The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

200 years after the events of Oblivion, move to the province of Skyrim to once again live another life in the world of The Elder Scrolls. The king is dead and the region has descended into civil war. To make matters worse, dragons have suddenly appeared, destroying everything in their path. Grab your sword, don your robe and discover what is behind these troubling events.

Release Date:

November 2011.

Pros:

The graphics are fantastic. It is expected to be better being newer than Oblivion and it sure delivers. I was amazed seeing the game for the first time. Despite greater details in almost everything, the effect of the eyes adjusting to the different light levels impressed me the most.

The beginning tutorial, like Oblivion before it, is excellent. Everything is well explained and I would say very beginner friendly. It is a bit difficult for me to judge its beginner friendliness as I am very familiar with Oblivion.

To compliment the beginning tutorial is the in-game help system. It is very handy and explains things by topic.

The level of interactivity has increased since Oblivion. Forge weapons, upgrade them, cook food. You can also play hide-and-seek with children or brawl in a bar. Of course we did not buy Skyrim just to cook and play hide-and-seek. This is just some nice extras on top of a very well fleshed out fantasy RPG.

Dragons! Big, don’t mess with me, fire breathing dragons. I was especially impressed when I fought the first dragon at level four and the beast ate me for breakfast. Yup, not just breathing fire, it actually took a big bite and threw me off like a toy. I like!

Just like Oblivion before it, Jeremy Soule did a fantastic job composing the soundtrack for Skyrim. Being a big fan of the Oblivion soundtrack, I was happy to hear some “shadows” of Oblivion in Skyrim. Of course they could all be “shadows” of Morrowind. Most of the of music for Skyrim is new though.

Also like Oblivion, Skyrim provides a very large open world for exploration. I am not sure which game is larger, but the cities of Skyrim feel smaller to me.

I find the main story to be more interesting than that of Oblivion. I also find many of the side quests have quite interesting plots. The stories combined with the massive world really makes Skyrim an interesting place to lose yourself in, just like Oblivion but better.

You can get followers to join you on your adventures They will fight with you… or die trying. You can also ask them do things like pick locks. Only one follower can follow you at any one time so you cannot have the whole party of adventurers thing happening.

Just like Oblivion, Skyrim is moddable and has plenty of mods. Check out the collection at Nexusmods.

Cons:

The inventory listing looks cleaner than Oblivion, but it lacked the very important feature of sorting items by value, weight or damage/protection values.

The audio volume level is very low. I set everything at maximum and I can hardly hear the people talk. There are quite a few discussions on how to fix the audio, but nothing has worked for me.

It is possible to get stuck in places and not be able to jump out of it even though it is quite shallow.

There is a bug with the interface when selecting items to store in a chest or to sell items to a merchant. Each time I selected an item to sell or store, the highlight moves up one item and up the screen. Sell or store enough stuff and the highlight will completely go off the screen! Minor but annoying.

Other Points:

The combat feels a lot easier than that of Oblivion. With unmodded Oblivion I had to play on the easiest difficulty as I was dying so quickly. In Skyrim, I started playing on the hardest difficulty of legendary, but dropped back to master difficulty. At the second hardest difficulty of master, I found the game challenging without dying every few minutes.

More like Dark Messiah of Might and Magic and less like Oblivion, Skyrim has done away with classes. All skill levels are raised by performing their specific activity and the class your character will develop into is pretty much what you like doing most.

In Oblivion you were a prisoner that escaped, because the Emperor had to use your cell to escape. In Skyrim you are a prisoner again. This time though you escape because a dragon came just when you were about to get your head chopped off. Is there something about prisoners becoming heroes that I do not know about?

The levelling up is very similar to Oblivion in that as you use your skills, they raise in value. Raise enough skills and you level up. What is different is, each time you level up, you select whether to increase health, magic or stamina. You also gain a point to spend on perks.

There are quite a few other things that have changed since Oblivion. Equipment no longer degrades, so there is no more repairing. You no longer have a mobile potion factory. Some of the skills have been merged. You must now arm your spell with your hands before you can cast them.

