The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Review)

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.

Final Score

9.5/10

Pros:
+ 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.

Cons:
– 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.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Screenshots

At last, Skyrim has a face! In the newest issue of GameInformer, a slew of Skyrim screenshots have emerged. This is the first reveal of Skyrim screenshots. Enjoy!

Click to enlarge the following images.

The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim Wishlist

With the fifth TES game announced and due out next year, one can safely assume that PC RPG fans are excited. I’m one of those who are pumped for Skyrim, but I am a little bit cautious of the game since Bethesda seems to be a bit behind others in the industry when it comes to giving their gamers a lot of substance and variety in their games. Actually, they used to be able to stand toe to toe with other developers when it comes to nailing game design, and Morrowind is proof of that. Oblivion, despite improving upon Morrowind’s combat, graphics, and physics, was an inferior game in most other areas. With each new game release, Bethesda seems to be losing something and it is apparent in their games.

This article is not about Bethesda’s games becoming lower and lower quality though. This is about Skyrim, a game that could potentially kick ass.

Below is my “wishlist” of what I’d like to see in Skyrim. Most of these are issues I had with Oblivion, while others are things that bothered me in both Morrowind and Oblivion.

1. User-Friendly Menus
First and foremost, Bethesda needs to make sure that the menus in Skyrim are not difficult to navigate. Morrowind’s menu was about as good as a TES game required, and the grid-based inventory system was fantastic. Oblivion messed with a good thing though, forcing the players to click and scroll far more often than they did in Morrowind. The menu was very bulky and, more often than not, didn’t explain itself well. For instance, in Morrowind I quickly learned that to dispose of an item, you just had to click it and drag it outside of the menu. Oblivion did not allow this since you could not drag items in the list-based inventory. I believe that you had to hold shift and right click an item? I forget, as it’s been a while.

The point I’m trying to make is that Bethesda needs to re-think their menu design. Morrowind had a good menu, and I feel that Skyrim’s menu should be more similar to that than Oblivion’s. Simplicity is key, but so is user-friendliness. Minimize the amount of clicking and scrolling that the player has to do and everyone will be happy.

2. No More Auto-Leveling NPCs
In Oblivion, everything leveled with you. The only other game I can think of that did this was Final Fantasy 8 on the Playstation, but even that game only leveled it’s creatures a significantly small amount. Oblivion did not do this and decided to match the levels and stats of NPCs with those of the player. This made playing Oblivion a chore, since you never had the feeling of growing stronger. What was the point of even leveling when a mud crab that was challenging at level 1 could still put up a good fight at level 20? There was no feeling of progression, and every item that the player obtained just didn’t matter much. There was no reason to get the best armors and weapons in the game because, inevitably, the monsters would just match them.

Skyrim should return to have static stats for the majority of encounters the player will face. A mud crab should be a good fight at level 1, but by level 3 or 4, the player should honestly be overcoming them with ease. Leveled lists should also go away. The player should be at risk of encountering daedroths right off the bat. If the player wanders into a tough cave or ruin, let them die I say! To create a believable world, there should be lots of variety right at the beginning in terms of what the player can encounter and where.

3. Better Armor/Weapon Model Variety
In Oblivion, there was a significant lack of models for armors and weapons. Aside from a few unique items and such, there were many shared models and textures. Oblivion felt really backwards in comparison to Morrowind, which had quite a staggering amount of models after playing for even two or three hours. Oblivion was different, as it kept a lot of the models hidden away until higher levels. Even when they were all revealed, it wasn’t uncommon to see countless NPCs wearing the same armors, or for player characters to fall into the “same looks” quite often, as various armor sets shared models and such.

Every armor and weapon should have distinct and unique models in Skyrim. Not only does it give each item a personality of their own, but it also enhances immersion. Can anyone honestly say that it is immersive for there to be a suit of plain iron armor that looks the same as a high level suit of armor that is significantly better? No physical markings or textures on the models indicate any difference between the two. This is silly and was acceptable back in the 1990s, but today? I don’t think so. Bethesda needs to step their game up. Skyrim needs to have diverse armors and weapons, much like Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Don’t be lazy or skimpy, Bethesda.


And the following are more minor issues that I don’t feel like writing detailed paragraphs about, but they are more or less just as legit.

