I’ve long been a fan of the Tekken series. I remember, many years ago, when I first laid my eyes on a demo of Tekken 2. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was one of the last times I’d ever be able to use one of the most influential characters in the franchises’s history, Jun Kazama. Continue reading
A new trailer has been revealed for Tekken Tag Tournament 2. There’s a slight problem though… it’s in Japanese. Despite this fact, those of us who aren’t Japanese can still pick out some interesting facts from the following trailer.
So what does the new trailer highlight?
- Customization: Though we already knew that it was in long ago, the trailer showcases a little bit of the customization menu in the game.
- Fight Lab: The cool character building/training mode starring Combot is shown off a bit in the trailer.
- Forest Law?: Marshall’s son is a possible console exclusive character due to Marshall’s name appearing as Marshall Law during fights rather than just Law.
- Game Modes: Arcade Battle, Ghost Battle, Survival, Team Battle, and Time Attack are all in the game in addition to the obvious Practice and Versus game modes.
- Online Features: Leaderboards, Player Match, Ranked Match, Tekken Channel and World Arena make up the online mode of Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
A new English trailer will probably appear soon as well (hopefully showing off the other unrevealed console exclusive characters), so keep your eyes peeled!
Thinking about picking up Tekken Tag Tournament 2 in September? Well, here’s a bit of good news. A few online and physical retailers have revealed what DLC characters you can get early for preordering Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Check them out below. Also do note that the DLC characters for this game are not exclusives and will be available for free approximately 2-3 months after the game is released.
Shop.to: Angel, Michelle.
Zavvi: Kunimitsu, Ogre.
Amazon (USA): Angel, Michelle.
Amazon.ca (Canada): Nothing announced yet.
Best Buy: Angel, Michelle.
Gamestop: Angel, Kunimitsu, Michelle, Ogre.
I will add more retailers to the above list as they are announced. Last updated May 25, 2012.
Tekken has been my favourite fighting game series by leaps and miles ever since the third game in the series over a decade ago. The characters, gameplay, and mechanics have always been the cream of the crop in my eyes. Street Fighter, in comparison, has always been a distant second… But really, there’s nothing wrong with coming in second, is there? Both universes have good characters and fun gameplay, so combining them sounds like a formula for best fighting game ever.
Unfortunately. Street Fighter X Tekken falls a bit short in my opinion, which is a shame given my love and respect for the two franchises that star in this game. That’s not to say that SFxT is a bad game, because it’s not. SFxT is just merely a “pretty okay” game.
First and foremost, I’d like to mention the graphics. Outside of SoulCalibur V and Tekken 6, this is easily the best looking fighting game this generation. The stages you fight on are all extremely detailed and put even Street Fighter’s most hectic locales to shame in terms of how busy the backgrounds are. The game is also overflowing with a really fantastic sense of style with a lot of ingame hit animations and effects looking simply gorgeous. There are a few falters however, such as when you KO an opponent with an ultra combo. The screen flashes so erratically that I would worry for any epilepsy sufferers who would happen to be watching this game in motion and, as a whole, looks a little sloppy in comparison to the rest of the game’s pretty looking effects.
Character models are mostly all pulled straight from the Street Fighter 4 series but with a few tweaks here and there. Some characters may have a little more detail in their textures while others may have slightly different proportions (for example, some say Cammy has bigger thighs, but I don’t see it myself). The Tekken characters are all brand new, though some of them are clearly just retextured and heavily reworked Street Fighter models (Ogre is an obvious Seth, Asuka is a redone Sakura, etc.) but, for the most part, they all look exceptionally unique. I’ll commend Capcom for really nailing down the look of some Tekken characters such as Hwoarang, but a few of them (Law and Paul being good examples) don’t look terribly faithful, giving off the impression that Capcom just shrugged their shoulders and winged it.
