It’s the day after Christmas, there’s a blanket of snow on the ground, and it looks so soft and inviting. If it sticks around, I’ll probably do a little nekkid snow dancing later on because that’s a thing I like to do. Preferably at midnight when it’s dark and people are asleep so I don’t have to explain to the cops what I’m doing. I love snow, and I love winter, Christmas notwithstanding. This post is not a paean to winter, however, it’s a post about why I cannot quit Skyrim. Hey, it’s relevant because it’s always snowing in Skyrim. And, since I added a mod that makes snow prettier, the snow really pops. It’s a bit too intense during a snowstorm at night, though. I can barely see where I’m going.
Anyhoo, I’m fifty-plus hours into Skyrim, and I noticed that my interest started flagging around the forty hour mark. The dungeons started to feel a little samey, and I wasn’t quite as eager to fus ro dah as I once was. By the way, I rarely use that Shout because while it’s quite funny to send someone across the environment, it’s a bit tedious to have to chase them down to finish them off. I know that it’s good to use to force enemies off cliffs, but I’m mostly fighting inside, so that’s not really relevant right now. By far, the Shout I use the most is the Storm Call, which as the name implies, brings down a massive storm upon the area. I only have one word of it so far, but it’s already OP. The problem with Shouts, however, as with most of the combat, is that it does damage indiscriminately to friends* and foes alike. I find this one of the most frustrating aspects of the combat, by the way. If you’re fighting with someone, you can’t accidentally hit that person (unless it’s a follower, I think) or that person will turn on you.You can imagine a storm that rains and lightnings in the area around you is not optimal when fighting, say a dragon that is attacking a town. I tried that once, and a guard immediately turned on me after being hit by lightning or something.
I reloaded a previous save right quick, I can tell you that much. It’s funny because when I played The Witcher 3, I didn’t reload a previous save except maybe twice because I wanted to live with the consequences of my actions. In Skyrim, however, I have no qualms about reloading a previous save if I accidentally deal friendly fire or make a decision I’m not fond of. I’m not sure why, except I’m not as invested in the story in Skyrim as I was in The Witcher 3. I think it’s because the story in The Witcher 3 was more realistic in a fashion than is the story in Skyrim. The trials and tribulations of the townsfolk seem more real than those of the townsfolk in Skyrim. My two favorite quests in The Witcher 3 (The Bloody Baron and trying to help someone become the monarch of Skellig) contained some of the best writing in games I’ve ever seen**. Conversely, in Skyrim, the stories are a bit more generic and more video gamey. I don’t feel that most of the decisions I make matter that much, but to be fair, I’ve avoided a few of the heavier decisions just because I don’t want to make them.
I will say that the one thing that resparked my interest in Skyrim was returning to the main storyline. My way of playing these games is usually to just wander around, exploring the environments, and picking up quests along the way. I’ve gone to towns just to see what they’re about, even though I haven’t had quests in them–such as Solitude. I feel as if I discovered it too early into the game, but it’s been interesting to explore it, nonetheless. It’s interesting that there’s no level suggestions for the quests, and while I like the freedom it gives me, I sometimes feel as if the prowess/health of the enemy combatants is too disparate. For the most part, I can cruise through areas and not have much of a problem mowing down all who stand in my way. Then, I’ll hit an enemy or group of enemies that one or two shots me, and I’m left scratching my head in bewilderment. Currently, I’m rolling with Barbas, the talking dog, as my follower, and he’s way OP. He’s also invincible, which means I don’t have to worry about him dying. In addition, if he’s in a fight, all the enemies will concentrate on him, meaning that I’m at little risk of dying. That is, until Barbas gets stuck in a wall or can’t come down the stairs or is somehow hidden from the enemies. Then I get all the aggro, which can put me in a difficult position. I wish there was a way to tell him to heel unless I really need him (also, to get him to stop pinning me into corners), but it’s all or nothing with your followers. Hm. I know that there is a smart follower mod-I wonder if that will allow me to have followers wait until I truly need them.
It’s not easy to tell what the main quest is in Skyrim because it doesn’t distinguish itself in any way. I’m spoiled by The Witcher 3 which told you what the main quest was, what the side quests were, and what level you should be to tackle the quests. I know it’s a bit hand-holdy, but I appreciated not attempting a quest that would kick my ass into the next millennium. I’ve heard that Skyrim scales the enemies to your level, and I think it’s true most of the time, but again, I’ve run into enemies that have killed me in one or two hits, which I guess is the game’s way of telling me I’m under-leveled. I will say that I am wearing the Morokei mask on my face and the Archmage’s Robes as my armor (yes, I’m the Arch-Mage of the college in Winterhold. It’s pretty funny, but also cool), neither of which offer much if any defense. Still. I have 170 health (I think), so I shouldn’t be able to be killed in two hits. I’ve been pouring most of my levels and perks into magicka, of course, Destruction, conjuration, and restoration are my three main jams, and I’m not making the mistake of spreading my points around several different categories.
I will say after playing this much Skyrim, there are a few things that bug me about it. Most of them are minor, but there are a few major ones. Some are repeats, but they still bother me.
- The map. I know I bitched about this before, but it’s still aggravating that the path to a certain area isn’t always clear-especially in the mountains. This was the same in The Witcher 3 and Borderlands, so it’s not just Skyrim, but you’d think that game devs could design a map that adequately showed you how to get someplace without running into several immovable objects. Borderlands was notoriously bad at this, and while Skyrim alleviates the matter somewhat by having a Clairvoyance spell, I’ve still been pissed off by wasting time trying to get to a point on the map that should be accessible from where I’m at, but isn’t. I will say that having a horse that can go straight up mountains does help.
