December 6th, 2011

OK, so it may sound like a sex act you’d perform to get into the mile-high club, but it’s an absolutely brilliant game.  Nowhere in RPGs will you get anything that comes close for scale, grandeur, variety, content, immersiveness.  It’s magnificent.

To a degree that’s always been true of the elder scrolls games – their aspiration to produce huge, open-ended worlds that you could explore in your own way and at your own pace was always impressive – but I’ve had some big problems with them in the past.  Huge and sometimes lovingly detailed though they were, the game worlds of Morrowind and Oblivion never felt that convincing to me.  They lacked theme.   They too often felt like a bunch of fantasy cliches randomly stuffed together into one disunified whole.  Here’s a guy with a lion for a head.  And here’s some roman legionaries.  And here’s an evil necromancer.  And oh, look, some demons.  And an ancient statue.  And just next to it a guy with a snake for a head peddling potions.  And it didn’t help that after trawling through thirty caves, twenty evil temples and a dozen abandoned fortresses you’d start to see a really dispiriting level of repetition in the levels.  The same u-bend of corridor, the same big chamber with the split level and the pond in the middle.  The very open-endedness which is such an advantage could become a real problem as well, with strange interactions of different questlines creating moments of hilarity.  I vividly remember one moment in Oblivion when, while standing next to an arcane gate to hell which had appeared, debouching demons across the landscape and threatening the very fabric of existence, a farmer ran up and asked me if I’d found those three fish he asked me to get way back near the beginning of the game.  Since you might come to different quests and areas at very different levels of power, it’s also necessary to have a mechanic that balances out play and continues to make things challenging.  But this was sometimes handled very lumpily – when you reached high levels every wolf would become more testing than a dragon, every group of thugs would be outfitted in diamond armour and wielding weapons suitable to a mighty hero of yore, begging the question, if you can afford an ebony greatsword of withering, why do you need to lurk in alleys robbing passers by?  There was a sense that there was masses of stuff but none of it was really special.

The good news?  There’s loads of it.  While keeping what was best about it’s open-ended forebears, Skyrim triumphantly overcomes the drawbacks.  Well, most of them, anyway.  And it’s in the setting that it really scores BIG.  Skyrim is a nordic, viking-y sort of a place and it’s concentrating on that theme that has really drawn everything together.  Armour and weapons have nordic swirls, houses have dragons carved on the roofs, mammoth-herding giants roam the tundra and dragons haunt the skies.  The fighters guild in Oblivion were some fighters.  In a house.  Who fought stuff.  The Companions in Skyrim are a load of Valhalla obsessed nords who sit round a firepit in an upended longship.  They’ve got an ideology, man.  The politics of the place even make a rough sort of sense, and there’s much more of a feeling that your actions impact on the world, that you’re a part of what’s going on.  And it looks amazing.  I mean, fantasy has never looked so good.  Frozen forests, snow-capped mountains, forbidding fortresses, subterranean rivers, ancient cities carved from the mountainside, waterfalls gleaming under a sky blazing with strange constellations.  The dragons, for that matter, are pretty amazing to look at, soaring in the distance and perhaps strafing the odd sabre toothed tiger as they pass.  People and faces, well, I guess you could say you’ve seen better but they’re perfectly serviceable.  I suppose the graphics in detail aren’t always amazing, but the cumulative effect, of some of the great vistas from a viewpoint, for instance, can be incredible.  It feels like there’s vastly more variety here than in previous outings, vastly more detail.  You do occasionally get a bit of a sense of deja vu in your fifth ancient barrow or subterranean cave system, but pretty much every one I visited had something unique going on, and a lot of them had a theme – a bandit outpost built around a vast natural chimney, a poacher’s cave where they’d been killing mammoths by herding them down a spike-lined pit, an ice-bound fortress built by a madman.  The range and attention to detail is pretty amazing.