The music department isn’t too stellar. Music doesn’t dip above average in any instance in my opinion, and the versus screen tracks are just horrendous. Capcom usually does a pretty good job with fighting game soundtracks, and I can’t help but wonder if they used one of their second tier composers for this game. If not, then clearly whomever they used (was it the SF4 composer?) didn’t put forth a lot of effort.
The sounds and voices of SFxT aren’t anything to write home about either. All of Street Fighter’s familiar voices are carried over from previous games, so we know what to expect there (awful English Akuma and all). Tekken’s cast is pretty iffy when it comes to voicing. I’ll commend Namco on getting the original voice actors for some characters such as Lili and Steve (who both sound great), but others just sound really “off” in this game compared to their Namco counterparts. Paul sounds like he has a severe psychological disease coupled with rabies, and Marduk sounds like he has been taking one too many anger management sessions since we last saw him.
In terms of gameplay, this is pretty much just Street Fighter with a more beginner friendly approach to inputs and delving into the finer technical side of the gameplay system. If you’ve played Street Fighter in the last few years, then you’ll be able to pick up and play SFxT without any issues. The Tekken characters all play like Street Fighter characters themselves, with some even having projectiles now, so they fit in pretty well with Capcom’s crew and are fun to learn how to use. I’ve found Steve to be particularly lethal when I can get into a groove with him, but it pains me to see my favourite Tekken character, Paul Phoenix, not having a great deal of tools at his disposal here.
Essentially, this is just Street Fighter with Tekken characters and an engine that is easier for beginners to ease themselves into. Unfortunately here isn’t much else to it than that, literally. Beyond the standard arcade and online fighting modes, there is just versus, practice, and mission mode. Versus is mandatory of course, but it is just another fighting mode. Practice is essential too, and is pretty much better than mission mode (dull and mindless character trials) in every way possible when it comes to learning how to play the game. Mission mode is, literally, a complete waste to even play. As was the case in Street Fighter 4 and Marvel vs Capcom 3, mission mode teaches you nothing that you can’t learn in practice mode. It’s pointless.
There are no fun bonus game modes and very little to do besides just fight, which has become typical of Capcom fighters nowadays. There is a customization menu for assigning gems to your characters (they modify your damage output, speed, and other things during fights) as well as colouring your characters. Both of these features were hyped by Capcom pre-release, but after sinking my teeth into the game I can tell that they weren’t properly developed and are particularly lacking in terms of appeal and content.
Overall, this is just another fighting game by Capcom. There’s a significant sense of “been there, done that” when playing. It’s evident that Capcom has stopped raising the bar when it comes to fighting games, as they feel that they can just slap a few fighting modes together and call it a day in recent years. There’s a wealth of new moves to learn from the Tekken characters, as well as a few gimmicky bonus characters, but when everyone online is going to default to Chun Li, Guile, Juri, Ken, Ryu, and Sagat then… Well, what’s the point of it all?
+ Street Fighter engine has been dumbed down to gently ease beginners into it.
+ The character roster is absolutely huge and will grow more later in the year.
+ Very flashy and great looking presentation.
– As expected of Capcom nowadays, there’s a severe lack of content.
– Some Tekken characters are represented very poorly.
– The game could have sounded a lot better as a whole.
It’s hard to believe just how old the Soul series is now. I still vividly remember playing the original Soul Blade in arcades back in 1997. Do I remember much about it? Not really, except ring outs and Voldo. Between Soul Blade and today, my exposure has been pretty limited with the series. Prior to SoulCalibur IV, I only played SoulCalibur II in a noisy Las Vegas arcade.
As someone who was late to getting into the series, I made up for it by playing the heck out of SoulCalibur IV. Granted most of my time was spent creating characters, but in total I clocked over a hundred hours with the fighter. Long time fans bemoaned SoulCalibur IV, but I loved it to pieces. Now here we have SoulCalibur V, a game that in all honesty shouldn’t even exist! After the previous title failed to sell well, Namco disbanded Project Soul (their internal dev team that makes the Soul games). They had no intention of reviving the series until fans annoyed the heck out of Tekken’s lead producer Katsuhiro Harada on Facebook and Twitter, begging him to convince Namco to get Project Soul back together again for another stab at glory. Well, the fans won… But was it all worth it?
