Tags: Elder Scrolls, rpg, skyrim, video game
I finally got around to doing the main story in Skyrim and although I have thoroughly and unabashedly enjoyed this game, it was a little underwhelming.
I played through much of the game on adept difficulty, turning it to expert a couple of weeks ago. After reaching level 50 much of the game becomes quite easy and this didn’t change when I upped the challenge. Expert was a barely discernible change from adept.
The end too wasn’t particularly different or awe inspiring. The last fight is simply a repetition of something I ended up doing through the majority of the game. I was hoping for something new and exciting. At least it wasn’t like the end of Fallout 3.
Aside from that though I thought it might be interesting to go over some of the statistics Skyrim keeps track of.
For instance I spent 328 days as a werewolf. Mostly because I was too lazy to go get the cure. Once I became infected with Sanguinare Vampiris I decided enough was enough and only spent 2 days as a night walker.
I discovered 344 locations and cleared 168 dungeons. Or at least, that’s how many I discovered and cleared before I got bored and stopped playing. I’m sure there are more to find but I’m pretty burnt out.
I found over 520k gold, and by the time I had saved the world I had about 170k on my person. I looted around 1900 chests, but god knows how many urns I looked inside of.
I read 361 books in Skyrim. Yes there are that many. Some of them quite long, though I never found anything but volume one of A Dance In Fire, nor many volumes of The Argonian Account. My two favourite short stories. 87 of those books were skill books.
I ate 884 pieces of food. Though I wish there were more recipes and the lack of worthy things to cook certainly puts me off. Perhaps cooking could be incorporated with alchemy in a future game, or somehow made more worthwhile. As it stands I won’t bother with it in the future.
My quests are so bugged that even the statistics are bugged. It says I’ve completed -4 Thieves Guild quests. Minus four. It says I’ve completed 26 Dark Brotherhood quests, but 8 companion quests, and 9 college. Surely there is too much weight being put upon some quest chains over others. And 341 misc objectives? Surely not. Surely.
I am a monster.
I killed 1400 people, almost a thousand sneak attacks, and 500 stabbed in the back. 700 innocent animals lost their lives to me. Although I did kill nearly 750 undead and 350 creatures, that does not absolve me. Also I plucked the wings off 50 insects.
I used over a thousand potions, mostly stolen. It’s too bad that with all those potions I never think to use them before I get into trouble, an ounce of prevention and all that.
I’m probably most proud of my crime statistics though. I mean, I am a one man walking crime tsunami.
I was jailed twice and escaped once, spending a total of 0 days in jail. I mean if you’re good, you learn not to get caught right? And if you get caught, you learn not to stay caught.
These statistics seem like they would have to be pretty inaccurate most of the time. I’m not much of a pickpocketer, having only picked 56 pockets, but somehow I grabbed over 700 items from those pockets.
I picked over 500 locks, stole over 1000 items, murdered 32 people and assaulted 51. I trespassed 53 times and and stole 7 horses.
But I’m not all bad right? Bunnies slaughtered: Zero.
Tags: Elder Scrolls, games, rpg, skyrim
Skyrim is a fantastic game capable of sustaining hundreds of hours of content. After playing 200 hours of it though I have a couple of complaints.
The lighting. What the hell. I can’t tell you how often I change my camera view and suddenly become blinded by the shifting subtleties of light and darkness. It throws my eyeballs for a loop. Every time it happens I have to wait for my pupils to readjust to what I’m looking at. It’s frustrating.
Maybe it’s my graphics settings or some technical problem but I’ve tried a few different things and nothing has worked. A lot of things in Skyrim are strangely lit if you ask me, and I don’t find it pleasant.
My next problem will come as no surprise to anyone. The user interface. What a piece of crap this is. How much money did they spend on this truly fantastic game and then they end up hiring some amateurs to do the UI? I don’t even know where to start.
Wasted space on the screen for one. Or menus that need to be scrolled to when they could just be front and center on screen at all times. If you’re carrying 200 pounds of goods, you’ve got a lot of items to scroll through, why isn’t there an easier way of finding stuff? It’s clearly designed to work for consoles but I wonder how much money PC gamers put into Bathesdas coffers and all we get is this tragedy of game design.
