A while ago I posted about the difference between my fiance and I when it comes to saving in video games. I illustrated this by pointing out that I had only just reached save 100 in Skyrim despite having played for a lot more time than she has. As it is Video Games Day today (12th of September) I thought it might be nice to have a look at one of my more recent landmarks – save 300.
Anyone who knows my relationship with the Elder Scrolls games knows that odd numbered ones tend to be loved by me while even numbered games do something to annoy me. With Daggerfall, the sheer amount of bugs made the game unplayable. With Oblivion, experimenting on new hardware meant that a lot of compromises had to be made and I felt that there weren’t enough benefits to balance those cuts. Other people loved the game but it just felt like too many corners had been cut (generated landscape and identikit dungeons) for it to live up to the legacy of the almost perfect Morrowind.
Ah, Morrowind. That game also had a lot of bugs but by the time it came to consoles and had its expansions released as part of a massive set it was so deep and so much fun. I can’t tell you how many characters I started in Morrowind only to go back and start again with slightly different skills focuses. Eventually I got the characters I wanted and spent the next six months playing the game. My final save file had 440 hours on it (by contrast Oblivion was completed by hour 86) and that is still the longest I’ve spent in one game with a single character. That is what Skyrim would inevitably be held up against so long as it redeemed the series after Oblivion, and boy did it redeem itself.
I was a little skeptical about Skyrim at first. I discovered a few broken quests and there were a lot of features that had been stripped from the game since even Oblivion poor effort. But then things clicked around twenty hours into the game. A lot of the things that had been stripped out were other versions of something else (yet another fire summoning) or things that had become cluttered over the years (the spell design system). Streamlined versions of systems had been implemented, offering the same functionality in some places without an archaic system to learn first (enchantment being a good example). Old, forgotten systems had been reimplemented after so long away (the game generating infinite missions from templates) and new ways to interact with people had been built into the game. However, the night addition for me was the introduction of perks. These little extra abilities changed the way similar characters would play and made the game much more replayable than previous entries in the series. I thought it might be fun/mind-numbing (depending on your viewpoint) to have a look at some of the characters I’ve built and what defines them. I warn you now, my character naming skills are legendary.
Feef – This female Breton enjoys long walks in the country followed by finding a house and robbing it. Feef is a pure stealth build armed only with a dagger and no extra armour or damage skills. The Detect Life and Clairvoyance spells act as a sort of thieves instinct and show the way to loot as well as anyone who may be guarding it. Feef used to wear fine clothes along with the gloves and boots of the Dark Brotherhood, but has recently swapped for Vampire Royal Armour for a more casual, yet protected, look. She has stolen all the great treasures in Skyrim, and regularly sneaks through rooms full of enemies without being seen. As a last resort she has made a deal with Nocturnal and can wrap shadows around herself to escape if ever caught. She has used this ability only once in her career. Feef has been played for just under 56 hours of some quite intense stealth gameplay.
Lupa – On the surface Lupa is quite similar to Feef. Both are stealth builds with no extra damage or armour boosting abilities. Where they start to differ is the concept. Where Feef is a city thief, Lupa is a wild female wood elf. She commands animals to help her in combat, summons spectral wolves to back her up and stands well back from the fray to fire arrows. She has made a fortune hunting animals and selling what she gets from them. Lupa has a little problem though. Not only is she a werewolf but she has come across a cursed ring that forces her to change at random times. Villagers don’t take kindly to that so Lupa lives out in the wilds where her Forsworn armour looks quite dudey. Lupa has been played for a little over 57 hours of furry fun.
Mayjii – No, I don’t only play as girls. Mayjii is a mage (you’re getting it with the names now eh?) and a damn good one at that. No-one summons and blasts elements like Mayjii. His flame thralls shadow him everywhere and usually take out enemies before he has even seen them. As a Dragonborn, his Storm Call shout is an incredibly powerful addition to his arsenal and tends to finish off any enemies that make it past his ever present thralls. Mayjii has been played for 48 magic filled hours.
Necros – Necros is a Necromancer (love those names) with a twist. As the amount of perks points available mean you have to specialise when it comes to magic, Necros was created to concentrate on Illusion spells and the necromancy side of Conjuration. Like Mayjii, Necros uses his spells and no weapons. His specialty is to turn an enemy to his side then raise the loser of that fight and continue onwards in this manner. As a last resort he can raise all dead enemies once per day and have a small army to back him up. Necros has only had about ten hours play, but he is one of the more challenging characters to play and great fun for when I want a tactical challenge.
These characters should show that there is a lot of potential for experimentation in Skyrim. In total I’ve created eight characters in the past 300 saves and each one plays so very differently to the others, allowing me a vast range of different experiences from the same game. As the game has a lot of tailored content as well, each character rarely does something that the others have done. played for a total of four hundred and thirty seven hours (and one minute, if we’re being pedantic). I’ve created swordsmen and archers, mages and thieves, shield users and dual-wielders, Dragonborn and regular adventurers. I’ve played for ten hours for a character and a hundred and ninety five (and two minutes) for another. In all, this has been the game that has given me the most joy this past year and the one that has been worth the money we paid for it many times over. Considering the quality of games that have come out this year, that is a hell of a compliment and it’s mostly due to the improvements to character differentiation. I can only hope that they roll with these ideas as they move forwards.
With so many video games that I’m looking forward to already on the horizon it is hard to predict what will be the focus of next years post. Will Dishonoured or Bioshock: Infinite pull me in with their reactive gameplay and open worlds? Will Tomb Raider or Hitman: Absolution wow me with the release of the new games in the reinvented series? Perhaps Borderlands 2, next on the list and out this very month, will keep me playing enough that I’ll be talking about it this time next year? Perhaps something else will show up from nowhere and blow everything else out of the water?
I love my hobby and I’m glad that I got back into it after so many years away. It’s hard to pick one moment from a year of gaming that stands out as the reason I love this hobby but for me, this year, it would be the time Kim cast Telekinesis on a tomato and threw it in the face of a hardened warrior. A hardened warrior who, with tomato still dripping down his face, cried out “We are routed. Fall back!!!”