Diverse Terrain: When it is up to modders to make your gameworld diverse and interesting, there’s a problem. Morrowind did a good job of having diverse landscapes, but Oblivion was essentially just a gigantic forest. Skyrim needs to have diverse landscapes. I fully expect to find snowy mountains, tundras, ridges, thick forests, serene lakes, and maybe even a few highlands in Skyrim. If I don’t see diversity, I will be disappointed.

Moddability: I don’t expect this to be a problem much, and it’s not a complaint. I really only want to see Bethesda include their typical modding tools which are, quite honestly, among the best in the industry.

Voice Acting: Oblivion had some weird moments. I recall a beggar once talking to me in a frail and weak voice as I walked by, but when I stopped and initiated a conversation, he had a healthy, strong voice. It destroyed immersion. Issues like that need to be avoided, and facial animations need to sync up better with the voices as well. I recall a few times when characters would laugh hysterically, but the on-screen character model wouldn’t even be cracking a smile. It is important to also hire more voice actors this time around. I would really enjoy it if there are several actors for each race, since having just one voice per race is pretty stale and harms immersion.

So those are a few things that I hope to see improved in Skyrim, and hopefully Bethesda will deliver. I’m sure that we’ll get an idea in the next few months.

Return to December 2010 Articles

Fallout 3 (Review)

“Bethesda’s fall from grace is as depressing as this game’s setting.”

I once said that I would never review Fallout 3, but with a lack of games to review at the moment (I need to buy more!) I’ve had to dip into my collection a bit and pick something to review. Fallout 3, a game that I’m not afraid to express my dislike for, stood out over quite a few other games. So now here I am, ready to review a game that an overwhelmingly large portion of gamers like. This is going to be good!

Before its release, I didn’t really pay much attention to Fallout 3. I had played Fallout 2 and couldn’t get into it at all, mostly because the combat system felt far too dated for my tastes. That dislike for Fallout 2, along with the “wasteland” setting that the series is set in, was all that I had to go on with Fallout 3. The fact that Bethesda, the developer of the Elder Scrolls series which I have a love-hate relationship with, was in charge of the new Fallout was enough for me to ignore what I knew about the series from Fallout 2 and focus on this brave new installment in the popular franchise.

A lot of people pegged Fallout 3 as “Oblivion with guns” before it was released, a view that the diehard Fallout fans did not appreciate to hear. I was in the “Oblivion with guns” camp, which is interesting since I wasn’t a huge lover of Oblivion. I still looked past my feelings for Oblivion though, because Fallout was very different overall from the Elder Scrolls, so I assumed that the game would play very differently overall. Boy, was I ever wrong.

When I picked up Fallout 3, I was actually very impressed with the opening sequence for the main menu. The subdued music, coupled with the projector slide-like presentation, had me sold. It gave me a great feeling for this game, as I felt that Fallout 3’s main menu was the coolest I’ve ever seen in a Bethesda game.

Unfortunately, once I got to the character creation process, I was already starting to feel cautious. Everything felt like it was copied and pasted straight from Oblivion. The faces, sliders, and options all reeked of Oblivion. I also realized that like Oblivion, it was extremely challenging to create a decent looking girl or guy. Actually Fallout 3 makes it even harder, since you have to view your character on this ridiculous looking ingame computer screen which lacks everything from proper clarity to adequate contrast. Your character’s face in the computer screen looks much different from how they actually end up, which is simply because the visibility on the screen is so terrible. I’ve never seen anybody make such a crucial mistake with character creation, and it’s pretty shocking that Bethesda messed it up so much after the high quality of their character creation processes in the latest Elder Scrolls games.

I won’t even get into the part where you play as a baby, but I realized very quickly from playing through Vault 101 that Fallout 3 suffered from many of the problems which made me feel lukewarm towards Oblivion.

In Oblivion, facial animations were absolutely terrible and the voice work was cringe-worthy. I remember feeling upset over how poor the lip syncing was, and how the tone of the characters’ voices never matched their expressions. It was a little odd to see a character scream at me angrily while keeping a completely calm, straight face. Fallout 3 did not improve upon any of these and, in some cases, I actually felt that Bethesda took a step backwards and made these issues more prominent. Fallout 3 also copies Oblivions poor body animations and terrible physics, making the game’s characters behave and move like psychotic freaks on very wild trips.

While the game was overall fairly decent looking, at least outside in the Wasteland, a lot of problems with model animations and such really hurt the visual presentation of the game and if you ignore the game world and just focus on the models themselves, the game as a whole looks like a very amateurish experimental game.

