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Jan 30 2012

Skyrim, It’s Actually Pretty Boring….NOT! – A Friendly Rebuttal

Welcome to the site, Michael. On my honor, I challenge you to a friendly sharing of ideas! Ink shall be split with glory!

In the middle of this January, HalfBeard brought in a new member to our writing fold who will work with me on the features aspect of this site as well as other stuff. My new colleague Michael has a strong wording and good perspective on the new Elder Scrolls game in his article “Skyrim, It’s Actually Pretty Boring” article. As a friendly gesture and congratulations to his accomplishment of becoming a new member of the staff here, I wanted to provide my thoughts upon Skyrim’s incredible popularity and the game itself.

The reason I want to do this is also to start a strong collaboration between my fellow writers. This will also serve as a benefit of perspective as well; Those who enjoy a series or site for its content should also expect of its writers to present many different sides. To take a single opinion as the only one tends to do can be a mistake. I highly respect Michael’s writing and analysis of the game and I wanted to give my thoughts on a game which has done so much to excite the role-playing genre as well as the industry. It will also help the reader as well; a firm counterpoint is meant to provide perspective and a difference of respectful opinion so that people will not take words we write as gospel, but inform themselves and make their own decisions based on a wealth of knowledge.

So, it is likely no surprise that I find the game rather enjoyable. I came from playing both Morrowind and Oblivion, with a later dash of Daggerfall. To be fair, there are many things from all the games that missed as much as they hit; Morrowind just threw the player straight into the mythos without any back story whatsoever to the rest of the largely forgotten-at least at that point-Elder Scrolls franchise. Thanks to a hefty dash of political wheeling-and-dealing that most players barely understood the story was nigh incomprehensible to new-comers. Oblivion was much more immersed in  its adventure, but had gameplay snags in user-interface and overall graphical and gameplay concerns like inconsistent membership at guilds. Oh and the voiceacting….oh lord, outside Patrick Stewart, that terrible voice acting. Mods really did incredible things from channeling the entirety of the game’s quests and monsters into something more engaging, to rewriting the entire game down to the base code and reworking everything.

Skyrim does have its problems. Physics and the number of bugs involving them are certainly an issue, especially when I can fall about twenty feet, and take no damage just by staying close to the mountainside. Another major problem lies within the main plot and on certain triggers that must be met before things are acceptable. Even some of the more optional quests have this problem. If a companion is required for a scene and their AI script fails, you’re stuck. The same is true with Dragons; despite the fact that fighting them is very cool when they want to come down and make several of the skillsets such as Sneak and Archery useless due to large health and damage resistance, it doesn’t exactly matter when they are caught up in the mountains and cannot land. The natural pathing is something to behold, but it still needs room to function and Skyrim is a very cramped place.

I still worry a great deal when I hear a dragon coming, but not for the reasons the game is supposedly trying to describe. When it attacks a town, you are almost certain to have casualties that aren’t you; if any of them happen to be a shopkeeper or trainer, that’s a lost resource. When Riverwood is attacked and down goes the smith, the only real use you get there are his former tools.

I also agree with the idea of the ‘infinite quests.’ They are little more than fetch and kill scenarios colored in different ways. Mages? Go and stop this mage or gather these materials. Thieves are even more annoying when you forge numbers; It amounts to going to one place, pressing a button when no one can see you, and heading back to Riften. However, I must disagree on major quests and the overall storyline.

If there is one thing that Bethesda Softworks can do right and connect into a great experience, it is the world they build and the important missions they set you on to define that world. This is present in two ways; the definition in your character as the Dragonborn and how you decide to handle the situations presented. For my example, I have been playing a Thief who functions with bow, sword and dagger from a lovely little line of perks down the Sneak progression, but uses a little bit of all the three fields of power. Challenge in combat comes from the fact that I cannot do damage consistently save a powerful first strike, so I enter prolonged battles with my companions in the fear that I don’t get them killed when using Shouts (which is apparently the only way they die; your interaction has to get them killed, not the hundreds of other threats in the game….yet another oddity). I tend to read into the most simplistic lore from the series and how it progressed, and being shocked how the Empire went from simple imprisonment to outright execution and torture in the opening really was jarring for me. That the Elves are plotting against the other races is jarring. How the strong and hearty and loyal people I knew in Oblivion and Morrowind are turning on one another was amazing. I wanted to explore this world because something felt so different.

What Bethesda can certainly do is create a world and flesh it out with wonder and gameplay elements that are decided by the player. What they have trouble doing is keeping our attention and preventing certain aspects of their game from causing errors which should have been fixed before development. I still play it now, and I am hoping that further patches and downloadable content may fix or improve upon the gameplay in many ways. They certainly need to if they don’t want this incredible urge of interest to die down as quickly as it rose up.

