Skyrim: Too Soon?
December 12, 2011 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Skyrim for the PC: Should I wait? Should I skip it?

I've only played one Elder Scrolls game, and only for like an hour. It was Morrowind on the Xbox, IIRC, and I got very frustrated with it; I got hopelessly lost in some pyramid-shaped city and decided I was wasting my time.

That being said, I do very much enjoy some open-world games (notably San Andreas) and the idea of wandering in a particularly huge Nordic fantasy open-world is appealing to me. By way of comparison, the first Dragon Age seemed cool and all to me, but the complicated Carth-Onasi-esque relationship-maintaining is, um, not really what I play games for.

Now it's the holidays and I need to decide whether I want to ask for this or not.

So my questions are
1) do I want Skyrim at all? Or is this one of those situations where the stellar reviews are not at all trustworthy, and the novelty wears off quickly?

2) since I neither have nor expect to ever acquire an Xbox 360, do I still want Skyrim? Articles like this one make me nervous about the PC port.

3) has the Skyrim modding community made the PC version suitably un-frustrating by this point? If not, ETA on any "fix-it-all" mods?

Side note: I have a video card that's maybe 1-2 years old, was high-end at the time (Radeon HD 57something IIRC), and should cut the mustard--but it is probably dying and I may need to upgrade soon anyway. The PC will run the game otherwise, according to
posted by AugieAugustus to Computers & Internet (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, Vivec. It's quite the maze, and not all of the cantons are laid out the same way.

Suggestion? Get Oblivion. It's on Steam for a couple of bucks, your PC should have no trouble running it, and the mods are very, very good. That'll take you at least a few weeks to burn through, giving you a pretty decent idea about whether Bethesda games are really for you, and by then, Bethesda (or the mod community) may have addressed some of the complaints about the PC version of Skyrim.
posted by valkyryn at 6:30 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're not one of those bleeding-edge people who pre-order games and wait on lines at midnight in the rain, I'd suggest you wait roughly six months to a year after either the release, or a genuinely useful modding toolkit drops. It usually takes some time for a real community to develop, and a little more time for everyone to get their head around the toolkit enough to get the original game on-track, instead of just adding mods to the broken game.
posted by griphus at 6:32 AM on December 12, 2011

Most PC ports from consoles are buggy, have reduced quality, etc., but they're getting better nowadays. Plus you can change the graphics if you can't run it.
It's hard to say. What's your core speed? If you have at least a dual-core with at least 1.9 each, then you're good to go.

Have you considered a PS3 instead of an Xbox 360?

Personally, I wouldn't buy the PC port, mainly because I don't like the game.
It gets lonely playing by yourself.
posted by Angel of Khaos at 6:33 AM on December 12, 2011

I am loving Skyrim, but I also played the previous elder scrolls, and fallout, games a whole bunch. They made a really incredible map for this one, and there are a ton of quests to do.

The PC version is fine, IMO. I have experienced some minor bugs but nothing game breaking. Personally, I think you're better off with the PC version since patches come out faster, and there is the chance for fan made patches and mods.

That said, the suggestion to just grab Oblivion is a good one if you've never played it. Get Skyrim once the inevitable Game of the Year edition comes out, bundled with DLC.
posted by utsutsu at 6:38 AM on December 12, 2011

Skyrim is a console game first, but it runs decently on a PC. I think for future play-ability, performance, and community, you're best off with the PC port as it will stabilize and form a more devoted following over time.

The interface, yes it definitely takes some time to get used to as it's awkward on a keyboard at first. But it eventually clicks. Right now there appears to be a video memory leak if playing for hours at a time, but it should get patched shortly.

What will really make Skyrim on a PC the better choice will be the addition of the world editor down the road. Lot's of user made content will come from that (as well as additional fixes and "improvements" long after the game has fallen off Bethesda's radar.)

