Hey folks, short blurb here. I should be back to posting again shortly, once work simmers down. Hope you don’t miss me too much in the absence of any concentrated content coming out of the site. Thanks for understanding.
Hey folks, short blurb here. I should be back to posting again shortly, once work simmers down. Hope you don’t miss me too much in the absence of any concentrated content coming out of the site. Thanks for understanding.
[As Read on GIO.]
I was pleasantly surprised when Nintendo announced their intention to return to the setting of the classic Zelda game A Link to the Past, as was virtually everyone else I am almost certain. I was expecting mostly a slightly updated, yet entirely nostalgic port of the game to current handhelds (3DS, DS, etc.) yet it was different from the previous update the game was given in the form of its other Game Boy port several years ago. A Link Between Worlds may take place in the same Hyrule setting as A Link to the Past, and it may share several similarities with its cousin, yet it is a remarkably different game. I wouldn’t call this simply a graphical or ported update, simply because it does too much more than that, and for the most part keeps A Link to the Past’s experience alive in my mind, while blazing a new path as well. A Link Between Worlds ditches the flashiness of Spirit Tracks and even Phantom Hourglass in hopes of recapturing and rekindling the spirit of the older SNES games, and that is does- quite perfectly, while retaining its freshness of a new adventure at the same time.
I wasn’t quite expecting this to be the game which shook the formulaic foundations of the series, and yet here I stand marveling at some of the changes that it has made to an already established and sturdy formula. The first, and somewhat simplest gameplay change that comes to mind is the fact that you no longer have to seek out and find every single item in order to use it and progress through certain dungeons- thanks to Ravio’s trading shop system, you can now ‘rent’ items and complete dungeons in pretty much whatever order you want for the most part. If this doesn’t scream accessibility, then I don’t know what more you expect. A Link Between Worlds is undoubtedly one of the most open and accessible handheld titles out there, and one of the more open Zelda games as well. Even better, and still related to items, no longer must you buy or discover plethoras of arrows or mana points to power your items- instead, everything that requires ‘ammo’ or magic operates on a meter that replenishes itself over time. This is the simplest, most ingenious idea I’ve encountered as of yet in a Zelda game- since the ocarina and Wind Waker basically, and I love it. Sure, there are still limits to how many times you can use things before they need to cool down and replenish their stored energy, but that is so much better than searching in vain for one more bomb to pass a certain trial- only to have to exit to the store and come back to find the entire dungeon has “respawned” in your absence. A Link Between Worlds is the most open, accessible, and priority-quest driven Zelda game to date.
Renting items is probably the biggest formulaic change to the game series’ values, but that isn’t the only one present in A Link Between Worlds. I will talk about some of the other gameplay changes and updated elements later. When you die, your rented items are returned to Ravio’s shop, which means you have to repurchase them in order to utilize them yet again. However, this is far from the inconvenience you might think it would be. Items are rented relatively cheaply, although you can also buy them permanently- for a heftier price of course. That is one of my few complaints with the game, and one that I’ve noted several of my friends mentioning as well. Actually purchasing an item permanently costs an exorbitant amount of money- roughly one thousand rupees in some cases, which is pretty much the limit to what you can carry at any one time, and thoroughly cleans your wallet out like a Black Friday specials sale. However, that is a small inconvenience only, and as is a natural and reoccurring factor in life, it is sometimes better to pay more so that it saves you money in the long run. In fact, I’m almost positive that A Link Between Worlds is part Zelda game and part economic challenge.
What is pretty amazing is, despite the fact that most items are available to you at an early stage in the game, it still requires a lot of hard work, time, and thinking to find special heart piece containers and other rare items and collectibles scattered across Hyrule and the realm. Another dramatic change to the classic formula shows up (literally) in the form of the fact that you no longer have to worry about collecting or analyzing maps tediously, as the new dungeon layout shows up as soon as you enter a shadowy arena. Thankfully, this does not detract from the classic experience in the least- unless of course you are one of the people who simply loved reading and collecting hundreds of map fragments and critically analyzing them for secret areas. I thought not. Dungeons are filled with some of the most devious and complex traps to date, made better by the fact that they alternate between two and three dimensions- hints the title of the game, and that they offer as good or a better challenge than some of Link’s fully three dimensional console experiences. Seriously, the new and remodeled old dungeons alike are no pushover, even in the beginning stages.
In order to turn back to two dimensional viewpoints, Link learns an ability that allows him to turn into a drawing of himself and sidle along walls, around corners, and over previously uncrossable pits. If at first a puzzle seems all but impossible to solve, it’s probably a good bet that you have to mix three dimensional and two dimensional abilities in order to solve it. This definitely branches out from previous entries, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities- story wise and puzzle wise respectively. This new ability also isn’t limited to specific areas or dungeons alone, as the special items of past Zelda games have been. Now when you learn the ability, you will find yourself using it for the entire duration of your quest around Hyrule, and using it everywhere from open fields to the deepest catacombs. That certainly makes it far more than a simple gimmick or gameplay device, as it easily becomes an important, integral part of your abilities and items inventory, and the single most go-to option throughout the entire game.
