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Dead End Thrills does Skyrim
November 21, 2011 10:41 AM   Subscribe


 
Wandering through the wilderness in this game is like exploring an endless Bob Ross painting, in the best way.
posted by naju at 10:51 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Time lapse of Skyrim's day-night/weather cycles. (Spoilers for certain locations, but not characters/events at those locations.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:52 AM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Man, I wish I was playing this on a PC as opposed to my crappy old PS2.
posted by doublesix at 11:02 AM on November 21, 2011


I know Sony still sells PS2s but I would be super impressed if they ran Skyrim.
posted by kmz at 11:03 AM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's such a shame turning up UGridsToLoad (the setting that - among a lot of crazy tweaks - this guy uses to get such gorgeous images; it makes the game draw more distant 'cells' of landscape at full detail rather than dropping down to low-detail and then sprite trees, simple water etc) does terrible things to the framerate (as well as locking saves to the UGrids setting you last used, which is fixable but irritating). Stock Skyrim is astonishingly pretty most of the time, but I can't help looking forward to replaying it in a few years' time with everything turned up to 11.
posted by emmtee at 11:04 AM on November 21, 2011


Doh! PS3.
posted by doublesix at 11:05 AM on November 21, 2011


The Dead End Thrills site frequently goes down because of some kind of awful bandwidth limitation. You're better off clicking the second "does Skyrim" Flickr link.

Also, I had really high hopes for Skyrim after Morrowind, Oblivion, and Fallout 3. I spent a good number of hours this weekend playing and have to say that any expectations I had now seem kind of silly, like I wasn't wishing hard enough or giving Bethesda enough credit. I would have been satisfied with just another Oblivion.

Skyrim is at turns thrilling and utterly sublime. Its as fully a realized world as I've ever seen in a video game. I'm utterly impressed at the work that went in to it, enough to forgive the more than occasional bugginess and horrible UI in the PC version. It is the best video game I've played in a long time, perhaps ever.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:10 AM on November 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


Totally agreeing with eyeballkid. I haven't fallen into a videogame like this in 20 years, and this is a lot better than Bards Tale, which was the last one. Mrs. Bellman is not happy, but I just can't stop playing. And by playing, I mean wandering around wondering what's going to be around the next bend. I've never liked sandbox games much -- I like a little direction so I tend to quit after a few quests -- but in Skyrim I don't care. The world is just that beautiful and the experience is just that good. Even on my Bootcamp'd iMac.
posted by The Bellman at 11:17 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just wrote a long piece on G+ about how much more I like Skyrim. Suffice to say: Oblivion and Morrowind made me incredibly angry, Skyrim makes me incredibly happy.
posted by Errant at 11:20 AM on November 21, 2011


It really is beautiful (even on xbox). I think only Eve Online has made me stop in the middle of pursuing some goal and go "wow", and Skyrim has this effect regularly (sometimes to my detriment, as those bandits/wolves/skeevers run up to bloody the slack-jawed tourist).

At one point last night, I stopped on this gorgeous moonlit ridge and thought "This is almost perfect". Then realized what was missing and cast conjure familiar. My spectral wolf then obliged by howling at the moon. I like a bit of ridiculous in my sublime.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:21 AM on November 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I've played a crazy amount of skyrim since launch, but the quests are still bugging me. Once you start a quest, you can't re-evaluate who you're working for or what you agreed to do, like in morrowind and to a lesser extent oblivion. So if you agree to ( made up example) buy some horse meat from a vendor to give someone, if you find out that the horse meat is actually people, there is rarely any option to say 'no thank you, creepy people.' in the dialogue menu. You are stuck either giving them the flesh of people or just dropping the quest and having it sit there in your journal forever. Maybe it's just my OCD, but that seriously bothers me.

There are some specific quests that are extremely bad for this, but I am not going to spoil them.

I still think it's an amazing game though.
posted by winna at 11:22 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


any youtube recs for people who don't have the ability to play skyrim, but still are dying of curiousity?
posted by Think_Long at 11:24 AM on November 21, 2011


It really is beautiful (even on xbox). I think only Eve Online has made me stop in the middle of pursuing some goal and go "wow", and Skyrim has this effect regularly (sometimes to my detriment, as those bandits/wolves/skeevers run up to bloody the slack-jawed tourist).

The first time I saw the aurora in the game, I walked around starring up until I fell right off what thankfully turned out to be a fairly low cliff.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:25 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


winna: are you intending to do every item in your journal? Once I saw items like "join the imperial army" I knew it wasn't to be taken as mandatory for every character (otherwise kinda forces a boilerplate rpg experience). I take items in my journal as polite reminders/suggestions.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:26 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing that's impressed me with the game is the clouds. When you go to the world map, the weather it shows over your location is what's up in the sky. The rest of the game, well it's pretty much as good as these corpselootin' things get.
posted by Catblack at 11:28 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Skyrim's lovely but if you have a PC then even now there's a bunch of easy tweaks you can do to make it look better and play more smoothly.

A big one is actually a scaled down version of the Dead End Thrills one - uGrids to 7 is stable and doesn't have a huge framerate hit.

If your shadows are a bit ugly, do not despair - just bump up the shadow map resolution to 2048 or 4096.

If you'd like arrows to act more naturally (so you have to loft them onto your target) then add:

f1PArrowTiltUpAngle=0.7
f3PArrowTiltUpAngle=0.7
posted by Sebmojo at 11:29 AM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


So yesterday afternoon I'm playing Skyrim. I've just finished a dungeon early on in the main storyline (the Get The Horn one the dudes in High Shoutsville give) and I'm overloaded with loot. Overencumbered, I'm waddling down the road to the nearest town where I can sell off just enough swag to 1) be able to run again and 2) afford a house so I can offload some of the stupid heavy dragon bones I'm lugging around.

The controller vibrates. Crap. I hear a roar. Double crap. A dragon soars overhead. Crap crap crap. I immediately crouch and stay very, very still, but for some reason, I'm not hidden. An arrow hits me in the back. Crap on a crap cracker! It's some thugs hired by that snooty prick from the Cloud District I keep accidentally stealing from.

So I stand and run as fast as I can with my own petard hoisted up my butt. I start using that sprint shout to pick up speed, turning to fire back at my pursuers.

All the while, the dragon is winding its way closer and closer. I can see the bridge into the city ahead. I'm guzzling magicka potions and spamming Heal the entire way. Once I'm in the open, the dragon lands and takes care of the thugs. Thanks, Mr. Scaly! It then turns on me. No, Mr. Scaly! Bad boy!

I'm down to a hair-width of health when the city guard runs out of the gates and starts fighting the dragon. I get off a few more potshots, but they pretty much take the sucker down. Everyone cheers and does the awe thing as the dragon's soul is absorbed into my weary, groaning body as I shuffle through the carcass to add a few more heavy bones and scales to my bulging packs.

So awesome.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:30 AM on November 21, 2011 [31 favorites]


You know, he's really a remarkable artist, just as a photographer.
posted by empath at 11:32 AM on November 21, 2011


>So awesome.

I'm surprised you stopped playing long enough to read Metafilter.
posted by Catblack at 11:33 AM on November 21, 2011


The first time I saw the aurora in the game, I walked around starring up until I fell right off what thankfully turned out to be a fairly low cliff.

Ditto. I was a good 8 hours in before I saw one because I'd been abusing quick travel, but yeah auroras are rad.

winna: are you intending to do every item in your journal? Once I saw items like "join the imperial army" I knew it wasn't to be taken as mandatory for every character (otherwise kinda forces a boilerplate rpg experience). I take items in my journal as polite reminders/suggestions.

Also, there are potentially infinite things in your journal.

On a personal note, I got my second dragon soul when a dragon decided to mess with a pack of giants and I was able to saunter up in the aftermath to loot the dragon corpse. The giants in Skyrim are tougher than the dragons which is kind of odd.
posted by juv3nal at 11:34 AM on November 21, 2011


I'm surprised you stopped playing long enough to read Metafilter.

Gotta go to work some time. Besides, where else can I obsessively google "Where is Wintersand Manor?" or "Nazeem Skyrim Wintersand Location" in hopes someone has a location?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2011


any youtube recs for people who don't have the ability to play skyrim, but still are dying of curiousity?

There are some really amusing (also non-spoilerific for quests) Youtube videos that show off some of the amazing properties of the game world and NPCs. My favorites:

Don't piss off the giants!

Unleash the Tumbling Snow Bear!.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:38 AM on November 21, 2011


So awesome.

Yeah. What is crazy is things like that happen all the time in the game, and none of them are pre-scripted.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:38 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


My Skyrim story from last night:

So, there's a certain apothecary I frequent in a certain city, and its shelves are lined with all sorts of rare flowers and mushrooms and leaves and potions and so on and so forth, and every time I walk in there I just kind of stare with lust at the display case.

I think it's a testament in and of itself that this game has its hooks in me to the point where I actively care about alchemy and collecting ingredients wherever I can find them to try to mix up new potions, but that's a story for another day.

So, long story short, I decide to rob the apothecary.

I wait until the dead of night, then creep to the shop's front door. I pick the lock, and slip inside.

Unfortunately, a guard saw me, and so he barged into the store after me and attempted to arrest me.

"Don't you know who I am?" I said.

"Uh, no?" he said.

"I'm the Thane of Whiterun," I said. "I'm important!"

"Oh," he said. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry. Please, carry on."

Then he scuttled off into the night.

And then I cleaned up shop, left, right and center. I stuffed my bags until my bags were stuff, and then I ran like hell.

The next morning I came back and sold all of her stuff back to her.

So who has the last laugh now? WHO, SNOOTY APOTHECARY LADY? WHO?
posted by kbanas at 11:41 AM on November 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


My spectral wolf then obliged by howling at the moon. I like a bit of ridiculous in my sublime.

I'm betting you can only have one familiar existing at a time. So... find a hack that allows you to have multiples, cast your familiar spell three times. Yes. Three Wolf Moon! Screenshot that baby and bask in the temporary-but-sweet fame that is memes on the internet.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:43 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not much of a video game person, but I've fallen headlong into Skyrim. I have this awful contrarian stubbornness that makes me immediately veer off the given path and search for the limits of the game that remind me of the whole artificiality of the thing and then I lose interest. I get frustrated when I can't open doors, or run up a hill, or drive off the street in my car, or talk to the NPCs. Skyrim has blessedly few of those restrictions, and I spent the first few days after it came out half-heartedly watching my boyfriend play but increasingly directing him towards every nook and cranny that caught my eye. "What happens if you go in the lake? Can you swim down to the bottom? Can you climb that mountain? What's inside that building? Talk to that guy! Aww, you have to help him hook up with that chick! Go do that! Wait, what's that symbol on your compass?" Finally I made him set up my character so I could explore around myself, and I am hooked. I'm atrocious at the controls and especially at the fighting, but there's just so much to do.
posted by lilac girl at 11:45 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


My big complaint with Skyrim is that the main quest is pretty anticlimactic and boring. There's enough stuff in that game to keep you busy for months, but the actual main questline is short and uninspired, and I was very surprised when it was done. No credit roll, or recap, or nothin'. There were some fairly cinematic bits, but it didn't have ANYTHING on Liberty Prime stomping through bombed-out Washington, or Martin changing himself into an avatar.

It just didn't feel, um... worthy, I guess, to be the main quest line. Such a spectacular game in most respects, but the narrative on the main track falls over badly.

Some SUPER interesting side quests, though. Those are better than the main event!
posted by Malor at 11:46 AM on November 21, 2011


The giants in Skyrim are tougher than the dragons which is kind of odd.

Hell, the bears in Skyrim are way tougher than the early dragons you face. Bears and frost trolls are dangerous as hell, but dragons are just never that scary. By the time you start seeing really tough ones, you're tough enough that it's not that big a deal.
posted by Malor at 11:50 AM on November 21, 2011


Hell, the bears in Skyrim are way tougher than the early dragons you face. Bears and frost trolls are dangerous as hell, but dragons are just never that scary. By the time you start seeing really tough ones, you're tough enough that it's not that big a deal.

Absolutely.

You better believe that if I see a bear or a sabre cat or something, I immediately take notice and try to get to high ground. I'm not sure if it's because of my character style or what, but they absolutely chew my face off. I am terrified of them.
posted by kbanas at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2011


Dragons were intentionally scripted to be at or close to the level of the player at all times so they wouldn't be a pushover or instant death at anytime during the game.
posted by Aquaman at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2011


The giants in Skyrim are tougher than the dragons which is kind of odd.

The one time I foolishly tried to tangle with a giant, he killed me with one hit and sent me flying so high in the air that I had just started coming back down when my saved game reloaded.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also posted a rave about Skyrim to G+. What a wonderful game. Yes, I have an incompleteable quest, complete with undroppable MacGuffin, stuck in my quest menu. Yes, on the 360 there is some pretty dramatic texture pop-in and stuttering. Yes, it was annoyingly incongruous when in the midst of matters of grave import I was asked to fetch a spoon. From across the country. But none of that really matters. I can forgive all that. Build something this big and complicated and it's bound to have some issues. What matters is that after 60+ hours of play, Skyrim is still surprising me. In both small ways and large ways. Ducking into a bandit cave only to find that the denizens already under attack by a more sinister foe. Then clearing the cave of that foe, only to have a returning band of bandits come through the entrance as I'm on the way out. OK, that was a simple scripted event, effective but easy. But the game also excels at unscripted surprises, like when I stumbled, half-dead, potions depleted, enchanted weapons waning, from a crumbling mountaintop ruin right into the jaws of an elder dragon. It turned into an epic back-and-forth battle that required using just about every Dragon Shout in my inventory to win, as I kited the beast into the lowlands while chipping away at his health bar until finally I got him to land -- near a giant's campsite, who clubbed him to death. After that I had to put down the controller and giggle and twitch for a minute just to work the adrenalin out of my system.

And there are still two major cities I haven't seen and quest lines I haven't even begun, including one of the two main quests.

Skyrim just keeps on giving. I love this game.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:55 AM on November 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Great, thanks everyone. Now I just want to ditch work, go home and fall into a glorious 10-hour Skyrim coma.
posted by naju at 11:55 AM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Skyrim looks lovely and probably really awesome if you're actually the one playing it. However, it makes for incredibly boring background noise if your SO is the one playing it while you're making dinner.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:56 AM on November 21, 2011


any youtube recs for people who don't have the ability to play skyrim, but still are dying of curiousity?

Lydia has problems.

Skyrim Trick Shots

Another trick shot.
posted by empath at 12:00 PM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]



I had to give up on playing Skyrim until the patch that "Smeared Vasoline on the screen" Bloom shit they have going in. Also that HDR pupil dilation thing is way overdone.

And it's a shame, because it - like oblivion before it - is a beautiful game.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:01 PM on November 21, 2011


I can handle the bears, trolls and dragons, but I can only beat giants by what is essentially cheating (i.e. circling around an obstacle that gives him pathing problems while tossing the occasional spell his way). And like Bulgaroktonos, I have been sent into orbit by a direct hit from a giant's club more than once. It's a rather humbling experience.

I love Skyrim, yes, except for the fact that combat can be a bit "floaty," for lack of a better word (i.e. it's hard to gauge range, which can shift a little too fluidly). If they could throw Demon/Dark Souls combat into Skyrim, you're basically talking about the best game ever made.
posted by Edgewise at 12:01 PM on November 21, 2011


The giants in Skyrim are tougher than the dragons which is kind of odd.

