Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #28: Why Skyrim Is The Game For YOU!

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, and is pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: why you (yes you!) should play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

I am, of course, assuming that if you’re reading this post, you’re a big fan of fantasy fiction. If not then – what are you doing here?! 😉 You may or may not have heard of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game released by Bethesda in 2011. It is a huge epic fantasy RPG (role playing game) that allows the player to create their own character from a range of different races and other options, and completely choose the path their character takes. Whether you’d rather play as a stealthy assassin who kills from the shadows without leaving a trace, a swordsman who is unafraid to run straight into the midst or battle or as a mage who summons the dead, shoots fireballs and heals allies – or just about anything else you could think of – you can do it on Skyrim.

And the adventure begins...
And the adventure begins…

The reason I think this game works so well for fantasy fans, regardless of whether they normally play video games or not, is because of the sheer size of the game: it feels like you are in your very own epic fantasy novel. And there is absolutely no need to rush things; all quests can be completed whenever you like (or ignored, if you wanted). You could spend hours and hours exploring the landscape and simply level up from exploring and interacting with NPCs (non-player characters). For example, you can level Speechcraft by talking to merchants, persuading people to help you out, or intimidating them – meaning you don’t actually have to level through combat. There are places where you can buy homes or even build your own from scratch. You can get married, adopt kids, and live out the rest of your Skyrim days in a manor house by the lake.

Or you could become an intrepid adventurer. Skyrim is filled to the brim with secrets, caves and endless tunnels. Forests, lakes, mountains, every kind of landscape. It is a huge place, and all completely explorable. One day, you might search ancient Dwarven ruins for treasure, and find yourself battling the mechanised constructs left there to defend from thieves. The next, you might find yourself escorting someone from one city to another, or collecting a lost item for a villager. Then it might be on to defending a town from a dragon – you’re their only hope, their only chance of survival.

Watching the sun set over Riverwood.
Watching the sunset over Riverwood.

I have sunk over 150 hours into Skyrim, and most of that just on one playthrough. The amount of stuff you can do is literally limitless. Just recently, the Special Edition was released, with improved graphics. Skyrim was already pretty gorgeous when it came out in 2011, but now it looks absolutely stunning. I’ve started playing again, just because it feels like experiencing the game all over again for the first time. And this time, instead of a hunter/assassin, I’m going for a mage character, which has completely altered how I play. I’m taking more of the story and lore in, and spending a lot of time just staring at the landscape.

A view over Whiterun.
A view over Whiterun.

You don’t have to travel alone around Skyrim. You can take a follower with you, and there are so many to choose from. As you find each city and town, you’ll discover more and more people who want to join you – maybe they’ve heard of you and your feats, or maybe they just want an adventure. Skyrim is undeniably Norse inspired. From the names to the architecture, everything has a Scandinavian feel to it – yet still feels like something from another world. When you enter Whiterun, the first city you’ll come to on your adventure, you can’t help but be awed by the sight of Dragonsreach, the Jarl’s castle, towering over the rest of the city, like the Golden Hall of Meduseld over Edoras. Or the Gildergreen, the huge tree in the centre, reminiscent of the stories of Yggdrasil. And of course Jorrvaskr, home of the Companions, which looks like it was built from a Viking ship.

In the feast hall of the Companions.
In the feast hall of the Companions.

So, fantasy fans, whether you’re a gamer or not – Skyrim might just work for you. It’s like taking the best elements from all your favourite fantasies, mixing them all up and then being thrown into the mix yourself. You craft the character, you choose the path, and you can change the world – for better or worse.

Oh, and did I mention there are dragons? 😉

skyrim dragon gif

Have you ever played Skyrim? If not, would you consider trying it?

Misc.

Here Be Dragons!

St. George
Image source

In honour of St. George’s Day today – the national day of England – I wanted to talk about dragons! Why dragons, you ask? If you don’t know the story of St. George, in its most condensed form it is the traditional tale of a brave knight rescuing a princess from a dragon. Of course that’s not the whole story, and if you want to read it in more detail, you can do so here, but I won’t go into it on the blog. So, to celebrate this day I wanted to talk about dragons in fiction. I’ve marked spoilers, so please only click ‘view spoiler’ if you’ve read the book (or in the case of A Song of Ice and Fire, watched past series one of Game of Thrones).