The dungeon design is some of the best in recent history- and that includes the new and old dungeons, those making it from A Link to the Past, and those that are never before seen until now. The boss battles feel fresh and are more experimentation minded in that you no longer have to rely solely on that dungeon’s special item in order to defeat bosses, due to Ravio’s rent-an-item shop, and really makes for tons of replay value in that respect as well. There are so many different ways to approach each boss battle and dungeon now, meaning that inevitably, though you may be forced to use a specific item in some sections, you are free to do things your own way in most cases. Some of the best boss encounters were surprisingly not the makeovers of ALttP’s bosses- though those were great as well, but actually some of the newer bosses and also the final battle. The fact that you can find a way to use almost every item and even your newfound two dimensional abilities in boss encounters is just mind blowing in most cases.
As I may or may not have mentioned or even hinted at before, it is also really nice that- as with your free range of selection for items to carry, you are also allowed to visit any dungeon in any particular order you wish. Whether you start with the most memorable from your experiences with ALttP, or you want to try your hand at what used to be the hardest- it’s completely up to you! Even better, you an always rest easy knowing that you can progress despite being stuck in one particular dungeon, as you can always die and visit a completely new one instead of having to continue in the other one before you can advance. This not only makes the game much more appealing to varying levels of players with different skills, but also more fun and open over all- which brings us back full circle to accessibility of course.
There is a firmly stated connection to the past- both the past game, and throughout the story. However, the game is not firmly rooted in the past, and is far from a direct copy or even continuation of the previous game set in its particular Hyrule world. As Pokemon has been accused of several times, particularly in its first few games- the Zelda series has often been told that “each game is the same story, just a different setting” or ‘all the items and enemies are the same.” Obviously, from experience, while some are undoubtedly similar- especially on the handheld devices, we know this to be untrue. Tweaks to the old formula have made this game one of the best, and probably the best handheld Zelda adventure- beating out Spirit Tracks easily, and also edging out Phantom Hourglass and even its spiritual predecessor, A Link to the Past. It is easier to stomach, still maintains the difficulty and challenge though it opens things up more for players, and overall makes things much more enjoyable.
I’ll be the first to admit that the Zelda series is far from perfect, though I am a great advocate of the series- to my friends and to complete strangers alike. There are several things about this game that I was initially skeptical about, and some I am still not completely sold on, however- despite what you may perceive as a “low” score from me, I have few bad things to really say about A Link Between Worlds, and only constructive criticism to give Nintendo for it. The sense of greater freedom and lack of restrictions in terms of items and dungeons and exploration is a welcome and well-overdue change of pace, and visuals and soundtracks are as phenomenal and breathtaking as usual. It is not only a faithful retelling of an old story, but something new to add to the lore as well. Truly, this is a tale of two worlds colliding, and it should rank somewhere towards the top of the classic experiences in the series because of that, and the changes it has borne with ease.
Concept: Improve a classic by evolving the standard formula to include some revolutionary new tweaks, and work better because of it. Far from a simple rehashing of an already known tale.
Graphics: Limited only by the system limits of the handheld device(s) it is on, ALBW has beautiful scenery and a memorable Hyrule.
Sound: Soundtrack pieces both new and old make appearances and all sound classy and classic when mixed together to provide the basis for the game’s musical score.
Playability: The dungeons are well laid out and well crafted, each boss is a perfect fit and the battles aren’t too terribly boring, though maintaining the same level of challenge as before. There is plenty of new content, and this is far from a simple graphical update of the same story we’ve been told several times over. Handles excellently. New ideas work just as well as the old ones they are side by side with.
Entertainment: Boots A Link to the Past out of the number one or two handheld Zelda adventures in my mind, and it has only been out for a short period of time. I’d say that bodes pretty well for it.
Replay Value: High.
Overall Score: 9.0
[As Read on GIO.]
In my mind, the last “true” Ratchet and Clank game was the 2009 or so release of Crack in Time, which was a really well thought out and intriguing story and game as a whole. Sure, there have been numerous release with the series’ trademark name on them, such as All 4 One, and Full Frontal Assault, however- these struck me as side stories more so than a true continuation of the saga. Thankfully, series creator Insomniac goes back to the original formula of blasting through vast alien hordes for this most recent installment in the generation spanning series, and while it is a little weaker than its brothers, it proves that some formulas just can’t be broken- I’m looking at you though Call of Duty, because you’ve way overdone that thought! As lighthearted as it is, and as the series has pretty much always been, Into the Nexus is yet another shining example of an action tale done right, and true to form. Who says it needs to include blood and guts to appeal to a broader audience?
Level and world design, and controls feel and look mostly the same as they have since the series’ inception, with a few minor tweaks and adjustments to be had here and there. Thankfully though, it is far from the same-old same-old, as there are many new gadgets and a broader inventory of alien weaponry to discover as well. If you thought you’d seen some insane weapons already, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised at what Insomniac throws in the mix with this newest title. In fact, one particular weapon is so powerful that it tears a mighty rift in the space between dimensions and unleashes hordes of your own enemies upon those you are currently battling. If that wasn’t enough, you can also combine several weapons and gadgets for truly devastating attacks that simultaneously horrify and cripple your robotic and alien opponents.
Clank makes his presence known in almost as classy a way as he did in his tuxedo-wearing form known as Secret Agent Clank, or whatever his name was…by detaching from Ratchet’s back for his own two dimensional platforming segments that are strikingly similar in concept to Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. Clank can switch gravity so that he latches onto the ceiling, floor, and other objects in order to navigate areas and successfully finish puzzles and dodge traps. These platforming segments are pretty well spread out across the game, and serve as a little reprieve from constant action, though they provide their own type of nail-biting action and require different skills as well. They are also slightly more challenging than the rest of the game’s elements, adding a nice puzzle and difficulty factor to the package.
