Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Skyrim, Part III

I haven't really been hitting Skyrim hard lately. Unlike my favorite Neko who's been going retro (edited to remove the link; as Herculine apparently pulled a Nos and deleted the post while I was typing this one up), I haven't really been gaming much at all for reasons I won't bore anyone by going into.

Still, I've run this game up to just shy of 67 hours, and am currently level 39, I think it was.

I've explored most of the game map now (close to 75% by my reckoning), and have purchased houses in Markarth and Solitude, as well as the one I originally had in Whiterun.

House buying is more of a pain in the ass than I care for, all things considered. The Whiterun house is acquired after killing your first dragon -- or at least the first one encountered along the main quest; diligent players will probably be able to fuck over the quest progression somehow and encounter a dragon before then somewhere else. Apparently killing the dragon to protect Whiterun is considered your big good deed for the hold; and nets you permission to buy a house, and the title of Thane (which comes with a lackey -- Lydia in this case).

In other holds, it isn't so easy. You have to complete one big-ish quest for the Grand High Poobah of that particular little pond to get permission to buy a house; and then complete five quests "helping the subjects" of that hold. You do get followers for each title of Thane. They are not all moderately or better attractive women. The Thane title in Markarth came with the services of Generic Fantasy Male Fighter #1471A. Needless to say, he's never been adventurin' with his boss.

Solitude is a step up. It's an ungodly expensive house (I counted ~37k gold for the house and upgrades -- making it not as bad as Rosethorn in Oblivion, but still expensive as hell by Skyrim standards).

The thane title in Solitude also came with another female Housecarl:

Jordis, the Sword-Maiden.

Sadly, Skyrim is not written by people with an appropriate sense of humor. My first instinct on meeting Jordis was to ask if she was really worthy of the title of Sword-Maiden. Think about it a minute, you'll get it.

And to answer your next question: yes, I did suffer sometimes brutal physical reprisals for my "witty banter" as a teenager. In addition to simply being punched, I did actually get bitten a couple of times (hand and arm; pervs)... but that's neither here nor there.

I like Jordis better than Lydia; and not just because of her closer-to-proper hair color. Lydia always sounds... resigned; morose, even. Jordis' voice actress actually makes her sound like she's okay with being your partner.

Though Jordis does... concern me a bit. I'm not sure if it's the level disparity when they were recruited, but she's head and shoulders above Lyds' combat abilities. Jordis smoothly swaps between bow and melee; preferring ranged combat when possible, and often one-shotting bandits from a considerable distance.

While exploring a tower or something, we were attacked by Forsworn in the halls. It being too close to effectively use a bow, I swapped to my sword and shield and prepared to get medieval on some barbarian asses. As I moved to engage the nearest screw-head, Jordis suddenly appeared between us. She spun the primate -- who was at 100% health -- around, grabbed him with her offhand, and rammed her sword between his shoulder blades, insta-killing him. She then proceeded to step over the corpse, and enact holy terror upon the deceased's friends.

Note to self: do not ever stiff Jordis on her salary.

By this point in the game, I had acquired a small stack of Daedra hearts, and could finally finish out a set of Daedric armor for my new hench:

Not as stylish as the Ebony; but decidedly more intimidating. I've since also taken to leveling my enchantment skill, and enchanted her armor fully as well as using the 100 smithing skill and some buff potions to work over the armor to Legendary or Epic status; I forget which. She's not quite a battlemech; but the girl will fuck up anything shy of an Elder Dragon in short order.

Aside from the combat prowess, another reason I prefer Jordis to Lydia is her personality. I don't just mean the voice actress', either. Jordis seems...

Naive isn't the word; nor is innocent. She's... not jaded?

We were out on some godsforsaken mountain, hunting down the legend of some guy for reasons I never figured out; and had just cleaned out an enclave of Forsworn (animal-skin wearing savages are fucking everywhere south of Solitude). I was grabbing something off the blood-caked altar, when I hear from behind me:

"Wow. I've never seen anything like that before!"

I turn around, and Jordis is standing behind me, looking over my head at these rune-engraved arches. I mean it: her model was looking up, right at them. That. Was. Cool.