People can permanently die in Skyrim, including shop keepers. Once they are gone, that is one less person you can sell stuff to. It is good that the game has this level of realism but it is also bad as I always liked certain people to be immortal to make my own gaming life easier.

Biases:

Reviewed Legendary Edition with all released DLCs, version 1.9.32.0.8.

Initially I played the game unmodded. Later I installed the Convenient Horses mod.

I have not completed the main story of Skyrim.

I am a big fan of Oblivion, but I have never played Morrowing or any other Elder Scrolls game.

I liked Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

DRM:

  • Steam.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box):

  • OS: Windows 7/Vista/XP (32 or 64 bit)
  • Processor: Dual Core 2.0 GHz or equivalent processor
  • Memory: 2 GB System RAM
  • Hard Disk Space: 9 GB free HDD space
  • Video Card: DirectX 9.0c compliant video card with 512MB of RAM
  • Sound: DirectX compatible sound card

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with headphones.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Recommended Mods:

Convenient Horses – Gives a lot of options for horse management. The main thing I use this mod for is calling my horse. I seem to lose my horse a lot.

Sacred

A demon unleashed. Evil factions draw near. A kingdom under threat. And you are thrown right in the middle to fix it all. Welcome to Sacred. Choose from eight characters to roam the world of Ancaria. Have fun beating up loads of enemies, while helping a sheep get back home and gearing up your character for bigger better fights.

Release Date

October 2004.

Pros

There is a very good tutorial. Text boxes pop up when you reach certain areas and explain how to play the game. For veterans, they can be skipped totally as well.

There are plenty of animals walking around. People go around doing their own thing. Although they may not have any purpose in life, it does make the world feel alive. Oblivion had animals and people roaming around as well, but I did not find the game as alive as Sacred.

The graphics and animations are not as smooth as Torchlight, but does look nicer in my opinion. The game is very detailed with landscapes of all sorts, different buildings, caves that you can enter , different interactable items, arrows sticking out of monsters and much more. For the gore conscious, please note that the details also show dismemberment, blood flowing from the dead and exploding bodies.

There are loads of side quests which you can choose to complete or ignore. So far I have found the many side quests more interesting than the main campaign quest, even though some of them are a bit silly. There are no puzzle type quests, so some RPG players may not enjoy this aspect.

There are tons of items to loot and great crafting options.

When the music does play, it sounds good. It does not play enough though.

The world is quite open and very large. The roaming restriction by nature’s barriers may be by design, but the world still allows for significant free roaming. If you roam too far though, you might encounter opponents that will smack you back to town.

Unlike Torchlight and Marvel Heroes, you can actually save and load your game manually. So, save before trying something crazy. Have multiple saves to try different things and reload if you cannot bear to die and lose gold.

There are eight characters to choose from. That is five more than Torchlight, but obviously a lot less than Marvel Heroes. Having played the Wood Elf and the Daemon, I would say that the different characters are quite different. Each has their own skills and abilities, and have their own specialist equipment.

The AI is good and varied. Some enemies will run away, while others fight to the death. Some of your allies can and will fight with you and they actually help, while others will always run away. Overall, the different NPCs react differently and in my opinion react quite well for what they are.

Sacred is not the first game with horses, but it is the first game I have played that has horse charge! Use your horse to run into enemies to damage them and knock them over.

The speech, although limited, does sound good. Not as good as the likes of Marvel Heroes, but much better than that of Torchlight.

The sounds are also good. Weapon strikes. Spell casting. The death cries of goblins. Mooing cows. They all sound good. Unfortunately, Sacred cannot detect surround sound with the Logitech G35.

Spell/Special Combos! I have never seen this in any other RPG. You can create combos to cast/use spells/specials automatically in order with one mouse click. It is like creating macros to cast all your favourite spells in one go, or crafting a special whacking sequence. It is not for free though as you need gold to build the combos and you have to wait quite a long time after each use.

One very handy feature in Sacred is the auto-collect. Just press ‘a’ and your character will run around picking up loot. It sure beats clicking on every item. It is also configurable to pick up everything, just gold and unique items, or just gold.

