Sunday, November 13, 2011

One More Skyrim Posting

Dragons don't actually exist, so I can't say with any authority what it would be like to fight one. But I suspect, at least, that it would be harder than in most CRPGs that feature dragons. Such games seem to easily forget that a) dragons are much bigger than people; and b) dragons can fly. I don't care how armed, armored, and experienced you are, I want you to imagine the likely result of taking on a grizzly bear in melee combat. Now imagine if the grizzly bear was 8 times bigger, had wings, had natural scale armor, and could breath fire. Yeah.

Yet in games like Might & Magic and Ultima V, they just casually show up in lists of monsters that you manage to slay with swords and arrows. There are plenty of games that feature dragons, but there are no games that have made me feel like I was truly fighting #&$@#ing dragons!

Until Skyrim, that is. This is the first CRPG I have ever played in which battles against dragons proceed pretty much how I would expect them to proceed, with the dragon taking advantage of its air superiority, and my character hiding behind things and feebly sniping at it with a bow until it gets tired and lands, at which point I go charging with my axe, and most of the time get burned to a crisp in mid-stride.

And if you think that's cool, you should see how the game handles giants. They're actually giant. And they wield weapons that, quite sensibly, kill you in a single hit.

Two days ago, I said: "This will be my last word on the game until about 2023, though: Tomorrow, it's back to Wasteland. I promise." The disheartening thing is not that I'm breaking my promise, but that I didn't even try very hard to keep it. For the last 48 hours, I have done absolutely nothing but play Skyrim, except to feed the cats--but only then because they were howling at me so much that it was interfering with my playing of Skyrim.

I rescind my earlier reservations: the game is fantastic--perhaps the best CRPG I have ever played. More than any other game, the combats make you feel like you are truly fighting for your life. The game world is impossibly detailed, and exploring the dungeons is the most immersive experience I've ever had playing a game. NPCs have real conversations with each other as you wander through cities. The quests, far from the mostly fetch-and-carry missions of Morrowind and Oblivion, are original and nuanced, and offer real role-playing choices. Unlike previous Elder Scrolls games, there are real dialogue options here (although not as extensive as in the Bioware/Interplay titles).

And then there's the back story, which reveals itself only slowly, and brilliantly, in dialogue and books. Set 200 years after Oblivion, the game features a world in which the fabled Empire is truly falling apart, and it's hard to tell at this stage whether this collapse is related to, or independent of, the crisis facing Skyrim. I can't remember another game in which I was so eager to see the main quest unfold, or to try what I've already accomplished with different character classes and choices.

I was wrong about the "dumbing down" of the skill development system. As killias2 said earlier today, "it's like they subtracted 4 and added 10." I wouldn't have minded if the attributes were still there, but overall the "perks" system is a decent replacement for the previous systems. I confess, though, to some paralysis about which perks to choose, so I've been racking up points without spending them.

Did I mention the spells? This is literally the first CRPG I've ever played that really made me want to be a mage. Blasting the bandit with fire from one hand and lighting from the other never gets old.

I haven't quite reached a verdict on how I feel about the smithing process (you can smelt your own ore, tan your own hides, and--using the ingots and leather strips that result from these processes--create and upgrade your weapons) or the alchemy system yet. But I can't say that I hate them.

My one major quibble is the way that a strike from a giant sends you spinning into the stratosphere. It's amusing the first few times, but I suspect that in real life, the hammer would just turn your body into paste. I don't know for sure whether this was intended or a bug.

Anyway: Sorry. I will be back to Wasteland tomorrow, and I can promise this because--after trying every possible way to trick and wheedle my way out of it--I've had to leave my home to go to Rochester, New York for the week. As I couldn't bring my Xbox with me, Skyrim is not an option until I return this weekend. I should have won Wasteland by then; I feel like the end is very close.

The rest of you need to be playing Skyrim. Someone tell me how it is on the PC.


  1. Heresy. Dragons are real. I'm quitting reading your blog forever and reporting you as anti-Dragonist.

  2. It's amazing on PC. I don't know what it's like on Xbox, but on a proper PC it's gotta be better looking (that's just how these things roll), and while a lot of people have been describing the interface as "horrible" on PC, I disagree. Sure, there are some things I'd tweak (please don't map "move this item around the game world" to the same key as "interact with this, probably to place it in my inventory" except with an infinitesmally longer holding of the key), and I had to reassign one or two things (by default, LMB is primary attack, RMB is secondary, which seems to make sense until you realize primary attack is right hand and secondary is left hand, so you're pushing the left button to attack with the right hand), but it's much less consoley than Oblivion's UI. And more sensibly laid out for the most part.

