Resident Evil 5 – PS3, PS4, XBox One XBox360

 

RE5 Chris and Sheva

Sheva displaying her assets in profile.

Hi guys! It’s been a few weeks. I’d like to feed you the old line, “I’ve been focusing on bigger projects lately,” but yesterday the only thing I did was think up funny announcements you might hear at a conference for spies. So here’s the fruit of my labor:  Will the owner of a blue 2020 Aston Martin with the rotating license plates LQE601, 689GMW and XPZ755, please report to the valet? Your headlight machine guns are on.

I’m reaching home base on this project. Well, let me rephrase that. I’ll reach home, providing no one minds that second base is literally nowhere to be found and the distance between 3rd base and home plate is only half its regulation length. I don’t have anything that can play Resident Evil 7 or the RE2 Remake, and the only used game store around here, EB Games, won’t sell anything older than one generation back, making New Zealand the Logan’s Run of the video game world. Technically, I could call it quits after this post, as already wrote about RE6 as one of my first entries, and I don’t really think the Mercenaries needs its own post. But for now, at least, let’s deal with Resident Evil 5.

RE5 is notorious for not only forcing yet another unwanted partner on the player, but for giving that partner an intelligence only slightly higher than a blackface minstrel show held face-down in a toilet for a good seven minutes. My first run of this game, the only one I had done until now, I took all the critics’ warnings and forced Anne to play alongside me. Playing through it solo this time, I’ve come to the conclusion that either A) they’ve patched the partner mechanics in the intervening years or B) Anne has the motor control and reaction time of a sunflower on a frosty morning.

RE5 - Monty Mole

Monty Mole must have been hard up for work after Super Mario Bros 3

Was Sheva perfect? No. But judging by multiple introductions where the camera opens, fixated on her chest as though it might treat us to a good motorboating, the developers weren’t actually aiming to build a skilled warrior. But be it patches that introduce Cover and Attack modes, or just plain old ingenuity, I found that what she lacked in her contributions to combat, she more than made up for as a sturdy pack mule: load her down with empty weapons and ammo for guns she doesn’t have and make sure you get to the herbs before she does or she’ll smoke them faster than those college students who dug up the parsley in Anne’s herb garden.

It’s not exactly doing much to improve on accusations of racism, Capcom, to have your black character a drug-crazed idiot whose best use is physical labor.

Is Resident Evil 5 racist? Well yes, but honestly it’s no less racist than sending a pretty white boy to shoot up an underprivileged hispanic neighborhood. It wasn’t even the white-on-black violence that really pushed it over the edge for me. It was the fact that Chris pillages his way through Africa, appropriating cultural artifacts to sell for his weaponry addiction. If there were any more capitalistic exploitation, he’d have to wear a monocle and carry around two giant sacks with dollar signs printed on them.

RE5 - Chainsaw

This guy can take a gun store to the face and still have the wherewithal to slice your neck cleanly.

Okay, but really…ignoring the kum-ba-yas and social justice warriors…is it a good game? Can it compare with the masterpiece that was Resident Evil 4? Be assured that Capcom noted everything that gave RE4 it’s uncanny-valley sort of charm–the lonely, unnerving atmosphere, the chill of night, the weirdly cockney merchant–and chewed it up and shat it out, in favor of doubling down on quick-time events and babysitting an obnoxious partner. Okay, okay, I’m being a bit unfair to Sheva, who seems to have studied medicine under Dr. Arthur Fonzarelli, and has the power to (usually) come over when you’re dying and give you a good, swift pound in the chest to fix you right up.

They also repeated one of the more annoying story moments in Resident Evil 4. Remember that cut scene of Saddler on the island, telling a new subordinate to prepare to fight Leon, and then they show Krauser in a dramatic reveal, as though we’re supposed to know who he is? They do that again. All of a sudden, the mysterious ninja plague doctor who’s popped in and out of the story pulls down her cowling to reveal a blond woman in a skin-tight blue bodysuit. While I’m reeling from the wonderment of how Samus Aran wound up in 21st century Africa, the game tells me it’s supposed to be Jill.   

