Category Archives: 9.75

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

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Allow me to first start by saying that if this review were to truly encompass every minute detail that I’ve traipsed by or discovered within Breath of the Wild, it would be much too long for you to ever finish it- much less to even want to read it in the first place. This is a game that pays close attention to detail and despite my fine-tuning of this review over the past few weeks that the game has been out, we are still discovering new gimmicks and tricks and tips as a community right and left. I’m not so sure we won’t still be discovering previously unknown gameplay elements in the coming months after its release.

At first I had resolved not to write a review about such an epic game, however I’ve since of course changed my mind and therefore here we are today. I will undoubtedly be writing more on the game in the coming weeks, as there’s plenty to discuss beyond a simple subjective/objective point and counterpoint argumentative narrative. The game is as near to perfection as any other that I’ve awarded the lauded score that I will be giving this one- in fact it may be the most compete package that I’ve played to date, at least as far as the past five years or so go. I will go ahead and state that the console of choice I’ve played the game on has been the Wii U and not the newly released Nintendo Switch hardware- therefore bear in mind that there can and most definitely will be slight differences between the two experiences at the least in terms of technical proficiency.

If I were to sum this game up in as spoiler-free a way as I possibly could, I would have to remark upon the lavish open world and the role-playing mechanics that have now revolutionized the series for the better. True, I would also have to do my best to impart as much as I could upon readers in regard to the breaking of new ground that is the game’s narrative itself, and yet I would also be bound by convention to avoid spoilers whilst discussing the thoroughly unconventional themes and elements of said narrative. Now that I’ve gotten my hypothetical musings out of the way, let’s actually get down to business.

Breath of the Wild is far from the first Legend of Zelda game to explore the concept of an open world- several others have done it to some extent and yet none so to the depth or with the level of commitment that Breath of the Wild has. My favorite (still at least for now) game in the series- Wind Waker, was one of the most impressive in terms of the size and scope of the world and island-hopping narrative. And yet for all of its amazing design work at the time, Breath of the Wild scoffs and dwarfs it forty times over- all the while still offering players the same sense of exploration and dutiful scavenging for interesting tidbits of narrative and progression of upgrades and collected materials.

It’s not necessarily that Breath of the Wild is a departure from the series in terms of its exploration and open-ended mentality, merely that it is a departure from a lot of the conventional elements we have grown accustomed to over the years. In many ways you could very well compare its very gameplay to that of Fallout and Far Cry 2 in that your very supplies and materials will decay and break down over time, giving rise to a more strategic approach to combat and puzzles rather than utilizing the same master sword and mirror shield over and over again. As with the game design itself, there is an air of openness and detachment even from your very inventory- from armor to weapons to items to mounts. All of this funnels the player into a fulfilling quest of both cultivation and exploration throughout the dozens of hours you’ll invest in the game.

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No longer are you “level-locked” by a lack of special inventory items or particular gadgetry and weapons. Breath of the Wild embraces openness to the extent that you can enter virtually any dungeon and be able to make your way through- assuming you’re skilled enough to take down the hardiest of enemies with only a few hearts of your own to speak for. Nothing is impossible, but it’s definitely improbable in your lowliest of beginning stages that you’ll storm the desolate gates of Hyrule and conquer your darkest foes. The means are there, but you’re much better off exploring the world, leveling your gear, learning your skills, and adding to your inventory as you go- making for a truly deep experience like no other we’ve yet to experience in the Legend of Zelda series or the majority of role-playing games, for that matter.

So open and expansive are the narrative and exploration elements of the game in fact, that you can choose whether to embrace exploration entirely and abandon the main plot line or scour the world for all the key collectibles and story moments in order to first defeat your ultimate nemesis prior to focusing on open-ended exploration and side quests. There are a number of activities to be found in Breath of the Wild- as is critical within any respectable RPG, and for what it’s worth not a single activity feels needless or a waste of time and energy. Typically delving into dungeons or shrines will lead to special rewards and upgraded gear or equipment that will only benefit you in either your continued crusade to take back Hyrule or your quest to roam all the lands open to you.