  3. My PC copy shows up tomorrow. Work, schmork.

  4. As long as the user has the ability to modify the controls, it's hard to see a lot of legitimacy in complaining about them.

    BrokenFiction, I was just reminded of stories I read when the last Harry Potter book was published, in which people were saying they were going to take a week off from work to read the book. I remember thinking, "How could it possibly take a week to read a book?" It would make more sense for people to take a week off to play games like Skyrim. I damn near bailed on a contract so I wouldn't have to leave home this week.

  5. Other RPG's with tougher non casual dragon fights are Gothic 2 and the recent Witcher 2.

  6. It is, as malkav11 said, amazing on PC. The interface is pretty poor, but you get used to it pretty quickly and can mostly ignore it. Still, it would be nice to just click-click and see a full list of all your perks, but I'm sure there will be a mod to address this fairly soon.

    Bigger for me was some really terrible mouse sensitivity, with the y-axis being unconnected to the x-axis. Looking up or down was a paaaainful process that would have made fighting dragons impossible. Fortunately there's some ini settings to sort that out. Still, a bit of a discouraging start to the game.

  7. I got the PC version of Skyrim last weekend and am absolutely amazed at the game. Many reviewers have critized the simple combat system, but I agree with the Addcit and can't find fault with it. The only major fault, in my view also, is the extremely console-oriented interface - hopefully a good replacement mod will pop up soon. Other than that, it's a fantastic experience. Crawling through my first dungeon (golden claw quest) was incredibly entertaining, especially compared to Oblivion's often bland and repetitive environments. I really like the perks system, although I still have trouble accomodating to the Strength/Magicka/Stamina choice when gaining levels. All in all though, I wish I had a lot more time for playing games on my hands right now.


    PS: Due to the interface issue, I tried playing it with a 360 controller, but gave up after 5 minutes. It might just be my personal preference, but I highly suggest everyone to play this on a computer!

  8. Looks and feels great on PC :). Luckily work was more manageable this week so I could actually take the weekend to play Skyrim instead of catching-up. I kind of got used to the interface now, apart from the perks thing which is beautiful but you have to press 10 buttons to get to the right one...

    The big dragon fights were cool I think in Baldur's Gate 2 and Dragon Age Origins, I liked how you had to constatly (every second) monitor what everyone was doing in your party and make them work as a team under pressure - it didn't feel as "the real thing" as Skyrim, but it really set those battles way apart from the rest of the game, not like M&M or Wiz (or DM - worst dragon ever) were it was just a monster with more HP and doing more damage.

    Another thing I liked btw is the "destroy-cool-item-to-get-enchantment" idea - it forces you to make choices (sacrifice or not x to get y?), which is fundamentally good game design, instead of giving the possibility to get x AND y.

    Smithing system also reminds me of recent Gothic 4, which I tried with all my heart but really couldn't stand the idiotic dialogue.

  9. Haha, I got mentioned in a post! Awesome!

    Skyrim is fantastic on PC. Of course, the interface is terrible and was obviously meant for the console. Navigating the perk trees has got to be the most difficult thing in the world on the PC, and I hate the lack of consistency. Sometimes you can use WASD in menus, but sometimes you can't. Sometimes 'Enter' can be used to accept a prompt.. but sometimes it can't. Also, the mousewheel and the mouse pointer both have dumb little issues. Sometimes, I have to work for 3-4 seconds to select an item or the proper dialogue choice. This all doesn't even touch upon the insanity that is the general menu "system." There are like 4 different menus with semi- (but not completely) overlapping responsibilities. On top of everything else, why isn't 'escape' escape? Honestly, the first time I looted a body, it took me about 20 seconds to figure out how to leave the loot body screen. It really is mind-bogglingly terrible.

    That said, load times are minimal, bugs are minimal, and the graphics are quite good. I wouldn't put the graphics at the absolute top tier of this generation, but they garner at least an 8/10 and maybe as high as 9/10. I have gotten 3 crash to desktops in about 18 hours of play. I restarted and reloaded my most recent save.. and was playing again in about 5-6 seconds (from the point of the crash). Also, I've pretty much gotten used to the interface. There are still moments where it bugs me, but it's -not even close- to a game-changing impact. At the end of the day, it's everything else that really matters here.

    As you well know, everything else is.. amazing. I'm absolutely loving this game. I've even gotten into the smithing/enchanting system. It's definitely worth the investment. Once you get both up to around 60, you can regularly make better equipment for yourself than what is already out there. Beyond that, I've become a werewolf; I've killed two dragons; I've bought property; I've cleared out several dens of villainy; I've unlocked two shouts; and I've looted some Dwarven ruins (for LOTS of Dwarven metal ingot!). I LOVE this damn game. RPG of the year! I used to think that there would be a close call for "RPG of 2011," what with Dragon Age 2, Witcher 2, Dark Souls, and Skyrim all coming out. Now, having played Skyrim, I don't think it's even close.