Smaug

Smaug, from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Smaug is the main villain of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, a huge red dragon who captured the dwarf kingdom of Erebor, along with all of its treasure, one hundred and fifty years before the main events of the book. It is not until the latter half of the book that the reader meets Smaug – and realises just how clever he is. He toys with Bilbo Baggins, rather than killing him outright (it is for this reason that I’ve given him four for ferocity – he doesn’t just kill on sight). Like traditional dragons of lore, he loves gold and sits atop his treasures in the halls of Erebor. He is also known as Smaug the Magnificent or Smaug the Golden. [spoiler]Despite his terrifying appearance and cunning, Bilbo notices a weak spot, a bare patch on his chest, that Bard the Bowman later uses to bring the dragon down.[/spoiler]

Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion

Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion, from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – the ‘children’ of the Mother of Dragons, aka Daenerys Targaryen, these three are the first known dragons for at least one hundred and fifty years. Three hundred years earlier, dragons were used by House Targaryen to conquer the world, but were believed extinct by the time of the War of the Three Kings. [spoiler]Daenerys Targaryen, in a state of grief and after dreaming of their birth, walks into the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo with petrified dragon’s eggs and causes them to hatch.[/spoiler] They grow throughout the series but as of book five (A Dance with Dragons) are still not fully grown. They can be commanded by Daenerys, but are still wild beasts at heart.

Hungarian Horntail

Hungarian Horntail from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – this is the dragon that Harry Potter has to evade during the first round of the Triwizard Tournament. Harry really drew the short straw here – Hungarian Horntails are notorious for their ferocity and are considered to be the most dangerous breed of dragon. It has both a spiked head and tail, able to use the latter like a club. Not only is it huge and deadly, but also very fast – proved by how easily it was able to keep up with Harry on his Firebolt.

Saphira

Saphira from Eragon by Christopher Paolini – at last, a slightly friendlier dragon. Saphira may have a human companion, and she may not attack people on sight, but in the heat of battle she is vicious and strong. Bonded to Eragon Shadeslayer, she was one of the only known female dragons of her time. Her name comes from the blue colour of her egg, and her surname (Bjartskular) means ‘bright scales’.

There are so many more dragons I could discuss – books like Seraphina, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Dragon Age and Drakan come to mind – and so many more.

Which are your favourite dragons from fiction, video games, TV or film? How do they compare to these four?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #7: My Favourite Fantasy Video Games

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post! Thank you to Kritika, who participated in the last Fantasy Friday!

Today I want to talk about: my favourite fantasy video games.

Along with reading, gaming is another one of my big hobbies (and a major time suck!). As you can see from my Steam profile, I have way too many unfinished games. But those I actually have finished – well they were definitely worth my time, and probably yours too. So I’d like to share with you today some of the best fantasy themed video games that I’ve played. This also ties in nicely with another video game themed post I have planned for next week, and another one that me and the lovely Paola are writing together. Oh, and just a note: there will be no Final Fantasy on this list. I’ve never gotten along with that particular series… So without further ado:

The Dragon Age series

dragonage

Platform: PC & Mac, XBox 360, Playstation 3

I won’t say much about these games, because Paola and I will be discussing them soon. In fact I’ll say nothing. Apart from they’re amazing. And you should play them. Also that’s my Warden above!

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

wind waker

Platform: Nintendo Gamecube

I first played this game when I was about 16, as my boyfriend at the time had just gotten a Wii, so gave me his Gamecube. This is probably the game that got me back into adventure-RPGs again – it is absolutely beautiful with its cell-shaded graphics and fantastic soundtrack composed by Koji Kondo. Don’t let the word RPG put you off though – that side of this particular game is very simplified. It’s so fun just to be able to sail around the seas, discover hidden islands and collect ALL THE THINGS!

