Posts tagged ‘elder scrolls’

December 11, 2011

Mortar and Pistol’s Game of the Year

Spike just held their Video Game Awards, and Skyrim walked away with Game of the Year for 2011.  And it is no surprise, it was easily the most anticipated game in years, and it certainly lived up to the hype.  But while Spike is nothing more than a simple blog (or so I’ve heard), we here at Mortar and Pistol realize that our Game of the Year award is far more prestigious and coveted, and comes with far less award money.  In fact, rumor has it that Bethesda and the rest have never heard of us.  Regardless, below I give you my game of the year, but first:

Honorable Mention – Mortal Kombat

With an incredible franchise history spanning nearly two decades, the Mortal Kombat series has developed a very dedicated fan base of all ages.  It was the catalyst for the creation of the ESRB and the cause of countless parents realizing not all video games were OK for their precious snowflakes to be playing.  Uppercuts continued to be great in all walks of life, but never as sweet without a “Toasty!” accompanying it.  This year’s reboot and newest incarnation took us back to our MK roots and built on everything that made the series great, while leaving all the crappy innovations behind.  Coupled with some great DLC, Mortal Kombat ’11 helped make 2011 one of the best years in gaming we’ve ever seen.  Though it was released the day the Playstation Network went down, once it was back up and running the online fighting proved to be some of the most fun and addicting of any fighting game on the market.  I still can’t hit a possum in the street without stopping, rolling down my windows, and shouting “Fatality” before screeching off into the sunset.

Third Place – Batman: Arkham City

Following up on what was already an incredible game, Batman: Arkham City showed us that not only could a Batman video game be good, but that they could be amazing.  With elements from nearly all genres mixed together in perfect harmony, with a simply fantastic story, Batman: Arkham City was impossible to put down from beginning to end.  Where Nolan reinvented the Batman films, Arkham City invents the Batman game.  Detective work that puts L.A. Noire to shame, a fighting system that makes Kratos embarrassed, and a story that makes Dante Alighieri go back to his writing workshop at the community college, this game is a masterpiece.  Even for people that don’t particularly like superheros, this game will have you pausing at every boss fight to search Wikipedia for their back stories.  And when you hear Solomon Grundy recite his nursery rhyme, well, you’ll be growing worse by Friday yourself.

Second Place – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Go ahead and start flaming me in the comments on how this didn’t get first.  Don’t worry, I’m prepared for it.  Regardless, Skyrim is purely an epic game.  One I had been anticipating for years, it lives up to every second of the hype and then some.  When I first saw the world before me, the mountains in the distance capped with fog, the Northern Lights twisting and painting an indescribable landscape, I was stunned.  The game is a worthy addition to the already daunting Elder Scrolls series, and proves that this is a franchise that all others aspire to emulate.  The first night I got it, I played until the sun came up and barely felt like I had done anything in the game.  The first time I stumbled into the Dwemer ruins I was giddy with glee, the nostalgia from Morrowind overwhelming me.  It will be a game I play for so many hours that it should come with a Surgeon General’s warning, and one I’m sure to write more articles about in the future.  I’ve found myself more than once shivering from Mountain Dew excess at 4am, promising myself I’ll go to bed, just one more quest.  It is as engrossing a game as I’ve ever played, and one that you think about playing when you’re not, and even when you’re already playing it.  As far as money’s worth goes, you’ll feel like you owe Bethesda more because $60 wasn’t enough to cover what you’re getting.  I eagerly anticipate upcoming DLC even though my quest menu is still as packed as a hungover prom date’s missed call list.  Skyrim would have taken first easily if it wasn’t for another game this year, one I didn’t really even get excited for, and one I didn’t have too many expectations of.  But once I played it, I realized I had found something special.  And that’s why this year, first goes to:

First Place – Battlefield 3

I knew the big battle this year would be between Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3, but I didn’t realize I’d later be debating between Battlefield 3 and Skyrim for Game of the Year.  I even once posited that MW3 would win out and end up being the better shooter this year.  But Battlefield 3 proved to be something more than just another shooter for the year.  It proved to be more than a game.  It is an experience like none other.  It, in my opinion, is even more engrossing than Skyrim by being just so damn realistic.  The physics of the new Frostbite 2 engine, the incredible sounds of the gunshots and explosions, and the innovations made to the FPS genre all work to make Battlefield 3 not only the best shooter ever made, in my humble opinion, but 2011’s best video game.  Every match is so varied and different and the world is so open to possibilities that each game will leave you with incredible stories to tell.  Need proof?