Some people have complained about Into the Nexus’ length- citing that it is “too short” of a game. However, I think this is not entirely true, though they are of course well within their bounds by formulating their own personal opinions. While it is not nearly as lengthy as some of the other games in the series, Into the Nexus contains its own brand of storytelling and diverse settings and items to be found and explored. For this, I think there is plenty of replay value, and that more than makes up for the roughly twelve hour story or so, which has been called “too short” and “brief” on its own. Combine this with the fact that there is also a little side content in the form of The Arena and its battles, and you’ve gotten yourself a neat little adventure bundle to play around with.
There are four major planets to explore, each with new modes of exploration opened up, and a plethora of collectible items to discover as you progress. New gadgets and weaponry available to you will make weapons gurus and completionists alike salivate profusely, and while half or more of the worlds seem pretty straight forward and linear at times, there are also side missions to be found and perused as well. As I mentioned earlier, there is also the Arena mode, although it is truly on the short side- as a leveled up Ratchet and Clank can easily take on the best that the Arena has to throw at players. The whole experience takes roughly ten to twelve hours, depending upon your play style and the speed or ease with which you best the story- first in the normal mode, then in the more challenging Challenge mode, which unlocks more powerful tools and weapons. The story is witty as ever, even if it doesn’t have many unpredictable twists in it. Thankfully, it is all but assured that Ratchet and Clank will have a great future on the next generation of play Station consoles and handhelds, as the ending all but assures us that there will be sequels upon sequels, and some of the bigger events of the game ensure that the battlefield may be a little different as well.
Into the Nexus doesn’t change the formula up too much, but manages to stay fresh and fun, even without the changes in pace and with a slightly shorter, less challenging experience as a whole. There’s one thing for certain, and that’s that you are definitely going to enjoy your experience, and be impatient until the inevitable next-generation sequel drops sometime in the future as well…
Concept: Use the series’ strong points to craft another adventure, this time returning to the classic formula that made it all possible to begin with. Not the strongest in the series, but far from the worst it has to offer in terms of gameplay and story features. There are plenty of side missions and extras to find as well, increasing replay value across the board.
Graphics: The same graphical designs show up, and they look as great as ever. Some textures may seem a little muddy as the explosions increase, but the level of physical damage shown on screen balances this out and is quite impressive as ever.
Sound: From the humming of your arsenal of weapons and gadgets to the musical soundtrack, the game sounds fun and exciting throughout.
Playability: The controls are unchanged for the most part, largely because they have always been one of the strongest points of the game, and that remains the case in this instance as well. The exploration is fun and interesting, especially in Clank’s segments, and the combat is fast-paced and exciting as usual.
Entertainment: They could’ve maybe done a little bit more with the game in terms of story, but you can’t get much better than the action-heavy and puzzle-solving content that they’ve got to offer you this time around. It’s a well-rounded sequel all in all.
Replay Value: High.
Overall Score: 8.5
[As Read on GIO.]
Killzone Shadow Fall
In Which I Utterly Ruin the Story
Hey there folks. So, I just recently finished up the excellent Killzone Shadow Fall (aka Killzone 4) and wanted to give you some of my thoughts on the story, which is pretty well-crafted. However, as I am shortly going to release a non-spoiling review, I figured I might as well get all the spoilers out of the way by crafting a two-part story spoilers blog a la my Wolf Among Us series of previous blogs. Hopefully, assuming I am able to post this correctly, that works. If you are thinking of playing the game, and haven’t already- or have only recently started it, then I must ask you to shy away from this blog for fear of spoiling the otherwise excellent experience. However, if I am unable to dissuade you from doing so, I suppose you can go ahead and read through this blog then. It will be in mostly the same format as the rest of the spoiler blogs, albeit with maybe a little less attention to intricate detail for the lack of time- as this is only a two part series, and not a fifty part one, which it would certainly be if I micro-analyzed every small fraction of the game’s story. Also, in semi-related news- I should be able to (hopefully) get a special ‘after-edition’ of my Wolf Among Us spoilers and thoughts up here sometime in the next few days. Anyway, without further ado… let’s get things rolling!
1. The year 2370 is where the first moments of the game take place, several years after the conclusion of Killzone 3 ended explosively (literally) on the Helghast’s homeworld of Helghan.
2. A la The Cold War of the late forties to early nineties, The Wall has been constructed in the center, or close thereto, in between two cities on the colonial planet Vekta. New Helghan and Vekta City are polar opposites- one housing the now worldless Helghast and the other home to the people that have been fighting them for years.
3. The main story opens with the forced relocation of Vektans from New Helghan, sending them either in secrecy or body bags across The Wall. Michael Kellan and his younger son, protagonist Lucas Kellan, avoid Helghast forces and meet up with Shadow Marshal Sinclair before being spotted and attacked by other Helghast.
4. The trio makes it to The Wall, but not before Michael has been fatally shot and Sinclair angrily dispatches the remaining Helghast. Sinclair promises to watch over the grieving Lucas in his dead father’s absence, and thus begins the story of what is essentially Killzone 4, and one of the strongest offerings in the series to date.
