or Beware of Flamable Objects
Given how long this game is likely to be, I’ve decided to log my… misadventures in Skyrim. This isn’t intended to be a walkthrough or a complete accounting of what happens when I play. Only my observations, thought & other strange or amusing things that happen. I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers, but some spoilers will be unavoidable. I’ll be sure to post a warning before & after so you can skip over them if you like.
My first observation came before I really even started the game. That was, what’s up with Elder Scrolls & prisons? I’ve played the Elder Scroll series since Morrowind, & you always start as a prisoner of some sort. Morrowind had you being released from prison, Oblivion had you escaping from prison, & now Skyrim gets you all the way to the chopping block before escaping.
It isn’t long into the game before you get to create your character. I mentioned this in my First Impressions, but the customization options are quite a bit fewer than Oblivion. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t make a really pretty Bosmer. I typically always play as a Bosmer in Elder Scrolls because they have the best traits for sneaky players. Most of the time when I get to choose how to play, I go for the sneaky, diplomatic approach. Bows or other long-range weapons (like sniper rifles) are preferred, followed by close ranged when things get hairy. But I was able to make a half-decent Bosmer female, which I named Phedre (after the main character in one of my favorite books). All elves tend to look a bit gaunt in this series. But given that you rarely see your character’s face, it’s not that bad.
The opening section is the tutorial. I had a few observations about the basic controls:
(1) I still haven’t gotten used to pressing B to bring up my menus. I keep hitting Start, which is the Journal.
(2) At least on the 360, the Favorites system is fantastic. You can add any item in your inventory as a Favorite. This is a quick menu (brought up by pressing up on the D-pad for the 360) that lets you scroll through your most commonly used items. There’s no limit on what you can add to it. Also, you can add two weapon setups to your Quick Keys (left & right on the D-pad). My setup is usually a bow first, then either dual swords or a sword & spell for the second.
(3) I really like the lockpick system. It took a few tries for me to understand how it worked, but once I did, I have to say it’s the most realist lockpicking system I’ve seen (or so I assume, since I’ve never picked a lock in real life). First you move the lockpick with the left analogue stick, then move the lock with the right. If the lockpick jiggles, you don’t have it in the right spot. The idea is to position the lockpick in the right spot so you can fully rotate the lock to open it. *Tip* Very slowly rotate the lock to check for jiggling to avoid breaking your pick.
(4) This isn’t so much an observation of the game as it is of my general play-style, but I almost never use magic. This also includes magic-esque type abilities like Biotics in Mass Effect. I don’t know why, I just don’t. But I have used magic a fair bit so far, so maybe that’s changing.
Oh, & one more thing about the tutorial… I HATE SPIDERS! Especially when they’re so realistic.
So once I got out of the obligatory starting cave, which admittedly is shorter than in Oblivion, I finally got to see the world of Skyrim. It looks a lot different from when I last saw it in Bloodmoon. A lot better. Mountains rising in the distance. Forest slowly rising into snowy plains. Actually, one of the first things I noticed was the sound. Specifically, the wind. It sounds really loud. Sort of like when your driving with the window cracked.
I didn’t realize until I watched another video, but you can choose who to follow out of the keep. I stuck with Hadvar, the Imperial who took my information at the character creation screen. You can also follow Ralof, the Stormcloak you first talk to in the wagon. Both are nice men, & the quest is pretty much the same except the type of enemies you fight & who they send you to after the quest is over.
Hadvar directed me to his uncle in Riverwood. It sounded like a good enough place to start, so I followed him. Along the way I found three Guardian Stones. Unlike in the previous games where you pick the sign you’re born under & are stuck with it, in Skyrim you can get the blessing of any sign by activating its stone. The three at the beginning are the Thief, Warrior & Mage. They increase the rate at which the corresponding skills increase. Being a sneak, I picked Thief.
