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Friday, 19 April 2013

Skyrim

   This is another game I am extremely fond of. I've put almost 300 hours into it overall, 220 of which belong to a single character. Skyrim is part of the Elder Scrolls series, which Bethesda started in 1992 with the "medieval gladiator style" fighting game called Arena. This was big news, since the 10 games Bethesda had released before hand were all sports games, and were literally laughed at by a fantasy game developing company for thinking they could make good fantasy games. Well, they did. Following Arena, they released Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, which rewarded players who actually role-played their character instead of just fighting with it. Work began on three seperate projects, then, all at the same time: Battlespire, Redguard, and Morrowind. The first two did well, but they did not compare to Morrowind, which is considered one of the best Elder Scrolls games so far. It came out in 1998, and by 2002 had gone Gold on computers. It was a huge success.
   I've tried to play this game, but this was before the age of autosave, which, I've realised, I seriously take for granted. I had created my character in Morrowind, did the first few quests, and then died in a dungeon I was clearing. I had to start from the very beginning again. This was fine, I remade my character and did everything again, realising that it was my own mistake, but it did put me off. It's also been suggested that you can only complete the game with a walk-through because it's so unclear, but to this day, Morrowind is still being played, and it's still being heavily modded, which is another thing Bethesda games are noted for, though mods are made by fans and players and is no small thing.
   Following Morrowind, Oblivion came out in 2002, and is probably the most frightening of all of the games. The caves are pitch black, and I hated going in them unless I had a ring of Nighteye so I could see where I was going. There were zombies and headless zombies that made the most vile, gutteral noises, and they would be in caves, and in Ayleid ruins (Ayleids were also known as Heartland High Elves and were extremely cruel). It was also extremely successful, and the first Elder Scrolls game I completed.
   And that brings us to Skyrim. It's not scary, despite the fact that the graphics have improved so much. Instead of zombies, there are Draugr, which are undead servents of dragon priests. I found a great book in-game called 'Amongst the Draugr' which explains Draugr a little bit.

Vinile in the Arcanium, College of Winterhold.

Vinile in full Nightingale Armour - my favourite armour in the entire game.

   Skyrim begins the same way Morrowind and Oblivion do: with you as a prisoner. When you're questioned about your identity for the first time, for example, what your name is, you're then prompted to "create" your character - race hair, face, skin, war paint, name, etc. Once you've done this, you continue the beginning of the story, which leads to you escaping your sentence or being set free. In Skyrim's case, you take advantage of a rather distracting event to get away from the chopping block. Once you're free from Helgen, well, the game is yours. You could play for 100 hours without touching the main story line. The point of Skyrim, though, is about the return of the Dragons. Legend tells that the dragon, Alduin, the World-Eater, will return after being banished, and will destroy the world, but it also tells of one single person who can stop him: the Dragonborn. This is an individual with the "body of a mortal and the soul of a dragon", and someone who can immediately master the Thu'um - the power of the Voice, which is the ability to read, understand, and speak in the dragon tongue, and to use the power behind each word to different effects. The most popular Thu'um, or Shout, is Fus-Ro-Day - three seperate dragon words which each creates a pushing force. If shouted towards someone, they will be pushed, and with each word added, the force is stronger. Each shout has just three seperate words, and there is a large number of words. And there is one for fire breath.
   As you probably guess, your character is the Dragonborn - but there is another reason that only the Dragonborn can defeat Alduin: dragons don't die when they're "killed". Their soul doesn't vanish, it lingers, even if their body is destroyed. The Dragonborn, however, can absorb these Dragon souls, permanently killing them, which means only a Dragonborn can kill Alduin. Don't worry, I've not spoiled anything.

   My main character is a Dark Elf. She follows the path of shadow and is a fantastic sneak, pick-pocket, lock-picker, and assassin. Her name is Vinile Redoran, and is part of one of the five Dark Elven houses, the Redoran. She is the Dragonborn, which I feel a little strange about. Skyrim is named after the province the game takes place in, like Morrowind is. Skyrim is full of Nords, and it seems only right that the Dragonborn would be a Nord. Instead, in my game, she is a Dark Elf, and I don't think the Nords of Skyrim are happy about it. But nevermind. She is my main character.
   My second character is a Nord Warrior, it's quite simple really. Her name is Bracken Danengar, and it's more fitting that she is the Dragonborn, though, despite 70 hours of game play, hasn't actually finished the main story yet.
   There's a lot more to do in the game than just become Dragonborn and inevitably defeat Alduin as the prophecy in the Elder Scrolls dictates, there's also a civil war happening in Skyrim, between the "true" Nords and the Empire. Skyrim has been a part of the Empire for a very long time, and the Empire has been aiding them with trades and finance, just the same as they have with other countries of the Empire. Unfortunately, the Empire was at war with the Aldmeri Dominion, a faction of High Elves, who agreed to a peace treaty on the terms that no one worship Talos, who they consider to be a false god, despite the fact that he is, in fact, a god, along with the other Eight Divines. The Empire agreed to it because it would stop the war, but some Nords didn't like it, and have decided that Skyrim would be better off without being a part of the Empire. At the end of the day, I personally disagree with the Nords. While I feel that the terms of the treaty were too high, I can understand why the Empire did it, but the Nords seem to think that they'll be able to stand on their own two feet, when they can't. Skyrim is not fertile ground, and they are not prosperous. I don't think that they'll manage to survive without the Empire for quite some time.
   However, your character has the option to join the Empire, to join the Stormcloaks (the Nord faction against the Empire), or, of course, stay out of it altogether. My Nord joined the Stormcloaks, while my Dark Elf kept out of it. She's more interested in what people have in their pockets anyway.
   There's also other factions, such as the Thieves' Guild and the Dark Brotherhood, who are assassins. Both of these factions were in Oblivion as well, and each feature their own story lines. While I personally feel that the Dark Brotherhood was far better in Oblivion, I feel the Theives' Guild is better in Skyrim. But then there's the Companions, which have replaced the Fighters' Guild. The Fighters' Guild had a very good story line in Oblivion, but it's quite different in Skyrim, but just as good.
   There are other things to do, such as the bidding of Daedric Princes. Gods exist in the game, they're very real beings, but the Nine Divines are more "good" and tend not to meddle in mortal affairs. Daedric Princes, on the other hand, very much like to meddle. They're not "evil", necessarily - there's one or two that aren't really considered evil at all to be honest, but while the Divines are gods of trade, love, strength and the afterlife, Daedric Princes are the gods of debauchery, theft, unsavory delights and disease. A necessary evil, I suppose. The most you can do with the Divines, though, is pray at their alters, but Deadric Princes will speak to you through their shrines, send you on an errand for them, and then reward you with a Daedric artifact - a weapon or piece of armour that is better than most others (but not the best, necessarily).