5. Cue a lengthy cutscene, showcasing Lucas Kellan’s ascension through the Shadow Marshal ranks, eventually coming to rest at present day, where he works for his now-mentor Sinclair. Obviously, the bond between these two is one of the major focuses of Shadow Fall’s story.
6. The present time is now the year 2390, twenty years after the beginning of Shadow Fall’s story, and thirty years or so after the end events of Killzone 3′s story. Like any good Cold War, the tension between the Vektan and Helghast is unsettling and nearly to a melting point. Which is not good, not good at all.
7. Kellan has been captured by Helghast, willingly, in order to continue an ongoing investigation in their territory. He is currently en route to being brought across the wall for a trade with the VSA for one of Helghan’s own operatives.
8. In order to build on the already known conflict from previous games a little bit, and the obvious hate and distrust between the two races that were once the same, Anton Saric- head of New Helghan’s security continually expresses disgust twoards Kellan and his “people”, the Vektans, and the shame it causes the Helghast for having to inhabit the same planet as them. These racist overtones only bare the tip of the iceberg though… There is truly a deep resentment towards the people who semi-inadvertently caused the destruction of Helghan.
9. Much like the American Revolution’s ‘shot heard round the world’, a mysterious sniper shot rings out as a trade is about to be made, and a Helghast soldier drops to the ground. The Helghast operative being traded for Kellan grabs a weapon and points it at the protagonist, trying to secure their own safety at least in the madness.
10. Instead of killing Kellan though, the agent thinks better of it and sprints for the other side of The Wall, allowing Kellan to make it to his own side. Shortly after the hubbub dies down and Kellan is safely on his own side of The Wall, his superiors order him to travel back across to New Helghan in order to cover up another VSA operation over there, removing traces of evidence.
11. On his way, Kellan rescues a VSA squad that has been pinned down after crash landing, and recovers some highly classified and important information as well. During their escape, Kellan concentrates his fire on the symbolic statue of Scholar Visari- one of the important figures in the Helghast’s society.
12. Having perused and utilized the highly sensitive data that Kellan successfully recovered from Helghast territory, Shadow Marshal Sinclair sends Kellan off to the ISA Cassandra, which operates as a black site biological research station. Reports of an infection were received, and the lack of communications signals that the crew is most likely dead or dying.
13. Sinclair also warns Lucas that Helghast encryption was discovered in the warning report, and that head scientist Dr. Hilary Massar may have been trying to defect to Helghan. Kellan’s orders are to find and secure the doctor, and to send the research station spiraling into the sun in order to ensure its destruction and halt the spread of the contamination. No small task, that.
14. Upon his arrival at the station, Kellan observes horrific experimentation upon Helghast test subjects, and finds the Cassandra’s crew and subjects in various states of decomposition seemingly as a result of whatever biological weapon Massar has been developing.
15. He powers up the station’s main reactor and plots a direct course for the nearest sun, just in time to discover security footage of Massar being detained by the Helghast operative Kellan encountered in his exchange on The Wall. This operative’s name is found out to be Echo, and she will become very important as the story progresses.
16. Kellan heads for the labs in order to head off Echo and her detainee. In typical Helghast fashion, Echo is disgusted with the Vektans- Massar specifically, for their ill treatment of her people, and the testing that was going on within the Cassandra’s labs. Echo bests Kellan and escapes the station with Massar as her prisoner.
17. Kellan fights his way through wave upon wave of Helghast that are now showing up to make his rainy day even worse, and just barely manages to escape the station before it successfully completes its trip into the star’s upper atmosphere.
18. Now, we flash to Echo and Massar, who has successfully (it seems) guessed that the Helghast operative is in fact a half-breed, of half Vektan and half Helghast. The doctor then ominously and bluntly says that Echo and all of her “people” are going to die, obviously referring to her biological weapon trained against the Helghast in order to ensure their destruction and the end of the neverending war.
19. Kellan now arrives back in Vekta City, arriving at the VSA Headquarters just in time for a massive explosion to tear through the building, killing soldiers and civilians alike, and knocking the protagonist unconscious as well. As he comes to, Helghast forces begin assaulting the building, and he fights his way through several waves of enemies in order to reactivate the building’s security programs.
20. Kellan then runs into Sinclair, and the two manage to escape the building and the surrounding area, as Sinclair confirms his fears that similar attacks are occurring concurrently across the city. Just as they begin to wonder who exactly is at the head of the attacks, a special broadcast from Black Hand terrorist leader Vladko Tyran takes credit for the attacks.
21. Kellan and Sinclair soon realize that the Black Hand ground forces have taken over several passenger trains and are using them as makeshift missiles at different locations across the city. Kellan dispatches the Helghast on each train, and arrives in the last to find it filled with timed explosives, which he does not have enough remaining time to defuse.
22. Utilizing a specialized mini-gun, he manages to derail the train and detonate the bombs safely away from their intended target(s). Later, Vladko Tyran’s location is acquired, and Kellan leads an all-out assault upon his last known location, rescuing many civilian hostages as he goes.
23. Kellan chases Tyran through his hideout, before hijacking an ISA dropship and flying away, unknowingly carrying Kellan with him as well, because he is hanging on for dear life underneath. This success is short-lived however, as Tyran becomes aware of the Shadow Marshal’s presence and kicks him off high over Vekta City as the man escapes over The Wall into New Helghan.
