Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Some games, the review just comes out. Sometimes to the extent that I must stop playing the game simply to write the review as it won't wait any longer. Sometimes you just get this perfect mix of experience and critical thoughts that make writing a review the easiest thing ever.
Skyrim was no such game.
My review is up now for Pixel Hunt. I'm really happy with everything I said, but there is so much more I didn't say. I probably could have kept writing for another three thousand words or so if I wanted to and had the energy to. But writing a review of a game that a) so many people have already played, and b) where everyone is going to have such a unique experience, is pretty dang hard, it seems.
I focus on two main things: how utterly awesome the world is, and how utterly horrid the UI is. You might think the amount of words I devote to the UI is unfair but it really is bad and it really, really bugs me in a way it wouldn't in a lesser game. It in no way makes the game any less worth playing, but it certainly hurts the experience regardless.
Two things I didn't mention in my review that I would've liked were combat and music. For combat, I wanted to say something along the lines of "If you are playing an Elder Scrolls game for the combat, you are doing it wrong." But I think I have told enough people they are wrong for one week! The combat is good enough for your character to engage with. Sure, throw a few companions and enemies in the mix and it can begin to look like an Under-6s soccer match, but for the most part, it works good enough. You don't have the control of Dark Souls, sure, but that isn't the point of the game. Really, I would've been happy if they had removed the different kind of attacks all together and just had one attack for each weapon, a la Morrowind with the "use best attack" option on.
The weird slow-mo executions are... weird and, for the most part, jarring. The problem with these is that you can't really have a set of executions for all characters when every single character is going to have its own imagined morals and personality. I can hardly imagine Qwae decapitating people, but she needs to for the bonus damage that perk gives her. Sometimes it works. Sneaking up behind someone and slitting their throat is enormously fulfilling, but picking up a cave bear on two daggers just feels like some weird, VATS-induced hallucination.
The music is something I realised I forgot to mention the moment my review went live. My thoughts on it have been sitting on a piece of paper beside my computer for weeks! Argh! Anyway, these are my thoughts on the music that should have been in the review: I remember reading a review of Morrowind years ago that lauded the game but hated the boring, looping soundtrack. The review recommended that you rip your Lord of the Rings soundtrack to your xbox, and play it instead of Morrowind's soundtrack. I can't help but think Skyrim's developers read that review and did exactly that. The way the music shifts from ambient skipping-through-the-woods to harrowing choir there-is-a-dragon-right-above-you is amazing. It is so subtle then so present, and the way it interacts with the dragon language and your shouts is really quite phenomenal.
And finally, some further thoughts I have for something I want to write in the coming weeks. I've been thinking about Skyrim and coming of age. At the start of the game, when you create your character and start thinking about what skills you will focus in, you aren't really choosing who your character will be, but who they will become. For hours, you are limited by whatever armour/weapons/magic you can scrounge. You want to be sneaky, perhaps, but you suck at sneaking. So you keep sneaking-and-failing then fight until you sneak-and-fail a little less. And a little less. Soon enough, you are walking up to a Bandit Chief and stabbing him in the back with a dagger before he even realises his entire posse is dead. So it's this weird thing where for the first part of the game you don't really get to be the character you want, but eventually you get to become them.
And that is something I plan to write more on. In the meantime, perhaps you want to go read my review.