The knell of blogdoom the internets over is the moment when one's mother asks, with polite parental concern, why one hasn't been blogging to the regular (slightly obsessive) schedule. Oops, busted. The reasons for my recent non-bloggery are many and varied, but mostly it's because I've spent the last week solid playing Skyrim, the sequel to Oblivion. It's probably fortunate that the inexorable roll of time sent me back to work this morning, only semi-fatigued and vaguely functional, otherwise I might still be spending twelve hours a day bashing my way around its Vikingoid, very beautiful and snow-encrusted haunts.
Skyrim and its immediate ancestors are the fantasy, sword-wielding, magic-slinging, hack-and-slash equivalent to a first-person shooter, but with far stronger RPG elements - character class specialisation, rather a nifty experience/level system, the occasional need for a moral choice in a quest outcome. As a substitute for the intricate companion interactions of Dragon Age it ain't up to much, not least because I really have no compelling desire to unpick it analytically via the medium of bloggery. However, some observations:
- Glory, but its landscapes are exquisite. I love that I can bash my way off across the countryside in any direction, with only the minor impediment of meticulously-detailed precipices, canyons, fortress walls and those bloody ice trolls to prevent me, while stumbling over an apparently endless plethora of random mini-quests. The countryside is unreasonably beautiful, whether tundra or snowscape or forest or cave, and the level of detail on plants and stones and what have you is exquisite.
- Its people, conversely, simply look weird. Possibly I'm over-habituated to the unreasonably beautiful visual aesthetic of Dragon Age, but somewhere in the bowels of the setting there appears to be a check-box labelled "Enable gnarly troglodyte people", and it's resolutely checked. Their Elves are ugly. Their Elves! How can you have ugly Elves? It's against all nature. But it explains why they don't employ a romance option. No-one's attractive enough.
- Fundamentally, one makes a living in these settings by wandering around the countryside finding graves, ancient burial chambers and lost-civilisation ruins to rob, an activity rendered only mildly non-trivial by the screaming hordes of undead, bandits and renegade necromancers. However, I still cannot bring myself to steal things from the living. Fortunately the game labels all illegal theft objects in red, so they're easy to avoid.
- The equivalent of the Morrowind cliff racer, i.e. "low-grade monster most likely to make me squeak by sneaking up behind me to attack unexpectedly", is the skeever, a sort of hefty rat thing whose tails are useful in alchemy. They're weeny, but nasty because they attack below knee level where I can't see them and have usually gnawed me for a reasonable total of Tiny Animal Crits (non-Rolemaster players move along, nothing to see here) before I've worked out what's happening.
- I must say, publically and with resolute definition, that the mouse-controlled looking around is an abomination unto Nuggan. I seem to be hard-wired to key movement, which means I lack all control and finesse with the mouse. This isn't too much of an issue until I'm in a combat with multiple enemies, at which point I absolutely lose track of where everyone is and "wild swings" doesn't begin to cover it. There's a reason why I never hire hirelings. It's not worth the swearing as, yet again, I accidentally decapitate one. Also, the game balance is weird. I'm playing on the lowest level of difficulty, and still find certain combats horribly challenging, possibly owing to aforementioned lack of mouse skills. But killing dragons is easy. Go figure.
- I love buying houses. And furnishing houses. And filling the houses up with random bits of stuff I procured during aforementioned grave-robbing expeditions and can't bear to sell because they look cool. (Troll skulls! The glowy axe I refuse to give to the Daedra lord on the grounds that he's evil and the quest pissed me off. Dwemer centurion dynamo! It glows!). Survey says I'm probably a girl. However, the logic and interface of putting things down, particularly in specific places, has been directly imported from Oblivion without any much-needed refinements, and consequently blows goats.
- This game is craft-ridden to an extent which makes me ridiculously happy. You don't just pick up ingredients to make potions, you find ore to make armour, or tan the hides of the creatures you kill for leather, and then improve the items to increase their value and efficacy. Then you enchant them, at vast expense and difficulty. If you wander around with a pickaxe in your backpack you may stumble around veins of ore which you can merrily mine, before refining in a smelter. I think the SCA has infected me unduly, I adore this aspect of the game.
- Skyrim bards only know three songs, one of them scurrilous and the other given to radical re-interpretation depending on whether the town/singer supports the Empire or the rebellion. You don't hear the third much, which is a pity because it's beautiful, hauntingly Nordic-sounding and, unlike the first two, actually good.
- I am very happy with this game, but I have to say its habit of randomly crashing several times a day for no reason is rather mitigating the immersion experience. Dammit.
My first day back at work was, for some reason probably not unconnected to guilt levels, ridiculously productive. However, I'm dead. I think this fatigue thing still needs management. Probably by playing Skyrim self-indulgently. Alas.