SoulCalibur V is essentially a reboot of sorts to the series in the sense that it has advanced time by several years in the game world so that many new characters can join the fray. It’s pretty much the same thing Namco did with Tekken 3, and we know how great that game turned out to be! Just like in Tekken 3, we have a brand new protagonist in the form of Patroklos Alexander, son of Sophitia. No longer does the game focus on the exploits of Siegfried’s eternal battle with Nightmare and Soul Edge, but rather it is centered on Patroklos’ efforts to rescue his sister Pyrrha from the malfested as well as Soul Edge’s influence.
Patroklos and Pyrrha obviously take center stage in this installment while a handful of other new characters such as Leixia, Natsu, and Z.W.E.I. as well as several others help pad out the roster. Unfortunately this means that a few fan favourites are absent from SoulCalibur V. I’ll just throw some names out right now just to get the depressing part out of the way. Amy, Cassandra, Rock, Seong Mi-na, Setsuka, Sophitia, Taki, Talim, Zasalamel, Xianghua, and Yun-Seong have not returned from SoulCalibur IV. I’m sure that creates quite a lot of sadness since there are some definite favourites in there, but we still have other fan favourites still kicking around such as Ivy, Maxi, Nightmare, Siegfried, Tira, and several others. A few returning characters such as Aeon (Lizardman) and Kilik have also been severely altered for better or for worse.
To make up for the lack of some characters being cut from the roster, they have essentially been replaced with newer and younger characters who have similar fighting styles. For instance, Natsu happens to be Taki’s ninja apprentice, Pyrrha fights a lot like a cross between Cassandra and Sophitia, and Xiba is pretty much just Kilik with a new face and voice. Other new characters may seem similar for different reasons, such as the energy ball wielding Viola who bears a frighteningly striking resemblance to Amy, albeit a little older. The fact that she is even voiced by the same actress doesn’t help deter conspiracy theorists such as myself from believing quite firmly that Viola is simply a slightly older Amy (she looks mid-twenties rather than thirty or older since Amy was malfested and had her aging process slowed down). There’s also one guest character this time around in the form of Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed. Suffice to say, he fits the theme of the game a lot better than Darth Vader and Yoda, and he’s also a heck of a lot of fun to play as.
Enough about characters. What about the meat of this game? Anyone who likes their fighting games to have a wealth of side content will undoubtedly be very let down here. While SoulCalibur V may not be as devoid of singleplayer game modes as Capcom fighters, it still has less than many other games in the genre if you exclude the character creation system. This time around we have arcade mode, story mode, Legendary Souls, quick battle, online, training, and creation. Arcade is six fights that end in a boss fight (usually against Nightmare) and is just your standard arcade ladder mode that is found in other fighting games.
Story mode is a boring romp through bad voice acting and dull fights, and that is all that I feel is worth saying. Truth to be told, I found story mode to be so overwhelming that I was skipping cutscenes and dialogue screens before I was even halfway through. It follows Patroklos on his quest to save his sister Pyrrha from Soul Edge. The plot is nothing worth writing home about and the overall experience is not up to par as it is mostly told to you via storyboard pictures with written dialogue. Actual CG cutscenes are few and far between, and the fights in story mode are very generic with no changes to the basic gameplay formula. If you skip all of the cutscenes and story sequences, you can probably clear story mode in half an hour or so.
“Legendary Souls” unlocks after completing the story mode and is essentially just a stress test that is out of control. It serves as an ultra hard arcade mode against AI characters that respond to your precise button inputs and appear to break the rules of the game’s fighting engine. Most people seem to record times of about an hour to clear the seven fights in this ridiculous game mode. I’ll advise anyone with anger issues to avoid Legendary Souls like the plague. If you are prone to losing your cool easily, then I can guarantee Legendary Souls will result in you breaking something. As an angry guy, I’m lucky to have avoided such a fate myself!