24. Because of the terrorist attacks, all Helghast citizens residing in Vekta City are deported to New Helghan, and brutally excommunicated from their homes on that side of The Wall. Sinclair once more sends Kellan undercover to the opposing side, this time disguised and blending in with the refugees. Kellan’s goal is to make contact with the undercover informant known as Zeus in order to ascertain Tyran’s current location.
25. The informant tells Kellan that Tyran can be found in the New Helghan slums, and the Shadow Marshal works his way through the Helghan city before being discovered by the Black Hand leader himself.
26. Helghast forces and bloodthirsty civilians alike swarm to Kellan’s location, and the operative is forced to go on the offensive in order to find Tyran before it is too late. When he does arrive on-scene, the terrorist is conversing with Jorhan Stahl, the big bad of the Killzone series- who was believed to have perished at the end of Killzone 3.
27. The old and somewhat decrepit Stahl takes Kellan’s presence into account and then begins the cliched and now stereotypical villain “tells all” tact. He informs the Shadow Marshal that Doctor Massar’s biological weapon has been altered to target only Vektans, and he gloats from there on.
28. Kellan engages Tyran in a mano a mano knife fight, ending with him being unceremoniously tossed out of the man’s dwelling as it self-destructs, presumably killing the terrorist cell leader. As we know from the series, especially after the revelation confirming Stahl’s survival however, we should never assume a bad guy is dead.
29. Critically, but not yet fatally wounded, and also unarmed, Kellan is corned by the Helghast and his mentor, Sinclair comes over the comms to let him know that they ‘won’t leave him there to die.” Meaning, of course, that for now at least, they mean to do just that- leave him there.
30. I’ll wrap up this first part of my major Killzone Shadow Fall story overview with that cliff hanger of sorts, and leave those of you who are reading this that haven’t played the game, or are not currently to this point, to wonder in vain what exactly is going to happen until I next post about this… Sorry, but that’s just how the die is cast today. Adios folks.
[As Read on GIO.]
This comprehensive review is intended to serve as a sort of product ‘buying guide” as well as an actual review for the game and content in question. If you waited all this time, holding off on buying Bethesda’s epic title so that you could pick up the essentially Game of the Year version with all the side content included, then you’re in luck. The Legendary Edition is certainly for you. In this lengthy review, I will first review the main game itself, and then break the side content down into the three major downloadable packs it is split up across- Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn. I will give you essentially four reviews in one, and show you just why I think this comprehensive title is so close to a perfect score in terms of quality and entertainment that it just kills me to only give it that 9.75 out of 10. However, as has been noted for the past two years since its initial release, the title is not without its occasional hiccups, so I’ve been more than fair with my appropriate scoring I believe. I hope you will enjoy this review, especially since I once tried to peddle my wares through my Hearthfire, and Dragonborn reviews that were never actually posted due to technical difficulties. If you were wondering, as stand alone content goes, I gave Dawnguard an 8.25, Hearthfire a 7.0, and Dragonborn an 8.5 out of 10. Without further delay, I will begin my main title overview and review.
I, for one, still hold a dear place in my heart for The Elder Scrolls IV saga of side and main content, so it only makes sense that I would feel the same for its bigger, more ambitious brother as well. Skyrim is truly a modern role-playing game in its very essence and nature. From the now regenerating health to the graphics and massive world, it not only dwarfs Oblivion in nature and story at times, but it sheds the archaic RPG skin for a newer, shinier, and finer winter pelt. Skyrim keeps what works, ditches what little doesn’t, and evolves the formula beyond what my wildest dreams could’ve hoped for prior to its release. Do not be deterred by the fact that Skyrim’s beginning is eerily reminiscent of that of Oblivion’s- what with being a prisoner and escaping and all. Without ruining entirely too much, a large dose of irony tinging on the comical/dramatic mixes in with the beginning, as your character- the Dovahkiin, escapes thanks largely to his biggest enemy of all: the dragon(s). Ironic, no? One second, you’re a political prisoner of sorts, about to meet an unruly end, and the next you’re being chased by a fire-breathing behemoth through snaking, winding passages. Certainly an explosive introductory sequence if there ever was one.
The beginning of such a great game is heavily downplayed by various technical and graphical and narrative issues that mar the first few moments, but don’t let this stop you from heartily enjoying yourself for hundreds of hours to come. Once you take your first few baby steps, things get a lot better and improve tenfold easily. It is this conversion of sorts- this moment where you go from mundane prisoner to escapee, that makes your transition and adventure truly magnificent to marvel and look back upon later on in the game’s waning moments, when you’ve exhausted all content and wish to start anew. After these initial missteps, Skyrim really finds itself, just as you will, once you’ve experienced what it has to offer and “drank the kool aid” so to speak. I would definitely compare your emergence into Skyrim’s snowy peaks and beautiful world to your baptism in Bioshock Infinite, and that of a real baptism- were it to be as invigorating and magnificent in that exact moment as well. It’s just one of those amazing, epic moments in gaming that go beyond compare, truly. In this way, the surrounding environment and its character, allure, and facets, are just as big players in Skyrim’s story as any other characters are- lack of speaking parts aside.
