This week, FUS RO DAH!
Shooter Season 2011 has finally rolled off my rigid, unfulfilled body and is now snoring face down into the pillow with only the promise of Serious Sam 3 as a spirited midnight quickie later on. So perhaps we can finally kick this halfhearted excuse for a running theme out of bed and move onto Sandbox Season 2011 - no, no, no, no, no!
But having spent so many weeks getting forced down corridors of every size and shape like the last bit of toothpaste in the tube being manipulated by the flabby, uncoordinated hands of a fat prick, getting yelled at because one of the many specks I haven't fired bullets at yet is holding another speck that can fire rockets, I was in exactly the right mood to get out in the open, feel the wind in my hair and the rolling epic landscape beneath my feet. So to that end, I stopped playing video games and left the house. Ha! Not fucking likely. Actually, I played Skyrim, latest installment of the venerable Elder Scrolls series. More importantly, though, no one can yell at me for not playing the fucking multiplayer for once.
In the grand tradition of Elder Scrolls games, you start off in prison for an unspecified crime. When will the authorities at Tamriel learn? If you keep locking people up for minor adventure-related crimes, they'll just be surrounded by other adventurers and be more likely to adventure again when they get out. Still, the empire insists they're taking their "War on Adventure" policy seriously, but just as you're about to be executed, the town is attacked by Godzilla. At this point, you're given the choice of fleeing the town with either the friendly rebels or the people who just tried to give you a Viking crewcut. I only know one person who took the second option, and only because his housemate had already taken the sensible choice and they wanted to see what happened if, theoretically, one had the brain of a deck chair.
Either way, you soon discover that you are the legendary Godzillaborn who must save the world from Godzilla and his chums, and all the rebellion business kind of falls by the wayside. I mean, I went out of my way to go meet the rebel leader and reminisce about when we were execution buddies, but he wouldn't give me the time of day. Well, fuck you, Ulfric Stormcloak! I don't have to help you wash your hairy bagpipes - I can breathe radioactive lasers!
Like some wonderful mountainous gelatinous cube, I found myself becoming quite absorbed in Skyrim, more so than Oblivion, perhaps because characters you're speaking to no longer look like they're trying to kill you with their gaze. And they took out that stupid conversation minigame that was like feeding them boredom pie.
With the evidence piling up that the industry leans more towards nose-leading, bottom-smacking sightseeing tours, it's very gratifying to finally play a game that's more organic than a brick in a dishwasher. Yes, there are still mysterious floating arrows the game expects you to stand under if you want to make progress, but if you don't feel like it you can walk 78 miles in the opposite direction, put a cooking pot over a dog's head, and swat at his knackers with a woodsman's axe until he howls himself deaf. The kind of game in which I love being given quests in a new town halfway across the map, because it means hours of random adventuring fun as I hike my way over there. Or more accurately, backpedal my way over there, because a troll has murdered most of my face and I'm trying to get my regeneration spell out and my character seems to keep his (or her!) weapons up their arse (or vagina!).
Of course, the inevitable problem one runs into when you make a game as broad as this is that it's going to be virtually impossible to balance. I went out of my way not to steal, because playing a career thief in Oblivion and Fallout 3 always ended with me owning a majority stake in the entire universe and all challenge was lost. So in this case I decided I was roleplaying a man with a crippling fear of victory and success. You know what? I still ended up owning a majority stake in the entire universe, because it's been a very long time since any of the dungeon monsters had a big treasure spring clean.
I spent maybe a fifth of my playtime actually adventuring and the rest looking for shops that still had some gold left so I could sell some of my junk and buy all their healing potions - and nothing else. Because I made the mistake once of hoarding all the potions of resist frost and poisons of stamina weakness in case I needed them, but I never needed them because it's quicker to just bash people around the chops while necking health potions, and anything else might as well be so much Vegemite. I had fifteen thousand gold and nothing to spend it on, except training, I suppose. Ooh, look at Sir Alan Sugar over here who's too rich and important to adventure properly! Would you like to skip to the ending cutscene because you have to go and buy a new aeroplane before the shops shut?
Mind you, my attack strategy of "run up and start swinging until either something dies or my arm detaches at the shoulder and whirls away like a Catherine wheel" seems to have been adopted by every enemy in the game too. And if you're not good with a shield and you've already spent your allotment of radioactive mouth lasers, then there's only so far you can backpedal away from the crazy man with the dual handaxes before you hit a mountain.
There's a bad habit of filling dungeons with mostly easy baddies and one incredibly hard boss, and after a while fighting those guys turns into a game of Find the Exploit. Like this one undead lad who hit like a runaway ice cream van but who seemed to forget all about me whenever I left the room, so I ended up taking potshots from the doorway like the world's worst Jehovah's Witness. Even the all-powerful, world-ending Godzillas are surprisingly easy to outsmart by positioning a large rock between you and it. I could never quite be free of cover-based combat, can I, current-generation gaming?
Oh yes, and take my advice: get a horse. The horses in Skyrim just do not give a fuck. If there's anything within a half-mile radius that means you harm, your horse will not rest until it's been powderized, except when you're sitting on the horse. And since you can't attack from horseback either, the two of you can jolly well sit there looking dopey while wolves chew your stirrups off.
Skyrim has that pleasant water cooler quality where every person you discuss it with has a different experience, but after a while the conversation will turn into a glitch swapping party. My best one was an old lady hovering twenty feet in the air before disappearing into the ground before my eyes. I never even knew her name, but I will always remember you, Hovering Ground Lady. And when you're talking to characters, none of them seem to be particularly interested in what they're saying, and other characters very rudely walk up while you're talking and bark some random local trivia at your face. It's like I'm trapped on the Planet of the Sperglords.
Nitpicking is unhelpful, however, and I'm in the kind of mood that I'm prepared to overlook a lot of flaws in Skyrim. Which is good, because there are a lot of flaws in Skyrim! But I'll applaud it if it means we can have less games that treat me like a child stuck in a pipe, games industry. I will applaud it as hard as you like. I will slap at my palms until my future children suffer masturbation guilt. NoIdon'tknowwhatI'monaboutgoaway!
Stop eating the nightshade you idiot: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Also this game needs a hardcore survival mode so make sure to mod that it after you've done the nude skin and the child murdering patch
So who's Sky and what's so great about her rim