And the sheer quantity of it.  I’d consider 30 or 40 hours a good amount to get out of a roleplayer.  Sixty hours picking the bones of a real beast.  I put over 100 into Skyrim and I completed the central questline and a couple of others, knocked off fifteen or twenty smaller quests and a host of little challenges.  There were three or four questlines I didn’t even start, vast swathes of the map I scarcely visited.  I could put in another 100 hours, easily, and that without starting on the scores of ruins and dungeons one can stumble upon by accident.  It’s truly, staggeringly immense, and quite apart from the sheer value for money that gives you, it lends a sense of scope and grandeur, a sense of being free within an immense and beautiful environment, a sense that your character and your playthrough will be unlike anyone else’s, that I just don’t feel you can get anywhere else.

Downsides?  Nothing that isn’t eminently forgivable given the tremendous upsides.  Play balancing is occasionally still a little bit lumpy but vastly improved over previous outings.  The system for quick-changing items is surprisingly and unnecessarily rubbish and limited given how well thought-out most aspects are.  Character development is much neater thanks to a Fallout-esque perks system that means you can’t excel at everything but have to pick a little more carefully what your approach will be.  I ran across a couple of broken quests, a few nonsensical lines of dialogue given events, the odd bit of ropey voice work, a few graphical glitches, but given the scale and immense variety of permutations that’s hardly surprising.  And a very stable game, as well.  In that 100 hours it only properly crashed twice, which is welcome compared to, say, Fallout:Vegas which was crashy as all hell.

So, overall, it sets a new benchmark.  When looking at recent competition in the arena of Fantasy RPGs, there just isn’t any.  Final Fantasy seems to have run out of steam.  Dark Souls, for all its undoubted good qualities, looks petty, dingy, clunky and meagre by comparison.  I liked the first Dragon Age but the second one looks truly feeble next to this.  Dungeon Siege III?  Puh-lease.  I’ve got to go way back to Baldur’s Gate I and II to find anything so huge and immersive and that, clearly, was an entirely different era.  Mass Effect 2 (and, one hopes, the forthcoming 3) is probably the only RPG that’s coming close, and that scratches a much more limited, arcade-y itch.

Right.  I’m off to wait for the DLC.  And play Arkham City.  Could be worse…

Posted in games by Joe Abercrombie on December 6th, 2011.

67 comments so far

  • Murray says:

    Mind if I ask what platform you are playing on Joe? PC or console? Just wondering as I still need to buy Skyrim and I’m trying to decide if my PC is good enough to play it on, or if I should get it on console instead.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    PS3. I’ve largely given up on PC now. Keeping up with the hardware just makes me tired and most things come out on console anyway. Total War is the one thing I really miss. But you buy something for console you know it will run reasonably well. For PC it always seems like there’s an element of pot luck. Conflict with a driver here, licensing problem there, I just can’t be arsed with it any more.

  • Dan says:

    Joe, what was your character build? I’ve got three going. Sneaky archer, dual wield guy. 2h, heavy armor, smithing guy. And mage dude. Still can’t settle on one but I’m leaning 2h heavy hitter as my main.

  • Tim says:

    I keep forgetting about the main plot line, it is so easy to get distracted, which isn’t a bad things but I’m now making a concerted effort to get my quest log looking a bit neater. Also Dragons have become more of a nuisance than a threat which is a little disappointing, maybe I need to turn up the difficulty.

    I will say that of the three new games I have purchased for my PC recently Skyrim is by far the most stable with not a single crash in the 40 odd hours I have put in.

    Also mods, having potions and poisons sat together in logical order makes life so much easier. Healing pots with other healing pots, magika with magika and so on.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Also a PS3 player, and I broadly agree. Glad to hear you didn’t suffer the Super-Lag that some seem to get when save files exceed around 9MB or so.

    I love the variety of legitimate playstyles there are. I’ve got a stack of characters and although some are harder than others (my stealthy Khajiit kicks arse) they all work pretty well.

  • Tim H says:

    Great review, Joe. Do you have any favorite moments? I’ll never forget the House of Horrors in Markarth.

  • David says:

    Joe and Others,

    I’ve heard PS3 has severe slow down issues with games played into the 100 hour mark. Something to do with the save files or something. I have XBOX 360, but was curious if you ran into this issue?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I went with a fighter focusing on one-handed swords – with shield for tough situations, with an extra sword for hacking through the chaff, plus a fair bit of stealthy bow work, a bit of restoration magic and a lot of smithing.