Quick battle just throws you into a list where you can choose random custom characters of varying difficulty levels to fight against. There is little point to this mode other than for honing your skills and unlocking titles that you can set for your online profile.
The online component is pretty robust and is probably my favourite online aspect to any fighting game I have ever played. The netcode is absolutely superb, making it not unusual to have lag-free bouts when your opponent may even have a mere one or two bars. However, the best part of the online experience would have to be the player match lobbies. In these lobbies, up to eight players can join in to take part in the fighting. Spectating the matches and being able to chat to your fellow spectators can both be done simultaneously. The actual fight will take place in its own little window in the left-center of the screen. Below it is a handy chat box and, to the right, is the list of players in the lobby. Lots of fun, especially when you’re in a lobby with level headed people who just want to have some fun (as opposed to rage quitters or man-children who throw out random insults each time they either win comfortably or lose by any margin at all).
Now, I’ve left the gameplay itself until just now because I wanted to get everything else out of the way first. The fighting engine is the core of the experience itself and I must say that it is a huge improvement over SoulCalibur IV. The speed of the fighting is much faster than it was in the last game and, according to long time hardcore fans, SoulCalibur V is the fastest game in the entire series! Coming from SoulCalibur IV, the speed was a little overwhelming for me at first as even Nightmare now felt like a raging freight train instead of a sluggish tank. The increased gameplay speed definitely works out well, and I can safely say that there is way more tension in the fights this time around than in SoulCalibur IV.
Project Soul also decided to throw in meters. Yes, meters. Marvel vs Capcom and Street Fighter junkies will know exactly what this means! Your meter will gradually fill as you both dish and receive damage. When you accumulate a certain amount of meter, you will reach level 1. Keep going on you can max your meter at level 2. Now, what are the levels for? Well, various button inputs will allow you to perform powerful special attacks which consume your meter. The “critical edge” attack is essentially an equivalent of the hyper/ultra combos in Capcom fighters and, when executed, will consume one level of your meter to dish out flashy effects, a lengthy attack animation, and a big helping of damage. There is also a “quick step” that can be pulled off by quickly double tapping up or down. This allows you to side step much faster than usual, which is fantastic for evading particularly tricky attacks and catching your opponent off guard. It’s worth noting that quick steps consume about 1/4 of a level off your meter, so they can’t be abused too much.
I have observed that there are also many more opportunities for juggles in SoulCalibur V than in the previous game. I suppose this is to be expected from a Namco fighter, but I would have liked juggling to stay where it belongs in Tekken. All characters in SoulCalibur V have a few decent launchers, especially new girl Natsu (who happens to be my new favourite character). Players who focus on playing fairly and with honor will find that this game may punish them more than reward them as juggling and keeping your opponents flat on their backs are both very prominent features in competitive play.
My only complaint about the gameplay would be the AI. It has definitely been made harder this time around, but the difficulty itself of the AI is fiercely inconsistent. You can be getting perfects on the hard AI one moment and a few minutes later you might find an easy AI opponent not even letting you get up. It’s a little odd and it can be frustrating when the skill of the AI bounces all over the place, but it is hardly game breaking.
So, how are the graphics? I wish that I could say that they blow SoulCalibur IV out of the water, but they are only slightly better here in the fifth installment. This is not necessarily a bad thing since, back in December last year, I fired up SoulCalibur IV for fun and thought to myself, “Gosh, this is STILL the best looking fighting game out there.” While SoulCalibur V may only be marginally better looking, it still looks better as a whole and is without a doubt the prettiest fighting game on the market today.
