Looking Forward to Skyrim

I just finished reading this month’s issue of Game Informer and I have to say I’m a little excited for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It goes against the grain for me, because in general I avoid games built to be time sinks. Granted, that mostly has to do with my ever expanding backlog of games. In the past, whenever I’d load up Oblivion (heavily modded of course) there was always some guilt nagging at me. I knew I was probably going to spend the next six hours wandering aimlessly through caves and picking fights with the city guards. How could I justify that when I still haven’t finished the thirty or so other games on my to-do list?

I’m just a sucker for big, pretty fantasy worlds, I guess and Skyrim seems poised to scratch that itch in abundance. It’s still too far off to know for certain of course, and every game looks at least remotely interesting in previews, but truth be told, I have enough faith in Bethesda to deliver on their promises and they’ve made some good ones.

The combat, for instance, at least as described by Game Informer looks to be a vast improvement over Oblivion. Dual wielding combat, more effective mixing and matching between magic and melee, one hit archery kills; as long as the game’s level up system isn’t the same as in Oblivion, I think it’s fair to say we’ll be dealing with a more poignant beast this time around.

If nothing else, it seems they’ll be giving melee combat and archery a few tweaks which is a welcome change to me. I hate playing as a mage. Don’t ask me why, I just hate it. It feels to me like a cop out. Hitting someone with a fireball when you could be whacking them with a sword just strikes me as lame, and anyone who has played the vanilla version of Oblivion can tell you that playing as a warrior just wasn’t effective. With everything scaling up to your level it could take forever to kill just about anything, whereas one powerful spell could knock that damned cave troll flat on its ass. It just didn’t make sense to be a warrior in the game, and that sucked.

I was also pleased from the screenshots in the magazine to find that Bethesda has put a bit of work into making the denizens of Tamriel a bit more attractive. I am not an overly vain gamer. I don’t demand that every character in every game look like a pristine example of human beauty. And truth be told there was something to be said for the rustic looks of many of the NPCs in Oblivion. That said, everyone in the game, be they man, woman, or child (only there were no children in Oblivion) looked fairly well like they take repeated blows over the head with the ugly stick. A world full of perfect, beautiful people is boring, but so is a world full of ugly. Variety is the spice of life.

And lastly, I’m embarrassed to admit, I’m excited about beards. Destructoid confirmed recently that Skyrim will include the option to give your character a beard, and it has me ecstatic. It’s probably a silly thing to be excited about, but as a man with a beard I frequently find the facial hair options in video games disappointing. Oblivion and Fallout 3 wee both fairly shoddy in this department. Nor was I pleased with the options available in non-Bethesda titles like Dragon Age. Granted, Bioware presented a bit more variety there, but no one can ever seem to get a plain, well-trimmed beard right. They either require you to wear one like Santa Claus or give you some patchy thing like that looks more suitable for a beatnik than an axe wielding bad ass. So I hope Skyrim does beards right. Because chances are, I’ll be playing it at some point and maker be damned I’ll want more than a bit of peach-fuzz at my disposal.

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