Not really that odd from a gameplay standpoint. You have to kill dragons to proceed through the game, so dragons must be beatable for the vast majority of players. Not so with giants as far as I know. On the hardest difficulty setting, even bears are harder for my midlevel character to kill than dragons.
posted by killdevil at 12:02 PM on November 21, 2011


The thing that is going to be hard to explain to people is why I will not be taking them up on their very generous offers of Thanksgiving dinner, because that will be free time I could be spending getting beat up by trolls I should not be fighting. I will have to invent a convincing illness, and I don't think "Skyrimitis" will do the trick.
posted by Errant at 12:03 PM on November 21, 2011


circling around an obstacle that gives him pathing problems while tossing the occasional spell his way

Once you get the 'impact' perk, it's easy to beat them (and any single monster, really)
posted by empath at 12:03 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The giants in Skyrim are tougher than the dragons.

Yes. Yes they are.
posted by The Bellman at 12:03 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, has everyone seen the stealing trick? I can't easily link to youtube from work, but it's simple enough to explain: drop a bucket over the head of a shopkeeper, and you can feel free to take everything that isn't nailed down. Just be careful if the NPC starts walking, since the bucket could fall off.
posted by Edgewise at 12:04 PM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I only made it to level 4 in Oblivion because of the ridiculous leveling system (PS3 version, so no patch available to fix it like there is on the PC), but I'm up to level 28 in Skyrim and I'm enjoying it almost as much as DA:O. I've killed two giants and a dozen or so dragons so far. Fun times.

I have three glitched quests (two of them major) and the lag can get really bad sometimes, but hopefully a PS3 patch will be out soon. Think there's one scheduled for after Thanksgiving. Plenty of side quests to complete in the meantime.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:06 PM on November 21, 2011


Once you get the 'impact' perk, it's easy to beat them (and any single monster, really)

Good to know since I specialize in destruction magic! I have been looking around for good online resources to discuss the relative advantages of different perks, but I'm coming up dry. Has anyone found anything like this?
posted by Edgewise at 12:06 PM on November 21, 2011


Great, thanks everyone. Now I just want to ditch work, go home and fall into a glorious 10-hour Skyrim coma.

I have one friend who vacation days for skyrim. Another who is conveniently "sick."
posted by juv3nal at 12:12 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had the most amazing fight with a dragon, one which ended up sprawling across a vast area. I was exploring the Rift, specifically down where the hotsprings are, by Mist-something-or-other Keep. I was level 7 at the time, and though my huscarl Lydia was supposedly following me around, she'd pulled her not-infrequent disappearing act. I was wading through the hotsprings towards this tiny island with some ruins on it when a dragon swooped down out of nowhere and lit me up with fire. So I chugged all the buffing potions I had, pulled out my frost axe and fire resistant shield, and ran like hell for the ruins, to get some solid ground under my feet.

I hit the island just as the dragon cut loose on me again, and ducked down behind a ruined staircase just in time to keep from dying. While I'm using heal on myself, the dragon lands in the middle of the ruins, only to be confronted by all the skeletons who were hidden in the ruins. Thanks to the distraction, I'm able to run for it, and get a few precious seconds as a head start before the dragon is on my ass again. I just manage to fling myself into the open gate of the Mist(veil?) courtyard when the dragon unleashed a strafing run of fire. I'm breathe a quick sigh of relief, and then there's screaming, burning bandits launching arrows and epithets at me from everywhere. Seems the keep was infested with them, and they aren't to happy with me... or the dragon, who is still looping the keep and belching fiery death at everyone and everything.

So I end up in a five minute, running battle which culminates in the death of every bandit, and me versus a wounded dragon in a blazing courtyard. We tear chunks out of each other, but he's still just a bit too much for me, and I'm facing my last moments.
Then, out of nowhere, there's the sound of one last arrow, and the dragon dies. I look all around and there, atop the ruined keep's bridge, is Lydia with bow in hand.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:14 PM on November 21, 2011 [26 favorites]


Dragons were intentionally scripted to be at or close to the level of the player at all times so they wouldn't be a pushover or instant death at anytime during the game.

Careful planning because, according to my Prima guide, dragons are not one of the few creatures in the game that level with the player. But maybe that's a misprint.

Yeah, edgewise, you just gotta work your way up to 50 in destruction magic in order to make impact available. I'm almost there.

(whereas I'm just flying through smithing and enchanting levels after following a suggestion on MeFightClub to smith 20 daggers, enchant, and sell them. It's also great for the coin purse, and you learn a thing or two about Skyrim markets -- which enchantments are worth more, more charges vs. more effect (more effect, seemingly, always). But there's my Eve spreadsheet habit recurring in rpg form...)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:14 PM on November 21, 2011


Does anyone know if its possible for Lydia/other companions to die? 'Cause I hit her with an accidental sneak attack that looked like it killed her and I haven't seen her since.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:18 PM on November 21, 2011


As long as we're sharing stories... I was wandering around last night and had just climbed up a small hill in the midst of some hot springs. Off in the distance I see a dragon circling around what appears to be a naked man who seems to be trying to fight back with bare fists.

I'm distracted at this point by a second dragon who has managed to sneak up behind me. Several panicky minutes later, I've managed to dispatch both dragons. Down by the hot springs, I found a small tent. Near the tent at the edge of the water, I found a bottle of wine and two sets of clothes. Floating in the water was the body of a woman, not far away I found the body of the man I'd seen fighting the dragon earlier. They had been camping by the hot springs, and went for a romantic swim when the dragon attacked.
posted by Eddie Mars at 12:20 PM on November 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does anyone know if its possible for Lydia/other companions to die?

Yes, if you make the final blow.
posted by Avenger50 at 12:21 PM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


With companions, they take damage until they fall to their knees. When they're on their knees you can kill them. You monster.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:22 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


From my brief experience, it seems like the player can kill the companion, but NPCs cannot.
posted by exogenous at 12:22 PM on November 21, 2011


Has anyone found anything like this?

Reddit.

Mefightclub.
posted by empath at 12:23 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


How to spawn infinite dragons:
Open the console with '~'

type: player.placeatme 000FEA9B

Run (it won't help)
posted by Sebmojo at 12:23 PM on November 21, 2011


From my brief experience, it seems like the player can kill the companion, but NPCs cannot.

When they fall down, they're low priority, but they'll kill them if you run away.
posted by empath at 12:24 PM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Huh, so that's good to know.

RIP Lydia: you were frequently useless and often lost, but you carried my extra stuff and didn't complain too much when I unrelenting forced you into walls accidentally.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:25 PM on November 21, 2011


Oh yes, they can die. (rockpapershotgun)
posted by m@f at 12:28 PM on November 21, 2011


No! No! Stop it, all of you! Not another word! I do not have time for Skyrim this year!

Gah!
posted by valkyryn at 12:28 PM on November 21, 2011


Dovahkiin, dovahkiin, dovahkiin....
posted by Sebmojo at 12:31 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


not far away I found the body of the man I'd seen fighting the dragon earlier. They had been camping by the hot springs, and went for a romantic swim when the dragon attacked.

Oh yes, those folks. They get awful mad if when you take their clothes and run away giggling.
posted by Spatch at 12:46 PM on November 21, 2011


Oh man, what a game this is. Buggy, a bit simplified, maybe a little too console friendly for the PC crowd, but there is so much stuff to do! I've never played a game with as much content as this, period.

I'm constantly finding little easter eggs, amusing quests and simple vignettes hidden around the whole world. From poignant moments like the giant mourning his fallen mammoth and the ghost child who was killed by a vampiric seductress, to the sublimely silly like troll under the bridge by the three goats and the charred corpse lying in a scorched field next to the tome of flame cloak, you are never at a loss for things to do and see.

Bethesda has finely crafted a world that feels real, and I can't stop playing it. I want to dive in every ocean, climb every mountain and delve into every crypt. I've played at least four different characters off and on and all the play styles work and are equally amusing. Conjuring, sneaking, archery, swordplay, destruction, it all works and it's all fun.

Add to this the always busy and productive PC mod community and the game will be playable and fresh years from now. Oh, and way to make sure an all-nude female patch was one of your first priority guys. Everyone saw that one coming.

I'd love to talk about it more, but I have to decide whether or not I'm going to skin this rogue werewolf for Hircine or not.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:52 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is only one thing desperately missing from the game, and that is a command missing from the companion dialogs:

STAY OUT OF THE FUCKING DOORWAYS.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 1:02 PM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I blame Sheogorath for the grammar in my last sentence.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:04 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"recent activity", who am I kidding. I'm just going to keep reloading this one thread.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:14 PM on November 21, 2011


Please thread, don't slow down! It's days yet before I can turn on my console and play more Skyrim - I NEED MY FIX. More stories!
posted by arcticwoman at 1:21 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm the guy who feels like this game is massively overrated. I had a longer post here listing my complaints, but really, who gives a shit? No one playing cares what I don't like, and why should they? I am having fun, too - it's just not this amazing thing for me that it is for many others.

dark souls is ten times the game this is
posted by neuromodulator at 1:23 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dark Souls? Really? I like difficulty, and if I wasn't ok with having to go find my stuff piled atop my corpse somewhere I wouldn't like minecraft so much. But having to replay the same scene again and again and again until I've trained my muscle twitches just so...? It's an old-school quarter gobbler without the quarters.

But yeah. If people could discuss Skyrim until the moment I get home and can put down the phone and pick up the controller, that would be grand, thanks.

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:31 PM on November 21, 2011


Arguing Dark Souls vs. Skyrim is like arguing chess vs. go.

Sure, it can be done, but it's not a very helpful argument except insofar as it reveals things about the participants.
posted by aramaic at 1:32 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Agreed about Dark Souls, neuromodulator - I've made peace with the fact that it's a game that won't ever have anything resembling widespread appeal, and that's perfectly fine.
posted by naju at 1:32 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


About Lydia. It wasn't until I cast off some old axe that had run out of magic and she picked it up that I realized that you could outfit her. Just put it in her inventory and she'll automatically pick the right stuff. Now she's rolling with armor and weapons as good as mine.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:37 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


dark souls is ten times the game this is

In terms of challenge and strategy, yes. In terms of breadth of gameplay, no.

Dark Souls is an inch wide and a mile deep, whereas Skyrim is a mile wide and an inch deep. Both approaches have their merits, and different people enjoy different games. I found Dark Souls to be a sadistic exercise in grinding frustration, a game that was pathologically grudging about giving up its secrets. Some people enjoy that sort of challenge. I'm not one of those people. I'd much rather wander about picking flowers and chasing butterflies.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:37 PM on November 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I really feel the difficulty of Dark Souls is overstated. It's not a quarter gobbler, IMO, because a quarter gobbler involves inevitable whittling away of your health. Dark Souls just rewards care and observation. I suspect I died a below-average number of times in DS compared to most games I play. True, Skyrim is an exception. But compared to any shooter, or even a Mario game, I'm sure I died less.

Disagree that comparing about them is pointless. They are on-the-surface-similar games with very very different design decisions informing them that are an amazing example of Western vs. Japanese game philosophy but also pretty interesting in their own right and not just as broader cultural representatives.

Nothing in Skyrim has delivered the sense of accomplishment that taking down some of the bosses in DS did, and the drama in Skyrim comes almost entirely from the music cues. They're great music cues but still.

posted by neuromodulator at 1:39 PM on November 21, 2011


Disagree about the grinding aspect of DS but the width/depth metaphor is excellent.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:40 PM on November 21, 2011


I know I'll have enjoyed Dark Souls more than Skyrim when all's said and done. That doesn't mean I'm not immensely enjoying Skyrim too. Between bursts of Mario 3D Land that have left everything on my monitor looking a bit too 3D. Oh god my brain.

And in the final reckoning, none of them will have given me anything like as much sheer joy as Portal 2.
posted by emmtee at 1:48 PM on November 21, 2011


The best thing about the musical cues in Skyrim is they have restraint. A minor fight with a wolf isn't a life-or-death struggle. The music won't turn dramatic. Running away when a giant notices you're picking on his favorite mammoth, on the other hand, brings on the war drums.
posted by Spatch at 1:51 PM on November 21, 2011


You don't play Skyrim, you live it.

MINOR SPOILER

I was completing some task (I think in Riften) and met a guy in a bar who challenged me to have a drink. I should have known. I had a second, then a third, then woke up somewhere I had never been before with a woman shouting at me to clean up my mess. There were items from my inventory strewn all around the room. That was a pretty funny surprise.
posted by Elmore at 1:52 PM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Skyrim is an amazing accomplishment in terms of world building, but there's something just wrong with with the narrative(s), that I cant quite put my finger on. Mostly having to do with what the game means. Taken as a whole, the story feels more nihilistic and morally problematic than grand theft auto. Although with a game as big as this, I don't really think the story is even coherent taken as a whole. It's almost multiple slightly related RPGs that all happen to take place on the same map.
posted by empath at 1:56 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


That drunken quest is indeed awesome. The ghost child one was heart breaking.

The whispering door and house of horrors were freaky.

Ugh I am sitting in the gym parking lot writing this and the urge to go home immediately and play without even going in the gym is strong. Must resist!
posted by winna at 1:56 PM on November 21, 2011


After all this I'm seriously considering Skyrim, but Dark Souls just did so many things RIGHT and my free time is finite. *sigh* Can anyone comment on the fact that when I played Oblivion I, inevitably, ended up frustrated with one of the following,

A) I would find an 'exploit-y' way of advancing past what the game allowed/expected. I.e. stealing or accomplishing a quest beyond what I was supposed to be doing. This would negate the value/difficulty of the main story or 400 smaller quests when I eventually got around to them. I know, I know, don't steal and this problem goes away... not really.

Dark Souls takes care of this by making things pretty water tight when it comes to advancing at a legitimate, often frustrating, pace.

B) I didn't really like the way the previous Elder Scroll's games scaled enemies to your level. I know this is open to interpretation but I just didn't like it. It seemed contrived to be in the same place I was 80 hours ago and the enemies be totally different difficulty. Dark Souls handles this by starting enemies out at a tough level to begin with and being 100% unforgiving if you get cocky or in a hurry and also implementing shortcuts to save you the dangerous travel time you used to have to thing about when heading from place to place.

Thoughts? Much appreciated for the discussion. Oh and the stories are great, I'll say that much about the incidentals and such, Skyrim seems to be a win in that regard.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:59 PM on November 21, 2011


My iMac is four, going on five, years old, and it can just barely run the game (in a Windows partition). Alas, it is impossible for me to play at textures like these; I'm lucky to get it to run reasonably well on medium settings. But unlike most games of the past few years, it does run on my ancient machine. I've been obsessed with this game--to the chagrin of my wife. Not since Batman: Arkham Asylum have I had so much fun with a game.

It's like World of Warcraft minus all the cartooniness meets Monster Hunter.
posted by zardoz at 2:00 PM on November 21, 2011


Ummmm after reading this thread I have come to the conclusion that a meth addiction might be healthier to my productivity than Skyrim.
posted by Theta States at 2:01 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm in a generally weird place emotionally and have managed to extract an unhealthy amount of zen from arranging my e-living place. There's one theme that sounds like "movie music" to me that always plays in towns and I get all wistful about it.
posted by GilloD at 2:07 PM on November 21, 2011


Roland, both those things have been fixed.

It's essentially the best bits of Morrowind, Fallout 3 and Oblivion, with lots of smart lessons from games like The Witcher.