I don’t know. It’s okay, I guess. And the Mercenaries mini-game is always worth playing. But I just can’t get around the fact that the story is the least atmospheric of any RE game, being set in broad daylight, or the fact that both Chris and Sheva have a sort of shared tourette’s syndrome and can’t help but shout out the word “partner” at odd intervals. At least Africa was built with plenty of doors that require two people to turn a key simultaneously, otherwise we might not know how useful a partner could be.

RE5 - Gutter

Chris and Sheva…minds in the gutter.

Final Grade…shit, did I miss this?

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Resident Evil Revelations – 3DS, PS3, Switch, PS4, XBox 360, XBox One, Wii U

RE - RevelationsThere are some tell-tale signs that a TV series has jumped the shark: they introduce new characters that no one cares about, they send the cast off to a tropical resort or cruise, they start writing convoluted multi-episode arcs that require a synopsis at the beginning of each episode, or they have a character physically jump over a great white shark to heighten an absurd sense of tension.  Coincidentally, this week we’re discussing Resident Evil: Revelations, an RE spinoff game with a slew of boring, nameless playable characters set on a Mediterranean cruise ship and released episodically with a “Previously on…” recap at the beginning of each chapter. (What? You expected me to work in all four scenarios? Don’t you remember Resident Evil 1? By that standard, this series literally jumped the shark in the first installment. Yes, that is the series I have decided to play in its entirety.)

RE - Characters

They team you up with Parker “Jowles” Luciano, apparently a middle aged man given a new lease on life after suffering a heart attack and an unexpected divorce. Or so I assume from his fat face.

Despite taking place between Resident Evil 4 and 5, the game was released in 2012, shortly before Resident Evil 6.  At this point, Capcom had stopped designing realistic monsters and just started putting blobfish in the microwave for a good, stout turn. Among these is a particularly obnoxious monster just called “Rachel,” who appears as a common enemy who, we are supposed to understand, is the same monster in every single encounter, one who will not die in spite of carrying around enough lead in her lungs to build a bomb shelter. Also, they brought back hunters. Of course they did. And to make them piss me off even more, they made them invisible. So in a game in which ammo is scarce, I have two monsters who suck in metal like they’re going to build an SUV out of it, but one of them also has the power of the One Ring.

RE - Monsters

This monster clearly represents how I feel after eating at Burger King.

But actually, in spite of that, there’s not too much to complain about.  There is the constant reminder that each mission was released episodically, and every single one still retains the “Previously on Resident Evil Revelations” like a daytime soap opera where instead of the characters getting cancer, the cancer comes to life, grows to hideous proportions, and tries to saw them in half with a circular saw.  Unfortunately, with the usual convolution of Resident Evil writing, such a recap helped me understand the plot about as well as Chinese subtitles.

Mostly As and Ss

Accuracy 80%    A

Deaths 23        A

Clear Time 6:56’26”

RE - Parker

This picture looks like Parker overcoming some deap-seated childhood trauma that has forever made him fearful of defending those he loved through violent means. Or maybe I’m just reading way too much into his fat face.

Resident Evil – Operation Raccoon City – PS3, XBox 360

RE - USSEnough of these Resident Evil games that force me to play as heroes! It’s high time we had a game that put us in the dark black combat boots of the true underdogs—that’s right! The true victim of this whole Racoon City affair is the little, downtrodden, mom-and-pop multibillion dollar megacorporation so hell-bent on destroying the world for a few bucks that their company slogan is, “We put the ‘harm’ in ‘pharmaceuticals.’” Operation Raccoon City follows Umbrella-hired mercenaries as they root out the true threat behind the Zom-pocalypse, any survivors who might impeach Umbrella’s good name.  What’s that? A game where you hurt innocent people in order to save the reputation of a faceless corporate entity? It makes sense, in a way. I mean, that whole “hero who saves the world” trope does have a sort of inherent liberal bias, so it’s about time they started making Republican games, too.

