Review: Skyrim

Why I don't like “Skyrim”, but spent 65 hours in there.

Although it seems that everybody has enormous fun with this game, here is my polemic opinion about Skyrim.

Skyrim. Schmyrim.

After all those minigames, facebooktimekillers and iPhone apps I played the last months occasionally because of lack of time, I longed for a real game. We finished TUMBLOX and finally there was enough of spare time to stay all day in a huge and epic adventure world. Right time, right release - Skyrim came out. Plus I loved “Morrowind”! It's still one of my most admired and still inspiring games. So a great time is yet to come...

And indeed! Skyrim is soooo beautiful. Walking through the autumn woods along a river, riding a horse through ice and snow (and up to walls) or walking alone just meeting snow foxes can be so ruminant.

But I have to confess that I distrusted the design of Skyrim from the beginning. Dragons (what a cliché after Drakensang, Dragon Age and Divinity II - Ego Draconis!), the stupid and stinky Nord, winter, snow, cold and the second-boring race in whole Tamriel after the Imperials. But the sandbox style allured me so much! "You can do just everything!"

But after playing 65 hours I'm bored. What I am missing so much is STORY! When I think of Morrowind there where conflicts everywhere, little stories people had, surprises, funny experiments of character interaction, naked barbarians and moreover: irony. Not just two households hating each other. Or the stupid Nord versus the stupid Imperials.
Skyrim lacks wits, creativity and cool characters you will remember. In every town you have the same structure of people: the smith, the merchant, the magician, the jarl, the alchimist, etc. and some people telling you they want to see the world leaving this place or love their home country. And of course the guards with the arrow in their knee. The game is so well structured and sandboxed, they can't think out of the box creating things that are out of their perfect little system. No chaos. No surprises.

Tell me just ONE cool Character! And don't say Sheogorath as he is the add-on joke laughed out a long prequel ago.
Where are the funny little moments Morrowind used to give me so many times?
Like the magician floating miles over the ground testing his mega jump magic scroll.
The end boss Dagoth-Ur and his personal point of view about the main story.
Vivec, the half-god, having his own town, sitting and levitating in his temple.
The drunken, messed-up Blade guy that is briefing you in the main quest.
The imp that is selling stuff in one of the towns.
The last dwarf in Morrowind, fat, with legs like a spider and made immortal by the mysterious blight.
The Telvanni magicians - one age old, the other one hating men and having a male Khajit sex slave.
The silk striders you could travel with.
Even the setting was a character! The Telvanni towns. The floating city of Vivec. The Redorans living in huge shells. And the monsters weren't just wolves, trolls and whatever skeletons that every fantasy game has.
I loved the surprises Morrowind gave me with every step I took in this world.

Looking at Skyrim I see an impressively beautiful maiden presenting her long and shiny hair, but if you talking to her she is just blabbering stiff, boring and stupid shit. Why is the whole world such a boring cliche? Even the hugely advertised DRAGONS become dull runaways that go on my nerves because of their inflationary appearance.

Never again a sandbox game with "story"

It is a problem the whole world has: There is nothing special about it. Those thin stories in every town: "Hey, we have vampires" - You walk into a Dungeon, problem solved. You become Thane. Next town. "Hey, we have bad dreams". Dungeon. Cleared. Problem solved. Thane. Next town.
There is nothing a visit in a dungeon cannot solve. Everything happens in the dungeons. Accept the dragons of cause, they are spawned when it's time for them in the next place you appear. You fight them. "Woah, you killed the dragon". Next town. Next quest.

At this point the sand box system really emerges as something that is charging the stupidity. Okay, Skyrim is a huge open world, but what for, if nothing happens there. Here are some natives just for killing. Here are some dragons. Some towns. Some points of interest. But most points are unconnected. The people (like the story writers?) inhabiting their cities don't think beyond borders (they just know the next dungeon to send you through).

The quest marker system is another "improvement" making things worse and those little landing places seeming more like spots on an otherwise white map. While in Morrowind people had long dialogues explaining themselves and giving you explicit (well mostly) directions like in real life, Skyrim people "greet" you with "My bow is stolen!". After telling you that thieves from the near city did it, the dialogue is finished. No explaining who he is, where the bow is or whatever one could write about a character to make him more interesting, a quest marker is added and you have to go to your map and look up where the marker is placed. Dungeon. Cleared. Nice. Here is your money. See you. Never. Again.
It doesn't matter how much helmets you take back from dungeons, how much daughters you save, how many prisoners you help to escape. The world is full of these generic quests. Nobody will acknowledge your deeds.