Skyrim’s graphics and landscapes combine to create a mystifying sense that you simultaneously are and aren’t in some far off, fantastic land. Whereas Morrowind’s landscapes were for the most part clearly steeped in fantasy, and the nether realms of Oblivion’s namesake areas were demonic in origin, for the most part, Skyrim looks…well, normal (from a wilderness perspective). This is not a complaint at all, but rather a compliment of the highest order. Skyrim balances its elements of fantasy and realism by crafting a truly immersing and beautiful environment, while filling it with mythical and fantastical creatures ranging from giant ice trolls to dragons and imps. Exploring this realm and the regions it is comprised of adds a sense of true discovery with each newfound location and secrets to be had at each turn. Whether you turn from the main quests to the side content to be had at each turn, or you first follow the main pathway to its completion- there is plenty of exploration and roaming to be done in the land of dragons, and it is completely worthwhile at each and every turn. You will occasionally encounter a glitch or two along the way, and while they may momentarily break your experience in terms of enrichment and realism- you will soon get over it and be on your merry way again, hacking and slashing away or sneaking about. Combined with the environment itself, another great selling point in Skyrim’s world is that it actually feels and looks alive- from the bustling settlements to the rich and varied wildlife to be found out and about.
Speaking of content, it is truly amazing how fast you can rack up an unsightly amount of quests to complete- side or main or otherwise, and how quickly you will become obsessed with trying to whittle them down to fewer in numbers, as each outdoes the last it seems. Try as you might to avoid opening new quests while your backlog is gigantic, you’re bound to accidentally talk to the right character and either progress further along your current quest or start a new one as well. Thankfully, this plethora of content keeps the game more than alive enough for even the most obsessive compulsive gamer who tries his or her hardest to complete the game to one hundred percent. When you truly do attain that lofty goal however, you should rest a little bit on your laurels before starting over again- it’s hard enough to get through once, after all. You can have over one hundred open quests going at one time, and still be discovering new areas of Skyrim, and being given new quests and goals as well. It’s truly astounding that not only the world, but the story is this large in breadth- easily dwarfing that of Oblivion’s, as many quests as it may have had as well. Just the diversity of quests here is astounding as well, as you have your expected fetch quests and combat trials, as well as several that I hadn’t really seen a quest akin to in other role-playing games. Bethesda’s really done well by players in this respect.
Delving into the backstory, side stories, and main story of Skyrim’s expansion of the Elder Scrolls universe is really something, and not something to be taken lightly- as time consumption goes anyway. Without ruining much, although I suspect it has already been more than ruined for those of you who haven’t yet played the game yourself, Skyrim’s main conflict is well thought out, and every book, non-playable character, and side story fleshes out and branches out from it as the story drives on. I was truly impressed by the sheer level of polish with the writing, and the amount of world history as well. Skyrim is much more unique and believable than the previous titles in the series, and definitely a testament of the power of imagination in role-playing games. It might not necessarily be my favorite game out there, or even my favorite or most revered RPG- but it’s certainly high up on that list for a good many reasons. From the new look at the Dark Brotherhood to the Grey Beards, each faction and guild or group of clandestine murderers is truly immersing and interesting to look at and complete quests for, across several playthroughs, or in one where you don’t choose too many over the others. Many story threads will lead you to new and more impressive places, or perhaps to lower and more hidden ones- showcasing the impressively varied dungeon designs of the game. The puzzles, the traps, and the numerous exits make an easily accessible and enjoyable dungeoneering format as well for players to experience without annoying backtracking and escaping- for the most part.
You may go into the game with a specific character skillset or build in mind, but trust me- you don’t really know what you’re going to want until you’ve experience a little bit of this and a little bit of that, from weapons focuses to spells ones. There are benefits to each of the major classes and ways to play the game, but the heavy focus on spells and variety of ‘schools’ for you to focus your abilities on make for a thoroughly impressive and addicting casting design. Whether your blasting lightning out of one palm or flames out of both, it feels empowering, awesome, and is definitely a strategic necessity against many tricky enemies. Your Dovahkiin isn’t just limited to casting spells however- they can learn new spoken shouts and words of power, which act in three parts to bring various explosive effects to rear against your foes. Simply yell, and you could send your enemy flying off of a cliff and to his death- it’s amazing, ridiculous, and totally needed in the next Fallout games as well (if that were possible to implement). Experimentation is strongly encouraged when deciding whether to wield a spell set and a weapon, or two spells in each palm, or some other dreaded combination of the two. Thanks to implemented perks, that have always worked well in the past for the Fallout series, you can experiment with more skill sets than you most likely have in the past- instead of feeling obligated to staying true to whatever class you chose at the beginning of the game. Unlike the often confusing menus of Oblivion and other role-playing games, Skyrim’s simplified and streamlined menus are user-friendly and handle weapon and spell and inventory management perfectly. Sure, it can be time-consuming and a pain sometimes, and you might find yourself short on funds or heavy on inventory with nobody to sell to, but it’s still worlds better than most other titles.
I wouldn’t say that Skyrim’s combat is revolutionary by any means, but it is definitely a well-thought out step above that of previous Elder Scrolls games in more ways than one. It is harder to exploit, making it much more of a challenge, but it is also much more realistic and enjoyable as well. Your shields are much more help and actually save you, unlike other role-playing games where they seem to be more of a hindrance than a help, and you can cast healing spells or attacking curses at the same time as you swing your sword or mace. It is in the small ways that the multitasking and combat required skill helps to make the experience invigorating and worth the exploration for experience. Skyrim also does a good job of balancing enemies with your current level as you progress through the game, slowly getting more difficult to conquer, but never really becoming impossible with the right equipment or tools. As terrifying as they are to behold when on rampage, dragons are relatively easy to strike down once you’ve gotten the hang of things, and the rush when doing so only dwindles when you’ve done it several hundred times later on. Don’t think taking out dragons will be easy forever though, because aptly named elder dragons and larger foes come along later on to rain on your parade, and make combat much more difficult than before- but not unbearable. Also, you can feel free to change the difficulty at any time as well, ranging from easy to insane, with no change in game experience or gains.
