I have to admit, I almost did not play “TheElder Scrolls V: Skyrim”. I had such a bad experience with “Oblivion,” the previous title in the series, that I never wanted to touch another game related to it. “Oblivion” had clunky XBox controls, the menus were awful, and in the few hours of my time I gave it, nothing really happened. It was an open world game without all of the great things that make such games interesting. You can only just wander around and find nothing for so long.
Yes, I understand that people disagree with me on that count. Some will say “Oblivion” is one of the best games ever. I beg to disagree. However, after being prodded by countless friends and even G4TV‘s Adam Sessler, I caved when it came to its sequel. I gathered up an armful of books and video games and took them to Hastings in order to make a trade for “Skyrim.” Fortunately, I had enough to cover the game’s $59.99 price tag (plus that horrendous Tennessee sales tax).
I popped the game into the XBox and waited for it to load. I was still skeptical at that point, and even after I created my high elf (named Daenerys) and was plunged headfirst into the story, I had my doubts. I played for a few hours and my initial impression was that this game was “Fallout: New Vegas,” but with dragons.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked “Fallout: New Vegas,” but I felt the storyline just was not up to par with the previous “Fallout 3” title. I also hate games that throw you into the fray without any character background. I am mostly an RPG gamer, so story and character are very important to me. So here I had a high elf, who is a prisoner. This is how the game starts out. I don’t know why she was captured or what a high elf was even doing in Skyrim and I found this lack of story at the beginning annoying. Yes, sometimes, I do like it all spelled out for me.
I need these things to justify the way I play a game where you are given some choice in dialogue and morality. I need to know who this high elf is and where she comes from. So I’ve concocted my own story about her being an ambassador for the high elves who was trying to help Skyrim heal its differences between the Stormcloaks and the Imperials. And she had been traveling to speak with leaders of both factions when she was captured. So it becomes a sort of story about being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, I only hope the game does not seek to destroy that vision of the character I now have created in my mind.
In spite of that, though, this game is all-encompassing. If you want to get lost for hours doing things like cooking or smithing or alchemy or enchanting (and yes, I say “ENCHANTMENT” ever time I enchant something in honor of “Dragon Age”), you can. If you want to just wander the world and beat up things, you can. If you want to talk to every single person in every single village, town and fortress, you can. There are more quests than you can shake a stick at and dragons to kill. And I have to admit, I have found myself lost in the gameplay.
The rest of the story, so far, seems solid. Granted, I’m only about 20 hours into the game and this thing is probably hundreds of hours long, so this is only a first impression. And once I started getting into the gameplay, I will admit that I could not stop playing. It is highly addictive and engrossing and this world is so fully imagined that you can’t NOT get into. I dare you not to get hooked.
The gameplay seems to combine all of the good things from the last two “Fallout” games with a few improvements. Combat is smooth and easy and I have found the way to bring up menus a little simpler from those titles, too. Bethesda did a great job of giving us a game whose actual play is based on “Fallout” with an entirely new story. So it’s familiar, but new, all at the same time. Interestingly enough, a lot of “Oblivion” fans hate the new menus. My guess is that they’ve never played the “Fallout” titles. For me, this system just works, especially on consoles.
I also like the politics of the game. I’m finding all of the political intrigue fascinating. As a high elf, though, I think I’m leaning towards the Imperials, mostly because the Stormcloaks seem to be very racist towards elves (although a lot of NPC’s have had nasty things to say about elves. Even when I’m lunging a fireball at their faces). But I have a feeling that I have not seen all factions yet. Oh, and also being able to be a werewolf is cool, too. Although I’ve read that you can also become a vampire? It’s a pity you can’t be both at the same time, sort of like the hybrid Klaus on “The Vampire Diaries.” Not that would be SWEET.
I look forward to playing much more of “Skyrim” and I only hope that the story of this world continues to get fleshed out. I still feel compelled to play, for hour on end, and that’s always a good sign of a great video game.