Monday, July 18, 2011

A rueful look back at E3, Part 4: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Initial reaction – Holy crap but that landscape is gorgeous. I'm accustomed to the graphics in Elder Scrolls games being sort of like having corn flakes for breakfast. It's there, it's adequate for its purpose, and it provides a substrate for more interesting breakfast foods things that can be placed on top of it, like sugar or strawberries or cheap bourbon so vile that even I won't drink it unmixed but am still too cheap to just get rid of, but it's not of much interest in itself. This is quite impressive.

(Question for other players of the previous Elder Scrolls games: Did anyone else, back when they had only seen the name “Skyrim” appear in written form, assume it was pronounced “Skeer-em”? It can't just be me.)

The footage I've seen seems promising. One of the disappointments of Oblivion was that it went from the fascinatingly weird setting of Vvardenfell in Morrowind- with its strange creatures, its native culture and that culture's tension with the encroaching influence of the Empire, its complex and mysterious past, its religion based on ancestor worship and living immortal god-kings and bizarre scriptures that were apparently written by someone on LSD- to the disappointingly generic quasi-medieval standard-issue fantasy setting of Cyrodil. Skyrim looks like it could be a bit more interesting- the woolly mammoths, snowy mountains, and rather brutish-looking warriors make things seem a lot less genteel than Oblivion. It has sort of a Robert E. Howard/Hyborian Age feel that I really like.

Hopefully Bethesda has learned from some of their mistakes in Oblivion, like burning through 90% of their voice acting budget in the first 10 minutes of the game and having all of the hundreds of talking characters you meet in the other 99.99%  of it voiced by approximately three people, or using a character face editor that was seemingly programmed by a deformed  Phantom of the Opera-esque recluse who hasn't actually seen another human being in decades and doesn't realize that non-hideous human faces are actually possible. I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

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