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No GravatarEvery once in a while, there is an awesome game that comes out, and it revolutionizes the way that a person views gaming.  For me, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of those games.  It has everything that I demand in a game: a cool story, fun game play, an expansive world, and the ability to customize my game experience as I see fit.  I love the game so much that it’s one of the top games that I’ve put the most hours into, and that’s saying something because I’ve spent a lot of time on many different games.  It’s one of my all-time favorites.  Here’s why:

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open world action role-playing game that was developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.  It is the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls franchise, following 2006’s Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  Skyrim was released November 2011 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.  A remastered version is coming out for the game for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in October of this year.  The game uses the Creation Engine, which was specifically rebuilt for the game after some of the issues with Fallout 3.  Skyrim got critical acclaim and is consistently rates as one of the best video games of all time.

Set 200 years after its predecessor, Skyrim focuses on Tamriel’s Nordic area (Skyrim, hence the game’s name).  There are two warring factions at odds against each other.  The Stormcloaks consist of Skyrim’s native Nordic folk who wish to rule their own land (and are extremely racist).  The Imperial Legion represents the Empire and wishes to keep the region safe and at peace (but then the native people don’t have control of their own area).  After being almost killed by the Imperials and surviving a dragon attack, the player realizes that Skyrim is in deep trouble if dragons have come back.  Eventually, the player finds out that he or she is Dragonborn, a person born with the soul and power of a dragon.  In the main quest line, the player must find out what is going on with the reemerging dragons; however, there are tons of other side quests that jump into the rich history and politics of the region.  It’s absolutely amazing.

The main story is pretty involved, but it’s the expansive world that really shines with Skyrim.  It’s definitely got one of the best maps that I have seen (I still prefer it over The Witcher 3’s map, which is also quite expansive).  The scenery is gorgeous, especially since I play on PC with the graphics on the highest levels with a few texture mods as well.  Most of the items in the world are extremely interactive.  The people in Skyrim are interesting.  The places are fun to explore.  I’ve gone walking around the map just for fun.  I’ve even read about people who create characters and don’t even play the game; they just make up their own story and go hunting animals, collect things, and just have fun.  It’s so in-depth with lore and back-story that it’s hard not to fall in love with Skyrim.

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However, even though the open world is amazing, my favorite part of the game is actually the game play itself.  I have never quite come across anything quite like it.  For me, even another Bethesda heavy-hitter like Fallout 3 or even Fallout 4 doesn’t compare.  Sure, Skyrim is a first-person, action RPG.  A lot of games are.  The thing that really makes Skyrim stand out is the leveling and experience system.  It’s very simple: you level up what you use.  Whatever angle you want to play with Skyrim, you just have to use it to level it.  In this way, players are not pigeon-holed into a certain class.  Do you want to be a mage who has thief tendencies?  Go for it.  Do you want you want to be a warrior who also can use magic when needed?  Yep!  You can do that.  Do you like being a thief who enjoys two-handed combat?  Why not?

I love the ability to be able to do what I want, when I want.  I love that I can mix and match with the different combat styles and character niches because…why not?  I hate having to decide what class to play because two hours later, I want to change it.  Skyrim lets me do whatever I want.  When I initially played it on Xbox 360, I was a bit limited with the amount of perks that I could get, so some specialization was required.  However, on PC I can do a bit of cheaty, cheat, cheating and add perks when I run out of levels.  It’s perfect for the OCD gamer.  In Skyrim, it’s totally okay to be a warrior/mage/thief all at the same time.

The graphics hold up very well, especially if you are playing on PC and can put on some texture mods.  On the consoles, it is starting to look dated.  Hopefully, it will look great again with the remaster.  However, when the game originally came out, the graphics were hand’s down awesome.  I love the textures of the scenery.  Even though some of the color palate can be very heavy on grays and browns, the game is still beautiful.

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There is something special about Skyrim, and it may have to do with the fact that gamers can easily make fun of it without damaging the integrity of the game.  How many “arrow to the knee” memes have you seen?  How many times have people made fun of the fact that one can eat 99 raw potatoes in the middle of the battle to gain health?  What about trying to kill a chicken?  Or, my personal favorite happens to be: why are all of the lights on in a dungeon that hasn’t been visited by anyone in hundreds if not thousands of years?  It’s fun to make fun of Skyrim because it’s a game that no one has to defend as being good.  Some people might not like it, and that’s fine.  But it’s hard to argue that it’s a bad game.  Therefore, when there are some “silly” elements of the game, it’s enjoyable to point out the shortcomings because even though there definitely are some, no other game even comes close.

There are a lot of games that I have enjoyed over the years, but there are few that I truly love.  The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim is one that I absolutely will love forever, even when newer and better games come out.  I have about an estimated 415 hours on the game right now between console and PC, and I have thoroughly loved every minute of it.  I actually cannot think of another game that I have spent so much time on.  That’s the power of Skyrim.