That said there are lots of bugs, and the interface is pretty janky - getting it on PC is an excellent idea, as all that stuff is going to be fixed quicksmart (plus it's crazily pretty on a modestly powerful PC).
posted by Sebmojo at 2:13 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't really like the way the previous Elder Scroll's games scaled enemies to your level.

My experience and the Prima guide both point to almost every creature in Skyrim not leveling with you. Which means that, initially, some encounters are deathtraps (of course you can always try to run), while others, eventually, won't even pretend to offer challenge. ie: it feels like a real (fantasy) world. Except that obviously the bears are the true and rightful overlords, manipulating the dragons into thinking they're the shit.

As for exploits, I've caught mention of one or two running searches for other things online, but I don't care enough to read nevermind use them. I mean, even moreso than F3*, you could have a go at the hardest locks in the game and never use more than one pick if you want to save and reload again and again and again. And having decided this, you could decide to never take lockpicking perks, etc. But... why do this?

* In F3, you were required to have reached basic skill levels in order to attempt certain tasks -- lockpicking and science for locks and computers -- presumably, to help remove this temptation.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:15 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going* to open up an in-game shop to sell all the crud I've picked up in my travels, cast a shrewd eye over and then loaded onto Lydia. I will call it DWEMER TAT and the masses will come and I will tell them stories about when I found this awesome cog and I gave it to Lydia and she gave me this look and for a second I considered Unrelenting Force-ing her off a cliff.

* You can't actually do this. But I wish you could.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:24 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've played a crazy amount of skyrim since launch, but the quests are still bugging me.

Same here. One thing that's really giving me the shits is that there is no actual roleplaying in this game. It isn't a roleplaying game, it's a slow-paced Modern Warfare set in olden times. No, what it is is Borderlands set in olden times. Nine times out of ten, your quest is going to involve an interaction with some kind of "bad" guy, and your only roleplaying choices are: obliterate them with your swords and with your spells, or...leave the dungeon/crypt/creepy house and come back to it and kill them later maybe? Or not do anything and the quest just sits there forever.

Now and then - and we're talking maybe once every thirty or forty quests - you'll have the opportunity to interact with an NPC who is key to your quests, and your choices in this regard seem to be: talk to them once and hope you pick the right arbitrary response/query, at which point you don't and the NPC clams up forever ("You don't frighten me!" even though you're dressed in Orcish full plate with a demon-ass Daedric helmet and carrying a wicked-looking mace that actually DEVOURS SOULS, as I was recently, when trying to intimidate an old woman because I thought it would be nicer not to ruin her shit) and you can't talk to them ever again ever, or...you destroy them with your swords and with your spells. You have to destroy them else you'll never complete the mission. Which, okay, but pretty soon you're going to have a whole buttload of these missions chewing up screen real estate in your quest log because pretty much ALL THE MISSIONS involve you having to kill somebody because some random dude you bumped into in the street (which is crazy in and of itself...I'm in the largest city in Skyrim and there are like maybe FOUR PEOPLE here and one of you managed to BUMP INTO ME?) asked you to and your options were "Uh, okay" or "No, but I'll come back and say okay to you later."

The level of interaction and potential for roleplaying in this game is pitiful in the extreme. The only things you really have any choices in are: whether or not to accept a quest (which you can't then unaccept or reassess, and which will never disappear from your quest log until you complete it precisely as instructed, which, as I say, nine times out of ten will end up with you killing somebody/creature, or a whole bunch of people/creatures); or exactly how to fuck somebody up (and there are myriad offensive spells and weapons to help you in this regard). That's it.

***SPOILERS***

Depending on which direction you end up wandering, near the beginning of the game (for me, anyway) you end up coming across the Companions, which is basically the Fighter's Guild. So you're like "Sweet, I'll do some quests for these noobs and pretty soon I'll be running the show!" So you do like three quests for them and the only way to get any further with the Companions is...by becoming a werewolf. If you don't become a werewolf, the Companions thread just comes to an end and dies and sits there like a poo. So eventually you go back and become a fucking werewolf and then some other shit happens, I don't even remember what. Anyway, becoming a werewolf is awesome and I recommend it but what if I DIDN'T want to be one and STILL wanted to be in the Companions and do some more missions for them? Maybe there's a way to get around that but I didn't find it.

***END SPOILERS***

Anyway, Skyrim is pretty good fun, but a CRPG it certainly ain't, and it is profoundly, blisteringly stupid. I'm only like level 31 I think and I'm already the baddest badass in the land and...WOLVES STILL WANT TO ATTACK ME? Can't they SEE I'm COVERED IN SPIKES and just took down TWO DRAGONS half a minute ago? Fuck this game is stupid. I'll finish it and it's satisfying to level up and be able to craft a nice new set of armour, but Jesus it's stupid.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:37 PM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love, love, love this game.

But I really want to be able to whistle for my horse to come, or to have an option for the horse to not charge into battle like it's on a suicide mission.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:42 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, suicide horse has stopped me from taking horse anywhere, when I have the choice.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:46 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


WOLVES STILL WANT TO ATTACK ME? Can't they SEE I'm COVERED IN SPIKES and just took down TWO DRAGONS half a minute ago?

Heh. Whenever random mercs attack me in Mass Effect 2, I want to say, "Don't you fucking know who I am? I'm the goddamn human Spectre!"

But I really want to be able to whistle for my horse to come,

I don't know if it's a common feature, but damn if I didn't have this in RDR I don't think I would have finished the game.
posted by kmz at 2:48 PM on November 21, 2011


Me and ArmyOfKittens were just sitting here playing our separate Skyrims. I happened upon a view that made me say 'ooh, come and look at this!'. As we were both taking in the landscape, a dead fox just serenely drifted down the river and sailed silently by. I don't know what that says about Skyrim, but it certainly says something.
posted by emmtee at 2:55 PM on November 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


FUS ROH DAH!

Ahem. Yeah, I actually deliberately did not play any Skyrim today. Because I played about 6 hours yesterday and that was less than the day before. It's been a while since I fell this hard for a game. Thankfully the game looks great and is filled with distractions both humorous (the Hangover mission) and scary (House of Horrors) along with non-scripted dragon attacks, so my partner has been happy to watch me play.

Also, regarding the OP site - the Mirror's Edge screens are great. It's a shame that Red Dead Redemption never got released on PC as it would've been stunning.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:55 PM on November 21, 2011


It isn't a roleplaying game...No, what it is is Borderlands set in olden times.

[complaints follow]

Ok, I'm going to say that you're technically correct about most of your complaints. The only problem is that almost all of them apply to all CRPG's. CRPG's are not actually RPG's. They are turn-based tactical or real time combat games where you can improve your character. In the sense of "playing" a "role," I'd say Red Dead Redemption or GTA hit a lot closer to the mark, although the story still runs on rails, with little ability for you to change things.

And for those games where you CAN change things, we're only talking about one or two branching points in the story, at best, and very often we're really talking about the very last choice you make in a game with multiple endings. The most choice you get in so-called "open-ended" games is which order to do your missions in. Even games that let you solve the problem in more than one way have you choosing between two or three different rails based on how you customized your character up to this point (e.g. Deus Ex).

This is all disappointing to those of us who dream of jumping into an open dynamic world to have interesting adventures and conversations with real options. But this is a case of unrealistic expectations, because the terms "open-ended" and "narrative" are pretty much diametrically opposed. If you want REAL role-playing with choices, the only thing that jumps to mind is Minecraft. Of course, there's no character leveling and no dialog, so you're sacrificing story for the sandbox, and that choice will always exist in some form until game worlds are essentially populated by AI's.

Still, I reject the comparison to Borderlands. Borderlands was FPS Diablo with 10x the boring.
posted by Edgewise at 2:59 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


So you do like three quests for them and the only way to get any further with the Companions is...by becoming a werewolf. If you don't become a werewolf, the Companions thread just comes to an end and dies and sits there like a poo. So eventually you go back and become a fucking werewolf and then some other shit happens, I don't even remember what. Anyway, becoming a werewolf is awesome and I recommend it but what if I DIDN'T want to be one and STILL wanted to be in the Companions and do some more missions for them?

Yeah, i felt that way about the thieves guild and assassins guild quest, and also backed out of that one at first. I kind of had a particular idea for how i wanted that character to be and a murdering thief wasn't it, but like, so much of the game is shut off to you if you want to play a 'good' character, it's ridiculous. And the quests just kind of sit there forever unless you do them, and it's so easy to forget which quests are for what, till you get to the point where you just look at the map and think 'okay, which of these little icons can i fast travel to, and which can i walk to quickest'. You're not at all thinking about the story or your character any more, you're just playing a game of traveling salesman.
posted by empath at 3:07 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Edgewise: I concur and admit that my complaint was hyperbolic, because there's no such thing as a true computer role-playing game, BUT, some recent examples of what I consider to be "very slightly truer" CRPGS are The Witcher, Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Even Fallout 3 and New Vegas were minutely more complex. You have more than two choices (or one option, however you want to language it) in just about every interaction, even if those interactions are meaningless and have no impact whatsoever on the game world. But you can at least be a consistent character. "Yes, that's what I would have done" or "Yes, that's what evil universe I would have done" is eminently more satisfying than "Yes, that is what the game required of me in order to progress."
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:12 PM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well in a sense, the more sandbox-y, the more of an rpg you can make it be, if by rpg you mean play a consistent character. You don't have to enslave anyone in F3 (and yet the "# people mesmerized" stat just "sits there", along with "pants exploded" and other suggestions). But if you want to complete the slaver quest you can. I don't really see a problem with that.

I am dumbfounded by suggestions that you have to do everything the game world permits, and then complain that the game let you play a character in an inconsistent way.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:22 PM on November 21, 2011


I think you're dumbfounded because you've misinterpreted, or I'm missing where people are saying that.

But I do think edgewise hit the nail on the head with:

"open-ended" and "narrative" are pretty much diametrically opposed

I was thinking about this elsewhere, in terms of specific quests and why many of the specific quests go the same way (I'm being vague for spoilery purposes). And I realized that they go the same way because those are character-neutral results - they allow the player to fantasize a diverse range of motivations for their character. And any shift in those quest arcs towards more sophisticated stories would involve a reduction of possible motivations.
posted by neuromodulator at 3:36 PM on November 21, 2011


Well, we've discussed the difficulty/impossibility of having NPC reactions for all major world and quest events (aside from a few really obvious ones that may have been oversights). And being able to decline quests after initially accepting them is bugging people. But content that doesn't make sense except with a particular character type? That's just asking for rails. How about you decide what kind of character you want to play and then hit the content that makes sense to you?

Again, I'm not joining the Army or Companions. Maybe next time. Doesn't suit my character. The Companion/werewolf issue kind of sucks, because it forces a major character change if you want to complete the questline. But that's actually a rails-based-problem, not an open world problem.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:46 PM on November 21, 2011


I don't care all that much because I'm playing the game as "Slappy-Bottom the Helpful Nihilist".
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:50 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't care all that much because I'm playing the game as "Slappy-Bottom the Helpful Nihilist".

No wonder the game seems so Borderlands-y to you!
posted by Edgewise at 3:52 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am dumbfounded by suggestions that you have to do everything the game world permits, and then complain that the game let you play a character in an inconsistent way.

I played fallout 3, and fallout 3 always gave you choices. I played as a good guy throughout the entire game, and I did most of the quests. Hell, I think even Grand Theft Auto had more moral freedom than Skyrim.

You can always make the argument that you can choose not to play half the game. You can choose not to play the game at all, but that's not really the same thing. If you want to see all the content in the game, you have to be evil. That was not the case in Fallout 3, or not as much the case.
posted by empath at 3:57 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll buy not as much. (though enslaving bandits is fun and profitable!)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:02 PM on November 21, 2011


Think_Long: There are a number of LPers out there going through the game, but probably the most interesting one I've found is being done by a caster called Force. He's not too far into the game and is showing off a couple of different playing styles, and he's not incredibly annoying or puerile like many LPers seem to be.

I will warn you though that if you make it through about the first three episodes, you will have no choice but to buy the game. Caveat Emptor, and all that.
posted by SomaSoda at 4:03 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh. Okay. I'll sort of be that guy. Skyrim is a good game but it doesn't rise to the level of brilliant games like Torment.

The dungeons are mostly on rails. You start at one end, proceed in a straight line through the dungeon, and end up back at the beginning by opening a previously unopenable door next to the entrance. The minor exceptions re welcome but, really, they are minor.

The world is extremely immersive in some ways. In other ways, not so much. Consider the start of the main quest. The Jarl is all UP IN MY BUSINESS screaming that the western watch tower is under attack!!! Right now!!! Hurrry!! And yet you can wander away and go do your own thing for months while everyone apparently resides inside a stasis field just waiting for you to appear. It is massively solipsistic. Yes, I do realize the game world really does exist solely because I am in it but it is incredibly suspension of disbelief breaking to make that explicit. Compare to, for example, Deus Ex where if you loiter around in the cafeteria or whatever for too long when told there is an urgent hostage situation... the hostages all die. Why? Because you fucked around.

The level scaling system is better than in the previous games but still kind of crappy.

Lastly, the combat system sucks donkey. Really. It is the single worst combat system in mainstream RPGs. Very, very bad.

Bear in mind I've already put over 35 hours into this thing and expect to put in many, many more. It's quite good. But it isn't OH MY GOD THE GREATEST GAME EVARR!!!11!!1!1eleven. People in the thread above are taking only the highs into account (and they are numerous and very high) while ignoring the very real problems.

Seriously, the combat system is absolutely terrible.
posted by Justinian at 4:10 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, there is a bit of ridiculousness with quest (geographical) placement. Like, dude took item X and if you get that for me, I'll give you what you want. "Oh sure, np, where... ooooh, he wandered clear across the continent? RLY?" So you can follow up individual quests such that you're not just hitting the closest goals across a map scattered with unfinished quest markers, but you're either going to fast travel a lot to do so or spend a huge amount of time traveling doing them one by one (I do a mix of both of those, because I do want to play the character in a way that follows some semblance of motivation).

On preview: just about everyone who's commented on the sekrit dungeon exit has lauded it, so I don't know what to say except that some gameplay concessions are exceedingly popular. Ditto main quest delay. I'd kinda like to be told "Oh, you waited too long. That town is cinders now." Many wouldn't. I'd probably strike a balance where some missions were time sensitive, to be ignored at your peril, and others are not (and don't pretend to be).

As for combat, I'm sure you're excluding the (very mainstream) FF titles. I'm trying to remember if I liked Witcher combat more. It was... interesting. But I don't think I found having to remember heavy/light/group swordplay for a given enemy type or configuration all that rewarding. (I haven't played the sequel)

No issue with criticizing Skyrim, but I don't think all criticisms equally valid, and there's more than a touch of wanting all things for all people in these discussions, as you've aptly demonstrated.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:20 PM on November 21, 2011


You basically wrote the post I deleted. Minus the bit on immersion, which I feel is necessary for the game to be fun. But, yeah, the dungeons design and the combat both I would think are accurately described by "awful". There are, don't get me wrong, tons of things that make up for these two things, but seriously they're really, really bad. I can excuse bad combat because I think that's hard to do right but the dungeon design is just horrid.