Play with friends and you will have some awesome experiences to share later on.  DorisfromNoris and I still talk about some epic games we had over a month ago, and we continue to have epic matches today, ones that are so new and different, regardless of if they take place on the same map. Rush is the new breakout mode of gameplay and has risen to become my all time favorite, opening and expanding the maps to sizes I didn’t think I’d ever see in a shooter.  Amazing vehicle physics allow for some incredible gunfights, and the challenging nature of the jets and helicopters make kills with those all the more rewarding.  The fact that this game promotes teamwork so well, allowing one to get tons of points without even getting a kill, all work to make this game more than just a shooter, and create instead a realistic and adrenaline-fueled war experience.  Add to that that DLC has already been released, giving us 4 more maps with tons of new guns and vehicles, this game proves that it isn’t just another installment, but instead a milestone and an achievement.  The realism and detail of the guns makes for an incredibly realistic game that hasn’t even been approached by other games, and the player base of this incredible game only helps to make it such a wonderful experience.  A free Battlelog on the internet that you can use to track stats helps to allow you to obsess about it even when you can’t play, and all this together adds up to what is the best game of this year.  Though Skyrim is captivating and incredible in its own right, the fact that Battlefield can draw me in more than any other media out there makes this game the true champion of 2011.  Grab some caffeine, pull your chair up close to the TV, turn it up louder than your neighbors would like, and jump into a war that will leave you so pumped up that you’ll be scolded by your optometrist for not blinking enough.  ***And I just discovered that if you have BF3, DICE is giving away Battlefield 1943 for free!

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave your comments below and let me know what you think the Game of the Year for 2011 should have been!

November 14, 2011

Skyrim: First Impressions.

The Elder Scrolls hold a strange place in my imagination.  I avoid the fantasy genre like the plague regardless of what medium it comes in, so it’s strange that a game like Skyrim stirs up such excitement in me.  I bought Morrowind on a whim back in undergrad and was sucked in like never before, and when Oblivion came out I was blown away by just how amazing this franchise was.  The games are designed so well that even a guy like me, who likes to keep things based in realism as much as possible, will get a little giddy when they come out.  While an outsider may think fans of the series are full blown Ouija board-weilding Wiccan dungeonmasters, comfortably occupying their parent’s basements and playing Magic: The Gathering, the reality is far different.  Though when I try to explain what the game is about to those unfamiliar, it certainly makes everyone go quiet and look down into their beers uncomfortably, as if I’d told them my dog and I are no longer getting physical.

What a typical Skyrim fan may look like in the wild

And maybe I am a little prejudiced.  I mean, when Jsixgun and I went to the midnight release, we saw the entire Knoxville chapter of the trenchcoat mafia pretend sword fighting in the parking lot while others were dressed as wizards and other stuff guaranteed to repel women like an actor typecasted for his role in Herpes commercials.  We talked fantasy football while in line in a fruitless attempt to retain any semblance of normalcy.  But regardless of how weird some of those people were, Skyrim still had me terribly excited.  So when I got in from the cold that night, sat down with my dog and installed the game, I knew I was in for something big.  I just didn’t know how big the game would end up being.

The game is art. There's no punchline, that's just the truth...

See, my first draft of my “first impressions” article was written more as a gushy middle-school love letter than any sort of objective impression.  Reviewing a game of this magnitude is an incredibly daunting task, and writing anything over and above “The game is amazing.  Thanks.” is a challenge.  But to put it simply, this game has exceeded every single bit of hype surrounding it.  I was honestly worried; I had built this game up in my mind so much after Oblivion that I wondered if my expectations were based in reality.  Hype of that magnitude often leads to disappointment, and though I can handle disappointment with games like Call of Duty, I really wanted this game to be great.  And great it is.  The game is set in a fully explorable 16 square mile world.  You are no longer constrained to the class of your choosing, so whatever skills you want to use will all equally work to level you up.  The in-game menus and controls are intuitive and easy to learn, and the graphics are stunning.  Not a wildly extreme improvement over Oblivion, mind you, but daunting in their beauty nonetheless.

And it is the sheer freedom the game offers that allows it to be such a masterpiece.  While some games will make you feel like you are really “there”, this game lets you define where “there” is, and why and when you’re “there” as well.  My game is inevitably going to vary wildly from other peoples’ experiences with the game, and that is what makes it so great.  For instance, I got in a river to catch some fish just for the hell of it.  I didn’t realize it at the time but the current was taking me really far away from where I started from.  Next thing I know, I’m falling over a waterfall with no easy way to get back to where I was (I have a strict no fast travel policy).  I ended up running into some random people which began a storyline that is still ongoing.  It was a chance encounter, one I might not have had had I not been just dicking around, but this adventure has helped shape who I think my character is and what his motivations are.

The game is saturated with easter eggs, hidden items and places, and nods and references to older titles in the series.  For a big fan of Morrowind like me, stumbling across some steampunk Dwemer artifacts near the Skyrim/Morrowind border brought a rush of nostalgia over me.  I’m avoiding spoilers or hints like grim death so as to continue being pleasantly surprised by little discoveries like this.  I’ll be honest, I haven’t gotten to play for long, and in terms of the scope of the game, I’m certain I’ve barely scratched the surface.  But this game is certainly Game of the Year material, and will probably end up being on of my favorite games I’ve ever played.  As in ever played.  And though I was a little negative about some of the people I’ve seen who like this game, the overarching point I want to make is that this game is accessible; it’s for anyone, even people like me who don’t like fantasy.  Because of the breadth of this game and the overwhelming amount of choices offered to the player, this game can honestly be anything to anyone who plays it.  And there are tons of people out there who, like me, will find countless hours of some of the best gameplay available in gaming with Skyrim.  Truly it walks a thin line between game and art.  And it allows me to play as John Sylvester, an Imperial who is fighting against his homeland like an escaped inmate on death row would be inclined to do.  Plus he has great Civil War-era mutton chops which is a plus.