4 comments

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  1. LAJW (again)

    “What Bethesda can certainly do is create a world and flesh it out with wonder and gameplay elements” – Weightless dull, sword combat, low combat difficulty, exploration narrowed to single design locations (Why we have 20 identical towns when we can have 1 complex) or caves, same enemies with same equipment all the game, infuriating interface design, bombastic voice acting done by with no doubt very bored people, talking stuff that does not metter, you go through 15 dialogs and gain one quest and no tips how to do other ones you’d undertaken, no one gives a damn about anyone else in world of Skyrim and especially about the dragonborn. This world is just filled with pathetic selfish morons who kill each other with no apparent reason. And when they do that others just stand around and say nothing. There’s no interaction between our partner if we have one it’s just like a mercenary troglodyte orc caring gigantic club behind itself. Audio is also awful, starting from very strange sound levels, when i had to put my laptop with enabled maximizer at the sound output to hear anything and not get deaf during the fight or blizzard and ending on flat ugly soundtrack which yells with it’s “EPIC” wardrums and shamefull flutes to be turned off. I’m sorry but the other article is just clear answer to all of the points you mentioned here.
    But I’ll still seek for constructive opinion which could change my point of view on that subject, cause maybe, just like with LOTR, the book I’m missing something.

  2. ORANGE

    I’m just going to go on a whim here and say that people like you who like Skyrim are all idealistic rather than realistic; you choose to downright ignore the abundance of fatal flaws in hopes of coming across the occasional tidbit of subjective wonder, hence the compulsion to explore. One can say that this could be a romantic set of mind… what am I saying, that Skyrim is powerful enough of a game to divide a population?

    The matter is, Skyrim is a terrible game. But why do you need me to reiterate what many people have already said before me? Terrible combat, terrible story, terrible core mechanics, terrible perk, terrible music, terrible art style (name one moment where there’s a contrast in palette?), terrible coding, terrible testing, terrible modding system, terrible connection to the community on Bethesda’s part. So many flaws so it’s easy to lower your standards and accept the shittiness.

    No, the dev team working on Bethesda are talentless hackjobs, and I highly doubt that the team was understaffed. They couldn’t have possibly been underfunded too, so they pretty much had unlimited resources. But there’s one thing that Bethesda starved their team of, and that is –time–.

    That’s right, the game simply wasn’t in production for long enough to be polished to a shimmer; instead of diamonds we’re left with coal. Damn release date, if the game was in production for another year, we could have seen a good game that wouldn’t continue to soil Bethesda’s paradoxically esteemed reputation. Sad that gamers care more about sequels rather than company names in my opinion.

  3. Michael Raston

    Hey Matt,

    Love the idea, nothing wrong with a friendly discussion ( or argument!)

    I guess my main motivation for writing my original rant against Skyrim wasn’t because I truly believe it to be a terrible game, but because I truly believe the massive amount of praise heaped on to it was undeserved and also unhealthy.

    Like I said, it has been raised up as a shining light and guide for RPG design and what worries me is that if everyone else in the world literally thinks it is that good and every one else in world throws money at Bethseda for making it it. This is worrying because I don’t think it is that good at all and the praise is undue and that the game industry can and should do better.

    If we worship games like this and don’t look at them truly objectively, if we get caught up in the hype and hyperbole that sites like IGN spew out we will continue to get force fed crap games.

    That sounded harsh, but if I get served McDonalds and get told it’s fine dining and that I should love and cherise every damn bite of it, I’m going to get angry.

    (Also I noticed you had no rebuttal for complaints against Skyrims UI, haha)

    1. Matthew Szlapka

      Yeah, and I completely agree with you, which is why I wanted to write this rebuttal in the first place; objective analysis of a game and how it is presented is the backbone of how games can not only improve from their mistakes, but also to create quality right at the bat. You and I are definitely on the same page, but what I wanted to do was to explain why I thought it was a good game in terms of certain fields that I respected.

      Bethesda, in my experience, has always been known for two things: An incredible world-building system where I feel immersed in a place-fantasy of futuristic-that thrusts me in and some good gameplay elements…in practice. Where they falter is when they try to tell me their work is good as is without patching…unless absolutely nescessary six months later, like Oblivion. That game, IMO, was a complete mess until modders started really playing with everything from top to bottom. The same will likely be true for Skyrim in time.

      Oh, and yeah…the UI may look streamlined, but other more than a few mistakes involving my companions and my own inventory, ESPECIALLY in what weapons and skills I want my companion to use? That is just unacceptable.

      It was good to do this with you, and I look forward to more of your articles.

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