Here we have it – one of the most anticipated games of the year and with Diablo 3 being pushed back quite possibly the most anticipated game of the year. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is out, with it’s vast, vast world. Wanting to try it out but not familiar with the series? Want to know how the Third Person Plays? Look no further – here are the impressions of the first day’s play from someone who played it in 3rd person and who has never played an Elder Scrolls game before.
I’m going to start by saying I’m having more fun with this game than I really expected to. My expectations were fairly mediocre for this, and it has surpassed them. I am enjoying myself a lot. The graphics are very good, the landscapes are gorgeous, the leveling system is intriguing and varied, the amount of options you have in every aspect of the game are staggering, the audio design is phenomenal… but we all knew that already. So I’m going to spend most of my time here in this informal 8-hour review on the couple major and few minor problems I am having with this game.
First and foremost: You cannot switch to third person until you complete the entire first section of the game. Before you’ve picked your appearance, I can understand them not allowing you to switch, but you do not have a choice – you have to play in first person for the first close to half hour of your game experience. If you’re like me and hate first person, or if you have a medical condition that causes you to suffer from motion sickness or vertigo – this will be a big problem for you. In fact, it might well sour you on the game before you even get to the good parts. Huge mistake Bethesda, and I truly would like to know what you were thinking on that note?
The character animations for your character are interesting, but not the most smooth. Of course, you’d never notice this in first person which is probably why that is the case. The graphics also are quite glitchy in certain areas. I noticed several places where parts of my body or, if I was riding a horse, the entire horse would just disappear. There were also several places – especially in the snowy mountains – where my viewpoint would clip through the entire mountain – no matter how high I had my camera. The viewpoint they chose is a bit awkward while sneaking, as your body covers an unbelievably huge portion of the screen when you crouch down to go into ‘sneak’ mode.
The combat controls are interesting to play with, and fun when you get used to them. Using a bow is a bit awkward because there’s no way to know when you’ve fully ‘drawn’ the bow and if you release before fully drawing, your arrow just clatters to the floor. Also in 3rd person mode it can be a bit hard to see where you’re aiming which is weird because I don’t remember that issue being present in Hunted – which was made by the same company.
With no numerical damage indicators – and no option I’ve been able to find to turn them on – there’s very little feeling of progression as you skill up or get marginal upgrades. This really takes a lot of the joy of getting upgrades and skills out of the game which was really sad. I don’t know if I’m hitting harder when my bow skill goes up because it’s not enough to reduce the number of hits it takes to kill a mob and I don’t know how much damage I’m actually doing. When you get perks, those definitely are significant because they’re something unique and new – a chance to crit, dramatically increased damage, etc. But the ‘day-to-day’ progression isn’t noticeable due to the lack of indicators.
So far I haven’t really found much of an interesting story to it. There’re a few neat arcs – like the companions arc – but no truly binding story to hold everything together. Which is usually my problem with Western RPGs – they put so much emphasis on giving you a great world to play in that they forget to put something to bring it all together into one cohesive experience. And it is a great world, the landscapes are gorgeous, the cities are unique and interesting, the quest lines in the cities are quite cool as well – but there’s nothing to make the whole thing feel… connected so far. Maybe that will come later, or maybe it’s just not meant to. But so far I feel kind of like I’m just doing random stuff for no reason.
The last two brief things I’d like to mention are load times and lag. The load times do get in the way of the game experience – they’re not ridiculously bad, but with some pretty difficult regions, you can expect to see them a lot as you die repeatedly and they are on the long side, Not only that – but I thought we’d gotten beyond the times where every shop had to have it’s own instance? As to the lag, not normally something we associate with single player games, but Skyrim suffers from a fairly noticeable amount of lag. The graphics stutter, conversations become choppy, sometimes the game even locks up for a few seconds. And this is not just a one time thing, I’ve been seeing it at least a few times per hour.
None of this is to say the game isn’t a ton of fun so far. I’m enjoying myself a great deal – but I wanted to make sure someone told you all the little ‘cons’ the game has because it seems like nobody’s talking about them. This is definitely a very well made game, and if you’re playing it in first person it’s probably miles better. But the best I can call my first day’s playtime with Skyrim is ‘very good’ due to the issues above. But – that does make it one of my favourite Western RPGs of all time, so that says a fair bit right there.
Written by: Sean