Monday, December 10, 2012

Skyrim: Job

at 11:50 PM
^Did you see what I did there?

Welcome to the world of Tamriel, or more specifically the Alaska-portion of Tamriel sans those lucrative and wildlife-annihilating oil reserves, called Skyrim.

I'm not going to waste anyone's time reviewing this game because if you are ever going to buy it you already did.  I got it fairly close to release and played a good 40 hours or so and then went back to school for the semester and forgot about it.  I recently picked it up again and my housemates and I have been skipping some serious amounts of class getting all coked up on dragons and shit.

The Elder Scrolls games have always been a blast for me, since Morrowind anyway.  I can't think of anyone who would honestly say they can't have a good time picking up one of these games, building a character, naming him something stupid, playing for 3 minutes, starting a new character because why do wood elves even exist, and then running around doing random shit.  That's the beauty of the series: you can take multiple approaches to playing the game.  And I don't mean that you can kill things with magic or you can kill things with swords.  I mean that if you want to play Skyrim like its a Lord of the Rings expansion to Grand Theft Auto, you can have a veritable shitton of fun doing that.  Or you can role-play to your heart's content, getting that sweeeeeet new gear and that axe the werewolf guild has, and putting way more time into taking care of your character than you spend in the gym or bathing for that matter.  Or you can pick and chose the best quests, or just do the main story line, and make it a similar experience to a more linear RPG.

Or all these things.  Probably all these things to some extent.  I mean everyone who has touched these games gets this point.  Let's talk about *maybe* a more contentious issue I have with Skyrim in particular but which can also apply to the two previous titles in the series.  That's of the incredibly shallow characterization and storytelling.

I know, I know, that's not supposed to be the strength of the game.  But it is such a let down that it takes away from what the strengths should be.  Let me illustrate this right quick.  In theory, Ulfric Stormcloak, leader of the rag-tag rebellion and the other dude who can speak dragonese, should atleast have some, I don't know, character traits?  Well spoiler alert, he has zero.  He likes giving nicknames.  That's just about it.
Dude sure can lounge though.
And this isn't OK just because the game has thousands of characters.  When I'm doing the Stormcloak questline I feel no attachment to the faction, the leader, or even my senseless murder of Imperials.  Even the battles themselves feel absolutely tame when they're supposed to be pitched castle-storming affairs against serious armies.  The game, at almost every major point in the main quest and the major faction quests, does a terrible job of making the player feel like he's done something important.  Furthermore, when you walk around after doing something supposedly world-altering, you get maybe a reference to it from some guard in a random city.  I got a "derrrr aren't you the mage dude deerrrr" once for beating the mage's guild and it blew my socks off because that happens almost never in this game.  I understand how difficult it would be to have the entire world changing based on such a huge variety of character choices.  I'm not asking for the impossible here, I'm just asking for more weight on character actions.  It's hard with a game this big, but if you going to be ambitious you have to be held accountable. 

If this game wasn't a Bethesda "sure to make millions because of its name and ungodly amounts of adspace" classic, then I would say, yeah well tradeoffs had to be made.  You can't have 5 gazillion caves to spelunck AND multifaceted characters!  Jeez, you are a greedy mcgreedystein.  But come on, its an Elder Scrolls game and I don't think it would have been too big a deal to work in both.  Just a little bit?

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