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Alduin Lives Just A Bit Longer

All I had to do was kill the great dragon that was ending the world.  I had one job, and now it looks like having two days left of vacation just won't be enough.
Now rocking full "ebony" armor, for that Gothic knight look.
It is not that I have been procrastinating.  Excellent progress was made in my new playthrough of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
  • My character was in his single digit levels last blog update.  Now he's in his 40s.
  • I have maxed out my first skill tree (Enchantment) and heavy armor followed.  I suspect Smithing is next, although Alchemy is lagging far behind.
  • I have completed all of the quests for The Companions (except, ironically, the one involving slaying a dragon).
  • I am now up to A Cornered Rat in the main campaign, the middle of two of the three acts.  I suspect some of the latter quests will be quite a bit longer than the former ones.
  • I have only been distracted by the constant onslaught of things Skyrim tries to distract the player with about a quarter of the time!
But my greatest, most self-foiling thing against beating down Alduin once and for all?

I have been deeply involved in Unity, getting serious practice in the powerful IDE, excelling in the craft far greater than I ever have before, and making strides of actual development of my own game.
It is not much to look at right now, but what I have put together in Unity is an infinitely extensible roguelike tile engine, a bit like what Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead or Minecraft runs on.  One of the important features of it is that it does not actually instantiate GameObjects unless the player needs to look at the tiles.  Now I just need to make it a game...

...and then my vacation was over.  Better luck next week off!

Towards the end of the week, I have to say I have some regrets about spending that much time in Skyrim.  Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, but I think there is more to it than that.  I was watching Team Double Dragon play Divinity: Original Sin (badly) and I couldn't help but think that game was a lot more worthwhile.
Original Sin has turn-based tactical combat with a very cool elemental interaction mechanic, tight and highly challenging (perhaps a little too challenging, resulting in a dependence on quicksaving).  Skyim's combat is a slapdash real time button mashing fest sorely hobbled by consolitusSkyrim makes me think Bethesda designed this interface hoping to entice some Call Of Duty console players, complete with the attack buttons on the triggers, and the idiot-proof door puzzles further support the theory that they were afraid of making the user think.

Coincidentally, both games have released free enhanced editions, but Skyrim's is purely cosmetic whereas Original Sin also significantly enhanced the gameplay and feature set.  Particularly damning is that Bethesda never got around to fixing many Skyrim glitches, 5 years later, including boneheaded ones such as the gear you enchant becomes less valuable as you get better at enchanting.  Why am I even playing this game?

Of course, Skyrim has places where it innovates, and innovates well.  I am particularly impressed with the pains taken to present a compelling world.  A huge amount of space is visible and accessible to the player in a visually and audibly immersive manner, featuring an incredible amount of architecture and scenery.  An overlooked important ability is how the NPCs can path across the entirety of the continent, independent of a player, and this can be leveraged to create excellent experiences.  Those are pretty good reasons to keep playing the game.
Even a bleak, frozen waste in the dead of night has majesty.  Skyrim may only do immersion well, but sometimes that alone is enough.
So I guess I should stick around long enough to kill Alduin, just so say I've seen how Skyrim ends.

Unfortunately, as things stand now, he doesn't have a chance: 
  • I am now rocking enchanted armor with enough armor points that I have the capped 80% physical damage immunity.  If that is not enough, my enchanted shield and gloves block an additional 80% of damage when I am blocking.
  • My enchantments add enough immunity to magic that (stacked with my Breton magic resistance) gives me the capped 85% magic resistance.  Prior to this, end game magic users were the greatest threat, as armor points did nothing for them.
  • My enchantments also grant 120% one-handed weapon damage, allowing me to inflict over 120 damage with a light swipe of my ebony sword, it will probably be closer to 200 once I finish maxing out my smithing and one-handed attack skill.  
  • I also have significantly increased stamina and magicka regeneration.
I say this is unfortunate because the endgame is is broken, always has been.  Right now, it is extremely unlikely I will encounter anything in the game that even remotely threaten my character.  Then I just walk up and button mash until the foe is defeated.  The brain has clocked out; as far as the game mechanics are concerned, there's no reason to involve the player anymore.

Here I am pointedly ignoring the named mage blasting me with lighting bolts while I line up a good screenshot.  My health bar barely even budges.
I have changed my mind as to the worst, most unbalancing thing about the end game.  It is not the smithing, which I previously thought it would be because it can multiply the armor and damage values on equipment.  Instead, it is enchantments that really break the end game in Skyrim.  Particularly game breaking are:
  1. Fortify weapon skill effects.  These can more than double damage that was probably more than adequate from other sources, such as skills, perks, smithing, and sneak attacks.
  2. Mana cost reduction effects.  It possible to create gear that makes casting spells from chosen schools at zero cost.  For the destruction school, the base spell damage cannot be increased with smithing like weapons can, but this is counterbalanced by foes generally having no magic resistance.  In many cases, to cast a spell without cost is unbalancing enough in itself.
  3. Fortify trade skill effects.  This sets up an easy recursion where you craft things whose purpose is to make it so you can craft better things.
I planned to try to play all three of the campaigns, but the game is melting before my eyes.  The end game balance is just not there, Skyrim basically just lays down and says, "Alright.  Fine.  You win.  Lets get this over with."  This is the real reason I rerolled all those characters in the past: I was trying to find one that wouldn't break the game.
I earned my last few heavy armor points letting big things hit me while I healed myself.  The bards might want to leave this part out of the Dovahkiin's ballad.
In the end, I lacked that much discipline.  I embraced this broken balance, even knowing it leads to a lackluster game experience, leaning hard on smithing and enchanting because my min/maxing mentality told me that it was the path to least resistance.  Yet, perhaps a more concentrated effort would only have been stalling the inevitable.  This is how the game is meant to be played.  If that bothers me, then it is time to end it so I can move on to something else.

So I shall.  But I had a goal to end Alduin before I ended this play through, and I intend to meet it.


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