The first time I heard of Bethesda, was when I was playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The game is an open RPG where the player can freely roam about in the world completing quests and adventuring. Throughout the game, there were indications that there is a theme bigger than the game running through … yes, you are the chosen one. Yes, you will do great things, but there is some story thats bigger than you … what will it be?
Then came Oblivion, or The Elder Scrolls IV. This game takes place in the same world, but a different land. I was curious and started reading more of the lore available in the game (there are literally hundreds of books that you can read, NPC’s that you can talk to, etc). There are 9 different major kingdoms, all of them ruled by the Emperor, and each of these kingdoms has a story of its own.
After Oblivion, Bethesda launched Fallout 3, a remake of the classic Fallout series. Sadly, the game was so badly done and so full of glitches, that the company received a lot of flak for this game. Fans wanting to play the remake were pissed, Bethesda fans were disappointed in the low product quality … you don’t just buy a game and not play it do you? You either want your money back, or you endure the glitches and go through the main quest at least!!
In comes Skyrim
Bethesda has been hitting the right notes with Skyrim. Right through the trailers, the launch, the in-game lore, the superb artistic detail of the game. It’s a treat for the eyes, any fan of the The Elder Scrolls (TES) series would be happy with this game. Ohh … and did I mention that there are dragons :-)
The game itself starts in the northern region of the kingdom (a lot of Nordic inspiration has been considered). The terrain is rough and mountainous, but Bethesda has literally crafted a beautiful landscape often forcing the player to stop and locations and look at the view from certain locations. This is probably the best looking game I have seen, literally forcing the user to take screenshots at various junctures in the game. The game looks good, and does require a bit of hardware to do it justice.
One problem I faced was that the game does not properly render on Directx 9 – WinXP combination. The rendering was patchy and I could not enjoy the game at first. Fortunately, I also have a triple boot (WinXP, Win7 and Ubuntu), allowing me to switch between operating systems as per the need. The game runs beautifully on Directx 11 – Win7, without any lags. I would recommend having a 1GB graphics card and at least 3GB RAM. For those who do not boast of such hardware, there is an add-on on Curse to make it run smoothly on DX9 here.
Skills to pay the Bills
Some of the game mechanics have been changed (the skill system has been simplified in terms of no. of skills, but the player is allowed to add nuances to certain skills which he/she intends to major in). The one good thing about Skyrim is that unlike Oblivion, you are not restricted to a specific set of skills to level your class.
The class creation is more open than the previous versions, allowing the user to customize their skillsets and specialize one particular style of playing. I have been playing two characters for roughly 40 hours now and it has been a very intense experience with you completely immersed in the world.
The game itself handles itself pretty well, but its not free from glitches. Certain quests which expect the player to hit certain waypoints simply wont proceed if you digress from the waypoints. The monsters scale up pretty well, and unlike Oblivion where the monsters scale up with you, there are certain monsters which you need to stay away from in the early stages of the game.
The game also has some pretty cool effects whenever you score a critical hit/killing blow. I particularly love these slow cut scenes when finishing off targets while being a sneak. Certain character customization elements (such as the star sign under which you are born) have been nerfed, and changed to shrine stones, which allow you to shift the benefits depending on which shrine stone you offer your prayers to. These stones are strewn across the land, where the player is encouraged to explore the world. Another such encouragement are the Dragon Words, which give you access to similar powers that the dragons have.
All in all, Bethesda has silenced all its critics and given faith to all its fans. They have shown that it is still possible to create games without having on online multi-player component built into the game (Blizzard, are you listening?). Plus, I think with the launch of Skyrim, the niche audience which used to play the TES series has really gone mainstream. Kudos folks!