So thanks to the Steam Sale I finally caved and got Skyrim. And am trying not to play for 6 hours every day. It doesn’t radically change the Elder SCrolls formula but continues to tweak and modernise it, whilst providing the same amazingly compelling sandbox style play.

So I’ll find myself on a mission to track down some enemy of the Thieves guild. But then I get see some Nord tomb, which takes the best part of an hour to fight my way through. Then I come out the other side and see some village in the distance that I’ve never seen before. So I trek there and sell some of the loot from the tomb. Then the blacksmith tells me they’re having problems with raiders, so maybe I should go check that out. Except there were also those funky Dwarvern ruins somewhere near here, weren’t there? Must be plenty cool to see there. Oh also the Thane of Makarth had a chore for me to do around here, trolls or something. And I was meant to be finding a book for some high elf douchebag at the college of Winterhold and I’m sure that’s in bandit hideout about ten minutes up the road so I’ll go do that first, maybe stop off at the silver mine along the way. Wait wasn’t I meant to be on that mission for the Thieves OH SHIT A DRAGON

So the Dragon fights are a new feature that punctuates your exp;oration. They’re amazingly well done, I’ve never seen an enemy that big and dynamic in an unscripted open-world type game. It’s more like something you’d expect in a contained boss-fight. They’re huge, they swoop around, they flamethrower everything in site while you cower behind a rock and think “ok tough guy, what now”.

So that’s Skyrim: 18 things to do at once, if I’m not just taking a walk in the hills to enjoy the scenery, then dragons happen.

Note that despite 20 odd hours play now, I’ve not even touched the central questline. I’ve done a fair bit for the Thieves guild, a couple of Mages Guild missions. Large chunks of the map are either unexplored, or have had points of interest bypassed with a mental note to go back later. The game is staggeringly vast.

re: modernisation, a key change is that character stats are reduced to a minimum, and now each skill has an assocaited talent tree. So on levelup I get decisions like, do I want some new sneaking-related ability like improved backstabs. Or a bonus to armour skill to boost mobility. Or the ability to craft more advanced weapons. I guess this is Blizzard’s legacy to gaming? (or did someone else think of Talent trees first).

Also I notice that weapons and armour no longer degrade and break. Perhaps thats a sign of being pampered modern gamers, but it’s not something I miss. The old make-your-own-spell feature I slightly miss, but again it was rather fiddly.

Anyways in an effort to tie this into retro-gaming, you could go read my thoughts on Morrowind. That review was arguably a bit premature, it was written when MW was only a few years old, before games 4 and 5 had come out. Looking back I can see how it feels somehow a bit bare in comparison. Well, the volume of content was there, but quests tended to be rather mechanical “go kill stuff and find an item” without so much scripting or storytelling. Also NPCs, unless key to some plot line, tended to be a bit generic, and stood weirdly rooted to the spot around the clock. Later games do a more convincing job of showing towns as places populated by living people.

That said I think it did well establish that addictive Elder Scrolls magic, the feeling of having a whole world to explore and find adventure in. It helped that it had a slightly mysterious, exotic feel – Oblivion, while a better game overall, was fairly generic High Fantasy.

So anyway i’m not getting a lot of retro gaming done right now, but as compensation the first feelers into creating FFG V3 are underway. By which I mean I learned how to bugger up wordpress templates. WAtch this space.