    Skyrim is number 1/

  10. I really can't stand the interface in the PC version, and it's just that I HATE playing a game with an interface designed for "dumber" systems (a.k.a. consoles).

    This issue has become a standard in every multiplatform release, and I don't think gamers should just take it as granted and say "well, yeah, the interface is crap but ohhhh, what a good game!!!".

    Every time you struggle with the interface (like taking 20 secs to get out of the loot screen, or having to push 10 buttons to get where you want or to equip or unequip your gear, or figuring out when and in which menus you are allowed to use your mouse instead of navigating with the keyboard, etc.), you are actually being KICKED out from the game and into frustration; the playing experience may be inmersive (as I bet this game is), but if the way to navigate through that experience is crooked... well, then the experience will be crooked too.

    The interface is key to enjoy a game properly, and I think developers and producers should take the time and money necessary to give the PC version of a multiplatform release the love and specificity it deserves.

    For the moment I am parking my Skyrim copy until some mod addressing this problem appears, only because I want to play this game as it should be played. Even if the developers wanted otherwise.

  11. Don't install it on your 360 !

    A bug is preventing hires textures from streaming when on the hard drive.
    I would post a link, but it's pretty much all over the place.

    If you did, just uninstall it and voilĂ , better textures...

  12. Not PC, but some excellent "dragons are brutal" moments are in the Souls series (Demon's Souls/Dark Souls). The first game has three. One is a puzzle boss (you're not killing him with your toothpick of a sword), the other two are meant to be fled from rather than attacked (but possible to kill if you have a lot of arrows/magic and patience). An extra treat on the latter two - they show up in two areas. One of them is their nest, the only time they're standing still instead of trying to burn you to death. Get them to low enough health... and they fly off, because why would they let you murder them, that would be stupid. (You can loot their nests though.) Then they come back when you leave, fully healed.

  13. Baldur's Gate 2 had 3 great Dragon fights, but that's it. Might and Magic 7 allowed for my party to mow down through armies of dragons, but at least it made me feel really powerful.

    Re-installed Morrowind yeasterday. People really complain about these new Elder Scrolls/Fallout interfaces, but i prefer Oblivion (even with its huge letters) to Morrowind. It's such a chore to find the right potion through hundreds of identical bottles.

  14. PC version here. I'm liking it, maybe a little more than expected. The world seems alive, npcs seem to react to things around them, and things you've done. The first main quest dungeon was great. A couple easy puzzles, a couple interesting foes, etc. Also, seems like there are multiple paths and ways to solve things. I was trying to get to get to High Hrothgar and found an Ice Troll in the way. I tried to fight him 10-12 times, and was slaughtered every time. Then I found with some mountain climbing and some jumping, I could bypass it. I really like what I've seen so far.

    That said, there are some issues. I have had some technical issues. I can't really play with anti aliasing on. It's not a performance issue, the game will hard freeze whenever I look at the map if I have it turned on, even at x2. And by hard freeze, I have to turn off the pc and restart. I have every other setting at ultra, and I can turn it up to x8 and play, but I can't look at the map. This doesn't seem to be a super common problem, but there are others having the same issue. That aside, it still looks pretty good.

    There have been a lot of complaints about the interface, and it is not good. It doesn't have anything to do with the ability to modify controls(though I hear there are some issues with that), it is the behavior of the mouse and the keyboard with the menus and basic game controls. It is a bit of a mess. Also, at least for me, the mouse is very unresponsive when using menus and for mouse look. I've even bought an xbox controller to see if it makes more sense. I'll try it sometime this week. But it is clear, that not much thought, or resources went into the pc interface.

    All that said, I'm still enjoying the game. I'm only about 10 hours in, so this may change, but better than expected so far.