The sound department isn’t too shabby either. Music is absolutely fantastic, which should have been expected anyhow since Soul games always have great soundtracks. The voice acting is a bit of a different story though, and some of the voicing talents don’t seem to try as hard as others. Some characters, such as Algol or Natsu sound very great all across the board, while others (I’m looking at you, Cervantes and Ivy) may leave you scratching your heads wondering why overacting continues to be a big problem in fighting games. As a whole the voice acting is definitely pretty good and all of the new characters sound pretty exceptional, though I’m still on the fence with Xiba. I just can’t take him seriously, even though he is a lighthearted character.
One final note, the creation tools are absolutely fantastic. We finally have a CAS exclusive fighting style again in the form of Devil Jin (yes Tekken vets, THAT Devil Jin). We’re also free to create costumes for up to 50 characters (original or regular). As far as what we have access to once we’re in the costume editor, it’s clear that Project Soul both gave and take away in the latest CAS feature. We have LESS costume pieces than we did in SoulCalibur IV, which seems completely bizarre since it’s nothing short of a step backwards. However, almost any costume piece can be recoloured, retextured, or be given cool decals and stickers. So while we have fewer pieces to play with, the actual customization for the pieces has increased substantially. By utilizing the pattern and sticker functions, you can almost create entirely new costume pieces. As a whole, creating your own characters is a lot more satisfying now due to the fact that you can personalize them so much more now. You’re very unlikely to ever see identical created characters online, unless we’re dealing with recreations of characters from other video games (Sephiroth and Wesker, anyone?).
So is SoulCalibur V worth your money? If you liked the last game, or even like the series in general, then I say yes. The core fighting experience is absolutely fantastic this time and I find myself being unable to put the game down whenever I dive in to play. It’s not uncommon for me to play for three or four hours at a time, a feat that I just can’t manage with any other fighting games nowadays. Also, if you are brand new to the Soul series, this is a fantastic place to start since you won’t have to put up with the loss of culled fan favourites such as Taki, Talim, or Zasalamel. The only problem for newcomers is that this game does not hold your hand or teach you how to play, so expect a lot of trial in error in matches as well as a good amount of time spent figuring out how things work in training mode.
All in all, a fantastic entry to the Soul series. Project Soul accomplished a lot in the amount of time Namco allotted them (development on this game lasted only one year!) and it’s hard to fault the dev team for any shortcomings simply because they were working hard against a deadline with this game. It’s impressive what they managed to do in one year, and I think anyone who appreciates the Soul games will be equally impressed with just how fun this game can be. Check out it, its worth every penny.
+ Gorgeous graphics and above average soundtrack.
+ Online component is very stable and also quite enjoyable to boot.
+ Very diverse cast of characters. There’s someone here for everyone to appreciate.
– Game does not teach you how to play, which may hamper the experience of newcomers.
– Lack of offline content may deter those who aren’t serious about online play.
– Story mode is just flat out boring and sometimes painful to sit through.
It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have another brand spankin’ new Elder Scrolls to sink our teeth into. At the time of my writing this review, Skyrim sales have exceeded expectations by shaming even the new Call of Duty. Overall reception from critics and gamers has been overwhelmingly positive. Bethesda has been made aware that they really captured something special this time around. Skyrim is the greatest Elder Scrolls game to date by a very large margin and could, quite possibly, end up vying for the position of my favourite RPG of all time.
So, what makes Skyrim so darn good? For starters, the narrative and story telling is exceptional. While in the first three Elder Scrolls games we were mostly confined to reading dialogue windows that told us the story, Oblivion tried to deliver a more cinematic and immersive experience by fully voicing the campaign. Unfortunately it ended up feeling a little sloppy in Oblivion, as it was clear that Bethesda’s dabblings in fully voiced NPCs was unable to hit a steady stride. After getting their feet a little more wet with Fallout 3, Bethesda made enormous ground. This really shows in Skyrim’s opening sequence in which the player is set to be executed. Typical Elder Scrolls fare there, but the immersion has been improved drastically. The game opens slowly with your character riding quietly in a cart with a few other apprehended prisoners who you soon learn are rebels who refer to themselves as the Stormcloaks. As your horse-drawn carriage enters the town of Helgen, you learn that the Imperials wish to execute you along with the Stormcloaks. Fortunately this obviously does not pan out, otherwise there wouldn’t be a game to play. I won’t spoil the opening sequence for anyone who still has not played Skyrim, but it is wonderfully done. Bethesda has really shown that they have the chops for delivering highly cinematic interactive scenes.