You may want to do a modest video upgrade...perhaps a 6850 to replace the 57xx.
posted by samsara at 6:41 AM on December 12, 2011

Game was great on the PC. Better with a controller IMO. Only reason to wait would be for a steam sale.
posted by MangyCarface at 6:54 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I gave up with morrowind at Vivec too. Give Oblivion a try (main plot is meh but the rest is great). Personally I'd wait on getting Skyrim because the price inevitably falls (and pretty far, pretty fast) for the same product plus with more time comes more patches to fix stuff and more community mods.

If you do try oblivion, get the UI mod because oblivion is just as much a console game as skyrim. The original inventory was appalling - all the ui was very "big" - designed to be viewed on a TV across the room from you not on a monitor 18" from your face, the inventory listed like 5 things at a time. I'd also recommend the texture mods if you care about your character looking good.
posted by missmagenta at 7:01 AM on December 12, 2011

If you are asking yourself "I am bored, should I play skyrim for 100+ hours?" then the answer is yes.

If you are asking yourself "Skyrim looks interesting. Is right now the right time for me to get it?" the answer is - wait for the GOTY edition to come out in a few years.

I personally am playing skyrim on a PC with the same graphics card as you, and it's really good. I'm almost 100 hours into it and I'm only a little ways through the main quest. I'm confident that it will get better and better as I keep playing over the next few months, but right now it's pushing all the right buttons for me and I'm loving it.

Whether you will have fun playing it or not is a whole nother question. Find a friend who has it, play it for a few hours, see how it goes. And, I also wholly recommend using the xbox controller to play on PC. It's easy, and more intuitive than mouse and keyboard imo.
posted by rebent at 7:02 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Skyrim's excellent. The PC version (not a port!) is great, and when the mod gates are opened, it will be fantastic. Yeah, there are a few bugbears in the menu system, and a few bugs in the environments, but they're minor blemishes on a pretty amazing game. I say: suspend your disbelief and go for it. It's great fun.

It's a pity you had a bad experience in Morrowind. Vivec (the capital city you were lost in) was massive, cavernous, and unpleasant to navigate. Thus far, I haven't found an equivalent in Skyrim. It seems very accessible and easy to get to grips with.

Btw, I don't agree about the XBox 360 controller - the mouse and keyboard are a lot better IMO.
posted by Magnakai at 7:05 AM on December 12, 2011

FWIW Skyrim works fine on my ~5 year old PC on High graphics settings (not Ultra). Win7 Home Premium, Core 2 Duo 6600, 2GB RAM, GeForce 8800GTX 768MB, playing @ 1280x1024.
posted by reptile at 7:05 AM on December 12, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all these great responses.

So it sounds like the consensus is, if I get Oblivion and give it a fair chance (and I think I will), and then dislike it, I should avoid Skyrim?
posted by AugieAugustus at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2011

Skyrim is more casual and streamlined than the rest of the Elder Scrolls. They redid the skill system to make it more approachable and shifted the focus more towards combat, so it plays a lot like their new Fallout games. It's less thinking over all and a bunch more fun. A lot of my friends who I wouldn't peg as Elder Scrolls fans are enjoying it.

PC port has a few minor issues but it plays well enough. No game breaking bugs and I've only had it crash once in 40 hours of play so far. I'm running on a comparable system (nvidia 8800gt, 2.8 ghz phenom - ~2009 specs) and it plays at medium-high settings, probably dips down in the 20's when a lot of stuff is happening outside.
posted by grizzly at 7:10 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm playing on a system much like yours (Radeon 5700) and it's perfectly playable. The graphics aren't at the absolute highest settings (though they're surprisingly close, and I've even added a few unofficial tweaks that make a huge ddifference) but someday I'll do a replay once my computer has been through an upgrade cycle or two and then I'll be able to turn all the knobs up to Eleven.

As a game, I love it. I haven't been this addicted to a game in a long time. Oblivion was a little bit boring for me but Skyrim feels much more detailed and interesting, much less "same-y". The creators built in a lot of unique content, and it really makes a difference. It's fascinating and beautiful and fun.