    Thaddeus, David,
    No particular problems of that type. Noticed it occasionally slowing down a little after it had been on a long time (like four or five hours) but turning on and off would sort that out. I have a very new PS3, though, my old fat one died a couple of months back, don’t know if that might be a factor? I’ve noticed it seems generally a bit slicker than did the old machine.

    Tim H,
    Battle for Whiterun was great. And I just absolutely loved the whole early section leading up to being summoned by the Greybeards. Was completely gripped up until that point. A personal favourite moment was Kodlak’s funeral. Everyone was gathered sadly about the pyre lamenting the passing of the great man while his corpse, for reasons unknown, was on his face, with his head buried in the pyre and his arse sticking up in the air in his underwear. It’s the way I want to go.

  • ColinJ says:

    It’s a great game. I’m currently moving through my favourite aspect of the previous game: The Dark Brotherhood!

    I think the ELDER SCROLLS series has become so successful because it picked up the ball that FINAL FANTASY dropped. And that is that while the FF games became increasingly linear and ‘on rails’ a game like OBLIVION relished in being a vast open world with endless possibilities to go and grind out levels and skills. I played about 200 hundred hours of that game before I even touched the main quest.

    I think the result of that is the massive success and acclaim for SKYRIM. They put the money into the game world rather than into pretty CGI cut scenes.

    Hopefully this time we’ll get some Dark Brotherhood DLC.

  • Thaddeus says:

    My PS3 is a 40GB old fat one. I’ve had a few freezes (not so many it’s a major problem) and so far super-lag hasn’t struck me. That said, my biggest save file is just over 9MB.

  • Michael says:

    You mean it isn’t a sex act you perform to get into the mile high club? Damn’t!

    Oh well game was worth it anyway.

  • Phil B-W says:

    I’ve been playing on Xbox 360 (bought about a year ago) and have had two freezes in about 100 hours of play. All of these occurred while it was loading a new location.

  • Ian says:

    glad to hear you enjoyed the game : ). My total experience was kinda Meh. While i appreciate open world RPGs if they get to open i judge them compared to pen and paper RPGs which the openess there is much vaster.

  • Nick Sharps says:

    I love Skyrim and I personally hate RPGs. The big selling factor for me was just how accessible the game is from the menus to the leveling system. And talk about immersive. I spent my first 20 levels at Whiterun, grew an attachment to the city and people that was so real that I actually felt homesick when I went on to my next city. The one problem I have is that I am a badass outfitted with dragon armor that slays whoever I come up against and I’m STILL taking orders from others. I realize I can’t just waltz in and set myself up as supreme dictator of Skyrim because of limitations on the part of the designer but still.

  • Coyle says:

    Joe, your build sounds rather similar to mine. i loved Skyrim even though I never played any of the other Elder Scrolls and am not a huge RPG guy in any case. Unrelated though, you said you played the Total War series? Did you play Shogun 2? I got that not long after I read the Heroes and all I could think about was how awesome the Northern and Styrian wars in your books would transfer into the Total War series, if someone was willing to put in the time to mod it.

  • Ok, I’ve got to get this out of my system because. This has been pent up for to long.

    This game is overrated. The sheer look of Skyrim is fantastic and the general gameplay is a vast improvement over previous installments and compared to the glitches in New Vegas it seems like heaven. I don’t deny that.

    But it does have a lot of problems that many people have seem to ignore. For starters, it’s repetitive as hell. A lot of the dungeons, crypts, temples, ect., have the exact same layout with the same types of traps and puzzles and you usually end up fighting the same things over and over again, (zombies, spiders, magi, and bandits).

    Then you have the main story, which is generic high fantasy, (honestly, how many times have we hear the “dragon is going to destroy the world” story) and the story telling execution wasn’t that good. The individual missions weren’t that interesting and didn’t seem that well executed to me, (you fight with ancient Nord heroes at the game’s end and it still somehow seemed boring and underwhelming). The guild missions aren’t all that better and suffer from the crypt repetitiveness I mentioned before.

