You wake up, arrested, on a cart heading towards execution. Your head is on the block, when a dragon lands on the roof of the tower you can see, and the headsman is knocked over.
That is the opening of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and it certainly ranks up there as one of the most effective opening sequences of a roleplaying game I have played. Not quite up there with the slow-long opening sequence of Half-Life 1, or my personal favourite which is the start of Planescape: Torment, but not very far behind. It is, in short, a good beginning to attract and keep the interest of the gamer.
I have, on and off for the last week or so, been playing Skyrim, very often with my daughter asleep on my chest. In this I have been aided by a triangle-shaped cushion which helps stop Melian slipping down, and then she just rests between my outstretched arms. Meanwhile I play in the wonderful knowledge that at the press of a button I can pause the game and pay total attention to her should I require, and that even if I should die in a fight I can just reload my last quicksave.
The game itself is very interesting. I am currently Level 14, playing a warrior-type, so I have mostly just scratched the surface. However, here are my initial thoughts, even though I realise a very great portion of the gaming community experienced Skyrim themselves months ago.
Firstly, in some respects this game is just like EVE. Once you are through the initial tutorial section you are in the wide open world, and what you do next is pretty much up to you. There are plenty of quests, but one can choose to do what one wishes. There is no “need” to complete this or that quest. In some respects, in a fantasy setting, it is actually quite a difficult mind-shift to undertake as most of my fantasy gaming these last few days has been the somewhat more directed MMO themepark variety. However, there is also something wonderful about being freer with one’s destiny.
Secondly, the mechanics of the game are fairly easy. My one particular grievance thus far is no single button to switch between weapons for different situations. I have a little difficult sometimes in a fight with getting “behind” the enemy and leaving myself open to someone attacking me – but this is not the first game of this type where I have had similar problems. Even in MMOs I often find myself “behind” an enemy and needing to turn to continue to fight. Annoying, but hardly Skyrim’s fault.
Visually the game is gorgeous, but does tend to the “colder” landscapes. There is a good sense of space – enhanced I am sure by the fact I am hardly using the swift-travel options, or even horse-travel. This makes the world feel nicely large, and besides, there are so many interesting things to see along the way. I have, however, only explored a relatively few places.
Likewise I cannot complain about the stories I have thus far encountered. I have been quite nicely entertained, sometimes by very small details like overheard conversations, or minor conversation choices that spawn a small, yet diverting side-quest.
There is so much more of this world to explore however, and so many more stories to experience. My initial impression is clearly very positive, I only hope I do not get disappointed as I go.