On preview: I'm not talking about the secret exit, which isn't a big deal. I'm talking about the fact that every dungeon is a completely linear series of rooms.
posted by neuromodulator at 4:27 PM on November 21, 2011


A completely linear series of the exact same rooms. There are some clever sequences, but soooo much filler.
posted by empath at 4:34 PM on November 21, 2011


Have to take your word for that. I think I've hit two dungeons, proper. Most of the time I've spent underground has been at Blackreach (which kinda had the opposite effect, constantly wondering "where the hell am I now and what is that?"). If there are 20 dungeons and they're all the same, yeah, that's unfortunate.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:36 PM on November 21, 2011


There are basically a few different kinds of dungeons, I think -- Dwarven ruins, Nord Burial Grounds are the main ones. The nordic burial grounds in particular are boring after the first 5 or 6 of them you do.
posted by empath at 4:45 PM on November 21, 2011


A completely linear series of the exact same rooms. There are some clever sequences, but soooo much filler.
posted by empath at 4:34 PM on November 21 [+] [!]


I.. what? I've been playing for a mere 30 hours, but I've seen very little repetition. And I've not even been to any Dwemer ruins.

And people are overstating the linearity - IMO they strike a nice balance between giving you plenty of opportunity to explore and minimising pointless wandering (which really isn't that fun).
posted by Sebmojo at 4:50 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


BUT, some recent examples of what I consider to be "very slightly truer" CRPGS are The Witcher, Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Even Fallout 3 and New Vegas were minutely more complex.

I haven't played The Witcher or Dragon Age. On the other three games, I agree that they have a more dynamic plot than Skyrim, although my feeling is that none of these games even conveys to me momentarily the illusion of having a plot that I can drastically affect by my choices. My ultimate game Turing Test would be a one where you interacted with a movie-like plot, causing all kinds of things to happen that the developers never specifically planned for, without breaking the game. Or at least a game that gives you that feeling.

I know that sounds like I'm asking for a lot, but I don't expect to see that fulfilled any time soon. In the meantime, I'm still disappointed that none of the games you mentioned push things significantly further than they were back in the days of the original Fallout. They all happen to be terrific games (the ones I've played), but what I'm saying is that most of what passes for "open worlds" fails to register as such.

All that being said, I'm not going to sit here and say that Skyrim is perfect. It could benefit from being a little more open, you're right. And like I said before, combat range and timing in melee leaves something to be desired, coming right off Dark Souls. The story is certainly not especially dramatic or emotionally involving, which is a shame considering how rich the backstory apparently is for TES.
posted by Edgewise at 4:52 PM on November 21, 2011


Let me amend this:

...I'm still disappointed that none of the games you mentioned push things significantly further...

To:

...I'm still disappointed that none of the games you mentioned (or any that I can think of, for that matter) push things significantly further...
posted by Edgewise at 4:54 PM on November 21, 2011


Placeholder (no time, you know).
posted by ersatz at 4:57 PM on November 21, 2011


As for combat, I'm sure you're excluding the (very mainstream) FF titles.

Those are jRPGs, though, not western. I took "western style RPG" as a given.

I don't think it is going too far out on a limb to say that there is a problem when a major tactic in a combat system appears to be kiting powerful enemies by running around while eating 10 venison roasts and drinking 8 potions of magic recovery or whatever. How is that even possible?

There needs to be a cooldown timer on drinking potions. Enemy difficulty would have to be tweaked to account for that, of course, but designing your game under the assumption that people can drink 15 potions instantly is a recipe for bad game design.
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on November 21, 2011


How is that even possible?

Good point. This makes me want to try drinking 8 or 9 magic potions next time I'm running through the hills kiting a dragon with flames shooting out of my wrists. I'll let you know if it works.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:09 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It does work. Which is the problem.
posted by Justinian at 5:17 PM on November 21, 2011


If it worked, I'd get through traffic a lot faster.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:21 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Passes the test for me, If you can break the game using in game mechanics, like recursive enchantment, it is a good game.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:21 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait... you can still do the thing where you enchant items to give you an enchantment bonus which makes future enchantments stronger, so you make even stronger enchantment items, ad infinitum?
posted by Justinian at 5:42 PM on November 21, 2011


God I cannot even explain the love I have for Oblivion and the envy I have that people are already playing this game like it ain't no thing or something. I hope to have this very son and then I will likely disappear from this earth without a trace.

Anyway, like any good geek worth his salt I'm worried about the things which are different than they were in Oblivion (even if, for the most part, I'm assured that these differences are for the better.) For instance, the character who I most loved playing in Oblivion and which I plan on recreating the moment I have my hands on Skyrim and an XBox 360, is a female Breton named Josie DeLeon who was built around Blunt, Conjuration, and Destruction. Dear lord that woman could kick an ass, and I actually managed to make an adorable face for her (attractive faces of either gender were, of course, notoriously difficult to pull off in Oblivion) so even in the Dark Brotherhood quests she had the look of an eager and diligent young protege, which was hilarious to me, at least. Also, you know, she kicked ass.

But one of my favorite things I made for her was the classic custom spell of "Drain Health 100 points for 1 second," which I of course named "Avada Kedavra." It was an excellent and cheap finishing spell which could also dispatch any low-level creatures damn-near instantly. Once I got Azura's Star, I made a modification of it (also classic) which added a Soul Trap effect up front, which I named "Horcrux," which meant I never ever had to worry about my many enchanted maces and axes going dead on me.

But I hear that in Skyrim there is no longer Custom Spell Creation. Grr, I say! Why must I learn entirely new exploits with which to break the game? Why!?

(No, really I'm psyched, though. My best friend in New York has been playing a new version of his Argonian in Oblivion. That one was named "Rocks-the-Party," but he let me name this new one, so the Skyrim version is "Rhymes-and-Steals," which is appropriate, I think.)
posted by Navelgazer at 6:10 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I made ... her the classic custom spell of "Drain Health 100 points for 1 second," which I of course named "Avada Kedavra."

Anyone else care to share their custom names for crafted items?

I'll admit to:

- 'Soul Siphon' for a bow which traps gems
- 'Medicine Bow' (after the Waterboys song) for another bow
- 'Syringe of Surprise' for an Elfen dagger with shock, and
- 'Lightfoot' for Elfen boots which help with my weight problem
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 6:50 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, but of course.

I had a full set of cheap, lightweight clothing all enchanted with "Enhance Strength" in order to drastically increase my carrying capacity when exiting a dungeon, named, "thievin' pants" "thievin' shoes," etc. Additionally, I had:

Hot Beatin' Stick - Daedric Mace enchanted with Fire Damage
Cold Beatin' Stick - Daedric Mace enchanted with Frost Damage
Beatin' 2: Electric Boogaloo - I think you get the idea
Mjolnir: Warhammer enchanted with a transcendent Shock-damage sigil stone
Ragnorok: Battleaxe enchanted with Fire, Frost and Shock to maximum levels
and
The Royal Scepter: Perfect Amber Mace enchanted with a Fire Damage Transcendent Sigil Stone. With speed and damage, this is as far as I could discern the best possible weapon in the game, unless you're fighting a Dunmer or something else with fire resistance. This was my main weapon. The name comes from the fact that I got it right after being named the Duchess of Mania.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:17 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only reason I am reading Metafilter right now is that I am at my parents for Thanksgiving, and there is no way this laptop is going to run Skyrim.

This is the best game I have played in a really, really, really long time.
posted by chemoboy at 7:24 PM on November 21, 2011


Still waiting for Japanese PC release...gaaaaah! Need to stop reading posts about games I can't play yet...
posted by jet_manifesto at 7:40 PM on November 21, 2011


And people are overstating the linearity

Not possible. Any time there's a choice of paths in a dungeon they either a) meet up in the next room or b) all but one of them dead ends is an immediate dead end. I've found literally one exception, and it dead ended in the third room, and they were in a straight line. It's really weird, like they went for the most open game possible in the overworld but were terrified people would spend 30 seconds disoriented in a dungeon.
posted by neuromodulator at 7:48 PM on November 21, 2011


In all honesty, I don't like spending even 30 seconds being disoriented in a dungeon. I guess it's the immersionist in me: in real life I have a good sense of where things are in relation to my body, if not absolute direction. If I turn, my body remembers the motion, so that I do not lose that orientation. I hate spinning the mouse around trying to remember where I've come from. I'm not really a hard core gamer - I like the Skyrim dungeons.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:03 PM on November 21, 2011


I guess it's the immersionist in me

Fair enough on your preference for it, but for me it's immersion-breaking, this feeling like all the structures are straight lines, conceptually speaking.
posted by neuromodulator at 8:06 PM on November 21, 2011


Wait... you can still do the thing where you enchant items to give you an enchantment bonus which makes future enchantments stronger, so you make even stronger enchantment items, ad infinitum?

Yo dawg, I heard you like enchantments so I put some enchantments in your enchantments.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:19 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been checking out the Dead End Thrills screenshots since shortly after release, going back and forth between being jealous of his 2160p and wondering how long it must take him to frame some of the shots, so it's nice to see them get some attention here.

I need to play some more, since I haven't quite binged on the game yet, but a lot of my concerns at this point are related to my experience getting Oblivion a little over a year ago and searching out mods that upped the immersion factor, additions to the game world like travelers on the roads that made it seem less like everyone in the world was just waiting for me to come by and put things in motion. More cosmetic things too, like windows lighting up at night, and many more various features. Four years of Oblivion modding meant searching for mods almost became a game in and of itself, where I was trying to pick up where Bethesda left off and make the world more immersive and diverse.

I was still somewhat deep in my Oblivion mod hunt only a month ago, so my Skyrim experience is partially about seeing where Bethesda learned from the modders, or had the time to include those various immersiveness-enhancing features present in the Oblivion mods I've collected. I'm glad to see the windows light up at night in Skyrim, but I haven't seen many road travelers yet! I do need to play more though.
posted by palidor at 8:19 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, the fucking Companions quest is borked. [MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW] Toward the end of the quest line SOME GUY asks you to go get something, and when you get back SOME GUY is dead and all the Companions are swearing vengeance on his killers, but the quest doesn't update in your journal and all the Companions are stuck in place, permanently mourning the death of SOME GUY. I guess I shouldn't be surprised; as much as I love BethSoft RPGs, they wouldn't be BethSoft RPGs if they weren't buggy as hell.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:22 PM on November 21, 2011


If I really wanted to I could make a list of all the various Oblivion mod features that "should" be in Skyrim (assuming some kind of infinite development time), seeing as how I have my collection of mods organized into 18 or so subcategories because I'm building a f#########king website for it with descriptions of 300-some mods oh god I will never finish this
posted by palidor at 8:26 PM on November 21, 2011


Oooh, named weapons. So far I've made Lydia's Lullaby, a flawless ebony flaming sword my doughty if sarcastic housecarl uses to smite her foes; Lizard's Kiss, a bow testifying to my proud Argonian heritage that inflicts weakness to poison (my motto? Poison ALL the things!); and, of course, The Swingin' Medallion, which increases carry weight and grooviness.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:31 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


My paralyzing bow which I only use when I am feeling sneaky sneaky is called Death From Somewhere. The health-draining mace is unimaginatively called The Leech, and the random piece of armor I enchanted just for the skill-up and subsequent level was called Perk Now Please.
posted by Spatch at 8:39 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The 20 iron daggers I forged, enchanted, and sold all had Bigger Than Life names, cause I was hawkin' them, you know? So (pretty much interchangeably) you had Doombringer, Mageslayer, Skyreaver, Devilspawn, etc, etc... (I doubt I could name them all, having come up with them on the spot).

Incidentally, some of these sold for staggering amounts (for, you know, iron daggers). I'm sure it was the names.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:01 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Durn, I really hope Skyrim is intelligent enough for you to incidentally come across these items later on down the road.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:08 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


you can still do the thing where you enchant items to give you an enchantment bonus which makes future enchantments stronger, so you make even stronger enchantment items, ad infinitum?

Well yes, using alchemy and enchanting you can create weapons with over 1000 damage, the game won't even display over 999 damage.

You can also create items with 100% less to cast.


I don't think anyone has hit any limits yet.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:17 PM on November 21, 2011


Incidentally, some of these sold for staggering amounts (for, you know, iron daggers). I'm sure it was the names.

Yeah, but who are you selling these things to? I am flat out finding a vendor who can pay me the full amount for an Exquisite Orcish Breastplate (which, incidentally, is my new band name).
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:38 PM on November 21, 2011


It's like watching a BBC antiques show. "Oh, some collectors would pay up to five thousand pounds for this particular item." Oh yeah? Well, give me their names and addresses!
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:39 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The complaints about the lack of ability to roleplay are interesting to me. I decided my first Skyrim character was going to be an antipode of the RPG character I usually make. To that end:

1) It's a guy
2) That never uses a bow
3) And is very sneaky
4) And evil
5) As well as cowardly

So the thieves-guild quests have been shoe-ins so far, and the dark brotherhood will come next. He's been pretty relentlessly evil, stealing from everyone who dares to so much as blink, and murdering them to make it less risky if it seems like it will be easier to do that.

He gets kinda tore up by dragons, since he can't sneak up on them, but that will be less an issue once I get him up to 100 stealth and get the stealth-in-combat perk.

He is an awful human being that avoids a fair fight, so Lydia has spent the entire game so far sitting in his house in Whiterun drinking flagon after flagon of mead. Sometimes she eats some bread? She's putting the "house" in "housecarl", anyway. No one else has expressed any desire to spend more time than absolutely necessary in his company, which suits him just as well.

I'm actually pretty sure that this will not be the character I do the main questline with. My next character will, I think, be a sort of paladinny lady with sword, shield, and restoration magic. She'll make a bee-line through the main plot because, for her, that will be important. Must save the world and everything.

I don't know if it makes sense to ask for the RP you're looking for from CRPGs right now. I honestly feel that Skyrim is a lot closer to it than Planescape or DA:O were, because at the end of the day those games are still all about clicking on dialogue options. You're not making your own dialogue, and if you want to do that, you're going to have to do it with other people.

In Skyrim, your choices about who your character is affect how you play. They affect the questlines you do and do not follow, the urgency with which you follow them, and the tactics you use in combat. Combat in DA:O, for example, is most often going to come down to having 1-2 plate wearers soaking damage, some sort of healer/controller, and 1-2 people doing damage. And as an RPS writer recently noticed, you can play a blood mage in DA:O, in a world where magic is strictly controlled and feared, and it doesn't really change how the world interacts with you. Shouldn't the Templars treat you as something to be killed on sight? Etc.

Sorry, I'm rambling a bit. I guess what I mean to say is that you can't just airily dismiss the fact that you have the option to skip any quest in the entire game, including the main quest. If you want to play a shining beacon of purity, you can do that. If you want to play a monstruous sociopath, you can do that too. If you want to do something in between: hey, go for it.

"Having more dialogue options" never really struck me as role playing.
posted by kavasa at 9:52 PM on November 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't really have that much time for gaming, but after listening to all the hype about Dragon Age Origin I gave it a go... and found it as boring as hell. Is Skyrim a qualitatively different experience?
posted by moorooka at 10:03 PM on November 21, 2011


moorooka, I don't know Skyrim yet, but my experience with Dragon Age: Origins vs Oblivion was like what I imagine methadone is compared to heroin. DA:O was solid, but nothing like the immersion that Oblivion created, and frankly I found the "Create your character out of six or so choices, psyche! that'll change the first hour or two of gameplay and then you're in the same storyline" gimmick to be cheap and crude.

