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Day 2 in Skyrim

or Why Does Everyone Hate Me?

Before leaving for Whiterun, I picked up a new spell.  I haven’t tried buying spells from mages yet, but I think most new spells are obtained through books.  You read them & learn the spell.  It was a cheap Illusion spell called Clairvoyance.  It shows a glowing trail that leads you to your selected destination.  It’s actually really useful when you’re running around the wilderness.  It reminds me of the glowing trail from Fable 2.  It does have two downsides, though.  One, it only lasts as long as you’re casting the spell, & two, you have to remember to select a quest from your journal.

After getting everything settled, I left Riverwood & headed north.  During my trip, I became more acquainted with the map.  I noticed a few things, other than the fact that it’s much nicer than previous game maps.

(1) You can only fast travel to places you’ve discovered.  All of the main towns are already shown on the map, but you’ll have to visit them first.  This is also true for new locations you’ll learn about through quests.

(2) At first everything looked really far away on the map, but after traveling I realized that distances aren’t as large as they appear on the map.  I can’t give any specific scale measurements, but it doesn’t take as long to get places as it looks on the map.

The trip was pretty uneventful.  I killed some more wolves & a mudcrab, which are still as menacing as they’ve always been (meaning not at all).  Strangely, mudcrabs don’t give crab meat this time, but chitin — which is their shell — as an ingredient.  Crab claws?

As I neared Whiterun, I discovered that Skyrim’s world is much more populated than Oblivion.  Farms, mills & cottages dot the landscape.  There are three farms outside Whiterun, as well as a mead distillery.  While visiting the distillery, I helped myself into the owner’s room (meaning I picked the lock) while his hired help was unawares downstairs.  I could’ve stolen more than I did, but I had a suspicion (which I later learned was correct) that the merchants in this world would possess the same uncanny ability to tell what items in my inventory were stolen as those in Cyrodiil.  After leaving, I helped myself again to the many free bottles of mead lying around in barrels outside.  That’s another good thing to remember: any barrel outside can be pilfered.  Usually they just have food items, but since you can cook, these are still useful.  I don’t know yet if they replenish with time.

While I was harvesting cabbages & leeks (And what are leeks, anyway?  I’ve never seen any at my local Kroger.) some woman who my HUD identified as Aela the Huntress came over & berated me for not helping with the giant.  “What giant?” I thought.  Then I looked over & saw several warriors around a dead giant.  “Oh.  Sorry, I didn’t notice.  I was too busy looking at cabbages.”  Sadly, that’s not a response option, so I settled with, “You looked like you could handle it yourself.”  Eventually I learned that she was with the Companions, the Skyrim equivalent of the Fighter’s Guild, & if I wanted to join I needed to speak with their leader in Whiterun.

Before entering Whiterun proper, I stopped by the stable outside.  They had a horse for sale.  It was a black horse that they called Queen something-or-other-staring-with-an-R.  The horses look much different from in Oblivion.  They’re closer to Clydesdales; larger, heavier & with longer hair.  According to the loading screen info, although they’re slower than in Oblivion, they’re stronger, which I assume means they have more health.  Unfortunately, she cost 1000 gold, so I had to pass.

As Whiterun is where I’ve spent most of my time so far, I’ve done too much there to write about it all.  Instead, I’ll tell you about the things I’ve learned & my more interesting experiences.

First, I want to talk a bit about the Speech skill.  It works very differently than Speechcraft in Oblivion.  For one, Mercantile is combined with it this time around.  Whenever you buy or sell something, you Speech skill increases.  However, there’s no way for me to tell how much.  You can’t haggle merchants, but as your skill increases you can unlock perks to improve your buying & selling rates.  All I know for sure is that sometimes you’ll get a message your Speech increased while you’re trading.  Also, persuasion is much less intrusive this time around.  Instead of that Persuasion Wheel thing in Oblivion, sometimes in dialogue you’ll see choices that have “Persuade,” “Bribe,” or “Intimidate” at the end.  Obviously your Speech score determines if they’re successful.  Also, you sometimes have an option to fight with people.  There have been two times I had to Brawl with someone.  Brawling is a fun new feature.  You fight someone with your bare hands until someone’s health runs out.  You can’t die in a brawl, but you can lose.  Also, it’s not a crime.  In fact, people will often gather around you to cheer you on.  So long as you don’t use a weapon, you’ll be fine.