In all of this opening explication I’ve surely managed to convince you that the world you are able to explore is expansive and impressive, however I cannot do it the justice it deserves without first allowing you to experience it for yourself. It is truly large and not only that but filled with lore, activities, and sheer worthwhile exploration and adventure- as any epic tale should contain. I’ve previously compared Breath of the Wild to The Witche 3: Wild Hunt and once you play the game for yourself you will probably be able to see why that is such a compelling comparison to make. While it is easy to view this world as a composite slate, you must also account for the fact that the sum of its individual parts add to the totality of the experience and truly make it a fascinating and exhilarating journey.

There is less of a sense of true direction than in previous Zelda tales, and yet the game does not lack for purpose or quality exploration and exposition. Everything is there for you to find however it won’t always be pointed out to you immediately- something that can also apply in terms of gameplay dynamics and overall mechanics. It only takes one glance at YouTube to see that players are still discovering new ways to explore certain areas or complete specific puzzles or tackle difficult bosses. It’s truly amazing the lengths to which Nintendo has gone to open up the world creatively and even add such an element of constant replayability to such simple things as locomotion and combat. Seriously- you can power rafts with magnetism, you can ride grizzly bears, you can launch felled trees into the sky, and you can sneak your way onto a Hinox and pickpocket treasures whilst it sleeps. The possibilities seem endless and will more than likely stay that way for a good long time.

While the opportunities and options available to you from the onset are nearly endless, that’s not to say you won’t quickly discover Link’s own limits which must be pushed past as you continue playing the game. Look no further than the stamina bar- which is about as competent in execution (climbing, defense, sprinting, attacks, etc) as the Cleveland Browns have been in securing a wining season within the past decade. Needless to say, all great adventurers must start somewhere and the few limiting factors that force you to think small-scale before you can truly venture out into the wide world and take the fight to your foes in your massive and ambitious quest only serve to improve the overall quality of the adventure itself. There is a level of exploration in Breath of the Wild that I’ve not seen in any game to date- meaning everything that is tangible is yours to collect, climb, scatter, or demolish, and this extends from simple locomotion through every other mechanical system inherently found in gameplay.

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The level of attention to detail both on the grand scale and in the little details- lore, dialogue, weather cycles, and character memory itself, is truly ambitious and respectable. If you ever for a second think you’ve “broken the game” or otherwise discovered something that couldn’t possibly happen, you should probably consider the fact that this title has such quality that nearly everything has been thought of before you’re even remotely close to discovering its existence for yourself. For such a gigantic game world, it manages to pay attention to things on a minuscule level as well and compartmentalize dungeons and gameplay in hopes of being able to offer more and more of the things we’ve all come to respect over the years. For example, the dungeons themselves may seem smaller in scale, however there are plenty more of them spread across the landscape and each offers an inventive twist upon legacy puzzles and classic gimmicks all the while adding completely new elements as well.

The game world is so large that it wouldn’t be fair to traverse it without the help of fast travel locations. Thankfully Nintendo recognizes this and adds them in the guise of shrines- offering dungeon like puzzle experiences in a compact package that utilizes a few different inventory items and unique gameplay elements, loot and treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and the eventual ability to utilize explored shrines as fast travel waypoints. Each shrine is truly unique in the way it forces you to discover its secrets and unlock its puzzles. While the mechanics in each do get a tad bit repetitive with time (within singular shrines), the replayability factor remains in that some must be returned to upon unlocking or discovering certain items in order to complete them fully.

Breath of the Wild is perhaps both the most expansive and difficult of all Zelda games to date. It is not merely a quest for glory or to liberate your homeland, but rather a tale of exploration and survival against all odds. I found many elements to be strikingly similar to those of Fallout: New Vegas’s hardcore modes requiring players to manage their hunger and thirst alongside health, gear, and other aspects of their mission and person. There is a level of strategy to each combat encounter and even to exploration itself within the world and there isn’t often much explanation past the opening few minutes as to what you should be doing, how you should be doing it, or where you should look to for guidance. For better or worse, Breath of the Wild tosses players out of their comfort zone and forces them to become gritty survivors.

I loved the attention to detail in the environments and their environmental effects upon Link as you traverse them. Take note of scorching hot lava floes and chilly northern climates, as the hottest of areas and the coldest of areas can and will affect you severely if you traipse through them unprepared and unequipped. Breath of the Wild is no walk in the park but it is also created with accessibility in mind enough so that it is no Souls game, merely a hardy experience that forces you to adapt as you go. You will undoubtedly die many times over and yet as you play and learn and find better equipment, you will begin to realize what it takes to succeed and the game will become less and less of a struggle to survive and even more exciting of an adventure to embark upon.