Skyrim’s most recognizable drawback and issue is simply its amount of bugs, which rival almost the size of its open world. It’s launch was a lot more glitchy than it currently is, with many patches under its belt now, but it still has more than its fair share of bugs- ranging from minor to slightly more major across consoles and computers. Some of these glitches are more comedic than annoying, which is a relief when thinking back upon some of Oblivion’s worst, most villainous glitches and their malicious effects. For the most part, these issues don’t really detract too much from the title’s allure or accomplishments, as the sales figures to date have shown. As much as you might not believe it, believe me when I say the game can truly be addicting and be the only game you will play for hundreds, nearly a thousand hours, if you really get into it. Sometimes, for several hours you won’t even really accomplish much in terms of quests, and simply roam the world- exploring and enjoying the experience. It’s a magnificent world to explore as well, which only adds to the enjoyment.
(As Written in My Previous Review…)
“Although its already been firmly established for the most part, Dawnguard is pretty much a pack solely created to give players who’ve already exhausted every other venue of Skyrim’s features another chance to play the game, and some new missions and quests to go along with new weapons, armor, forms, etc. Is it really any wonder then why so many people decided to pick up either a copy of Skyrim because they hadn’t and wanted to see what the hype was all about, or Dawnguard for various reasons pertaining solely to Skyrim? No, it’s really not- as even for a DLC, which doesn’t require as fine a polish as the game it was created for, Dawnguard still shows its cards only when it is absolutely necessary- and keeps players enthralled unto the very end, and even past the threshold of death’s cloak and resurrection…
Similar to many RPG games, many of Bethesda’s own games, and a few plotlines within Skyrim itself- Dawnguard focuses mainly on two warring racing for the duration of the quest and its main subcategories. On one side of the battlefield, you have the olden Dawnguard- or the vampire slayers of their time. On the other, you have the undead who’s soulless entities unscupulously feed upon the warriors and weak of the land without any prejudice. Blood is blood, at least that much both sides can agree upon- for different matters. While the Dawnguard are trying to prevent the coming scourge, the vampires however, wish for eternal night- so as to feed whenever they wish, ina world where there is absolutely no escape from your doom.
From each side, you will learn new skills and gain access to both weaponry and talents, such as crossbows, summoning trolls to your side in your defense and to repel intruders, the powers of a vampire lord, or new and different transformations- whether you be a werewolf or a vampire, or some sort of sick hybrid somehow. Multiple plotlines, a few sidequests, and more details bound together only serve to magnify and multiply the outcomes and collateral that come along with your greater responsibilities, or lack thereof. If you are expecting completely different locales however, you’ll be a tad bit disappointed- as most of the gothic areas look about the same later on, and each more macabre than the last.
While the perks and the associated skill trees that come with them are marvelous and innovative yet, and choosing whether to magnify your werewolf side or vampire side if you are one or the other- truthfully, even with all of the abilities provided to you at these levels, it is still a bit disappointing at times. This is mainly because of the same annoying camera angle for transforming makes an appearance here, which is even more annoying now due to the fact that your form changes often to monstrous sizes- making for an even worse time in a fight with tiny enemies in front of you. Third person playing has never been Bethesda’s strong suit in their games such as Skyrim, and it sorely shows here once more. It’s a shame they always want to try to stick it back in however, even though it’s far from game-breaking- it’s still quite a petty annoyance to have to deal with. The mechanics for transformation during battle kind of throw things off as well, as enemies slice away at you as you take seconds to fully transform- and you are unable to do anything but cringe away from them as they do so, until you can easily wreak havoc upon them when you are done. Locomotion gets a bit tedious in these forms as well, as you must constantly switch back and forth in order to proceed into various locations for optimized effects.
Aside from such minor issues however, the addition of new enemies- not simply limited to the vampiric type, new weapons, and new areas of all shapes and size make for a wonderful and mostly enjoyable time. Sure, on a full run-through, you could only eeke out about twelve hours worth of gameplay- but think of the numerous and striking choices facing you, the multiple quest endings, and more that could’ve played out differently. With this one DLC, Bethesda has all but ensured that you will play for at least another thirty hours or so if you enjoyed Dawnguard- mainly because you’ll want to see things from all of the offered perspectives, if nothing else… This is simply another grand quest to add to the smelting pot, and not a terrible one at that.”
This particular part of my comprehensive review will no doubt be the shortest, as it centers on the downloadable content with the least amount of true substance aside from its two major gimmicks and additions: adoption and architectural construction. Hearthfire allows you to purchase land, build your own houses, libraries, greenhouses, and castles upon it, and then to adopt your very own children as well. You can also glean a little bit more information about the world history that is everchanging and going on about you throughout Hearthfire, however, it is of much less consequence than the other downloadable content, and the weakest link in the trio unless you are just desperate for a few more quests and the ability to forge and craft your own place to live, that relatively encompasses all you’ve wanted thus far. Aside from that, and a well-thought out and actually quite good crafting process, Hearthfire is accurately priced on its own, and really doesn’t offer much more in the way of substance.