    The impact you had on this world I always felt was a bit limited and better executed in New Vegas, (as was the brewing war tension).

    Finally, you have the characters. They just sucked! They’re flat, boring, and uninteresting. Granted their are a few that were entertaining and a few moments where they actually seemed three dimensional but by the whole they were just bland.

    And those are my issues with this game. I know I’m a complete minority on this but I felt like the thirty hours I put into Dragon Age 2 or Arkham City were much better spent then the eighty I put into this game. Why did I put in eighty? I was trying to give it the chance to prove me wrong and it didn’t.

  • Yax says:


    Just wanted to pass on that since you made your first post on Skyrim in the middle of November (I also thought that this was something dirty that you’d do on a plane) I have made zero progress on The Heroes. I blame you. And maybe the epic game that it Skyrim. But mostly you.


  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Pen and paper RPGs aren’t that great played on your own, though…

    Yeah, I’ve played the hell out of Total War ever since the First Shogun. Brilliant games. I guess Medieval 2 was the one I’ve played most, though.

    Well each to their own, of course. I do see where you’re coming from a little bit. Characterisation ain’t all that impressive, that’s for sure, you’d be hard pressed to think of memorable people from the game in a year. Lack of sense of humour is part of that, I think. It’s one area where dragon age and mass effect scores over Skyrim. I wasn’t nearly so underwhelmed by the central plotting, I thought the mythos connected with dragons was actually pretty cool and well thought out, Shouts and the Voice was one of the most original and impressive ideas I’ve seen in a fantasy computer game. Repetitiveness? I see where you’re coming from, but there seemed a lot more detail and unique content than in previous outings, and would you really hold up Dragon Age 2 as an alternative from that point of view? I must have fought through the EXACT same warehouse ten times on that game. For me I could really feel the thought and effort that had gone into Skyrim, while Dragon Age 2 felt seriously rushed and shoddy, a profound disappointment.

  • Must…NOT… buy this game. Will… steal…my…life.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Come now, James, let us not pretend you have anything better to do…

  • Chris Upton says:

    But is it as good as Leisure Suit Larry? Time will tell.

  • S.Stines says:

    I dunno Joe things have changed in the world of PC gaming. The hardware is better the drivers are better and if you custom build your rig you’ll have fewer problems in the long run. I have a rig I built in 08 that can run Skyrim on high settings which still looks better than consoles. LONG LIVE PC GAMING!

  • James says:

    Ehhh..honestly, the game was addictive for a while but I got bored of it after about 20 hours. In terms of artistic vision and breadth at least the world was fantastic, but for me personally, it’s the people in the world that draw me in, that make it real to me and give me a reason to stay. The Minsc’s and Irenicus’ and Morrigan’s, the Morte’s and Vhailor’s, the Geralt’s, The Brotherhood of Steel, the John Marston’s and Niko Bellic’s. Nothing about who this world was peopled with interested me in the slightest. Not the factions, not the ancillary characters, not the main ones, not the protagonist. The writing, while it didn’t approach the flat out stupidity of Fallout 3 (“seen my dad?….middle aged guy”), was so dull and lifeless, and most of the voice acting was mediocre. Combined it made the whole world feel artificial the second I heard anyone speak. I also didn’t feel the towns had much atmosphere. I’ll always remember the clamor and bandy of the first bar I walked into in the Witcher, and a “your momma sucks dwarf cock” verbal jab rising above it all. It was hilarious, and it provided atmosphere and a realness to it that I never ever felt in Skyrim.

    I guess that wouldn’t have been a huge problem had the quests not been so boringly simplistic a lot of the time, you just end up moving from point A to point B in a lot of them. I much prefer the options and varying outcomes available in games like Fallout, where skills like persuasion play a much stronger, fundamental role and you can utilize a wider range of strategies.

    Without that, all that was left was the scenery and loot. And well, I’m going to Europe next year. And I didn’t see the point in getting loot if I wasn’t having fun using it, because I found the combat insanely repetitive too. So while the awe of experiencing a beautiful fantasy world appealed to me and sucked me in for a while, eventually the cracks in the gorgeous veneer crept in and broke the experience for me. I honestly don’t think this game does anything especially well except provide a huge, visually pleasing world with lots of content.

