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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Skyrim Kinda Sucks, Actually














I don't assign much weight or value to metascores, but I find it astounding that Skyrim has a metascore of 94. That number is about as close to perfection as a video game can ever achieve, and thirty-one of the [supposedly] most credible, influential critics thought it was deserving of such high praise. There is not a single "mixed" or "negative" review among critics. How can that be, when a majority of Skyrim's content is so obviously shallow, dull, and boring?

It's clear that Bethesda learned a lot of valuable lessons from the blundering mess that was Oblivion, and Skyrim is better for it. But it seems, however, that Bethesda failed to learn the most valuable lesson of them all, and their core design philosophy still remains a matter of "quantity is better than quality." Instead of focusing their efforts on filling their beautiful, sprawling world with unique and interesting content, they just churned out a thousand different fetch-quests and generic, lifeless NPCs, all in an ecosystem where none of your actions really matter.

This leads me to one of three conclusions, in regards to Skyrim's critical reception: 1) that none of those critics knows anything about video games, 2) that all of those critics have low standards, or 3) that all of those reviews were written after only 20-30 hours of gameplay. Skyrim is a grand, breath-taking experience at the start (excluding that terrible, terrible intro/tutorial), and so it's easy to praise in the beginning, but it reaches a point far too early in its incredibly long lifespan, when everything becomes shallow and pointless.

Skyrim is still a competently-designed game that managed to hold my attention for 130 hours, so it must be doing something right. But I can't believe that seemingly everyone overlooks (or excuses) these genuinely crucial problems. How can a game that's noticeably flawed be scored so close to perfection? And so it falls to me to point out the honest criticism, explaining exactly why Skyrim sucks and why it's not worthy of such fanatical praise. My full review awaits after the jump.


Skyrim is better than Oblivion

There were four fundamental problems with Oblivion, that thankfully have all been addressed in Skyrim: enemy level-scaling, the character creation and leveling system, the design of the world, and the main quest. The enemy-scaling in Oblivion was practically game-breaking, with you being able to kill entire daedric hordes at level 1, or having all of the bandits wearing super-rare daedric equipment by the time you were level 50. It basically made it so that none of your level-ups really mattered; you were never going to get stronger than your enemies and everything was going to be spoon-fed to you.

In Skyrim, enemies scale within a certain range, based on their relative strengths. Wolves might scale between level 5-15, bears might scale between 15-25, giants might scale between 20-40. So if you fight a bear at level 1, it will be level 15 and kill you, but if you fight one at level 20, it will also be level 20. Then when you're level 35, the bear will stay capped at level 25 and be an easier target. The new system allows some enemies to actually challenge you throughout the game, and it makes your level-ups feel worthwhile because you're actually getting stronger, relative to your enemies.

The leveling system was always flawed in Morrowind and Oblivion, forcing you to make uninformed decisions at the very beginning about how you'd be playing your character over the next hundred hours. It was easy to make a character that was broken or just didn't play like you expected, and then you'd be forced to start over. You also had to level the skills in a very precise way in order to get the right stat boosts, which made leveling a chore and penalized you more often than it rewarded you. It was actually more advantageous to pick skills you wouldn't use as your majors, just so that you could control your level-ups better, which is incredibly counter-intuitive. 

In Skyrim, all of that crap is gone. No assigning major/minor skills or picking starsigns, you just get into the meat of the game and level your skills as you play. On each level-up, you choose to increase your health, stamina, or magicka, and you get one perk point to use in a skill tree. You can pick and change your starsign at any time by visiting a guardian stone, making this a truly "open" class system. This new system provides much-needed freedom that lets you just enjoy the game without getting hung up on the preliminary decisions or worrying about which skill is going to level-up next, and the perk trees offer new ways to customize your character as you play.

Then there's Oblivion's world, where exploration felt like you were in outer space, moving about in a void of nothingness until you encountered the next asteroid (or, in this case, map marker). Everywhere in Oblivion looked and felt exactly like everywhere else, and the only thing that mattered was the map markers. It felt like the world was randomly generated and inhabited with randomly generated enemies, and so it was kind of boring and repetitive to explore.

