Saturday, November 12, 2011

I couldn't see anything with this bucket on my head

OK, the loving depiction of stabbing a woman to death is a bit much, but otherwise, I thought this was funny. Murder? What murder? I couldn't see anything.

Apparently, seeing his sister lying in a pool of blood on the tavern floor doesn't bother this innkeeper one bit, provided he doesn't actually see it happen. And if you put a bucket on his head, he just leaves it there until you remove it again?

This is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which was just released yesterday. I loved the other Elder Scrolls games, but I won't be in a big hurry to get this one. I tend to think that they're dumbing down the series, and from what I hear, this one is very definitely designed as a console game, with the PC port being an afterthought, at best.

But other reviews claim that this is the best Elder Scrolls game yet. So I don't know. Personally, I think that Bethesda has been going in the wrong direction since Daggerfall, but even Oblivion was fun. But I guess I'm not in a big hurry to play this one. I get my Elder Scrolls fix just by jumping back into Morrowind occasionally.

Speaking of the other games, here's an interesting article at PC Gamer (complete with screenshots):
The first game, Arena, started out as a gladiatorial combat hack-and-slash about a team of mercenary types fighting their way through fantasy tournament bouts with the aim of ultimately taking down an evil wizard. During development, what had been intended as side-quests ended up becoming the game’s core; a game that featured no magic items called The Elder Scrolls, nor any fighting in an arena. The first bit was added to the title more or less for the hell of it, the second handwaved by the idea that the land of Tamriel was so dangerous, so chaotic, simply living in it was like living in… uh… an arena, that “Arena” had been adopted as its nickname.

If that sounds tenuous to the point that it could be represented by a piece of Juicy Fruit gum stretched from the North Pole to Saturn… you’re right! Allegedly, the only reason was that the adverts and boxes had already been printed… though all the boxes I’ve ever seen have had the Elder Scrolls tag on them, so that bit may be one of those apocryphal tales that’d taste better with pinch of salt.

Neither of the first two games are particularly obscure, though with the first coming out in 1994 and its sequel, Daggerfall, landing in 1996, but let’s take a quick look at them just to set the scene. They’re pretty weird games, starting by dropping the player in some of the biggest gameworlds ever and ending with conclusive proof that bigger isn’t necessarily better – especially in a primitive 3D engine. Daggerfall remains one of the standard worlds that gets trotted out as a comparison whenever someone claims their world has 15 square km or space or whatever, boasting as it does no less than 487,000 of the randomly generated buggers. That’s twice the size of Great Britain, with over 15,000 towns, cities, and villages. Or so it says on Wikipedia. If you’d like to go count them for yourself, feel free to correct it.

Don’t let the graphics fool you. For the time, this was impressive 3D, and a reasonably deep RPG. It wasn’t the narrative based joy of something like Ultima, but if you just wanted a sandpit, the only thing in your way was one of the most brutal welcoming committees ever. Arena especially came out swinging. You know how Oblivion and Skyrim start with tutorial dungeons? This game starts with a fuck you dungeon. It’s big, sprawling, and will kick your ass, but that’s only the start of the pain. Dare to sleep in the wrong place, and it actually spawns extra-tough monsters to punish you for it. How bad are we talking? The lead designer – repeat – the lead designer of Morrowind/Oblivion claims to have fired it up around 20 times since it came out, and only finished it once. Not the game. The first dungeon.

And once you’re out of it? It gets worse. You emerge battered and bruised in the middle of an entire continent, with about six million square kilometres of terrain to explore. How many hand-crafted dungeons are there in that, holding plot relevant things? Seventeen.

I have very fond memories of Arena, but I positively loved Daggerfall, despite the bugs, despite everything. I don't remember the starter dungeon being that hard, either. (Or is he talking about Arena? I enjoyed that starter dungeon, too.) But the battles were short, and if you lost one, it was simple enough to reload the game.

Well, if you're interested, here's my take on both games. I loved Daggerfall so much that I was actually a bit disappointed when I got Morrowind. But only a bit, and only in parts. I do think that Bethesda turned away from the real promise of Daggerfall, but Morrowind was still a great, great game - flawed, like all of these, but great.

Oblivion went further down the wrong path, to my mind. But I enjoyed it, too. So I imagine that Skyrim will be fun, when I finally decide to get it (assuming that my old computer can run it). But it won't be for awhile. Heck, I just now picked up Fallout 3, when it went on sale for $4.99. Heh, heh. I couldn't pass that up!

That's another one where I loved the first two games, but which Bethesda took down the wrong path in the sequel. In fact, I was just playing the original Fallout. It's still very playable and still great fun. (Pick up both of them at - cheap - for a really great time.)

Ah, too many games, too little time. :)

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