A lot of people will tell you the mod community will take care of it, but I don’t use mods, and frankly I shouldn’t have to. I paid fifty bucks for one of the best games on the planet right now, it should have a workable interface.
Bugs. I have 8 miscellaneous quests left to complete and they’re all bugs. I have about 30 pounds of quest item weight to carry around and it’s all from bugs. This is actually pretty typical of a Bathesda game but considering it’s the same thing in every Bathesda game you’d think they’d get a better handle on it.
I’m still not getting souls from some dragons. This has been a bit of a pain in unlocking some of the shouts. I guess this falls under the ‘bugs’ category but as it’s a major part of the game I felt it required further examination.
And really that is it for me. It’s a wonderful game. I know some people would like me to be outraged that they have reduced the RPG elements to bare bones, and made everything easier and less traditional but considering the amount of fun I’ve had I can’t get on board with that. This game is just too much fun.
Tags: Oblivion, rpg, skyrim, video game
I come over the hill to Winterhold. How anybody could live in a constant snowstorm is beyond me. Oh wait, I live in Canada. Nevermind. Winterhold at first glance is less impressive than other cities. Immediately I notice several abandoned and ruined homesteads as I do some recon. And then I hear a familiar sound coming from the skies.
Just another day in Skyrim.
The dragon kills two guards before I can even get it to land on the ground. Once down I make short work of it. My ebony war axe is exquisite and does cold damage. Nothing like dealing death with something you’ve made yourself.
The first thing I do in any town or village is talk to every single person. I don’t care if it’s a child, a servant, or the Jarl, I’m looking for work and will take it where I can find it.
I’m in town on a number of jobs. I have to pick up an item for Riften’s court wizard, talk to a contact about translating an old journal, and I’m interested in joining the Mages College. Before I leave the village for the college I have collected yet more things to do.
I wander up to the college and repeat. Talking to every single man and mer, entering every room, and cautiously avoiding any area that looks like it may become interesting later on. The Midden suspiciously qualifies as one such area, so I look through my to-do list and pick out a random activity.
Because I’m incredibly anal and travel on foot (not horse since you sometimes miss interesting things from horseback) to locations that are generally on the way to my destination, I’ve already visited the spot in question and quickly make my way there.
I do a quick reconnaissance before entering a dungeon, every time, and then while inside, look over almost every burial urn, body, and chest. One reason they say I have the Golden Touch.
I switch between axe and bow, but I’m always sneaking. This is the first skill I completely master in Skyrim, but it won’t be the last.
The details of the dungeon don’t really matter. At some point I’ve avoided traps and tripped others. I’ve made child’s play of one enemy while another with the exact same skills nearly kills me. I’ve discovered one hidden door or chest and probably missed others. The final boss is either challenging or a walk in the park.
By the time I leave I am carrying at least 100 pounds of loot.
It’s fascinating to me that even though I keep to a personal rule of thumb (I only pick up things that are worth more than 10x what they weigh) I still get overloaded pretty quickly. Probably because I pick up too many weapons and armour, but if I don’t have anything to sell to the blacksmiths I won’t make much money and we come back to that whole anal thing.
This means that every two dungeons I have to return to town to visit various shopkeepers. At each shopkeeper I have to first purchase things, because by the time I’ve sold them all my stuff, they’re going to be broke. It ends up being a near zero sum game but it keeps me supplied and there is a reason my speechcraft is so high when I don’t work on it outside selling things.
It’s all incredibly pointless but fun to me.
There are of course the things I intend to keep as well. I stop off at home and drop those off in their respective chests. Each chest is organized in a way that probably only makes sense to me.
I have a chest for books and keys. The bookcases provided fill up quite quickly. I could sell the books of course but sometimes I want to read them later and sometimes they only make sense to hang on to since as a professional thief for instance I should hang on to tomes about sneaking.
In Oblivion I preferred the small squat shack outside the Imperial City because it was centrally located and easy to get to. In Skyrim Breezehome is very near the gates to Whiterun and easily purchased. I put my alchemy agents, potions, smithing ingredients, and soul stones in the first cabinet on the left.
I then proceed to the back where I shove armour and weapons. I usually hang on to anything with a rare enchantment that might be useful in a rare situation. Bracers of pickpocketing for instance, since pickpocketing for me isn’t a priority they might be useful if a situation calls for it.