Skyrim's world, on the other hand, feels hand-crafted, with every landscape looking unique and interesting. You can see further towards the horizon, including the ever-present mountain ranges that you can actually visit. The different territories of Skyrim all have their own unique ambiance and atmosphere, which constantly adds to the visual splendor as you continually encounter new areas. Hot springs and geysers, dense timber woodlands, arctic coasts with glaciers, swamplands, green pastures, rocky mountain ranges, autumn forests, etc.

Oblivion's main quest was stupid, shallow, and repetitive. Much of the main quest was a matter of closing down Oblivion gates, all of which were ripped-off from Diablo and Lord of the Rings, and once you closed down one, every subsequent one was exactly the same. Pure tedium. And then there's the fact that you were basically just the errand boy to Sean Bean for the whole game, who got most of the real legendary glory.

Skyrim's main questline is a bit more interesting to follow, and actually gives you incentives to continue it. Being the legendary hero in this story makes your actions feel more grand and exciting, and unlocking (and using) dragon shouts in the process is a fun and interesting gameplay mechanic. I actually felt a sense of pride and accomplishment in finishing the main questline in Skyrim, which I never felt in any moment in Oblivion.


Skyrim also improved a number of wonky aspects from Oblivion's dialogue. Notably, they got rid of that silly persuasion system where you have to joke, admire, coerce, or boast in some weird sequence that has nothing to do with conversations. Instead, it takes a more Fallout-style approach where persuasion options appear in the dialogue, and you can pass or fail them depending on your skill level. It's also nice that the camera no longer zooms right up the NPC's face, they don't lock into a dead-eye staring contest with you, and you can move the camera around, which makes conversations much less awkward.

The effect is that I found Skyrim a far more compelling game that kept me playing for over twice as long as I lasted in Oblivion. I got bored with Oblivion and quit between 50-60 hours, whereas with Skyrim I wanted to experience as much content as I could before stopping.


But Skyrim fails to reach its full potential

Being better than Oblivion doesn't necessarily mean that Skyrim is a great game, unless Oblivion is the only game you've ever played (or Fallout 3, for that matter) and you have no other expectations for Skyrim. Skyrim is a great experience for the first 30 hours, where it seems like the sky is the limit. But then you quickly realize that it's all a farce; even those impressive improvements don't quite solve all of the old problems, and they sometimes introduce other brand new problems. Even though it's an improvement on Oblivion in nearly every way, it's still underwhelming.


The interface is absolutely terrible

I took one look at gameplay videos with the default user interface, and knew right away that installing SkyUI  would be the first thing I'd do. I don't know how anyone ever thought this would be an efficient interface. It looks like it was designed for use with a directional pad, and doesn't utilize the capabilities of the mouse well at all, nor the FOV of a typical computer monitor.

So instead, we get cramped windows with large fonts that only show a dozen items at a time, requiring you to scroll through super-long lists any time you want to find anything. You can't sort it in any useful way, and you have to go to separate sub-menus for every item you want. Then there's the weird stuff like the fact that 15% of the interface is covered up by the black bar at the bottom of the screen, and that when you open a sub-menu it starts the top of the list halfway down your screen.

Video demonstration of default UI, and the much-improved modded UI

You can "favorite" items, spells, or abilities so that they show up in a quick-menu when you hit "Q." It sounds great for quick and easy access to things, but then you wind up with a long, un-categorized list of things that you have to scroll through every time you bring the window up. Sometimes even dialogue screens run into problems where it just stops recognizing the mouse. You hover over the option you want and then click it, but then your character says something completely different, and you realize that a different option was still highlighted, and that you can only select a different one by pressing "W" and "S."