There be dragons! They are not just small type dragons like the dragonkin of Torchlight. We are talking big fire breathing dragons that will roast you in seconds if you are not prepared. This came as a refreshing surprise as I cannot remember the last time I saw a dragon in an RPG.

Cons

The user interface is not as good as Torchlight and this does make Sacred a bit more difficult to play. The keys cannot be changed either.

It is a bit difficult to position the mouse cursor on an enemy to attack. Many times when I thought the cursor was over the enemy, it actually was not and my character was just running around rather than actually attacking.

The graphics resolution cannot be changed. It is fixed at 1024×768.

Riding horses is great, but there is one quite annoying bug. You can only mount a horse from the horses left. So if the horse is positioned with something in the way, you just cannot mount it. You then have to walk away far enough then call your horse again and hope it does not move to a place with more things in the way.

Other Points

Compared to Torchlight and Marvel Heroes, Sacred has less action. There is more going from place to place where there are only a few enemies to fight. This makes Sacred feel more like a traditional RPG rather than an action RPG. Do not let your guard down too much though, as there are areas with plenty of enemies to beat up.

There is good information that must be collected. They do help with the game, but it also means there is a lot of reading involved.

If you die, you will respawn at the last check point and lose some gold. This is not that big a deal as you can save your game at any time and reload it.

The Gold edition of Sacred comes with the extra Underworld campaign. I have not tried out the extra campaign though.

There is a day/night cycle, but other than changing the cosmetic lighting, it does not seem to do anything else. I have not played using the Vampiress character, but the manual does mention about suffering damage during daytime.

There is some light humour in the game.

Biases

Reviewed Sacred Gold version 2.28 of the game.

I have been playing using the Daemon and Wood Elf characters.

I really enjoyed Torchlight and Marvel Heroes.

I also really enjoyed Oblivion.

I have only played the single player main campaign and I am far from completing it. According to the game stats, I have only explored 2.25% of the world.

DRM

Sacred is available DRM free from GOG.com

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1 GHz Processor (1.4 GHz recommended)
  • 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • Mouse, Keyboard
  • Compatibility notice: This game is NOT compatible with Intel integrated graphics cards.

Computer Played On

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Beneath a Steel Sky

You were taken away by security forces and your tribe destroyed. Fortune smiles on you as your transport helicopter crashes in the city giving you the chance to escape. Time to find out who wants to capture you and why, in this point-and-click science fiction adventure.

Release Date

April 1994.

Pros

Get the game free from GOG.com.

The humour is good. Nowhere as funny as Monkey Island 1 and 2 but still good.

This is the first game I have played that has WD40! OK you do not get to use it, but it is in the game.

The speech is excellent. You can hear the different personalities in each of the characters and there are different accents as well.

The story is very interesting. As you play, the plot gets better and better, but overall I do not think the story is as good as Dragonsphere.

Cons

The characters have to move to a certain position before they talk. Even when they are standing next to each other, if they are not on the correct side of each other, they have to move before talking. A real waste of time if you ask me.

The graphics being of that age are quite low resolution. This means that looking for tiny details in the locations can be difficult.

Other Points

Quick timing is required to solve some of the puzzles. At other times you have to wait for things to happen before you can progress.

Biases

Reviewed GOG.com version of the game.

I really liked Dragonsphere, Blade Runner, The Secret Of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, Borrowed Time and Under A Killing Moon.

I also liked Martian Memorandum, Curse of Monkey Island, Escape From Monkey Island, Indiana Jones And the Fate Of Atlantis and Simon The Sorcerer.

I did not like Dark Seed.

I have completed the game.

DRM

Beneath a Steel Sky is free from GOG.com.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1GHz Processor (1.4GHz recommended)
  • 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • Mouse, Keyboard

Computer Played On

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1Gb RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Dragonsphere

The Dragonsphere shows that the evil sorcerer is about to break free from his magic prison. As king you must now pick up the mouse and point-and-click your way to defeat him.

Release Date

January 1994.

Pros

When you die, the game will tell you what happened then automatically restore the game to just before you died. Very handy as you do not need to manually reload.

The story is very good. There is more to it than just whacking the big bad guy. Even though Dragonsphere was released over a decade ago, I have not played another game that has a similar story to Dragonsphere.