Gameplay is where Bethesda has made the most improvements. In Oblivion, many of the new features felt like failed experiments that went awry. Skyrim takes Oblivion’s shortcomings and perfects them while also adding a dash of what made Morrowind successful. It is probably difficult to talk about the various features of Skyrim in brief, so get ready for a huge section of this review to be about gameplay.
First off, let’s look at combat. This is nearly identical to how it was in Oblivion in terms of mechanics and physics, though there have been a few tweaks. It is now possible to dual wield two one-handed weapons or even two spells. While dual wielding weapons can feel a little clunky at times, I’ve taken an enormous liking to dual wieling magic. There is nothing more satisfying than melting a bear’s face with fire spewing from one hand and lightning sparking from the other. You can also have offensive destruction magic in one hand and a support spell (such as a healing or damage absorption spell) in the other hand. Fans of battlemages can now also fully realize their dreams as they are fully allowed to simultaneously hack away with a sword in hand and a stream of frost emitting from the other. It is actually surprisingly easy and user friendly be swinging a melee weapon in your left hand and casting a spell in the right at the same time. Bethesda did a fantastic job of making it feel natural to the player and I really have to commend them for really nailing this dual wielding system that they’ve finally chosen to add.
Assassin and thief characters will have a lot to look forward to in Skyrim. It is now more possible than ever before to sneak realistically and fool your enemies. Ever want to make an intimidating looking foe think you are in one spot but are actually somewhere entirely different? This is finally possible, as a sneak-themed player with quick wits will be able to maneuver quickly enough to make enemies search an area that they believe you are in while, in reality, you may have already moved behind them for the kill. If you’re not one who enjoys sneaking up on your foes and performing critical hits with daggers, you can always opt to use bows instead. Bethesda has further refined the arrow physics since Oblivion and it shows. Arrows now fire and arc in a more realistic fashion than in any of Bethesda’s previous titles. Players with good eyes will truly fall in love with the archery in Skyrim.
An interesting “give and take” situation with Skyrim’s gameplay is the refined nature of the stamina bar which allows players to always run without losing stamina. This is partly because the acrobatics and athletics skills have both been removed. There is no longer a need to improve your running and jumping since you are always able to run efficiently. Instead of your stamina being drained by running, it will now deplete when you use the sprint key. Sprinting works like it does in any first person shooter, allowing the player to gain a momentary boost in speed to escape difficult situations or cross treacherous drops and ravines. Sprinting depletes your stamina quite quickly, so it is best to use it in small spurts. Players can now regenerate stamina by simply running, which makes traversing the Skyrim’s wilderness quite a bit more enjoyable than it was to trudge through Oblivion’s neverending forests.
As I said, acrobatics and athletics have been removed. A few others such as axe and blunt (both for weapons) have been removed and are now part of the one-handed weapon skill (it is no longer blade-specific). To make up for these removals, Bethesda has added a few new skills such as enchanting and smithing. Anyone who has played an MMORPG in the past few years will know exactly how these work. For smithing it all boils down to finding pieces of leather and the proper metal ores required to make different kinds of armors and weapons. Enchanting is a little different and instead rewards you with actually destroying your equipment! By selecting the “disenchant” option, you can select a magical item from your item to destroy. When you destroy the item, you learn the magic enchantment that it possessed, such as fire resistance, magicka regeneration, or additional points of damage. To enchant an item you choose one from your inventory, select an enchantment that you have learned, choose a soul gem to use, and then hit the “craft” key. You even get to rename your pieces of equipment prior to performing the enchantment, which is nice. If your character is named Bill and you are enchanting a hammer to inflict bonus fire damage, you can certainly rename it to “Bob’s Hammer of Fiery Hell.” This adds a bit of fun to the game as it allows you to personalize your gear or simply try to give everything epic sounding names (go on, rename your iron dagger as “daedric dagger of deity slaying” if you want).
