Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Used to Blog, Until I Took an Arrow to the Knee...

That's right, you guessed it! The game of this week is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Seeing as how this is the only game I've been playing since our last meet up, it's safe to say that it's all I can talk (and think) about. From the same people that brought gamers the Fallout series, Skyrim is another successful installation of a well-loved series. To get a good mental image of Elder Scrolls, just imagine Fallout but with less sci-fi and more fantasy.



This game seriously eats up time--like a time-sucking monster demon that makes you forget any real-life responsibilities such as feed the dog (sorry dog) and use the restroom (sorry bladder). Basically, you find yourself in the mythical northern realm of Skyrim, having recently been captured by a bunch of Imperials for some unknown crime (sounds familiar...). Just before you're about to get your head chopped off, a dragon appears out of the sky and starts raining doom and destruction on the town folk. You have the option of escaping with your fellow prisoners (the rebel faction group called the Stormcloaks) or the Imperials with head-chopping axes. It's kind of a no-brainer who you decide to follow.
My sneaky, lying mage totally bares no resemblance to a certain Marvel villian! No!...
Eventually, through a series of quests, you find out you're a Dragonborn, i.e. someone who can speak the dragon tongue and kill them, slurping up their souls in the processes. All those delicious dragon souls go to unlocking wicked shouting powers such as freeze time, summon lightening, and the ever classic "Fus ro dah"--a powerful blast to knock your foes over with. Other than that, Skyrim is really just an endless, amazing romp through a gigantic Scandinavian sandbox.


Welcome to Skyrim! Land of "How do I climb these stupid mountains?!"

Seriously! Bethesda really out did themselves with crafting the world of Skyrim. There's pine forests with autumn colours, murky and misty swamps, chains of snowy mountains, open fields of grass... I have literally gotten lost in this game several times--mostly because I kept picking herbs and flowers until I couldn't remember where I was going in the first place. The streams and rivers are teeming with fish you can catch and sometimes there's a treasure chest behind every waterfall.


As peaceful and scenic as this is, what you don't know is that there is a bear off-camera waiting to eat you.
 All this talk of extreme adventuring always leaves me with the one question I have when playing any Elder Scrolls game: am I playing for the game-play or the story line? It's a tough question when faced with so much wild wilderness at my disposal. Certainly, when I played through it's predecessor, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the main plot was frankly a massive chore. The narrative was clearly lacking development and immersion because your character is given no true incentive to be Tamriel's greatest hero. Some old king sees you in one of his dreams and now you're tasked with bringing together the kingdom? And let's not forget all those Oblivion gates you had to close--there were over 50! And they spawned like salmon all over the countryside.

Even if you ignored the main quests in Oblivion, eventually you hit a dead, boring end trying to complete all the various assignments (read: chore list) for the faction groups such as the Dark Brotherhood, Thieves' Guild, Mage Guild, etc. I found myself dreading turning on the game and playing for any narrative piece whatsoever. Any fun I had was in casting magic spells, solving dungeon puzzles, and discovering ALL the places. In fact, while the graphics were pretty sub-par, there was a lot more joy in the game play that I find myself actually siding with ludologists in this case.

So can there be a comeback for the narratives in Skyrim? I think so, and possibly in an entirely new light!

While the ludologists and narratologists call each other snide names from separate corners of the proverbial room, I honestly think Skyrim is the best of both those two worlds. The creators have enhanced game play tactics, weaponry, and magic so cleverly that it blows Oblivion out of the water. The Scandinavian sandbox is bigger, brighter, more naturalistic than it's predecessors that it offers an endless sense of adventure for the gamer. Not too thrilled with the current quest line? Well, go take a dive in the arctic waters and pummel horkers! Chase some bunnies while you're at it and steal some coin purses!
Dude, you've even got interactive windmills and forges! How neat is that??

But in all seriousness, I do believe that even the new and improved narrative successfully enhances the entire gaming experience as well. As mentioned before, you are a Dragonborn in Skyrim. This isn't some mamby-pampy "Go find my son and some special stones" routine like Oblivion offered. You fight hand-to-claw with dragons over their souls. And then you learn their shouts so that you may smite bandits in the most spectacular of ways. There's a gigantic civil war going on in Skyrim that is reminiscent of the Romans attempting to conquer the Germanic and Britannic tribes (inside, my History Major heart is fist-pumping the air). Even the guild quests have great incentives to offer the gamer--especially the Companions because you get to become a werewolf at the end (and there is no real negative side effect to being such a boss creature in this game). While playing, I kept having to stop myself from rushing too much with all the multiple, riveting main story lines, just so that the adventure wouldn't end. But I wasn't bummed out about it, seeing as how I had a whole playground to go romping through during the break. It was cool because every once and a while, a dragon would appear and we'd play fisty-cuffs to the most epic sound score in gaming history.

I'm going to quit while I'm ahead and leave you all with a question; do you think it's possible to merge ludology and narratology?
-------------------------------


1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this game! Though, I didn't get to play it as much as I wanted to. I think the merge of ludology and naratology is very possible and would make a pretty awesome game

    ReplyDelete