I also think I’ve had an encounter with the game’s touted Radiant Story & AI.  I say “think” because I’m not 100% certain.  My first encounter was with the AI.  While I was exploring the town, I apparently entered the alchemist shop just as it was closing — either that or she left the back door unlocked.  The shopkeeper was asleep, so I helped myself to the ingredients on the counter.  Not the next time I came back during regular hours, but the time after, I was attacked by Hired Thugs (as my HUB told me) while the owner told me to get out.  After killing the thugs, I left, saved, then immediately went back inside.  The shopkeeper seemed perfectly fine with me then.  Did she somehow guess I was the thief & hired men to attack me?  I didn’t get a bounty, & no one saw me.  And then why did she forgive me after I killed her men?  Was it sort of like, “You survived so we’re cool now?”  Weird Nords…

The second encounter came a bit later while I was traveling on a quest, but I’ll mention it now.  While traveling, I spotted a Khajiit near the bridge ahead (& I have to say, Khajiit look awesome in this game) with her sword drawn.  Thinking her a bandit, I dispatched her stealth-style with my bow from a distance.  One hit kill & all.  But when I searched her, I realized she was a Dark Brotherhood assassin, & she had a note on her that someone wanted me dead!  Woah.  Who did I piss off now?  I haven’t murdered anybody.  Is this part of the story?  I was barely into the main quest at that point.  Oh, the paranoia!  I wonder how this will affect me trying to join the Dark Brotherhood later.

Whiterun was also my first encounter with the Alchemy system.  I must say, I’m a bit lukewarm about it.  For one, it takes a long time to level up.  Each potion only increases your skill by a small percentage.  Also, you have to eat ingredients to learn the first effect, you don’t automatically know it.  This does make some sense, I admit.  Once you’re at the Alchemy table, you’ll get a list of effects you know, with the ones you have ingredients to create highlighted.  You need at least two ingredients with the same effect to make a potion.  But it’s mostly trial & error.  You can combine any ingredients you want, but they don’t always make a potion.  Sometimes you’ll randomly learn a new combination while creating another potion.  And with food now no longer used in alchemy, you can’t level up by making lots of Restore Fatigue potions.

I completed a few standard quests (you know, the ‘so-&-so stole my item go find it’) sort of thing.  Although I did get to Brawl with a bard because he was being a creeper towards a woman, & that was fun.  The only one of note is “Missing in Action.”  I stumbled across this while wandering into people’s homes.  As I searched through a house, I opened a random door & some guy hiding behind it started yelling at me.  He thought I was there from the Battle-Borns to kill him.  After convincing him I didn’t know what was going on, he told me about the feud between the Battle-Borns & Grey-Manes, with the two families supporting the Imperials & Stormcloaks respectively.  The guy, Avulstein, convinced me to search the Battle-born house for clues about his missing brother.  Although he warned me I might have to persuade the guards, the house wasn’t guarded at all.  In fact, I don’t think anyone was inside.  It was a simple matter to pick the locked door & take the document back to Avulstein.  He asked me to help break his brother out of jail, & I agreed.  But given how far it is, I’m holding off until I have another reason to got that far.  It’s not like they’re going to do it without me.

Because I was still avoiding the main quest, I decided to join the Companions.  Joining was pretty easy… once I found their leader, Kodlak Whitemane.  Seriously people, don’t just tell me to talk to him.  Tell me where he’s at!  And since I’m the hero of this story, he let me join with no trouble.  Assuming I could complete some tasks.

But that’s for next time…

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Skyrim Expectations

It occurred to me, while I was reading my latest issue of GameInformer, that I’ve given a lot of attention to one of my favorite series (Mass Effect) but not one of my first favorites: Elder Scrolls.  This was the first game, never mind series of games, that I have been devoted to.  I loved both Morrowind & Oblivion.  Now the fifth installment, Skyrim is just a few months away.

You might need a bigger sword...

