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The Dragon’s in the Details: 5 Little Reasons to Love Skyrim

December 1, 2011

So I was originally going to write a review of Michael Swanwick’s Dragons of Babel for your post-turkey-weekend reading pleasure. But then a little thing called Skyrim happened:

So yeah. No Swanwick for you.

Instead of giving the game a thorough, gameplay-story-graphics-and-the-kitchen-sink review, I thought I’d share a few of the minor but crucial details that put the latest Elder Scrolls title head and shoulders above most of its RPG brethren. (A bit of structure is also good for keeping me from mashing out SKYRIMISAWESOMEGUYZZdfkdfasdndkcm;k!!!one and running back to my gaming computer.)

1. Stuff is heavy!

Skyrim assigns slots in your character’s inventory by weight, unlike the vast majority of RPGs, which count each item or stack of identical items as 1 slot. And you know what? The gang at Bethesda is right! That cast-iron pot should be tougher to carry than that loaf of bread! Dorf.

Skyrim: 1, World of Warcraft: 0

2. When you take something from someone else’s house, it’s called stealing.

When you walk up to an item, chest, cabinet, or basket in an NPC’s Skyrim residence, the game marks it with a glaring red tooltip: “Steal.” So yeah, you can take it. But you’re definitely stealing it, and if you get caught, petty crimes will accumulate a bounty on your head in each city. For a completist explorer of a gamer like myself, this is actually great. Now I don’t have to ransack every corner of every house for loot–because I only steal from people who try to kill me.

Skyrim: 1, Legend of Zelda: 0

3. You can’t sell just anything to just anyone.

Per RPG usual, most merchants will buy your extra loot from you. But Skyrim is clever about this, too: merchants will only buy the type of items they would sell in their stores. You can’t sell a set of steel armor to a fruit vendor, and you can’t sell a silver candlestick to the resident alchemist. Merchants also have a limited amount of gold on hand to buy the fruits of your dungeon-crawling. And see, here I was thinking all RPG merchants had secret merchant conventions where they traded each other for their favorite items!

Skyrim: 1, Final Fantasy: 0

4. People react when you get in their space.

We’ve come a long way from the old games that forgot how physics worked and let you run straight through people, haven’t we? In Skyrim, if you get too close to your NPC adventuring partner, he or she will let you know about it. Similarly, guards and townsfolk will address you if you walk past; they’ll even comment if you’re running through town with your weapons drawn or with a lingering status ailment. Of course, everyone still has stringy computer-animated hair and the same dozen generic outfits, but it’s little touches like this that add up to create a truly immersive game world.

Skyrim: 1, Dragon Age: 0

5. When people tell you where something is, you write it down.

When you look at a map, someone gives you directions, or you read a geography text in the game world, the map in your player menu automatically updates. You still have to travel to each place the hard way the first time, before you can zip around the continent via “quick travel” from the map menu. But at least when you find out that you should stay away from the mountain pass to the southwest, the game acknowledges that you now know where that is.

And the winner is Skyrim!

All told, it’s the little things that count a lot over the course of an 80-hour game. So the moral of this story is that you should go play Skyrim right now–and I’m going to follow my own advice.

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6 Comments leave one →
    • December 2, 2011 1:35 PM

      Aww what a cute mangy mutt.

      • December 2, 2011 2:12 PM

        I like when he dumps ALLLL of his food on the dog, and the leg of goat sits on his head. PRICELESS.

        Wish I could actually play Skyrim. *le sigh*

    • December 2, 2011 2:37 PM

      HAHAHAHAomg I could watch this guy play skyrim all day. He’s hilarious. I could see you doing something like this, Mary.

      • December 2, 2011 2:38 PM

        Right? Mary would totally be one of those players who runs around collecting food and making friends with small animals instead of adventuring :P

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