RE - GameplayAt the beginning of each mission, the player chooses one of six cartoonishly villainous rogues, who all wear masks, presumably to prevent them from obsessively twirling their moustaches in the same way you put your dog in a cone to keep him from biting his stitches. And if the facelessness didn’t clue you in that they were evil enough, one character is literally named after James Bond’s nemesis organization, SPECTRE.  You then have a standing mission of erasing any evidence that Umbrella caused the outbreak in the city, as though in the wake of a zombie epidemic, people aren’t immediately going to turn to the mad scientists in charge of creating biological abominations for the U.S. government. “Mom! Dad’s turned into an undead cannibal!” “Oh Christ! Is this because we didn’t throw out the romaine lettuce?” “I don’t know. We better check his blood pressure pills. GlaxoSmithKline might not have been honest about those side-effects!”

RE - Ada

Your mission: kill a cameo hero that we know will escape unharmed.

Of course, this game does more than simulate rooting through your house looking for that iPod you’re pretty sure you kept.  Most missions have some sort of main-series cameo, the likes of which include William Birkin, Nikolai Zinoviev, Claire Redfield, Ada Wong and Leon Kennedy.  Umbrella tasks you with murdering most…well, all…of them, but since each character has to die in a different game or survive indefinitely, they’ll usually just run away until your team gets distracted by some shiny object and abandons the assassination to look at a statue of a raccoon. There’s even a mission where you have to fix the broken Nemesis, although since it’s an action-shooter game, “fixing” Nemesis somehow involves riddling him with bullets. A case of “every problem looks like a nail,” I guess.

RE - Nemesis

Arrgh! What I wouldn’t give for a good aerrating!

The game is actually pretty fun.  It’s a bit on the easy side, but some games have to be. At the very least, it’s not much of a time commitment, although in the spirit of corporate power, Capcom seems to have locked half the game behind DLC.  Without that, Operation Raccoon City feels a bit anemic, so I wouldn’t expect a feast.

Containment: C

Corruption: B

Lights Out: S

Gone Rogue: A

Expendable: C

Redemption: A

End of the Line: B

Resident Evil: Code Veronica (X) – Game Cube, Dreamcast, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360

RE - Veronica

I’ve made it this far! Game number six of the classic Resident Evil games before the format went the way of the dinosaurs, whalebone corsets and Mega Man. After their crowning achievement that is Code Victoria, the traditional escape-room-with-monsters format went right back into the Capcom vault until, presumably, indie gamers crowdfund a shitty game preying on nostalgia and Capcom watches that Kickstarter counter climbing and showing them exactly how much money their fan base is still willing to give to them.

RE - Tyran

Early in the game, you’ll find BOW Grenade Rounds. If you don’t save them for this guy, you’ll end up living some horrible Groundhog Day life, trapped on this plane for eternity.

Resident Evil: Code Veronica (or Code Veronica X, depending on your console of choice) stars a smattering of Redfields (what is the collective noun for Redfields? Let’s see…a murder of crows, a pod of whales, a flight of dragons…I’m going with a magnum. Does that sound right? A magnum of Redfields?). Chris and Claire, the Redfield siblings, play against the Ashford twins, who are essentially Jamie and Cersei Lannister if they were raised by Norman Bates.

RE - Twins

These two look so inbred, they’re probably their own incestuous parents.

Also, taking cues from Nemesis, which gave Jill a sexy hispanic mercenary boyfriend, Code Veronica gives Claire Steve, an immature, unstable loon who is tempted to violate her personal space while she’s asleep. Eh. I suppose we can’t all strike gold. Fortunately, they finish him off within the story, which is code for, “No more major protagonists! We don’t want to do a Resident Evil Zero for every dipshit who spends three minutes as a playable character!” Still, after a quick tap dancing lesson and strapping a pair of high-quality Dutch clogs to their feet, they throw our protagonists into a situation where a poorly-timed noise means the difference between life and the retirement plan of the typical plate of sushi.

RE - Steve

Really? Capcom gave me this? …Fine. Are we doing this or what?

Reprising his role as Chris’ mentor and would-be murderer, Albert Wesker shows up every so often to do villain things in dark gasses and show us that a virus that turns everyone into mindless undead cannibals can somehow turn one guy into the next incarnation of Neo. Personally, he gives me hope that some day I’ll get a cold that gives me a raging case of pyrokinesis. Wesker appears on the back of the box over the blurb, “Discover key plot clues!” How bad did Capcom think this game was that they thought the most exciting, interactive thing players could do would be to understand the dialogue?