The immersion is destroyed even further by the dull music in the game. I’m not sure who composed the tunes for Fallout 3, but it wasn’t even close to the high quality that I typically expect of music from Bethesda. Why didn’t they utilize Jeremy Soule, the composer of the awesome tunes in Morrowind and Oblivion? Those games were immersive from their music alone! Fallout 3’s music is boring, quiet, and lacks the depth needed to connect to me as a player.

The Wasteland, which is the wilderness you traverse through, is pretty decent looking. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same problems that Oblivion’s neverending forest was plagued with. The Wasteland, while cool looking at first, quickly grows fairly boring as a lot of things simply look the same, and like Oblivion, I found myself feeling a lot of deja vu frequently due to a nagging feeling that Bethesda used copying and pasting to an extreme level. The interior areas, such as the Vaults and city buildings, are extraordinarily boring. Maybe that fits the whole post-apocalyptic setting, but then perhaps Bethesda should have made that very setting more visually appealing. Even Oblivion had more interesting looking interiors.

The combat. Oh, how I hated the combat! Fighting baddies in this game was the most boring experience I have ever had to endure. The VATs system, which I hear was supposed to simulate the turn based battle system of the original games, made Fallout 3 an annoying trial of my patience. All VATs did was serve as a way to slow combat down drastically just so that we could get a few glimpses of body parts exploding. Yeah, no thanks.

The menu system in Fallout 3 is beyond horrible. The Pipboy interface, while somewhat cool looking, was just an awful mess. Having to scroll through so many different menus, all which did their damndest to keep themselves from being user friendly, was an absolute chore. There’s far too much clicking, scrolling, and navigating for the menus in Fallout 3 to be at all efficient.

There’s little that I wish to say about the story, other than the “searching for dear old dad” story has been done to death and, in many cases, has been done far better than what Bethesda has managed in Fallout 3. I never felt compelled to do anything in this game. The writing is dull and every character I met had the personality of a mattress. I didn’t want to help any of those people, and I didn’t really care about finding my father, either. Why should I have? Why should anyone have wanted to find him? Bethesda forced us to care about a character that we only knew for a few minutes, and then based the opening portion of the game around finding him. When you do find him, it’s not even any bit overwhelming. I couldn’t have cared less. Bethesda dropped the ball somewhere with the story here, and I couldn’t connect with it at all. Morrowind had a fantastic story and Oblivion, while being a pain in the ass in terms of gameplay, had a good story too. Fallout 3 does not.

I know that many people like Fallout 3, so I can’t say “don’t play this game” nor can I not recommend it. I’m in the minority, and I’ll acknowledge that few others share my opinions. Fallout 3 is a mainstream game with hugely mainstream appeal. If you feel confident that you will like Fallout 3, then give it a go.

Final Score

5.9/10

Games I Won’t Write About

WARNING: You have stumbled upon one of my “rant” pages for a game(s). My rants are intentionally critical and contain foul language. If you are not comfortable with this, then please don’t read the material I have written.


As a regular joe and not some flunky working for a professional gaming website, I can say whatever I please about any game on the market. To get myself warmed up for a few reviews I plan on writing soon, I have decided to end my blog break by writing about the games I have played (or haven’t, in the case of one game below) that I will not review. Surely these games must be something special if I won’t review them? Well, in most cases, the games are actually pretty good overall. So, let me tell you why some games are on the “do not review” list.

BRAVO AIR RACE (PS1)
This one is a “classic” now, as it is a PS1 game. So why am I including it? Well, I’ll review older games from time to time. Bravo Air Race, fortunately, will never be one. I love racing games, but this game was just ridiculous. Aside from having barely any courses at all in the game, it was designed terribly. Why in the hell the developers thought it would be cool to include a countdown timer in the game is beyond me. Yes, Bravo Air Race is just like the old arcade racers that have those countdown timers that, when they reach zero, you lose automatically. Get that shit out of racing games, it doesn’t belong at all. You’re not supposed to be racing against the clock, you’re supposed to be racing against other competitors! I also found myself crashing or something almost all the time in the game, because it felt like everything wanted to kill me.
Estimated score if reviewed: Between 1 and 3 out of 10.

