The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey «

You are entering a realm where a game starts having everything going for it, then utterly falls apart to the brink of total annihilation, but holds onto life enough to inspire prolonged play. It defies explanation and logic, but I will attempt to decipher it anyway. You have entered The Elder Scrolls Travelers Zone.

Admittedly, I was not a fan of Morrowind, the Xbox installment of Elder Scrolls. To me, it was too open, too unhinged, and too slow. I gave it two good tries before vowing to shelve it permanently. On N-Gage, the series actually fares better in a multitude of ways — at least, on paper. The quest is much more direct and to the point, though exploration is still encouraged. You may start by hunting rats just like the game’s bigger brother, but Shadowkey gets up to speed a lot faster.

1, 2, 3 Frames Per Second!

Notice how I said it fares better “on paper.” That wasn’t one of those game-site typos, friends; rather, the game nearly falls apart in execution. To me, it feels like the developers were all excited about the N-Gage, exclaiming, “Wow, this is a great, powerful platform that we can take advantage of!” Perhaps they then saw the sales figures not shaping up where they hoped, and then decided to sluff off for the last half of the development cycle. To me, it’s the only possible explanation, but let me justify my theory.

The rats want your herb, dude!

First off is the framerate. You’re usually gliding along at a steady clip in the 3D, first-person world; but every few minutes, you hit an unseen snag. All of a sudden, you can literally count the number of frames per second on your left hand. It’s as if time itself stands still. The music even cuts out. Sometimes it’s when you’re fighting a horde of zombies, but other times you’re re-entering an empty cave or something else totally random. It can even happen when you’re trying to navigate the pause menu. Optimization, anyone? Beuller?

Load time also suffers from a total lack of developmental care. It’s so bad that you have to load the save game menu. Switching between zones gives you ample time to take a bathroom break (yes, even you for seat-taking ladies) and not have to worry about missing a beat. Sure, the dungeon areas and the overworld are bleedin’ huge, but I would think those horrible chugs would be the result of streaming or something.

 

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