Tales of Symphonia

tales of symphonia

Platform: Nintendo Gamecube

The first big RPG that I ACTUALLY finished, Tales of Symphonia is one of my absolute favourite games ever. An incredibly detailed and at some times complex Japanese RPG, it hosted a whole array of varied characters including my first video game crush: Kratos Aurion.

Kratos_stats

I have a thing for redheads, okay?! And his voice is beautiful… But, ahem. Another favourite character is Sheena Fujibayashi, a warrior with a tough exterior, but a sad past. She’s also voiced by Jennifer Hale, the same actress who provides the voice of female Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, which equals awesome. My usual team consisted of Lloyd (the main protagonist), Kratos (where I could use him), Raine and either Sheena or Presea. Sorry to all the other characters but… just no. Regal was the most useless, I found. There is also a sequel for the Wii, which I own but haven’t finished. It just doesn’t compare to the first!

The Elder Scrolls series

Platform: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

If you haven’t heard of the Elder Scrolls series, I would be quite shocked. Sprawling, open-ended RPGs, they are incredibly detailed and allow the player to do exactly as they want, when they want. One aspect I really love about games is if they have a sandbox quality to them, meaning the world is open and completely free for the player to explore: and the Elder Scrolls games definitely are. You can build your character as you want – pick a couple of skills and specialise in them, or work on all the different weapon and armour types, as well as magic. If you wanted, you could even just become a trader, gathering items in the wild and selling them on. For example, in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I collected garlic. And kept it in a display case in my castle. Because I could. Then it all disappeared – I still blame the servant. The rules are totally up to you, and quests are entirely optional. Skyrim is the only game I play with headphones in, because it’s so immersive. But more on that in next week’s post! Oh, and those are my Skyrim characters above.

Orcs Must Die! 2

orcs must die

Platform: PC, XBox 360

A strategic defense game with a fantasy theme, Orcs Must Die! 2 is a perfect game to play with a friend – co-op mode is just so much fun, and it’s really satisfying to see all your traps working together to take out the evil orcs! It gets pretty challenging though, especially when the ogres and dragons decide to join together…

Lord of the Rings Online

212500_screenshots_2012-12-30_00001

Platform: PC, Mac

Okay, perhaps this is no longer a favourite game of mine, I kind of tired of it. But it really is a brilliantly crafted version of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, with such an amazing attention to detail. Travel to the Trollshaws and find the stone trolls, climb to the top of Weathertop and find Gandalf’s rune carved into a rock, visit the Green Dragon for a pint – as a Tolkien nerd this game is an absolute delight, and the creators are clearly incredibly passionate about his work too. So many hidden gems! I stopped playing in about July/August 2013, and if anyone is interested I was on the Withywindle server. I had quite a few characters – Isolde (85 Hobbit Hunter), Rinn (85 Human Minstrel), Ailis (56? Human Captain), Lunathien (38 Elf Rune-keeper), Inarra (33 Hobbit Warden) and a low level Hobbit Burglar that I’ve totally forgotten the name of. Plus I had a hobbit house, which was the best thing EVER (you can see it in the screenshot above).

And the honorable mention goes to…

Bastion

Bastion

Platform: PC, Mac, XBox 360

I haven’t played that much of this one which is why it’s an honorable mention at the moment. But what I have played, I’ve really enjoyed – not to mention it’s an absolutely gorgeous game with hand-painted graphics.

Do you play video games? What are some of your favourite fantasy themed ones?

Thoughts

Thoughts #6: Video Game Novelisations

thoughts_16

I love video games. I’ve always played them, ever since I was a kid. My dad has always worked in IT, so we always had a PC at home. From a young age I was playing Doring Kindersley games, Mia Mouse – and Tomb Raider, Return Fire, Thief or Age of Empires.

It’s a hobby that has continued throughout the years. Some of my favourite games include the Mass Effect series, Tales of Symphonia, The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker, The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim, Borderlands and most recently, L.A. Noire.

