The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is really the first of the Elder Scrolls (ES) games I’ve had a chance to get into. The first ES game I heard about was Morrowind. Unfortunately something about the disc made my XBox, and the cabinet it was in, shake so much that I could feel it through the floor. I didn’t play it for very long, being worried about what was going to fly off the XBox.
Somehow Oblivion went past me without much notice – perhaps it was all those forums posts complaining about how you had to install serious mods (modifications) in order to get it to work. Or perhaps I just didn’t care for some reason.
Now Skyrim is here and I got my Pre-Ordered copy on Friday night and I have to say, I’m having a lot of fun.
The first thing I noticed is how pretty the game is. I’m not sure if it’s a new graphics engine, or if they’ve learned new tricks, but everything from the roads and trees, through to weapons and armour appear to have a lot of detail. This made the world immediately compelling for me, as it was great just to explore and see the world. Until I got killed, that is. Lower levels don’t necessarily last that long just wandering the wilderness.
This got me back to the main storyline, and poking around various side-quests. This meant learning the interface properly, and dealing with interactions with people.
The interface, as most Role Playing Game (RPG) interfaces are, is confusing and overwhelming when you first start. However I’m used to it now, and can quickly find what information I need, or equip what I need as almost second nature.
That, of course, makes it easier to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the story, the background, and the people. There are a few very ‘old game’ moments where someone announces who they are out of the blue, but with the various people having conversations, or just making idle comments as you go by, it’s very lively. Game designers are getting better at filling in worlds.
Once you get used to how the world works, there are plenty of quests and side-quests to keep you busy. There’s also a lot of crafting you can do, if you want, and so far that’s been a fun little part of the game that doesn’t impose itself on you if you don’t really care.
So far, there are two moments that keep coming back to me that illustrate atmosphere and immersion of this game. In the first, I was standing on a cliff-face, overlooking the tundra. There were two mammoths ambling across a creek, and the feeling I got was very much like the scene in Jurassic Park when the protagonists first see fields full of dinosaurs. There was a quiet awe.
The second was when I was sneaking along a hill, at night. Suddenly I heard thuds on the ground, getting closer. I turn, and look up. Then further up. Those mammoths are huge! But what a sight. At least, before I turned tail and ran for my life.
There are many other moments, with the sun glinting off the fish leaping up the falls, or the butterflies flittering over the flowers, or the moment when you get a bird’s-eye view of Skryim after a giant has just bashed you into the sky. All of these add to the world, putting some lovely meat on the bones of the quests, and making it a world I’m enjoying visiting for now.
About the only part of the game I don’t really get on with is the combat. It seems very stilted, and stylised. It’s not quite as bad as Dragon’s Age 2, as you have a bit more freedom of movement, but it still feels like you’re just going through the motions.
Still, I’m really enjoying it, and don’t want the game to lose its current “sheen”.