Mind you, it's still a bit buggy. I get occasional crashes to desktop, objects sometimes fail to render, part of the main quest was broken and I had to hit Google for what to do about it, that sort of thing. Hasn't been bothering me too much personally but it's definitely not 100% smooth. It'll improve in time though, I'm sure.

There are already some excellent mods to improve the appearance, performance, and interface of the game. Modders can't make new content yet but they're already hard at work. I imagine the floodgates will open quite quickly after the world creation kit drops.

As a game, though, keep in mind that it's definitely not as fast-paced as the GTA games and such. You will spend a significant amount of time managing your inventory, buying & selling stuff in towns, travelling, finding new quests, etc. If you're down with that then you'll enjoy the game much more. Also you need to have a willingness to get lost and side-tracked and to just roll with that and have fun. This is easier if you realize that no quests have time limits and that no matter how much noise an NPC is making about urgency you can in fact put off every quest indefinitely.

All in all though it's a gorgeous and expansive game full of wonder and delight. It's really very good stuff. If I were you I might wait until after Christmas when the price will likely come down a bit and another patch or two will have been released, but if you think the stuff I described up above sounds like your cup of tea then I suggest that you dive in and have fun!

OK, now back to trying to get that Thieves' Guild double agent to flip so I can find out who he's been selling us out to...
posted by Scientist at 7:11 AM on December 12, 2011

I've found Skyrim on the PC very buggy (purple texture glitch, weird quest-breaking bugs) and crash prone (either total freeze-up in game or crash to desktop, averaging about once every 30 minutes), which having played a more solid game like GTA IV I find very annoying. The user interface is also kind of rough, showing evidence of being written for a console. That said, the open outdoor worlds are amazing and the game is still fun to play.

Compared to Oblivion, I found the gameplay in Skyrim more interesting and less grindy. I got bored with Oblivion much more quickly, but it does provide a sense of the open world found in Skyrim.
posted by exogenous at 7:16 AM on December 12, 2011

First off, Skyrim is my GOTY, no question. I have been playing it as much as possible since launch and have been through an SSD and 2 Windows installations trying to achieve stability. (Previously)

Eventually I got my rig stable by using ENBSeries, which is a hand-tuned DirectX9 modification. Using v5 I've been able to go 8 days without a crash. Skyrim seems quite inconsistent, it works fine for some, and other like me have terrible crashes that the AMD driver guys can't seem to duplicate.

Obviously I love the game, so there's my bias, but FWIW that article you linked reads kinda axe-grindy & straw-grabby to me and is factually incorrect on at least one point, the part about using console commands locking you out of Steam achievements (as if that was a valid criticism of the game in the first place). I've used the console a ton and it hasn't kept me from earning the little badges.

Skyrim is not perfect but it is very, very good. I hate buying $60 video games on general principle, but I don't regret having Skyrim this last month.

Also, while I appreciate that someone had the cojones and artistic vision to create it as they did, Vivec's design sucked for the game-player.

> So it sounds like the consensus is, if I get Oblivion and give it a fair chance (and I think I will), and then dislike it, I should avoid Skyrim?

It's possible you will dislike Oblivion and like Skyrim. That's how it is for me. Have you played either Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas? I think they are more similar in gameplay, immersion, and flow to Skyrim than Oblivion, once you get past the obvious (post-apoc guns vs high fantasy). Oblivion's laughably repetitive dungeons and its bass-ackwards leveling system are particularly glaring weak-spots that break the spell for me./i
posted by Edogy at 7:20 AM on December 12, 2011

I'm going to go against the flow and state that you should not get Oblivion, but just go directly to Skyrim, PC edition. I found Oblivion's main quest to be extremely dull, honestly. Skyrim's main quest is much more interesting (and fun) (Dragons beat Oblivion-plane monsters hands down any day). The dungeons in Skyrim are much better designed with much more creativity and far less repetition than those in Oblivion. I'm finding the side-quests in Skyrim to be far more engaging than those in Oblivion (I'm level 45 right now, and I've barely touched the main quest, just because the side-quests in Skyrim are so entertaining).

Basically everything that Oblivion did, Skyrim does so much better, whether it comes to quest design, NPCs, or enemy leveling. Bethesda took everything they learned from making the two Fallout games (Fallout 3 and New Vegas - they published New Vegas, but I'm fairly certain they gave extensive advice/help to Obsidian Entertainment, the developers of New Vegas) and put that experience to good use in Skyrim. I'm really worried that because Oblivion is so dull (just being honest), it will dissuade you from trying Skyrim and you'd be missing out on a truly fantastic open-world game.

So just wait until the Steam year-end sale and pick it up then. I'm fairly sure it will be mildly discounted (5-10% off if you're lucky). I got my copy at 20% off from Direct2Drive ($48), but because it uses Steamworks you can purchase it from any digital retailer, getting the benefits of any lower pricing they may offer, and still get the benefits of Steam.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, stop thinking and get it.

Skyrim runs great on my PC (which is a Mac running Boot Camp.) High, not ultra settings, but that's more than enough for the HDTV-and-sofa way I use it. It's only crashed two or three times, which is very good for a game like this.

I prefer it with a controller, but at least with a PC version you can choose either option, and as you already know there will be mods up to high Sovenguard later to either fix bugs (there are not many) or extend the already-huge game further.

Again: stop reading about it and just buy it, already. Even if you don't like the "game" part, you can kill hours and hours and hours just running around exploring, and this game is gorgeous, and impresses me like nothing since that Red Dead Redemption game made my inner Sergio Leone tremble.
posted by rokusan at 7:27 AM on December 12, 2011

And I agree with LDJ: skip Oblivion, which is just a halfway-between Morrowind and Skyrim anyway. Skyrim is Oblivion polished to high art.
posted by rokusan at 7:28 AM on December 12, 2011

Vivec isn't that bad once you realize that most of the cantons have the same map and the right-hand rule can get you around. And as far as I know, there's little you need from Vivec that you can't get from the other cities.

Oblivion has its own set of annoyances with default monster leveling. I liked the game much better once I cheated and installed the all +5 attribute modifiers mod that removes some of the meta-gaming struggle of leveling minor skills to keep pace with monsters. Even with that cheat, I made the habit of knocking the difficulty slider down on the infamous escort quests.

I'm a bottom-feeder when it comes to games, so I picked up Fallout 3 instead of Skyrim this fall. At least from the reviews and the essential (for any Elder Scrolls game) UESP Wiki, Skyrim incorporates features of Oblivion and Fallout 3. Since it's the game that came between Oblivion and Skyrim, it might be a better gauge of your liking toward Skyrim.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:32 AM on December 12, 2011

Yeah, I'm not sure I agree that it's safe to judge Skyrim by playing Oblivion. I played a ton of Oblivion, but Skyrim is hands down a superior game. The beginning experience is better, the main quest is miles-away better, and the setting is better; plus you don't have to fiddle with mods just to get a game that looks passable.

If you have a lot of time right now and want something to do with it, go ahead and get Skyrim. Oh hell, you should just get it anyway, because it's a fantastic game. But be prepared for the game to eat your life~
posted by ashirys at 7:32 AM on December 12, 2011

My vote is to skip Oblivion. Well, skip it for now. It's a really great game, but it's... still old-school Elder Scrolls. The leveling system was good and felt natural, but it would still punish you a bit for doing you own thing: if you didn't focus hard on one skill per level you lost out on attribute points, so the more you leveled the harder the game got. It was tolerable on normal difficulty, but still noticable. Oh, and horses were buggy. Oh, and the Oblivion gates got old after you closed your 10th one.