Discovery and exploration extends to every key element of the game- crafting potions and finding food recipes, equipping new weapons, wearing powerful armor, and ultimately figuring out which pieces of your very enemies could come in handy for recipes and schematics. Beyond that, there is of course the obviously imbued exploration leading to the discovery of new areas and characters over time- specifically many throwbacks to names of places and people from previous Zelda experiences and lore. Without ruining the majority of the surprise, you will definitely be able to speculate as to where exactly Breath of the Wild fits into the famously confusing Zelda timeline considering the fact that a ruined version of Ocarina’s Lon Lon Ranch can be found in-game as well.

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Having talked about nearly every other available aspect of the game, I feel it is only fair to touch upon the narrative itself as briefly as I possibly can without ruining it for prospective players. It’s no real secret that your ultimate goal in Breath of the Wild is to topple the legendary evil that is Ganon. The calamity that he has wrought in the world is telling in terms of its physical manifestation and the psychological effects it has wrought on the characters themselves. From the earliest moments of the game it becomes obvious that you must eventually face this evil, yet the time and preparation it takes for you to get there is entirely up to you. There is no three day clock counting down to catastrophe here- merely your own expectations and your own preparations culminating in one epic and final confrontation. Of course, as the game itself is so massive, you’re free to go and explore the rest of the world in the aftermath of the narrative finale.

What truly does amaze me and must be spoken about to some degree is the way in which Nintendo handles Link and Zelda this time around- from their interaction to their tied fates and thoughts and mannerisms. There is a definite vibe that Zelda would be channeling her inner twenty-first century feminine empowerment if she knew of such things, and I love that element to the narrative. There’s no sense in her playing the often helpless role she has in the past and even she is aware of this and sick of the sameness of her destiny- so much so that she goes out of her way to do all she can to assist Link throughout his journey rather than only standing in to assist him in his final struggle against Ganon (I’m looking at you Wind Waker). While the characters are familiar variations on the same theme we’ve always seen, they’re different and mature enough that it never gets old.

For such an impressive and massive exploration of game design and creation, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is truly a testament to Nintendo’s commitment to quality experiences in perhaps what is their greatest series ever. There are a few technical issues at times and yet for the life of me I can think of no other detriments to the overall experience that Breath of the Wild offers- which is truly astounding in such a large game, as the majority of even the most finely tuned experiences such as The Witcher 3 have had their fair share of dramatic bugs and glitches over the years. All things said and done, where you’re a long-time fan of the series or a newcomer altogether, if you have a Wii U or perhaps the Nintendo Switch, I implore you to give this game a whirl as it’s a truly unforgettable and worthwhile experience like none other. It’s way too soon to tell for certain, but compared to even the greatest iterations of the series, Breath of the Wild will be remembered fondly.

Concept: Meld traditional elements of The Legend of Zelda series into a truly open world design that tasks players not only with survival but exploration for the sake of progressing through the experience.

Graphics: It is not the gritty experience that Twilight Princess was in its more realistic art direction and yet Breath of the Wild’s design is flawless and fits perfectly with the tones present throughout the narrative.

Sound: From nature’s call to the subtle yet fitting melodies that ramp up with each new discovery and encounter, the themes are slightly different from past soundtracks in the series and yet they work just as well.

Playability: Forget past issues with motion control and sometimes finicky elements on the Wii and Wii U, as far as I am concerned the mechanics and controls handle better than they ever have before.

Entertainment: Whether you choose to mix story and side elements or pursue one solely over the other, Breath of the Wild is a thrilling and compelling experience and one that you will surely remember for a long time to come.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 9.75

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Level Review: Treasure Seeker (Papaya)

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August 6, 2014. What exactly does this date mean? Well, unless it also happens to be your birthday (in which case congratulations) it is the exact date that I posted my review of a very similar level to the one I am currently supposed to be reviewing. Treasure Hunter, the first of (so far) two ingenious and gorgeously crafted levels by the idolized Papsmaster itself (Papaya). In case you don’t understand half of what is going on here, that’s alright, feel free to read my other reviews and musings on gaming and games and media in general. This review and critique will get to the appropriate audience by some means.

