Painted Dog Games Revue: Skyrim

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Game Reviews
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There are immersive environments and then there’s Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I can safely say this is the first game where I’ve made a point of exploring all the things I can put in my mouth.** This is a wonderful immersive game and I would say it is the game to pick up this holiday season (for those of you who aren’t among the seven million who picked the game up this weekend.)

DOVAKHIIN!In many ways it is your typical modern RPG. Go to this spot and kill those guys, bring this package to that person, bring me the head of my enemy – that sort of thing. Boost your stats, craft your items, and cast your spells. This is done very well. But what makes the game truly worth owning is the constant sense of amazement and realism. There’s always something over the (gorgeous, lush) horizon.

The best compliment I can give the game is to say that it is very well thought out. At the beginning of the game you are given the choice to escape a dragon attack with a soldier of the Empire (the same empire that just tried to execute me) or a soldier of the rebellious Stormcloaks. Long experience with games has taught me to instinctively side with the rebellion. The fact that the Empire just tried to have me decapitated helped too. So I continue along my adventure and finally make my way to join forces with the Stormcloaks. As I enter the city I quickly discover that the Stormcloaks want  Skyrim for the Nords and some even prize themselves on not being accepted. Suddenly the conversations I’ve had with Redguard citizens and Breton shopkeepers who expected me to be surprised or even hostile that they were in Skyrim.

Okay, fine. So I start a new character and escape with the Imperial soldier. Nothing wrong with being a soldier for law and order, right? Not even halfway through our escape from the dragon we run the the imperial torture chamber and the soldier escorting me says “It’s disgusting that we need these.” Ack! Who are the good guys here? The answer, of course, is that everyone has a little something unsavory about them.

The game doesn’t subvert fantasy tropes, but it does make them more dimensional. Reading some other people’s experience shows just how much there is to this game if you stop and observe and experience rather than just hack and slash your way through everything.

My favorite mechanic in the game has to be the leveling system though. Rather than choosing your class and how you intend to do your adventuring off the bat, you gain more skill in the techniques you use the most. At each level you gain a skill point to put in any talent tree you like. The results suprised me. Generally I prefer to play a robust, sword swinging thug. But given free range to move through the world how I will and the ability to level up whatever I find the most useful, I find I have become a sniper. I move silently through the shadows and take out my bewildered enemies before they even know I’m there. At no point am I wasting a skill point just to get to something I want in a talent tree. At no point do I feel stuck because I need to hit another level to strengthen a skill I use frequently. The more I use a skill, the stronger it gets. It feels very organic and instinctual.

I’m not to fond of the mechanic for mounting and dismounting the horse. I can understand that mounted combat isn’t a thing (it would take a lot more programming and animation for one). But it seems to me that unsheathing my weapons should automatically dismount me and prepare me for combat. It’s a minor quibble, but it does interupt the flow when you have to go from exploration into battle.

Still, the game is more than worth the $60 or so dollars to buy it new. There’s ample sidequests, plenty of distractions, and the main questline seems to very robust as well. There’s also an immense replayability (contracting vampirism would definitely be worth its own playthtough.) And the graphics are gorgeous.

Skyrim aurora

This is a screen shot of actual gameplay.

** So far I’ve got – torchbug thorax, butterfly wings, moths, several kinds of flower, dog meat, mushrooms, roots, dragonflies, fish scales, ice wraith fangs, sabrecat claws, and all manner of foodstuffs.

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