DEMON’S SOULS (PS3)
Originally, I was pumped for this game. After I watched YouTube videos of the game in action, my hopes quickly vanished and I found myself not really wanting to play the game anymore. Sure the game looked challenging, but it lacked an immersive atmosphere, the graphics were generic, and the absence of music made it all seem very dull. A few months later, a friend brought it over and played through the tutorial stage as well the following two levels. Did I come around? No, not at all. Seeing the game in motion on my television only made me feel even less interested in the game. Overall, it just looked boring and completely stupid. Aside from being ridiculously difficult and strategic, nothing about the game looked interesting. The graphics were boring, the sound effects were terribly uninspired, and the menus were just plain awful. My friend offered me the controller at one point, but I didn’t want to play. A few more weeks later and my step-sister’s boyfriend tried to get me to play it. All I had to say was NO. Sorry bud, but I’m not touching Demon’s Souls. Ever. You can tell when a game isn’t for you, and this is one that is not for me.
Estimated score if reviewed: Between 3 and 5 out of 10.

FALLOUT 3 (360, PC, PS3)
I wanted to like this one, I really did. Unfortunately, I feel like Fallout 3 is just a dumbed down Oblivion, just like Oblivion is a dumbed down Morrowind. With each new Bethesda release, I feel like the overall quality of their games declines substantially. They seem to just try to appeal to the casual gamers now, or at least want lots of mainstream attention. It shows in their two latest RPGs, Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Oblivion was fairly boring and lacked immersion, but I was able to play it and at least enjoy it a little. Fallout 3 is a different story, though. I feel that it takes Bethesda’s bad voice acting to it’s lowest point yet, and the NPC animations are just fucking hilarious. The VATs system felt like garbage to me and I couldn’t grow to enjoy it at all. I read that it was to “simulate” the turn based combat of the first two Fallout games. Well why the fuck don’t you guys just make an actual turn based battle system instead of butchering an already shitty first person combat system!? My main gripe with Fallout 3 is that the whole game just felt really boring. There was nothing epic about it. With Morrowind, you had a wonderful orchestrated soundtrack that made stepping out onto Vvardenfell feel absolutely incredible. Oblivion tried to feel a little epic as well with the impressive (though visually sub-par) distant land feature and action-oriented battle system. Fallout throws everything out from Morrowind and Oblivion and forces the player to listen to a soundtrack that hardly evokes any feeling at all from the player as they trudge through a wasteland that, while impressive looking for five minutes or so, quickly becomes the most boring landscape I have ever had the displeasure of adventuring through. The “Wasteland” was even more boring than Oblivion’s huge ass province-sized forest that covered up almost the entire overworld. So, Fallout 3 bored the shit out of me and I hated how clumsy Bethesda’s programming was, too. Sorry.
Estimated score if reviewed: Between 3 and 5 out of 10.

DISSIDIA: FINAL FANTASY (PSP)
It’s bullshit fanservice, and I’m sick of Final Fantasy not dying. The fact that Square-Enix works on TWO numbered games in the main series at a time now is beyond ridiculous. Dissidia just felt like a less gimmicky version of Smash Brothers. I think that Smash Brothers has a slight edge over Dissidia though, since I feel that Smash Brothers actually requires a little skill (!!!) while Dissidia requires none. This is just a mindless button masher that stars Final Fantasy’s most popular characters. The fighting engine is so shallow and stupid that it’s hardly even worth it to check out every character. I tried them all, felt underwhelmed, and then just played the game a bit with Squall since he basically felt like a murder machine. I don’t know what Square-Enix was even trying to do with this game. Is it a fighting game? Er, not quite. Action? No. RPG? Nope. So what the fuck is it? Hell, I don’t know.
Estimated score if reviewed: Between 3 and 6 out of 10.

MINI NINJAS (360, PC, PS3)
What’s not to like? It looks cute, the premise is great, and the gameplay videos are fun to watch. Unfortunately, I found out that there is one thing about this game that I absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is the control layout. I played the game on my computer, and I could not get the game to detect my gamepad at all which forced me to play on the keyboard. To make matters worse, I could not reassign some keys. I always play with the jump key as NUMPAD0, but in Mini Ninjas it was permanently bound to the space bar. Frustrating to say the least. Anyway, I found the controls impossible to adapt to, and I was quite pissed off that I couldn’t use my gamepad. The game itself seemed very well made and I’m upset that I didn’t get to experience more of it. A poor control scheme is a game breaker though, and Mini Ninjas certainly has a poor one.
Estimated score if reviewed: Between 4 and 5 out of 10.

