I’m going to be honest here; I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start when it comes to writing about my experience with Skyrim.
The logical answer would be: the beginning. But the thing is, Skyrim doesn’t really start out all that well. The tutorial mission is relentlessly linear and combat-focused, and while that’s more or less a necessity in order to teach you how to play, it’s also woefully misleading (especially if this is your first Elder Scrolls game). The combat is certainly improved over Oblivion, but it’s still problematic. The intro is also graphically unimpressive; the people in the game are still ugly and animate strangely, and the creatures don’t look much better. You progress through a murky dark dungeon, kill a few creatures, and then you’re kinda on your own.
Of course, that’s when the game really hits its stride. The moment I finally emerged into Skyrim proper wasn’t as jaw-dropping as it was in Oblivion, but since I’d already had that moment and knew what to expect, I was more interested in seeing what the world was about. And it immediately became clear to me that while Bethesda still doesn’t know how to make people or animals look good, they certainly know how to make a world. Within 5 minutes of aimless wandering I’d found some sort of magic stone that imbued my character (Hermano, an Imperial) with quicker XP bonuses in combat, and then I stumbled upon a dungeon that provided me with some gold and some decent weapons. And I was hooked.
I’ve played over 100 hours of Oblivion, and certainly at least 40 into Fallout 3, and so Skyrim feels immediately familiar in my hands. The much-ballyhooed menus are indeed worthy of their praise; they’re much more intuitive and easier to extract useful information from. (Strangely, though, there’s no sorting option anymore, which makes dealing with over-encumbrance a bit of a pain in the ass.) I’m a big fan in general of games that level you up based on what you actually do – Resistance 3 did a great job with this in terms of its weaponry – and so I’m seeing tangible results in the skills I’m using the most (i.e., one-handed combat, healing/destructive magic). The perk system is useful, too – it’s nice to be able to see exactly what you’ll be getting, and the perk trees offer many tantalizing options.
So, yeah. I managed to squeeze in 11 hours this weekend in short, unconnected bursts, and it’s all I’ve been able to think about today while I’ve been at work.