Well, Skyrim is out, and everyone has already overused the whole "I was gonna do such and such today, but Skyrim is taking over my life" shtick to its bludgeoning point to the point that it's officially unfunny anymore. To give you guys some backstory, I wasn't the biggest fan of Oblivion. I couldn't get into it for some reason. It might've been the dated graphics, the fact that there were clearly only 6 voice actors in the game, the fact that I simply just don't give a damn about fantasy in general,the repetitive, easy-as-piss combat.
I went back to it for a second chance, and I was definitely able to get more into it a second time if you really get into the quest and soak in on how massive the scope is, but it all paled in comparison to what I thought was a superior Bethesda RPG: Fallout 3. Fallout 3 had a few of the same problems Oblivion had, but it was so easy to get lost into its wasteland, and the VATS slow-motion kills managed to never get old, and you really had a feel that each thing you did impacted the world around you.
So Skyrim was announced last year during the VGAs, and while I was definitely excited for it, I wasn't as pumped as the rest of the community. Oh sure, I thought all the new mechanics they announced were major improvements over Oblivion, and I loved the demos I saw, but I was unsure whether it would suck me in the same way Fallout 3 did.
So after playing the game religiously for two days straight, I'm confident in saying that Skyrim outdoes every single game Bethesda has ever made. This is to Bethesda, what The Tree of Life was to Terrence Malick this year: Their entire careers have been building up to this point, and now that they're here, I'm proud to say that, as of now, Skyrim is my GOTY. Hands down.
Rather than going into a full review (It's impossible to review a game this massive only a couple days after release), I'm going to describe some of the things that happened in my time with Skyrim.
So, I knew from the get-go that I wanted to be a stealthy Khajiit Thief/Archer for a couple reasons. 1.) I find anthropomorphic animal designs cool when they're not made by yiff-ers, 2.) being stealthy and taking your time with your sneak attacks is much more satisfying than going in
The game begins with you, in typical Elder Scrolls fashion, being a prisoner, only with a slight twist. Whereas the intro in Oblivion was very representative of the game as a whole, Skyrim's introduction isn't the best representation of what the game would be like since it's so heavily scripted, and the game's best moments are always improvised or created by the player.
Once the world does open up, however, it captures how I felt when I stepped out of the Vault in Fallout 3 where it seemed like the possibilities were limited only to your imagination and the game's code, and you were free to roam around in your little playground and do whatever you wanted to do and be whoever you wanted to be. And this game does that better than any other Bethesda game to date.
For starters, the graphics are actually good this time around. Nothing's really that wrong with Fallout 3 (Though Oblivion certainly has its graphical hiccups), but the animations were awkward, the environments in both games had a tendency of being repetitive, conversations with other NPCs put you in that awkward zoomed-in uncanny-valley talk that was always creepy, etc., etc. This game, however, is insanely detailed. While Oblivion felt like a very generic fantasy setting, Skyrim actually has a personality and atmosphere to it that sets it apart. Everything from the mist rolling from rivers, to the butterflies that you are able to catch and use as alchemy ingredients, are all filled with the utmost attention to detail, and really instill a sense of wonder in your brain holes.
One of my main problems with Oblivion was that for a game that really wanted to immerse you in its world, it was one of the least immersive games ever made. Fallout 3 was better at immersing you, but still had a lot of game-breaking bugs and glitches on release. Skyrim, of course, has the occasional bug or glitch, but none of them have ever been game-breaking yet. And the game is so good at immersing the player through mood and atmosphere and that sense of wonder and possibility that the minor glitches are forgivable, making for Bethesda's first truly immersive experience.
Happening on the nearest village, I was given a quest (Which you've all seen in the demo) to catch a thief and retrieve a golden claw for a merchant. Upon doing this, I accidentally stumble upon a dragonstone that teaches me some mythical word. After that strange experience, I give the claw back, make my way to Whiterun to advance the main quest, whereupon I'm at odds with a traditional fire-breathing dragon. While the dragons have been heavily touted in the game's marketing, this battle was piss-easy thanks to numerous distractions from the other soldiers, all dying for me while I focused all my arrows at the hulking, scaly beast.
