level of 81. But this is the internet, after all, so take it with a grain of salt.

-The level of detail on even a simple shield is pretty astounding. I think Bethesda knew it too because at loading screens (which there are many) it pops up a character, weapon, armor piece, statue, etc. and lets you rotate the piece and zoom in and out on it to really take in the incredible detail that went into each and every bit of the game.

-Skyrim never ceases to amaze me in every aspect. For instance, I haven’t stopped to admire a game’s background and scenery this much since RDR. During one mission, on my way to speak with the Greybeards, who live atop the largest mountain in Skyrim, The Throat of the World, I stood half way up the mountain and admired the scene – the sun just rising over the horizon, painting the snowy landscape a dull yet warm shade of orange. As I stood there, taking in the beauty of Skyrim, the game struck up a light, sublime melody of strings and choral arrangements, completing the setting. It just another of the innumerable but unforgettable moments “Skyrim” is capable of delivering.

-If you have even a mild form of ADD, you’ll never get anything done in Skyrim. Well you’ll do plenty of things, but goals you set or quests you mark (especially ones in unexplored areas and therefore can’t be reached by fast travel) will often go un-completed as you explore the land and find new towns, mines, castles, monuments, ruins – all the while collecting more quests that will continue to fill your journal. For instance, I found a few “unusual stones” in the course of my journey and was given a Miscellaneous quest (read: not even important enough to be considered a sidequest) to take it to an appraiser in the city of Riften. Having never explored the Rift region of Skyrim, I was in for a long walk to my destination. On my way there I ran into a group of Orcs who needed help defending themselves from giants trying to run them off their land, a repentant witch who needed my help killing her former witch friends and, just as I finally neared my destination, I became fascinated by new markings on my compass that I had never seen before and decided to investigate, all the while having to defend myself from rampaging trolls, sabrecats, bears and numerous other unsavory denizens of Skyrim along the way. That’s at least an hour or two of extra time added just making the trip to get some stones checked out. But “Skyrim” is so incredibly fun and well-crafted that you barely even notice time flying by.

I could probably keep going on and on about Skyrim, but I’ll stop right there. If you’ve got any of your own thoughts about the game – let me know in the comments!


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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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