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UNDER A PERFECT SKY, ONE CAN FIGHT FOREVER (*)
le 11 novembre 2011
The ELDER SCROLLS series has given us a number of masterpieces over the years. Morrowind will always remain etched on my brain whereas Oblivion has offered a vast world I found myself immersed into for hours at no end. Following up on footsteps of such giants is never easy. And yet the 5th installment of the series, SKYRIM, still managed to impress and ensnare me.
INFINITE. INFINITE IN ALL DIRECTIONS.
For SKYRIM, Bethesda will only take up 6GB on your HDD and with that the game designers created a literally endless world, with extremely long drawing distances, high mountains, passing clouds, dark forests, foliage moving to the wind and water trickling in streams. Everything you see in the horizon is actually accessible. Now, compare that to the ...21GB Rage takes up for a much, much more small and visually limited world to realize what was accomplished with SKYRIM. The world is absolutely huge - and it feels real.
The graphics are gorgeous, almost realistic. Sure, I could do with somewhat more detailed textures when it comes to clothing (they look much better in the inventory than when worn) as well as a more bold color palette (besides grasses, there are also colorful wildflowers, Bethesda); however, the imaginative design of the items and equipment, the natural movements of the characters and the way light and shadows play with each other all the time more than make up for these shortcomings. The game is as beautiful as it is deep and endless.
ALL SCHOOLS OF FIGHTING ARE WELCOME
Each hand has its own menu. You can go with sword and shield or spell and weapon, dual weapons or dual spells (yes, spells can be combined - and the spell effects are very impressive, especially the frost and thermal ones!). Ana always keep in mind: some Words have power beyond any comprehension.
The camera is very accommodating and both First-Person and Third-Person views are available. It will take some time before you settle into your own fighting style but once that is done the game mechanics will feel like second nature to you. Yes, the finishing moves reminded me of Fallout 3 however, it would not be fair to claim that SKYRIM is the mere cross between FALLOUT 3 and OBLIVION.
SKYRIM was much anticipated and its gameplay does not disappoint in any way.
USE OR LOSE IT
This is true to all living things and it also true in SKYRIM. In the beginning of the game you only get to choose what your hero looks like. How you then play the game will determine what class and what abilities your hero will acquire.
The skills you use the most are the ones you are actually getting better at. You can also increase your skills by skill training and reading a skill book. Leveling up heals your hero (health and magicka) and you can unlock a skill perk and increase one attribute reserve (health, stamina or magicka) by 10 points. Both the enemies you encounter and the loot you find level up with you, however there are areas designed to be almost impossible to lower level heroes. A word of advice: until you are powerful enough, avoid going up into the mountains. I had to learn this the hard way!
There are Achievement you earn but this is what I found beautiful: as you progress the game creates constellations corresponding to your skills and perks and, so, you can see your character make its mark, well, in the sky of SKYRIM.
KEEP YOUR EARS OPEN. IT PAYS
I usually do not pay attention to the sounds of a game. The less I notice them, the more natural they usually are. In SKYRIM both the ambient and action sounds are so well made that they stand out at first. After a while you take them form granted and blend into the background - yet they keep adding greatly to the total immersion. Draw a sword, deflect an arrow with your shield or walk in a narrow corridor and you will see what I mean.
Moreover, the background music, whenever cued, is also epic and majestic, like a medieval liturgy choir chanting about your deeds. One name should describe its impact: Jeremy Soule.
The towns are alive with people going about their daily chores; however, I have to admit that I found The Witcher II to be much better in this aspect. Nevertheless, paying attention to what NPCs have to say has its own rewards. Not only can you get lore and valuable information and even quests but you can even gain skill improvements out of this. Care has been taken to create a great number of NPC phrases in order to avoid having to endure the same phrase repeated over and over. Well, although not very pronounced, after some hours of gameplay this has not been avoided entirely. A minor annoyance. I can understand how town talk is much harder to run through the Creation Engine than items and quests.
HOW MUCH OF A COLLECTOR DO YOU FEEL?
What do you get for almost three times the price of the game? Well, you get a beautiful tin box containing a PVC 12" statue of Alduin, a 200-pages (9 3/8" x 12 1/8") Art book and a Making-of/Behind-the-scenes DVD. There are no in-game bonuses. I guess it is up to each one of us to decide if the price is right.
THERE IS STEAM COMING OUT OF YOUR ARMOR
Recently we have all seen how bad a Digital Distribution system can be ([coughs!] ORIGIN!) so STEAM may seem pretty benign to some by now. Nevertheless, let's not loose perspective. This is still an OnLine DRM scheme. I usually deduct a full star from any game that withholds ownership of our games by tying it to a unique online account. So far I had made a single exception, with Shogun II. I decided SKYRIM to be the second.
I still have to warn the gamers who are careful what DRM schemes they will allow to their computers since the game does require STEAM to run (yes, even the retail version). An informed decision can now be made. However, I could not bring myself to give this masterpiece anything less than a perfect score.
SKYRIM is a game that will draw you in its world, enchant you with its beauty, mesmerize you with its endless horizons, offer you a huge number of ever branching quests and, yet, leave you wanting for more. Each time you play it is unique and the paths not taken will keep bringing you back again and again. Even if they are uphill and narrow.
(*) Ended relationships not included. May induce expulsion to couch for an indefinite period of time. Real gamers do not use skooma.