    Maybe I’m just too much of a fan of more focused RPG’s like Mass Effect and the Witcher, but I found the experience very underwhelming. Size wasn’t an adequate compensation.

    Sorry Joe, just my opinion. But I’ve rambled on long enough!

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I certainly take some of your points. There could have been a lot more personality in the characters and more quality in the voice acting, I guess to a large degree they went for quantity over quality in some of those areas. I’m not sure I’d necessarily see Fallout as vastly superior, though, I’m having trouble thinking of any particularly memorable people or voicing bar, of course, Ron Perlman’s classic voiceovers. I see the Elder Scrolls and the recent Fallout games as very, very similar overall, as open-eneded, free form RPGs contrasting with much more linear, limited, focused games like Mass Effect. Witcher I haven’t played so I can’t really speak to that. It’s interesting because I’d certainly have made similar criticisms about Oblivion, and normally I’d say character is king, but in Skyrim I just didn’t have that issue, maybe because it felt like there was so much personality and quality in a lot of the settings, I didn’t feel the need for it so much in the people.

  • Mike says:

    You really need to give Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas a try sometime. Really amazingly immersive and open ended games.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Most of the voice-acting was ok, although the wizard in Whiterun was not good. Dragon Age (Origins and 2) were better in that regard.

    I wonder when DA3 will be out. I hope the makers get enough time to do it justice.

    I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a First Law style rpg anytime soon, is there?

  • Kreso Dokaza says:

    Just asking, in case you were as impressed with the looks of the game as I was, how many screenshots did you wind up taking?

    I must’ve taken about 200.

    Oh, and for my 2nd playthrough, my Nord warrior is named Logen. 😀

  • Dan says:

    Thaddeus, I loved the voice acting of the wizard of whiterun. It was actually a different voice from all the others. Sounded like John Malcovich (sp?) to me.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Really? I thought he sounded utterly disinterested (in a “Can’t be bothered” rather than “haughty mage” kind of way).

    It’s a slight shame they didn’t use even more Nordic actors (or actors using Nordic accents), as I rather liked that. Bit like DA2 where the elves have Welsh and Irish accents.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Max von Sydow? Don’t really get any more heavyweight nordic actors than that…

  • Thaddeus says:

    I know, what I meant was that lots of the Nords had proper Nordic voices, but some of them had American ones and blanket accent coverage for each race would’ve been a further plus.

  • Jan says:

    Anyone noticed that Esbern – as being voiced by Max von Sydow – may have two voice actors? Sometimes it just seems that Max took a break from recording his lines and they got some other guy to do it. Or he got a runny nose and some lines sound totally different. Particularly those in Sky Haven Temple (well, those that are not relevant to the main quest anyway).

    However, hands down to Christopher Plummer and Vladimir Kulich. Those two totally nailed their characters. I still got chills when I remember Ulfircs first line “Legends dont burn down villages.”

  • Thanks, Joe.

    I’ve not played Skyrim yet, for fear of the Time Suck it would cause. Also, to be fair, my SSD died on Monday, and so lack an OS to play it…

  • Alessa Dark says:

    Xenoblade Chronicles, man, Xenoblade Chronicles. 45 hours in and not yet half-way. It has picked up the ball Final Fantasy dropped and run with it.

  • Muzza says:

    Best. Fantasy. Game. Ever. To those who disagree, I say “good day” to you. I SAID, “GOOD DAY!”

    Now that is done, I have spent some much time doing, first the Companion story line, then the thieves guild (which is still going even though I think I now run the show). I totally forgot about the civil war and main story. I am now level 40 starting the civil war…there is soooo much story to go. Not to forget the billion side quests, some of with are rippers.

    Batman and Saints Row are gathering dust waiting for me to play and poor Gears Of War 3 after being the favourite son is now being neglected like a red headed step child.