 Not a lot as far as plot has been revealed so far.  The game is set 200 years after the events in Oblivion, in the frozen northern land of Skyrim.  Skyrim is the homeland of the Nords, as well as having been the setting for the Morrowind expansion pack Bloodmoon.  The country is in the midst of a civil war after the assassination of its king.  Some wish to secede from the Empire, which has been crumbling without an heir, while others wish to stay loyal.  But if that wasn’t bad enough, a prophecy within the Elder Scrolls foretelling of the return of the dragons is coming true.  You play as the Dragonborn, & it’s your job to figure out why & from where they’re reappearing.

The graphics look amazing.

Some of the aspects revealed will be familiar to Elder Scroll fans.

  • You start the game in prison.  This seems to be a staple of the series.  (Okay, maybe you didn’t technically start Morrowind in prison… you were just a prisoner ship about to be released.)  What events lead to your escape haven’t been shown yet.
  • In most areas, creatures will be leveled to yours.  That’s not to say that there aren’t challenging areas if you’re unprepared.
  • Fast travel will return.  Some people didn’t like fast travel in Oblivion, but I did.  It makes the back & forth from guild missions easier.
  • Speaking of guilds, the familiar sects return, although some have been renamed.
  • Free-roaming exploration is a major part of the game.  Skyrim is supposed to have 150 dungeons, all of which are hand drawn.  Horses will also be returning.
  • All of the familiar classes will return (personally I always play as a Wood Elf because I like being stealthy).

    Character models are greatly improved over Oblivion.

That being said, there are also a lot of difference that, assuming they work the way Bethesda claims, will make for quite exciting gameplay.

  • The first noticeable different is the graphics.  Bethesda created a brand new engine, the creation engine, to upgrade the graphics.  If the screenshots are anything to go by, this means both improved environments & character models.  Bethesda also claims that almost all of the settings were hand drawn, right down to the flowers.
  • Dragons!  Probably one of the biggest changes in the inclusion of dragons.  These function sort of like boss fights, & appear to be encountered randomly as you explore the world.  According to Bethesda, these fights are not staged.  The dragons’ AI allows for them to react to your actions & the environment to make each encounter unique.  On a side note, I like the design of the dragons.  Their wings are merged with their arms, making them look more birdlike, versus the more common design of separate wings & legs.  (Not to sound like a nerd)  but I think this is a more practical design.
  • Linked with dragon fights is the player’s ability to use “Dragon Shouts.”  These are chants that the character learns & activates by absorbing the souls of defeated dragons.  Twenty shouts have been revealed, ranging from breathing fire, calling thunderstorms, teleporting, & calling a dragon to aid you.
  • New enemies, some of which were seen in Bloodmoon.  Includes mammoths, giants, ice spiders & draugr.  Not all creatures are initially aggressive towards you.  Some will only attack if attacked first.
  • For the first time since Daggerfall (short of modding) children will be in the game.  Whether this means the player can have a child — or the relations that lead to one — haven’t been seen.
  • The player can take a job, including farming, mining or smithing.  You can even forge your own weapons.
  • One of the most dramatic changes is in the class & skills system.  Firstly, there are no classes in Skyrim.  That also means there are no major or minor skills.  All skills level up equally.  This allows the player more freedom to play as they like.  Instead of a class, the player can choose a “perk” when the skill levels up.  I read in one source that there are 280 perks per skill, but the player will likely only have 50.
  • Some skills have been removed.  Mysticism has been removed, but its spells have been distributed among the other schools.  Athletics & Acrobatics have also been removed.  I’m kinda bummed about acrobatics, because I liked cartwheeling around.  I hope something replaces it.
  • Dual wielding!  That’s right, now you’ll be able to use two swords.  Or two staves.  Or two different spells.  There’s also a One Handed & Two Handed skill now.
  • Combat will also include finisher moves.
  • Immersion as a whole seems to have improved.  Dialogue no longer places you in a still screen.  You can actually move around while people talk to you.  Each city has an economy that you can affect, for good or ill.  NPC’s will have more complex actions & more distinct personalities.
  • Armor is simplified slightly.  Cuirasses & greaves are not combined into a single armor set.

    Forget dragons. This will be my most feared enemy.

There are more changes that I don’t have time to get into, & I’m sure more will be revealed as the release date nears.  To keep up with the news, check out the Elder Scrolls Wiki.

The game will be released on November 11, 2011 for the PC, 360 & PS3.

If Skyrim can keep its promises, this will be an awesome game.

– GamerDame

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