- Fetch quests. The ones that are like, “Collect three flawless amethysts for the dude who needs them to propose to his girlfriend”*** aren’t that bad, but I just finished one that literally was, “Go to these three points and pick up these three items for this person”. That’s it. That was the whole quest. Also, they get to be very same-y after a while, which is why I try not to do them back to back. Most of them don’t feel like fillers, but they also don’t really add much to the story.
- Randos being mean to me. It’s a bit better since I started wearing the Archmage’s Robes, but it gets irritating to hear people say, “Move aside, elf!”, and other such statements. Some are blatantly mean while others just tell me that I don’t belong there. One woman in a bar even attacked me for no reason, which was irritating. This was actually one of my main gripes about The Witcher 3–everyone looked down on me and would tell me so. None of them apparently saw the folly of sneering at a man with two swords strapped to his back, and you can’t kill randos in that game. I know. I tried. It’s not as bad in Skyrim, but it still happens often enough for me to get salty about it. In part because it’s lazy storytelling. Instead of showing how, say, elves are discriminated against, we’ll just have randos shout insults at them!
- Janky physics. I know this is the ‘Bethesda bug’ and that some people are actually fond of the jankiness, but I find it supremely irritating. I mentioned how Barbas will get stuck in the wall or bark at something through the wall or can’t climb down stairs, and this is very common throughout the game. I can’t get past him if he’s in front of me, and I’ve had to do some funny dances to avoid getting trapped by him. There are so many glitches in this game, but I’ve come to grit my teeth and accept them.
- People. Walk. So. Damn. Slow. In The Witcher 3, people in your party walk at your pace. My friend, Ian, was raving to me about this, and I couldn’t understand why he was making such a big deal about it until I played Skyrim. I run all the time because I can’t stand the regular pace at which I walk, so to have to wait for people who walk four or five times slower than I do is infuriating. It wouldn’t be so bad if i could just meet them somewhere, but sometimes, I have to walk with them–which is torture. If I get too far ahead, they won’t continue, so I have to go back to re-trigger their animation. Then, I have to hear them say the same thing I’ve heard them say a million times before, and I’m tempted to firebolt them to death. Now, I get why Ian was so excited about people running to keep up with you in The Witcher 3. It’s a small thing, but it makes all the difference.
- The alchemy system. Again, this might be a me thing, but I find the alchemy system to be baffling. You’re just supposed to mix things until you figure out what works and what doesn’t? That seems like a waste. I figured out you can eat ingredients to figure out what they do, but as far as i know, that doesn’t tell you how many of each ingredient you need for any given recipe. I get enough potions that I don’t bother trying to make them, anyway. I feel the same about the crafting system. I don’t bother because what I find/am given is good enough, but I do want to make dragon armor at some point.
- The dungeons (caves, keeps, etc.) are similar in structure and gameplay. You go into the place and start walking forward in a linear fashion. You run into a group of enemies and you kill them. You keep moving forward in a linear fashion, and you run into another group of enemies. There are rooms to explore, but little else. Sometimes, there are puzzles in order for you to open the door to the next room. You keep going through a labyrinth into different subsections of the main dungeon until you reach the inner sanctum and the biggish boss. Once you kill that boss, you gather the loot and then open the secret door to the outside. Then you leave, rinse, lather, and repeat. The time my interest started flagging was when I had done several of these dungeons in a row. The secret is to mix things up so as to not get bored.
- Sudden rule changes. Right now, I’m doing a quest that takes place in the mind of a dead madman monarch. In this quest, I suddenly don’t have any access to my items, my spells, or–well, anything. I have this staff the baddie gave me, and I have to figure out the puzzles/fight the enemies with just this staff in order to get out of the guy’s mind. In another quest which I’ve stopped doing, I was framed for murder in the city of M-something. Usually, if you have a bounty, you can just pay it off and be done with it. This time, the guards attack me on sight and won’t give me the option of paying off the bounty. I let them take me to jail, and then I realized it was a whole nother quest that takes place in the jail. Again, I didn’t have any of my stuff on me (though I assume I’d still have my magic), and I reloaded an earlier save because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the situation. I get that they want variety, and I have to give them props for changing things up, but I personally don’t like these kinds of scenarios. I’ve spent the whole game painstakingly leveling myself up and collecting/creating the best items/spells for me. Now, I have to do without? No. Do. Not. Want. I stopped doing the main quest because it had a similar artificial constraint, and while I’ll do it eventually (as well as these other quests), I’m not happy about it.
- Speaking of artificial constraints, I hate being limited in how much I can carry. I know the reasoning is that in real life, you can’t carry all the things, but in real life, I can’t kill a dragon with ice spikes and a Flame Atronach, now can I? I have alleviated this concern somewhat by using the Large Sack component of the Convenient Horses mod in which I store all the shit I pick up. I can put anything in there, so it’s like a mobile home to me. However, I still have a weight limit on my person, which means I cannot pick up all the shit i run across in my rampage through Skyrim. I like to pick up everything as I go (I’m a pack rat in real life, too), so it pains me to leave shit lying around.
i know this list seems long and nitpicky, but it’s really a drop in the bucket compared to how much I’m enjoying the game. Every time I sit down to play, it’s at least two hours later if not more when I emerge from the haze. Since this is running long, I’ll write about all the cool stuff I’m loving in the next post. Until then, Strun Bah Qo!
*Except children, I’m assuming. Yup. Still bitter that I can’t kill children in Skyrim. I may have to install that mod.
**Not quite as complimentary as it seems. Game writing is nowhere near the quality of a stellar movie or novel.
***A real quest.