  • Dan says:

    As much as I like talking video games with Joe and everyone else, and I do like it, I am still a little disappointed that this blog has become more of a video game chat than a book blog. Just seems like we should be talking about the greatest freaking character in fantasy literature right now!! That being Logen bloody nine fingers!!! Seems like Joe should be telling us how he is the star of the next book or trilogy. And it seems that Joe should be giving us that precious information in three…two…one…

    (I will trick you into giving us that info one of these days Joe..!)

  • James says:

    Fair enough Joe. A part of me thinks the game might benefit from being a bit smaller, but who knows. And about Fallout, honestly I’ve always found the series incredibly funny even if there aren’t specifically memorable character. But I’ll never forget the split personality of the Master in Fallout 1, or the Brotherhood of Steel (more as a collective than any single character I guess), or some of those cruel mutants, or Harold, i love Harold! But that’s just me.

    Each to their own.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I think you might well be right that a little less scale on the landscape and a little more work on the people might have been a better formula. It’s interesting, actually, I was talking to a friend about this last night and he was wondering whether the blandness of the characters encourages you almost to invent your own stories around the setting. I know that, unwittingly, I span a whole set of yarns around my Housecarl in Whiterun who would accompany me on adventures but was utterly bereft of personality of any kind supplied by the game. There was a certain bowl that would always fall off the table and I would berate them whenever I returned for not cleaning up. Perhaps I am insane. But maybe it almost works best as a framework you flesh out with your own imagination, kind of the way games did way back in the day. Something like Mass Effect is more movie-like, in that sense – seeing the main character speak defines them much more rigidly.

  • Lee Harrison says:

    I sometimes check out this Games Review site of yours, and i never fail to be astonished. Three children. Dark and dritty books to write, genres to bend. How the hell do you find time to rack up 100 hours of anything? Have you tied your wife and kids up?

  • James Dening says:

    I love the irony of James Barclay saying there is a danger it will take up his valuable time. From a man that single handedly delayed my company launching a major new sales channel when I discovered the Raven books. Only by a few days, mind, but I’m pretty clear on the cause-effect….

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    If you click on the games category on the left you will find my reviews of both recent Fallout games. I think with hindsight I preferred Fallout 3 over Vegas, though.

    I’m sure Barclay would be extremely proud of that piece of minor damage he has inflicted on our faltering economy.

  • So, let’s say that I have Oblivion, and while I can see its appeal, I find that it easily turns into a grind (at least at the start, which is all important), lugging a maximum encumbrance of loot to traders to sell, repetitively working on skills, mixing up pointless alchemical potions, joining the Fighters’ Guild and methodically selling the entire contents of the Guild House to the shop across the road.

    What I liked about, say, Dragon Age and Mass Effect II, is the lack of ‘grind’.

    Would I get on with Skyrim?

  • Ian S says:

    I have read your reviews before and I really enjoyed them.

    I think with the Elder Scrolls games you get out what you put in. The more you let the world suck you in by understanding the lore and understanding the races the more you start to see the depth of the world.

    With Oblivion it took my 2nd 100 hours of play to really understand how to develop a character. It helps if you decided to create a character’s back story in your mind and play according to that. One of the character’s I developed was an Orc Samurai, only using Katana’s and Bows and living by his “code”. I know so nerdy! But it really added a different dynamic. If you create a mythos about your character it really changes the experience.

    Also here is a link to someone’s blog where he extracted the text of all the book’s available in Skyrim.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    You may well find some of the grind-i-ness is still in evidence. I must admit I actually don’t mind a certain amount of it. I suppose I can only say that the much greater quality of theme, detail and cohesion in Skyrim makes everything a lot more enjoyable for me than it was in Oblivion, even though a lot of the game mechanics aren’t vastly different.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Mr. Bartlett: on encumbrance specifically, you can carry more now because weapons and armour weigh less, I think, and the lack of repairing means you don’t need spare weapons/shields or repair hammers. It’s a small change but it makes things a bit easier and less hassle.

