Wednesday, 30 November 2011

2500 Cheeses Roll Down a Hill in Skyrim

Have you ever heard of the Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling Festival? For those who haven't, essentially, on the spring bank holiday cheese chasing enthusiasts descend on Coopers Hill, Gloucester. All in the name of watching a wheel of cheese fly down a hill, with a competitor inevitably tumbling a few meters behind it.

It all sounds like awful good fun but for some, Gloucester can be a few too many miles away, even if you do get to hurl yourself off a mountain pursuing dairy products. Thankfully, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim more than lives up to it's 'go anywhere do anything' claims and thanks to Youtube user STuKKie86Skyrim owners can now commemorate the Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling Festival their own way. At home, comfortably sitting in a chair without broken bones and a face full of double gloucester.

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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The boots were troubling his feet again. Walking through the snow-capped peaks and windswept forests of the unforgiving North was starting to take it's toll on the crude boots fashioned hastily from melted down chamber-pots. Thankfully, the accumulated shit of a thousand polar bears was latched to them now, so any stench left over from their past life pressed up against some Helgen lord's arse had long since been masked. He'd been running for a good few miles now, and after a fire breathing death-lizard interrupts your execution it's easy to think you've seen everything. That is, until your first rest-stop in a day and a half is interrupted by a half-naked Argonian chasing his armor down a hillside.

In their tongue he is Mudvakiin, Mudcrab born!
I know the preceding paragraph may seem like an extract from an Elder Scrolls fanboy's manuscript, but it does have some relevance, I promise. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a game to lose yourself in. Stories will be forged to regale to your friends over meat and mead and characters will become almost an extension of yourself, much like my character and his shit covered toilet boots. Anyone whose read this blog before will know my stance on fleshing out the backstory of your characters. In Skyrim though, I found myself getting engaged in my friends characters too, listening with enthusiasm to tales of my friends half-naked Argonian chasing his armor down a hillside.

From a reviewers standpoint, trying to make a professional judgement on every facet of Skyrim seems like a fools errand. With its grandiose nature the experiences of one might differ vastly from the other. For example, I spent a great deal of my first few hours with Skyrim tackling the College of Winterhold quests, but you might have signed up with the thieves guild, perhaps taken a sight-seeing tour of Solitude, or maybe just collected all the cheese you could find to pull an amusing prank on your live-in companion. This is true fantasy epic with the word 'epic' underlined, highlighted and written in 50 foot capitals. The scope is huge and a whole world awaits you.

Awwh, Isn't it pretty?
The world itself is undeniably pretty. One moment you'll be dodging the flames of an encircling dragon and the next you'll be surveying a stunning vista from the peak of a frozen mountain top. Many times I found myself simply taking in the view, watching the giants herd their mammoths or scoping out the best way to raid that bandit fortress. Despite the odd invisible wall or high-gradient slope everywhere you can see you can get to. Some sandboxes may present an illusion of an open-world with invisible barriers that push you through a linear story, but with Skyrim the world is your Mudcrab.

With the latest installment of The Elder Scrolls it seems that Bethesda have taken a few complaints leveled at it's previous iteration (Oblivion) and made a real effort to iron out the creases. One of the main complaints was the leveling system. In Oblivion your surroundings leveled with you, creating a somewhat farcical world where extremely well funded bandits were kitted-out with the best weapons and armor and the city guards, with a whole empire to fund them, are still insistent on using that crappy butter-knife that I was leaving to rust in a blood strewn dungeon seven levels ago.

Now that's astrology I can get behind
This time around however, your character levels on a strictly 'how you like to play' basis. Gone are the days of picking a class and sticking to it, instead, the skills you use frequently are the ones you'll level, resulting in a character fitting perfectly to your own personal play-style. Skyrim also employs a perk system allowing for a greater deal of customisation. Say you like to loose an arrow or two but can't quite hit your target? No matter, a perk that allows you to slow time whilst aiming (a perk I like to call 'Arrow Time') will sort those stray shots right out. Which of these skills you level and which of these perks you choose is completely up to you, but it's almost inevitable that with an hour you'll have a 100 Smithing, armor made from dead dragons is just far too tempting.

If you haven't guessed already I love this game. I've logged countless hours trudging through caves, dungeons and dragon lairs and the inner fanboy in me is screaming to give this game a perfect score, but in all good conciseness I can't, as The Elder Scrolls: V is far from perfect. The game relishes in immersion but all to often a minor bug or oversight will bring you right out of the experience. The voice pool for NPC's is far too low and the renowned Bethesda bugs are out in force and it all smacks a bit of corner-cutting.

Although, these are all just minor flecks of peeling paint on an otherwise pristine masterpiece. A shoe-in for game of the year and one of the best games I (and I'm sure a lot of others) have ever played. In other words a perfect gift for the holiday season, especially if you don't want to see its recipient for a while. But be forewarned, when you do see them again they won't shut up about their half-naked lizard man or their shit covered boots.

Developer: Bethesda

Verdict: 9/10

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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I Used to Rap, Until I Took an Arrow in the Knee

I think it's safe to say I've neglected this blog in recent weeks. I could lie to you and say it's been work/family/other commitments, but in all honesty, I've spent my time patiently sitting in a corner waiting for Skyrim to come out, just so I could write about that instead of all the other bland drivel that came out prior to November 11. To apologise here's a wonderful rap by Dan Bull.

Skyrim review coming soon.

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