  15. I'm surprised that you, the CRPGAddict is so easily impressed with a game like Skyrim. I've played the game a fair amount on the weekend too and actually I'm not impressed.
    The game has great graphics and great effects and animation but they can’t impress me with such visuals easily. In Skyrim I found most characters are similarly boring and dull as in Dragon Age. Gone are the funny and partly weird characters from Oblivion who actually possessed personality and had great voice acting. Unfortunately it seems Berthesda decided not to go with the same voice actors but instead picked some amateurs from the Street for this game.
    Then there’s the UI and menus … Wow what a miserable design job! Quite obviously Bethesda didn’t invest into a good UI designer because Skyrim’s UI is most just a back screen with some basic (and few) text and a 3D object on it. The menu navigation is rather confusing. This game lacks the nice and atmospheric UI of Oblivion and Dragon Age. And which total idiot among them had the idea to use a Helvetica-like sans serif font for the menus in such a game?
    Quest-wise I haven’t come about any yet that even marginally are interesting. There we have the same boring, predictable quests as in Dragon Age. At least until now I haven’t found any quests where I felt that they can mess with Oblivion’s Thief Guild or Dark Brotherhood quests, and I’m just after meeting the grey beards. But who knows, maybe there are still quests ahead that have noteworthy plot twists.
    The graphic seems to be quite Ok. I’m playing at Ultra settings. But quite often I find that coloring is a wish wash of greys and lacks contrast.
    The dialogs so far have been utterly boring too. Same as with the characters, so far I haven’t come across any that have any dialog that doesn’t make me yawn. In Oblivion most characters had some funny or interesting dialog (but maybe that has to do with Oblivions’ great voice acting). Is Berthesda out of ideas and following the Dragon Age scheme of bland and unimaginative blather now?
    And yet another let-down (or dumb down) is the quest log! In Oblivion you had a decent amount of text that would let you know about the details of the quests, even after you completed them. Not so in Skyrim! Fewer words and no backlog with details. Quite often I found myself in situations where I’m not sure what to do or what was going on.
    Sorry but I don’t feel the love for this game. At least not yet. Oblivion was a lot more fun.

  16. Some more points I forgot ... the controls are obviously geared toward Console, you can feel that too on the PC version. If you have an XBox Controller plugged in the game assumes you want to use that for controls. But we all know First/Third-person games suck abysmally with Joypad. I only use the pad for racing and arcade games. I had to disable it in the device manager for being able to use the mouse and keyboard in Skyrim. Then there are more small inconsistencies about the controls that make the whole thing feel rough around the edges. For instance I'm using Cursor keys for movement controls (as left-hander) but the lockpick minigame still requires me to use A & D keys. Often There are screen texts where it says to press a key but it's their default key and not my custom assigned key that is displayed.

    The music is mostly alright, especially the more ambient ones are great. But apart from that the rest is a mix of 0815 orchestral mass ware and gothic choir chants which become tiresome very quickly.

    So all in all here we have yet another example of a triple-A game where the developer only thought about throwing great visuals in but forgot about the refinements that really make a game shine.

  17. Edit: Sorry, in my post above I meant Drakensang for the smithing system not Gothic 4, that's what commenting at 3:30am after some Skyrim playing gets you.

  18. My standard operating procedure at this point (especially for Bethesda games) is to wait for a GOTY version for the following reasons:
    - DLC gets bundled in, and the whole package costs significantly less than the release price of just the base game by itself.
    - At least a couple of patches have been released to fix bugs and (hopefully) major annoyances.
    - Fans have researched and published workarounds, and have even released some must-have mods that add needed polish to the game.

    It helps that I was sucked into the WoW black hold for around 4 years, and am now riding a wave of $5 sales on the games that I missed :)

  19. PS: by the way, this is just too funny, I had to share :

  20. So I've heard that every dragon in the game becomes pathetically easy if you just have a little rock or something to hide behind, as their AI can't deal with obstacles.

  21. Yeah, I feel so sorry for you addict, trying to play Oblivion on Xbox, and now Skyrim on xbox. When will you learn? You do know that in the PC version your wife could have had you play a Kajit like she wanted, right? None of this restricted XBL content bull. will have all the mods you need shortly, fixing the interface, bugs (Already 3 bug patches out) and so on. Also: console to let you resurrect NPCs that die due to bugs or fall off the world.

  22. @Anon: That's really only true if you have a really good location for cover, because the dragons do constantly fly and crawl around to get a better shot at you. If you've got a location that's impregnable from most any angle, sure, but if it's a single boulder in an open field you're still in for a rough battle.

    Agreed with everyone on how great/terrible it is on the PC though. Can't wait for some proper hotkey mods...

  23. "Until Skyrim, that is. This is the first CRPG I have ever played in which battles against dragons proceed pretty much how I would expect them to proceed, with the dragon taking advantage of its air superiority, and my character hiding behind things and feebly sniping at it with a bow until it gets tired and lands, at which point I go charging with my axe, and most of the time get burned to a crisp in mid-stride."

    Why would a dragon get tired and land to fight some puny little human, thus exposing itself to danger? Why wouldn't it just fucking stomp on the annoying ant, or... fly away?

    Oh right, because otherwise the whole "cool epic shit" thing kinda falls apart, and it's a design mandate to make the player feel like some kind of immortal badass whose ego the entire world is in service of. RPG of the goddamn decade.