  • Heath says:

    I’ve really enjoying Skyrim, it is undoubtedly up there among my top RPGs just based on my experience with it so far. The expansive of the world is really unlike anything else I’ve played. I think my only real criticism is that the hand-to-hand combat still feels sort of floaty and imprecise. Sword strikes never feel like they really connect, and it’s difficult to tell when your opponent is in range. This is after playing Dark Souls, however, which is kind of the polar opposite. Or maybe it’s just the PS3.

  • Ian S says:

    Elder Scrolls is not prefect but you have to give it some credit the shear depth and experience of this game is amazing. It isn’t for everyone, it is a game you have to spend a lot of time with and if it doesn’t speak to you that is okay. The Elder Scroll’s games are not for everyone. If you just pick it up and start playing it without figure out some of the basics of how to build your character you won’t get that much out of it. The game lets you wander around, and it is very easy to get lost in its openness and not have a focused experience. Unlike some game where you are along for the ride (Unchartered) with all ES game you have to drive the car for your self so to speak.

    The floaty controls has always been a problem with the ES games. It has improved a lot since Morrowind. But I am sure the developers had to make a ton of trade offs during development. Do they spend their time on this and not give them that etc. It is all part of the balancing act.

  • Nick C says:

    Joe, two quick questions, being an author and all, what did you think of the books of Skyrim? The sheer volume of books was impressive, although I admit to only reading a few they were pretty good. I liked the way they fleshed out the world.
    Second question is regarding the rumor that an open world game based on your first law trilogy is going to be released next year by Rockstar, can you confirm or deny? (Okay, you caught me, I started the rumor. Guilty. That would be sooooo sweet though…)

  • Shane K says:

    Have you tried making some of your literary characters for Skyrim? The character creation at the beginning of the game is fantastic for customization. We’d love to see a screenshot of how YOU envision The Bloody Nine, Shivers, Bremer dan Gorst or any of your endless fighters! Instead of an artist’s interpretation, based on your description, here is the perfect tool to really bring them to life visually!
    Will we see a cameo of your Skyrim fighter in the next novel?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I will admit Skyrim is not the greatest action game of all time. Stealthy archery I find the most satisfying play element, the melee combat, as you say, tends to be a bit of a mess, not helped by the fact that I tend to press on the sticks when excited causing me to loop wildly between 1st and 3rd person view or, alternatively, crouch and get up a lot.

    Not sure that I’d hold up Dark Souls as the epitome of an adrenaline pumping melee combat experience, though. I guess one could make the argument that it’s tactical but it also felt rather clunky and cumbersome.

    Perhaps video games just simulate shooting a lot better than melee combat…

    Heh. I kind of don’t really read the books…

    And I’m afraid Rockstar are really dragging their heels over finishing the First Law game. Or starting development. Or approaching me for the rights. But I feel sure it’ll be any day now…

  • Ian S says:


    Did the Elder Scrolls games inspire you at all while you wrote your own books? When I read the Blade Itself, the world you created reminded me a little of the Fable games on Xbox, especially in relation to your use of magic.

  • Opally says:

    Great review. What platform did you use? PC, XBox, or PS3?

  • Matej says:

    I loved BG2 and of course my no.1 game of all time was planescape torment fallowed by fallout1 and 2.
    Before that I loved quest for glory series.

    But i could never get into daggerfall, oblivion or anything from Bethesda. I can remember every character from BG2 and not a single one from Oblivion.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Ian S,
    No. My computer gaming inspirations are a fair bit older in the main – Twin Kingdom Valley, Dungeon Master, Bloodwych, Legend, Total War, Baldur’s Gate I and II…


  • Joe Abercrombie says:


    “I cannot be caged! I cannot be controlled! Understand this as you die, ever pathetic, ever fools!”

    “Evil, meet my sword! SWORD, MEET EVIL!!”'s_Gate_series#Jon_Irenicus

    Yes, I think one would have to admit that the dialogue had more personality back in them days…

  • Matej says:

    Dear Joe,

    So true 🙂

    I googled about “skyrim” and just realized this was one of my favorite authors speaking here (and didn’t even realize until now)

    J. Abercrombie and M. W. Stover my all time favorites!


  • Garry Tibbs says:

    A very good review of Skyrim, being a hardcore RPG player and enjoying single player more than multiplayer (I like a story more than an endless grind to lvl whatever) Skyrim really is the best I have seen. Finally computerised gaming is starting to catch up to tabletop (having the ability of doing whatever you want in the order you want) although I have yet to have a feeling playing on a computer of rolling 2 natural 20s in a row whilst hitting some mega monster.