The skills window is also a challenge to navigate because it, too, seems designed for a joystick or something.  So you look at your skill tree and decide you want to look at a certain perk further up, so you press "W" and it goes up the left path, when you wanted to go up the right branch. So you press "D" to go right, and then it cycles to a completely different skill tree. Then you go back to it and you try clicking on perks but you can't see all the way up the tree and sometimes it doesn't go where you want to and just ARRRGHH.

When you want to place an item in a storage chest in your house, you press "R" while on your inventory screen. If you change the screen to show the list of items currently stored in the chest and press "R," it takes everything out of it, usually meaning hundreds of items. You have to press "E" to take one individual thing out, and it gets confusing switching between the two windows and having to use two different buttons. Why couldn't "R" be "take one item" or "give one item" in both contexts? Likewise, clicking the mouse on an item in your storage chest takes it out, but then if you want to put something into the chest, clicking on the item equips or consumes it. Does this make any sense?


There's still nothing to do between map markers

The world is far more interesting to look at, and some areas are simply beautiful (even though I had to install mods to make it look its best). I mean, just look at how many screenshots I took. But the majority of landmass in Skyrim only exists to spread its content out over a hugely inaccessible landscape. The world is simply too big to explore every single square foot of it, but why would you even want to when literally more than half of its square footage has nothing to see or do?

Anywhere that's worth exploring has a map marker that shows up on your compass as you explore, and anytime you're between map markers you're practically guaranteed not to find anything of interest. You'll usually encounter some wolves or bears, but that's about it. No exciting loot, no fun encounters, no interesting things to interact with, no nothing. It makes exploration just a matter of "look for the next map marker," where you really just follow the compass instead of actually exploring and finding things for yourself.

In my 130 hours, the only things that ever happened between map markers, besides fighting random wild animals and dragons, were these:
  1. generic, nameless nobles riding the paths between towns on horseback, whom I couldn't interact with, 
  2. a criminal approached me, handed me a stolen item, and asked me to point the guards in another direction if I bumped into them, but I never ran into any guards and that criminal never showed up again, 
  3. a couple of children approached me in the middle of a mountain range crawling with bears, dragons, and saber cats just to sell me some useless item and promptly run off, 
  4. wandering merchants who don't have anything worth buying, 
  5. a woman approached me and asked me to clear out a fortress that I'd already visited,
  6. two Imperial NPCs walking through the mountains at night talking about some ceremony they had attended and not acknowledging me in the slightest,
  7. occasional battles between a single fire mage and ice mage,
  8. two Thalmor patrols who either attacked me on sight or ignored me completely,
  9. one crazed woman approached me and begged me to use the Wabbajack on her, but I didn't have it with me, and so nothing ever happened with her,
  10. hunters camping in various places who do nothing and only say the same repeated lines as every other hunter in the realm,
  11. bandits attacked a wandering merchant and his guard; I killed the bandits, thus saving the merchant's life, but he didn't acknowledge this in any way and only gave me generic, stock merchant lines,
  12. one wandering bard whom I could pay to sing me a song.
These encounters were not interesting at all and had no effect on anything or any kind of consequences. They never developed into anything worthwhile, and they were all completely forgettable. So in a game where you spend a lot of time running to your next map marker, you'd better really enjoy the scenery, because there's not much else to see or do.


Most map markers are bland and repetitive

So we've established that there's basically nothing of interest in this world between map markers, but the sad fact is that even the map markers generally aren't interesting, either. Most of the "special places" you find in Skyrim are caves, crypts, ruins, and fortresses that may as well just be carbon copies of each other. They're all technically different from one another, but you still encounter the same basic enemies, puzzles, traps, setpieces, and even some of the same rooms in every single one.

Once you've explored one of these areas, you basically know exactly what every subsequent one is going to be like. They all have superficial differences, but the core concept remains the same: fight your way through a linear sequence of rooms until you reach the "boss chamber" at the back, collect any valuable loot (most of which will be worse than the stuff you're already using, or too expensive to sell to any merchant), and continue out the backdoor.