  24. @trudodyr sorry I didn't see it :) apologies.

  25. I haven't played Skyrim yet but I'm really looking forward to how they streamlined the character development. Honestly having stats like strength, intelligence, dexterity just seems like a holdover from the D&D days and only there because it's always been there. And in Oblivion you had to game the system to get those stupid +5s when you leveled up. I HATED THAT. It took you out of the game and made the level up system a chore.

    It also sounds good that they got rid of the stupid skills like athletics. What was the point of those? You just had to run and jump to raise them up. Stupid.

    And same with the class system. I want to play the game the way I want to, not the way that I picked 50 hours ago. It also ended up being a straight jacket with the stupid levelup system that they got rid of as well.

  26. Personally I think Skyrim is an ok game. It's not the best CRPG ever. It's a lot better than Oblivion in some ways and worse in others. I don't like the removal of attributes, level progression, health regeneration, or the UI.

    I like the story, setting, atmosphere, NPCs, magic, and combat a lot better than previous TES entries. Unfortunately for me the way skills, stats, and difficulty are handled matter to me a bit more.

    I'm glad you enjoy it though and won't begrudge you liking it a whole lot like some might.

  27. Why does a self-described CRPG addict play Skyrim on an Xbox? And why hasn't this CRPG addict played Dark Souls or Demon's Souls?

    I'm going to play Skyrim, on a PS3 or X360. I'm not going to spend $60 on it. I'll play a friend's version if it's available or I'll scoop up the bargain bin version and get the good expansions. I'm in no fetid desire to see the game as soon as possible. Almost everything I've heard has been positive minus a few ingrained haters, but I doubt it's a soul-crushingly brilliant game that cannot be missed if it's not purchased as quickly as possible.

    Certain games, a la Two Worlds II or Dark Souls are much bigger *must* buys because the online elements in those games won't last forever, meaning that their quality will decrease over time and probably quickly at that (the original Demon's Souls is having its servers shut down in February). I really don't expect that Skyrim will get any worse with age. In fact, as Morrowind has shown, TES games can only get better with age.

    As far as Dragons are concerned: You got your answer. Play Demon's Souls and get back to us.

  28. I'm still waiting for him to get to the 90s, as there is a sound barrier there for me: Games before some point don't feel fun to me, while games after it do. I'm thinking that if the addict makes it to the late 90s I may play along with him. I figure by then I'll have a job with stable hours.

    This is not always true, I play Nethack and such, but mostly, yeah, not really into them.

    Also: Addict: Have you given any thought to the IRC channel?

    Also: is something I think both you and people here wold be interested in. In support of the charity Child's Play, which gives games to kids in hospital, they play the horrible, horrible, game desert bus...for as long as people keep giving them money. Each hour of play costs an increasing amount, and they take shifts. The even starts in 4 days, and they have already raised $7,000. Last year they raised $207,540.06 for charity, which meant they had to play for somewhere over 5 days. Anyway, not an RPG, but charity, helping kids, and gaming.

    What brought it to mind is they stream a screencast of them playing, and I was wondering if you'd be interested in doing something similar; I'm sure we could help you get it set up, and set so it just streams what DOSBOX is showing.

  29. To Carontestyx and Avalon Sutra:

    Just because those of us who for one reason or another game on consoles does not mean we appreciate bad interfaces. All video game interfaces should be simple (in that things have an obviousness to them and are not too tucked away in multi-menues) and easy to use (not require a crap-ton of controls). For PC gamers the easy to use part may be more complex with keyboard and mouse, but I agree with the inventor of the first computer, John Atanasoff, that frugality is a virtue.

    So I am not debating that Skyrim doesn't have a horrible PC interface, but I am saying that if the console version just decided to be unresponsive and whilly-nilly with how the controls work (I have not seen much of anything on how the interface is for Xbox 360 or PS3) we console owners would rage equally as much.

    - Giauz

  30. Wow. A lot of responses--and a good dollop of hate--on this one. Some quick notes:

    1. Thanks for all your notes about games with good dragon battles. I look forward to them.

    2. I didn't hate the dragon battles in Baldur's Gate II--they were very challenging--but in most of them the game took pains to constrict the dragons' movements by having you encounter them in dungeon rooms and such. I like that in Skyrim, you can battle dragons doing what dragons do: fly. Might & Magics VI and VII did have battles against flying dragons--I had forgotten that--but the AI was so bad that the battles never felt truly dangerous.

    3. Yes, fine, Eric: I suppose a "real" dragon fight would end with the dragon just flying away once it got wounded enough. So I like Skyrim for being the most realistic dragon-slaying game short of being so realistic that you don't get to slay dragons at all.