RISEN (PC)
Start game. Complete tutorial. Walk ten feet and get slaughtered by a horde of monsters that are way out of your league. I couldn’t enjoy the combat in this game at all. It felt a lot like The Witcher, only so clumsy that it made me just want to quit repeatedly. I disliked everything about Risen except the graphics. The island you are thrust onto looks really nice and is quite a treat to explore, but overall the game felt like trash to me and I didn’t enjoy it. It’s been a while since I last played, so it is hard to be specific. All I can say is that I didn’t like the game and I felt that the placement of monsters was far beyond questionable.
Estimated score if reviewed: Between 2 and 5 out of 10.

SACRED 2 (360, PC, PS3)
I will never review this game simply because I can’t get the damn thing to work on anything I run it on! Nothing ever loads properly and the game can’t even be played. Start up a new game and be treated to a grassy field that is stuck on my screen forever! Cool! Nothing renders at all except the ground. The game was also tested on my step-sister’s machine and, surprise, it didn’t work. It is kind of hard to review a game when the fucking thing doesn’t even work in the first place.
Estimated score if reviewed: 0 out of 10 for not even working. Yes, that makes it worse than Big Rigs.

THE LAST REMNANT (360, PC)
I played about an hour and a half of this game before I just gave up. As a Square-Enix game, I expected a lot more out of it. The Last Remnant was bad on so many levels. The voice acting wasn’t even Sesame Street quality, the battle system was barely functional and seemed absolutely random most of the time, and the dungeons were the blandest locations I have witnessed in a current generation game. Most dungeons were, literally, nothing more than barren square rooms connected together with the odd monster or two inside. I tried to accept all these faults, but when the second boss of the game KO’ed me in two hits that I could not even react against, I decided not to bother with this garbage game. Yes, garbage game. The Last Remnant has a lot of interesting qualities and there is a lot of potential in the game, but Square-Enix wasted every single ounce of it. Not even one aspect of the game was put to good use. Everything felt half-assed, as if Square-Enix didn’t really care about putting any effort or time into anything in the game. A complete and utter failure of a game.
Estimated score if reviewed: Between 1 and 2 out of 10.

TORCHLIGHT (PC)
I am getting a sense of deja vu. Did I already write about this game before? I could swear that I did. Hmm…
Estimated score if reviewed: Pretty sure I’ve written about Diab… Er… Torchlight before .

WORLD OF WARCRAFT (PC)
Unlike everything else in this post, I like WoW. I still play it, but mostly as a sort of social networking service of sorts. I still play the actual game itself, but I also like keeping in touch with the cool people I’ve met on WoW. Hyjal, Moon Guard, and Shadowmoon are all some pretty awesome realms. If anyone remembers Rasche the Night Elf hunter from Hyjal and then Moon Guard, then that was me. I made friends on both realms, and I had good times. I still play, and I’m trying to gear a healer at the moment while chatting with some pretty good folks. People talk shit about WoW quite often, and let them. Who cares? It’s a fun game as long as you don’t become dangerously addicted, but that applies to all games. World of Warcraft isn’t the evil poison people make it out to be. There are just so many people playing it, so you’re bound to hear the bad stories about neglectful parents and such more often than you would with other massively played games such as Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2. Overall, when you balance out the populations, WoW’s players really aren’t any worse. Truthfully, some of the friendliest people I have met online have been on WoW. Are they lonely and depressed nerds who are excited to have someone to talk to? Maybe. Even if they are, at least they’re friendly. I can’t say the same for the assholes I’ve met in APB and other MMOs. Anyway, there is one simple reason why I will never review the core World of Warcraft game, and that’s because it is always changing thanks in part to Blizzard’s thorough patches. The game is continually being refined, so it’s difficult to really say much about it.
Estimated score if reviewed: Between 8 and 10 out of 10.

Return to August 2010 Articles

Fallout: New Vegas Trailer

The first major game of E3 to pump out a trailer is Fallout: New Vegas. Watch and enjoy.

It looks much livelier than Fallout 3, at least. That isn’t saying a lot and I am probably in the minority when I say that Fallout 3 was horribly boring and not very fun at all. Fallout: New Vegas certainly does look better though, and I might give it a chance.

If there’s no Blackjack to be found anywhere in the game, I’m going to be raising some hell.

Return to June 2010 Articles