There are literally hundreds of caves and fortresses to explore, and they get really boring and repetitive after a while, especially when virtually every single quest sends you into one of these places. It gets to a point where you find a new cave and just skip it because you know that you're either not going to encounter anything new or interesting in it, or that you're going to get sent into it for a trivial fetch quest later on, anyway.


The perk system is shallow and pointless

At first glance, the perk system and skill trees are a wonderful way to develop your character as you progress through the game, instead of being locked in with the choices you made before you even started playing. This is basically true, and it's still an improvement from the previous games, but the new leveling system still proves to be rather shallow.

Almost every single perk in every single skill tree is just a statistical modifier. "Deal 20% more damage with Two-Handed weapons," "Stealth attacks now deal 6x damage," "Novice level spells cost 50% less to cast." These have an important impact in gameplay, but they're far from exciting perk bonuses. Most of them just make you do more damage, or make certain things easier. Leveling the skill up already does this, so many of the perks are simply redundant.


Other perks are just completely useless. Speechcraft is almost entirely about ways to get more money, but even without a single point in it, your pockets will be overflowing with gold and you'll have nothing to spend it on, anyway. Lockpicking just makes locks easier to pick, but you find so many lockpicks, and no one is clumsy enough to need more than 10 lockpicks even for a Master level lock, with zero points in the tree. Pick-pocketing is basically useless, too, because no NPCs carry anything worth stealing that would require perk points, unless you want the comedic effect of having every NPC walking about in their underwears.

But the real downfall of the new perk system is that it doesn't let your playstyle evolve over time. The perks are designed simply to make the same stuff you're already doing a little bit better. Level-up, invest in a perk, and you hardly even notice the change. I even tried stockpiling perk points, investing 10 all at once, and the difference was still only marginal, because my gameplay remained completely unchanged from the beginning to the end.


Some skills are tedious and broken

In The Elder Scrolls, you level your skills by using them. So if you want to level your light armor skill, then you stand around taking damage while wearing light armor. If you want to level your block still, you stand around blocking attacks. If you want to level your sneak skill, you stay hidden while NPCs wander around oblivious to your presence. The idea is that these skills are supposed to level up progressively as you play, but some level-up a lot more slowly than others.

As a two-handed warrior, I didn't use a shield, but I still wanted to be able to parry attacks from strong enemies. But in typical gameplay, I didn't have any use for blocking because I could kill most enemies in two hits or less, and so my Block skill was always way lower than my other skills, and thus became useless against enemies that had leveled-up with me. So if I wanted to keep my Block skill up, I had to periodically stand around doing nothing but blocking for five minutes at a time to level it up, or track down one of three possible NPCs in this huge world to train me five levels at a time.

Then we have Enchanting, which is the worst of them all. You level-up by enchanting items, or by disenchanting items to learn how to use their enchantments on other items. The problem is that it's impossible to level this skill to 100 without an intense amount of grinding, because there's no way you can reach the cap just from disenchanting every item you come across, and/or by enchanting gear that you'd actually use. So you enchant hundreds of useless items with useless enchants, one at a time. Which takes 10 different clicks across three different sub-menus for every single item, making the grind even more insufferable.


Then there's the Smithing skill, which you can level all the way up to 100 just by crafting leather bracers and iron daggers. You can become an expert blacksmith and craft legendary daedric weapons and dragon armor just by repetitively crafting novice-level items. It doesn't make sense in any way, and even if you're not trying to abuse the system, it's still a problem.

I leveled my smithing to about 70 just by crafting leather armor out of the dozens and dozens of animal pelts that I found, acquired, or stole in my adventures. I'd go out adventuring for a few hours and come back with 15 animal pelts, then I'd craft 20-40 armor pieces out of them to level my smithing skill, and I could put useless enchants on them to level my enchanting, and then I could sell them to level my speechcraft and bring in some extra gold. After 40 hours of doing this periodically, I was around level 70, and I figured maybe I'd craft some stuff out of the dozens and dozens of metal ingots I'd acquired, and 15 minutes later I was at level 100.

At which point I was able to craft daedric weapons and dragonscale armor and improve them drastically, which basically made the rest of the game pointless because I knew that I wouldn't be finding any better gear in my adventures, and because I was now so much stronger than my enemies. I wasn't trying to exploit the system, but I still suffered from it.


The entire second half of the game is way too easy

I started on "Adept" difficulty, which is the default, normal setting, and found Skyrim pleasantly challenging at the start, if only because I actually encountered several enemies that were too strong for me to fight. Giants, trolls, chaurus, mammoths, etc, all gave me troubles and forced me to humbly accept that I couldn't kill them, or devise some clever strategy to beat them (ie, abusing their path-finding by shooting arrows at them from a rock).

But because of different factors like the enemy level-scaling and the way your skills level up, the game starts getting easy around level 30. I was killing most enemies with one power attack from my daedric greatsword, and so to solve the easy difficulty problem, I bumped the difficulty slider up to "Master," the highest it can go. The game was a little more challenging for a while, but by the time I was nearing level 50, about 60 hours into the game, it became far too easy again. I could fight Ancient Dragons and Draugr Death Overlords with them barely damaging my health and me taking them out in just a few power-attacks.

Bear in mind that the level cap in Skyrim is 81, if you were to level all of your skills to 100. You hit level 50 about the time that all of your primary skills are maxing out, and your leveling starts dramatically slowing down, because it requires exponentially more "experience" to level-up. Leveling your rarely-used level 20 and 30 skills when you're level 50 and all your other skills are at 100 only grants a small amount of progress. Going from 50-63 took almost as long as it did to get from 1-50, and every fight after level 50 was a joke, even on Master difficulty. Even the final boss could barely damage me.

Any game can easily be broken by grinding and power-leveling, but I played Skyrim pretty close to the way it was intended to be played, and it still became way too easy. I could've made the game more challenging by avoiding the smithing or enchanting skills altogether, or by gimping myself with weaker equipment, but any game that requires the player to avoid experiencing its own content, for fear of it becoming too easy, has serious balancing issues. The whole point of an RPG adventure like this is to get stronger and progress; if doing that breaks the game, then something is definitely wrong.

Any diligent gamer who likes to experience as much of the content as possible is going to reach this point in the game relatively early, when the challenge is gone and a lot of the satisfaction disappears from completing quests. Although I do feel a sense of accomplishment in leveling-up and becoming stronger than everything else, it just happens way too early in this game.


Melee combat is clunky and dated

We live in a day where game developers are constantly coming up with interesting and dynamic combat systems. Games like Demon's Souls, Kingdoms of Amalur, Arkham Asylum, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Vindictus, Mount & Blade, Condemned, and Risen all have good, exciting melee combat systems that require timing, combos, positioning, and strategy. Most of these games have some sort of RPG element to them, which just goes to show that RPGs can have good combat.

But what do we have in Skyrim? We have a boring system where you just stand in front of your enemy and hold power attacks, or just click until one of you dies. If your health gets low, you run away and use a healing spell or open the inventory and chug a potion. If you're about to fight a really tough dragon or mage opponent, then drink some resistance buffing potions before the fight. It's really quite primitive and isn't much different from what we had back in the days of Morrowind, 10 years ago.

Demonstration of an epic dragon fight.

It doesn't matter what enemy you're fighting or what weapons you're using (even if it's magic), it's all the same strategy and same gameplay no matter what: point and click. Instead of enemies that use different moves, requiring you to figure out their attack patterns to know how to dodge, block, or work around their weaknesses, we have all enemies just come straight at you and attack. Instead of weapons that have different attack styles and require different strategies to use and master, we have weapons that just amount to mashing the left mouse button.

I was also disappointed with the physics of melee combat. If you hit an enemy with your sword, it just kind of cuts right through without any feeling of impact, like it's the same animation whether you hit the target or not. Enemies don't flinch or even react to regular hits, which feels kind of lame when I'm swinging around a giant greatsword. It doesn't feel "visceral" or "intense," it just feels kind of mellow and sedated.