RE - Alexia

No, I won’t kill you. In order to make the point that Chris is the stronger character, we’re just going to pit you against my unstable brother Alfred.

Code Veronica ups the usual stakes of Resident Evil by introducing not one, but two complexes with self-destruct mechanisms. Curiously enough, after a false ending halfway through the game, you actually get to return to the site and witness the aftermath of one of these explosions, which apparently have wrought all the devastation of a garbage truck driving past the building while the driver emits an especially prolific fart. Most of the elevators, equipment, and booby traps still work, and save for the occasional bit of rubble fallen across a door, the place seems pretty much intact.

E

10:28:10

38 saves 48 retries

Yeah, by now it’s probably no use hiding how bad I am at these games.

Resident Evil Zero – Game Cube, Wii, PS3, PS4

re0 billy rebecca

Rebecca’s hot, but you have to take Billy too if you want the handcuffs.

“Traaaainnsss! TRRRAAAAIIINNNS!” God…a zombie game that starts on a train. What’s next? Fighting ghouls in an open field of grains? Perhaps being stalked through a hospital full of the creatures hungry for sprains. Oh! I got a good one: Resident Evil 8, opening on the Raccoon City Stock Exchange, where the living dead are on the move for capital gains.

Hey, Capcom took my idea for Resident Evil 6 starring a grown-up Sherry Birkin.

reo train

Zoinks! I sure hope we don’t get lost in this creepy train, Scoob!

My favorite thing about the first section of this game has got to be picking up a map for the train. I mean, it’s a train. Who maps a fucking train? It’s practically a one-dimensional vehicle. You know what? Let me draw a map of the train right now: ————— Mischief managed, there, Harry Potter. You know where everyone is? On the train. Right there. Look, not to be judgmental, but if you’re the kind of person who needs a map for a train, maybe we should just chalk up your being slaughtered by leeches as nature taking its course. Survival of the fittest.

Anyway, Resident Evil Zero: Aptly named because that’s how much ammo I had by the end of the first section. Have you ever tried going after a shambling hoard of corpses in one of the old-school RE games with just the crappy knife they give you? I’ve never felt so much like a post-op hernia patient than when I’m systematically trying to plunge my arm into those fetid, rotting garbage disposals.

reo train 2

Step one: work together to find a way around a train. Step two: team up to fight leeches.

Here’s an idea, guys: everyone on the planet has seen zombie movies—they’re not going to bleed out if you slash them enough. GO FOR THE GODDAMNED HEAD! They’re zombies! For the love of all that is Rebecca Chambers fan hentai, they TELL YOU WHERE TO AIM! “Braaains! Braaains!” (You ever see a zombie movie where they actually, specifically eat brains? No!)

Knife combat seems to be less a thoughtful inclusion in the game and more some rogue coder’s attempt to overcome the deep-seated scars after a childhood encounter with a drunken mohel.

re0 ammo

The innovative partner system allows you to waste ammo at an all new rate as your dumb-ass partner blasts a bird with a grenade launcher you forgot you had equipped.

Ahem. Anyway, I suppose if I’m going to play through all the RE games (give or take), I ought to say something about each one specifically. Okay, “Resident Evil Zero is Capcom’s first attempt to introduce a partner mechanic that no one ever asked for or wanted.”

The plot follows Rebecca, the hot, kid-sister type who serves as Chris’s sidekick in the original, as she works her way to the Spencer Mansion. She teams up with Billy, the mistaken-criminal with the heart of gold. He pulls a daring jailbreak, cleverly spying his chance to escape when his guards are devoured by monsters. It turns out Umbrella was pulling experiments on prisoners and he was likely on h is way to be given the full Albert Wesker beauty makeover. That was kind of a cool element.

re0 leeches

Ah hell yeah! Who could say no to free leeches?