October 10, 2011

The Geography of The Elder Scrolls

This, my friends, is Tamriel.  It is the continent upon which the events in all the Elder Scrolls games take place, including the upcoming Skyrim.  Lets take a look back through the games and their lore, and see what information we can glean, in order to be better equipped to kick some dragon ass come November.

The dark brown area in the north is Skyrim, where all the events of the upcoming game will take place.  Its going to be very mountainous and cold from what I can tell, and it is the area that the Nords call home.  But of course, Skyrim is not created in a vacuum, and there are tons of games that predate it and have worked to weave a good bit of interesting lore.  I won’t detail hardly any of that here, but what I would like to explore is which regions on Tamriel have been used before in prior games and which regions have yet to be touched in this world.  (Tamriel is merely a continent on the Planet Nirn, which has other continents as well, including Atmora, Yokuda, Akavir, and Pyandonea, none of which have any of the games so far been set in.)

This is the entire map of Nirn

The first game in the Elder Scrolls series goes by the terribly off-putting name, The Elder Scrolls:  Arena.  Originally intended to be just an arena fighting game, development eventually evolved into an early iteration of what we know today, an RPG game where you can go anywhere and do anything.  This game did not specify which province you could go to, and thus you could concievably go to any province you liked.  However, the terrain and settings were all randomly generated, so that here you are in Skyrim, in The Elder Scrolls: Arena:

It was 1994, give them a break

The next game in the series was The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall.  Daggerfall is the name of the capitol of the region High Rock, which you can see in the map of Tamriel above (its in the top left).  This land is mainly populated by the Bretons, the race I chose to play Oblivion with.  And thus this second installment takes place almost exclusively within High Rock, though you will travel to Hammerfell as well.  High Rock is mostly comprised of coastal cities near the shores, especially towards Hammerfell, and hilly plains with ruined castles and villages towards the mountainous boundary with Skyrim.

Daggerfall was notoriously buggy, and The Elder Scrolls games proceeded onto the next two titles, more focused on linear adventure gaming, and to some (including myself) they are not cannon.  These were Elder Scrolls Legends: Battlespire and Elder Scrolls Adventure: Redguard.  

But by 2002 the next true installment in The Elder Scrolls series was released, titled The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.  Morrowind takes place in none other than the province of Morrowind, which can be seen at the top right of Tamriel.  Morrowind is far different than most other regions of Tamriel, featuring a blackened sky from the eruptions of the Vvardenfell volcano, centered upon the island in Morrowind.  This area is home to the Dark Elves, and the setting is full of oversized mushrooms and large insect-like creatures.  This is the game that got me heavily involved in the Elder Scrolls series of games due to its sheer scope and graphical achievements.  Its unique aura gave me a feeling that is hard to explain, and I would love to see a title return us to Morrowind some day.  A future title could even boast a fully explorable Tamriel (not like Arena did, but like this newer gen could accomplish).  But that’s speculation.  Here is what Morrowind looked like:

Morrowind would also be my last forray into PC gaming, and thereafter I would be experiencing The Elder Scrolls through console.  In 2006, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released.  Oblivion, despite the name, did not take place in Oblivion.  No, that is simply a plane of existence, something like Hell I suppose, that is threatening the plane of mortals, in which Tamriel exists.  True, you do travel to Oblivion in the game, but the majority of the game is set in the province of Cyrodiil.  Cyrodiil is the very large central province in Tamriel as you can see above.  It is home to the Imperial race and is the capital province of Tamriel.  As is easily observed, Cyrodiil is substantially larger than Skyrim, so it is yet to be known if the map size will be smaller in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or if there will be larger cities, more detailed villiages, and less ‘waste’ space, i.e. using more in less space, thus giving us more to do per square foot.  That is yet to be seen, but what can be seen is what Cyrodiil looked like, and it is as thus:

And Skyrim will be released on 11/11/11.  It will, of course, take place in the province of Skyrim, which Bethesda has just verified today by providing the map below.  Being northern, and seeing how the Nords, who inhabit it, have a resistance to cold, it is fairly obvious this will be a very arctic climate.  Furthermore, because the mountainous boundaries of Cyrodiil, High Rock, and Morrowind they shared with Skyrim have all been high and snow capped, we can expect some simply beautiful environments.  And if that’s not got you excited enough, it appears that Skyrim is the province where dragons are native to.  And so in a few short month’s, we’ll finally be able to explore Tamriel’s most northern and unexplored province yet!  And click here for a larger, more detailed map of Skyrim!