The outdoor environments in particular are fully gorgeous now, whether it’s daylight or night time in the game world. The increased vegetation is immediately apparent. The improved world textures are a huge detail leap over the old assets. The additional use of tessellation is welcomed.
But it’s the new environmental effects and lighting that really shine.
This week I got distracted taking screens like these.
I finished up the first proper dungeon and made my way through the forest outside its conveniently-placed exit. I found Anise’s shack. She’s this totally normal not-at-all-evil lady who lives “by herself” in the woods and is no trouble at all.
If you go into her basement, you discover that she’s actually a totally evil enchantress, and then she fights you to try and protect her secret. Little environmental storytelling details like this pepper the world of Skyrim, and help it to seem real for players, whether you’re exploring it for the first time or the hundredth.
Some of these details are pretty amusing to me.
I went into the mine that’s outside the town of Riverwood (it’s called Embershard Mine), which is full of bandits for some reason. There’s a lone guard at the front who I quickly dispatched. Most of the guys inside are just kind of hanging around having conversations, and one points out that they should probably have more guards out front.
Of course, they also have this potato inside of a bowl.
I’m not sure why this raw potato is placed perfectly inside this bowl.
But it was good for a laugh.
I know I don’t personally store my potatoes individually in bowls.
This dungeon is great, because it’s an easy way to get the Clairvoyance spell. This spell draws a path in the world to your next quest objective, sort of like the trail of twinkling light/breadcrumbs in Fable 2. Some people might not like this level of help, and that’s fine…but I think this is awesome. If I had been making this game, I probably would have shoved this optional spell a little more obviously down the player’s throat.
You can buy it from the Riverwood trader for a price, but it’s better to pick it up here for free.
The game is designed to be complete-able without it, but I like to have it around. A few of the later quests have some tricky business going on with the world design, and this smooths out those rough edges. Also, having a feature like this allows the world to be more complex and elaborate without the designer needing to worry about the player getting lost.
It’s why I love Fable 2 so much. The world was able to feel more like a real, logical world, and less like a place that was specifically designed for video game encounters. Skyrim doesn’t go quite this far…since they can’t 100 percent know that you’ll have this spell with you. If you played Skyrim and never used Clairvoyance, give it a shot next time. It’ll also increase your Illusion skill every time you use it.
One of the bandits in the mine was carrying this sack of flour. If you eat the whole sack of flour, it’ll restore 1 point of health.
As a battlemage, the bulk of my combat experience is shooting guys with one hand and swording them with the other. This game is more of a shooter than even Fallout 3 was, in some ways. I think it’s the first time Bethesda nailed their combat system, and it feels comparable to other video games even today.
I cleaned out the mine, and made my way back into town to rest and turn in the quests I finished. I took this picture of Hadvar to show off the new depth of field effect.
It’s subtle and it only turns on when it thinks you’re specifically focusing on a foreground object or character. Pretty cool. There’s a slider to adjust the intensity in the options menu.
I don’t know what’s going on with Hadvar’s eyes in this photo. He kept going in and out of the door to the right, and telling me over and over again about how I should join up as an Imperial soldier.
The Special Edition didn’t really get rid of any more bugs than were patched out in the original release…but the jank is part of the charm of Bethesda’s games. I know that excuse is made often, but honestly this jank is such a relatively low percentage of the playtime that I think it’s valid. The beauty is not how much they get wrong; it’s how much they get right.
As I go to sleep, I remember that I contracted Ataxia from a rat in the first dungeon. It’s this stupid disease that makes it harder for me to steal and pick locks for some reason. In order to heal it, I’ll have to run up to a shrine in the upcoming city of Windhelm and click on it.
Ah, video game logic.
Next time it’s Windhelm and the true start of Skyrim…the moment where Dragons are hurled into play once more.
If you thought the BioShock comparisons were already strong with the whole two-handed combat thing, just you wait!
Part Three Coming Monday 7/31!