Bracken Danengar, in the wilderness of Winterhold.

Bracken in full Daedric Armour, my favourite heavy armour in the game, second favourite overall. Windhelm Docks.

   Then there's also things like dungeons and quest lines. But as I said before about Morrowind modding, people have done the same on Oblivion and Skyrim (though they can only be made and used on the PC versions). However, what Bethesda have done lately is look at some of the most popular mods made for Skyrim and have began to implement them in the game itself. One mod I was fond of was one for building your own house, rather than living in one of the houses in the cities. The mod didn't let you build just anywhere, but it did give you the option of accommodating your needs. Well, Bethesda liked that and implemented it Skyrim for the Xbox and the Playstation as well. It allows you to choose one of three locations (or all three if you can afford it) and build a house there. It starts off small, but you can expand and turn the initial house in an entry hall, and then build a 2 storey house. You can then add extensions like an alchemy tower, a green house, a kitchen (which looks gorgeous), a library, a trophy room and so on. It's really fantastic, and I was so pleased when they implemented it.

   Then there's the downloadable content. I didn't think much of the Dawnguard DLC - I found it repetative, and since I'm not interested in playing a Vampire since they're too high maintenance, I didn't bother with it for long. The Dragonborn DLC, however, was marvellous, and I've played it twice so far (I have a third character in the making with just 10 hours so far, so I've not even really started anything yet with him). The DLC can add so much more to the game, including new weapons, armour and abilities (such as fletching), and can also take you to new lands. Dragonborn takes you to Solstheim, which is the same place a Morrowind DLC took you. Changes have occurred to the place since then, since at last 300 in-game years have passed, but it's still very much Solstheim.

Southwest of Windhelm at sunset, with an Ancient Dragon in the background.

   Simply put, Skyrim, like the other Elder Scrolls games, is an absolutely amazing, and massive game. You can explore every crack and cranny, there are so many mapped and unmapped places to go and explore, and so many dungeons and caves, too. There's a ridiculous amount of lore to the continent of Tamriel, and an awful lot of in-game books featuring stories, history, experiments and speculations, some of which you find out to be widely accepted but actually quite false once you investigate. The Falmer, for instance.
   You can play for days without ever touching the story line, and you can make your character how you like. You don't have to conform to heavy armour, one handed weapon and block/two handed weapon for warriors, or robes and no weapons for casters. I combined the two and made a character from an Eddings book, who possessed heavy armour and magic. The Enchanting skill allowed me to remove the Magicka (increased resource to cast spells with, or decreases the resource cost to cast certain classes of spells, like destruction or alteration) enchant from a robe and put it onto heavy armour instead, making my heavy armour character almost as effective as an armour-less one, but with a bonus of having a sword at his side, and if people got too close to him, he didn't have to run away to put some distance between him and them. The game really does let you do what you like.

   It's a fantastic game if you want to start playing games on any new console, but you don't want a challenge. Assassin's Creed is classed, by me, as a challenge, because there's not all that much to do but the story. Skyrim lets you go fully at your own pace, dying is possible but unlikely if you're on a lower difficulty setting. It's an easy and immersive game - and Seeg has been playing for over 400 hours and still hasn't discovered everything. I've found things he hasn't, he's found things I haven't, and there's still things out there neither of us have seen. The best so far was Ange's Cabin - it's been there since Skyrim was released, in 2011, (we even pre-ordered the game, so we've had it that long) but we only found it a couple of weeks ago.
   It's an extremely replayable game, and there should be another 2 or 3 DLCs coming out, which means the world will be expanded even further.

   They're currently working on Elder Scrolls Online which is to be an MMORPG like World of Warcraft, so you can play with other people while playing your own character and role, but it is still going to be like the Elder Scrolls games in its mechanics.

   Keep your eye on BethBlog for info on upcoming features, along with awesome news, competitions and fan-art.

All of these screenshots were taken with my camera, of the television screen. The game is much
better quality and not pixilated, despite what the photos may have you believe. There's no option
to print screen on the Xbox.



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