Upon killing it, I'm given the power to "shout", and use the dragon language as a power, which is beyond satisfying to use, even though the power itself is very basic.
So, now that I have my shouts, I take a carriage ride to Riften in order to join the thieve's guild, make a crapload of money stealing and fencing other people's things, get some awesome specialty thieve's guild armor, light enough for sneaking but strong enough for fights, etc. I soon get a hang of how flexible Bethesda has made the leveling system, and my thief becomes a hybrid of the typical thief abilities like archery, sneak, lock-picking, and pick-pocketing; but added into the mix is an emphasis on one-handed weapons, and destruction magic. This is truly a game that lets you play the way you want to play.
One of the thieve's guild jobs I get requires me to go to a city named Markarth. At first, it seems like I'm just going to be doing just another heist mission, but as soon as I enter the city walls, I realize things are going to be much different than expected.
I'm going to start spoiling some cool shit that's better experienced when discovered by yourself, so before I describe my experiences in Markarth, I'd advise anyone who's reading this and owns the game to go and visit it as soon as possible, and you will be treated to an interesting sight the second you walk in.
So here's a detailed account of what happened at Markarth...
The first time you enter Markarth, you witness a man randomly stabbing a woman by a jewlery vendor, and then running away babbling about "The Forsworn". Then, a mysterious man gives you a note to meet at the Shrine of Talos where he tells you there's a conspiracy. On my way to the Shrine, I overhear this guy saying that someone has been performing Daedric magic in a house, and he saw nobody leaving it. When one of the citizens refuses to investigate the crime scene with him, I decide to go with him.
At first, it seems simple enough, until all of a sudden, everything gets all Poltergeist, all the furniture, pots, pans, potion vials, etc. are flying at me trying to attack the two of us, and a ghost forces me to kill the man I was investigating with. I'm then led to a shrine that imprisons me in a cage, where some Daedric being orders me to find a priest to finish a ritual of some sort. I decide to put that on hold to investigate the Forsworn Conspiracy quest.
When I'm finally allowed to exit the Paranormal Activity house, I go to the shrine, back to my initial objective, where I'm told that the Forsworn conspiracy starts. Investigating clues behind the murderer and the victim, I'm led into a treasury house where a man who knows something about the victim is eating in his room, when all of a sudden, everyone inside is freakin' possessed (or they were part of the Forsworn the whole time) and begins attacking all of us.
After fending myself, I get to the information about the killer, who might have been possessed as well, in which I'm led to an elderly man's house named Nespos. Talking with Nespos and saying that I know all about his plan to bring back the Forsworn, he tells me that everyone inside the house is actually a Forsworn member, and the second I end the conversation they're all going to kill me.
After fending them all off, I go back to the guy to tell him what I learned, when it turns out the guards are in on the whole conspiracy (Paid plentifully by the leader of the Forsworn), and I can either a.) fight the guards or b.) quietly get thrown into prison. Seeing how my health potions and healing items and such were all completely buttfucked by the previous encounters I had, it was either get into prison and find a way to escape later, or die.
So, I'm in prison, and a completely new questline is given to me in which I have to conspire with all the other prisoners for an escape plan. Part of this plan is trading Skooma for a shiv, killing off one of the labor prisoners who's not of use to the head-honcho anymore, etc. Now, the plan is in motion.
And these are all just the side quests.
Even the god damn side quests are given variety and personality. You can really feel Bethesda putting their all into this game, pulling no punches and going all out with their potential, and it doesn't disappoint. At the time of this writing, I'm still stuck in the prison and ready to execute the escape plan, but even though I've probably done about 30 quests or possibly even more, I still have about 30 more still waiting to be completed. The amount of content in this game is mind-numbingly huge.
All in all, I'm just completely in love with the game, I can see myself spending years playing it and still not seeing everything the game has to offer, and don't even get started on DLC. It's a massive game that deserves all the praise it's getting, and it is now my new addiction. If you start seeing a slump in my grades this school year, it'll probably strongly correlate with the amount of time I spend with this game.
That is all.
See ya next time. Now if you'll excuse me, FUS RO DAH.