After I’ve lightened my load of any and all extraneous weight, I start looking at my next quests. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Tags: Elder Scrolls, fantasy, games, rpg, video game
It’s the little things in Skyrim that make it special. That make all Bathesda type games sepcial. They’ve created the illusion of their own functioning world, and all the hiccups that come with that.
I was sneaking around a tower of a keep. This keep stretched from one tower to another across a river for no discernible reason. I had lured the guards away, killed them outside the range of their friends and snuck inside. Immediately I found a chest, and crouched my way over to open it. Opening it set off a trap I hadn’t noticed but because I was hunched over, the falling mace swung over my head and into the wall. I was surprised but unharmed.
And that’s exactly the type of thing I love to find in Skyrim.
Another example might be what I found while wandering around in the wilderness. I was somewhere near Swindler’s Den, due south, and lovingly lost when I came across some rocks sticking out of the ground. These weren’t on my map, but looked to be a ruin of some type. I approached and discovered a mini-puzzle. A small well-like structure with a gate over it was protecting a treasure chest. Nearby 3 stones with 3 sides stood by, and a 4th stone with an activation device. Turn the stones so that they faced the right direction in the right combination and the gate would open. Fun.
Not a quest, not an important part of the game or even marked on the map. Just a fun thing to do.
I was reading my friend Heatha’s blog and noticed she seems to play the game in a similar manner. She leaves all the primary quests until the very end, taking great note of the books, and paying attention to the details. I too read a lot of the books, but not all, and discovered the same book she takes note of. A choose your own adventure style book. In Skyrim. Awesome.
Unlike Heatha I’ll do some of the main quests to get rolling and then stop midway. Already I’m reaping the benefits of this with learning a new and interesting shout. I’ve got 3 now and I’m still learning to use them in combat.
It’s the idiosyncrasies of the world Bathesda makes. I can discover a person in distress, tell them the way is clear to escape, and if I’m lying, or wrong, they’ll run off to their doom. I can loot their body after they’ve been killed or just murder them myself. Or I can leave them there or by the light of my own altruism truly clear the way for them allowing them to escape.
Skyrim. It’s what most MMOs want to be. An alive experience where anything can happen. I can kill a dragon one day and be taken out by a sabercat the next. It’s just too bad I can’t do this with friends.
Tags: games, portal, video game
Yes. I have played Portal 2 too! It was fun.
I think the most improved aspect even when the first Portal was a triumph, a huge success, was the writing. The original Portal was snappy, funny, interesting, and tightly written. Portal 2 is no slouch in this area and turned up the dial to 11. There are few game franchises that can claim to be truly funny, and this is one of them.
That said one of the few problems with Portal 2 I had was that it sort of drags on at some point. The tests after recovering from the big fall just got excessive. I was getting tired of it. I think perhaps there were too many puzzles of a similar type.
Then again maybe I was just blasting through the game too fast, and taken in smaller doses I wouldn’t have had any thoughts about it dragging on.
The new mechanics certainly make things all that much more interesting, and keep the game fresh for much longer than just a rehashed Portal would have done. I’m glad they didn’t rest on their laurels in this department and certainly the best parts of the game involved Aperture Science’s other inventions. I found them to be simple yet innovative.
All that being said I hope that Portal 3, if there is one, moves beyond test chambers. I think we’ve seen enough of that haven’t we? I don’t think you could tell a compelling story about Chell being stuck in yet another series of death traps.
I haven’t had a chance to check out the multiplayer aspects yet, and maybe I’ll post about that when I do, but I don’t need to check that out to declare how good this game is. It’s a great sequel to a great game and I certainly hope there will be a third.
Tags: Elder Scrolls, fantasy, games, rpg
I’ve been semi following the work of 38 studios for years now. The team of talent behind the copernicus project and Kingdoms of Amalur is impressive. Todd McFarlane, R.A. Salvatore, Ken Rolston of Elder Scrolls fame and others are working on an RPG and an MMO.
At first I salivated at that kind of lineup, but when the first trailers came out for KoA I kind of soured. I wasn’t particularly blown away. It was a let down and my interest definitely took a nose dive. It just looked like a low budget attempt at an RPG.
