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It’s nearly been a month since E3, since the day we stepped into the demo room and saw Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with our own eyes for the first time.  Anticipation was high as so many people were waiting to hear about Bethesda’s latest foray into the Fantasy genre.  Could this game live up to the hype?  Would it be the next great standalone RPG?  Other reviewers seem to think so.  But as I sat watching the presentation, a familiar sinking feeling began to fill my stomach.  With a game this beautiful, in a presentation designed to wow, why was so much missing?

Let’s back up a minute and talk about the positives.  Skyrim represents Bethesda at their finest: A game replete with dynamically generated content, full of breathtaking vistas and a thousand small details that inspire awe when you sit back and realize how complex a thing it is to say, render that one little dynamic butterfly flitting off in the corner of the screen as the player runs down the road.  There are about 150 dungeons in the vast world of Skyrim, filled with traps and treasures and huge beasties.  What they do well they do perfectly.  The UI alone should win awards.  Looking up to the sky to select your skill trees from the stars of the heavens, and looking down to inspect your map is a simple but brilliant touch that adds a great deal to the immersion factor of the game.

And the dragons.  The dragons.  Massive, unique, filled with complex fighting mechanics, these creatures are core to the character progression in the game, since as a Dragonborn you play one of the few people alive who can stand toe to claw with the monsters plaguing the land.  The battles with the dragons are difficult, as they should be, but killing one type of dragon may help you fight off others as you reap their souls and apply them to unlocking your abilities. 

But when you come down to it, a game is fun to play, not if it has shiny graphics and dynamically generated winged lizards, it’s fun if the world is engaging and the combat is interesting.  And here is where Skyrim, like just about any Bethesda game before it, fails.  Combat is wooden, with the player character barely moving at all to swing his sword.  It looks as if he’s practically rooted to the spot and can only move his arm and his feet when the magic hits the fan.  There are high points, as in any combat system, and the ability to dual wield weapons – and even spells – is definitely a clever concept.  But the combat itself looks pretty much how combat did in Oblivion, and that’s far from a good thing.

The wooden description also applies to the characters you interact with in Skyrim.  They spent a lot of time talking about the life goals of the NPCs, how each of them lives a simulated real life and makes decisions based on their own personal priorities, but when you speak to these people, it’s like talking to brick wall.  The voice work is well done, granted, but why is it Bethesda can’t seem to make characters that express emotion?  Can’t they build a dynamically generated system for making people seem real?

I had a tough time playing Oblivion because of this sense of sterility in the combat and character design, and it seems that Skyrim hasn’t changed any of these flaws, it’s merely glossed over the previous game’s problems with a new level of pretty.  And it’s a great deal of pretty, don’t get me wrong.  I guess what it comes down to is that Bethesda promised me an engaging storyline and a game that will sweep me off my virtual feet, but from what I see now, it’s just Oblivion, but with dragons.  And I don’t think that’s enough for me.


6 Comments for this post.
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Honestly, Oblivion was a game I never got into. I could not relate to the characters in the game and the combat is hardly any more than runescape. But nonetheless, all my friends have beat it, with all achievements, and have done everything you could possibly do in the world. Why? Because it was the age of imagination and being a "fanboy" of ye old' classic rpg with knights and castles and what not, who wouldn't play a game like that?

But honestly, in this day and age, Bethesda is going to have to step it up, a lot. We're in a society now where gamers are spoiled with multiplayer content, from versus to co-op, that could keep them playing a game for hours on end, and if you want to hook people into a single player game, you're going to have to add life, depth, and epic moments individual people will never forget. With franchises like "Mass Effect" and older predecessors like "SW: The Old Republic" and even "Final Fantasy" you'd think a great company like Bethesda would step it up, learn from others, and create something people will always remember.

Despite this, Bethesda will always has my full support, and with this game, and several others coming out under their name, i'm sure they will do things to improve the game(hopefully..) before release. If not, oh well, more eye candy for the audience then!

 I have read very little on Skyrim, and reading this, actually made me rather dissappointed despite being the nerd I am.

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Ive attempted to restart Oblivion at least 6 times now. Each time, I get rough 8-10 hours into the main storyline before real life and other games swallow up my game play time. By the time I get back to Oblivion, a couple of months have gone by and I need to restart the game because Ive forgotten the story, what I was doing and even how to play.

[LordYanLiang] @ 5:40:09 PM Jul 4, 2011
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As long as Skyrim can function on a basic level, I think I can be ok with all that. ..

Of course, I might already be asking for too much.

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I always become heavily depressed when my character used to jump while looking in the 3rd person view. I hope they bloody fix that!

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The Elder Scroll series caters to an audience. That group likes to explore a world with perilous dungeons and monsters roaming about. Sure some quests chain into an over arching story, but there are so many side stories happening at the same time. While it lacks the flair of say, Warcraft's mmo, it makes for that in what you can accomplish. Oblivion was breath taking in the possiblities you had laid out before you and it was not dumbed down like the Fable series continues to do. I applaud Bethesda for sticking to their guns. Of course as a long term fan of the series I expect bugs, with games this large it becomes very difficult to narrow them all down. Still sometimes it makes you wonder how certain things slip through the cracks.  Also up until now Elder Scroll games were developed as First Person perspective games with option to view your character, but playing in 3rd person has always been counter intuitive. If they intended this one to play in 3rd as well as 1st, then I hope it comes across better. Camera control is always an issue with 3rd person games.  

As it stands I expect great things from this game, just like the ones before it. (Well save for MorroWind, I could never get into the muddy look of that one.)

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I've had the same issues with Oblivion. It's got a freaking 94 on Metacritic, but I simply lose interest 10 hours in. On top of the not-perfect controls, the leveling system is strange. If you want to max out every level with +5 attribute points, you have to tally your skill ups with pen and paper and change your play style (better crawl so you don't accidentally get another point in athleticism!). I had to remind myself that I play games for fun, and I wasn't having any. 

Maybe on my 5th attempt I'll ignore the leveling mechanics and focus on the RP in RPG.


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