Category: Adventure

Adventure-based gameplay levels

Review: Skyrim – Falskaar

Reviewer: Xoleras777

The whole idea is ambitious and conceptually potent, but the implementation lacks the elements needed to bring that potency to life.

Falskaar takes place apart from Skyrim on the island of Falskaar. Upon entry the player is introduced into a familial and political conflict between two factions, each settled in their respective holds: Borvald and Staalgarde. The player adventures through a campaign to defend the interests of Borvald and its people against the tyrannical desires of the antagonist, ruler of Staalgarde, Yngvaar. Characters tell of a prophecy that “the Traveler” will enter Falskaar from another land in order to aid in its salvaging, and the player essentially fulfills the prophecy as they go through the campaign, ultimately preventing Yngvaar from attaining the Heart of the Gods, which would allow him to become all-powerful.

Falskaar is a vast land but there are immediate deficiencies easily noticed by players as they enter. The most evident among these is the landscape, crafted in an artificial manner that serves no effective purpose and thus acts only as a visual aberration. The landscape is thus, from a topographical viewpoint, evidence of excess land usage and poor layout. The immediate natural landscape takes on a similar and mundane image in most cases. This issue can even be judged comparably: take a random cell in the Falskaar worldspace and compare it to a random cell in the Solstheim worldspace, for instance. In those cases where the comparison is between traversable land, the cells in Solstheim are overwhelmingly more detailed and diverse. Similarly, the structure of interiors and artificial constructs also lack the kind of detail needed in order to distinguish themselves from their generic forms. Thus while it is evident that structure is present it is not devised in a manner any more elaborate than a generic grouping of base meshes for almost every example that can be found, which also proceeds to demonstrate the lack of innovation in the construction of interior and exterior structures; everything is created into a basic layout, which is the same thing as “playing it safe;” no risk is made in an attempt to catch the player off guard, although the consequence happens to be that the architecture is plain.

What atmosphere the mechanics of the game provide unabated to designers tend to be washed away in the experiences where a player may be exploring the forest or fighting their way through an interior. The repetitiveness of scenery and the excessively large proportion of land to content tend to wind the player down and pull them out of an immersive escape into fantasy. The same can be largely said about auditory immersion, as much of the campaign is played out in silence or with minimum contribution to the auditory environments that contribute to the experience of the levels as wholes. The presence of detail is a smattering of hits and misses. In about as many cases of richness of detail there are cases of poorness of detail to counterbalance the former. The atmosphere in summary fails to do the minimum of providing the immersion needed to escape from reality and become submerged in a new world, despite that some elements do more than their fair share in order to fulfill this need.

The style of play is reflective of the common dungeon-exploration scenario for most cases in which the player sets off to complete quests. Those portions of the main quest that play out in unique scenarios act as a counterbalance to level out the plainness of the combat. But even when all the primary characters are fully involved in delving into dungeons alongside the player, the gameplay experience quickly sinks back to a state of platitude as you’re forced to fight the same kind of enemies over and over in the same kind of environment for numerous iterations. The more unique parts of the experience are thus drowned out by the overpowering and ever present imposition of conventionality. At the same time, however, it should be noted that the combat gameplay is challenging and is not in and of itself the overpowering element, although it does not contribute much to the entertainment value as a whole. There is some degree of evidence that the author attempts to implement novel gameplay, although the risk yields little return as some of the cases result in unimpressive experiences. The best example of this is the final boss fight: a terse tussle with the main antagonist, wherein the player is enclosed by invisible walls and does very little in order to win the fight, simultaneously experiencing little as they complete it. On the other end of the spectrum lies the more colorful and unique experience of the invasion of Staalgarde, which was one of the unique highlights of the mod. Overall the completion of each level is a sluggish flow of progress brought about by the level of difficulty of the enemies but it is rarely confusing to figure out the next step in completing a level as the layout from a context of progression is sensibly constructed.

The author seems to attempt to design areas with the intent of strong visual impression, although the overwhelming results are that they end up being profound in one dimension, leaving the combination of elements required for visual awe unkempt. Despite this, it is not uncommon to realize and demonstrate the sense of conceptual wonder in the few locations where it has an opportunity to be exemplified. Yet in all cases there is nothing extraordinary that may indicate conceptual creativity as the author does little to prove visual creativity in the visual environments of each level. Everything can either be traced back to a generic grouping of constructs or can be outdone by miscellaneous environments in Skyrim in terms of environmental layout.

Most characters take on the template of a character of tertiary importance: one that has a few things to say and may have a personality but does not have much more and is thus generally shallow. Thankfully the primary characters have developed personalities and backgrounds, although the voice acting in some occasions doesn’t do much to convince us otherwise. The plot is laid out in a sensible and linear manner and takes on a typical sort of template in which the hero enters into a new world who at first seems unimportant but ends up saving the day in the end by defeating the antagonists. There is, however, no complete level of complexity beyond that and it is difficult to provide evidence that thematic depth fares any better, as there is nothing in the story that is made strong enough to indicate that, and so ultimately there is a theme to the story but it isn’t especially elaborate.

Falskaar in effect seems to carry the weight of buoyant endeavor and ambition but does not have the mechanical power to perform as well as it could have. That is to say that the whole idea is ambitious and conceptually potent, but the implementation lacks the elements needed to bring that potency to life.

Architecture – 0.9

-Structure: 0.75
-Innovation : 0.15

Atmosphere – 1

-Visual Immersion: 0.3
-Auditory Immersion 0.35
-Detail 0.35

Gameplay – 1.25
-Entertainment 0.3
-Intensity 0.4
-Novelty 0.25
-Flux 0.3

Visual Impact –  0.9

-Concept Impression: 0.5
-Visual Awe: 0.3
-Creativity: 0.1

Storyline – 1.45

-Character Development: 0.4
-Plot Development: 0.3
-Depth: 0.75

Overall Rating: 5.5/10

Tier Rating: 2/5