Although I’ve regained a position on the Atmosphir ‘Editorial Staff’ for yet another stint and although I of course review special levels for that, this review is a little bit more personal and a little bit different. I’ll admit, I’ve been quite busy of late and it’s been far too long coming, but it is my pleasure and honor to cajole such a beautiful work of art into speaking words for itself and causing this review to serve its purpose- speaking volumes of the talented mind behind it and providing some unique and fresh criticism for the next chapter in kind. If you would like to request your own review then you know by now the appropriate channels to go through. You can find the hub post here. Now, without further delay let’s get down to the meat and potatoes.

A little background information goes a long way, and I aim to provide plenty but not so much that you feel like gouging your own eyeballs out. Treasure Seeker, not to be confused with the aforementioned predecessor Treasure Hunter, is a level featuring a finely crafted storyline, plenty of goodies to procure, a nice level of challenge, and its own unique flavor of sorts. Needless to say, I can spout off without boasting, that Treasure Seeker essentially has it all. It is one of the quintessential Atmosphir levels out there. Hands down. Does that mean that it is perfect? Of course not- but it comes pretty darn close to it, and among the dwindling talent pool we have on the servers nowadays, it may as well be. Grab your stone idols and prepare to worship the almighty Papaya.

Whereas Treasure Hunter allowed you a no-lose scenario right out of the gate, allowing players to teleport to the finish room upon death, having collected or not collected treasures or explored every nook and cranny on the table, Treasure Seeker has a different kind of challenge in store. This time around there is no easy way out. Even if you gather ten thousand points of treasure in one life, there’s no guarantee of success upon one accidental mishap or another. You’ve got to find a handy dandy bomb first if you’d like to make your escape, and I reckon finding the special key while you’re at it would be a good idea. I came into Treasure Seeker wondering how Papaya was going to pull off the new setting and look of the whole thing and let me say, I came away a believer- I was not disappointed in the slightest. The purposeful placement of blocks and props was a selling point in the original and remains one in the sequel.

I wouldn’t say there are really any overarching puzzles besides the constant push to unravel a little bit more of the narrative mystery piece by piece, however each little puzzle or unique challenge, though confined mostly to being on a room by room basis was refreshing and enjoyable. The difficulty doesn’t lie so much in the traps or platforming but in knowing when to go after treasure and when to start formulating a plot to get out. Sometimes enough is enough and you’ve got to weigh whether it’s worth potentially losing one more life to get that extra mask or not. Again, the attention to detail and the unconventional approach to using and reusing gameplay elements and space, props, and treasure collection opportunities is truly commendable. I wholeheartedly believe it took Papaya every moment of the near-month spent working on the level to fine tune this particular experience.

Like the well-thought out achievements of the previous entry, the narrative- from the diary entries to the hastily scrawled hidden notes left by terrified facility operators, perfectly captures the exact feeling and tone Paps intends to set the stage with. I couldn’t have written it better myself, nor would I have wanted to. What was and is here is and was fantastic. Eerie and phantasmal even at times. Hysterical and hilarious at others. Add in a few more earmarks and easter eggs hither and thither and you’ve got a perfectly replayable story with some perfectly replayable gameplay. It’s addicting, simple as that. And that’s just what quality work deserves to be recognized for. You’re about to see my struggle in a moment, but before I get to my pros and cons segment I would like to note the terrible time I’m going to have trying to come up with accurate criticisms of the level. I had virtually none for Treasure Hunter and I have virtually none now.

Pros: Setting, Narrative, Use and Reuse of Areas, Replay Value.

Cons: I don’t know what devilish deal you’ve struck, but this is nigh perfection.

Play Browser Score: 5 Stars, Intermediate Challenge.

Official Rating: 9.75/10.0*

*You just barely surpassed Treasure Hunter, and that’s something any sequel should be proud of when compared to its predecessor. I truly hope this is the Empire Strikes Back of a trilogy, mainly because I’d love to see another level. If it didn’t break my review scale, I would give it a 9.99 because it’s as close to a perfect score as I’ll likely ever give until the next Treasure Seeker…

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim- Legendary Edition Review

[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.

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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.

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Dawnguard

(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.”

♦♦♦

Hearthfire

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

 

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

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