I realise that this stretches the concept of a technical blog post but you know what, it doesn’t matter. There are several technical elements that are relevant but I am not necessarily going to focus on. I am going to do what I do best; ramble…
I waited till midnight and on the gong (as it were), I clicked install and instead of it saying that the game was not released yet (and I do wonder why they make us wait until midnight when we have the stuff to be able to play it anyway but that is a whole another blog post), it started to install.
I felt an anticipation and an elation that I have not felt in a very long time. My first foray into the world of Elder Scrolls was daggerfall and this was way after it was released. I had always thought about a world; a living breathing world that was built upon simple foundations that could grow to envelop your imagination.
Elder Scrolls promised to do that and while Daggerfall failed spectacularly to deliver this, it set an expectation. I for one am glad that Bethesda continued on and eventually brought us Morrowind which I played for a while and loved but couldn’t quite get the hang of.
Then there was Oblivion which again, I played for a while but couldn’t really get the hang of. In honesty, it is only in replaying it now over the last few weeks that I started to get the hang of it. The secret was to not over-specialise which was the mistake that I originally made. The other mistake I had made as not to be patient. It is tedious and annoying in the earlier parts of the game because, as a character, you are just not powerful enough.
At level 20, I was finding the game rewarding. The level itself is largely irrelevant, it was that I was able to fill the skills gap using other mechanisms. For example, my securiy skill was atrocious but I managed to acquire the skeleton key (which also ups your security skill). This helped me make leaps and bounds of progress through the thieves guilds missions.
Alchemy and getting that up to a 100 pretty much changed the game for me as well. Having picked the Atronach as the birth sign (No Magika regeneration but spell absorption at 50), I really struggled at the beginning of the game to keep my Magika replenished.
After about level 16 or so with Alchemy ramped up, I found that I had more Magika potions that I could throw a stick at. My intelligence was also up at a 100 at that point and the discovery that there was no benefit in increasing my willpower (since there was no Magika regeneration to worry about) changed the focus on levelling up as well.
Along the invisibility spell, Oblivion was suddenly much easier to play. I also got the hang of regularly swapping between and using the various spells. Major Heal wounds instead of health potions became a habit particularly since my Magika restoration usually meant that Magika was still going up after I’d killed all the enemies around the extra regen was just going to waste.
In short, Oblivion is a complex game and you cannot over-specialise if you want to be able to succeed. As the prebuild Sorcerer class, I had an unusual combination of skills to work with including heavy armour and magic.
I expect the biggest complaint that people might have about Skyrim is that it is a lot simpler. There is no armourer skill component for maintaining your armour for example. While this was a nice maintenance thing, particularly when you levelled up on it and you got that feeling of satisfaction, I believe that Skyrim is going largely in the right direction.
Fallout 3 based on the same Engine did a great job to kick it up a notch from Oblivion and Skyrim feels like it has really kicked it up a few notches.
The graphics are absolutely stunning ( in fairness, I am seeing it with the the quality set to ultra high :-] )and the game just flows so much better. The NPC interactions (in my limited 90 minutes or so gameplay) is practically sublime.
Let me put it this way, stealing from a family made me actually feel guilty. If a game can make you feel like the characters in it are real and make you feel guilt like that, then you are definitely doing something right.
The radiant A.I system with the updates coming into Skyrim is also very impressive. Actualy gameplay experience does seem to give it much a organic and fluidic feel.
I expect that my feelings might change over the next few days and dozens of hours of gameplay. However, I would like to finish by saying the Skyrim has so far failed to disappoint which if you know me, is a rare and high praise.