Scaling still exists in Skyrim, but is not as “in your face” as it was in Oblivion. You will no longer see common highwaymen charging at you with glass armor and ebony greatswords. A little realism has been put in place with humanoid NPCs and they are now fairly static in terms of their statistics and what gear they have. Creatures are still a different story and you will see stronger creatures in the wild as you gain levels, but this has always been the case with Elder Scrolls games and was not exclusive to Oblivion.
In terms of encounters, there is probably nothing more exciting than dragons. They are indeed a true joy to fight and your first few encounters feel remarkably exciting and epic. Unfortunately, once you have fought several dragons under different circumstances (on plains, on a tower, in the frozen north, etc.) they start to lose their novelty and simply become nothing more than giant cliffracers that have returned from Morrowind and take longer than most encounters to defeat. Dragon attack patterns become very predictable after several encounters, and most players will find themselves growing frustrated with the dragons that prefer to do more flying than actual attacking due to the fact that dragons are much harder to combat when they are airborne. While dragons are definitely a very worthy selling point for this game, I do feel that the initial excitement and grandeur that they present the players with upon their first few outings far outweigh their repetitiveness that tooks root after about a dozen dragon fights. They will always be rewarding to fight due to the fact that they drop dragon scales that are essential in forging powerful pieces of armor or can be sold for hefty sums of money if you’re not into Skyrim’s smithing system.
An impressive aspect of the gameplay is the overhaul leveling and character statistics. Gone are major and minor skills, and now improvements to any skill will contribute to your leveling. As in previous games, all you need to do is raise ten skill points to gain a level. Upon doing so, you will be able to increase either your health, magicka, or stamina. Seasoned Elder Scrolls fans will likely wonder where strength, dexterity, endurance and so forth have disappeared to. Character stats are no more and their functions are now either wiped from the game or have been incorporated into stamina. Remember having to increase your speed to make yourself run faster and longer? Or how increasing strength allowed you to carry more. Increasing stamina will now do both of these. The overall stats system is simplified, but it is for the better. Having to juggle between upwards of ten individual statistics was a chore in previous Elder Scrolls, especially since they were all useful to some degree. Now that players only have to worry about increasing one of three core stats, character builds are now easier to put together than ever before.
To make up for the simplification of character stats, Bethesda has carried over the perks system from Fallout 3. Whenever you level up, you are awarded with a perk point which you can place into one of many skill trees which govern your actual skills. If you look in the destruction perk tree, you will find that you area ble to reduce the casting cost of destruction spells while, in the archery perk tree, there is a perk that allows you to zoom in and slow down time slightly when you are aiming your arrows. There are around a dozen perks for the roughly two dozen individual skills which means that there are a lot of fun possibilities for players to experiment with using the perks systems.
The open world exploration has been improved significantly over Oblivion. Players will find that exploring now feels more like it did in Morrowind, as there is a sense of wonder at times when you are exploring the different regions of Skyrim. The southern areas are mountainous but full of lush forests while central Skyrim has rocky but scenic moors and plains, and the northern ice-covered coastlines of Skyrim are often blanketed in extremely heavy snowstorms that almost reduces your visibility to zero and, oh yeah, it’s tough as heck to explore the north too! The regions vary quite heavily and there are also some really beautiful lakes and swamps to find as well. An improvement Skyrim makes over Oblivion is that it is no longer possible to simply press the forward key and watch your player walk in a straight line without obstruction for a few minutes. Skyrim’s landscape is dotted with many jagged rocks, mountains, and obstacles. In many cases, players will have to make their own paths. It is this sort of “off the beaten trail” method of exploration that really draws several between adventuring in Morrowind and Skyrim.