Now, mind you, in Oblivion at least you find the same basic storyline no matter what race or class you choose, but the RP choices are so vast that, as kavasa mentions, you can pretty much play it however you like. Completists like me will still try to do everything possible in the game, but I have a friend who adores Oblivion and who has never touched the Thieves GUild or Dark Brotherhood quests with any of her characters, specifically because the main plot drags her in at the beginning and she can't imagine playing a character who is doing those things and yet is also stealing or murdering people for profit.

I can, so it's all good.

But then again, you said you don't have much time for gaming, so maybe Elder Scrolls games just aren't for you, right now.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:10 PM on November 21, 2011


Anyone else care to share their custom names for crafted items?

"Scathing Rejection" for a Legendary glass dagger with a strong frost enchant on it -- it'll leave your heart cold.

And, because I love me some anachronisms, my Legendary glass bow with Soul Trap on it is "The Bell System". Reach out and touch someone.
posted by Malor at 10:30 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well yes, using alchemy and enchanting you can create weapons with over 1000 damage, the game won't even display over 999 damage.

While initially fun, that such things are possibly strikes me as prima facie evidence of poor game design. It's not like it's a surprise that you can break the game with recursive enhancements. You could do that as far back as, what, Morrowind? 100% less mana to cast? Really, Bethesda?

To me, a game breaking design decision like this is enough to knock it from true classic territory. You shouldn't have to deliberately choose to gimp your character. It should, rather, be impossible to break the game through simple game mechanics.
posted by Justinian at 10:43 PM on November 21, 2011


To me, a game breaking design decision like this is enough to knock it from true classic territory. You shouldn't have to deliberately choose to gimp your character. It

I see it differently. If I could really enchant and use alchemy, I would figure out any and all tricks the allow me to create the most crazy powerful items imaginable. The problem I have is that they have created a world in which the player is the only one smart enough to do so.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:00 PM on November 21, 2011


I'm jealous of everyone's appropriate names for items. I'm always stuck for inspiration when the time comes to name stuff, so I'm wearing ELASTICATED MITTENS and BOOTS, MADE FOR WALKIN'. I'm quite proud of my carrying-capacity-enhancing BUCKMINSTERFULLERING, though.

The shield I pull out when I've exhausted my mana is called IT LOOKS LIKE A FACE because, um, ah... ahem. :(
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:03 PM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just found out that my 'original' bow name 'Soul Siphon' is the name of a perk. I can't say if this was unconscious borrowing or coincidence. Now I know how George Harrison felt about 'My Sweet Lord' (an exact parralell).
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:04 PM on November 21, 2011


My soul trapping bows are always named The Trapper Keeper.
posted by Aquaman at 11:05 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


And, yeah, I've only just now been able to view these screenshots and holy crap, they are amazing. I still think it looks great on the old Xbox but to have a PC running the game at that quality of visuals, I think it would be a whole different game. Beautiful stuff. I still remember playing Terminal Velocity and thinking "Whoa, check out the landscape, and how far into the distance we can see!"
posted by tumid dahlia at 11:35 PM on November 21, 2011


Skyrim looks great on PC (particularly when tweaked) for those wide vistas but you're still limited to mostly console-resolution textures when you get up close and personal. So the mountains and forests look beautiful in the distance but when they're all up in your face they are rather blocky.

It's a compromise. The performance hit from loading that amount of landscape with a high resolution texture would be massive. Still, I wish there were a high resolution texture pack. If I want to play at 7 fps, then dammit let me play at 7 fps!
posted by Justinian at 1:48 AM on November 22, 2011


Useful link for PC users: a Large Address Aware workaround which forces Skyrim to use more than 2GB of RAM and increases stability for further mods/tweaks - now updated to take into account Bethesda's unfortunate decision to patch it out last night.

I'm really loving Skyrim so far. It's huge and ridiculous and beautiful and has immersed me like no other game.

An example: this weekend I was wandering around outside Markarth, trying to not get eaten by bears, when I found a ruined watchtower set on a tall hill. It was surprisingly free of angry wildlife, so I climbed up to the top and emerged onto a crumbling stone balcony overlooking the entire valley. The view was breathtaking. I arrived just as dusk was falling, and spent the rest of the (in-game) night and quite a bit of real time standing there in silence, watching the two moons slowly crossing the clear cold sky. I stayed long enough to see the sun come up over the mountains, then I turned, gathered my Dwemer scrap metal, quaffed a Potion of Strength to keep me going, and headed back down to continue my adventure.

It's stuff like that which is keeping me going despite the crappy UI and the twitchy graphics and the pretty stupid quest coding (on more than one occasion I've accidentally stumbled on a final quest item in some icy hole of a cave and finished it before I've even started).

Now I'm going to be spending the rest of the day at work trying not to think of witty names for my broadsword and how I'd rather be skinning a snow bear.
posted by fight or flight at 3:13 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'd say Skyrim is dramatic and emotionally involving enough for me.

I was hiking in the mountains with Lydia, just walking around enjoying the scenery, when I spotted what looked like a dragon sitting motionless way down at the bottom of a steep ravine. Looking down on it, I wondered if it was a dead dragon, or a statue of a dragon, or what. My character had seen only the one dragon so far and wasn't really convinced that more of them existed. So I shot it from above with an arrow just to see if it would react, and of course it woke up to fly into the sky and breathe fire at me.

Trapped on a narrow mountain ledge is not really the ideal position from which to fight a dragon. It wouldn't land, only paused to hover in place now and then just out of range of the beginner's destruction magic that was my main offensive ability. So despite having no skill at archery I started shooting arrows at it until while drinking healing potions until it eventually landed somewhat far away, just out of sight over a ridge. By the time I got to it, it was busy fighting a giant and some wolves.

Lydia, who I realized had been strangely absent during my earlier dragon fighting, managed to annoy the giant and it launched her into orbit. The wolves were attacking me as the giant helped me slay the dragon, after which I killed the remaining wolves. I used my last couple of healing potions just in time to survive the first blow from the giant's hammer.

I could've run away at that point, but thinking that the giant had killed Lydia I wanted revenge. Lucky for me the giant is a bit slow-moving compared to me in my light armor. Run away, shoot him with arrows until he's too close, dodge and repeat. With a bit of luck I managed to survive.

At that point Lydia walked up and looked at me as if nothing had happened.
posted by sfenders at 5:31 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's stuff like that which is keeping me going despite the crappy UI and the twitchy graphics and the pretty stupid quest coding (on more than one occasion I've accidentally stumbled on a final quest item in some icy hole of a cave and finished it before I've even started).


Almost every cave in the game has a quest item in it for some quest, but most of those quests are basically 'oh hey dude, can you go to this cave and get this item for me?' so you aren't really missing anything.
posted by empath at 5:33 AM on November 22, 2011


I'm starting to feel sorry for vampires. I mean, it seems like they can't even sit down for dinner without these flaming arrows starting to sprout from their chests. "Do you hear something?" asks one to its dead, burning dinner companion.

Before it can answer, there's a thhhwp-THUNK and more burning.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:40 AM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I name all of my equippable objects "Hurty".

It makes trying to use things in a panic more interesting.

"I have you now, mister Ancient Horror! Behold my .... rusty shovel? Uh, hmmm. That wasn't quite what I had in mind. Oh dear."
posted by aramaic at 6:10 AM on November 22, 2011


Then, out of nowhere, there's the sound of one last arrow, and the dragon dies. I look all around and there, atop the ruined keep's bridge, is Lydia with bow in hand.

I love unexpected NPC rescues. Takes me back to Mechwarrior (1!).

Tank Jones, you magnificent A.I. bastard.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:43 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man, Lydia.

For an NPC with a limited facial mobility, she sure gives me some filthy looks.

I rolled up a dunmer, and hey, they're kind of flame resistant, and I'll strollolloll right through a fire trap and she will swear to god, glare at me from the other side of the trap before walking into it. Then glare at me some more.

I found out she could use staffs when she raised a zombie using one and I killed it and she scowled at me a bit. I got the same glare when I confiscated her Summon Flame Actronact staff after she started summoning them to deal with skeevers. Soul gems ain't cheap, lady.

Mostly I get it after I mountain goat my way down a rock face, and her little scowly face peers down over the ridge and me, then she goes and walks the long way. I pick flowers in the interim. I have a lot of flowers.

I've made it up to her by giving her the best archery gear I can manage, as well as all the enchanted archery gear I can cobble together with my limited skills. She can take out a disturbing amount of the human mobs with just the one arrow. I try to limit her inventory to ranged weapons and dragon corpse bits so she's too heavy to think that close melee is a good idea, and stops leaping over me onto my swords to try and get at the baddens. She's pretty bitching in a fight from a distance though, and is a pretty good shot even without the gear.

This is why I gave her a butterfly in a jar. She's my girl.
posted by Jilder at 9:14 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


So I'm coming out of a dungeon in a particular town and have several companions alongside with whom I share a grievance against the townspeople. I get my gear given back to me, and we enter the town. Arrows, swords, flame and ice start flying immediately, and I think: The Revolution is on!

I join in, dispatching every guard that gets into my cross hair...if some civilians get hit, then so be it. The revolution comes at a price. While running around the city with the view to emptying it of life, I notice that the aristocrats don't quite die, instead they do that low health crawl thing that Lydia does every time we get into a battle. No matter - there are reactionary pig dogs left to slaughter.

I make my way out the town gates along with my compadres and a guard tries to arrest me. Arrest me!? Do you know what's going on in there? It's a bona fide revolution - here, let me quote our revered leader's thoughts from my journal...Oh.

I was supposed to slip out unmolested while the rest of our bloodthirsty band fought their way out. Well, that's what save games are for.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:50 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I just killed everything in that quest and paid the fine later.
posted by empath at 9:57 AM on November 22, 2011


There are more necromancers than there are anyone else in Skyrim - they should just stop the facade and take over.
posted by winna at 9:58 AM on November 22, 2011


So I started a guy over last night because I wanted to do a couple things differently with skill emphasis. Apparently, what I also decided to do was thoroughly investigate every unexplored marker I could see, which often led to clearing out a dungeon, which also led to more markers, which...

So the upshot is that by the time I went into the Bleak Hills Burrow for the first time, I was around level 15. Well, I say by that time. First I had to narrowly survive a battle with an ice wraith using steel weapons and then run away from a giant, the first time I'd seen either of those particular entities. But, yes, then I went into the burrow. Let me assure you that level-scaling is not a myth. The draugr started lighting me on fire and freezing me, which was interesting. Then, at the end of the burrow, by the word thing? Dread Wight Lord. He was not pleased to see me and disarmed me immediately. I was then not pleased to see him. There was a lot of running around his crypt sitcom-style while I tried to heal myself and find my swords on the ground without getting my head cut off in three hits.

Although, in hindsight, it makes a lot of sense why no one really got down that far before I the hero showed up. Before, it was like: really, a few pesky zombies, that stopped you? Now, it's like: well, of course, there's a fucking pseudo-lich in there. Things are going to be fairly interesting from here.
posted by Errant at 10:31 AM on November 22, 2011


Jilder, if I'm not mistaken, companions don't use charges on things. So she can use your staff for one million years.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:32 AM on November 22, 2011


Nope. You are mistaken. She's emptied her flame staff and her frost staff a couple of times now.

But I need her alive, or how are we going to retire and buy a little cottage down in Leyawin together? (I always wanted to retire down there. Good horse country. Warm. Flat. I've picked Lyddie enough posies.)

Also, anyone have much luck keeping that beardy pilgrim of Kynareth alive? He lasted maybe five minutes before he decided to punch a bear to death and well, that was that.
posted by Jilder at 10:38 AM on November 22, 2011


Skyrimming HARD.
posted by naju at 10:39 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've already mentally drafted my letter to Bethesda about my idea for JRAI (Jack Russell A.I.). Lifelike NPC reactions with just the right touch of deference.

*raises Atronarch staff, glancing at player*

"No..."

*staff lowered slightly. looks everywhere but player. hesitantly raised*

"NOOOO..."

*staff lowered, ears flat*

Well, the ears would work for elven NPCs, anyway. Khajit could be a bit tougher. Try scratching behind the ears.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:40 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


what if I DIDN'T want to be one and STILL wanted to be in the Companions and do some more missions for them?

If you want to join the gang you have to do the initiation. A lot of times I go through a good RPG with a character of opposite alignment. The evil path is kind of fun.
posted by Bonzai at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2011


There is level scaling in Skyrim, but it's more like FO3 rather than Oblivion. Things/zones tend to scale within bands based on when you first visit, while some things scale directly and others apparently don't scale at all.
posted by aramaic at 11:11 AM on November 22, 2011


I kind of like Skryim's scaling system, it's a bit bumpy, so you never know for sure if a cave is going to kick your ass or be a cake walk.
posted by empath at 11:25 AM on November 22, 2011


Oh, I like it too, or at least I don't mind it compared to Oblivion which is maybe the same thing. It's far less obtrusive than Oblivion. I only noticed because I'd already done that particular dungeon at a much lower level in a previous playthrough. At the time, it didn't feel out of place; there were the usual jerk bandits up top, then you go deeper, and then the draugr were tougher but hardly overwhelming. The wight lord fight felt like a climactic boss fight, too, where I was definitely in serious danger but I wasn't completely overmatched.

Even the wraith outdoors was at night on a snowy cliffside. There was a shift in the music and then I could see the snow flurries sort of coalescing into this spirit that flew at me. It was like nature had turned hostile. It was pretty great.
posted by Errant at 11:38 AM on November 22, 2011


When I was going up the seven thousand steps to High Shoutsville, I ran into a Frost Troll. "No worries," I thought, "This game scales with my level, so if I keep at it, I should be able to beat him." So I kept dying, restarting, and dying again. Of course, my Dad was watching and he was all like "You're not very good at this."

Yeah, no. It took an hour of me dying before I looked up what was going on. No way my level 5 ass was going to beat that level 22 troll. Flash forward to me revisiting the troll as a level 20 character, swigging from the bottle of Gaming Rum I keep handy, alternating between crooning "Cat's In The Cradle" and shouting HOW GOOD AM I NOW, DAD, HOW GOOD???!! as the troll's flaming corpse slides down the mountain.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:49 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Seriously man, fuck that troll.

That should be the rallying cry of all Skyrim fans.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:11 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing that there are leveling effects, rather than pure leveling? You're never going to see a lvl 20 mudcrab. If a given dungeon is tougher, did you notice them replacing with one kind of draugr with another? This may be partly why there are so many varieties of many types of creature, with numbers probably making up for others.

The guide explicitly notes which creatures individually level in the game, and almost all do not (I recall only one exception, actually, but I didn't scan the charts thoroughly for this particular aspect and don't have the book to hand).

Much better for immersion purposes. I have no problem with areas becoming inhabited by tougher stuff (even if it handily coincides with level). Much more problematic for a given species to suddenly hit level 20 with you.

I'm very curious about other effects, though. There's a certain bandit camp where some forging is taking place that I initially raided but did not destroy. Later, I went back to find better gear having just been forged. I should really make like ants with the termite hill and let them continue to rebuild and carry on their work, raid after raid.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2011


I find the whole scaling thing interesting because with both Fallout 3 (Original Recipe) and Skyrim, I enjoy the game by far the most when I'm weak and low on resources. Not because I like dying or something something about challenge but because that's when I'm most immersed in it and most aware of my environment.

