Digital Digressions: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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Nathan: So two weeks, 107 hours of Skyrim. That game is pretty sweet.

Paul: It’s pretty okay I guess…

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Nathan: I love understatements. Really though, I can’t recall getting this invested in a game as I have with this one. The way they handle leveling…perfect. And while it still has all of that Bethesda jankiness, its either less prominent or less bothersome somehow this time around.

Paul: Maybe it’s because the jankiness this time around seems to add a silly little charm in the world for the most part (when it isn’t just downright crashing the game, anyways). There is little funner in the gaming industry than getting a dragon flying around backwards into the map terrain.

Nathan: I haven’t had that, had random skeletons and paralysis causing dudes to bounce, which is always awesome. Oh, and a sabre cat spazzing out and flying around for ten seconds or so. But yeah, also some straight-up freezes and in my first fight with Alduin I apparently glitched it so you could not hurt him, had to clear the cache to fix that. But after Fallout: New Vegas (which I loved but DAAAAMMMMNNNN), cake walk.

Paul: I think at this point it’s just a known thing to expect cache-clearing from Bethesda games, which is really too bad.  It would be more than redundant probably to discuss just what Skyrim is in a game sense, so barring all that nonsense, what are some of your favorite moments you’ve encountered thus far?

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Nathan: Well, random awesome battles are cool. Somehow got into a fight with TWO dragons simultaneously, and some giants got in on the action, which only made it sweeter when I wasted all of ‘em. So there’s stuff like that. In terms of structured quests, I fondly remember King Olaf’s Verse for some reason, its the initiation quest for the bard’s college. And one that involved squaring off against some pirates in an underground lagoon. Basically, I love exploring dungeons and the quests that give me interesting areas to dig through and get my Indiana Jones on leave me pretty happy. I ended up just neglecting quests and going dungeon crawling for most of that 100 hours, nowhere near finishing the civil war stuff or any of the guilds I joined, and I’m in the very earliest stages of the Dark Brotherhood stuff. So yeah, just messing around. How about you?

Paul: Well, I think it’s important first off to mention that it’s because of your grandstanding of this game recently that even got it back into my Xbox 360 to begin with…

Nathan: You’re welcome.

Paul: …When it came out at the tail end of last year, I pretty much played it exactly as you are only I had the unfortunate timing of other games being released and work schedules/Christmas and whatnot so after putting in roughly 60 hours in the first week I put it down until just a couple of days ago.  That being said, I remember looking fondly back on any quest I would pick up just from exploring the environment without any direction and getting something really cool to show for it at the end (usually a weapon).  Also, without spoiling anything, I really enjoyed how the Alduin quest line ends, to the point of perhaps using one of the words I generally try to avoid…”epic”.

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Nathan: That word is indeed often overused, but I’ve found places to employ it already when playing this game, so I don’t doubt it has much more in store. As one who found the endings in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3 pretty lacking, nice to hear Bethesda figured that business out. And hey, we timed this okay what with Dawnguard being released just this past week. Fresh once again! You going to get your Van Helsing on in videogame form? Well, not that movie tie-in game, but there are crossbows I’m told? I sure hope that’s true.

Paul: I have purchased and installed the Dawnguard DLC but have actually neglected looking into any of that yet. Honestly, I’ve been having fun just pacing myself on random missions and trying to get to as many daedra missions as possible.  I’ve decided that after saving Skyrim and fulfilling my fate as the Dovah’kiin I would become a sword FOR the daedras and have done pretty much all their bidding… both good and evil.

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Nathan: I’m actually glad there is no blatant morality system in there. Like, did I need to make a giant mound of Falmer corpses? No…but I wanted to. The game doesn’t judge me for that weirdness…well, a giant spider showed up out of nowhere when I was dragging a body to the pile, but I’m going to call that a coincidence or a symptom of my Xbox wheezing in its final moments. So, there’s that. E74 is the end of Skyrim…for now.

Paul: It’s kind of funny that with the buggiest major game in the last half-year or so on the Xbox, the thing that stopped your adventure was the system itself. I feel for you though, I understand how hard it is to put the game down by your own accord let alone being shutdown completely.

Nathan: Much profanity was employed, I assure you. Had it not been for that though, may have disappeared for much of the summer. I’ll return someday, glad to hear its easy to jump back in again, was worried losing the momentum might kill it. Anyway, back to our experiences with the game. What level you at and what skill sets you investing in?

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Paul: I’m currently almost level 41. When I left off I was working towards my sneak and thief-based skills as I was doing the Thieves Guild quests so Light Armor and Sneak were what I was going for. Since coming back I said bullocks to all that nonsense, made Daedric armor, got a daedric weapon and shield (which dispels 50% of offensive magicka), equipped Whirlwind Sprint and now I just sprint right up to dudes and shove my steel into their stupid faces. Also, blacksmithing obviously maxed out with a good chunk of points into restoration spells so I don’t have to waste potions between melees. What about yourself?

