Perfect Start Syndrome II: Or Why I Haven't Gotten Very Far in Skyrim

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My copy of Bethesda Softworks‘ long awaited Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim arrived promptly on launch day, some ten days ago, and I’ve frolicked about this corner of Tamriel more or less every day since.

Skyrim on flicker.com by Joshua Livingston via a Creative Commons Attribution license.

You would imagine, then, that I’ve climbed every peak, slain a slew of dragons, quested until my coffers burst with coin gladly given by the fetch requesters and the life savees. After all that play, I must be a hero of awesome renown, with skills unmatched by any other.

Um, well, no, not really. But I have cleared Embershard Mine twelve times!

As I suffered with Fallout 3 (and to a lesser extent Fallout: New Vegas), I am burdened by Perfect Start Syndrome. Given that Skyrim is a huge sandbox of a game, with the main quest merely a suggestion for what to do with your time in the world (and without any annoying time constraints on putting the Big Bad Evil in its place), once you step out of the obligatory tutorial dungeon, the Sky(rim) is the limit. And sometimes, faced with such seemingly infinite freedom, one freezes. Perfect Start Syndrome claims another victim.

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Ice Hockey in Post-Apocalyptia

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Love it or hate it, Bethesda Softwork‘s decision to have every line of non-player character (NPC) dialogue in Fallout 3 accompanied by voice acting leads to a certain degree of immersion. From random townsperson to monomaniacal despot, everyone speaks. Even the two-headed mutated cows make noise.

Given the cast of hundreds, actors invariably voice multiple NPCs, often noticeably so. Too, the reliance on recorded dialogue means that once the dialogue is recorded, no late changes are feasible, and there are points in the game where I wish one NPC would acknowledge some huge event that took place in his or her life that was directly affected by my character’s actions. Even on big budget title like Fallout 3, there’s a limit to the voice acting funds, and I’m sure they had to decide to cut off dialogue trees at some point, where a non-voice acted title would have been able to add additional text branches to cover more permutations and outcomes.

Don't quit your day job. Because it's cool.

Still, imagine my surprise learning that the voice actor for an early antagonist (or protagonist, depending on your character’s moral inclinations) is . . . the announcer at Verizon Center for the Washington Capitals.

(Only the most minor of Fallout 3 spoilers follow.)

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Perfect Start Syndrome: Or, Why I Haven't Gotten Very Far in Fallout 3

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Bethesda Softworks released Fallout 3 about two weeks ago, and I really haven’t gotten very far at all in this post-apocalyptic role playing game.

The view, not new, from the Vault

It’s not that the game is difficult or perplexing, especially for a grizzled Wastelander like myself—I cut my teeth on Fallout’s spiritual progenitor, Wasteland, on my trusty Commodore 128. (Never could save that darn dog in the well, but I did clear out Base Cochise.) And the game runs quite well on my Mac Pro booted into XP, so it’s not any technical issue that has hindered my progress.

No, I haven’t gotten very far at all because I keep starting over. And I doubt that I’m the only one afflicted by this malady of free-form gaming: Perfect Start Syndrome.

(Only the most minor of Fallout 3 spoilers follow.)

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