|Goodbye social life - I hardly knew ye.|
I've been putting it off for a while, but... Well, yeah.
The menu was pretty. And frustrating. Clearly designed for a console, and they did a decent job porting most of it, but not all. For instance, occasionally confirming a command is Enter. You play the game with a hand on WASD and a hand on a mouse. The inventory opens with Tab. You use the mouse and/or WASD to browse it. Enter? What were they thinking?
It's streamlined and nicely organized and whatnot, I guess. But then the Morrowind interface wasn't particularly clumsy. I guess it was clumsy for a console.
The graphics are cute. The distant mountains and stuff particularly seemed really pretty, with fog hanging around their snow covered sides. Not that I ever look at mountains much, though. The primary area of interest is the 50 foot long, 90 degree arc right in front of me, seemingly inhabited by low resolution plants and goofily modeled wolves. The textures in general I didn't particularly mind (but there are some real nice HD packs out there). But occasionally, there are things like plants you gather which you look at closely all the time, and it's really obvious when they have horribly pixelated textures. But really, it looks fairly good! All the bloom made me a bit dizzy, but it's hardly ugly.
My major annoyance was that the animations are still really awkward. Right at the start, during the prologue bit, you are a prisoner about to be executed. Oh, Elder Scrolls and your prisoner characters... Anyway, some other shit happens and they decide to let you go. Talk about deja vu, huh? But, you do see some other poor sod get his noggin lopped off- and oh my god the animation is just so awful; I laughed out loud. I mean come on, this isn't some kid's free time project, Bethesda. This game is fucking huge, and this is a crucial scene of the game. Was it that hard to just fiddle with it behind the scenes to make sure at least this particular script is running smoothly?
The engine overall is, well, I realize they improved it a lot and added much. But thing is, the thing feels exactly like Fallout 3, and I didn't like the way Fallout 3 felt. The game also keeps messing around with your mouselook rate, I guess to sync up the player model animations or something, but fuck, game. I don't care if my character looks weird when rotating. Leave my mouse alone, I feel like my character is perpetually nauseated. Really, I hate it when games do this. Just leave the camera free- the sluggishness doesn't add to the immersion, it adds to the frustration.
And, I guess, the wonky writing. Again, I only played a little bit, but gah, the NPCs are WEIRD. When the prologue ended, I spoke to the officer formerly in charge of executing me, and he casually tried to recruit me into the same military! Jesus Christ, man, have some tact. And the quests... As I entered the town for the first time, some dude walked up to me and just randomly started bitching about how his girlfriend was a slut and asked me to go sort out the other guy or something... Um, excuse me, who are you again? What a surreal game.
By the way, if you're still on the fence about that: Quicksave is F5. Learn it, use it. Autosave is utterly unreliable, and the game lets you do things with serious repercussions without warning or confirmation. I was walking around the aforementioned town, checking the place out, when I saw a house. I thought, "oh hey, cool, I wonder who lives here!" Big mistake- I ended up having committed an act of theft, and because I wasn't sneaking the telepathic guards immediately became hostile, including some quest NPCs. So yeah, save often, pay attention and don't trust this damn game.
The slight unforgiving nature is kind of refreshing, though. Reminds me of those games like Quest for Glory where you could die from trying to pick your nose. I say slight, because really the combat is predictably a cakewalk. You just swing you weapon and sure enough the enemies soon die. No uncertainty, no risk... But maybe it'll get more interesting later.