  • MarkR says:

    I like how Skyrim has some more mature content than the other games. Racism is much more present, and the morally gray civil war and struggles of the Forsworn make the queslines so much more engaging

  • Muzza says:

    I have Fallout sitting in the bookshelf and never got around to playing it. And with Batman, Saints Row 3 (which after a quick play is extremely funny) and Gears 3 waiting….oh am Mr Abercrombie’s book in the new year I don’t know when I will play it. But everyone seems to rate it.

  • Muzza says:

    MarkR…spot on. I dove straight into the Stormcloak side and when you meet the Dark Elves I started to feel queasy.

    Due to a million reasons (read side quests, dungeons and nature walks to find mammoths) I haven’t finished that thread yet, but hoping I get to lop off Ulfrik and the Generals heads and I will be the High King (and given I am a level 40 Dragon born who is going to stop me?)

  • Dave Ellis says:

    I agree with the comment about putting in a lot of your own imagination to make it work. My character is very stealthy/assassin type at the expense of all other perks at the moment…but trying to experience most things so can’t really roleplay a character as much…but have had some interesting mini stories…like my wife being killed in a dungeon, so just going total death wish on the bandits and creating a shrine to her in my house in Riften *sob*

    I think my second character may be a little more focussed…a wizard brought into Skyrim by the Imperials to bring an end to the Stormcloaks…ignore the quests and just slaughter all the stormcloak run holds…sounds fun!!

  • Alejandro says:

    This review is the last push for me to go and get this game.

    I`m just a little bit worried about work, social life, family and so on. And I still have 6 or 7 unread books waiting for me as well.
    I`m wondering how people manage to play 100 hours within 3 weeks – I`m getting jealous!

  • Matej says:

    I’ve been playing Skyrim for a week and I just don’t like it…I feel like I’m playing random map shooter and I was always more of a FRP type.
    I tried and doesn’t work for me… I think I will replay planscape torment or BG2 again.

    skyrim made me nostalgic about some older good stuff that I actually liked 🙂

  • affenkopf says:

    No recent Fantasy RPG competition? What about the Witcher 2?

  • Bow says:

    I’m playing as a nord named Logen Ninefingers, though I matched his appearance to Ray Stevenson–he played Pullo in HBO’s Rome. I pictured RS as LN when I read the First Law. I think RS would be perfect if you ever get a TV deal (HBO or Showtime would be sweet). I would be lighting up the boards to get Ray as Logen. I often name RPG characters after favorites from books…not too original, but a lot of fun.

  • PacalBalan says:

    Unbelievable, I’m one of those whom have all your great books and was just replying to a post on YouTube about Skyrim and dropping your name here:

    @Lazerkat789 You know, with all this money Bethesda is making with this latest title, they wouldn’t go far wrong in hiring someone like, Joe Abercrombie [who wrote The Blade Itself & The First Law trilogy] to write a series on TES.

    His style & graphic in writing really grabs u & throws u right into his world. He’d be perfect for Bethesda in my eyes & focus thousands more to the TES story. If u haven’t read any of Joe’s books I suggest u do, the first pages will grip u & not let go. 🙂

    After posting that I thought I’d google your name and Bethesda together, see what pops up. Your site here and the Skyrim article above! Thus this posting now.

    Anyway, good to see you are enjoying Skyrim Joe, I’d suggest you seek out realism mods from the Nexus site and tweak and mod the ini files to the best of you computers ability.

    Anyway, good luck keep up the great work with the books, luv em. 🙂

  • Gary says:

    Makes me laugh when you fire an arrow at someone whilst sneaking. A town guard or someone wanders around with an arrow sticking out of their face and then after a few moments they give up and say something like, “Must have just been the wind”

    Cracks me up every time!

Add Your Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *