I picked up Skyrim nice and early yesterday: I went down with my friend Oisin to the 8 o’ clock opening of GameStop in Dun Laoghaire to get it. I spent most of yesterday playing the game and I wanted to share some of my first impressions and reactions to what I saw and did. The game is AWESOME; these are 5 most notable additions so far.
1. Character creation and the levelling system
Probably the first thing you’ll notice about Skyrim is the overhauled character creation system. Gone are the major and minor skills of previous games. All you have to decide at the start of the game is what race you want your character to be, and, as part of that, your specific appearance and name. You don’t have to make any decisions that will limit what sort of character you can play.
The new levelling system is tied into this. You gain experience for raising any of your skills – the higher you raise a skill the more experience you’ll get. On level up you can allocate a bonus to any of your 3 stats: health, magicka and stamina. You also get a perk which you choose from one of the perk trees belonging to each skill. You get a lot of perks (roughly 50 in total I believe) so you can spread yourself around a few skills. It’s a great system for naturally allowing your character to specialize in a particular style of gameplay.
2. The Sneaking Reticule
I play a sneaky character so this change immediately leapt out at me. In Oblivion an eye-shaped reticule was displayed when you went into sneak mode; it was faded when you were hidden and brightened when you were detected. The reticule in Skyrim is much more sophisticated and readable. In Skyrim, there are three stages to the reticule: when you are hidden it is a closed eye, when NPCs are searching for you it is half open, when you are detected it is fully open. I’ve already found this new reticule to be really useful and it makes sneaking even more fun than it had been before.
3. The Guilds Are Back
I spent most of my time yesterday searching out and joining the four big guilds: The Companions, the Mages, the Thieves, and the Dark Brotherhood. The Companions are essentially the fighters’ guild from the last game, but they have an awesome secret that adds a very interesting twist to the formula. They’re probably the first guild you’ll encounter too. The Mages so far seem much more understated than they were in Oblivion but I haven’t done much with them so maybe that will change. The Dark Brotherhood makes a very stylish entrance to the game; I suspect they will once again be my favourite guild! I’m most involved in the Thieves’ guild so far. The really interesting thing about the Thieves is that they start off as a very small faction; your actions will determine whether they grow or not. By doing quests for the thieves I’ve already noticed an increase in crime in one of the cities, and the opening up of a new fence (someone who buys stolen goods) in another. This ability to develop a guild is a really cool feature and it makes the world feel alive.
4. The World is Massive
Title says it all. It’s really really big. Quests are designed to make you explore: you’ll quickly be sent to different cities and regions. There’s a caravan system that lets you travel to each of the major cities; I’ve visited 4 already. They seem to be fairly similar to the towns of Oblivion. I haven’t found an equivalent of the Imperial City yet; I’d say they’re going for smaller but more numerous cities instead.
5. Dragons Are Awesome
My arrival at one of those cities, Windhelm, was rudely interrupted by a dragon attack. Dragons randomly attack anywhere in the open world. This is a really cool feature that makes a usually routine trip potentially very exciting. They soar around, breath fire, eat hapless guards, and (hopefully) die! You get a real sense of being a hero when you take down a dragon. The fights are epic and rewarding.