Thursday, November 17, 2011

Skyrim: You should have acted, it’s already here

By Stewart Berg, Guest Writer

A likely immediate thought of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim before its release was: “Oblivion with dragons.”

While it would have been easy for developer Bethesda to perform such a copy-and-paste job with its incredibly successful 2006 release of Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion, it has instead created an entirely original and improved game that remains reminiscent of the series’ past.

While the graphics are not necessarily the greatest, the game world may be. A large departure from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s flat land and small forests, Skyrim’s jutting mountains and woolly mammoth-inhabited grasslands create a world that is as engaging and exciting as any quest.

I have frustratingly climbed a mountain thorough blindingly dense snow and felt the same accomplishment upon ascension that I feel following an intense gunfight or battle in any other game.

The world’s magnificence continues its towns. Never in the series have cities felt so alive as in taverns full of fellow adventurers conversing and bards singing of legendary tales.

The contrast between largely inhospitable wilderness and comfortable life within walls has been masterfully done, leaving the player always desiring both.

In true series manner, the amount of content in the game is staggering. I can say this about few other games: after 20 hours of playing, I feel as though I have only barely scratched the game’s surface.

I still have yet to begin the game’s main quest and I do not expect to soon as the number of side quests is overwhelming and each demands equally that I complete it.

Even the most seemingly mundane activities or quests are incredibly rich in detail. For example, I spent several hours simply mining raw minerals and hunting wild game in order to return to a forge with my prizes and create new armor or weapons.

Skyrim has its flaws. While making significant improvements, Skyrim still has many of the same bugs that seem to plague all Bethesda games.

Characters will sometimes fall through floors or experience any number of similar glitches. These bugs are not in any way game-breaking, nor are they frequent enough to be bothersome. Conversely, they are almost welcome as a sort of developer signature of the series’ history.

Dragons, at least in their first few encounters, proved somewhat disappointing.

They are breathtaking to watch soaring overhead or to see burn a small collection of hapless guards, but they suddenly become like an unnamed enemy in a Steven Seagal movie when in direct combat with the main character.

They take damage like martyrs and quickly fall to earth to be finished with a few strokes of a sword.

While this is disappointing for the game’s primary antagonists, I am still relatively early in the game, and it is likely that the dragons will drastically rise as the game continues.

The game’s largest blemish is its autosave feature. Even when set to maximum occurrence, I have found that there can be a much as an hour of gameplay between autosaves.

As a result, I have lost hours of character development and quest success after randomly stumbling on a fortress of bandits or experiencing some other similarly unforeseeable calamity.

Although it is easy to manually save the game by pausing it and navigating its menus, it is also equally easy to become engrossed in the game. This engrossment is what the games creators should want, and the save feature of the game should be tailored around it.

I would have liked to see either more frequent autosaves or the ability to hot key the save feature so that it only requires one button press to save, and a player could become truly lost in the world without having to be concerned with losing it.

Despite their existence, the game’s flaws should not be stressed enough as they are largely, if not wholly, swallowed by the game’s successes. What results is a game with hundreds of hours of content while every minute is near perfection.