Dungeon. Dungeon. Dungeon.

Everything is fighting and killing. No creative solving. Even the third path of character development - the thief - can't be used in all consequences. Most quests can be finished just with the death of your dungeon-boss-draugr-whatever-bad-guy-final-kill.

Most people didn't criticize this game for being unambitious and stupid. They love it. And it inspires many people out there. How many "Fus Roh Dah" and "I got an arrow in my knee" videos, comics and pictures are out there?
But I must admit: I don't understand the fascination for this game. Maybe I had too much adventures in a fantasy world. If this would be my first role playing game and I never would have played “Gothic”, “The Witcher”, “Morrowind” or “Planescape Torment” I would love it. Skyrim has an awesome way to introduce you in this world and its gameplay.
But I played much of these games and it might be hard to surprise me. I think this will be the last epic game that tries to tell a story and advertises with a huge open world. Because you can't have both. Not in these times.

TUMBLOX released on the AppStore!

"Tumblox", the mind-bending head-hurting box-tumbling brainteaser for iPhone and iPod Touch is now available at the AppStore! You get 25 levels for free, so you can test it before you buy it inside the App itself. You can even play the PC demo (Windows/MacOS) on the very own project page of Tumblox.

The Rat King demands that you have fun training your brain with Tumblox' simple and addictive gameplay. Rotate the (big) box and let the (small) boxes fall onto their targets!

Too lazy/busy to try it out for yourself? You can watch a trailer on YouTube or Vimeo:

Global Game Jam Leipzig

Wer den Rattenkönig ein wenig beobachtet, der wird schnell merken, dass wir - aber vor allem Friedrich - große Game Jam Fans sind. Ludum Dare, Big Jam, Devmania, 7Day-Rogue-like, Zfx-Action. Viele schöne kleine und größere Spiele wurden dabei umgesetzt. Unser erstes iPhone-Spiel PITMAN entstand bei einem Game Jam und auch unser erstes (zukünftiges, komplettes)  PC-Spiel wurde durch einen geboren (Lasst euch überraschen!).

Die von ihren Ausmaßen wohl beeindruckendste ist die Global Game Jam. Wie der Name schon ankündigt wird weltweit gejammed, immer am letzten Wochenende im Januar (27.-29. Januar 2012).
Wie die Meisten, die ich mit dem Global Game Jam konfrontierte, war auch ich am Anfang unwissend und hatte komische Vorstellungen, wie das eigentlich funktioniert. Aber wie es der Zufall so will, war bei der Big Jam in Berlin eine der Organisatoren des GGJ- Zuraida Buter - anwesend und ich bekam Infos aus erster Hand.

Das Prinzip Game Jam ist ganz simpel: Jeder kann mit seiner Workstation teilnehmen, aber weil Jams viel lustiger sind, wenn man die Sache gemeinsam anpackt, sucht man sich Orte (idealerweise Uniräumlichkeiten) und Menschen zusammen, um gemeinsam in 48 Stunden Spiele zu entwickeln. Das Thema wird von den Hauptorganisatoren vorgegeben und am Ende werden alle Spiele der jeweiligen Teams auf den einen globalen Server hochgeladen, auf dem sie jeder spielen kann.

Bisher gab es den Jam nur in Berlin, Köln, Bremen und München, aber was passendes in der Nähe fehlte in unserer Spieleentwicklerdiaspora leider. Kurzentschlossen wollten wir mit Leipzig (ist einfach größer, sorry Halle) auch teilnehmen. Obwohl ich mich dort wenig auskenne, konnten schnell - auch dank einigen Diskussionen beim Leipziger Spielestammtisch mit René Meyer und Michael Körner, verschiedene mögliche Locations ausfindig gemacht werden. Von Anfang an im Gespräch, weil wir das Gebäude von der Langen Nacht der Computerspiele kennen, war die Technische Hochschule HTWK. Dank sehr engagiertem Auftreten von Professor Bastian, konnten wir Räumlichkeiten bekommen, Strom, Internet, Zugang für alle - juchu!

Wer motiviert ist, 48 Stunden ohne Dusche und Schlaf (okay, übernachten kann und sollte man) mit anderen Grafikern, Programmierern und Gamedesignern die Tastaturen heiß laufen zu lassen, zu painten und zu pixeln, der sollte sich unbedingt eintragen!

Unsere offizielle Leipzig Game Jam Seite