Pathfinding problems persist for her every bit as bad as they were for Lyds, however. I'm more convinced than ever that the game world was navmeshed in an extremely half-assed fashion -- which, let's be honest, would be par for the goddamned course at this point. When Bethsoft employees actually do something right (if they ever do) then I'll be surprised. Screw-ups and general laziness don't even make me blink, anymore. It isn't nearly as bad in interiors, but there seems to be a lag of several seconds between the time the player moves off, and the time the follower notices they need to move. This causes havoc of all sorts when trying to avoid traps (since it makes it impossible to keep your hench close enough to you to follow your exact footsteps and miss the traps' trigger plates -- which helpfully cannot be disarmed under any circumstances in this game), and can easily leave you without backup for thirty or more seconds if you stumble onto enemies. Crossing rivers is probably the worst, since bridges are infrequent at best; and followers flatly refuse to climb up and/or over rocks. They always catch up; but it can take awhile.

Beyond that, while I like the design of the Solitude house, the game itself has been more of the same. If you've made it to level fifteen or so, you've probably seen nearly all the game has to throw at you -- everything except the main quest is just various rehashes of the same half dozen quests; and you've only got six or so groups of enemies that you'll generally encounter: animals, bandits, forsworn, undead, Dwemer automatons, and dragons. Eventually, after picking a side in the war you'll also be considered the enemy of either the Imperial Legion or Stormcloaks; but they're just human NPCs with different equipment -- bandits or Forsworn in different outfits.

I've played a bit of all four "guild" questlines -- "Companions" (fighters guild), "College" (mages), Thieves guild, and Dark Brotherhood; and I'm not impressed at all. Dark Brotherhood was my favorite part of vanilla Oblivion, and Skyrim is a grave disservice to the organization -- fictional though it may be. Thieves Guild is just boring. Mages guild is same-old-same-old; "researching" ruins that always end in combat, finding books, listening to the prattle of people who need a sword in their aorta. Companions were the worst, though. After completing a couple minor quests, and not even proving yourself remotely; they initiate you into the inner circle (*train horn*) which involves making you into a werewolf.

Great, they want to make me take sides in the fucking Twilight fangirls' war? Like hell. As soon as I saw that I reloaded an earlier save and left the questline hanging. No big loss; I only joined the organization to get access to another armor and weapons vendor, anyway. I wonder somewhat idly if the mages' questline will involve becoming a sparkly, effeminate vampire.

The high point of the game continues to be the scenery, no question. From the balcony of your house in Solitude, you can see out over the north sea. As well, the view from Mehrunes Dagon's shrine is simply kickass.

While my opinion that the game is worth picking up hasn't changed, it nonetheless needs a toolset. Badly. Really badly. Really really. 'The community' could bang out fixes for most of the issues plaguing the game inside a week if there was just a way to read and modify all the entries in the main master.

The game also needs the ability to craft arrows. I know there are a couple mods floating around the Nexus that allow it; but it seems like the sort of thing that would have been in the base game. I'd think it would work piggybacked onto either smithing or marksman.


  1. Yeah, now that my initial curiosity about the game has died off I'm kinda just biding my time where Skyrim is concerned, waiting for the editor and patches and mods that will hopefully make it more interesting and feel less like a ride on another Bethesda railroad. Lately I've departed somewhat from my general practice of waiting a while after a release before I get a game, but the releases of Rage and Skyrim have reminded me once again why I started that practice in the first place. I think our friend Druuler had the right idea on this one all along. I'll probably play it some more, but it's just not keeping me on the edge of my seat hoping to find out what's going to happen next.

    Yeah, I deleted the blog post just minutes after finishing it; just seconds after finishing it, someone commented to let me know that I had made some insensitive comments about someone recently deceased. Since the majority of the Doom community already has as much respect for me as one generally has for the village idiot, I decided it would likely be in my best interest to simply delete the post.

  2. Hmm, I still don't have the game and my enthusiasm is fading due to all the reports of half-assedness. Glad I didn't get it right away.