The villain is obviously auditioning for a better role in a Final Fantasy game. Picture the standard disgruntled employee type. Except when you work for a grocery store and your boss shortchanges your time card, you steal a few grapes and walk out with a few office supplies. When you work for Umbrella, they assassinate you, and you get revenge by stuffing a few dozen genetically engineered leeches into your pockets and wreak bloody havoc with a biblical-style plauge.

Seriously…I wish I could wreak bloody havoc when I was mad.

The game follows the series’ usual formula in Capcom’s unerring, Mega-Man-style manner. However, they do get rid of the magic boxes to store extraneous items. Instead you just scatter your junk on the floor like some redneck family’s lawn.

Final Rank:

Wait…what? Did I miss something? I didn’t get a grade. What the hell!

Tales of Symphonia – Game Cube, PS2, PS3

1837515-box_tos

A game so bland the best screenshot is the box art.

Some games end not with a bang, but with a whimper. And then some games end with a string of texted excuses why I can’t play tonight, but I promise to turn it on in a few days if I find the time, until eventually it just stops calling to me and I can move on with my life. Such is the way with Tales of Symphonia. Honestly, I’ve heard so many great things about the Tales series, that I really wanted it to turn into a heated love affair, but I felt like I went in expecting a blind date with Natalie Portman and ended up with Dora the Explorer.

Sconversation

Like many, I am often troubled by games that try to portray pertinent information in well-written moments within the story. Fortunately, Tales of Symphonia babbles on like a fucking schizophrenic on open mic night.

The story opens in the world of Sylvarant, a pleasant, green thriving fantasy world that apparently needs to be saved from wasting away. Colette is a young girl chosen to lead the quest to restore mana to the world, which will save it from a perilous lack of questing, if nothing else. But instead we’re going to follow her friend Lloyd, who has no major effect on the plot at least 75% of the way through the game, and doesn’t seem important in any way other than he’s voiced by the most recognizable actor. Together with a cast of characters too bland to be generic anime archetypes, Lloyd and Colette travel the world, fighting their way through…literal tourist destinations. (But don’t let that fool you. This is less “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Niagara Falls” and more “Visit the Mystery Spot: Exit 255 at Chernoble.”) Anyway, the whole quest turns out more sinister than the entire world believes and Lloyd, Colette, and company take steps to upend the whole thing. I have to be honest, I didn’t get to the end, but I’m willing to put good money on “the power of friendship” being a major theme at the end.

Yes, you heard me right. I couldn’t get through this game, even though it dangled enough potentially interesting plot lines to keep me invested like a Nigerian Prince asking for just one more good-faith payment. Unfortunately, the Chibi-anime art style makes even the adult characters look like ten-year-olds. Outside of pre-teen players, there’s a very special group of people who get invested in a cast like that, a group that includes Michael Jackson and Jared from the Subway commercials. One character I found particularly obnoxious, Raine, one of the few adults and Lloyd and Colette’s teacher. If you combine the worst qualities of a know-it-all pedant with the insufferable nature of someone who you know is just pulling things out of her ass, that’s Raine. Then make her a chronic child abuser who beats the shit out of her (actual) ten-year-old brother whenever he strings together enough words to best Groot in a verbal debate.

sheenaunicorn

So uh…we gonna do this or do I have to buy you dinner first?

Just when I thought I couldn’t despise Raine more, there was a scene that required the characters to approach a unicorn trapped in a lake. Now, having written my masters thesis on the significance of eviscerating a unicorn in T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King” (no, I’m not joking. You can look up the article), I happen to know what the game refused to state outright lest it lose it’s G-rating: only virginal women can approach a unicorn. By this point, the party had three female characters, Raine, Colette, and Sheena. Sheena, one of the side characters who ends up being the most important character in the game (even though they never acknowledge it or treat her as such) just happens to be the only character with even a little bit of charm or enough cleavage to still have a good time when everything below the waist is off-limits. She had just joined our party, though, so Raine knew nothing about her except she was a summoner and prone to clumsiness, and yet she still had the nerve to say, “Well, I can’t approach the unicorn because I’m an adult, and Colette is certainly not going to approach the unicorn alone.” So yes, ladies and gentlemen, Raine, in this children’s game, is now slut-shaming strange teen girls, all the while claiming that premarital sex is her personal privilege.

