Makin’ Love, The Skyrim Way: Warming Up.
(Installment One in The OverLady’s ongoing review series on Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
Waiting for the release of a new RPG is like waiting for the release of a new book the author take years to build. The author has perfected his/her craft and curated a loving readership.
While I fancy to use completely current comparisons (Which, in this case would be the ever-loved Harry Potter book series), an extremely beloved and more content-accurate comparison would be a combination of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and her Lives of the Mayfair Witches series. These books, besides being highly anticipated through every book by her loyal and loving readership, chronicled a carefully crafted and elaborate history of thousands of years. Most of Rice’s stories in these series took place between the 18th century and modern day, though entire chapters were often devoted to delving into ancient history and speculative lore of New Orleanean, French, Scottish, and Egyptian vampires and witches. As an historian by study, Rice’s tales wove an intoxicating mix of real-world history with her fanciful and lush imagination. The richness of her work was not for the feeble, as many of her books hit the 1,000 page mark with ease and grace. Much like these books, each Elder Scrolls game offers much of this richness in the world, the story, and most certainly the history… each touting at least hours of gameplay, depending on how thorough the player decides is necessary.
On November 11, 2011, Bethesda released Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which is probably fairly well-known by this point. With much of the hype and erratic anticipation of arguably any of the Harry Potter series, but with the specific history and richness within the pages of Anne Rice’s most famous series, Skyrim is already a new classic to the RPG repertoire. Regardless of the fact its kin (Oblivion and Morrowind) both won game of the year and Skyrim is already nominated once so far, it already wins game of my heart until Elder Scrolls VI comes out in the unforeseeable future.
Cracking into a new video game, especially one I know is going to leave me in a state of orgasmic shock every time I play, comes with a set of simple but necessary rituals I have developed over the years. Before settling in for hours of delicious gameplay, I must have things in order. I mustn’t have any unfinished chores. (Something which I believe has come with feeling responsible to my partner as well as exponential nagging guilt I would otherwise feel towards myself!) The only thing I should be getting up for, save emergencies, is the direst of bathroom trips.
As a firm believer in daily decadence, here is a general list of what I make my gaming nest out of– especially in the colder months:
Hot tisane? √
Full bottle of water? √
100% juice? √
Dried fruit? √
Apple or other fresh fruit? √
Quinoa or another super-yummy and equally healthy nom? √
Cozy & non-binding clothes? (Leggings/sweaters/soft ballet flats are my norm) √
At least one blanket for an unexpected chill? √
Heating pad on high for pre-emptive back care? (A true Pro-Tip from a seasoned gamer, trust me on this.) √
At least one lap-ready cat? (Note: any cuddly pet or partner will do wonderfully!) √
Optional item for the spry: Balance ball to sit on instead of the couch. No √ this round, my older cat punctured my last one!
***I will get a photo in the near-future of this ridiculous spread for everyone, but trust that a well-put-together gaming nest is essential for optimal gameplay and submersion into the world.***
The Lamentation (of this woman).
As I have since switched to MacBook after Oblivion came out and mostly have neglected upgrades to my desktop PC since Fallout 3, I decided on a first– playing and Elder Scrolls game on console! I was a bit worried about playing on Xbox 360, worry of a completely baseless and totally biased nature, of course. In any case I pre-ordered it through Amazon for the same store price and still got the cute map inside. It arrived in the morning right before I headed to work, where I got to agonize all day about it.
I actually only got to play for a couple hours as there were things to be done (Remember, loose ends equals silly amounts of guilt!) and of course prepping my costume bits for the Swashbuckler’s Ball the following night. Insert work all day Saturday & Sunday. I finally got to put in some time Sunday night and ALL of Monday… No, really! Approximately 12:35pm to 2:30am, save a couple hours of dining and partner face-time before he cuddled up with me and did homework while I played. Up to now, I would say I’ve amassed a modest 20 hours.
I am going to do my best to not recount an overview of the game, one can google that or check out the Skyrim wiki on Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls site. With that said, I will also do my best to give my take on it as both an astute gamer and Elder Scrolls fangirl.
Meet S’Leife DLeina, now level 11 Dunmer (Dark Elf to the layman) with a penchant for Alchemy, Sneaking, Light Armor, Smithing, Two-handed weapons (currently an Orcish warhammer), and most certainly collecting books. Check out her sexy Elven light armor, isn’t she a babe?!
For those of you who may have played past Elder Scrolls games, you probably also noticed the distinct lack of choices in the character creation menu. As someone who loves her detail, this was very disappointing to me. Oblivion had a near- Sims 3- level of character detail in the creation menu. I fucking loved that. I loved getting to pick and choose literally every physical characteristic of my new elf’s face… not to mention the ability to give my past Dunmers a luscious shade of lavender on their hair. On the flipside to this disappointment, I will acknowledge how awesome it is the elves look much less human. They look like, well- elves!
(I had a far-fetched aesthetic fantasy Skyrim would bring back the ability to layer clothing like in Morrowind… It’s still just a lofty dream!)
On the topic of choices, let’s talk about the lack of stats! On the main screen during gameplay, the only stats shown are your health/stamina/magicka bars, if they are less than 100% charged. There is no menu or ability to see how high your specific abilities are beyond while you are actively doing something. Oh, the computer keeps track so the end user doesn’t have to. I was really wary when I read about that as well as the open-ended nature of not having any classes.
The intent, which I think works extremely well, was to allow players to develop their characters more naturally without constraints. I am very much reminded of this strip from the web comic Stuff No One Told Me. By allowing the player to organically develop their character, they can sate all of their human curiosities while still continuing to progress in the game and evolve their character. Progression of stats and in turn, leveling, is done on a by-use basis instead of a “Oh I HAVE to go do this thing again, if I want to level, since I am stuck with these areas as my major focal points”. Wariness be gone, I think I love the classless system!
On a similar note, this lack of class system rigidity can achieve some fun combinations that definitely “break the rules” of traditional RPGs. Want to wear heavy armor but focus on alteration magicka? Do it! Oh, you like wielding bow & arrows, but love close-range attacks? DO BOTH!
I will wrap things up now, as I have been away from my game for a bit too long (:::reaches for paper bag to breathe in:::), but I will leave you with the following as a preview of what I will be talking about next time: NPCs! Dealing with them, living life, and manipulating them, alive or dead.