Game Writer Rundown: Skyrim

Thoughts on Bethseda’s Skyrim

I rented the popular new RPG Skyrim last weekend and lost 2 days to it. This game is a GOTY contender and has garnered over 200 perfect scores from game writers. The usually reserved (and incisive) Eurogamer goes as far as calling it a “masterpiece.”

I think it’s pretty good, although I’d say Bethseda’s older RPG Fallout 3 is still superior for a few powerful reasons:

  • Fallout 3 takes itself less seriously, but is no less perilous. Only in Fallout can you plunder a ray gun from a crashed alien, for example, or follow a trail of clues to a life-or-death confrontation in a scavenger hideout over a treasure that turns out to be an item called “Naughty Nightwear.” And it’s useful, too; wearing it imparts great charm bonuses for trading, natch.
  • It’s hard to do sword/axe/pikearm combat in a videogame. Without going third-person*, how do you tell a near-miss from a hit? (And when, oh when, will we get a game where a good sword strike stops the sword instead of clipping through the target?) With Fallout, it’s projectile-based combat, complete with the limb-subtargeting gameplay that the original Fallout was known for. No such thing in Skyrim, and as a result combat is simply much less tangible.
  • Fallout’s retro alterna-’50s mood is entertaining and the vintage music enchanting. In my admittedly-brief exposure, nothing comes close in Skyrim.
* And yes, third-person gameplay is an option, but then camera control and opponent targeting will gank you even worse than your enemies.

Skyrim Still Totally Worth Playing

I also reserve final judgment for a full playthrough. Many of the game’s quests and character development are yet to be explored by this humble game writer. And there’s a lot to like about Skyrim. Like F3, it has a truly great UI for inventory, quest, and trading management, and it doesn’t suffer from grinding or slow-travel problems. I was a little annoyed by the heavily pixelated shadowmaps of the dynamic shadows in Skyrim (I’d rather have them turned off or static than see obvious globs of shadow fringing moving shadows), but I truly enjoyed the dragon encounters and the eerie combat in the catacombs of ancient Nordic temples.

Skyrim also has an entertaining thread where you can become a werewolf, and I’ve read that vampire is possible too.

Thanks to my fellow ex-3DO colleague Keith Meyer for triggering this post!

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