Monday, November 14, 2011

Skyrim - Not Oblivion

The highest complement that I can bestow upon Skyrim is that it's not Oblivion. Oh sure it's obviously similar, but the depth and natural flow of the game are just so much better that it's hard to overstate. Walking from point A to point B (I rarely use the speed travel option) will always have something happen that keeps you wondering what is coming next. And while playing Oblivion kind of felt like I was checking off quests on a list, this time around it just feels like I'm being gently pushed in different directions to experience the game.

Since I got it I haven't been able to put it down as I have dove head first into my roll as a one handed bow assassin. My style is to sneak around and use my bow to take out as many bad guys as I can and then finish them off with my sword and board technique. Having learned how to actually block now has given me a huge advantage. But there is nothing like hiding in the shadows with the bow drawn and letting it fly into the chest of some unsuspecting victim and seeing that little 2X damage text pop up. So many great sniper moments that it's impossible to pick just one, but a highlight for sure was taking out a guy on the top of a tower and watching him fall into the river below, thing of beauty.

When it comes to highlight moments, Skyrim has them to spare. I have two favorites so far, one of those coming last night while I was making my way to the greybeards and I just happened to catch a red dot moving on my radar, it was a saber cat about to attack. I readied my shield and blocked his initial attack and then while he was off balance I got a critical animation where I one shot the bastard, kicking him from sword, it was a really, "take that bitch." moment. I'm only level 14 so I felt pretty proud.

My other big moment was the random frost dragon fight I came across while just wondering around. I did a quick travel to get to a cave that I thought I had left some stuff in and instantly see a dead horse on the ground, which hadn't been there before. I look around a little bit and see a dragon flying around overhead. There are a couple of guards armed with bows firing at the dragon, naturally I pull out my bow and go join the fight. I stay back a bit and pluck away, I see no reason to go make myself the main target, and I watch the guards fight the dragon. In the distance I see the dragon pick up one of the guards in it's mouth and shake him around, finally tossing him aside with weapon and shield flying haphazardly away as well. I start thinking that if I want to take this dragon out, I better move in before all of the guards are killed. I go to melee and as I'm hacking at the hindquarters of the dragon, it picks up the last of the guards and throws him aside too. Now the dragon turns towards me, frost breath blasting away. I do what any paniced adventurer would do, I run for it. The dragon giving chase blasting away at me, I realize that if I keep running I'm a goner, even popping potions. I jump behind a rock the dragon still closing in blasting away at me. I use the rock as a shield and fire some arrows back in his direction, trying to dodge his very fast frost blasts, all the while him continuing to close in. Knowing I can't run, I run up to just behind the rock with the dragon on the other side blasting away at it (sure the AI should have gone around, but I was kind of pinned down too, it seemed believable, even as I remember it it does.) My screen enveloped in white as the frost surrounds me and me poking out between shots to get an arrow in. After a couple blasts from the dragon I get my killing blow in and the dragon collapses in a lump, me staring down at it's now lifeless head. My son gave me a high five after the fight too. It's hard to describe how epic that battle really was, to me it's like it played out in some movie as I can imagine my character racing away through the field and then cowering behind a rock. And while that was a great moment, there have been several that were awesome as well.

Another thing that sets Skyrim apart from Oblivion is that the extra trade skill actions actually have a purpose and make sense. In Oblivion I had no idea how to do any of the enchanting so I just left it alone, here I'm improving my armor, mixing up countless potions as I try and figure out what everything does, I enchanted my sword so that it is now the ultimate weapon of destruction, it's just soooooooo much more intuitive this time around. And it makes sense too.

Character skills are also a welcome change, now instead of picking a class you just play how you want and you level up accordingly. This is the BEST system ever created!!! I have hated the idea that you ARE one type of character, now you just do what you do and you get better at it through your skill points. Again it just makes sense. If only they could make a balanced MMO that played like that, oh my I'd just collapse in happiness. I guess AC was kind of like that, but this is more advanced. It really goes back to the reason why I love Minecraft, the game just lets you play it, there is freedom in everything that you do in the game and it makes for a really enjoyable experience.

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