My first foray outside the vault in Fallout 3 was a wonderful scrap with a few bandits, and really felt like I was scrounging for food and ammunition in a post-apocalyptic world. Finding a mattress in a caved in subway felt like locating much-needed shelter. And the further I progress in these games, the less I have to worry about seeing my enemies first, the closer I get to not caring what someone is carrying, the more everything becomes "just another potion", etc.

The earlier game is much more what I want the experience to be.

So that sounds like justification for scaling to me, right there. It sounds like scaling is an acknowledgment of those issues. And yet I've never encountered scaling in a way that seemed to solve that problem at all. It doesn't fix that issue, and instead creates this frustrating reduction

Now in Skyrim all the mobs have scaled their drops so that they have pretty good potions, which makes sense on paper but the practical result is that I have four hundred times more of everything than I'll ever need because they're also delivering them way faster than I use them.

I don't understand why scaling sounds like the solution to something and just doesn't actually work whenever I've encountered it.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:16 PM on November 22, 2011


Character levelling is the problem, really, not scaling. Character levelling is the defining attribute of RPGs that everybody loves but it wrecks realism.
posted by empath at 12:23 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


But why shouldn't scaling theoretically neutralize levelling?
posted by neuromodulator at 12:26 PM on November 22, 2011


Yeah, but in practice it's 'now you have two problems'.

I don't really know what an RPG would look like with out power levelling, though, and whether people would even play it.
posted by empath at 12:34 PM on November 22, 2011


I know, it's a weird thing. Because I know that sense of accomplishment I get from becoming more powerful is the real skinner-box action at work in these games.

I was reading the link someone posted over on mefightclub about min/maxing strategies for this game and I don't identify at all with whatever makes someone want to do that.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:39 PM on November 22, 2011


The easiest way to power level is smithing/enchanting but the game will punish you when you take your horrible combat skills out into the wild. Snow bears don't give a shit about how well you can sharpen an iron dagger.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:31 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have Skyrim yet because my computer is old, and I refuse to buy it for the Xbox. Oblivion was so moddable that I was playing it for ages due to the player-made content. It looks like there is now a lot of room for the content, as if you enable noclip, then you'll see that "Skyrim Contains Most Of Tamriel, Sort Of" (RPS link), which is pretty freakin' awesome.
I think by the time I get a new computer, Bethesda'll stop killing the game with bad updates, and there'll be lots of good new content.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:35 PM on November 22, 2011


I don't really know what an RPG would look like with out power levelling, though, and whether people would even play it.

Thief, Splinter Cell and Mirror's Edge were examples of that type of gameplay. All three generally avoided using point-based spreadsheets to widen the player's advantage over the level's design (as in striking ability, speed, intelligence), while focusing instead on navigating three-dimentional obstacles. There were still a number of perks that were laid in place (Garret's speed potions, Sam's spy gear, Faith's parkour movements), but players were encouraged to experiment with inventory items and nearby physical objects, while judging distances and outside movements by sight.

But that's pretty much how virtual sims work; the most tangible changes those setups are based on what the main character's initially permitted to carry or perform, along with what subsequent items they're allowed to pick up or interact with. Actual "intelligence", "charisma", or "constitution" were reflected by the player's judgement, or lack thereof. This type of play, even with Thief's encouragement to use observation and restraint, is twitchy in a strictly esoteric context. Altering the rules of the universe surrounding the playable character, with magic or technology offers the player conflates the illusion of being confident of their skills, and in facing challenges or taking risks.

Players are also drawn to trophies and achievements, which can be incorporated into the status of expressing their like of a game; knowing an inventory can exert [$VALUE]+ damage or recovery is a readily available (albeit hand-holding) means of determining progress and capability, in single-player or co-op titles. Take that standard away from players, and the actual and implied limits risk being viewed as strongly defined handicaps.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:05 PM on November 22, 2011


What bothered me most about Skyrim was its reflection of tabletop RPG's main quirk of how players were effectively marauders. For all the good that can be attained through charitable acts or restraint, most of their progress is measured by the amount of killing, looting and raiding they accomplish. They never enter a crypt out of remorse, unless it's to loot items they have initial misgivings about (mild spoiler), or to swear to a departed character that revenge will be met (I'm looking at you, Saint's Row 2).

Status in these setups is ornamental - in Skyrim, the player is specifically told they'll be given ornamental titles and symbols of power, which are for the sake to alerting the guards that you're not to be (immediately) cut down in the streets or hauled away in chains. Most of your defining accomplishments rest upon whatever you stole, stripped away, or paid off through blood money. The game system included the means of starting up with your own gumption, gathering items and crafting them through trial-and-error practice, but the big scores are pretty much measured trough big kills.

A little more humor could've offset the one-note theme, but it reflects a recurring pattern in Bethesda's games which stems from their Terminator tie-in titles: while you may start off in the vein of Kyle Reese or John Connor, you're reduced to becoming a flesh-and-blood stand-in of a T-800 in order to survive.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:26 PM on November 22, 2011


All things aside, I'm still having loads of fun - it was great approaching the Montessori Wizard's School only to have a dragon arrive. Instructors and students began pouring out, screaming, only to band together and cut the beast down with lightning attacks.

That assured my continuing contribution to their alumni fund.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:31 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Status in these setups is ornamental - in Skyrim, the player is specifically told they'll be given ornamental titles and symbols of power, which are for the sake to alerting the guards that you're not to be (immediately) cut down in the streets or hauled away in chains. Most of your defining accomplishments rest upon whatever you stole, stripped away, or paid off through blood money.

Right. I haven't played any of the previous Elder Scrolls games, and maybe this is less problematic when the game is more abstract, but with the amount of realism in the games now, it feels like it's less and less okay to make a game about this kind of mayhem without some kind of examination of what it means to be doing what you're doing. There's no reflection in this game on what it means to be a hero or a villain or about any life at all outside of murdering and stealing. The morally gray situations in the game only seem like they were added to make you feel less guilty about killing or stealing from anyone you feel like.
posted by empath at 2:41 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's also reflective of the preferences of the modding community. Some folks (ie, younger players) prefer to adapt the Elder Scrolls titles into a character-type simulator, in the sense of their seeing the story unfold through the eyes of an actual rogue mage, or using the job title of a professional assassin serving as more of an excuse than a discipline. The notion of being a conquering (anti)hero winds up demanding greater attention than any promise of being an existential drifter in a storybook setting.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:59 PM on November 22, 2011


To me role-playing has always meant "choose a role: fighter, rogue, or mage." Then you use your selected class' skills to kill things in dungeons and find treasure. Elder Scrolls games have always fit this classical mold of role-playing games, at least in my opinion. I blame Bioware for all this talk about morality.

I'm not saying games can't explore moral themes based on the player's actions, but these types of AAA games aren't doing it, and I don't expect them to. Even Bioware games' "morality" is something of an arbitrary mechanic.
posted by palidor at 4:01 PM on November 22, 2011


I think it's not fair to tabletop RPGs to describe them as marauder oh my god I'm defending Dungeons and Dragons on the internet what have i become
posted by neuromodulator at 4:47 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think this is where someone is suppose to mention the depiction of adventurers as mercenary killers in Perdido Street Station. And I'm looking forward to playing such a thug in Skyrim once I've finished grading finals next month.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:58 PM on November 22, 2011


I'm not saying games can't explore moral themes based on the player's actions, but these types of AAA games aren't doing it, and I don't expect them to. Even Bioware games' "morality" is something of an arbitrary mechanic.

I'm such a ridiculous Bioware fanboy I even liked Jade Empire, but their morality systems are always ridiculous. To invoke Penny Arcade, your choices are usually either to kill a kitten or send it to college. I can only think of two games that really looked closely at what you're doing in RPGs and why you're doing it: one was Planescape: Torment, and the other was Knights of the Old Republic II, which story gets far less credit than it deserves because the game is largely unfinished. The reality of your character going out and killing tons and tons of dudes is addressed head-on in both of them.

The thing is, though, it's really hard to pull off that kind of introspection in a series devoted basically exclusively to the intervention of Our Hero every time. In Skyrim you can read about the events of the other games, and it's always the same: there is the nameless Champion of Arena, the Nerevarine reincarnation of Morrowind's greatest hero, the predestined savior of Tamriel in Oblivion, now the Dragonborn. There are others in the lore, too: Potema the Wolf Queen, Tiber Septim, Pelinal Whitestrake, all larger-than-life figures who cut bloody swaths across continents in order to recreate the world in their image. The Elder Scrolls world internally rotates around the creation and intervention of these kinds of people, and everyone else is basically irrelevant.

So the thing is that your character in these games is simply following a path well-worn by countless figures before them. The great heroes before your character were born with greater ability and destiny, solely for the purpose of murdering and stealing their way across the world. The heroes who come after your character will do the same thing, because they are born to it. It is an eternal recurrence.

What I would like to see is that cyclical bloody history examined, and I would like to see them try to reinvent the Empire as an intercedent between the inevitability of grand history and the ordinary person. The Empire is draconian and ruthless, but that is because they're the only thing between farmers and huge enchanted swords. Basically, I'd like this series to become Exalted.
posted by Errant at 5:19 PM on November 22, 2011


What's all this about murder and theft? I started out being quite peaceful and law-abiding in Skyrim, not stealing anything, leaving giants alone, using magic to make friends with wild animals. I usually wouldn't attack anyone except in self-defense, unless they said something like "Did you hear something?" which means "I'm going to murder you, whoever you are, you sneaky bastard." I got along just fine like that long enough to reach level 23. But then I went to Markarth. Far from making me feel "less guilty about killing" all those bandits, the big quest there made me think perhaps I should feel at least a little bad about it, because this is one fucked up world these video-game characters have to live in. That is what I thought, as I let the two guys I didn't like fight each other and then murdered the survivor.
posted by sfenders at 5:24 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Eh, I'm think I'm pretty much done with it after realizing how poorly written every guild except for the Mage College is (including the main quest). I don't ever really care about story in games, but when it's this bad it's hard not to care. Bethesda went against their natural instinct and made an engine that's immersive, attractive, and fun, and then made Oblivion 2 in terms of quest, scenario, and story. I wish Obsidian had this license instead.
posted by codacorolla at 7:12 PM on November 22, 2011


The thing is, though, it's really hard to pull off that kind of introspection in a series devoted basically exclusively to the intervention of Our Hero every time. In Skyrim you can read about the events of the other games, and it's always the same: there is the nameless Champion of Arena, the Nerevarine reincarnation of Morrowind's greatest hero, the predestined savior of Tamriel in Oblivion, now the Dragonborn.

Sorry to take this in another direction, but I was thinking the other day it's kind of funny how the overarching plot has developed in relation to the actions of the player character. The Nerevarine contributing to the destruction of Vvardenfell which was the result of the three Godly God-beings losing their power. The Champion of Cyrodiil wasn't able to save the Empire, and now everything is coming apart and s/he went on to take the place of the Daedric prince of madness. I'm only at the beginning of Skyrim, but the preceding 200 years of story-time doesn't really make it look like the last two player characters saved the world so much as briefly delay its downfall. I'd like to think this darker reading has been purposefully implied by Bethesda but they're probably just making somewhat random story decisions.
posted by palidor at 7:24 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of you should be gearing up to make mods.
posted by aramaic at 6:14 AM on November 23, 2011


It's a standing trope of the genre that A Hero Arrives To Make Right What Has Gone Wrong, so with a serial game like Elder Scrolls, in order to have that hero show up each game, something needs to go wrong. Since the hero's involvement is only temporary (they tend to ascend to godhood, sacrifice themselves, fade into legend, whatevs) this means that the Wrong periods of the setting must outlast the Right ones. Golden Ages must end and Dark Ages must stretch ever longer in order to make the Golden ones shine that much brighter.

In order for the cycle to continue, there must be an Anti-Hero. The Hero shows us that the fastest way to affect the transition from Wrong to Right (Dark to Gold) is through an independent agent. If the Golden Ages need to end promptly in order for the Dark Ages to begin, there must be an Anti-Hero out there who steps in and starts turning things to shit right after the player beats the game.

An interesting question would be Is This Anti-Hero Playable? Of course, playing a villain is doable. You could make a sequel where the player undoes everything they did before in the previous game. Problem is, especially with open world games Skyrim, that could be solved by simple bloodshed. No quests or anything, just start the game, grind enough to get tough enough to stab the king in the neck, and foom, game over. If all you need to do is destroy the Golden status quo, then that's a walk in the park.

A more intriguing option would be to take the role of a character who is undermining the hero's quest as it goes along. Imagine that Lydia is working against you this whole time. You, the player, only find out about this when 'Betrayal At Skyrim' comes out next year. That'd go a long way to explaining why things turn to shit so quickly after the fabled hero departs. The hero needs to do what they do in order to prevent the world from collapsing into Oblivion Gates or dragon maws, but the stage must be reset afterwards so that the next hero can arise to save the world from, I dunno, super intelligent cave bears and their mammoth knight giants.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:11 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


In order for the cycle to continue, there must be an Anti-Hero.

It's been a terribly long time, but I believe that the concept behind the Myth:TFL series was that the Hero of one age inevitably became the Enemy of the next age (Balor/Connacht, and the whole "Leveler" thing).

...which always struck me as interesting.
posted by aramaic at 8:28 AM on November 23, 2011


I don't ever really care about story in games, but when it's this bad it's hard not to care.

The writing is weak, but again I think this is partly a conceptual problem with trying to make things as open as they have. Writing any form of better story necessarily involves constraining player choice. I don't see a way around that.

Anyway, I thought I should qualify my "I think the difficulty of Dark Souls is overstated" statement, not that anyone cares but I wanted to be accurate: The two Silver Knights in Anor Londo with Dragonslayer bows are real assholes. Yes, it's true that there are techniques to get past them without too much grief (so my comment about observation holds) but it's pretty easy to just throw yourself at them over and over and be filled with despair.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:23 AM on November 23, 2011


I just found out you can cast Fury on bunnies but they have no programmed attacks so now I just have a pissed off bunny following me around.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:52 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not to get back into a Dark Souls derail but I absolutely love the way it handles its story, and I hardly see it talked about when people are discussing the game. The contrast with other RPGs is striking. It's very adamantly opaque in its narrative, to the point where you can play through the whole game and never get much of a sense that there's a story at all. It's always at the periphery and aside from the intro, no one tells you anything concrete and every piece of information is suspect. But through careful observation, breadcrumbs from VERY unreliable NPC characters, item descriptions, and explicit connections to Demon's Souls some very intriguing and mysterious lore can be fleshed out. I don't think anyone's figured out the entire story yet; I imagine someone will write a definitive explanation piece at some point drawing on all the hints and threads. The game also does something with its story and your sense of identity that I've never seen before: **SPOILERS** Depending on how you play through the game, you get told two totally different, yet equally compelling narratives about who you are, what you're meant to be doing, what your goal and destiny is, what's happening to the world. The endings are laughably ambiguous if you're not paying attention, but wonderfully deep if you are: the "good ending" might be really bad, and the "bad ending" might be really good. Or there might be no good paths, just different choices in who you allow yourself to be deceived by. It's all a pretty unusual approach, right? More like postmodern literature than any conventional RPG sotry.
posted by naju at 12:16 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


A more intriguing option would be to take the role of a character who is undermining the hero's quest as it goes along.

DON'T TRUST THE SKULL.

