Get out of the fucking way… I am shooting flames here!

Lydia, my personal Xena Warrior Princess (and nerdly erotic), is a companion who is helping me kill a bunch of weird animals, monsters, and bad guys. Lydia keeps jumping (was gonna write “walking,” but in hand-to-hand combat no one walks) into my flames as I try to scorch the shit out of them. I am shooting flames with my left hand as my right one wields a really bad-ass axe.

Go here, here, here, and here (<— especially here) for excellent reviews and musings on Skyrim. What you are about to read will pale in comparison, but it does give insight into why I am, once again, writing about a damn video game.

I screamed at my television last night because of Lydia’s inept ability to stay clear of my stream of fire. For some reason she feels compelled to get in the way of my human flamethrower ability. If you and I were exploring some strange land (inhabited by some really scary shit) together and you had the ability to shoot streaming fire… you can bet I would stay the fuck out of your way. The bitch never learns though… every damn time I start spraying fire she decides to jump in and get a sword blow in on our enemy. I think this slutty clad warrior is trying to take my kills.

I can shoot fire from my left hand because of magic. Magic plays a prominent part of Skyrim… I don’t really give a shit about magic. (in Skyrim it is called “magika”) But I do like having the ability to walk around with an ignited left hand that projects a fiery flame. There is something of a boner-making quality to flame shooting skills (unless those skills are related to farting). My archery skills are okay, but its the flaming ability that really makes me a bad-ass. It doesn’t take much real life weapon knowledge to get the whole axe/sword/bow concept… the use of potions and firing of “magika” spells is the area that sort of gets me confused. Basically I don’t give a shit about magika… but the fire is pretty damn fun.

Understanding your options (like: should I or should I not burn the shit out of this monster) is a big part of today’s video games. A friend, with no weapon knowledge (wimpy city boy with no military experience), struggles with realistic first person shooter (FPS) games like Modern Warfare 3. He just doesn’t understand the difference of between submachine guns and assault rifles. Firing rates and stopping power is beyond him… I just tell him to pick one that looks cool and move out and draw fire. When I see him die, I know the enemy is nearby… he is a good decoy and alert system that way.

My friend’s gaming experience is one of trial and error. Trial and error means he dies a lot. Most FPS games punish trial and error strategies. If you die in an online FPS match… some other player is getting points and bonuses for your death and you don’t get to advance as quickly. The trial and error player then develops a new strategy… hiding like a bitch. (my friend hasn’t adopted that strategy yet… thankfully) It could easily make one hate a game.

I hate games where I don’t immediately understand the rules or the weapons, this is why I never liked Mass Effect 2. I didn’t grasp the use of “mass effect” techniques and felt they weren’t effectively explained during the “tutorial” period at the beginning of the game. These techniques weren’t intuitive either. If I can’t quickly learn it… then I don’t like it. Also, I don’t like lasers and such… just give me an assault rifle, or a sword… oh and a flaming hand.

Skyrim encourages trial and error. It even recommends eating new plants and potions so you learn of their effects prior to using on enemies. The game wants you to try killing mastodons and giants… yes they both kill you quickly. Then once you realize you can’t kill them, you sneak around them… Skyrim then gives you sneak points for learning the lesson of “getting stomped by a giant is not fun.”

Yeah, yeah, the critics and ravers will say the graphics are good… the dialogue is a little hokey… and some of the monsters are unbelievably hard to kill (giants and orcs)… it’s still fun. I’m not sure what I am supposed to accomplish story-wise… something about being the spawn of dragon semen or something… I think. That’s okay, because not only is the environment of the game meant for exploration, but the story is one that is slowly revealed while you sneak around. This game reveals its good qualities in a methodical manner… like a good bourbon.

My biggest complaint (the bite to this bourbon) is Lydia’s inability to avoid my flaming weaponry. Seriously??? Lydia do you not see this giant red,orange, and yellow hell fury coming out of my hand??? WTF???

 Artificial intelligence is always hard for these games… but how fucking hard is it to write a code that says “if player is attacking with some weapon, player’s companions will stay the fuck out-of-the-way.” Now there may be a reason for this irritation… maybe the game designers mean for me to learn to control my fiery outbursts. I don’t know… but I don’t like it.

Ultimately, this game is either designed for “look a shiny object” type of person or it is meant for “look the designers are trying to distract me” type of person. Me, I’m the easily distracted gamer. I see a path leading into the woods… I see an opportunity to go burn some shit. In the end I think Skyrim is designed to appeal to both type of gamers and allows a slow revelation of its pleasures and faults. Secretly, I get pleasure in burning Lydia’s ass every now and then to remind her who’s the boss.

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