Friday, February 10, 2012

Skyrim (XBOX 360 and PC)


Yes, I like the game so much I bought it twice.  I picked up the 360 version on launch day but didn't get around to playing it until much later (I was trying to finish Rage first....yeah don't ask).  I just picked up the PC version this week since it went on sale for $40 on steam and to check out some of the cool mods.

WARNING: There might be what some people consider to be very minor spoilers but nothing plot related.

XBOX 360 / General Info
- Looks great to me.  Having three 360's and cloud saves lets me easily switch rooms depending on what the family is currently occupying.
- Finished the main quest line at level 50, 83 hrs with companions and all but the last thieves guild quest (I wanted to keep the skeleton key).  I'm currently working getting the remaining words of power and then I'll begin the Civil war quest line.  I'll probably go stomrcloaks with this character.  The Imperials almost took my head off and  yeah I don't forget or forgive!!!
- I stuck to first person POV for 99% of the time.
- I really like two wiki's.  The first one is great for general information and quest info.  The second is good for looking up locations:
http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Skyrim
http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/The_Elder_Scrolls_V:_Skyrim
I'm not going to link a whole lot in this article since you can just search for it in the uesp wiki.
- My build was a very traditional one: one hand sword, heavy armor, block, with archery for some ranged firepower, and during the mid game I dabbled a bit in conjuration.
- Smithing and enchanting are both super powerful and worth leveling.  Though once you hit level 50 or so you pretty much 1-2 shot everything including dragons.
- If you decide to power level some professions I suggest you sink your talent points into your main build areas.  So for me that would be the ones I listed above.  That way you don't end up getting out leveled by the enemies around you.  It doesn't happen that much anyways in Skyrim as compared to Oblivion with the way scaling works now.
- I did choose to power level smithing (create about 450 - 500 iron daggers will get you to 100 smithing, faster if you have the appropriate stone buff).  During this entire time, every time I leveled I would go train with one of the companions for free (make them a follower first, train your 5 levels, trade with them and get your gold back, dismiss them and pick back up the follower you prefer to use).
- Enchanting was a bit tougher which I didn't max out until I was in my mid 40's level wise.  I would buy up every single lesser and petty soul gem I could find (filled or empty).  There are at least 3 people who carry soul gems in whiterun (your wife,Belethor,Farengar) .  Try and find a weapon (sometimes merchants will have one for sale) with a soul trap enchant on it and learn it so you can enchant your own weapon with soul trap (1 sec duration, max charges).  Then go crazy trying to fill as many soul gems as possible while questing.  Come back and enchant all those iron daggers you made from smithing with the priciest enchants you have (banish is by far the most profitable with absorb health being second, do both once you max enchanting).  Now you can sell these enchanted daggers for big profits.  Soon, money won't be an issue at all.  I'm sitting on over 80K gold right now.
- I did the black star quest pretty early on, and I went with the black star choice which can absorb any soul.  If I'm on a quest with humanoid enemies I would recharge my soul trap sword with the black star before I killed another humanoid which would just refill the black star.  You keep doing these frequent recharges, and it also helps level up your enchanting.
- Once you max out enchanting make sure you spend perks to get dual enchants (I picked all perks except the far right branch).  Read this on optimizing.  I didn't go quite that crazy since I hate alchemy.  Even with alchemy in the 20's I was able to create a one hand daedric sword with base damage of 361.  The key thing is using 4 fortify one hand enchants that ALL STACK that increases your weapon damage to crazy levels.  Add to that a fiery soul trap (3 sec duration) plus absorb health (max absorption) enchant and you become pretty unstoppable.  For the bow I tried to make a mage killer: paralysis and shock.  I'm thinking now though I should have probably went with fiery soul trap + paralysis.  For the rest of the pieces I went with a mix of increasing max health, stamina, block, and heavy armor and a bit of magicka on the helm.
- Remember, once you enchant an item there is no undo.  This also means once you get dual enchant you can't add a 2nd enchant to an item already enchanted.  I you have to start with a clean item and then put both enchants on at once.  It's nice that the process only takes 1 grand soul gem though.
- On the other hand you can continually improve weapons and armor through blacksmithing.  So as you improve your blacksmithing (or have a better fortify restoration pot) you can go back to the grinding stone or workbench and further improve your gear.
- For armor I'm basically in dragon bone.  For weapons I'm using daedric.  If you are short on materials on either of those try ebony.  The ebony ingots are pretty easy to get from the 3 blacksmiths + general merchants in whiterun.  Basically, if you are selling enchanted daggers usually the merchants don't have near enough gold.  So I would always buy up all the ebony ingots they had and then sell them my daggers and drain them of all their gold.  I now have 100's of ingots which to cheaply craft ebony weapons and armor which I can experiment with different enchantments or give to my follower.  The main things I always buy from merchants are lockpicks, ebony ingots, and high end arrows.
- Go get married early to pick up a nice food buff, sleeping xp buff, and a cozy little profit.  I married Camilla Valerius in Riverwood since you should have already met her quest requirement (golden claw).  She also becomes a merchant which is just another source for you to sell your stuff.
- Fast travel is very convenient and you can pay a small amount of gold to ride the carriages (there is one right at whiterun stables) to get to any of the major cities to unlock them.
- I started with Lydia as my follower for about the first half of my play time.  I recommend switching to Mjoll if you want a good melee 2 hand/archer follower.  She's a bit chatty (some people like that) but it seems like she can't be perma killed (unlike Lydia which I had to reload many times b/c I found her dead after some of the harder fights).
- For follower enchants I used fiery soul trap + paralysis on all their weapons.  Give them a few soul gems and some empty ones and they will be self sufficient as far as keeping their weapons charged up and filling a few soul gems to boot.  On armor I stuck on fortify health and carry weight wherever I could making them the best pack mule they can be!
- My horses keep dying or getting lost.  I'm thinking about doing dark brotherhood just to get Shadowmere.  I had Frost but he somehow died or disappeared.  Yeah, I have bad luck with horses.
- Steed stone is by far my favorite especially for heavy armor.
- Keep visiting the greybeards for more words of power locations if you are trying to collect them all.
- When looting always look at the weight to value ratio and not just the value.  You want to pick up the stuff that is worth the most for the least amount of carrying weight.
- There were some odd performance issues that happens maybe once every 15 hrs.  The framerate would just tank to single digits and become pretty much unplayable.  It only seems to happen in certain dungeons.  A reload of a save usually fixes it.  It doesn't happen that often but when it does it is quite annoying.
- Lately, I crafted a new set of ebony and enchanted it all out for archery.  I'm experimenting with an archery build and then dual wield as backup.  On this bow I decided to use fiery soul trap and paralysis.  It takes longer to kill things but it's definitely a lot of fun especially after you sink a few points into the archery tree.  I'm basically getting all the skills up the left side of the tree.  Dual wield does pretty crazy damage even without any points in it.



