You may have noticed that I have made four posts prior to this one about the Nigmabox Adventures With Skyrim, and if you chose to read them you would have seen that I grew increasingly more negative with my gripes out the game, with my irritations rising above all else. Well, they naturally had to lead to something, and they were, but there is one change I am going to make in contrast with my original plan to beat the game a second time, and not do that. Oh, trust me, I played the game, I played another 125 hours of it, on top of the 187 hours I originally invested in the title back in 2011. Heck, it’s partially because of that game that I am here doing this review, as that was the first game I chose to review, and I did so positively. So, what better way to show how much of a bitter, detached, and overall worse of a person I’ve become my shattering my old praise and bring forth a massive review of my massive amount of time spent with this massive game.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Now, I trust everybody is familiar with the premise of the game, if you aren’t, how did you even come across my wee little blog? But if you hear any of the hundreds of topics the game may spawn, one would notice that the story is not very common, likely due to how Skyrim’s plot can actually be largely ignored. Yes, you do play a hero of destiny, a Dragonborn to be lore friendly, who, after nearly being murdered for interpretable reasons, was thrusted into the titular region of Skyrim to investigate and battle the rising menace that is the recently revitalized dragons of old, who have blighted the once peaceful land just about as much as a civil war. Well, that last bit is more theoretical. Until I began the civil war questline about eighty hours in, where I had to decide between the foolhardy and racist rebels and the sturdy empire whose biggest red flag was how they were about to kill the protagonist at the beginning of the game. Truly a debate for the ages.
Yet the internal struggle of the country is more often mentioned than it is heard about, as never once did I spy the two warring factions brawl one another until, well, the eighty hour mark, and the sense of thrill is certainly lost when you realize that it is just two differently colored goons hitting each other with swords as a few shoot some arrows. I suppose here would be a good time to ease into how thrilling the dragons are to fight in contrast, posing a massive threat that results in great rewards that also translate clearly into progress. Well, that is only a half truth, as whatever thrill the dragon battles hedl as the game began, let’s just say up to hour forty, dissipated as the aforementioned rewards, rare materials for endgame armor and a Dragon Soul, obtained from them grew plentiful enough as the dragons’ patterns became predictable. Have the lizard randomly appear in the sky, the score plays one of two tracks signifying the intensity of the situation, the dragon breaths frost or fire down at the the Dragonborn, they eventually fall to the ground, and they are eventually slain as their skill and flesh dissipates into nothing, leaving behind a skeleton. Well, assuming the dragons recognize the Dragonborn as the primary target as after over a year of patches, they still can get bored with the one person who can forever kill them, and decide to fight some random troll. All of which is made worse by how, well, dragons are fast and can fly while you are bound to the ground and to a stamina meter.
Unfortunately, Dragon Shouts, the abilities unlocked with Dragon Souls, are not one of theses abilities, making them one of the very few aspects of the game that did not seem to reward the player for simply doing it. Granted, you could say that about a lot of things, but when it comes to dealing damage a certain way, using a non offensive spell, getting hit, or buying or selling wares, they are all not only rewarded, the game keeps track and increases the player character’s proficiency in those skills, of which there are a whopping 24, most of which would likely go untouched, however, as these skills are only as good as the perk points you invest in them. But how do you get perks? By leveling up your skills. The sheer level of progress that one can feel as they see hundreds of skill level increases as the hour count grows also extends into simple things like finding equipment, which, even if is not usable for your main character, it can be used for money to buy something that is. Heck, going around the countryside and picking flowers gives way to potions that can be crafted, which help improve a skill in themselves.
However, for all of this talk of progression, going back and playing Skyrim from scratch made me realize that something I originally thought was a glitch was simply how the game was designed, and that is the proposed difficulty of the game. During my first twenty or so hours in Skyrim, I was very well acquainted with death, as my character was wandering around a massive world that, yes, you are intended to explore at your own discretion, only to get my butt kicked, sometimes by a single attack. And not even by something like a giant, which would make sense as they send player characters into the stratosphere, but simple foes in random dungeons who could take my main character down in three hits, which I had encountered before, but as the game received dozens of patched, this is clearly not anything but intended, same with how the difficulty curve eventually drops substantially, with the exception of fighting mages, who inexplicably could still deal off over ten percent of my health bar 100+ hours into the game while in the best light armor in the game. Oh, but even then there are still foes who seem to take forever to defeat with a skill that has been given perks specifically to maximize damage output. Or in simpler terms, the game feels broken in terms of its challenge levels, even when considering the adjustable difficulty.
It still didn’t change the most annoying thing I found in Skyrim, which is derived from my stupid sense of needing to clear out maps, assembled collections of various macguffins, and complete checklists. It is something that has come up many times before, but with Skyrim my problem is due to the sheer volume of quests, dungeons, items, and the process of selling items collected during dungeons. It is bad enough that the environments begin to feel like randomly generated reassortments of the same ten bins of assets. Yet going through each and every one of them while collecting every item that is worth carrying, meaning its value divided by its weight is greater than 5, 10, or 20 depending on where I was in the game is probably the biggest waste of time I’ve committed to since I properly did just that back in 2011, except I stopped after getting 75% of them now in 2014. However, surely there is a reward for collecting these many items beyond money, but even that needs to be worked for, as you must go to the specified shopkeep who have a replenishable amount of money, but that can often be insufficient for what the player is selling. And even after over 100 hours of this tripe, I still ran into the issues of being unable to sell goods, as I effectively butchered a town’s economy just so I could get some cash for some ebony weapons. All of which builds up the Speech skill, and the amount of gold my character had, which was near 340,000 last I checked.
Naturally, the concept of spending it did come to mind, but the gear carried by shops is either too randomized or too weak to be worth purchasing, as I already have the best equipment. There are exceptions for enchanted trinkets, but their randomized nature made me forget about even searching for them 90% of the time, as there was so rarely anything I’d use. This can even apply to consumables such as potions, which I never found very useful seeing as how you have healing spells, and both magic and stamina regenerate. Even the wide array of options that I could have used from resistances and extenders of the three core stats never seemed worthwhile either as they were just another item that had to be carried around in my character’s invisible backpack the side of three bears. Although, I’d assume then it is expected for me to pursue skill training then, but that still did little to make a dent in my plans, as I misinterpreted “times trained this level” to mean the amount of times the trainer can train the player character until I was ~90 hours into Skyrim, which I naturally will take all the blame for.
All of these issues I had very much added up as the hours went on, with the mundane sensation of wallowing through the world and quests that came with it and the disjointed narratives often hampered by how events can go hours upon hours without anything advancing not helping much. Yes, they offered some form of a framing device in exploring the world, but it was very common for them to end fairly flaccidly, provide a menial reward, and leave as much of an impact as an bug brushing off of a concrete building. Not even due to their construction or craftsmanship, but just how disposable I ended up viewing just about everyone of them, as they are just more boxes requiring a pen to fill them in, and whatever contents they entail is not very worth it. Even the weirdly comfortable first-person combat suffered from this, as just about every instance became “try to stealth with bow, use magic on enemies or self, bash them with your mace and shield until they fall” rinse and repeat hundreds of times.
It is here where I want to somehow shatter my previous criticism by speaking highly of the world and majesty it can hold at times while wandering through it. Unfortunately, I would lack confidence in those words as, while I did feel a sense of awe early in the experience, it had long since dissipated as the hours grew higher and the fifteen square miles of explorable terrain he’d become more and more uncovered. With that into consideration, I was actually very upset the world was effectively stuck looking only slightly enhanced from what I recall it being, as Skyrim’s a land of many gray colors, and I was hoping I could enhance the world into something majestic by adding a wide array of mods to it, but that six hour venture ended rather sourly for me, as the closest to the amazingly level of detail some possess was a string of more natured filled cities that had higher quality textures, which resulted in the frame rate dropping and my computer’s volume to increase. Not that the most pristine coat of paint would wash away the level of distaste I developed for the central trading hub of Whiterun, a town full of loading screens and aggravatingly repeated dialog that was my destination for almost every trip out of a dungeon, as they simply were the best equipped to buy my pillaged garbage.
I’m not sure where my bizarre desire to obtain every possible thing in every game I play came from, but it is generally the experience I use to judge a game’s quality, as why would anybody put something in a game that they do not intend for the player to uncover? Especially if it proves to be detrimental to the experience, as it is with Skyrim, with the title ultimately being a tedious repetitious, needlessly massive, quest that, despite my early realizations that I could be having fun if I ignored more than 1-5% of the content, I would be having more fun. Yet, that is not the case, as it was a title I played until I was no longer having even the slightest bit of fun, and I was still 50+ hours from seeing what I dubbed as its end. It left me dissatisfied as a human being as I was the one who willingly invested over five days to it, only to full heartedly regret investing so much as one.