I also made a couple of observations while traveling to Riverwood:
(5) Hunting actually has a purpose. When you kill an animal, you gain a pelt & possibly alchemic ingredients. Whereas in previous games you could only sell the pelt, in Skyrim you can use the pelt to make leather, which is used in Smithing (more on that later).
(6) Harvesting in always successful. There’s no “chance of success.” If you select to harvest something, you get it. And the item visibly changes so you know you got it. For example, flowers lose their blooms.
When I reached Riverwood, my first real thoughts were, “Ooh, a chicken! Ooh, a cow! Ooh, a real dog & not some retextured wolf!” I know it sounds weird, but there were no domesticated animals in Oblivion, so I was really impressed. It’s the little things that really make Skyrim come to life.
After ogling the wildlife, I met with Hadvar’s uncle, Alvor. The cutscenes in Skyrim are similar to Oblivion, where your character is stationary but you can move the camera. Alvor tells me to go to Whiterun to speak with the Jarl (the local ruler) about what happened at Helgen. He also offers his home to me, which I’m more than happy to take advantage of. I stock up on plenty of free food.
While in Riverwood, I learn about two new systems in Skyrim: Cooking & Smithing.
While you can simply eat any of the food you find, such as bread or apples, you can cook them to save space & get better health benefits. The cooking menu highlights whatever you have the ingredients to cook. The dishes aren’t as strong as potions, but there’s plenty of free food lying around.
Smithing is a new skill that allows you to craft & improve armor & weapons. One of the best changes I’ve seen so far is that armor & weapons don’t degrade. Instead, you can spend your money on buying ingots to improve them. *Tip* I highly recommend everyone use the Smithing skill. It’s a very easy way to level up. Just keep making iron daggers. Smithing doesn’t distinguish between item quality, so an iron dagger gives you the same xp as iron armor.
Money doesn’t seem to be as important in Skyrim. Because you don’t have to constantly replace or repair weapons & armor, you can spend money on other things. There are also a few “jobs” you can take to make extra money. You’ll find lots of people who’ll buy firewood (requires a woodsman’s axe) or certain produce.
While in Riverwood, I got the sidequest “The Golden Claw” from the store owner. Some thieves stole his Golden Claw & were hiding in a barrow (which is like a burial mound) in the mountains above. I found the barrow with little trouble, but not before clearing out a tower of bandits. Two quick observations:
(7) The map shows areas that you’ve cleared, which seems to mean enemies don’t respawn there. I have to test further to see if this is true.
(8) I love the sneak animation. Instead of looking like some awkward duck walk, sneaking in Skyrim actually looks like how someone would sneak. Although I question the ability to sneak in snow in fur armor.
The Bleak Falls Barrow gave me my first taste of dungeon-crawling. I’d previously read that each dungeon was hand-drawn, & I believe it. It’s so atmospheric. Rocks trickle realistically from the collapsed ceiling. The cobwebs were so realistic that I hated walking through them. Eventually I found the thief & reclaimed the claw & proceeded deeper into the barrow. I had to fight waves of draughs, Nord corpses. Two more observations here:
(9) Draughs are easy to recognize from regular corpses. Look for the larger, clothed bodies. If you sneak attack them before they wake, it’s an instant kill.
(10) Whatever you do, be careful of oil slicks. They have a thick, reddish hue. At first I thought it was toxic, but then I realized what it was. So I set it on fire… & nearly killed myself. Very useful for taking out a group of enemies, but make sure you stand clear.
Without spoiling the puzzle, I had to use the claw to open a door to reach the end. At the very end there was a large, ominous platform. The wind blew hard & I could hear chanting as I approached. Needless to say, I saved the game. But it was just my first Word Wall. I learned “Fus,” meaning “Force” & the first part of Unrelenting Force. Before leaving, I grabbed an important-looking tablet. Upon returning to the store, I gave the owner his claw & he rewarded me with more money. I sold my loot & left the village, heading north for Whiterun.
To Be Continued…