Sheena

Sheena, the only character in two worlds to own breasts.

Tales of Symphonia wears its influences on its sleeve. By itself, that’s not a bad thing. I’m a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, and he basically wrote Medieval fan fiction. The problem is, like everything else in the game, it’s watered down for a pre-teen audience. The developers just took Final Fantasy IX, X, a dash of V, and Xenogears, chucked them in a blender, then filtered out everything that didn’t fit into their juvenile, young-adult novelization schema of a video game. That would be like doing a remake of Silence of the Lambs where Hannibal Lecter is in rehab for his Kit Kat addiction and Buffalo Bill is sneaking up on farms and shearing sheep in the middle of the night. Yes, it’s kid-friendly, but if it’s supposed to be “disturbing and horrifying,” it kind of misses the mark…then flies hundreds of meters past it, nearly misses “comical parody” and buries itself by pure accident between the ass cheeks of “hackneyed mess of writing” and “just did this for a paycheck.” Why would anyone care about Final Fantasy X if we never had to worry about the value of summoner’s lives? What use is Xenogears if they cut out the question of humanity’s struggles and desires versus God’s arbitrary plans for us?

But hey, good gameplay can make up for this second-hand, watered-down beer pissed out of a drunken game developer before passing out in his kid’s bedroom, right? Well, that’s true, but Tales of Symphonia doesn’t have any. Despite being an RPG, leveling up and equipment raise your offensive and defensive capabilities about the same as suddenly sprouting an eleventh fingernail in your armpit. At one point I realized I had been playing for three hours with a character who didn’t have any equipment, and I just couldn’t tell based on his performance in battle. The game throws a lot of information at you about combo attacks, techniques, cooking skills, switching active characters, etc, but skills and techniques take time to charge and cost tech points, so it’s literally always a better strategy to run straight at the monsters, mashing the basic attack like you’re trying to exact vengeance on the A button for murdering your family.

Stales

And yeah…here’s another screenshot. Look, I gotta be somewhere. We done yet?

Even exploring the map is frustrating. The camera zooms in close enough to bill your insurance for a colonoscopy, making navigation a little challenging. And it isn’t an oversight, either, since they’ve added a function for zooming the camera out to see where you’re going, but only if you find a magic rock in each area of the map. I’m sorry, but that much dick move from developers who are obviously closet pedophiles makes me just a wee bit uncomfortable. It’s like going 75 on the freeway and suddenly you realize a nest of wolf spiders are crawling out of the defrost vent of your car, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, you really want out. Fortunately, Tales of Symphonia commits the cardinal sin of reminding me of a far superior game and makes me wonder why I don’t just go play that one…so in short, look out in the next few weeks for a review of Xenogears.

Skyrim – PS3, XBox 360, PC

Skyrim

One of countless beautiful images that aren’t actually taken from real gameplay.

Writing this about halfway through my hiatus, it’s probably a good idea to look back and see how productive my break has been. Let’s see…I sent out submissions for my novel and got about three form rejections and a bunch of non-answers…I got fifteen pages into a play and ran out of plot ideas…oh! This one is fun—I regularly spent my days having nine-year-old kids swearing at me like they’ve got one night of shore leave and want to get into a brawl before visiting the whorehouse. No, I wasn’t playing Call of Duty online. I was substitute teaching fourth grade. Yeah, take that, my parents’ generation; a lifetime of video games made me a pacifist, and one semester of being a responsible adult shepherding the minds of our nations future gave me fantasies of having the authority to draw and quarter children. So after a few weeks of “break,” I began slipping into an existential despair void of all meaning and purpose to the point where I imagined I might soon have to fight against the heroes of a Final Fantasy game. So I did the most reasonable thing I could think of; I played Skyrim.

Skyrim Bear

Fuck you, bear.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, saying, “I need to devote time to my writing” and then popping in The Elder Scrolls V is a lot like those girls in high school who told me, “I’m not ready for a relationship right now” before diving tits-first into bed with some douchebag who’s favorite brand of cigarettes are “found on the side of the roads.”

skyrim_screenshots__solitude_at_night_by_vincent_is_mine-d5bhc67

Yep. A hundred plus hours of beautiful scenery, which sadly is more than we’ll ever see in the real world.

