19 January 2012

Review: Skyrim (PC) - Can mods save an imperfect game?

Bethesda - hire these guys already!

It has been quite a while since I wrote about Skyrim, and frankly I only played for a short while after the last post. Nothing new happened that could affect my opinion of the game as I have so far expressed it.

My intention was to finish at least the main plot and before finishing the review. However, on yet another day of trudging through the endless tundras of Skyrim, doing one fetch quest after another, clearing this fort and that fort of identical bandits and evil mages, I had a friend IM me. When the conversation turned to what I was doing, I watched myself awkwardly explain that I was playing Skyrim, a game he probably would not like, as it was not very good, and I wasn't much liking it either for that matter, and then... Wait, so why am I playing this again?

I didn't have an answer then, and it's been nearly a month now. I did other things in the meanwhile. I still can't find a compelling reason to play Skyrim, other than this notion that one should complete a game in order to review it (which I don't really believe in). It slightly bothers me.

Eventually, I decided to compromise. You'll recall (and hopefully I correctly recall) that my major complaints were uninteresting gameplay, an agonizing interface, and a sordid color palette. Turns out it's not all bad! Bethesda did one thing right and added decent modding support, and there's plenty of mods out there that fix at least the latter two.

Namely, the SkyUI seems to improve the interface quite a bit. I am especially excited about their quick-menu redesign. There is little that needs to be said, the Skyrim Nexus page quite adequately describes it.

Second is the FXAA Post Process Injector. Based on the name alone, it sounds like some amazing work on the modders' part... But anyhow, what it does is saturate the colors, among other things. Unfortunately, when the Skyrim 1.3 update came out, it apparently broke the PPI compatibility (some DRM nonsense code that took issue at messing with the memory, I gather). Currently the PPI's page on Skyrim Nexus is hidden.

Besides these, there is a plethora of texture, bump map, model and game content packs. But really, SkyUI and PPI are the make or break factor for me here. If the PPI (or another alternative) works again, while SkyUI and preferably some of texture packs don't stop working, I'll try to complete Skyrim, and hopefully will post about whether it becomes a worth one's time with mods.

Without mods, it isn't. I mean, the story is sorta neat. The new lore is sorta cool. The free-world exploration is sorta interesting and the weird TES monsters are kinda nice. The engine is obviously great but the art style is a bit dull, and the voice acting is plentiful but the dialogues are bland. Hell, if you wanna write a poem, about the merits of the game - you can! (Heh heh) But really, all the games pluses are all "sorta" pluses, and the games few but important minuses are deal breakers. You don't play a bad game for a sorta nice thing. It's not worth watching a playthrough of Skyrim, either. Unless the person doing it was extremely entertaining, there's just so much grind and doing the same things over and over again that most of it would put you to sleep, and you couldn't skip to the interesting parts really because the fun parts of Skyrim are those random things that just happen suddenly and unpredictably while you are just getting along with it. The plot and the dialogues are certainly not fun (not so much as to justify spending time on the game anyway). And those random things, well, they're random. You'd have to watch the whole playthrough to know where they are in the first place, and it could be hours.

I mean, the only way to properly handle a game like this is to have most of your let's play be a time-lapse, and I haven't seen too many of those. Now that I think of it, a time-lapse Skyrim LP would be pretty cool... Hmm. If anyone does find a good LP, incidentally, let me know: I just might do something shocking and scandalous like review a game based on the LP!

But, back to the matter at hand: Skyrim is a very long game, and not really that interesting. You won't lose much you don't sink weeks of your time into it, and if you do... Well, you'll lose those weeks of time, for one, and most of it won't even be very enjoyable. If you feel terribly curious, and the price aside, it's worth taking a weekend or two to check out what the game is like, maybe take a look, but I wouldn't try to complete any at all sizable portion of it.

Score: 2/5

Bias: This was an early version with no mods. I am jaded by the media constantly raving about it, and all the awful, cancerous memes the fanbase has spawned. If I review it again, with mods, after patches, and after the goddamn children in the media shut the hell up about it already, I'll probably give it a 3 (all else being equal).

1 comment:

  1. ive put over 100 mods into the game and its just-just bearable to play for a bit, it doesnt hold my attention for long. as you said the artstyle is dull it never feels like a fantasy universe, id rather go read a book and actually have an epic adventure and cool heroes because the story never lets you feel like a hero. they had a more diverse voice acting group in this game but the problem is that 2 guys did all the guards 2 guys all the merchants etc.. i mean wtf why not spread them out? now all merchants sound the same and all dialogues are so stale and tasteless. theres no expression in their tone its as if all the voice actors had something bad happen to them the night before they had to come record voices for the game.
    why not add memorable and cool characters like peg foot hromgar axeface (dont ask how he got the name) who talks like a scandinavian pirate or something yarrg.