I still think it looks generic in some ways, if mostly beautiful. However I saw the two trailers released last week and the game slowly started to claw their way back up in estimation.
I don’t think it’s so much that anything has changed, but I’m starting to feel like I’m getting a handle on what the game is going for. My anticipation for the game hasn’t skyrocketed. Right now it’s at a steady even pace where I’m sure I’ll play the game but I’ll probably wait for a sale on steam.
The RPG comes out February 7th apparently. Far sooner than I expected. And hey, Claudia Black.
Tags: bioware, Dragon Age, rpg
I don’t think I have to explain to anyone that a Bioware game is going to be on rails. That you may end up going to some of the same places more than once, and that settings will be reused. Finally I probably don’t need to tell you that despite all this, the game is probably going to look good.
Dragon Age 2 certainly pushes this to the limit. I don’t think any Bioware game that has come before has reused art and locations to this extent. I found it really bordering on my tolerance and I don’t doubt many people felt it exceeded theirs.
Everything seemed to be recycled, but perhaps the problem was that you remain in the same city throughout the game. Divided up by day and night, and occasional trips to the Wounded Coast aside, if Dragon Age 2 has a major fault it is that there is a lack of diverse settings.
At least those settings look good. Say all the negative things you’d like to say, but don’t say they’re ugly, don’t say they’re not well done and don’t try to tell me you didn’t at times appreciate the art.
I wish I could say I’m the type of person who takes screen shots during my play time. I’m not. Thus a lot of interesting things I’d like to show in screenshots after the fact, are unavailable. I can’t go back and show off some of the most interesting things without a bit of work.
With that in mind if you’ve played Dragon Age 2 these screens are likely not for you, but for people who haven’t played it.
Tags: bioware, Dragon Age, rpg
I don’t know what most people say about the combat in Dragon Age 2. I try not to pay attention to it. I do know there is a wide variety of opinions and that they range from good to bad. For me, the combat in Dragon Age 2 is just an evolution of Bioware fights from games past, and in some ways I’m happy with that, and in some ways I’m not.
Spoilers towards the end.
I’ve always been a solid supporter of the ability to pause the combat, think through my options, micro-manage the fight, and insure total domination. A lot of people don’t like this, choosing to play through the fights with their companion AI set up specifically to their tastes. I border on control freak.
Overall I’d say the AI works fine on its own, but in intense fights is not up to par. That’s to be expected, an intense fight means a good challenge. Yet for those who want to let their companions fight for themselves, you’re out of luck.
Particularly if you’re up against one of the best parts of the game, the complex boss fights. For instance there is this really well designed boss in the deep roads, a rock wraith I think it was called. It had the ability to roll around and crush people, send out a cross shaped beam in 4 directions for an extended amount of time, suck people into a vortex towards it as it damaged you, and other abilities. Perhaps one of the most complex bosses I’ve ever fought in a Bioware game.
Yet controlling my companions was quite annoying. They wandered consistently into the cross shaped beam, whether told to hold and stay still or not. They didn’t run away from the vortex, they walked towards it. They consistently stood in the fire.
It was a fun battle once I got the hang of it, and a challenge I enjoyed. There were more bosses like this than I remember being in other Bioware games, they had interesting mechanics or required constant attention. An early boss had a devastating attack that ripped through my characters, until I discovered it was very easy to just dodge it by moving aside. It was a facepalm moment, since I’d lost the first encounter, but it was fun to discover his weakness and take him down.
Unfortunately there is still plenty of the Bioware idea of “just throw more enemies at them”. Every game they make has scenarios where the challenge isn’t about difficulty but about the number of enemies you face. Sure it can be hard to take on 30 criminals instead of 15, or 6 waves of bad guys instead of 5, but there is something too monotonous and too lazy about it. The complex bosses means they’re thinking about it, and improving, but they’re still a little far and few between.
I thought one thing they tried out for Dragon Age 2 was amazing. In origins they tried to make small moments more iconic. When you kill an ogre, you jump on its face and stab his head, when you kill the Archdemon you get yourself a nice little end animation. In Dragon Age 2 it seems to be more about iconic fights as a whole. Whether you’re dueling the Arishok or taking on Orsino, or the dragon in the bone pits. They all seem like they’re designed to be different, and bigger than life. Real old school epic battles.