(/torment)
posted by Justinian at 12:29 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's been a terribly long time, but I believe that the concept behind the Myth:TFL series was that the Hero of one age inevitably became the Enemy of the next age (Balor/Connacht, and the whole "Leveler" thing).

Diablo spoilers, I guess? If you care about Diablo Spoilers and haven't played the games, then I apologize...

Anyway, this is how the Diablo games have worked so far. The hero doesn't really win at the end of the first game, and instead becomes Diablo's earthly avatar, which allows him to free his brothers.

The hero in the second game has a false victory at the end of the main campaign, as it turns out that another evil bad guy is about to open the border between Hell and the real world. At the end of the expansion the hero ends up doing this anyway, and it's hinted that they may have been manipulated by the seemingly good side (Heaven) to further their proxy war on Earth against Hell. I'm pretty sure the third one opens up in a world that's been devastated by Heaven and Hell warring openly in the material realm.
posted by codacorolla at 12:45 PM on November 23, 2011


Oh, man, naju, you are my new best friend. I'm totally with you - you're talking about the easily-forgotten pygmy, and all that, right? I know, holy crap, I know. The details - finding peoples' remains, etc. - is astounding. And I love how understated it is.

I sank into some deep existential horror in-game, building up this elaborate and yet totally consistent-with-the-game mythology while playing where I'm stuck in some sort of undead groundhog's day type loop, doomed to relive the same moments over and over. What was horrifying was that I'm among all these other undead, and very few of us remember the previous day. Most have sunk into automaton-like hollowed status, and here's me, wondering why I'm different, why I'm gifted with sentience. I'm surrounded by evidence that most or all others gifted with such sentience have it eventually drift away, and further evidence that their desperate clinging to their routines that provide relief (spell research, smithing) might be the beginnings of the slipping of their sanity.

I'm focused on returning to life in a world of vast danger, and in my ability to learn I can avoid the horrors that killed me on the last cycle, but each escape from one danger just leads me headfirst into a new one. I felt this deep desperation (not in real life, but on behalf of the character) to escape the cycle and the threat of going hollow...and with the remains of each legendary hero you find, or each hollowed hero you encounter, feeling that the odds of my success are dwindling.

This added a chilling layer to what in all games is the unrealistic repetition of all NPC dialogue. Instead of being immersion-breaking, in Dark Souls each utterance of the same line because a chilling reminder of the loop I'm stuck in and the fate reaching towards me.

Related: the understated away in which the NPCs turn hollow was perfect. The first one I witnessed, the pyromancy trainer, I thought I had missed something or that they missed an opportunity for dramatic execution. This was precisely false: their speechless slipping was creeeeepy.

posted by neuromodulator at 1:28 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eh, I'm think I'm pretty much done with it after realizing how poorly written every guild except for the Mage College is (including the main quest).

Explain?
posted by Avenger50 at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2011


I'm done with angry bunnies. The new hotness is ZOMBIE GOATS.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:58 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Explain?

Spoilers, I guess...

For example, the Fighters guild forces you to be a Werewolf. Ok, whatever, not the choice I'd make, but I can tolerate it. Except that being a werewolf is functionally useless, since you can't use any abilities, and its just not as powerful as doing your thing as your character. And being a werewolf penalizes your ability to gain the rested status affect. And being a werewolf goes against any sort of role you might be trying to play with your blank-slate character in an open world game. If you want to advance in the Fighter's guild (about 10% of the game's quest-line content) then you have to be a Werewolf.

Ok, even accepting this, the story as evinced through the gameplay doesn't make much sense. You're being hunted by a group called the silver hand, which hates unnatural things and wants to kill them. Well... as the player I actually sort of agree with this point of view. A lot of Werewolves (even by the plot's own admission) are wreckless and should be controlled. There's no way to reconcile this, when games in the past (Fallout to a lesser extent, but mainly New Vegas and Morrowind) have allowed you to play both sides in a conflict, lie instead of actually killing people, accomplish tasks with the same result but different role play options. As an example, at the end of the second quest, the dude in charge of the companions asks you a question you can lie about, but it makes no difference because he gives basically the same response either way. Skyrim is unable to let its narrative control go, and railroads every player to the same outcome.

The rest of the companions quest railroads you through the death of a character you've know for, maybe, 15 minutes that, revenge for a vaguely understood act with a group that's been caricatured as evil without much real evidence towards this, and no motivation for their actions. In game time you can become the legendary hero of the guild in about two days, padded out by 6 radiant quests to kill bandits. This is pretty much exactly like Oblivion. Compare this to Morrowind, where there were multiple paths to the top of the guild, you had to do grunt work (although grunt work which played in to the storyline of the guild instead of randomly generated nonsense), and you had to actually show that you were a mage, or a theif, or a fighter. Compare Skyrim to New Vegas where you can kill every major faction, do whatever quests you want so long as you can accept the outcomes, and there are dozens of ways to get to whichever outcome you'd like.

Skyrim is an amazing game that lets you do whatever you want... on first glance, on closer inspection it's the framework and facade of an amazing game which forces you to do what its writers (who aren't even very good) want you to do. I exclude the mage's college in this because, while it doesn't really offer any more meaningful choice than the other quest-lines, it's at least not as odious about it.

The dungeon crawling is fun, the combat is acceptable, the emergent behavior from the ridiculous AI is funny, but the gameplay which should be at the core of a role playing game is non-existent. This isn't to say that Skyrim is a bad game (like Oblivion was) but that it's a deeply flawed and inconsistent game which doesn't live up to its potential.

It's immersive in the sense of its environments; bland and generic in every other.
posted by codacorolla at 2:16 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


From my experiences and the comments of others, do we really want that? Look at the stories we tell about Lydia saving our butts or our vengeance on the Shoutsville Troll. The players are creating their own narrative here. I didn't go hunt down the troll for ingame reasons - I did it for Biff Loman reasons. That there was no ingame narrative vendetta set on the troll (which there could have been - "Quest: Kill Troll Hassling High Shoutsville"), but because I wanted to.

Same thing with my ongoing feud with Nazeem. The designers gave him just enough personality that players may dislike him. I'm taking the tack of robbing him blind and ruining him. Other might have just cut him down in the marketplace and then waved an axe to make the guards go away.

I'm not sure computer RPGs can give you what you want here. Any decent GM would have started focusing on my party's (me and Lydia) hatred of Nazeem by now. That the game, released for wide audiences, doesn't... well, I can't say that's a problem. Most people won't pursue an obsessive vendetta like I will. Hell, in the context of computer games, it's an opportunity. Release 1$ DLC quests "The Fall of ...." where it's just one quest to ruin an NPC, and you'll make some cash.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:52 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


From my experiences and the comments of others, do we really want that? Look at the stories we tell about Lydia saving our butts or our vengeance on the Shoutsville Troll. The players are creating their own narrative here. I didn't go hunt down the troll for ingame reasons - I did it for Biff Loman reasons. That there was no ingame narrative vendetta set on the troll (which there could have been - "Quest: Kill Troll Hassling High Shoutsville"), but because I wanted to.

At which point you have a very pretty toy, like Minecraft, but not an actual game.

And, yes, in fact computer RPGs can, and have. The original 2 Fallouts and more recently New Vegas being the best example, though it has its own flaws.

Plus releasing DLC to fix a problem with the game? Man... your comment is a pretty succinct definition of what's wrong with gaming.
posted by codacorolla at 4:27 PM on November 23, 2011


I've been wanting a truly non-linear game where the game world reacts to your decisions for like 15 years now and I've accepted that no game with a reasonable development cycle is going to fully realize it. At least not at this point in time. Maybe if you gave a team a decade or two to produce it, something groundbreaking in that mold would see release, but that isn't a very realistic scenario.

Yeah maybe Skyrim fails to present alternative options to complete quests that other games, even Bethesda-developed games, handle a lot better. But to reiterate my earlier comment about what a role-playing game is to me (fighter, rogue, or mage), Elder Scrolls games have always had a core of "kill the enemies and get the treasure." A lot of reviews talk about the freedom you have in the world, but in strictly gameplay terms, Skyrim is a straightforward RPG, and almost blandly so.

I'm not very far into the game so I can't give my own opinion on the stories that frame the dungeon-crawling, but I have to say that I've never expected inspired storytelling or characters from Elder Scrolls games. As mentioned before, the openness of the game kind of fights against those elements anyway. What I'm motivated by when I play through the various quest lines is the immersiveness of the world, and not necessarily a compelling plot or endearing characters. Everything is a piece of this big disjointed tapestry, and if they're doing their job right, you continue to care about the game world simply because you believe it exists.
posted by palidor at 5:19 PM on November 23, 2011


Again, I'm not sure computer (be it console or PC) gaming is what you are looking for. There is simply no way for a pre-programed game to compete with the table top experience when it comes to actual role playing.

All computer RPGs are pretty toys. That there is where the market lies. For the market for computer RPG experiences to shift, well, there needs to be money in it for the designers/publishers (hence the DLC Vengeance Pack idea). They won't spend time on depth when breadth is easier (code some random encounters, get folks like me telling stories about "So one time, I...").

We might be talking around different definitions of what a good game experience is here, though. With computer RPGs, all I'm looking for is a fun way to spend a few hours in the evening. With a tabletop, it's fun with friends for a more hours on a weekend. I'm pretending very hard to be a grown up, so I don't get a whole lot of these times. So, for me, the bottom line for any game is, "Did I feel this was worth my time?"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:20 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, I'm not sure computer (be it console or PC) gaming is what you are looking for.

I disagree. Dragon Age: Origins and The Witcher 2 were both better RPG's, from my point of view, in that in both cases your character was playing an actual meaningful role in the world and the choices you made had genuine consequences beyond whether or not your fireball or sword-hand was better.

Skyrim is just a dog's breakfast of tired fantasy cliche's puked across a gorgeous world map with no thought whatsoever about what your actual purpose in the game is or what all of it means.
posted by empath at 7:16 PM on November 23, 2011


All computer RPGs are pretty toys.

No, actually, they're not. The difference between toys, simulations, interactive fiction, and games has a lot of overlap, but when you say that these distinctions don't matter then you lose a lot of critical clarity.

Again, I'm not sure computer (be it console or PC) gaming is what you are looking for. There is simply no way for a pre-programed game to compete with the table top experience when it comes to actual role playing.

Have you played any of the Fallouts? That is what I'm looking for. It exists, and has existed for about 10 years or more. How about Darklands? How about the later day Ultimas? How about Morrowind? How about Arx Fatalis? How about Gothic 1 or 2, or Risen? None of these are my perfect game, but they manage to mix the story with the player choice fairly well. It doesn't require decades of development and it doesn't require non-existent technology, it just requires a writing staff knows how to write for a video game instead of pretending to write for the screen.

I'm not asking for 100% freedom, I'm just asking that the designers take my actions and desire in to account when writing. What's even the point of having quests in this sort of game if they're not well done? For as poorly as the questlines are written I'd rather they scrap the pretense altogether and give me some pseudo-roguelike with completely dynamic and random objectives and spare me all the eye-rolling that their script writing causes. Or, if they're going to insist on it, at least make it laughably bad like Two Worlds.

The game review as accounting (You can't fault the game for anything since you got your $XX worth) is what's stifling gaming. It's what makes game journalism such a farce, and what gives Metacritic so much cache.
posted by codacorolla at 7:25 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really liked that piece where the guy was grilling id about Rage, and thought it was really too bad that the predominant reaction seemed to be that this type of journalism was completely inappropriate to gaming.
posted by neuromodulator at 7:34 PM on November 23, 2011


I think we might all be talking around the same thing here.

I've played Fallout 3 into the ground. New Vegas killed my previous Xbox, so I've not mustered the desire to go back to it. I admit I'm coming from the console end of things - I can't afford to keep up with the PC upgrade cycle to play new games, which is sad, as I'm told Witcher has excellent boobs.

Are we talking about player choice and how it affects the outcome of the game? I mean, in DA:O, no matter how much of a jerk or saint you were, you still ended up on that rooftop swinging at that dragon. These games tend to be scripted for a single climax and while there might be some variation in epilogue, for the most part Dirk Cleenteeth and Gerry Blackheart have the same endgame experience. There might be a different voice over by Ron Perlman at the end, but still, there's a voice over by Ron. There is choice, and a different gaming experience, between choosing the fireball or the sword-hand. Your destination will be the same, but how you get there can change.

I guess what I'm getting at is that there is no way for a scripted game, like computer RPGs, to match an organic RPG, like tabletop, for breadth and depth. The best thing a computer RPG can do is provide you with a Main Quest that basically just advances the Doomsday Clock towards the finale while giving you an open world and a bunch of fiddly bits to go explore. There are folks going bananas for crafting or catching butterflies or alchemy and more in Skyrim. None of those things interest me a whole lot - I'm of the Humorous Sneaky Arrow Insertion School (Go Crouch'n Twangers!). I will probably sneak through the rest of the game, beat it, and then move on. I'll play the next game in the series knowing it doesn't really matter what I do in the long run. After all, my last Elder Scrolls character, a White Knight Paladin type, apparently turned into a Prince of Madness after I ejected the game.

And that's fine.

To me, the storytelling aspect of computer RPGs is in the stories that we, as players, tell about our adventures in game. I spent a few hours today chatting with some of my employees about Skyrim. Each of us had a story about our first encounter with mammoths/giants, but the stories were different. That's where the branching paths you get from choice in games matter, I think. Would it be better if there were more nuanced morality choices? Sure. Because that would let us say more than 'I went evil/good' when talking about the game.

As for the writing of games... That's a separate issue, I think. Bad writing might be hiding behind lush landscapes and random encounters, but if it's the sort of thing that a minority of gamers seem to care about, then it's not going anywhere.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:02 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


To me, the storytelling aspect of computer RPGs is in the stories that we, as players, tell about our adventures in game. I spent a few hours today chatting with some of my employees about Skyrim. Each of us had a story about our first encounter with mammoths/giants, but the stories were different. That's where the branching paths you get from choice in games matter, I think. Would it be better if there were more nuanced morality choices? Sure. Because that would let us say more than 'I went evil/good' when talking about the game.

As for the writing of games... That's a separate issue, I think. Bad writing might be hiding behind lush landscapes and random encounters, but if it's the sort of thing that a minority of gamers seem to care about, then it's not going anywhere.


So you're saying that the quests, the reason that you do anything in the game beyond fiddling around and making your own "epic" mammoth killing pretend-time stories, don't matter? Obviously we're different types of gamers, and you're the type of gamer that triple A studios design their games for. Congratulations on having so many fun games to play.
posted by codacorolla at 8:08 PM on November 23, 2011


Game "journalism," if that's what you call game reviews, is pretty much a proxy marketing arm for the publishers. And even if those "journalists" see themselves as independent, I don't think many of them enjoy writing itself, because most reviews are devoid of any type of original perspective. I read nearly a dozen Skyrim reviews and maybe one of them read like the author was trying to describe their unique experience with the game and what makes it special. Anyway, there's good games writing out there occasionally, but I think it's silly to call any of it "journalism."

I don't follow the line of thinking that casts a game like Skyrim as some kind of standard-bearer of bad videogame writing that the masses eat up. In fact I think it's a pretty big misreading of what people like myself or robocop is bleeding find enjoyable about a game like Skyrim.

There are lots of games that sell well and present the player with a story-driven narrative they take part in. These games ape Hollywood with their cutscenes and generally try to marry action game mechanics with a linear story-driven narrative. Honestly I'm not much of a gamer these days, but I'm guessing Call of Duty and Gears of War are like this. Linear gameplay riding on top of a linear story.