Nathan: 46 (I win…though now that I can’t play it anymore..). Focused on Archery and Sneak first-off, maxed those out at 100. Started with heavy armor for some stupid reason so wasted some perks on that, but now I’m doing all Light Armor, more magicka-related business and one-handed weapons (daggers mostly). Do you custom name your armor and such? I love that they let you do that. Rocking full Equestrian right now, which fills me with glee (it’s secretly Elven). My Smithing and Enchanting could be higher, but I am (well, was) working on that.

Paul: Heavy Armor is fantastic IF you go all the way with it. It’s a rough time getting up there (I still haven’t made it fully myself) but when you get the perk that makes it weightless it’s perfect. Personally, I’ve just been having fun not really even playing the game in terms of questing and doing all that business and just going around doing whatever the hell it is I want since I’m a dude in some giant, scary-ass black armor that can shout like a dragon. Nothing stands in my way.

Nathan: I couldn’t deal with heavy stuff because I hitting my weight limit really quickly. There’s a Light Armor perk where everything Light weighs nothing, so I can carry more Dragon Bones, and whatever other nonsense I want (had a mess of carrots for awhile, in hopes of making soup). Wasn’t rolling with a partner for a long time either, which didn’t help in that department. Been thinking I may just replay it someday as a heavy, have a different spin on all of it. Brief aside, is there dismemberment in the game or is that PC mod stuff?

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Paul: I think that may be a PC thing because I haven’t ever seen it myself.  I kind of wish I were playing on PC if for nothing else just for the ability to hack away the item weight limit so I could carry EVERYTHING (I have some hoarding issues, I guess).

Nathan: I’ve had to curb that tendency, but I’m glad I got my buddy Kharjo with me now (he’s a Khajiit too!), so I can equip him with a bunch of cool stuff I don’t need. Seems to prefer punching stuff though…I guess that’s viable. We do have claws and whatnot. Do you roll with a partner typically or do you lone wolf it?

Paul: I have a partner… it’s called my sword.  I’m a one man wolfpack. Other people just get in my way and I have to kill them eventually for it so it’s better I travel alone.

Nathan: Actually yeah, the only reason I abandoned the idea of a partner was Lydia died early on. That would not stand so I reloaded, went home and told her to hang out there. Kharjo seems tough though, but I get nervous every time he rushes into an area with just his fists. Dude ain’t going to last with that attitude. Not looking forward to that day. Like when I lost my first horse to that stupid Wisp lady. Came out of nowhere!

Paul: Well, it’s easy to see that this could continue on for an infinite amount of time, so I just want to say my closing thoughts for now. When Skyrim came out, it was obviously very highly regarded by both fans and critics and took home quite a few “Game of the Year” awards. While I love the game and it holds a dear place in my heart for the time I had with it then and now, I still don’t really see how it can receive that title personally just due to how broken it was for so long (the PS3 version barely even fucking worked and all Bethesda said was “yeah, we’ll get to it sometime”). Now that you have an extensive knowledge of what the game is, I’d like to hear your opinion.

Nathan: I was thinking about this some in relation to what we ( “we” being Top Down Perspective) gave Game of the Year to last year. We chose Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, which is the oddest game to compare to this one. Its ultra linear, maybe ten hours long and it’s a portable game (recently game out on iOS). Thing is, I think that game will still be just as great in ten years, whereas I can’t shake the feeling Skyrim will kind of be eclipsed whenever The Elder Scrolls VI or maybe even Fallout 4 comes out, because they keep iterating on this insanely ambitious formula so it keeps getting better and better. I forgive it its technical flaws, much like I forgave those in Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas, because I have literally nothing else to compare this type of game to in terms of sheer scale and depth. The game is obscenely huge, has so much to do and see, it’s kind of staggering. So I feel it is an important benchmark and one of the best things happening right now, but it could well be overshadowed by its descendants in years to come. So for the time being, love it, one of the most awe-inspiring gaming experiences I’ve ever had. But that status will likely diminish in the coming years. That isn’t a slight to the game, right? I mean, I love some of the little stories and such I’ve come across in the world, but it is really the summary of all the things they crammed into this 3.8GB (huh?) sandbox that makes it special. I could go on but, think that summarizes my messy tangle of thoughts reasonably well.

Paul: I agree, the fact that Skyrim even exists in the way we know it is a marvel of imagination and engineering, I suppose what I was getting at is at what point are technical issues okay to overlook just because it’s something ambitious… but that’s a whole other topic to tackle one day. I’ll just leave it at this: Skyrim is more an experience than a video game that deserves to be had by everyone at some point in their life.Digital Digressions: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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