Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Skyrim Part 1: Wham goes the hammer!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim lacks in an immersive storyline for the large scale game that it is. Characters are predictable and the dual-plotlines of the main story aren't chuck-full of depth. You're destined to stop the armageddon dragons while helping to subdue or enforce a native rebellion against the Empire. Granted that all sounds pretty fantastic, it's really straightforward for the most part. Other than occasional glitches that are already becoming (if not already completely) fixed, I do believe that about sums up the majority of any flaws I've ever experienced in the game.

Now here's the God's honest truth about Skyrim: it is an absolute MASTERPIECE. The sheer scale of this game is absolutely breathtaking. I've been a fan of sandbox style games for quite awhile now and I was still floored by this particular entry. In fact, one of my fondest gaming memories involves The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. When I first started college, I was introduced to this game by one of my closest friends and I was astounded by it. The many choices in character building and combat style, whether it be melee or magic, seemed endless. I can't remember how many hours or different characters I made with that game and I don't regret a minute I spent playing and continued to play throughout college. In fact, I was finishing my character Prof. Slaughter McDeathkill when Skyrim was released. For years I had been waiting for this sequel! The moment I first saw the opening scene in the carriage with Ulfric and Random Maybe Bad Guy, I felt chills run down my spine and a single tear developing in my eye. Yes, a tear, I have no problem whatsoever admitting this! IT WAS EMOTIONAL OK?! Now the rest of this review is going to be done a little different. Instead of breaking down the game into categories such as characters, combat, etc., I'd rather give a more personal account of this game and will do so in several parts based on the main styles of character you can design; heavy charging melee, stealth assassin thief, combined magic and melee weapons, and pure magic wizardry. With each specific style I've mentioned above, I'm going to create a new character and play through the game up to about level 35-40 in order to gain a unique and thorough perspective of the styles.

Starting the game (and for the sake of the length in this review) I decided to go with probably the more basic and easiest to learn style of heavy armor Arnie Schwarzenegger-like man named AUUAUAUGHGHUAUGH. Now although I said this was basic, this in no way meant this style was less fun than another. In fact, it's my 2nd favorite style because of how involved you are with your quests. Plus it allowed me to get used to the new perk system and combat engine without feeling like I wasted precious perk points or money on armor. I'm huge, I'm strong, I wield a warhammer and wear the heaviest armor imaginable. The very beginning of the game proved to be a bit challenging only because the above mentioned armor and weaponry isn't cheap to come by and since I had just started, I kind of needed them to complete quests. What's a lonely AUUAUAUGHGHUAUGH to do? RUN THROUGH THE CLOSEST DUNGEON AND PUNCH EVERYTHING TO DEATH. Which, might I add, is when I learned of the kill animations you sometimes earn against enemies. 20 minutes into the game and I've already grabbed a bandit on the back of the head and punched him repeatedly in the face before letting his lifeless body drop to the ground. Satisfaction defined.

Following the face smashes I looted my well earned treasure, sold every bit of it, and armed myself to the TEETH. From here on it became pretty straight forward. I accept quests, I smash people with my hammer, put all my perks in heavy armor to upgrade its effectiveness, two-handed for making my hammer a force to be reckoned with, and archery for the knees of men I feel need to slow down their adventuring days. This strategy certainly made for nerve racking moments in my fights. Even with amazing armor and weapons, I felt my heart pound in every battle simply because of the mass confusion that surrounded me. In one cave, I could bring down a battalion of 6 bandits at once, yet in another it only takes 2 mages to send my body rag-dolling against the wall with ice missiles protruding from the body. What does this tell me? Mages also need to have their knees cappedby arrows before they disintegrate my body. Simple strategy and easy to figure out but still impressive when you think about the fact that this is just ONE of many strategies you can develop in the game. And yes, I am well aware of the exploit strategies too. Raise your Alchemy, Smithing, and Enchanting to 100. Brew an Enchanting enhancing potion, use your enhanced Enchanting to enchant more powerful clothes with Alchemy enhancements. Repeat as desired until you can create the ultimate of Smithing enhanced enchanted clothing and Smithing enhanced potions. Upgrade weapons using both and you can have a dagger that does 300+ damage. CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'VE BROKEN THE GAME!

Sure this is fun and incredibly clever, but it also takes away the challenge of the game for me. I find more satisfaction in seeing AUUAUAUGHGHUAUGH smash his hammer of might onto the head of a degenerate thief by using his own legit skill and strength, not through an exploit. Before I knew it I was level 37 and a rival to Thor. And I haven't even done most of the main quest! This is seriously ALL based on side quests and random exploration. I didn't want to experience the full depth of the storyline until I had a firm grasp of this game. Yes people, it's that intense and involved!
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