Yes, I know this is probably late, as most of the people who know like the genre have played it already, but the point is not to be on time but to express my slight insatisfaction with how the game ended up for me.
The game, as the title of the post gives away is Bethesda’s latest Elder Scrolls’ chapter Skyrim which nobody could argue is a bad game. But the problem is that it’s not as good as it could have been, and that’s hard to argue against.
The first problem has to do with testing. A long time ago I guess it was much easier to test games properly; nowadays as soon as you have a big enough pool of people to test it, you probably have lost the whole idea of surprise and suspance. Which is still bothersome as, while the game was published on November 11th, I had to wait till I came back from the FOSDEM and Los Angeles trip to get to play it without feeling the urge to send the DualShock controller flying out of my window.
But this is something everybody and their dog already talked about and is already out of the window: the latest patch is not perfect but is surely better than what we had before, to the point it actually can be said to work almost flawlessly even on PlayStation3 (which, probably due to memory constraints, is the platform with the worst experience up to now).
Unfortunately once I started playing fine, without the frustration of savegames corrupting after a while, I could notice how powerful my character became. Nearly immortal, with all the money in the world, in a western RPG that is more railed than a JRPG (okay maybe not but almost.. or at least it feels that way).
What happens with this game is that while they did resolve most of the technical issues that caused Oblivion to be obnoxious, and they imported a lot of the gameplay improvements from Fallout and Fallout New Vegas, they didn’t solve one of the biggest issue in the two franchises: money is easy. After the first few hours of gameplay when you’re forced not to buy powerful equipment, the equipment becomes way too widespread, and its price with the vendors, even at lower skill levels, is high enough that you easily don’t have need for selling them anything anymore, if not to get a higher skill level to begin with.
And since here you don’t need to complete quests to be able to enchant armor and weapons, but you only need to learn a new skill, it’s very easy to get much more interesting equipment on your own than it is to get decent magical stuff from the vendors themselves. Even better since you can now craft your own weapons and increase them, so it’s just a matter of spending a few hours to train those.
I don’t think that this kind of “difficulty” requirements would be satisfied by just increasing the difficulty level: on Fallout New Vegas it would have been more interesting to set it to the Hardcore mode — which I didn’t try yet, honestly. I wonder if I might feel like trying FNV again after I’m done with Skyrim, although that’s probably going to happen in the summer, by this pace. With New Vegas, anyway, it was still hard to get the game completed, and while it became very boring once you killed most of the factions out, I had still trouble going around careless. And the expansions made it even better: one was Nintendo Hard but even that was intriguing because the characters were very interesting to explore and understand, and this even when counting that the Italian dub is not using any famous person as a voice, unlike all the English Bethesda productions (and no, I can’t play them in English on either of the consoles, since they are region locked; Skyrim played in French when I had my PS3 set up in English, to give you an idea).
While there is DLC planned for Skyrim, with all the developers’ attention geared toward getting it not suck, especially on PlayStation 3, there is nothing out yet. Which doesn’t make it promise much goodness, since it seems like it’s getting colder and colder.
The only “cool” quest, in and out, I could find was one of daedric ones (Sanguine, and that’s obvious if you played the game), the others impress of the sheer amount, but not really for variety. Yes it is cool that you can get a number of different quests to go around the land to fight a giant here, a crew of bandits there and finally a dragon on the peak, but … it’s always the same thing over and over again.
There are of course cool details: the dungeons that are used and reused for once rather than being thrown away like Oblivion, Fallout 3 and New Vegas did, the few quests that are given to you by the messengers, those that appear completed, and then are resurrected after a while by either a messenger or you finding something new…
But all this is technical stuff. Which does not let me keep interest in the game for a long time like F3 or FNV did; especially the latter. Probably, one of the many reasons the Fallout games got you more involved has to do with the radio that both of them had; it let you connect with the world you’re playing on, by letting you know that it’s just the same world as ours, it just took a different turn of events…
There has been music design in Skyrim as well, but a part from the (invented language) theme song, most of the other music is instrumental. Oh yes there are a few more, like The Dragonborn Comes which has been rendered tremendously nice by Malukah — but that’s only going to be heard within a tavern and … they translated it. And trust me that while it might sound like a minstrel for real, it’s not really a good piece to hear.
End of the day, I don’t think I’d be happy to buy this game at full retail price I feel guilty to say that because this was a birthday gift (and one I wanted as well). It’s just nost as good as I hope, or rather as Bethesda sold us it to be.
Oh well, it’s not like I’m going to play much at home in the next weeks, considering that, as I already noted, I leave on Monday: Los Angeles and San Antonio are my next destinations, working on a new, interesting project.
On this note, I think I’ll remove reference to my Amazon’s wishlist, since I won’t be spending enough time at home in the next two months, so anything you’d send my way is going to stay sealed up in its package for a while.. so if you want to show me your appreciation, the best thing right now would be Amazon’s gift certificates from the Italian store so that I can use it to buy books for my Kindle. Unfortunately Amazon’s policy make it impossible to mov ethe gift certificates around, which is actually nasty. But that’s a topic for another day.