By Jessica Brister On 14 May, 2014 At 10:19 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, PlayStation, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSurvival horror isn’t exactly my favorite gaming genre, but I saw that Outlast was for free on PlayStation Plus a couple of months ago.  I can’t say no to free, so I downloaded it and spent some time playing it.  Just for the record, this is the scariest game that I have ever played.  It’s so scary that I had to stop playing for awhile.  It is just downright frightening.  This type of genre is not my favorite, but Outlast was unique enough for me to buckle down and play through it.  Here is what I thought:

Outlast is a survival horror game developed and published by Red Barrels.  The game play is in first-person perspective; however, it cannot be described as a first-person shooter because there is not actual shooting.  The game came out for PC in September 2013 and was released for PlayStation 4  this February.  It uses the Unreal 3.5 Engine.  Outlast is more of an indy-game, but it has so far gotten some good reviews from critics.

The story follows journalist, Miles Upshur, a mild-mannered reporter who unfortunately doesn’t like fighting back.  Upshur has gotten a tip from a person only known as “The Whistleblower” and is going to check out some crazy things going on at Mount Massive Asylum.  At first glance, the asylum looks like it’s not even in use: there are no guards, doors are locked, and everything appears are be abandoned.  After breaking in, Miles comes to the realization that there is some really dangerous and scary things happening in the asylum.  Instead of gathering evidence, escaping becomes his main goal.

What could possibly go wrong in a creepy looking asylum, right?

What could possibly go wrong in a creepy looking asylum, right?

Overall, the story was pretty interesting, but there was something lacking in it, as if Red Barrels could have done a little more with it.  It’s a typical horror plot with some slasher elements.  The game is really, really scary.  Incredibly scary.  I found that there were times where I’d scream and throw down the controller.  Gamers looking for scary will not be disappointed.  However, I was hoping for a little bit more of a story than that I got.  Players get a lot of jump scares but not a lot of meat to the story.  The gore is pretty amped up, though.  In fact, it is a huge aspect of the game: severed heads, bodies everywhere, and pretty much anything that would remind you of a Saw movie.  Squeamish players would probably not like this game, but if this is your type of thing, you’ll probably like this game.  As a game in the horror genre, Outlast is one of the best that I’ve seen.

Outlast is in first person perspective, but this is not a game about fighting for your life like most first person games. Upshur is described as “not being a fighter,” so unless a scripted scene takes place, the player’s options are to run, hide, or die.  This was quite annoying for me at first because I can’t stand games where I can’t fight back.  I’ve always thought that if anyone is pushed far enough, he or she will find something to fight back with, even if it’s just a make-shift melee weapon.  Then again, I will say that not being able to fight back makes the game ten times scarier.  There’s nothing more frightening than running from something trying to kill you that makes your heart pound a bit harder.

Instead of fighting, the player will spend a lot of time hiding in lockers from the inmates in the asylum.

Instead of fighting, the player will spend a lot of time hiding in lockers from the inmates in the asylum.

As a journalist, Upshur gathers evidence by filming his surroundings.  The only light you get to use is from the night vision on the camera, which is very handy since many of the areas are pitch black.  Unfortunately, the night vision is hard to see out of.  This may actually make the game scarier in a way.  You also have to conserve the night vision because it will drain the battery quicker.  You can find more batteries but depending on the difficulty, they can be few and far between.  In true survival horror-style, you have to be a bit stingy with the batteries if you want to use the night vision during the really important times.

Overall, the controls are a bit stiff, and I found it kind of hard to move around the way I am accustomed to in most newer games.  When climbing ladders and scaling ledges, you can’t look down, which was quite annoying.  The game really didn’t feel as polished as other games in first-person perspective that I’ve played.  I was disappointed with this because I might have liked the game a lot better if the controls were a little more fluid.

The graphics were unfortunately the most disappointing part of the game.  Initially, I didn’t notice them as much because many of the areas are really dark.  However, after looking at bit closer, I noticed that a lot of the inmates at the asylum weren’t designed very well.  They didn’t look that great.  I’m not a video game graphics expert, but the characters looked like they were lacking a lot of detail.  If you look at them up close, there isn’t a lot of detail.  This was disappointing for a game that pretty much came out on PC and next-gen console only. Then again, I do understand that this game was a smaller project.  Besides, you probably won’t notice it that much anyhow because it’s always so dark when you play.

There's something off about the way the characters are built.

There’s something off about the way the characters are built.

Though I don’t really like the survival horror genre, the game was pretty interesting to play.  I doubt that I will be playing it again because I don’t like spending my free time feeling scared.  However, if you are looking for a game that will scare you, this is definitely the game.  Overall, most fans of the genre will enjoy it, and  I am now a little curious to see how Outlast will compare to the upcoming The Evil Within, which comes out in August.