Cons

The speech sounds terrible.

The graphics being of that age are quite low resolution. This means that looking for tiny details in the locations can be a bit difficult.

Other Points

The introduction sequence does not have speech.

Although there is speech when talking to other characters descriptions must still be read. And there is a lot of reading to be done.

There are two difficulty levels, novice and challenging. After completing the game on challenging, I started again on novice. With the little bit that I played on novice, I only noticed very slight differences in descriptions of certain things.

Biases

Reviewed gog version. No idea what version number if there is one.

I really liked Blade Runner, The Secret Of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, Borrowed Time and Under A Killing Moon.

I also liked Martian Memorandum, Curse of Monkey Island, Escape From Monkey Island, Indiana Jones And the Fate Of Atlantis and Simon The Sorcerer.

I did not like Dark Seed.

I have completed the game.

DRM

Dragonsphere is avaiable DRM free from GOG.com.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1.8 GHz Processor
  • 512MB RAM (1GB recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • 2GB HDD
  • Mouse, Keyboard
  • I am unsure why gog listed the harddisk requirements as 2GB when the download size is only 82Mb and takes up only 88Mb installed.

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Logitech G35 headset and/or Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with portable egg speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips

If Dragonsphere is freezing often when you leave a location, try this fix. Edit the dosboxDrangonsphere.conf file in the Dragonsphere install folder(gog installation). Search for the line that says “core=dynamic” and change it to “core=auto“. For more information, see this gog forum thread.

Red Faction 2

Futuristic first person shooter. You are part of a squad of super soldiers(Nothing to do with Captain America) that work for a country leader called Sopot. But now Sopot decides to hunt down all the super soldiers he created because he is scared of their power. So your squad is now very angry and plan on assassinating him.

Release Date

June 2003.

Pros

The Geo-Mod game engine has been improved since the first Red Faction and more things can be destroyed. It is still nowhere near the amount of Crysis or Stranglehold but the battles look a lot better with more things being destroyed.

Just like the first game, it has a good assortment of weapons and they work quite realistically.

There are team member NPCs that help you and their AI is quite good. They do actually help, not very much but still some help.

The AI has improved since the first game. They are now more unpredictable. Now they know how to sit and wait or even run further into hiding.

The graphics and animations are good and have improved since Red Faction. Although it is still nowhere near the likes of Bioshock, it is still good considering it is an old game.

The music is good and matches the game. There is some tunes that are taken from the original Red Faction, but they are not the weird tunes.

Voice acting is also good. It has definitely improved from the first game. There is even some humour in what people say.

You get to drive vehicles and use turrets!

The level designs are just as good as Red Faction with variety of combat environments.

Cons

The story is not as good as the first Red Faction. But still better than Painkiller Overdose.

The graphics support wide screen, but the scale is not correct. So when I played it at 1280×800, everything looks fat. I play with 1024×768 because of the wrong scaling. It is quite poor how they do not have proper wide screen support where as Pure Faction a free community patch for Red Faction does.

The stealth gameplay in the first game is not in this one. Maybe because it doesn’t fit the story but it means less variety in gameplay.

Not Moddable! A big no no considering that the first Red Faction is moddable.

There is no multiplayer. There is single player bot matches with the usual death match and ctf etc but it is pointless since you cannot play multiplayer.

Other Points

The story is a very loose sequel of the original Red Faction. The only tie in with the original story is the mention of Ultor, the Nano-technology and the rebellion that happenned in the first game.

Just like the first game, this is not a simple run and gun game. The weapons are realistic and thinking helps you survive.

There are four endings. I read that they are just different narrative over the same video though.

Overall, Red Faction 2 is moderately entertaining but if I had to choose between this and the original Red Faction, I would choose Red Faction.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.01.

I really liked Serious Sam, all the Doom games and Quake 2.

I also really liked Stranglehold, Red Faction, Bioshock, Alien Vs Predator, Soldier of Fortune 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and Call Of Duty 4.

I also liked Painkiller Overdose, Battlefield 1942, Delta Force and Spec Ops 2.

