Archive for November, 2011

Skyrim – First impressions – Ugly ported interface

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 by Mr.Mouse

After I had to go through 8 mandatory steps before I could start the game on my PC, I finally was allowed to play my purchase. Indeed, I had to do or sit through the following. 1. Wait for 11/11/11, 2. Install from DVD, 3. Download additional content from Steam, 4. Have Steam decrypt all those files, 5. Mandatory install of Visual C binaries, 6. Mandatory install of Direct X, 7. Mandatory install of .NET environment, 8. Mandatory Hardware Check.

Alright, so Bethesda don’t give a shit about PC owners, they force them to wait until 11/11 while console owners already can play, they force them to go through a ridiculous amount of steps to discourage them from ever buying a Bethesda product again. Fine, so much is clear. Do they add to the misery with the game, or is it worth it?

First impressions. Damn ugly, minimalistic, un-inspired console interface. Seriously, when I got into the game, I was stunned by the blantness, by the immediate console feel. It was off-putting. During the game I struggled to get to grips with the UI, as there is no intuitive keyboard selection. Usually, people are used to using TAB to get to a menu from where you can do stuf like inventory etc. Not so in Skyrim. Press ESC. Force the user to use J, I and M to get to inventory, Journal and map. Granted the map looks nice, but again, the controls in the map window are counter-intuitive, clearly designed for console controllers. As is everything in the whole UI. What about trading with merchants? That must be the most boring interface every to have surfaced this planet to carry out that function. Absolutely minimalistic to please the PS3/XBOX360 owner that is not used to interfaces that need more than one click of a button. But PC owners are used to have everything under their control, like cancelling a purchase, or selecting first a lot of items, before commiting to the transaction, carefully weighing the pros and cons against gold available. Nothing like that in Skyrim. Bethesda have done nothing to make this business pleasing to the eye, so while this type of thing is mandatory to progress in most RPGs, the interface seems to stop you from doing any of that. I can’t even see my character in the inventory dialog. And the SkillsĀ  interface? What is THAT?

Okay, so I’ve established the game interface is a crude port of the console interface, again with no respect to the PC owner, a boring tool you will have to use to do the things that need to be done. But wait? Is that really true? During the first half hour I encountered no resistance whatsoever from enemies, and could pick up all kinds of handy weapons. It felt like a hack-n-slash experience not unlike Diablo, and Dungeon Siege. I truly hope the game will get better as I go, and there is some challenge to be had. I understand that console owners have to have it easy, as the controllers are not really a match to the PC gamer’s keyboard+mouse agility, but if that means the PC gamer can race through the game, I quit.

What about the game itself? Well, it looks like a medieval Fallout: New Vegas. Up to the slow-motion when you hit an enemy with the final fatal strike. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using a succesful game engine again, so I will not talk about that too much. It’s just that, having played Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Fall Out 3, Fall Out: New Vegas, the similarities to the last two in the list show. With Oblivion Bethesda moved to please everyone, especially the console owner. And from the looks of it, Skyrim doubles that effort. Not sufficiently yet to have me uninstall the game, I’ll give it more than an hour, as the story seems strong enough, but already now I long for the days of Morrowind.