Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thoughts on Skyrim and Dragon Age

Welcome to Skyrim. This place probably needs no introduction amongst my readers, right? We're all bleary-eyed from having stayed up too late playing the latest in the Elder Scrolls franchise.

My fella asked if I was riding a draft horse and I proceeded to tell him about how Skyrim horses are sturdy and built for endurance because of the local terrain etc etc. He asked how I knew all this. I told him I'd been living in Skyrim for a while now.

So you can take it as read that I love Skyrim. Even though the giant Frostbite Spiders are entirely too realistic.
You do not want to see that thing charging at you - first person point of view, mind!

Of course, it's worse when they sneak up on you. Turn around and WHAM there's a giant spider IN YOUR FACE.

I hear there's a No-Spiders mod for PC players. I'm a PS3 player, so I'm stuck with 'em. Solution? Temporarily turn gameplay to "Novice" and hit 'em with a Dwarven Battle Axe. Results in minimum amount of spider face-time.

As realistic as Skyrim is, I must admit I felt more You Are There in Rage.

Rage feels like you're holding a video camera in front of your face. You're literally right there.

So glad that game didn't have spiders.

Some of my friends criticized Rage's role-playing aspect. I was lenient on that because it's listed as a First Person Shooter, and that's really what it is. A First Person Shooter with Talking.

Because my friends are correct, the role-playing aspect is weak - you don't get to know anyone very well considering what they want you to do for them; you risk your life on the slimmest acquaintance and you choose sides without much inquiry on your part. One of my friends diagnosed the player character as "pants-on-head-stupid."

I was reminded of this when playing one of the quests in Skyrim. My only option to get the quest moving forward again was... well, I said to my screen, "What? Am I pants-on-head-stupid?"

And it struck me that many of the criticisms that were leveled at Rage are valid against Skyrim as well. You risk your life on the slimmest acquaintance. You're asked to choose sides before knowing much about either.

But what really gets me is the lack of dialogue options. I know things. And yet there are no options to tell anyone. I know the identity of a secret Thalmor agent. Obviously I must be able to tell someone at some point. But why wouldn't I tell them now?

That's a small frustration, though. I think my biggest criticism of Skyrim is that we don't get to know anyone very well. And this is important, because Skyrim IS a Role-Playing Game.

I want to know - and like - the characters I'm fighting for. For me, what differentiates a Role-Playing Game from other genres is the emotional investment. I expect there to be a story and I want to feel something because of my role in that story.

This was something Dragon Age 2 did spectacularly. I care about all the people in my party. I feel for them, and I want them to like me. Especially Fenris and Anders. (cough, cough)

Which brings up ROMANCE. Nobody does romance like the Dragon Age team. There's flirting and witty dialogue and it's genuinely fun.

Sidebar - have you seen the sexy cutscenes in Dragon Age Origins? Those were awesome!! Why don't other games do this? Why didn't Dragon Age 2 do this? I expect sexy cutscenes in Dragon Age 3!! Developers, take note!!

Back to romance in Dragon Age 2:  However you feel about romancing Anders and how that complicates your response to Anders' actions - the point is that you do feel it. Your emotions are invested in this game.

I don't feel anything about anyone in Skyrim. (Except my horse. Anyone kills my horse, I hit reload save.)

Currently there is nothing stopping this Dragonborn from saying, y'know, y'all are about as inviting as this place, which is unrelentingly snowy and cold, and Alduin actually sounded pretty intelligent so I'm having a moral crisis over slaying all these rare beasts, therefore I'm riding south in search of a beach. Good luck with whatever.

After all, I've got plenty of reading material - Cats of Skyrim, Thief of Virtue. Maybe I'll stop in Cyrodiil and see if they can find a copy of Hard in Hightown for me.

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