PC
- Trying out a pure mage High Elf destruction build.  I'll probably hit the mage's college early on to check that quest line out.
- Graphics look even better at 1080p + the new free hd texture pack dlc.
- I love the quicker save/load times.  This is by far the biggest difference I notice.  Even with the disc installed on the 360 load times take way too long.  Quick save/load is also a very nice pc only feature.
- Mods Mods Mods which is the main reason I bought the PC version too.  My 360 game is my pure experience while I plan to mod out the PC version quite a bit.
- First of all I'm not really using steam workshop as of yet since without a search feature it's pretty much dead to me.  Instead go here for all your modding needs:
(UPDATE: As I was writing this steam workshop finally got a search bar and most of the mods I listed are there too).
http://skyrim.nexusmods.com
- Make sure you install this first:
http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/content/modmanager/
which makes managing your mods a lot easier.
Current mods I'm using:
SkyUI - The best UI replacement.  You must install SKSE first though (read the readme.  It's easy).

I also wanted to make skyrim with a bit more ummm eye candy but still making it safe to play around family.
CBBE (with the nevernude option, Make sure you follow the .ini modification needed if you have the texture pack installed)
Better females by Bella (for that glam look.  I still hate bethesda faces.  They were a bit better in skyrim though).
Killer Keos Skimpy CBBE V2 Armor Set -Work In Progress (for ummm more interesting looking armor)
- I've only had the PC version for a few days so I'm still exploring the mod scene.
- Regardless of what the title says I think these console commands would make you feel like a cheater but still these could come in handy:
http://news.softpedia.com/news/Skyrim-Console-Commands-That-Will-Not-Make-You-Feel-Like-a-Cheater-236613.shtml
- Runs pretty well on my macbook pro 15" mid 2010.  I actually got the cider wrapper to work but it was still a pretty big fps hit even at low settings (felt at least 10fps slower than bootcamp).  In bootcamp I'm getting a very acceptable 30-45 fps with a mix of low - medium settings.  I'm using the dropbox symbolic link trick to keep my save files in sync between this and my gaming desktop.
- Runs at a nice clip of 30-50 fps at ultra settings with the hd texture pack.
- UPDATE: So I deactivated all my mods in nexus and subscribed to them all in steam workshop.  When you launch the regular launcher it downloads all your mods and will check for updates too.  This is tied to your steam account so it carries across multiple installations/pc's too which is very nice.  Just make sure before you play you at least fire up the regular launcher to get any mod updates, close the launcher down, and then launch skse like usual.  Here are the equivalent steam workshop links for the mods I'm using:
CBBE
Better females by Bella
Killerkeo's Simpy Armor Pack WIP
SkyUI

Highly recommended.  Any game that has me coming back for more even after 83 hrs and "finishing" the game and then getting me to buy it twice says something.  It's vast in content and yet all of it feels high quality and dense.  It's open ended open world yet it has so many really good solid plot quests.

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