This boring combat is exacerbated by the fact of how easy the second half gets to be, where I could just run around one-shotting every single enemy that got in my way, even in Master difficulty. And the system doesn't improve over time, either. It's not like you unlock new combos or maneuvers or anything to make it more dynamic or interesting, it's virtually the same combat from your first hour to your 300th hour of gameplay.


All of the quests suck

You heard me. Every single one of them. They're all shallow, tedious, and inconsequential, and this is where the game fails hardest. Quests are supposed to be one of the most important (perhaps the most important) ways for your character to interact with the world and feel a part of it. Quests establish the sense of adventure while giving you context and purpose in the world. Skyrim is supposed to be this grand, "epic" setting, but it's difficult to feel that way when it's filled with trivial quests that betray those intended characteristics of the game.


The problems of such an open-world design

A large part of this is the result of an open-world design where you can do anything at any time. Quests are designed specifically so that they won't conflict with any other quest, location, or NPC, and so that it doesn't matter what order you do them in, or if you even do them at all. There's no sense of urgency to any of them, because the game doesn't really care if you do them or not. How am I supposed to care about these quests when the game doesn't even care if I do them?

A majority of the quests you pick up in Skyrim fall into a "Miscellaneous" tab in your quest journal -- a section for quests that are so trivial and inconsequential that they don't even get their own quest entry. Instead we just get an uncatagorized list of random objectives like "Find 20 Jazbay" or "Bring a Daedra Heart to Moth." And that's all you get. No description of what the quest is supposed to be for, or who gave it to you or where you picked it up, or any other kind of context to give you an inkling of a reason to care about doing it. It's often just random objectives from random NPCs to get a random item from a random location.


Everywhere you go, you're bumping into these quests, and it gets to a point that you just can't keep up with them. What's the point of bombarding the player with 50 simultaneously active quests, when you can only really concentrate on about 5 at any given time? All that's going to happen is the player will forget about the details and lose interest in all of these other quests, until they're just a tedious chore, a list of objectives that you cross-off just for the sake of getting them out of your quest journal. Especially since a lot of them just task you with going to some random cave somewhere to kill someone or get an item in the final room.


More mediocrity from "Radiant" gameplay

There are literally an infinite number of quests in Skyrim, as part of their "radiant quest" system, which keeps generating quest objectives, respawning caves with enemies, and spawning targets to kill or items to fetch. I'm sure it was a great idea at the time, but a computer algorithm that generates infinite quests based on interchangeable variables, only to produce random combinations of repetitive, simple, and trivial tasks, is not that great. This is exactly why the quests feel so soulless -- because they're made by computer algorithms. There's no feeling of human touch.

In fact, most quests are designed to be compatible with the "radiant story," so that when you pick up random quest #672 from random NPC #419, who wants random item #341, the game will look at what dungeons you've already been to and assign the quest to a new dungeon, then populate it with enemies appropriate for your level. Or sometimes it sends you to a dungeon you've already cleared and you die from the monotony of doing it all over again. But the point is that the details in a quest don't matter at all when everything is (seemingly) random. The quests boil down so that all you can see is their basic structure, and they all become shallow and tedious.

Because the radiant story can send you into any dungeon, quest givers end up being intentionally vague. "I had a staff that was stolen from me one night by some bandits. You bring it back to me, and I'll be willing to help you out with your mission." You say "I'll bring it back to you," but nowhere in the dialogue do they ever mention where it is. There is no way of knowing where to find the staff, except for to bring up your pathetically useless "miscellaneous" tab and toggle the quest marker, which only goes to further exemplify that this is just a dumb, stupid fetch quest. There's absolutely nothing more to it.

