Skyrim: First Impressions
I was an avid Oblivion player and modder. I didn’t submit anything to sites–something I regret doing now–but I was only in high school and still unsure about my skills. I played or modded Oblivion every day, for at least an hour. I balanced that with advanced placement classes, being captain of a club volleyball team, being a starter on a softball team, hanging out with my friends, and being an active volunteer in the community.
When Skyrim came out, I became a little nervous. I’m in pre-production for three of my game design ideas, and I had just signed up to join a modding team for Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I’m also in charge of usability testing for an advanced games project at USC, which can get a little time consuming the night before a test (though it’s nowhere, nowhere near what the rest of the team has to go through).
Why was I nervous? Skyrim is probably the best world simulator I’ve played. The main quest isn’t particularly enthralling–I doubt I’m more than half-way in, and I’ve sunk in 26 hours–but the world was so painstakingly handcrafted, so well-thought out that I can’t help but follow a divergent road. And that divergent road can distract me for hours.
As mentioned before, some of the quests are a bit of a bore. They can’t all be winners, but luckily the amount of great, memorable quests outnumbers the forgettable ones. My favorite ones so far have involved either the Deadra Princes or the Dark Brotherhood. Both have well-written characters and scenarios, and both compel me to complete their quests. Others, however, aren’t quite so–I force myself to fast travel in order to not lose my way.
As touched upon before, the world is gorgeous. The design of it is admirable, and I love that I can run through a rich, vibrant forest and find myself traversing through white-capped mountains and a blizzard a minute later. The drastic change of scenery is never drastic at all. It’s well-thought out and well-executed. The attention paid to the flora and fauna is astounding, as well. I love standing in a populated area and watching the animal AI take over. Bunnies will pounce around, deer will run away from bears, and foxes will sprint around without any goal in mind. These extra touches add in more life into an already very lively world, and the world only benefits from it.
I’ve talked about the two aspects of the game I love the most–certain creative quest lines and the world teeming with life.
Let me talk about the UI. As soon as I’m able to, I’m overhauling it. The interface design is not PC friendly. At all. It was blatantly made for controller use, and even then, it could have been designed better. It’s clunky, it takes far too long to navigate the menus, and too many key strokes or button presses are needed to get to where you want to get to. It needs to be designed from the ground up with either just the keyboard or just the controller in mind, and it needs to be streamlined so that menu navigation becomes transparent rather than a hindrance.
This is more of a personal, nit-picky gripe than anything else, but the character creation seems to be a bit more restricted than Oblivion. You choose a preset, then customize that preset–however, certain options are missing in the latest installment. I only know this because I was a fan of customizing every aspect of my character down to the smallest detail. However, this way it’s much, much easier and less time-consuming to create a character that looks good. I also love the inclusion of scars and war paint. Every character I’ve made so far has some kind of horrific scarring and war paint. It adds a sense of reality.
I do find melee combat less fun this time around, and more of a struggle than it should be. Maybe I’ve built my character wrong, or maybe I’m using a faulty play style. Whatever it is, I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. Granted, my first character is a two-handed tank, so maybe that’s just not for me. I tried a mage for a little bit, and found it fun. Almost unbelievably so. The game also took a turn for the easy, but I was having the time of my life shooting lightning and fire out of my fingertips. I didn’t mind that I was defeating enemies in two seconds because magic use was just so entertaining.
Those are my first impressions of Skyrim. I’m off to go experience more of this rich world.