Posted by Alex Jordan on
I've been very, very lazy lately about doing anything related to game design. Life's been busy (in a good way), and I've been more or less programming nonstop in XNA since February 2009, so every now and then I just gotta cool things down. And how do I get away from game design? By playing video games! Makes total sense, right?
Things I Like:
- It's beautiful. Although individual items or chunks of landscape look low-poly or poorly textured, in aggregate, the game is just stunning to behold. Bethesda broke new ground in bringing a fantastical, Norse-like land to life. The rushing streams... the way clouds cling to mountainsides, or snow blows off of sheer ledges... all of it is splendid.
- Relatedly: architecture. It's really good. Whiterun and Solitude deserve special mention.
- There's so much to do, and nearly all of it has meat on the bones.
- The game constantly surprises. I'm referring to both minor jump-scares (which, admittedly, decline as the game goes on) as well as fun little things which trigger to amuse the player. The first time I got a canned animation of a dragon biting me down to my waist and hurling me 100 yards got a huge laugh out of me.
- Fighting dragons is pretty cool, as are the Shouts.
- The leveling system seems better balanced, and the skill trees are intuitive.
- The stealth system has been tweaked slightly to add a bit more depth.
- Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow do good voicework for their characters.
- I actually care about Lydia! I won't let you die, Lydia!
Things I Don't Like:
- The magic system continues to be limited to the point where it rarely opens up new gameplay opportunities. Given the emphasis on storytelling-through-questing that's been around since Oblivion, designers have nixed interesting speed, jumping, and flying-related spells because they might be used to sequence-break a quest. That leaves us with spells that... make your numbers go up.
- There's no indication of which enemies you can handle and which will one-shot you. It's exasperating to be awesome enough to kill a dragon, only to get mauled to death by a cave bear.
- Let's face it... combat is now almost entirely an exercise in trading numbers. Are your numbers better than the enemy? That's what counts. It also leads to the player trying to trip up the game by doing silly things like kiting enemies or trying to get them stuck in the level geometry.
- Who the hell thought hiring Joan Collins was a good idea? I love her as an actress, but literally anyone else could've voiced her character. I'm kind of embarrassed for her. Plummer and Von Sydow get a pass because they're excellent voice actors.
- Alchemy seems to be an exercise in futility.
That's all for now. It's a great game, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say I love it unconditionally, I can safely admit that I am... more or less obsessed with it. I've dabbled in the main quest line, finished off the Mage's College quest line, and have yet to start either the Thieves' Guild or the Dark Brotherhood lines. But soon. Soon.
A long Thanksgiving weekend is coming up, too, so it'd behoove me to actually do some more work on the PC version of Cute Things Dying Violently, and maybe even get that damned Xbox 360 patch out. Admittedly, being lazy and playing vidya games is much more fun, but I should probably aspire to do more.