Skyrim has been out a few weeks now, and has received top marks across the board. Critics and users alike have lauded it with praise, making it out to be the messiah of open world role-playing games. I got it on release, took the day off work, gave it a red-hot crack for a good 10 hours and lost interest completely. It’s not really that good. It’s like a buffet dinner; sure, there’s mountains of food to eat, but everything just has the same bland processed food taste albeit with a nordic tinge.
There certainly are good things about Skyrim. There’s no denying it’s a big area, filled with towns,caves and mountains, which in turn are filled with plenty of things to hit and steal. The graphics, though dated, do a decent job and run pretty solidly. The music is o.k too, creating a nice epic feeling. These things are done well, but unfortunately the actual game part (you know, the fun part; the challenge, the sense of reward, the involvement, the story) is sorely lacking. I would love Skyrim if I wanted a Scandinavian medieval hiking simulator, but unfortunately that’s not what I’m really in to.
“But it has dragons!” I hear you scream. The phrase “fighting dragons” sounds exciting right? Well, Skyrim is probably the first game of all time that makes that ultimate fantasy activity a chore. I would wager that nearly every person who has played Skyrim a fair bit will have at one point, when a dragon swoops in thought;” Dammit, Not ANOTHER dragon”. Just by putting something that is inherently cool and exciting into a game, doesn’t instantly make a gaming experience better. Contrast Skyrim’s endless dragons, to the one dragon in Dark Souls. It basically sits at the far end of a bridge the whole game. But that thing is terrifying! You scamper around avoiding it, running under the bridge hoping it will just leave you alone. That thing will blast the shit out of you if you even dare look at for more than three seconds. In my mind that’s what a dragon is about, something that is not messed with. In Skyrim, the dragons are little more than aerial pests that slow you down on your way one of your many fetch quests.
Ok, so the dragons didn’t do it for me, how about the quests? Apparently there is an INFINITE amount of them! Let’s talk about the main quest, which I assume is the cream of the crop. The first time I had a conversation with some one important from the main quest arc, that woman who works at the inn who is actually some sort of dragon secret agent, I clicked through all her text as quick as I could. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of “Who cares”, I had absolutely no point of reference for caring about Dragons coming back into the world. I didn’t understand why it was a problem, If a character close to me had been killed by a dragon, or something I built up was destroyed by a dragon, maybe I would care. But as it stands, the main quest line just felt as tacked on as any random fetch quest from a minor NPC. In fact, I wanted Dragon’s to come back, dragons are cool right? They are normally, but are just annoying in Skyrim. Also, I fail to see the issue with Dragons being around, the seem to die in about three hits, I’m sure the farmers could take care of them. There is no drama in any of the quests, No emotional investment, I just go to some random person, a random cave or ruin, or walk around the same repeated buildings in a town, its boring, repetitious and unrewarding.
I joined the Dark brotherhood, thinking my dual wielding sneaky Orc would definitely be able to find some sinister, dark, brooding quests with them. I was treated to what amounted to little more than fetch quests, but instead of getting item X, I was killing person Y. Person Y generally tended to be some random inane villager. Truth be told I only did about three Dark Brotherhood quests before I stopped playing, but the opening quests were in no way grabbing my attention.
The combat is a real drag, although Skyrim may be disadvantaged here because when I started playing it I had just finished up with Dark Souls. Dark Souls does sword fighting very well. Skyrim does not, nor does it do magic well. The combat lacks any punch or viscera. You flap at something with a sword until it turns into a ragdoll. I thought I would try turning the difficulty up. Now, There was no need for strategy or skill, just to carry around a million health potions and constantly swig them every fight. I would be fine with a basic combat engine, if mowing through endless boring fights gave me something, for example: Diablo. In Diablo, you just click on skeletons over and over again, it’s incredibly basic. But you do it because the skeletons drop loot, glorious randomized loot! There’s no reward like that in Skyrim, you will just pick through corpses to get cash and health potions on each enemy as they drop the same 5 sets of armour and weapons the entire game.
A friend who got a large number of his skills to 100, told me he had the most fun trying to find inventive ways to get his skill max quickly (He got nearly all of the skills to 100, then never bothered finishing any of the quest lines). Skills are a means to an end, not the end. You should get excited that you leveled up your skills because it means that boss who has been wiping the floor with you will now feel your wrath. There’s none of that in Skyrim. None of the enemies are much of a challenge, so I didn’t find any real drive to become more powerful. This is coupled with the fact the main quest line doesn’t really stir a strong sense of motivation. This all makes leveling skills a seem like an exercise in futility. A lot of people say it’s a game that you are meant to set your own goals, make your own quests. I think there is something terribly wrong with a game if the onus is on the player to find his own motivation to keep playing, so I suppose that’s why I stopped playing.
Finally, I don’t think the interface needs any more criticism (it’s a piece of crap on any system, but down right insulting on PC), but GOD DAMN that constellation perk menu is infuriating. Really, I cannot understand why no one at Bethesda thought that it might be an issue. “Ok so I click in the direction of the perk I want to see. Oh no that just sends me flying off to another skill constellation. I’ll try the direction keys, nope that doesn’t work either. Well, I guess I’ll just spin around randomly until I find a perk that’s kind of like the one I wanted”.
Skyrim, it’s O.K if you like walking around Nordic landscapes and towns, but kind of lacking in the game department.
I’m off to strangle some puppies.
Michael Raston is a gamer in his mid twenties. After wasting most of his life playing games, he has decided to start writing about them. check out more of his ramblings at http://lowerguk.tumblr.com/ or send him an email; firstname.lastname@example.org