Sunday, January 5, 2014

3 days of... The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

You might just be missing the best part.

3 days of limited game time as a father with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is not enough. I could most likely write 3 days worth of material on this game. Bethesda did such an amazing job creating a complete world to explore, it feels like there is no end to it. The best part about this game though, is the perceived breadth increases exponentially when you add mods.

One of the first scenes I was treated to. And one of the best opening areas of any game I've ever played.
6 months ago, I would have told you that I didn't play with mods in games. I preferred games as the developers intended. And about 6 months ago I had completed Skyrim for the first time without any DLC or mods and I had a great time. This time however, I decided to try a lot of the best mods on the Steam Workshop for Skyrim. Without a doubt, a careful selection of mods can only enhance your gaming -- and playing through Skyrim with 70+ mods educated me in the experience, and fun of modding your favorite games.

Mods made this town look so much more lush, and complete,
it became a pleasure to visit. 
That's another discussion though, and one that I'll address later in an in-between segment. 

For the last 3 days I've played through a great deal of Skyrim, and seeing how the lands have changed with each mod that I've added, is like discovering the next iteration of the Elder Scrolls series. Not only that the added content from the DLC delivers from moment one of the game. Added skill trees for Werewolves, random attacks from vampires, and general attention from the digital population increasing with your fame lets you know that the world has changed since the vanilla version -- and only for the better. 

Often I saw myself flying from destination to destination and quickly completing quests, however when I had the chance to slow down, I could observe the best part of Skyrim; the world building. Bethesda has created such a wholly engrossing world full of details that it's impossible to imagine the amount of time each person spent creating a visual history for each character in the game. Many of the NPC's have their own homes with thier own histories, books scattered that are currently being read, or herbs used for potions or tea. People carry their most prized possessions, and often you can read letters they were carrying for loved ones, or for their duties. Stopping to observe the whole world as it lies in front of you is the best part of Skyrim.

The feeling when this point is reached in the story is never diminished or lost.
Walking slowly through the dungeons and over-world you can see how the level developers created ways to observe and plan attacks at each stop. Carefully crafted adventuring areas instinctively deliver a sense of foreboding or give you to gain a sense of wonderment. Overlook points are naturally occurring to give you a sense of tactical decision or just to give you a view of excellent panoramas of forests, plains, and mountain ranges. This world is best taken in at a walk, not a sprint.

Unfortunately the quests and the capabilities (ie. fast-travel) allow you to skip past most of this nuance, which is the better part of the experience. Missing out on all this content after paying full price is missing out on $40 of your money. The quest system doesn't give you the sense that you NEED to explore to accomplish anything, and it instead rushes you past the vistas, world building, and incredible amount of stories of the history, and people. 

This 3rd person kill-cam is very rewarding,
and can often convince me to try to play Skyrim like a
poor mans Dark Souls.
The synergistic problem with rushing through quests is the combat. I like to play my games in 3rd person perspective, however when I play Skyrim, that isn't rewarding. We've all played those fun, and intense 3rd person action RPG's. The ones that had great combat, and gave you the feeling of triumphant victory when passing through a dangerous area. Skyrim shouldn't be played like that, or even lumped into the same category. The combat isn't meant to be fast paced, or edge of your seat intense. It's meant to be enjoyed like the rest of the game -- slowly, carefully, and in 1st person view.
One thing the Elder Scrolls did right, Skeletons

That's right, when I found myself in first person view, I took each room and encounter as if I were there myself, slowly approaching and allowing myself to take in the situation, and work out a plan of attack. Each hit of the enemy coming right into my screen gave me the greater sense of danger that I was looking for. Every swipe my character took was disorienting and uncomfortable, just like how swinging a 2-handed 4-foot blade should feel. When you engage the game in this way, and bring yourself to the table open to playing the game the way the developers intended (instead of how you want to) it delivers a much more fulfilling experience.

Bethesda definitely has a niche that they've dug out of the Action RPG market, and it's worth exploring. Just remember that's the best way to experience their games if you like Action RPGs. It's best to EXPLORE, take your time, and give the game the chance to amaze you with the time consuming details. Don't cheat yourself out of the money that you've invested. Give the game the chance to deliver you the full dollar amount of your purchase, and you won't be sorry. 

I actually stopped for the first time in this temple to take a picture,
It juxtaposes wonderfully with the run down ruins of a similar order that you visit.
In short, take the time to smell the roses, and along the way don't forget to bash in some Draugr heads. (Those death-lords are the worst)

Next Time: I've got my first request for a game to play. It so happens to be on my list. So next time I'll take on the dystopia of Bioshock Infinite. 

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