Upon reading the title you might've thought "first impressions, isn't a little late for that?" Why yes, it is, but due to restrictions of both a financial and a chronological nature, I wasn't able to buy Skyrim until a few days back, when I finally got the PC version of the game. ...Still at full price, of course. But you know what they say; better late than never, and at least I can still give my thoughts on the game before the end of the year.


So, Skyrim, the long-awaited sequel to one of my favourite games of all time, Oblivion. Needless too say, I was quite excited when I got it last week, knowing that I had a whole weekend (and possibly even more) to play the game without anyone or anything disturbing me. The way it should be, with Elder Scrolls. The series has the uncanny ability to temporarily block out any social life you may have, and seeing as most of the friends I care about went back home for Christmas, this really was the perfect opportunity to enter the world of Skyrim.


Veles Berstuk

Veles Berstuk, my Oblivion character.


The most difficult part of an Elder Scrolls game may very well be the beginning, as that is the moment you have to create a character you'll be stuck with for many, many, many hours. I've always had a preference for the beast races, Khajiit and Argonian, both because these are the best races for my stealthy gameplay styIe and because it has proven to be difficult to create an Imperial or a Nord in Elder Scrolls that, as a GS poster whose name I don't recall once put it, doesn't look like it's missing a chromosome. While this may not be necessarily true for Skyrim - the character models are much improved - I still stuck by my old vow to play through the new Elder Scrolls game as a Khajiit. I had already spent a good 200 hours with my trusted Argonian character Veles Berstuk in Oblivion, so I thought it was time for a change. And thus, Ja'Whar Mayu was born.


Ja'Whar Mayu

Pleased to meet you.


As I played through the opening sections of the game, I was pleased to find out that the cIass and upgrading systems had been, for the most part, vastly improved. I realise that 'streamlining' is code for dumbification in the present-day video game industry, but actually cutting down on needless features can still make a game just that much more playable and enjoyable. And that's exactly what happened with Skyrim. The player no longer selects a set cIass, but can instead specialise in whatever he wants whenever he wants, merely by practising said skill. Blessing stones provide a surrogate for the omitted cIass system, in that the skills associated with the stone you are currently blessed by will upgrade faster. In addition, many unnecessary skills have also been axed (no pun with the upcoming intended), such as the distinction between blunt and blade skills, which are now lumped into the one-handed category. These simplifications may be a nightmare come true to the RPG purists out there, but I am not one of those and I've always thought Oblivion was much stronger as a sandbox action/adventure game than an RPG anyway. It thus pleases me that Skyrim decided to walk further down this road.


Much can be said about the other improvements over Oblivion: combat, for example. The weapons now have a much heavier feel to them, making it feel like you're really wielding them. Slashing through heaps of enemies never ceases to satisfy me, and even my beloved archery has been improved with a similar, 'heavy' feel to the bow and more realistic arrow trajectory. Then there are the finishing moves; short cutscenes of you impaling an enemy that are triggered every once in a while. I normally dislike cinematic bells and whistles, but in this case I really appreciate them, seeing as the finishing moves make for a climatic end to a hard battle. There's just so much satisfaction to be found in seeing how an enemy that's been giving you lots of trouble is attached to your two-handed sword, after which his lifeless corpse is thrown to the ground like old rubbish.


Finishing Touch 1

Finishing Touch 2


I'm 'only' 25 hours in, but for as far as I can tell, the missions are also better than in Oblivion. They seem a bit more meaty than most of Oblivion's quests and can often be solved in a variety of ways. Gamespot hit the nail on the head when it said that Skyrim is a game that you want to tell people about, because some of the missions are so wonderful in both concept and execution that it's hard not to share your excitement with other people, regardless from whether or not they've even heard of the game. Today, for example, I did a mission where I had to face someone in a drinking contest, passed out and woke up with a hangover in a temple a few kilometres away, where the local priestess told me I was fondling the statue of the local goddess and tore up the main chamber. As I traced back my steps from the previous night, it turned I also kidnapped someone's goat and sold it to a giant, stole a ring and got engaged with a witch. This mission is a story in itself and it is but one of the hundreds of quests available in the game. There's just something going on everywhere you go. Yesterday, there was an assassination attempt on my character, I got a message from a naked courier and I had a bar fight with a pirate (which didn't end well for the pirate as the Khajiit are the masters of hand-on-hand combat). I barely got into the side-missions yet as I intend on completing the main storyline before I allow myself to be distracted by other quest branches, but the war between the Imperial Legion and the Stormcloak Rebels seemed really promising. I joined the Imperial Legion and played some missions for them, and quite honestly I cannot wait to explore this civil war setting further after I'm done with the storyline.


Another aspect that pleases me is how the game looks. The graphics aren't THAT impressive, as there are quite some low-res textures to be found in the province of Skyrim, but aesthetically, Skyrim is majestic. Amazing weather effects (Northern Lights, huzza), smart use of shadows, contrast and saturation, and strong art direction make every journey into Skyrim extremely pleasing to the eye. Every outcorner of the province provides beautiful vistas that make it well worth stopping and just enjoying the sight for a moment.


Northern Lights



That is, if you aren't being chased by dragons. Because my main gripe with Skyrim is the rather strong presence of these mythical creatures. Don't get me wrong, fighting these beasts makes for some amazing battles, but their random appearance can easily disrupt the flow of a mission, especially when it happens multiple times during one mission (during the hangover quest I described earlier, I encountered no less than 3 dragons!). They aren't annoying me quite as much as the Oblivion Gates as of yet, but the initial excitement of encountering these beasts has since been replaced by a deep and bored sigh.


I realise now that I could go on and on about Skyrim, but the bottom line is that this game, so far, fully lives up to the rather bizarre hype that has surrounded it before and after its release. It's extremely hard to put down, and I really can't wait until I wrap up the storyline business and get involved with some of the guild quests. But, GOTY? You bet.


Here, have some more screenshots:




how much wood does a wood chuck chuck?

View to a chill.


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    New Website!

    By JPPT1974, Posted Feb 24, 2013

    Hey I like the new banner. Just need time to get used to. Hope that you all are doing well. Blessings of March on the way!


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