Skyrim got all Oblivion's lore, much better voice-acting, a fantastic-looking game engine, etc. Then it took Oblivision's natural leveling system and cranked it up to 11: if you like sneaking and sneak a lot, you'll get really good at sneak; no need to choose your character's path before you start the game and you'd have to work really hard to hamstring yourself. It makes the leveling system mostly just get out of the way and let you enjoy the game. That alone makes it a better introduction to the series.

Re: PC vs 360, etc., buy the PC version. It already has a metric ton more mods (and that disparity will only get worse) and the console commands are useful if you ever run into a quest-breaking bug (of which there are still a couple). I've put in about 100 hours of gameplay and only run into two significant bugs. One fixed itself with the patch, the other I had to check the wiki and copy down a console command to advance a quest.

Once you compute $/hr of entertainment, it believe it is a great value.
posted by introp at 8:03 AM on December 12, 2011

It's a really good game. It's also got a fair share of bugs. If you can wait a year, it'll cost a lot less, probably have additional content, and will have fewer bugs. Personally, I've put in close to 50 hours on the PC version and I don't regret paying full price.
posted by richrad at 8:18 AM on December 12, 2011

In answer to question 1, I hated Oblivion and mostly disliked Morrowind, and I've put over 120 hours into Skyrim with no end in sight. That doesn't guarantee that you will like it, of course, but from my perspective, the stellar reviews aren't just series fanatics or open-world loyalists, and you don't have to be either to get a lot out of the game.
posted by Errant at 9:15 AM on December 12, 2011

You're probably better off with the PC version due to the reasons outlined above, but there're a couple of points about the Xbox version that you should know about, assuming you break down and buy Skyrim instead of Oblivion. First, judging from PC versus XBox comparison videos, apart from earlier pop-in of trees on mountains in the distance, there don't seem to be a ton of graphical differences between the two. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) People have already voiced in controller issues.

Most importantly, if you've got a large plasma or LCD TV set hooked up to rockin' speakers and a subwoofer, well . . . you'll be fucking floored. Personally, I prefer exploring Skyrim horizontal on a recliner in an altered state, the music and gameworld sounds either caressing or blasting my eardrums, rather than hunched over a monitor with email a couple of mouse clicks away. But that's me. It means I'm putting up with all the shortcomings of console play, including possible game breaking bugs.

Totally worked into a Skyrim lather now, concentration shot all to hell, thanks a lot motherfuckers.
posted by Gordion Knott at 9:18 AM on December 12, 2011

I loved Daggerfall, loved Morrowind, gave up on Oblivion, and loving Skyrim - it's the most friendly Elder Scroll game yet. Much less emphasis on 'gaming' your stats and skills, leveling is much more organic and the game is fun without any temptation to min/max (although there's an early companion "loophole" where you can raise your archery skill to 50 rather early on so if you're not very good at fighting, this is one way to ease yourself into the early game).

I'm at the late stages of the early game and there's a good mix of combat difficulties. Sometimes I have to run away, other times I'm slaughtering waves upon waves of barbarians. Very satisfying.

The cities are much friendlier; they're smaller than Morrowind's, though and don't feel nearly as well populated but at least they're a lot easier to get around. The quest journaling system is ... fair. There are a bunch of quests which I've unchecked and don't expect/want to complete, but checked quests show up on the map (and local map) conveniently, as well as on your HUD. There's also an in-game spell that helps you locate quest locations. Horses aren't broken. Unrealistic sometimes, but unbroken.

There's a *lot* to do, and most quests are fun to do, and I've been taking the main questline very very slowly. Although there seems to be a ton of recruitable companions, you can only have one companion at a time, and there's very little personal interaction with them. They're also semi-invincible, they'll only die by your hand, and there's no quest-/game-breaking consequences if they do. I've been playing the game sans companions.

The PC version is fine, that GamaSutra article was written by a curmudgeon looking to stir crap up to get page hits. It definitely shows signs of sharing development with console versions, but a couple of tweaks makes it tolerable, and there are mods that change the inventory system.

