I got to play a little bit of Skyrim this weekend. Not as much as I’d have liked, but enough to get a first impression. Reviewers all over the internet are either hyping the game to no end, condemning it as a shoddy console port, or both. I’m certainly not far enough into the game to give you any sort of actual review, but my initial impressions are mixed.
The controls and the general user interface are awful, it’s true. My character contracted a disease last night and I couldn’t, for the life of me, find a screen that told me what the disease did or whether I still had it. There is no character screen; you don’t actually get to look at any form of stats in a condensed form. Instead you get a variety of menus that have been simplified to fit console controls and through that simplification got rather cumbersome to use indeed.
Graphics are similarly mixed. Just like in Oblivion before, stills often look awesome and especially the landscapes are fantastic. Animations, though, are still rather bad and console textures are, well, console textures. Why game companies think that using textures made for five year old gaming machines on my modern PC is beyond me. Console graphics are far from the bee’s knees these days and clearly PC gamers are still a huge part of the RPG market. Bioware at least released a high resolution texture pack for Dragon Age 2.
The gameplay itself reminds me a lot of the older titles of the series (surprise, surprise), though the character system has been completely revamped. The choice inherent in the perks system is quite awesome, and it looks as if I could be playing a huge variety of different characters. It is a bit odd, that leveling any skill (including, say, blacksmithing) ultimately increases the strength of NPC enemies – but that is a topic for a full post.
Combat as a melee fighter works fine, but the animations have a tendency to be weird. Worst of all are the slow-motion killing blows that seem to happen all the time and get repetitive after a while. I have yet to find a toggle to turn that off, but maybe some .ini file is going to help me out. There also seem to be some sort of critical strikes that do incredibly high amounts of damage. Sometimes I’d whack on some enemy for a while without doing any real damage and then suddenly they’d just drop dead. This can be quite annoying because it adds a lot of randomness to the combat outcome. At multiple points in character’s short career, I would attack an enemy, get obliterated, reload, and kill the enemy without so much as a scratch on me.
I love that there are giants that kill me in one hit, quests with multiple solutions to them, and quest givers that will actually accept a quest that I completed before they told me to do so. I love that there is a huge world with lots of secrets to explore and fully voiced NPCs to talk to. I’ll definitely enjoy playing Skyrim despite its flaws, but I do expect having absolutely no issues coming up with a “10 bad things about Skyrim” post. Others already have.