    4. I'm playing the Xbox version instead of the PC version because my laptop's specs aren't sufficient to play the game on its best settings (or perhaps even at all). Normally, I'd prefer to have it on the PC--although you wouldn't have gotten any more Wasteland postings if I did.

    5. Thanks for the various Skyrim tips, especially about not installing it.

    6. That "stealing" video was awesome, but I wish I didn't know the trick now. There are a few oddities like that in the game. I've noticed that every time I use a power indoors, like "voice of the emperor," it ends up ransacking the place--sending glasses and cups flying off tables, and books toppling from shelves. Oddly, no one ever complains.

    7. Canageek, you do realize my comment about not playing as a Khajit was a joke, right? I told Irene you had to unlock some achievements first because I didn't want to play as one.

    It's too bad the game isn't everyone's cup of tea. I look forward to giving it the full treatment in some years.

  31. No I didn't. I am used to live screwing with things, you can't play local multilayer in Left 4 dead without a gold account for example.

  32. Most important control for the PC:

    Followed by:
    setgs fMaxPickpocketChance 99

    This fixes the only thing that has bugged me thus far; the fact that pickpocketing has a capped success rate of 90%. Even with 74 pickpocket skill, +40% enhancement bonus from perks, +50% bonus when stealing gold, and +25% bonus against sleeping targets, there is still a 1 in 10 chance of failing to steal 6 gold from a sleeping commoner...

    Note you could use the above to set the max pickpocket chance to 100 but I like still having the rare(!) chance that it all goes wrong and I have to scarper.

  33. Oh also, the game doesn't save the variable change, so the effect is lost upon closing Skyrim. Just means that you have to enter it once each play session.

  34. "It's too bad the game isn't everyone's cup of tea. I look forward to giving it the full treatment in some years. "

    I think the thing that gets me about the Skyrim criticisms aren't structured like: "It's good that you guys are enjoying it, but I really need a different kind of role-playing experience, personally."


    How sad is it that I read this blog daily, go to RPGwatch daily, go to several PC Gaming sites daily, have about 4 dozen classic RPGs on GOG, and yet I feel like the hardcore RPG community is just completely insane.

  35. "I think the thing that gets me about the Skyrim criticisms aren't structured like: "It's good that you guys are enjoying it, but I really need a different kind of role-playing experience, personally."


    After Oblibion, it's no surprise that the public opinion will take some time to sway back. It would be like Hitler suddenly doing something nice. Oblivion was arguably the worst RPG of the decade it came out.

  36. 'Nym, I understand that there were things not to like about Oblivion, but I just can't understand how someone would rank it as one of the worst of the decade, especially where there are so many mods (at least for the PC version) to fix the worst annoyances. It remains one of my favorite.

  37. "After Oblibion, it's no surprise that the public opinion will take some time to sway back. It would be like Hitler suddenly doing something nice. Oblivion was arguably the worst RPG of the decade it came out. "

    This is exactly what I'm talking about.

  38. The mods are to the credit of the modders, not the game.

    Unmodded Oblivion is basically unplayable. Even the worst RPGs usually at least offer some amusement via exploration. Oblivion with its absurdly aggressive scaling of enemies and rewards ensures you'll have none of that: no matter where you go or what you do, you will only encounter level-appropriate enemies and be rewarded with more of the same crap you already had. You have seen everything in the game as soon as you stumble out of the tutorial dungeon. All of it is just more of the same, every bit of it.

    I cannot imagine a greater sin for an RPG.

  39. I still managed to enjoy it un-modded on the Xbox. Admittedly, I compensated for the leveling system by mostly choosing major skills that I wouldn't actually use.

  40. I'm liking the leveling system in Skyrim, it's a great improvement over Oblivion's. I didn't feel the class system added anything to that game, and leveling skills by using them (being good at what you do) is great.

    I do however struggle with each level up. I haven't worked out the level cap. I don't think it's a straight 10 skill improvements -> level up thing. That means I don't know how many perks I can have, which leads me to panic and hoarding a well. Plus some of the perks I want are beyond my skill levels, so no point spending them.

    I do have problems with the UI. In particular, the mouse position usually overrides the 'obvious' selection. For example, in the inventory screen, as you scroll through categories the one you'd expect to be selected is centered on the screen, and the font is several points larger than those above and below. However, the one you are actually seeing is the one your mouse is hovering over, regardless of what the one in the middle of the screen is. The same thing happens with conversations, where I've scrolled to select a response, but because the mouse was on top of another I ended up saying something other than what I meant to.