Dragonborn is undoubtedly the best of the three downloadable content additions to Skyrim’s already massive world, not just because it branches out and leaves for Morrowind’s coastal regions, but because it has the best story and dwarfs that of Dawnguard with its expansive upgrades and skills. New armor, weapons, foes, spells, shouts, skills, and the new world of Solstheim make for a new experience and a truly reinvigorating expansion for an otherwise old and possibly (by this point in) boring game. Round this off by introducing the very first dragonborn, and forcing you to fight him- all the while delving into the Daedric realms of Oblivion-like Apocrypha, and you’ve sure gotten yourself a pretty good deal for your money. Thankfully, all of this is included with the Legendary Edition free of extra charge. Lucky you.
Apocrypha boasts tentacled, slimy, floating creatures and a literally always-moving world to go with its demonic origins and wealth of knowledge to be found. The world reminds me of the movie Labrynth, as it continually pushes and pulls you deeper and deeper, and you begin to question if you are truly lost or just enjoying yourself. Apocrypha looks like something out of a Lovecraftian story, but Morrowind’s island known as Solstheim ranges from giant mushrooms to villages to snowy peaks (later, and back in Skyrim of course as well) in a greater, more diverse landscape. Diving into Apocrypha to battle or contend with Hermaeus Mora is not only eye opening, but quite interesting to behold as well. However, as bad as that Daedric Prince may seem, the real bad guy in the equation is Miraak- first of the dragonborn.
The story itself may lack in some areas, but these two characters alone more than make up for it with their overly shown personalities and vastly different views on the problems you face. Whereas you may be disgusted with the prince of knowledge and power, he is a much more appealing character than the power-hungry, ambitious Miraak. Your final battle with Miraak may seem like a little bit of a letdown at the time, but it is only truly because you’ve leveled up so far to this point that it is hard for him to deal with you- especially with your newfound powers to be used once you set foot in Solstheim. Several new shouts and weapons can be found in Solstheim such as the Dragon Aspect and Bend Will shouts, which allow you to take on the armor/power of a dragon for a day, and to tame dragons and ride them, respectively.
Dragon Aspect can only be used once per day, but it lasts for a long while, and is well worth it- especially since you have an accelerated clock anyway. It takes the form of a dragon-like armor, and increases your melee and shout damage bonuses over time. Playing the earlier moments of Skyrim with this invaluable shout make things a whole lot easier as well, if you choose to do so by completing or attempting Dragonborn partly through the game’s main quest.Bend Will’s tiered layout is also extremely helpful- working sort of like the classic Animal Friend perk from the Fallout series (current generation titles). With the first word, you can call animals to your aid and control them; with the second, you can hold mortal NPCs as your thralls and do much the same; and with the third you can tame and ride dragons. You don’t control the dragons, but you tell them where to pick you up and drop you off, which is cool enough.
Essentially, Bend Will makes you a Jedi Knight, and Dragon Aspect makes you feel like more of a Dragonborn than ever before. While dragon riding is an honorable attempt, it works rarely, and looks terrible in all its glitchy majesty on the screen. Thankfully you don’t have much need to use that part of the shout often. Overall, Dragonborn is pretty impressive as extra content goes, despite some flawed mechanics. The dungeons are even more inventive than those of the main game, the new adversaries are amazing to behold and battle, and the quest line is way too much fun to do- in addition to open exploration.
Well, that’s that then. That’s my ultra-comprehensive review of Skyrim’s Legendary Edition. I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and that the several reviews in one have been incredibly helpful, especially as the holiday season draws ever nearer. Now, I will give you the final, overall rundown of things…
Concept: Pack the best content that Skyrim has to offer in one, slightly down-priced package, rivaled only by the Elder Scrolls Anthology that just recently released for PC gamers to enjoy for the next seventy years.
Graphics: Despite occasional hiccups that often accompany large, expansive games, Skyrim has some of the best graphics out there, and is certainly the best that the Elder Scrolls series has yet to have seen to this day.
Sound: From the background noises such as dragon roars and wind, to the haunting melodies and soundtracks, Skyrim’s far reaches have plenty of music to accompany them, and boast a hearty offering in this category as well.
Playability: The game handles well in almost every scenario, with only a few minor inconveniences, mainly to be had in the Dragonborn downloadable content that is included, thanks to the semi-failed dragon riding gimmick that is present and hardly if ever works as intended or painlessly.
Entertainment: I cannot stress how entertaining this game is to play through again and again. In one playthorugh alone, you can rack up easily over five hundred hours and still not have found every location or completed every single quest. That is what is really impressive to me. If it was possible to get over three hundred hours in Oblivion and not find everything, then it is totally realistic to accumulate one thousand here and not have everything collected or discovered in your world.
Replay Value: High.
Overall Score: 9.75
~Weaving Words in her Web~
i sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world
Writing, Fandom, Wit, and Fandom.
I choose to collect memories instead of things
Thoughts on being a writer, with a little real life sprinkled on top. (All by a chap with a weird surname)
A Journey into the Heart of Insanity
reflections on a passing life
A raw view on life
You need the world, and the world needs good people.
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