I have completed the single player story campaign to get one ending.

DRM

The disc must be in the drive to play the game.

Red Faction 2 is available DRM free from GOG.com.

Patches

1.01 – No comments.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on the box)

  • Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP
  • 500 MHz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon Processor
  • DirectX 8.1 (included on disc)
  • DirectX 8.1 compatible 3D Hardware Accelerated 16MB NVIDIA TNT1 or ATI Rage 128 video card
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 8x CD or DVD drive
  • 2 Gb of Free Hard Disc Space
  • DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
  • 100% Microsoft compatible mouse and keyboard

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with laptop speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips

To play Red Faction 2 on Windows 7 64 bit, you must first install the 1.01 patch followed by this unofficial VRAM bug fix patch.

 

Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars & Kane’s Wrath

Good, old fashioned real-time strategy(RTS) game that continues the story of Command and Conquer.

Release Date

Tiberium wars: March 2007
Kane’s Wrath: March 2008

Pros

Has a good tutorial that teaches the basics of the game.

The graphics are very good and very detailed.

The super weapons are really SUPER WEAPONS!

The campaign has a good story spanning all three sides and the mission structure and the videos drives the story well. The Kane’s Wrath expansion adds another Nod campaign to the collection and gives a good story that interweaves and extends the plot of the main game.

Three very different sides, gives good variety to game play. Kane’s Wrath adds 2 extra sub-factions for each side, but they are very much sub-factions with many similarities between factions of the one side.

Global Conquest mode in Kane’s Wrath. The main strategic map works differently from other Risk-style games in that there are no fixed territories. Each base or army has a radius range where things are affected by the base or army. And each army can only move or attack within that range for one turn. It really does bring a new way to play Command And Conquer.

Continues the Command & Conquer tradition of having nice videos that drive the story.

Cons

The Global Conquest game type in Kane’s Wrath does not allow saving of the game during a real-time battle. And there is a time limit before Fog Of War is lifted and then another time limit before all stealth units are revealed. This stops long and big battles from taking place which is good if you like fast battles. But they should have made it optional and allow saving during battle.

Other Points

The music is OK. No where near as good as the sound track to the first Command and Conquer.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.09 of Tiberium Wars and version 1.02 of Kane’s Wrath.

I really liked Dune 2, Command And Conquer, C&C Tiberian Sun, Rise Of Nations and The Moon Project.

I also liked Empire Earth 2, Dark Reign, Warcraft 1 and 2, Supreme Commander and Total Annihilation.

I did not like Homeworld.

I have completed all the campaigns for GDI, Nod and Scrin including the Nod campaign in Kane’s wrath.

I have also played a lot of Global Conquest games and ordinary skirmish games.

I have played a few games online. I think the teams are well balanced. I have tried all the different sides and have only won once so far.

DRM

When installing Tiberium Wars and Kane’s Wrath, a key code must be entered for each game.

The correct disc must be in the drive to play the games.

Patches

Tiberium Wars 1.09 English – No comments.

Kane’s Wrath 1.02 English – No comments.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • OS: Windows XP, Vista (32-bit)
  • CPU: 2.0 GHz or faster (2.2 GHz or faster for Vista)
  • RAM: 512MB (1GB for Vista) or more
  • Disc Drive: 8x or faster DVD drive
  • Hard Drive: 6.0 GB or more free space
  • Video: DirectX 9.0c compatible Video card with 64 MB or more memory and one of these chipsets is required: ATI Radeon 8500 (9500 for Vista) or greater; NVIDIA GeForce4 (6100 for Vista) or greater. Note: ATI Radeon 9200, 9250 PCI; NVIDIA GeForce 4 MX are not supported
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • Input: Keyboard and mouse
  • Multiplayer requires one disc per PC. Network (2-8 Players); Internet (2-8 Players with optional voice support): Cable, DSL, or a faster connection.

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset or laptop speakers.
  • Win XP Pro
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Recommended Mods

Sick of seeing the EA logo everytime your start up the game? Then get this mod to remove the logo on start up. NoLogoMod. There is one for Tiberium Wars and one for Kane’s Wrath.