Just got the game last night from RedBox, and played it for awhile so thought I would jump on and give my impressions of the title. Since it has been anticipated for awhile now especially! So very high hopes for this title.
As everyone knows generally the Elder Scrolls series starts with your character in prison. This has been ongoing since the beginning of the series. You see changes in this game from the very beginning. Your character is not in prison! He is actually in the back of a carriage along with other prisoners. I won't go further then that.
The game actually begins with alot more bang then Oblivion. From the get-go your thrust into a dangerous situation and the world around you is in virtual chaos. Unlike Oblivion, for example, when your just in some tunnels / caves beneath the prison and have to find your way out. You are actually given 2 choices in the beginning as well, so from the very beginning you can start the game along 2 very different paths. The choice though, is not very apparent and I actually ... in a way on accident chose one direction rather then the other.
Graphically this game is on the level of Oblivion, with several enhancements here and there. Water effects are far better, along with character models and weather. Buildings and the environment though, are about the same with a few more texture depth additions here and there. The one thing that does stand out however so far in the first 3-4 hours is that the team took FAR more time with the environmental structure. The game is made far more beautiful simply due to the layout of the land this time around. Majestic mountains running along waterfalls while walking across bridges. The towns are simple havens of refuse out in the middle of nowhere compared to the massive, walled habitations found in Oblivion. Chalk this up due to the much different environment of Skyrim, compared to the providence found in Oblivion.
The biggest, and perhaps most controversial change of this entire game though is the layout of the menu system. No longer do you jump into your inventory and have graphical representations of everything you are doing. Now ... it is mainly a simple text based menu system. Hit O and you bring up 4 choices, Map, Level Up, Magic and Items. Choose one and you bring up yet another text based menu for your items like apparel, weapons, misc, potions, etc. I say the menu system of Oblivion is FAR better, and most others agree. Especially on the PC this menu system is incredibly clunky and difficult to navigate. It is obviously built with the controller in mind, as is the control system in general. The game actually uses WSAD controls for the PC!
Thankfully I got the game on the PS3 though. I tried to play Skyrim with my HD 2000 system but lol, yeah that did not work out. I got 15-20 FPS on Low details with the integrated chip. My brother though is playing with a GTX 260 and the game looks stunningly beautiful. Much better then the PS3 version, which of course being a console game, has alot of aliasing issues. Still very good looking thanks to the attention to detail given to the structure of the environment, but still ... nothing compared to the crisp, clean PC version. I won't get into the 360 version lol. A friend of mine has already called and stated he wished he had a PC.
The first mission I took on was actually quite stunning in its structure, complexity and result. I happened upon an arguing couple inside a store I was selling goods in and asked about the argument. The result took me inside a winding, deep cave that turns into a massive underground labyrinth filled with ancient structures and creatures that rival any found in Oblivion. This took me from Level 1 to Level 4. Which brings me to the other major change of Skyrim ... not for the better either.
The leveling system has been completely changed. Now it rivals something found in Final Fantasy X or XIII. Instead of progressing like in Oblivion and unlocking new talents as you level up in a certain field, in this game you pretty much can choose to enhance anything with a new skill. You level up, select level up in the text menu and then get whisked away into a magic screen filled with ... constellations? There is a constellation for Heavy Armor? Odd. Anyway, choose, for example Heavy Armor and you can spend your 1 skill point received for your level up on the first tier. I believe it is simply " Heavy Armor is now 20% more effective ". And then it branches off from then on into other skills.
To say the least ... it is rather simplified and such a huge change from Oblivion it took me back a bit. I was immediately reminded of the Final Fantasy series where you simply activate new skills in a grid, or in FFXIII a space esque board or whatever. A change, not for the better in my opinion.
So, besides the changes though the game is starting out rather well. I do not like the stutters and graphical glitches I am ALREADY seeing throughout the intro of the game but ... well ... its a PC game at heart so thats what you have to expect. Hopefully tons of patches come through that fix all the nuances of the title. Otherwise it will be a big hit in my opinion for one of the most anticipated titles this year.
I agree the developers made the menu layout with console or controllers in mind, its simplified the oblivion layout I guess. I'm becoming more used to it, and I really love the way the skill tree was setup, being the stars and all. I was expecting though to be able to customize my character a bit more like in oblivion where you chose your strengths. Did I miss something there? Was I able to choose assassin specialization? I don't think I was but so far it's making no difference. The game is loads of fun and the world environment is beautiful and has made exploring addicting for me. Also the cut scenes on your critical hits are an awesome addition!