Have you ever walked down the street behind some people and thought about what it would be like to start a fight with them? I have. Based on a couple years of martial art training, many years of watching kung fu movies, and a couple decades playing brawler video games, it is easy to come to the conclusion that a street fight is exciting and should be attempted at every opportunity. In the comic we present a much more likely and grim reality. I won’t get into details, but the few instances outside of Middle School in which someone tried to start a fight with me were actually quite terrifying, and not at all heroic or exciting. Video games and movies have lied to us at every corner, and we are still complicit with their deception.
I polished off Super Mario 3D Land early this week, so I have been able to spend the remaining time in Skyrim. There is more to Mario’s adventure, but I feel satisfied enough to come back to the Special Worlds. Meanwhile Uncharted also waits for my attention, and Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed will be sitting on my backlog for some time. Especially since Skyward Sword is out this weekend as well, and will hop straight to the front of the queue. Until then though, I am spending my time enjoying the open world that is Skyrim, and really trying to get a handle on what it is that has entranced so many people.
My basic understanding of the plot so far is that there is some sort of war going on and your character can kill and absorb the powers of dragons and then do whatever the hell you want. I did not play much of Oblivion, but I’ve been led to understand that you spent the game trying to close a bunch of gates to Oblivion through which demonic hordes flowed. It’s simple, if not exactly elegant. In the first half hour of Uncharted, major plots and subplots are revealed and subsequently twisted, a multifaceted villain is introduced, and comedy and word-play abound. Skyrim has a number of little subplots, but they definitely have a different tone and style, and your involvement is much more intricate and personal. That being said, few people whom I have talked to even intended to finish the main quest in Skyrim. I think the fact that you get to kill a bunch of dragons is the only thing that keeps some people on task.
The side quests are in abundance. Some are very cool. Some are very generic. I’d say it’s somewhere in the half and half area so far. I had one quest to retrieve an artifact from an ancient ruin that would have done Nathan Drake proud. But I have also completed three separate quests to kill generic bandit leader at some fort or camp. The locales were pretty sweet, but fighting bandits is dull work. Bandits on a keep bridging two sides of a river before the edge of a waterfall are not much different than bandits in some dusty hole in the wilderness. I start to think that the life of a sell sword may not be the one for me. Therein lies the true beauty of the game though. I don’t have to be a sell sword.
While in Uncharted I will always be roguish treasure hunter with a heart of gold, Skyrim’s open world allows me to be whomever I want. First thing after finishing the introduction, I ran into a bard on the road. I payed him for a song, hoping to hear something cool. He sang some terrible tune about who cares what, so I left. As I continued and found the song stuck in my head, I returned to the bard and killed him. During the fight we were ambushed by bandits. It is these kinds of circumstantial events that give the world of Skyrim such life and vibrant feel, beyond the beautiful graphics and amazing physics engine. The world continues to move around me as I choose how I want to interact with it.
In this case I have chosen to be a a slightly unsavory type. If you consider murdering a soulless bard and breaking and entering only slightly unsavory as I do anyway. It is immensely satisfying to sneak around a bandit hideout and shoot dead enemies who never have a chance to see me. Or to sneak into a giant’s camp, pick the lock on their chest, and steal all of their gold and stuff. You could play a warrior and rush in with sword in hand and try to kill everyone in direct combat. Or you could be a mage and master arcane magicks of a number of different schools. You could combine these and many other abilities, and probably will. You could be a hero, slay dragons, and follow a righteous path. Or you could be a serial killer and gather a huge bounty murdering only people whose names start with the letter “M”. It’s however you want to play.