       

I am, or more aptly was, a big online gamer. I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online on and off for two years, and have played so many different MMOs in the past. That was why I was so excited to read Ready Player One, a truly brilliant and completely geeky novel based in our future, where almost everyone escapes from their miserable real life to the online universe known as OASIS.So really, what could be better than combining two interests of mine, video games and reading?

Well, in all honesty, it hasn’t been quite the successful venture I’d hoped for.

As I wrote in my review of Mass Effect: Ascension, when the Mass Effect series finished I was pretty disappointed. If you’re a fan of the games you will understand, but if you’re not: the premise of the game series is that every choice you make has a consequence. You are essentially in charge of the path the game takes, your actions have a real effect. So when Bioware promised that there would be over sixteen different endings for Mass Effect 3, and your actions throughout the entire trilogy would affect it, fans were excited. But what we actually got was essentially three endings that were exactly the same, apart from being different colours. There was so much backlash that Bioware released a patch to improve the ending and clear up so many unanswered questions.


Genuine reactions to the game ending.

It really wasn’t enough. I was left with this need for more Mass Effect: so what better to turn to than the books?

It would have been better for me to turn to fanfiction.

I’ve read some brilliant Mass Effect fanfiction (Garrus and FemShep. I ship it. Hard.) – and I plan on covering the subject of fanfiction in a future ‘Thoughts’ post. The writing in the four Mass Effect novelisations that I devoured soon after the series ended was clunky, the plots were paper thin and so full of holes, the characters (even those fleshed out in the games themselves) flat.

And honestly, video game books, just like the film adaptations, have a pretty bad reputation. I was surprised by the average rating of a lot of the novels on Goodreads. But despite all this, despite knowing that the quality won’t be great, that the authors are most likely in it for the money and link to an established series more than a love of the series itself, I will probably read more of these. I know that I’ll read any Mass Effect book I can get my hands on – and I’m keeping my eye out for Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim adaptations too (though I’m interested to see how a Skyrim book would work, since the main character is completely your own). It’s probably for the same reason that I’ve stuck with a series like the Sookie Stackhouse novels, even when the quality has gone downhill – I have some great memories and feelings associated with the series, and through reading the books I’m hoping to get them back. Mass Effect is truly one of those games where you get really attached to certain characters – especially as you can be responsible for their deaths if you’re not careful.

However, I’m sure there are plenty of gamers out there who aren’t readers. Seeing a novelisation of their favourite game series might encourage them to pick up the book – and maybe more books after that. If a book gets someone into reading, then who cares what that book is? It doesn’t matter what they’re reading, whether it’s good or not (although that is completely a matter of opinion), what matters is that they are reading. The reverse may be true also: although you’re less likely to pick the books up if you haven’t played the relevant game, as many assume a basic knowledge of the game’s plotlines; a video game novelisation may introduce someone to the game series who would not have played it otherwise.

And now I turn to you, my dear readers: do you read video game novelisations? If so, what have you thought of the ones you have read? Are there any video games you’d love to read a novelisation of? Please leave your thoughts and comments below, I’d love to hear them!


Atlas and P-Body hugs for anyone who comments!
Misc.

Reading Soundtracks

I am the sort of person who hates silence. I need music on, constantly. I have to take my iPod everywhere, I even use it for the five minute walk to work. However, some music can be particularly distracting whilst reading, so I prefer to listen to instrumental pieces – specifically, soundtracks. Here are some of my top ones!

Just a small selection! I think that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is my favourite of the Harry Potters, because I absolutely love the song ‘Harry and Hermione’, plus the Umbridge inspired ones are fun. The Mass Effect 3 soundtrack is known as the one that makes me sob like a baby. Especially this song – the one that you get with your love interest (Garrus!)

I just have so much love for film and game soundtracks. Imagine how different our experiences would be without them. It would be so much harder to build up the right atmosphere, make your viewers/players feel excited, scared, sad. To me, they are perfect to read books to, and you can even match the genres! Something creepy? Prometheus. Something a bit wacky, and exciting? Doctor Who. Something epic? Lord of the Rings.

Now for my readers! What do you read along to, if anything?