In particular I can’t compliment the final battle enough. Truly surprising elements, some iconic imagery, a great villain. I couldn’t ask for more. The combat in Dragon Age 2 is an improvement on Dragon Age: Origins, that I can say with confidence. It is fun, where Origins could often be too structured or too stiff.
I think I’ll go over the story a bit in my next post.
Tags: bioware, Dragon Age, rpg
I’ve been having a lot of fun playing through Dragon Age 2. I’m a bit of a completionist so I tend to play through every single quest, no matter how ridiculously small. This means I’ve been neglecting every other game I’m remotely interested in.
Anyway I thought I’d take the time out to focus on some of the companions. There may be spoilers ahead.
I love, love, love Merrill. She’s the cutest, most adorable companion in the game. She’s played by Eve Myles, who also plays Gwen Cooper in Torchwood, a Doctor Who spin-off. I could probably rant a little about Torchwood, suffice it to say I like it but it’s no DW. In any case she makes a wonderful Merrill.
She’s constantly making quirky remarks, asking naive questions, making cutesy jokes and giving off a slightly sad vibe. She’s lonely among the elves of the alienage and doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere.
After I’ve bedded her, there is a looming sense of unhappiness. I think the endgame with her is a bit telegraphed, but it is one of the best storylines in the game. It’s all too predictable (and I haven’t finished it so maybe it isn’t) but all the best tragedies are. I suppose that is inevitable, Dragon Age 2 is not turning out to be Happy Fun Magic Time.
I’m not a big fan of Aveline. You can’t romance her at all, which is fine, but her storyline is pretty uninteresting. You help her become guard captain, and then she becomes the comic relief. She doesn’t know how to romance Donnic, and when you try to flirt with her, it goes right over her head. While that is pretty funny, it isn’t exactly engrossing.
Fenris is a jerk. How dare you talk that way to my Merill! I would say, if these people were real, and Merrill was my betty. Good voice acting, but a substandard storyline and he is a constant negative nancy. I’ve always held sympathy for mages in Dragon Age and Fenris isn’t having any of it.
I’m not really impressed with the fugitive slave vs slave master storyline here. It just feels done to death and not very compelling. There is no moral ambiguity here either. Should I side with the evil slave owner or the righteous slave fugitive? Hmmm difficult question.
Bethany. I’m kind of pissed about the Bethany storyline. I realize that many people get Carver, I’m not sure if that is a sex choice, or determined by something else, but I got Bethany and invested a whole lot in her. I brought her everywhere with me, she was the best sister I ever had. Then she dies before Act 2. It’s like a big void in the character selection screen for the rest of the game. Cleverly done by Bioware. Making you remember you lost your own sister for the rest of the game. Bethany was my best damage dealer, then she was gone.
A bit spoiled by Leandra making a big deal out of not taking Bethany with you as well.
I don’t think I could be more bored with either Anders or Sebastian. There is something so damn gentle about Anders you have to wonder how he can go out and kill stuff. I guess that could be one way to pull in the ladies, but for me it makes his character less bad ass darkspawn killer, more gooey pile of angst.
I didn’t play Awakening, but was expecting to miss out on all kinds of references from his presence there. I haven’t really noticed much, but I assume his kitten fascination isn’t new.
I suppose he isn’t so bad when he’s not obsessively whining about the plight of mages.
That mood swing towards the end of Act 3 is pretty crazy. Again I haven’t finished his storyline but either he’s deceitfully tricking me, or he went from one end of the spectrum with Justice/Vengeance to the absolute other.
Sebastian has a pretty rote storyline. Outcast son wants to take back his kingdom. The only difference here being that he can’t quite make up his mind. For some reason I’m being asked to push this guy in one direction or another, but I definitely do not feel qualified or interested.
Which brings me to my two favourite buddies. As with Merrill, I did not remember Isabella from Dragon Age: Origins until I was reminded. In particular I find Merrill hard to recall, a buxom pirate chick that wants to duel you in a bar is much easier to remember.
I suppose I shouldn’t even get started on the buxom problem. What exactly do Bethany and Isabella have strapped to their chests, life preservers?
