I know the current blog banter is about reviewing the Crucible expansion but I'm sorry, I don't feel like reviewing yet again a game out of which I like only a very small percentage; at least this small percentage is the most unique gaming experience in all of gaming, all genres mixed. But how about reviewing a game which I absolutely love and in which I've been spending a lot of time lately, bordering on too much! If you guessed "Skyrim" by the title of this post, well you guess right.
Last week was when I finally got my copy of what is now known as 2011's Game of the Year, and as soon as I had past the opening bits I had seen hundreds of times on YouTube I was in for a treat. I knew all about being a prisoner, the decapitation, the dragon showing up and ultimately saving my ass, and getting safe by following one of the two main factions' soldiers (I followed the Stormcloak dude by the way). I didn't even feel too lost because I have played tons of Morrowind in the past, and even though I skipped Oblivion I felt right at home in this new Elder Scrolls setting. But nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful and vibrant Skyrim is, even on my ageing machine at pretty much the lowest setting. I was ready to live with textures being out of focus and less than realistic water and lighting effects, but sometimes when I'm out in the wild or discovering a new town or dungeon I just stop and look around completely mesmerized!
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I started a Redguard character I named Cozmiken Arrfimm whose main tactic is basically all offense. My specialties are heavy armor, one-handed weapons (dual-wielding), decent archery for those pesky flying lizards (Skyrim dragons are a lot less annoying than the cliff racers of Morrowind... fuck these lizard-birds to the deepest corner of Hell!), smithing and enchanting to make the stuff I use über, and a bit of alchemy and magic just because it's damn useful sometimes. Anyone who has seen me play basically any game would know that I'm not exactly the greatest at sneaking around and worse at any sort of thievery, but the new lockpicking mechanism is really fun, if a bit tricky on higher level locks, but on those at least you get rewarded for trying which is all good. So my fighting tactic most of the time: make sure the bad guys notice me and come to "do me in", funnel them into a tight corridor, FUS-RO-DAH them in the face and into each other, and then start swinging like the good ol' Frenzy Barb of Diablo II fame as the bad guys are trying to pick themselves up, which makes for some pretty hilarious visuals. Sometimes I have to adjust my technique depending on who and/or what I have to fight, but for most plain minions this tactic is devastating.
But wait... did you just read about Cozmik having smithing and enchanting skills? For pretty much the first time in all the RPG's I've played, yes! The crafting mechanics are really simple and intuitive so I just couldn't pass it up. Plus, with my guy going for the best offense possible I also have to make sure my armor is up to snuff because I don't carry a shield around. Because your skills get better by actually doing stuff it didn't take long before I was able to either build or improve everything up to Elven equipment. The same goes with enchantment and the mechanic couldn't be simpler: find and enchanted item even if it's not something you want, actually even more so if it's not something you would use, disenchant it at an enchanting table, and boom, you can now enchant an item that is more to your liking, and the better the skills the stronger the enchantment.
The fun stuff I'm using these days: Wolf armor, gauntlets and boots from my werewolf brothers (yeah, not catching diseases is awesome!), all improved to "superior". The armor has a conjuration magic bonus to allow a lowly Minmatar grunt like me - and by the way, I think of Coz/Skyrim and Coz/EVE as one and the same :) - to conjure the magical buddies called Atronachs. Quite useful those. The gauntlets gives a damage bonus to bows, and my boots have yet to be enchanted but I'll most probably put a fire resist bonus there. I was just waiting for my skills to make the enchantment better. My helmet is something I found in a dungeon near the town of Windhelm. It was worn by a particularly tough draugr boss (think "zombie") but my fight was rewarded with a 50 armor rating, cold resist horned helm of Awesome! It will get even better when I finally unlock the smithing perk for improving enchanted items.
On the offensive side, my main tools are two Skyforge Steel Swords bumped up to "superior" imbued respectively with fire and lightning damage. When you enchant items you can give them new names so I called my swords Sauron's Fire and Palpatine's Lightning :) A lot of monsters in Skyrim are resistant to cold (gee I wonder why!) so my "EM/Thermal" setup can get pretty nasty. For dragons and other long-range baddies I now have an Elven bow ("superior" of course) with a lightning bonus, which I call The Shocker. I now use Dwarven arrows exclusively and these things HURT! Add a little zap to them and they're even tastier.
Now, my shouts and other dragon related stuff. When I met the first dragon I had to kill I quickly noticed that my trademark "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" tactic was not conducive to a long life, but at least the following random ones get easier and easier. I'm at level 18 now and I can almost stand in the middle of the thing's fire or frost breath and say "What the fuck is your problem, bitch?", but even now dragons are always exciting when you see one. On the third or fourth one I got some unexpected help from two mammoths who messed one up really bad; I just sent a few arrows and then looted the beast as fast as possible to make sure I didn't receive any pachyderm love. And a bit earlier this week I told myself it would be a good idea to spent some gold on caravan runs to unlock all the main towns. And on two of those towns some dim-witted dragons thought it would be a good idea to freak out the neighborhood. In the town of Morthal, I helped kill the beast, but in the town of Falkreath the guards popped fuses as soon as I shot an arrow and killed me in record time. When I reloaded the game I decided to just stay out of the dragon's sight and sure enough, the guards brought it down and all I had to do was to suck its soul dry. Yeah, Skyrim is full of funny little moments like that! So far though I have way more dragon souls than I have power words. I did mention FUS-RO-DAH so yes, I unlocked those three from the main quest, as well as the WULD sprint. By questing and/or exploring on the side I found the YOL fire breath shout (amazing against cold-loving beasties) and the LIZ ice form shout, which is the "I freeze you solid" shout. This one is brand new so I haven't tried it yet. And I have 6 spare dragon souls to unlock other words. Things are looking good :)
So now after one week of playing Skyrim it still feels like I'm only starting the game because there is so much stuff I can do. One of the highlights was buying my little house in Whiterun, but I find that it's missing the one piece of furniture I use the most, the enchanting table. Oh, with the house I did also have an "housecarl", but I managed to have poor Lydia killed when I was fighting some particularly nasty mages and vampires. Oh well, maybe I should finish the Companions quests and hook up with steaming hot Aela! But there are other much nicer houses to be bought. One I have set my sights on is on the other side of the map in the old Dwemer ruins of Markarth. This town is all eye-candy by the way; I don't think I've ever seen levels as nice as the ones located in ancient Dwemer ruins. But beware, those are usually full of nasty twisted elves called Falmer, and I have the feeling that there might be some of those humongous looking Dwemer mech/bot/thingies ready to smash you into little pieces! Yeah, fun !!!
So there you go, a short (!) account of my adventures in the Great White North of Tamriel. And the fun is just starting!