IN WESTWORLD, HBO’s latest TV triumph, people travel to a world populated by robots and act out their adventure fantasies. The fantasy thrives because the robots seem human. In Skyrim, where the characters act more like robots than humans, the fantasy dies on its feet, writes Ronan Jennings

Skyrim was first released five years ago, but its grip on gaming remains tight. The remastered version is released on modern consoles this week and will sell like Argonian hotcakes. It’s one of the year’s most anticipated releases.

Yet, despite Skyrim’s many strengths, the poorly-scripted characters and a cardboard-cutout world lessen the impact to nothing. This is a game designed to waste your time, not enrich it.

But first, the strengths. Sometimes, gamers just want to get lost in a detailed world and Skyrim is the undisputed king of ‘going off the map’.

A huge, open world, in which you can travel in any direction, bringing an unrivalled sense of ownership over the journey you take. Whether you choose to be a mage, an archer, a thief, a warrior, or some combination of the four, the moments you experience and the path you forge feels completely unique to you.

Every new cave discovered, every story revealed, every piece of epic loot and experience gained, all of these moments feel earned and organic because you discovered them in your own way, at your own pace. If Skyrim weaves that spell over you, the effect is one of gaming’s greatest pleasures, regardless of the faults.

It doesn’t matter that the combat is average. It doesn’t matter that the same challenges repeat, over and over (kill this, kill that). Skyrim feeds you a sense of progress, just enough to keep the momentum going, so that the exploration remains satisfying.

The problem comes when you start to interact with the world in other, non-violent ways. That’s when Skyrim doesn’t just wobble the delicate illusion — it smashes it open, leaving you no option but to see this as a largely pointless world, one that doesn’t reward your time or investment in meaningful ways.

Capital cities have mere dozens of people in them (roughly 400 characters live in all of Skyrim’s capitals) and each of them is stilted, poorly-written, badly animated and — worst of all — incredibly stupid. The world of Skyrim isn’t just a pantomime, but a vapid land of inconsequence, in which your actions have zero meaning and the stories are boring beyond belief.

Skyrim doesn’t have to be prize-winning literature or HBO-level world building. But for its strengths to really shine, it needed to at least maintain the illusion of consequence and reward, not shatter that illusion with a shoddy attempt at context.

We know we’re playing a game of distraction — just don’t remind us at every corner. In short, make the robots believable, or at least entertaining.

NINTENDO MAKE THE SWITCH

Speaking of Skyrim, glimpses of the game were spotted in the reveal video for Nintendo’s new Switch console.

The Switch is a console that lets you play on TV screens or in portable form, thanks to the handheld screen packaged with it. Switch is a clever idea that will surely do better than Nintendo’s Wii U, which flopped badly.

However, we’ll need to hear more about the console before gauging its chances properly. To that end, Nintendo has announced a livestream event on January 12 in which more details will be revealed. Price, software lineup and launch dates are likely to be announced.

Meanwhile, should owners of Nintendo’s existing handheld consoles be worried? In Ireland, many gamers own a Nintendo 3DS, for example. Not so, according to Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima.

“Thanks to our software, the 3DS hardware is still growing,” Kimishima told Bloomberg. “So that business still has momentum. And certainly rather than being cannibalised by the Switch, we think the 3DS can continue in its own form.” Cannibalistic consoles — cool!

GAMESTOP GOES FOR THE GEEKS

Finally, GameStop is opening a special shop for geek culture in Dublin. ThinkGeek will sell plush toys and other collectibles and will operate under the dual brand GameStop-ThinkGeek. It will be only the second such shop to open in Europe. With sales of hard-copy games dwindling as digital games grow, GameStop have been targeting other areas of the market to boost growth.


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