Surprisingly, I've not run into a bug-bug in Skyrim, yet.

A 57xx Radeon should be ok as long as you aren't running at a super-high resolution. I bought a 5870 just for this game, and loaded the game with all kinds of high-resolution texture mods and it's bleeding gorgeous at 1920x1200 with everything turned on to ultra. I've found myself being distracted just by looking at the pretty scenery and being snuck upon by all kinds of critters who want me for their larder.
posted by porpoise at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2011

Yes, get it.

Don't bother with Oblivion.

The keyboard mess is not a problem about 30 minutes after playing.

I used to read game reviews, until I took an arrow to the knee.
posted by Argyle at 10:49 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

gordion knott...

the graphical difference between the console version and the pc version is significant, given a high end machine. Even if the older machine in question here, the graphics will likely be better on the pc.

Also, there is absolutely zero reason why you cannot play the PC version on a big hdtv from the comfort of your couch...
posted by utsutsu at 11:40 AM on December 12, 2011

they'll only die by your hand

Not true, unfortunately. Followers will fall to one knee when severely hurt, at which point most enemies will back off... but if they take more damage while in this state, they WILL die. I've lost a few of them already...

posted by utsutsu at 11:43 AM on December 12, 2011

The bugs are easy to fix on PC with the console; sites like fix low-res graphics/add more personality and does a great job listing bugs or glitches you might encounter and how to console in and fix them. Sometimes you'll have to go into the :talk section of the Wiki to see other issues people are having that might not have been published to the main wiki page.

I play plenty of PC games and to say that Skyrim is buggy compared to anything else on release is silly. The TAB UI and Level-Up UI were obviously not well adapted for PC, but if you have a 360 controller, it is easily mitigated. Otherwise, I find the rest of the game plays brilliantly on mouse/keyboard.
posted by june made him a gemini at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2011

Not true, unfortunately. Followers will fall to one knee when severely hurt, at which point most enemies will back off... but if they take more damage while in this state, they WILL die. I've lost a few of them already...

What happens is that if they are in their prone position, if you hit them or they are struck by AOE from either side, they will die. They could continue to bashed on in their prone position and not take anymore damage, but if there's some sort of force outside of blunt trauma, it will bring them down for good.

(If you want to be a cheapass, go to your Console, highlight the character and type "Resurrect.")
posted by june made him a gemini at 3:43 PM on December 12, 2011

Argyle: "Don't bother with Oblivion."

Going to be another person agreeing with this. I tried Oblivion on the 360 when it first came out, and couldn't get into it. I tried it again when it was £3 or something stupid on Steam and I still can't get into it: I found it clunky, unatmospheric, and ugly. I'm definitely going to leap into it at some point since I've heard good things about the Shivering Isles expansion, but it's way down the list.

I'm loving Skyrim. I'm playing it on a 2008 CPU and a 2011 graphics card and it's running great at almost-max settings (tip: FXAA is a very performance-light anti-aliasing option supported by Skyrim; it's not as nice as full-on MSAA or whatever but its impact on your framerate is minimal). This (spoiler-free) thread is where I got the necessary tips on tuning the settings to get it looking as nice as it can without chugging, although just loading it and selecting medium or high will get you a nice-looking game.

A patch is set to drop within the next few days that will add 4gb memory support (useful, as I understand it, even if you only have 2gb system memory) which will sort out the last of the serious teething problems the PC version has had.

Datapoint: while I hated Oblivion, I liked Fallout 3 and loved Fallout: New Vegas.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:06 AM on December 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thought I might add a post-script to this.

I decided "not too soon." Got it, installed it, experienced frequent crashes... then tweaked the video settings in the initial "Play/etc." window, and was able to make it pretty stable. I now can get through most 2-hour-plus play sessions with, on average, only one crash. And I'm willing to put up with that because the game is just that good.

Thanks for the input everyone!
posted by AugieAugustus at 7:42 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

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