    One thing I disliked about the dungeons is they're predictable. There's never any backtracking, looking for clues or exploration. They hide it with some gorgeous graphics and immersive atmosphere, but all the dungeons are a straight corridor to the main room, then a 'shortcut' out to the beginning (which is one way only, so you can't find it at the start and bypass the dungeon) and you're done. Not much room for alternatives other than kill everything in your path.

    Combat seems very easy, to the point that it could be easily broken. I played with no specialization in mind; sword and spell for the most part, switching to bow and sneaking when the enemy is not in melee range, shield if they're hitting me too hard and I need to block. The only thing I don't use is dual wield or two handed. And I was mopping the floor with most enemies on Master difficulty. The only issue I had was with a few enemies that would kill me in one or two hits (ice trolls, hags, giants). I'm missing balanced fights were I'm in danger without having to reload the fight ten times.

    The most annoying thing, though, is the ridiculousness of 'favoriting' the stuff I want quick access to, and having to open a list mid combat to select the power, equipment or spell.

    See, the thing I'd like to be able to do is buff myself up with some defense spells before firing a few arrows to an enemy, switching to my melee weapon and blast the enemies while I wail on them with my sword, run for cover and heal if the fight is too hard, maybe chug a potion.

    What I end up doing is choosing a single spell to use all the time, never using the buffing spells, and at most switching between ranged and melee. Healing myself after the fight, and sometimes remembering to chug a potion. Why? Because switching powers destroys immersion, having to open a menu that is ordered in alphabetical order instead of at least a sensible list I can order. The ideal thing would be to have programmable shortcuts to each power and item. Having to pause combat to switch weapons is really annoying, so I don't.

    Despite these complaints, however, I love the game. I've been wanting to play in a huge gameworld I can explore and mess around in since Oblivion, which I could never finish because the leveling system just killed it for me. Training the skills to max my stats was a chore, and not doing it made me feel like each level up was a waste of potential.

  41. Skyrim sounds more like an action RPG than a computer RPG. Action RPGs are more about hack and slash with spammable skills.

  42. I've only explored a couple of dungeons so far, and I didn't realize they were all linear like that. That takes the wind out of my sails a bit. Oblivion had multi-leveled, multi-corridor dungeons--nothing enormously complicated, but still enough that you felt that you were really searching for things.

  43. I can hardly put into words how shocked I am to read you say this is possibly the best CRPG you've ever played. Just wow. Especially because by this point you're very well-versed in the RPG genre and have played far more of them than most RPG connoisseurs. I mean I like the game, but I would struggle to even call it an RPG, let alone a good one. The combat is extremely simple and basic and lacks the variety of even the other Elder Scrolls games that come before it. There are no choices and consequences. None. There might as well not be multiple dialogue choices because 99% of the time (and that is generous), there is literally no difference in what you say - there is one choice you often get, however. You can choose to do a quest, and receive a reward. Or, you can not do the quest and not receive a reward! Needless to say I completely disagree with you about the quests and think the vast majority of them are simple fetch quests with none of the interesting and well written dialogue, branching story lines, or choices and consequences that great RPGs like Fallout, Planescape Torment, et al provide.

    The NPCs are dull. Can you honestly tell me with a straight face that you can remember the names of, say, 5 people from the game? I doubt it. I've played it for a good 30+ hours now (as I said, I do enjoy it) and I can't. Why? It's not because I suffer from alzheimer's or because the names are Scandinavian, it's because the NPCs are inconsequential and incredibly dull for the most part, right down to their mediocre voice acting and poorly written dialogue. There was the generic viking, I remember him from his interesting characterisation (he liked women and ale), then there was.. uh.. oh of course, the followers I've had who had unique quests associated with each of them to get to know them and their back stories. Wait, that was another game, because in this one they are all generic, forgettable mercenaries unlike ones you'd find in many great RPGs. Hell, even past Bethesda-associated games like Fallout New Vegas (done by Obsidian, a superior developer, but still) had good, memorable companions and NPCs that didn't seem like quest dispensers.

    The dungeons, as you've recently discovered, are all linear. And they're all the same. You go through them and along the way to spice things up you'll open chests which will usually contain interesting loot such as 3 gold coins. then at the end after completing a 'puzzle' (a simple 'align these squares that we have told you the correct order to because the correct icons are directly behind them' sort of thing) you encounter the boss who will run at you until he dies (he won't do anything interesting. There won't be special tactics necessary to defeat him. You just swing, or cast fireballs, until he falls down, or you do. Usually him.)

    It's a better game than Oblivion, certainly. And an enjoyable game in general, but the best CRPG you've ever played? Come on!