Isabella is a treat though. In all her interactions with the other companions, her conversations with the player character, whatever is going on, she is entertaining. I thought it was a great touch that whenever I attempted to go to see the Qunari, she immediately left the party. A great clue to later story elements.
In fact I think one of the best points in the game is when she abandons you. I actually got momentarily angry. There was a feeling of loss, or at least as close you can get to it while playing a video game. I know when I audibly exclaim “What the F” I’m either really enjoying a game or really frustrated by it.
Probably the best voice work in the game comes from Brian Bloom. I’d say that just about the entire game has some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard, but Varric comes alive with Bloom.
There are a lot of stories in Dragon Age involving family and losing those family members. Hawke may have it the worst certainly, but Varric, Fenris, Sebastian, Aveline, and even Merrill in a way, all suffer from it. For me Varrics loss resonates the most. He lost his brother twice, when he was betrayed by him, and later when his mind was ruined by the artefact. Something Hawke can easily identify with.
He’s a smooth talker too. Which he had to be for the overall story arch. The game is a story Varric is telling the Seeker. If you’re going to hang your hat on that you need a quality actor and a great character.
I suppose what really makes me like Varric though is that he is clever, imaginative, funny, talented and has a soft spot for inanimate objects like Bianca.
On the whole I think some of the friendship options could have been more clear. At times it was like playing roulette. I never knew which choice would disappoint which character. Sure Fenris and Anders are easy enough to read, but Varric, Isabella and even Aveline were never a sure thing. Things I chose to please Merrill turned out to have no effect, and things I thought had nothing to do with Isabella had everything to do with her.
Once again though, a Bioware game drew me in. I’m fully enraptured by their Japanese dating sim. I have a few thoughts on combat, not to mention itemization, art, settings, and quests, but for now I’m content to have just gushed about Merrill, Varric and Isabella. Pirate chicks for the win, am I right?
Tags: Dragon Age, rpg
I like Dragon Age 2, I really do. The story is getting good. The more companions you pull in, the more the game feels alive. And for what it’s worth, I don’t mind not being able to jump. I don’t mind that the explorable areas are so closed off, existing only for the scene that you as the player are meant to witness.
On the other hand, I think I would be a bad blogger if I didn’t at least question these choices. How much better would a Bioware game be if they had the open environments of Oblivion. How much better would it be if we could jump or explore or find tiny additions to the game that not everyone is meant to find?
In Dragon Age 2 you trip over every single little detail. It’s placed in your path so that you can’t avoid it. This isn’t a criticism as much as an observation, but Bioware treats its players more like viewers at times, than interactive subjects.
Don’t get me wrong, this leads to some pretty amazing stories. The characters are detailed, the dialogue so exquisitely written, the voice work superb, every shot of you talking with characters is designed and orchestrated. The cinematic experience of a Bioware game is rarely topped by other studios.
Yet I can’t decide if they’re moving in the right or wrong direction.
Part of me thinks, that although I enjoy their games immensely, they should be moving towards more open worlds, not away from them. They should be including more and more intricate quests, instead of these ridiculously straight-forward “find random object, return to owner” quests I’m encountering in DA2.
Instead with the sales of Mass Effect 2, which simplified and streamlined RPGs to great (it really was a terrific game and my favourite of 2010) success, I see them moving away from RPGs into something else. I get the impression that what they really want is to be in movies. Take this direction much further and we’ll be watching games, not playing them.
I guess what I’m getting at is that Bioware seem intent on limiting themselves, while most people who play games are intent on freeing themselves from their limitations.
Also that Bioware risks painting themselves into a corner by making all their games so similar.
Not to mention that, although it’s probably easier to tell a story around a defined character like Shepard or Hawke, along with it being easier to market Shepard or Hawke than the specific character you created, I’m not sure they’re improving the game itself by making the change to Dragon Age.
If Bioware continues to entertain me, I’ll be happy. That’s the most important thing. Certainly Star Wars: The Old Republic has the potential to fly in the face of everything I’ve just said.
I have to wonder of course. Would Dragon Age 2 be better with a more interesting item system? Would more interesting quests take this game to the next level? What would a Bioware game be like if I could jump, swim, and scale mountains? Maybe it wouldn’t be a Bioware game any more.