Posted on December 1, 2013 by richardgoulter
Tags: , , , , ,

So, I just spent until 2am playing Skyrim; y’know like how when an hour has passed between when you looked at the clock?
So I gotta consider “why”.
’cause Skyrim gives me doubts as to whether I enjoy playing it or not.

I’m not a fantasy-genre kindof guy.
And in general Skyrim just seems a bit .. finicky .. for what I’d prefer in a game; I don’t appreciate that there are 1,000 different ways to fine tune any particular task.
Chop wood? What for? – I’d have to look that up on the Wiki. (And looking it up on the Wiki; half the time you’ll inform yourself over something which wasn’t so obvious, the other half you’ll spoil the game. >.<).
(I was trying to fight level-20 type enemies as a level-8 character. Didn’t know they were obviously beyond my ability .. until I read the wiki).
“finicky” because it needs a wiki; Far Cry 3 was an excellent game. You can get through all the crafting and exploration without use of a wiki. Its crafting is simple; but that’s okay, because it’s a shooting game, not a crafting game. In Skyrim, I don’t think one can avoid being a fighter..

My point is, there are things about Skyrim I certainly don’t enjoy.
But I still felt a compulsion to keep playing; just as I did with Saints Row the Third. (Stopped playing ‘cause Skyrim clonked out when my internet did..).
So, there must be something in the design of these games which keeps them as ’compelling’ as they are.

Saints Row was fantastic for its ‘conquest’ of the open world; as I progressed, the more I was able to purchase more properties/stores in the world; the more of the world I owned, the more money I was getting..
Skyrim, from what I’ve seen, doesn’t have the direct equivalent; even though you can go to the towns and become total-badass for that town, (buy a house and all), it’s still not “yours”.
There are forts to clear out; but these get occupied after they’ve been cleared, and not by “your” guys. But all the same, either this, or the notion that you’re completing “quests” in an area still does seem to satisfy this same urge.

Skyrim isn’t distinguished for it’s world-conquest, though. Skyrim is an RPG-game.
I like games with RPG-elements. I tend to think the concept is neat, and more games should have it.
Far Cry 3 is a prime example; while your character isn’t quite as super as the pure action-shooter counterparts may be, the mechanic of progressing through the game, becoming more powerful in a unique, player-chosen way is fun. (Choosing which ability to upgrade works well as a mechanic; do I want to reload quicker, or would it be more useful if I could run for longer? – This choice makes the player consider what their gameplay experience has been, what situation they’re now in, and what it’s likely to be in future. How engaging..).
Saints Row kindof has this, but to a much smaller extent. (Well, I’m not sure if “upgrades” in general count as RPG-elements? The pure action games don’t tend to have them..).
Skyrim has ‘RPG abilities’ in abundence. – Not in excess, I don’t think, considering it’s much more of an ‘RPG’ game than Far Cry.. but I’m talking only about the skill/upgrade tree.
I can’t say I know Skyrim too well; I’m not going to play it to hack-out the best-I-can-be builds for things. But perhaps the “additional step” Skyrim has which makes it more RPG-ish than games like Saints Row is the classing: Fighter, Thief, or Wizard; and the upgrades are partitioned among these. SR3 didn’t have anything like that. Far Cry 3 kindof has this, in that the skill tree is partitioned among stealth / close-combat / range (or something like that).

The weapons in Skyrim are very RPG-ish in that they’ll have their ‘Strength’ stats, and you can loot weapons and such from enemies, either choosing to use the weapon or sell it to some merchant.
– This, I think, leads to this design which makes Skyrim so compelling to play:
“Bigger swords to fight bigger bad guys; fight bigger bad guys to get bigger swords.”
Skyrim, I think, has this well done. Not only are there the weapons themselves, but also the upgrades/skills (“big sword”)..
In Far Cry 3, a major driver of this cycle was capturing forts, and hunting. (The more you hunt, the more powerful you can be. The more forts you take, the more comfortably you can hunt, the better weapons you get..).
Saints Row, my main drive for this was “more cash to get more cash”; but then getting the infinite health/ammo/etc. type unlocks made the game fun.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown had a similar thing going on; weapons started off as ‘basic’, the rifles/shotguns/sniper-rifles could be upgraded to laser/plasma weapons as the player researched those technologies and captured the resources. – That’s a ‘good’ example since the tiering is very obvious.
The end result of a full-upgrade is you have super-powerful plasma weapons.

Far Cry 3 also has the very obvious end result from these conquests that i) you’ll have fully upgraded bags/such (from hunting), ii) full access to the islands (from capturing forts), iii) good free weapons (from capturing outposts).
Saints Row 3 had the end result of “conquering” the city (which has some benefits); and the invincibility make the game a great playground of fun.

With Skyrim, there’s a satisfaction in taking down enemies which were once difficult very easily.
But it’s also clear that the upgrade tree is finite. And there are some powerful-looking abilities a fair way up the tree.
The ‘tiering’ is less discrete than with XCOM. … Go look at the Wiki, I don’t know.

It’s clear to see that Skyrim executes clever design in it’s game mechanics pretty well; and that features from RPG games like Skyrim can integrate or augment fairly well into more mainstream game designs, like Far Cry 3.

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