  44. I'll let you know for sure after I get back to it this weekend. Perhaps I was a little too gushy after a fairly limited amount of gameplay. What I can say is that most of the quests in Whiterun offered a heck of a lot more role-playing choices than in any previous CRPG, and the dialogue between the NPCs was so realistic that I just kept running around to listen to them and make sure I didn't miss any juicy gossip. I still maintain the fight with the dragons and giants are the best I've ever experienced.

    But maybe after a few more hours, I'll come to feel as you do. I've run hot and cold on CRPGs before. I'll try to save any more superlatives for the end.

  45. Dumb mistake on my part. I didn't mean "more role-playing choices than any previous CRPG." I meant "more role-playing choices than any previous ELDER SCROLLS GAME."

  46. Ahh the honeymoon period.

    I have often gotten a game and gone through a honeymoon period of thinking it is absolutely awesome, only to find it utterly boring after my caffeine and initial euphoria run out. Or they have something nice (like a unique take of combat) that makes me love the game at first but then I find out that new nice thing is the only thing the game has going for it and after about the 50th time it is no longer enough to carry the game.

    Not saying that is the case here as I haven't played this game yet, but I can understand an initial gushing over a game only to change your feelings later.

  47. Just out of curiosity, what race did you choose? I'm a High Elf guy myself, but it annoys me that I'm still just as tall as other characters when in first person view.

    1. I typically play an orc, but with light armor and focusing on stealth skills. I like the idea of playing against stereotype.

  48. Slghtly off-topic here (and I apologise if this has cropped up before!) but have you considered playing Dragonage Origins? I suggest that it would be right up your tree given the depth of characterisation for party memebers and npcs and the interesting moral choices that you have to make during the game.

    1. Yes, my wife and I have played through it twice. I did enjoy it for the reasons that you state, although I didn't like the combat. I understand it was better on the PC version, but we played the X-Box version.

  49. I've played computer games all my life - and today, I'm not an addict ANYMORE... I can look at this whole thing with some distance (and society is much more acceptable of gaming, so gaming loses some of its cult status). And to read such vitriol is just amazing... quite funny, actually. Oblivion unplayable on the PC? Ridiculous... Everything that is popular attracts polarization. For example, I refused to watch Titanic because I didn't want to join "the conformist majority". It's actually quite a good movie... And Skyrim is still a great game. It's still massively popular, at least here in Germany. It's still considered the king of RPGs. Every game that makes you play it for 200+ hours can't be bad...

    1. I agree. I can fully understand why you wouldn't think Skyrim is the best game, or even in the top 20%, but to suggest that it's a "bad" game, or not enjoyable at all, is just being contrary--the equivalent of people who say that President Obama is a "socialist."

  50. Oh, but the Skyrim hate is ever more hilarious to read the farther we get from the moment of release. Ahahaaaa. I actually think people saying Oblivion was "literally unplayable" or Skyrim is "the worst CRPG of the 2000s" or whatever are more akin to conspiracy theorists (as in chemtrails/lizard people), rather than people prone to needless hyperbole (as in Obama-Socialist [oh, how I wish he were actually a socialist]). They just take objectively untrue things and run with them without a moment's reflection.

  51. Dark Souls' Artorias of the Abyss section, which comes for free with the PC version, has what is probably my favourite single dragon battle of all time. The thing won't even bother to land until you actively force it to come down to your level - it'll just do a convincing imitation of a bomber jet with unlimited flamethrower ammo. Once you finally manage, you get to experience one of the most interesting and complex boss fights in a game series known to a large extent for its interesting and complex boss fights.

    Unfortunately, the PC version is a bit rubbish, but there's mods out there that help make it better (dsfix being the main one).

    1. I can't play it though. The screen resolution is a b!tch to fix.

  52. Like Oblivion, I found Skyrim compelling for a hundred or so hours, while never being able to shake a feeling of (usually mild) disappointment that it wasn't better. In both games I ended up getting bored and rushing to the end, long before I'd exhausted the games' content. In Skyrim there were at least two cities I didn't ever visit.

    These couple of posts have reminded me, though, of how much I love Morrowind. I just started a new game last night and it holds up beautifully (janky combat aside). It just feels so much more hand-crafted than the two sequels.

    1. Ah, this old entry that taught me the important lesson not to rush to superlatives too soon, because people will still mock you for them a decade later.

    2. No need to backtrack; poor Rom only found it compelling for the first 100 hundred or so hours. Since Skyrim I doubt there have been 4 or 5 games that caught me in its spell--the Xcoms, Dishonored, Witcher 3--so strongly. Is it better Baldur's Gate 2? Not for me but I sure had a heck of a time for many hours.

  53. No mockery intended - I felt that way about Oblivion, until I didn't...


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