Lost Weekend

So yeah, I played Skyrim over the weekend. And some other game, but I’m not allowed to talk about that one. Suffice to say that if I had to give it a rating right now, as a knee-jerk reaction to seven hours played, I’d rate it about an [redacted]/10 with points docked for [redacted] and [redacted]. But the [redacted] still might be enough to make me devote a serious chunk of time to it someday — assuming I’ve got my fill of Skyrim by Dec. 20, which is no guarantee.

(I actually wrote that paragraph with real information but decided I’d rather not risk the wrath of the NDA gods.)

So, where to start? Oh yes, it looks gorgeous, and my new GTX 560 lets me play on “High” settings. During the opening cart ride I swung my camera around to take in the majestic Nordic landscape and jaw-dropping scenery. Maybe it’s because I’m from Minnesota, but I’ve always loved “snow” zones in games: Forochel in LOTRO, Iron Pine Peak in Rift, even the northern area around Bruma in Oblivion. Having an entire game set in such a beautiful wintry woodland setting is enough to give me a geekrection the size of a stone giant. I know some people have complained about the faces in the game, but I don’t have a problem with them. They’re “dirtier” than what you see in most MMOs, and considering that most of the people you talk to are peasants or soldiers, I’m OK with that.

On to gameplay… if you played Fallout 3, you’ll feel right at home, more so than if your last Bethesda game was Oblivion. No, the dark elves don’t get machine guns (though that would be cool), but the general look, feel, and even some gameplay elements, like lockpicking, remind me considerably of Fallout 3. That’s a good thing, too, because as great as Oblivion was, Fallout 3, from a technical and, in many ways, gameplay, standpoint, was a better, more refined game. The biggest difference I noticed? They toned down the bust sizes from Fallout 3, where every woman seemed to have a D-cup. Even the old ladies and the mutants. Which was hot and creepy at the same time. I guess after the apocalypse, cockroaches and padded bras survive.

The additions to crafting are superb. You can create potions and enchant items, as before, but I love the new cooking and smithing options. I’ve made and enhanced a few items for my khajiit thief, but I’m almost wishing I’d rolled an orc or wizard — some other character who was more likely to want to exploit crafting. I’m spending nearly all my  advancement perks on stealth skills, so my smithing and alchemy are still rather limited. Still, I’m enjoying creating food — more so than in real life — but I wish my culinary expertise was rewarded with points in some skill, like my smithing and alchemy achievements are.

That’s another mild beef I have playing as a khajiit, who gets a bonus in unarmed combat. Unfortunately, unarmed doesn’t count toward advancement of any skill, not even one-handed combat. As such, I find myself using blades, even if they’re slightly less effective than my unarmed attacks, because I want to be a better fighter in the long run. Hopefully they’ll fix this, oh, in The Elder Scrolls VI. I’m already looking forward to it.

These are minor gripes, though. I’ve played for 23 hours and have only reached the second major town. Previous Elder Scrolls games are legendary for having a lot to do, but there’s so much in Skyrim I almost feel overwhelmed. My quest log is overflowing and I’m only level 15 — and did I mention I’ve only explored about 20% of the world so far? In Morrowind and Oblivion, you tended to be “ready” for the endgame around level 30, but I don’t see that being the case here. It’s probably because all skill increases advance your level progression (there are no classes any more — again, similar to Fallout 3), so even my thief’s random progression in non-thiefy skills contribute to my level, even though they don’t really contribute to my ability. I guess that means I’ll just have to play longer. Oh well, I wasn’t planning to go anywhere for Thanksgiving anyway.

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