    Now that you've mentioned it Nos, I bet that a very early mod after the toolkit release will be to let you become a sparkly, effeminate vampire. Or get one as a "companion". I don't know which would be worse :O

  3. @Herculine:

    I didn't see where you said anything all that offensive... but then again I've never subscribed to the theory that dying wipes away the fact that you were a prick whilst still alive. I mean, the whole "don't speak ill of the dead" is a holdover from the days when people thought doing so would cause a spirit that felt slighted to return from the afterlife to haunt you. Still, I can understand your desire not to cause yourself any unnecessary dramas.


    You know, I'd like to say it's just Bethsoft... but name me a major-ish game from the last five years that wasn't half assed. Have you read any of the reviews on the new Saints Row? Seems like anything more complex than a Madden foosball game is getting gutted in one area to another to speed and/or cheapen production. It's just that the professional reviewers are all whores and total slaves to the software companies' ad bucks.

  4. If you ask me (and if you don't I'll rant anyway), it's all about the visuals now. As long as a game has good graphics -- especially if those visuals include impossible amounts of gore erupting from dying enemies -- this generation of gamers will be satisfied. Personally, I prefer a game that keeps me entertained and has graphics that today's gamers would consider just passable, but the creators of these games don't ask for the opinions of individuals. What makes the most money by selling the most copies is what gets put in the game. But then, you already know that...

  5. As I've opined in the past: I've got nothing against the pretties. What I mind is pretty in lieu of actual content.

    I've just about had it with the hack writing. I've seen better plot progression in slashfic than what we get in video games these days. It's like playing a semi-interactive network sitcom -- the story is either boring, or forced.

    Lights in the darkness like OWB just make it worse, since the light just highlights how bad everything else around you sucks.

    But then, we are talking about a society where neither Moonlight, Firefly, nor Crusade could get an entire season on TV before being canceled; but Survivor is in season seventeen or some shit. Philistines. Philistines everywhere. Is it any wonder good games don't sell?

  6. @Nos: Oh, i have to agree about all the big devs but Bethsoft have pretty much always been this way. Right from the early days. Given that, I have to wonder why I'm surprised any more.

    @Herculine: Speaking of just passable graphics, I've been playing my old text adventures using Gargoyle. No graphics at all. It would make most modern gamers heads explode. (Insert obligary "My lawn, get off it, etc etc" ;)

  7. I have never been one to rush out and get the newest game that might interest me, even if it was part of a franchise that held my attention. Probably a notable exception to that might be when Doom 3 was released. I really wanted to get my hands on that, but it wasn't something financially feasible at the time, so I waited anyway. The same goes for games available on console.

    My friend FuzeTek (the guy that started the RE mods) was saying he was going to buy Skyrim this weekend, and seemed all hyped up about it. Then I mentioned the issues it has been having, especially the last patch needing to be patched, and I could almost hear his enthusiasm deflating through Yahoo messenger.

    I am still interested in playing Skyrim, and, if the game play (for the most part) seems good enough to me, then I will try and mod it to make it a game I will enjoy playing over and over again. For right now though, I will try and focus my attention on the projects I have on the go already, and see if I can't get a better grasp of modding before I bother with Skyrim.

    @Nos: I loved Firefly and enjoyed Crusade (though I didn't like Babylon 5), but never saw Moonlight.

  8. "I loved Firefly and enjoyed Crusade (though I didn't like Babylon 5), but never saw Moonlight. "

    You, Sir, are a heretic!

    Not having seen Moonlight I can at least sort of understand... It was a Friday night Fox broadcast and the network fucked it over pretty hard and then never replayed it; the only way to see it on air since its original run has been when the Syphilis Channel picked it up and occasionally marathons it. I just picked up the boxed set when I saw Amazon had it on sale for like $13.

    But no B5? It ran for almost seven years! (Five seasons, plus a half dozen movies, plus the Crusade spin-off) Granted, when it moved into the second generation of people on the station in season five it went downhill... but seasons one through four were great.

    ...Where'd I leave my Hasbro Spanish Inquisition(TM) play-set...? (Now with plastic hot pokers and pre-filled out confessions of heresy! It's the Christmas gift every pre-pubescent sadist will love!)

  9. Babylon 5 had great potential, but in my opinion the characters never got the development they deserved. When writing for an episodic television series, it's the characters themselves that truly make the series successful and keep it going. The overall plot and settings of the series are just environments for the characters to inhabit.