I had prepared for my first trip to PAX the way I must prepare for everything else: through rigorous research, planning, and incessant pestering of my friends. What kind of water bottle should I bring? Collapsible. Pain killers? More than one kind, just in case someone you’re with is allergic to one. Hand sanitizer? Apply liberally to everything. Even that child? Especially that child. Sneakers? Don’t forget the gel insoles. Zinc and vitamin C? Begin a rigorous course three weeks prior and bring some with you just in case.
Skyrim is an incredible piece of electronic “art” that will no doubt be on the top of everyone’s game of the year list, but Dovahkiin’s quest is far from perfect. On my current play-through of Skyrim I’m nearing a whopping 70 played hours (only at lvl 26 of 80) with many many more adventures in my future. Skyrim is a massive RPG feast that will no doubt stuff even the biggest of gaming gluttons. However, after 70 hours of living in the world of Skyrim I started to daydream about what the game would be like with a more intimate narrative, and dare I say, more of a soul.
Companions: Skyrim boasts dozens of characters that can accompany your avatar on his/her adventures across the icy wastes, and while we get to know some of them fairly well, many companions are nothing but uncontrollable automatons. One of Skyrim’s biggest missteps is the way in which the game handles Dovahkiin’s relationships with others in the world. I totally get it, in a game where almost every NPC can die, Skyrim decidedly forgoes intimate character interaction and relationships for the sake of quantity and simplicity. If Skyrim and Dragon Age were ever forced make sweet coitus, their offspring would change RPGs forever and ever. Imagine if you will, a game as expansive as Skyrim with Bioware’s signature storytelling and sense of humor. “Dragon Rim” would be a dangerous dangerous thing.
Voiced Protagonist: Dear Bethesda, I love your games, really I do, but it’s time to stop taking the voice away from your main protagonist. While I can’t imagine the thousands of hours of V/O work that would be required to bring Dovahkiin to life, I sure do miss hearing what he/she has to say. One of the things I enjoyed the most about Dragon Age 2 was actually HEARING my character interact with the people of the Free Marches. Having a voiced protagonist no doubt increases the validity of character relationships and just makes for a more memorable gaming experience.
Camera and Cinematics: While there is a bit of camera work used in Skyrim, it is noticeably absent from much of the game. Skyrim resorts to a single stationary camera for virtually all of the game’s conversation pieces and never shift’s from Dovahkiin’s perspective. While this non-dynamic camera was the gold-standard of old-school RPGs, we’ve moved past that haven’t we guys? In Dragon Age 2, even simple conversation scenes had a bit flair with mutiple shifting camera positions and angles. Skyrim could greatly benefit from some sort of moving camera to give players a more cinematic experience.
Skyrim is one of the best RPG experiences of this generation and will be played for years and years to come. I can’t stress enough that this article is in no way meant to insult the franchise (been there, done that), but let us hope that Bethesda takes into account some of the things Bioware did to great success, characters and emotion. Long live Dragon Rim!