Skyrim expands on the world of Tamriel, taking players to the far northern province. The country is split into several holdings, each ruled by a jarl, proud, stately noblemen and women dedicated to preserving law and order in a bountiful world with a necromancer for every corpse and a clan of bandits for every shopkeeper, and where 95% of the castles, outposts and other government infrastructure have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Personally, it doesn’t seem like having such a large and thriving criminal population would work well in a feudalist, capitalist or communist society, but Skyrim operates on a quest-based economy where everyone has an item they need retrieved, a cavern they need explored, or a foe they need slaughtered. Hey, it’s not my place to ask why all these vindictive spelunkers have misplaced their shit. My biggest concern is whether or not the potions I found in these ancient tombs have passed their shelf-life. You know, considering the completely dysfunctional nature of my idealized fantasy worlds, it’s a wonder I don’t vote Republican. I mean, there are so many thousand-year-old monsters awakening from their slumber to unravel the fabric of existence that you’d think Skyrim was the United States Senate.

skyrim_mammoth_bug_xd_by_truesh0ts-d4kc3c1

Yeah, a flying mammoth looks weird, but I guarantee that at least two or three NPCs have a prophecy about it.

Anyway, you play as the Dragonborn, the legendary warrior with the soul of a dragon who will save the world from a magical apocalypse caused by Alduin, the king of the dragons. At least, that’s what the game told me. Fulfilling my role as the archenemy of dragonkind, I once encountered a drake fighting two bears. I killed both bears to catch its attention, but the dragon immediately took off after a deer like a cat chasing a laser pointer. Not to be ignored, I chased down my ancient enemy, only to find him about five minutes later, a short distance from the deer corpse, completely absorbed in mortal combat with a mudcrab. But honestly, who hasn’t turned aside from their ultimate destiny in favor of a seafood buffet? Still, I have to wonder how many times I get ignored for something that crawled out from under a rock before the “it’s like dating in high school” joke gets old, and I have to ask some serious questions about my life.

skyrim mudcrab

Me versus the true dragonborn.

The game follows Western RPG format, meaning it tries to simulate the experience of tabletop gaming without all the pesky social aspects and no way to interact with the game but for a selection of one to three dialogue options thus robbing you of any creative thought or character personality. But if you’re fine playing a character with a personality as vivid and dynamic as a bucket of rocks, there are plenty of skills to practice. In particular, I played as a mage this time, something I rarely do. I might advise against this in the future. I played through the game once as an archer and remember that around level 30 or so, my arrows could tear through bandits like hollow-point shots from a .50 caliber Desert Eagle punching through 2-ply toilet paper. As a mage, though, you’re given an arsenal of spells that do a pre-determined amount of damage despite your level, which is more like trying to punch through a concrete wall using nothing but your forehead and a jar of aspirin. I’m not saying you can’t get by using only the basic skills, but you don’t see a lot of fourth grade music students learn to play a diseased recorder that’s been inside more kids than the combined clergy of the Catholic Church and end up playing for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Skyrim Spider

Wait…this isn’t a Skyrim screenshot. This is a picture of me cleaning out my basement here in Duluth.

I thought playing a mage might solve a few problems for me. Carrying around weapons and armor had always severely limited my inventory—a severe problem in a game full of more junk than an old lady’s attic. But not only did I still end up spending more time on inventory management than when I worked as a clerk at Sam Goody, I ended up repeating simple battles for hours on end because I came armed with what amounted to a taser with a dead battery and armor that wouldn’t protect me from a pan of bacon sizzling in the next room. But somehow, I still managed to work my way up to the Archmage of the College of Winterhold, a sweet package that gave me Indiana-Jones-amounts of time off for the purpose of adventuring, and absolutely no responsibilities to teach, help anyone, or maintain the day-to-day operations of the college (so basically, like a regular college administration job). Meh. It looks better on a resume than “substitute teacher” and “hobbyist video game writer with delusions that he’s funny.”