Friday, October 28 2016

Skyrim Special Edition

The new 64-bit HD re-release of Skyrim for Windows is mostly a side-effect of updating the game to work on the PS4 and Xbox One. If you already own the game and all DLC on Steam, it’s free. Yesterday, the Spoiler Warning crew had an impromptu streaming session to show off how glitchy and unstable it was.

After skimming through their video, I gave it a shot, and my experience was completely different. The only two visual issues we had in common were excessively dark shadows outdoors (much worse for them) and a distant non-animated section of a river (which is apparently an initialization problem, because I later saw much more of the same river from a greater distance (up by Bleak Falls Barrow), and it was all flowing).

Josh is the bug whisperer, so it’s no surprise that he got crashes from attempting simple actions, but it was rock solid for me. And where he had terrible frame-rate pretty much everywhere, it was quite smooth for me at 1920x1280. The one potential explanation he mentioned is that he hadn’t updated his graphics drivers in a few months, whereas I did that a few days ago, but since this is the same engine as Fallout 4, that shouldn’t explain all of the problems he saw, and the forums are full of crash reports as well.

So, if you can get it for free through Steam, and you don’t mind playing the vanilla game with just the official DLC and no mods for a while (most importantly, without SkyUI!), then it’s a prettier Skyrim. Not as dramatically so as console players will see, but a definite visual upgrade. The “depth of field” effect that devs think is so cool is stupid, though; until games have eye-tracking, they have no idea what part of the scene I’m actually looking at.

In other news, there was a very small, unexplained patch to No Man’s Sky. The ~50 people who are still playing can’t figure out what it was supposed to accomplish, and no one’s heard from the developers in months.

Also, Civ 6 desperately needs some serious patching, for performance, balance, unit/city management, and fun. Between the intimately-close placement of opposing civs, zerg-rush AI, raging barbarians who upgrade their military faster than you can (I had barbarian anti-tank units show up while I was still trying to acquire the resources to create musketmen), and build times that obsolete your units before you even finish building them, you don’t have time to explore the game’s features. Your strategies are severely constrained, and they didn’t even bother to let you save preferred starting conditions; if you carefully set up the parameters for a game and get a terrible starting location, you’ll have to re-select each and every parameter to start over. And even “huge” worlds are tiny; the world feels like a county.

The AI is very sensitive to victory conditions, too. If, for instance, you want to focus on learning how all the military units work, and don’t want to spontaneously lose because of religion or culture, the AI will be laser-focused on a military victory, and zerg you even harder. Resource-starved? Don’t set the game to abundant resources, or the AI will… zerg you even harder.

There are also some really annoying bugs. If you research a military technology that obsoletes a unit, but you don’t have the resource to build the newly-unlocked unit, then you can’t build either. And at least twice, I unlocked a unit before unlocking the ability to see its required resource on the map.