First the bad news:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m digging the game and the story so far, but what I’m not liking are the very hokey controls.  It was obviously developed for console and not a PC environment.  It’s even worse than Oblivion, which also had a hair-brained interface.  Flipping through weapons and spells is downright tedious, even if/when you get them “favorited” (didn’t know they surfed the web in these RPG universes – ugh).  Also the lack of information in the so-called manual is appalling.  It’s about as helpful as the infamous “LWBs” (Little White Books) packaged with tarot decks.

It’s also a bit weird in how you manage your various follower(s).  It’s not immediately clear that you can actually trade with them and/or upgrade their equipment – or if that’s even desirable (are they wearing gear that auto-levels with them?).  And do their skills level up to be commensurate with your own?  I’m guessing so, but that’s only a guess, since I can’t see it evidenced in-game, or in the manual.  Also, they don’t congregate at some central area once they pledge their allegiance to you – hope you brought a notebook along to write down where these guys are!

Speaking of notebooks, you’re definitely going to want one.  There are so many things to keep track of that are either too tedious to look up in-game, or to alt-tab out to Google. Oh, and you even have to alt-tab if you’re playing in windowed mode – LAME!  I can understand not being able to move the cursor out of the window while moving/navigating, but you should be able to do so on any other static screen (like looking at your inventory, or the map, or whatever).  Oh, and speaking of the map – another UI miscue there.  It should work a la GoogleMaps where you click-drag to move it, not the move the cursor to the edge of the screen and have it scroll – that is so 90s, pre-windows.  Seriously, it’s times like this that I feel like I’m playing a DOS game.

I’m not sure if this game autotunes itself like Oblivion does, but it feels like it does, and it seems a bit off.  I’m often coming upon foes that are way, WAY beyond my capabilities – even with two (and sometimes more) “assistant” NPCs.  Seriously, the dragons are MUCH easier to kill than some of the other things I’ve come across.

Also, the save game feature is kind of tedious.  The saves are only sorted chronologically – so if you have multiple characters, good luck finding the one you want.  Some folks will say you only need one character, but what about siblings or other family members that also want to play the game – how are they supposed to find the character they’re playing?

And what’s with the limit on 8 hot-keys?  At least make it match a keyboard 1-0 for the number keys, or 1-12 if you want to use F-Keys – not 1-8 which doesn’t match anything.

The Good:

The environment itself is awesome and gorgeous, and the stories and quests are very well done and engaging.  Once I “get into” the game I’m really liking it and can spend many hours playing.  But once my inventory fills up and I have to go navigating the multi-level menus and hobbling around with my follower’s inventory – I’m taken out of the immersion and plopped back into IT/computer mode, bleh.

Final appraisal:

I really wanted to LOVE this game, but in the end, I just like it.  I like it quite a bit, but I don’t really *love* it.  The packaged interface is very poor (as is unfortunately typical for TES games). Hopefully the mod’ing community will be able to fix it pronto.  On a 5 star rating system, I’d rate it 3.5 stars.  If it had even a semi-decent & PC friendly interface I would give it a 5.  That’s the price we pay for console based games that are merely ported to the PC instead of built for the PC.

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