There have been numerous complaints by players over the game’s UI. Initially I did not like it much either but, after spending a bit of time with it, the UI really grows on you. While it may not be as quick to navigate as Morrowind’s UI, it is still infinitely better than what we were forced to endure in Oblivion. Everything is now sorted into organized lists that can be quickly scrolled through with the mouse. If your inventory clutters up and you find that locating certain items becomes a chore, you can hit the F key to add them to your favourites. This adds an entirely new category called “favourites” at the top of your inventory screen that only lists the items you have manually added. This is exceptionally handy for keeping track of your favourite equipment sets.
To finish with the gameplay, I’ll briefly say that NPC interaction has been improved tremendously. Time no longer freezes when you talk to someone and it does not zoom in on their faces either. Time will continue around you and, in many cases, you will steal be able to move freely and throw objects around rooms like a fool while NPCs continue talking to you.
There are a lot of factions to join this time around. The mandatory Thieves’ Guild returns while the Winterhold College replaces the Mages’ Guild and The Companions have replaced The Fighters’ Guild. The Dark Brotherhood is of course still intact, though joining them is a little harder this time around than it was in Oblivion. There is also a civil war brewing between the Stormcloaks and the local Imperial Legion and it is up to the playe to decide which side they want to align with. Siding with either faction will automatically brand the player as an enemy to the opposing side, so make sure you know for sure which side of the war you want to be on!
In terms of graphics, Skyrim does not disappoint. Bethesda has long made sure that their Elder Scrolls games are beautiful games that require state of the art computers to run at the highest settings. Skyrim is no different and it certainly is a gorgeous game, but the fact that Bethesda had to develop first and foremost for consoles limited what they were able to accomplish. Skyrim does look great, but visually it could have been much better if it had been developed exclusively for the PC.
Aside from the landscape looking great, the best part about Skyrim’s graphics is the immense improvement made to character faces. Bethesda dropped the ball with Oblivion when they decided to use FaceGen software for rendering their faces. Dark Elves had fair and soft looking skin and the beast races looked like humans wearing animal costumes. This has been remedied completely in Oblivion as Dark Elves now look like their miserable old selves again and the beast races have been restored to their former glory. Fans of Daggerfall and Morrowind will enjoy how the races look, as they now look as they did in those games once more. Players who started with Oblivion will probably be wondering why the Elves all look so ugly now, but truthfully? It’s how they’re supposed to look. Oblivion’s FaceGen software was fairly limited and wasn’t truly capable of providing players with the faces Elder Scrolls Elves are supposed to have. Now that Bethesda has ditched FaceGen, we are seeing proper Elves once more. Oldschool Elder Scrolls fans will be very pleased by this!
As always, it wouldn’t be an Elder Scrolls game without a score provided by Jeremy Soule. This guy needs to win an award for Skyrim’s soundtrack because it is simply outstanding! While I still enjoy Morrowind’s sountrack a little more (despite Skyrim featuring a new recording of a Morrowind track), Skyrim is still leagues ahead of Oblivion’s score which I felt wasn’t Soule’s best work. Skyrim has very immersive tracks, and the battle themes are all really fantastic. The themes that play during dragon fights really suck you in and sound so deliciously epic that your heart will be your throat the whole time.
To finish things off, I can safely (and gladly) say that Skyrim is a true return to form after the flawed package Bethesda gave us in the form of Oblivion. This is the biggest Elder Scrolls yet and there is an insane amount of quests to take on, dungeons to traverse, and perks to play with. This is Bethesda’s most polished release ever and could, quite possibly, be the RPG of our generation. Skyrim is not to be missed.
+ Elven races look as they should again.
+ Perks system adds a whole new dimension to The Elder Scrolls.
+ Skyrim’s regions are gorgeous and incredibly varied.
– Dual wielding weapons can feel slightly clumsy at times.
– Follower AI can sometimes seem suicidal.
– Light given off by fire in dark areas can look a little dated.