Those games rarely interest me. If I want a good story I'll read a book or watch a movie or something. It's a nice thing when a game can have a compelling story, yes. But I don't value my experience playing, say, Half-Life 2, for that reason. I simply appreciate that a fun game was supported by a compelling story. And if you were to ask me what bores me about modern games it's that they're all anthropo-centric and desperate to be Hollywood-lite. I don't want a compelling story nearly as much as I want compelling gameplay.

So when I mention that I've never expected inspired storylines or characters from Elder Scrolls games, it's both based on the series' track record and because I'm playing the games for other reasons. For the record, I find the stories that develop in the various quest lines quite adequate. Maybe I'm just not yet burnt out on generic fantasy. But what works well for me is that at the bare minimum they flesh out the world. A new Elder Scrolls game doesn't excite me because it's continuing the riveting story of Tamriel; it excites me because it's a whole new land to explore and immersive myself in. It's a very pure type of escapism that only a video game can do.
posted by palidor at 8:59 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Note I'm not automatically forgiving Bethesda for failing to write inspired characters or stories "because it's an Elder Scrolls game." The worlds they create are just compelling for so many other reasons that the relatively uninspired writing doesn't detract from my experience in any significant way.

I feel like if you're going to attack any series for bad writing, choose one of the millions of games that aspire to be part-movie, not the series where the game world itself is the main character.

posted by palidor at 9:07 PM on November 23, 2011


I'm not saying Skyrim is a bad game, just a mediocre one. And the reason that the writing is a big deal is that, as I've stated countless times, a dozen games in the very same genre have had remarkably better writing over the course of the past ten years. Even games that Bethesda themselves have designed. It's not just that the story is unremarkable - it's that it's SO bad that it takes me out of an otherwise immersive world. A fun game can be supported by an unremarkable story, but by the same note a fun game can be made worse by a ham-fisted story. Like this game is. You can only turn over random caves for so long before there needs to be some compelling reason to do so. Skyrim's reason is to advance through quests, but the quests are bad, and because of their limiting nature don't allow the player to make interesting choices, which is what these games are all about. If you want a stellar example, then try Risen (I think it's ten dollars or so) which manages to incorporate random adventuring, character progression, and gives the player an actual reason to do so because of the well executed scenario design.
posted by codacorolla at 9:22 PM on November 23, 2011


Each of us had a story about our first encounter with mammoths/giants, but the stories were different.

Those are trivial differences though.

If I want a good story I'll read a book or watch a movie or something.

I'm not really much of a fan of stories in games. I'd rather have no story at all than a bad one. I was okay with Borderlands because the story was so trashy and disposable. I love games like Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft that are pure story generators. I love multiplayer games like starcraft where the story is just flavor.

What bugs me about Skyrim is that you can't ignore the story in the game and just not engage with it. The game has tons and tons of story and writing that is just unavoidable. It's asking you to treat it as if it were a real world with real people and I find the way it treats those people and your character's role in the world to be basically contemptible. After the initial awe at the graphics and world building, I've found that it's just not a place I enjoy being.

I think the game I can best compare it to is Red Dead Redemption, which also had the gorgeous open world, with perhaps not as much freedom to faff around, but at least RDR engaged seriously with moral and political issues in the game. It had some self-awareness of what it was doing. Skyrim seems to just be completely juvenile in comparision.
posted by empath at 9:26 PM on November 23, 2011


Maybe Skyrim's various storylines are worse than in previous games and I just haven't played enough yet. I can just identify with Oblivion's, and to a lesser extent (if only because it's been 10 years since I played it and can't remember the details) Morrowind's quest writing being mostly uncompelling, and that's really my point of comparison more than Skyrim. The thing is, though there was barely any exploration of political or moral themes, it never detracted from the construction of the world's politics and values to me. I was able to believe they existed. If that makes any sense. The vast amount of books to read in the series is probably a bit of a cheat in this area, actually. But I can see being really frustrated with any of these games, so dependent on the world itself feeling true, if the questing is seen to be backed by hollow motivations or arbitrary decisions. I wouldn't rule out that it's a series for which I, uh, extend my suspension of disbelief. But I suppose I don't play too many games these days and my standards are different too.
posted by palidor at 9:51 PM on November 23, 2011


Yeah, I never played the previous elder scrolls games, but I enjoyed Fallout 3 a lot. Mostly because I could identify with the main quest line and I felt like most of what I did in the game was fairly well motivated, and the storylines and characters were just more compelling in general. I think probably Fallout 3 conditioned me to expect a much better game.
posted by empath at 9:57 PM on November 23, 2011


I really enjoyed Oblivion. Truly. I got the Game of the Year edition and played a Holy Knight, loyal and true and kind of dopey looking and slightly foolish, but who otherwise had a fine heart in her chest and who gladly went off smashing things for the Common Good.

Some of it was scripted. Most of her characterization wasn't. I made her up. In my mind. Which is what I do when I role play.

I have developed a different sort of character for my weedy little dunmer. I think she may be queer, as she keeps making moopy eyes at Lydia. Lyddie just scowls at her, which is what she likes best. Consistency. We have a little house now, in Whiterun, where I go and tinker with the foundry next door at Warmaiden's. I've just brushed up against the Dark Brotherhood questline, and after the slights laid on me by the bigots of Windhelm I may just take them up on that, become some sort of mild-mannered alchemist-enchanter with a Darque Secret - I AM the Vengance of the Grey Quarter! I will END them ALL.

I did that. I made that up. I keep a running narrative inside my skull that the lushness of Skyrim is supporting.

Now it's no surprise that I also enjoy table top gaming. I play a lot of story heavy, character driven stuff. Things where there is no real end, where we could realistically do anything our imaginations allow without having to worry about processor power and framerates and the space on a disc to hold all the content. It just happens, like robocop is bleeding points out, deeply and wonderfully and in ways that surprise even ourselves.

The things I'm enjoying about Skyrim are the things that give me a framework around which to do this alone. No video game is ever, ever going to come close in terms of story to what three or four of my mates and I can whip up over a few hours over a bucket of dice. It just isn't. Skyrim is giving me a nice "toy", if you must, that allows me to have a game of my own at three am while all my regular crew are asleep, or at work, or looking after their kids, or whatever.

And I'm enjoying Skyrim despite my preference for railsy games. I loved the Bioshock series because it was a story, well written and thoughtful, with a beginning and a middle and an end, and you walk the road to get there, and you get to have some fun challenges in the middle. Skyrim is also a better experience for me thus far (level 20) than my Oblivion character because of that spartan approach to quests. I have some. I made them myself. I also want to go deer hunting, and get good enough to take a deer down with a single shot. One of those big elks, with the massive racks of horns. But to do that I need some good gear, which I want to make myself, and so I have this self-crafted quest along the lines of "Go forth and make Complete Armour Set of Bambi Slaying. Shoot twezillion deer."

This may change the deeper I get into the game. I went to Riften for the first time recently and was most displeased by the whole place. Either I'll find the whole thing distasteful or I'll return, as the Vengence of the Grey Quarter, and end them all. But I won't find out until I get to the end of that quest chain.

Mine. The one I made.
posted by Jilder at 4:08 AM on November 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


And even if those "journalists" see themselves as independent, I don't think many of them enjoy writing itself, because most reviews are devoid of any type of original perspective.

Clearly you're reading the wrong websites. I'd suggest checking out places like Rock, Paper, Shotgun or PC Gamer before making lazy generalisations.
posted by fight or flight at 6:08 AM on November 24, 2011


This may change the deeper I get into the game. I went to Riften for the first time recently and was most displeased by the whole place. Either I'll find the whole thing distasteful or I'll return, as the Vengence of the Grey Quarter, and end them all. But I won't find out until I get to the end of that quest chain.

I can appreciate that people play these games this way, and in fact I do a little bit of it myself, but why even have the quests if they're poorly written? You'll see what I mean as you start going through the thieve's guild, since that's probably the worst of the bunch, but the stuff that they force your character to do without giving any alternate paths really break immersion.
posted by codacorolla at 8:17 AM on November 24, 2011


So you're saying that the quests, the reason that you do anything in the game beyond fiddling around and making your own "epic" mammoth killing pretend-time stories, don't matter? Obviously we're different types of gamers, and you're the type of gamer that triple A studios design their games for. Congratulations on having so many fun games to play.

This kind of sneering isn't doing your argument any good.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:36 PM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's immersive in the sense of its environments; bland and generic in every other.

This about sums it up for me. Skyrim is a wonderful engine in search of a game. And it staggers me that most reviewers don't even mention the arbitrary and uninspired quests. Hell, a lot of them go out of the way to praise Skyrim for not having typical fetch and kill foozle quests when, after spending 40 or so hours in the game so far, it is quite obvious to me that most quests are of exactly that type.

I hope Yahtzee reviews Skyrim. I am sure his response will be the same as mine. "Here are all these problems with Skyrim. There are a lot of bad things going on with this game. And yet I still find myself playing it at all hours of the day."

Oh, Yahtzee, where are thou?
posted by Justinian at 3:56 PM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I want an open world!

Take either side in the land's major conflict; align yourself to different guilds with wildly differing values and methods within a single game.

That's not story-telling. Tell me a story.

If you align yourself with the Companions, you become a werewolf!

Not that story. And werewolf form provides no major advantages.

Creatures no longer level. Become a power in your world

I hate that minmax shit. And the combat is boring. Hand-held or ranged weapons, weapon and shield, weapon and spell, spell and shield, intensified two-handed spells. BORING. Have you played the Witcher?

Have I... what?

Love that light/heavy/group combat selection. It rocks.

...

Sometimes you switch to silver. It's the shit. Anyway, there shouldn't be sealed-off content. I want to do everything...

Join every guild, run every mission; no choice is foreclosed-

...without being evil

Erm

And the venerable hack/slash/loot style of play isn't appropriate

Ok...

when a game looks this good.

The fuck?

Also-

*shoots self in head*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:07 PM on November 24, 2011


I think games like Skyrim end up suffering from a kind of open-world uncanny valley. When there's this meticulously crafted world full of all kind of unique locations and NPCs who go about their business, the illusion that this is a real world is more easily destroyed by one's expectations of what a "real world" is. It's an interesting balance, because my primary motivation to play an Elder Scrolls game is to be immersed in this world, yet it's still a game, so all of those NPCs really are just waiting for me to show up and set things in motion. I find myself in this bizarre position where I want my character to be insignificant, because if this was a real world there would be other motivated adventurers out there accepting quests too. Of course it can't be this way, even if they were able to simulate other characters questing, because the player always has to be the main character. I suppose MMOs are the closest to being able to present a world that moves on regardless of the actions of one player, but even they must remain static to accommodate a decent play experience for any given player.
posted by palidor at 7:36 PM on November 24, 2011


Yeah, I'm not feeling the hits against Elder Scrolls for being poorly written, because they're simply not like anything we seem to be comparing them to, including Fallout (which has moral choices within it, though they are mainly black and white ones, but still pulls you along to the same finish, really.) Elder Scrolls games provide you with the complete world and then let you experience it through quests, and the world is complete enough where you will experience it in your own way.

I'll take the Dark Brotherhood questline in Oblivion, for example. Now, as written, it is the same quest-line for everyone (with one tiny, tiny difference which proves my point here anyway). But I was bringing my own experiences into it. A lot of people will play through these quests as a hack-and-slash then run from police thing, but I play each of them for the ideal of entering, assassinating, and leaving without another trace. In the early missions, this is easy enough to pull off, if you're patient, if you have some rudimentary "detect life" spell, etc.

But then comes one assignment where you are sent to take out a prisoner named Valen Dreth. He is, in fact, the first character you met in the game, the Dunmer who was harassing you from across the corridor. You've got to break back into your old cell through the way you escaped, which is now crawling with guards. So if you're me (and if my memory serves me well you get a bonus for avoiding the guards anyway) you take an excrutiatingly careful path to keep from getting caught or getting into a fight, and make your way into the cell, at which point Valen will say something to you, slightly different depending on your race, but in effect the same thing. He remembers you.

Now, again, if you're me, your reaction will be a vengeful and immediate, silent murder. Not because he was a dick to you at the beginning of the game, but because you have just spent the last half-hour being a total ghost, and the first person to really see you addresses you with familiarity? Fuck them! But that's just my experience, and most others would likely be different.

Lucien LaChance, for instance, looks and acts quite a bit like a guy I know who is very generous with young women whom he wishes to take under his wing, so to speak. It creeps me out (but not so much that I stop working around the guy.) Playing through these quests as a small Breton female, I got the distinctly ambivalent feeling when LaChance gave me his prize steed for something.

But this is to say nothing of just how the different towns and landscapes make me feel being around them. Personally, in Oblivion, I love Anvil and Bruma. Anvil because of the saltwater and sea air and strange optimism spraying onto the docks, and Bruma because it so perfectly nailed every element of a snowy mountain town, and those two settings are where I spent the most magical moments of my youth. So the immersive world informs the experience and I don't need more motivation than they give me. I will meet them halfway, and doing more might take me out of things, honestly.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:45 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Skipping some comments (apologies if this point has already been expressed), but regarding writing, narrative and games, the problem is that there are two facets of 'storytelling' in games (and perhaps other media) which tend to conflated: world building and plot.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:41 PM on November 24, 2011


That's the important distinction to make, at least in my case.

I was just doing the quest in Whiterun where the Redguard group is looking for a woman, paying the prisoner's fine to get information on where the group went to. I remembered a similar quest in Oblivion where you were doing trying to get access to a prisoner (though in Oblivion you had to get arrested yourself). But what I took away from it wasn't that it was a lazy, previously used scenario, even if that may be true. I was enjoying getting a peek into a small part of the Redguard culture.

I mean, I couldn't imagine an Elder Scrolls game without a vast amount of books populating the virtual shelves, because what the series thrives on is world-building via these interacting cultures and their artifacts. It's a process of immersing yourself in a variety of small details, be it the architecture or a disposable character's brief backstory.

The advantage that Morrowind has over Oblivion, in most people's hearts I think, is that it's exploring a strange culture. The standard western medievalist tropes of Oblivion were mundane in comparison. I've heard Skyrim compared to Morrowind in terms of atmosphere, and it makes sense seeing as how they've sacrificed the broadness of Oblivion for various shades of "north."

I don't know, I think Navelgazer is quite right about meeting them halfway. I'm sure someone could play through Skyrim and not find anything interesting about all the little details that I enjoy. In my mind, even though exploring the culture of Skyrim is compelling on its own, it's still adding on to a world that has already existed for me for 10 years, since I first played Morrowind. Someone for whom Skyrim is their first Elder Scrolls game will probably have a very different experience.
posted by palidor at 1:05 AM on November 25, 2011


including Fallout (which has moral choices within it, though they are mainly black and white ones, but still pulls you along to the same finish, really.)

Technically there are two ways to finish the game and the beauty of it is that you needn't throw a punch. Personally speaking, different outcomes are welcome, but having different ways of reaching the same outcome might be even more important to me.
posted by ersatz at 8:19 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I couldn't imagine an Elder Scrolls game without a vast amount of books populating the virtual shelves

Personally I can't stand the giant console-sized font in the books. I know this is what Bethesda always does but I'm hoping someone will mod it soon like they did with the Fallout UI.
posted by Justinian at 8:23 PM on November 25, 2011


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