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8:32am on Tuesday, 27th November, 2012:



I finished playing Skyrim last night, after restarting it about a month ago. I did as many of the quests as I could except if they started to get repetitive (endless assassinations when you're the Listener of the Dark Brotherhood, endless animals in people's houses when you're leader of the Companions, endless rifts to close and books to find when you're Archmage, endless shops and houses to break into when you're head of the Thieves' Guild) or if they offended my sensibilities too much (no, I don't want to kill a priest and eat him; no, I don't want to submit to your bonkers god). I only found 12 of those red stones that take up a surprisingly annoying amount of your inventory weight allowance. I had a dozen dragon souls stored and fewer than that in words of power to learn, so I could have continued if I wanted to be completionist about it. I guess I could have levelled all my skills to 100 too, instead of just the useful ones. I had all the houses Icould get, was thane of all the places of which I could be thane, I killed the emperor and helped the Nords throw off the yoke of imperial oppression. The only early quest I got that I didn't complete was one in which you have to find out hints of someone's ancestry, which seemed a little imprudent given that I'd framed him for a theft and got him gaoled.

The previous time I played, I got to level 27 or thereabouts as a heavily-armoured fighter. This time, I did it as a mage wielding destruction magic. It was a lot easier as a mage. At the end, I was two-shotting deathlord overseers, with only the ones who had bows causing me trouble (distract them with a storm astronaut or whatever they're called, then charge in).

The best comedy incident occurred when I was delivering the horse Frost to the guy who asked for it to be stolen. I got off to catch some butterflies to make into potions, then the horse shot off to attack some wolves. Before I could reach it, it ran off again after bandits, then I lost it. I spent ages trying to find it. The thing was, because it was a quest object, the game couldn't kill it off or it would break the quest; this meant it was effectively an indestructible killing machine. I would keep coming across groups of dead imperials, or slaughtered trolls, or the carcass of a cave bear. As soon as Frost so much as sniffed an enemy, it was toast. When I eventually found it, I was attacked by a dragon on the way back to the quest termination NPC. Frost tanked it admirably while I occasionally lobbed a fireball into the mix. I did decide I'd better hand the quest in, though, or it would have been a rather boring game. I later got a red-eyed assassin horse that was almost as bad and would block doorways killing things inside buildings I wanted to enter, but since by this time I could take down two dragons attacking me at once it didn't seem quite the same level of crazy as Frost did.

As for the gameplay, well it has that usual aggravating monsters-level-up-while-you-do thing all the Elder Scrolls games have, plus the easily-exploitable skills-based approach they love. The gameplay was good, the graphics also (except for character faces). The lack of variety in speech was starting to grate by the end though (stop telling me I 'should join the Mages' College in Winterhold' when I'm its archmage; stop complaining about the 'damnable conflict' I just finished; stop remarking on my 'wolfish grin' when I cured myself of lycanthropy; don't say the same thing every other jarl says when I'm made a thane; yes, I am an alchemist, I buy potions at your damned alchemy shop every day). There were also a few glitches that meant I was carrying around a heavy bow for most of the game and never did find out what quest it was for (my guess is the Bard's College, I didn't actually get to head that up).

It will be interesting to see how much of this makes it to the Elder Scrolls MMO. I worry that we'll end up with a multi-player single-player game like SW:TOR or TSW, but at least Bethesda seem to have principles when it comes to DLC so they may not go the GW2 route and throw themselves into play-to-win free-to-play. I'll certainly give it a shot, anyway.

I wonder how long I'll be able to resist before playing the modernised Baldur's Gate coming out later this week?

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).