The quest compass does its sworn duty to streamline the quests down to a simple matter of "following the dotted line," where you just blindly follow the arrow without having to figure anything out for yourself or make any decisions. Quests become unsatisfying to complete, because the compass just turns it into a chore of "follow the compass" for every single quest. And the sad fact of things is that the compass is absolutely essential to most quests, because NPCs don't give you any descriptions of things, the quest journal often doesn't describe the context, and the world is simply too big for you to try to figure things out for yourself. At least not without wasting all of your life.


Straightforward quests with no consequences

Most quests don't give you any choices or role-playing options, either. You're almost always rail-roaded into a single option that you have to do to continue the quest. Want to complete the Companions guild questline, but have objections to becoming a werewolf and committing your soul to Hircine for all eternity? Well that's too bad, because you have to become a werewolf to finish their quest. Want to finish the Thieve's Guild questline, but have objections to becoming a Nightingale and committing yourself to a lifetime of servitude to Nocturnal? Well that's too bad, because you have to become a Nightingale to finish that questline. Your only option is to follow the quest's single, pre-determined path, or just stop doing it.

The lesser quests are even more straightforward. The mage Calcemo has a crush on the Jarl's housecarl Faleen, and you have to help them unite. How do we accomplish this? You talk to Calcemo and click the one dialogue option, then he sends you to talk to a bard and you click the one dialogue option, so he gives you a poem to take to Faleen, then you click the one dialogue option, she gives you a letter to take to Calcemo, and you click the one dialogue option, and the quest completes itself. It's like we're monkies pulling levers and pushing buttons to make stuff happen, instead of actually doing the quest ourselves. It's a completely brainless operation that's not satisfying to pursue or finish.

In some situations, they do give you the illusion of choice, but the outcome is totally inconsequential. A bard and hunter both vie for the attention of a local maiden, and they each task you with besmirching the other and gaining their own favor with the maiden. It seems like we have a conflict with two different outcomes, but the reward is the exact same between them, except that whomever you sided with will become an available follower. But who cares, because followers are basically useless. There are dozens and dozens of them that you can choose from, and you can only ever have one in your service at any time. Otherwise, these characters just become obsolete and useless wastes of space once the quest is done.

At other times you're given choices but your input has zero effect. You're summoned by a daedric prince who wants you to be his personal champion. They task you with completing a quest "in the name of Boethiah" (for example), and you get some dialogue where you agree to serve in their name, reject their offer, or agree to the task, but not for their personal glory. But it doesn't matter, because the quest still continues the same regardless of what you picked. If you say "I'll do this, but for my own reasons, not as your servant," then they retort "It matters not. It's all the same in the grand scheme of things." So then I say "thank you, Skyrim, for making my decisions feel trivial and pointless."


A world where nothing happens without your input

The world in Skyrim is completely static with everything staying the same, patiently waiting for you to come along and poke stuff with your sword or press the "action" button. This isn't a living, breathing world, it's a farcical theater stage built solely for your own amusement. You are at the calculated center of everything in this world, and nothing happens without your input. 

The intro / tutorial sequence is the perfect example of this. You're about to be executed when a dragon attacks the Imperial fortress, thus cuing an exciting action sequence as you scramble to escape from the fortress with your very life. But the exciting tension of this sequence dies the moment you realize that everything revolves around you. The dragon is supposedly killing everyone and destroying the fortress, but everything waits for you to cross the next "checkpoint" before the next event happens. If you just stand still, it's like time stops with you, as if the whole game revolves around your every step, because it literally does.

So the Stormcloaks and the Imperials are supposed to be having a war, right? But do they actually fight this war? No. Ulfric Stormcloak and General Tullius sit in their palaces having the exact same conversations with their officers day after day. A stormcloak encampment is stationed 150 yards from an imperial fortress, but do they ever fight? No. They both just sit there, content to ignore each other until you come along to instigate the fight.

Dragons are supposed to be returning to Skyrim, threatening to destroy all life as we know it, right? Well they don't actually show up until you finish the preliminary tasks in the main quests. Merchants are supposed to be running their own businesses and earning their own living in Skyrim's economy, but every single one of them has to rely on me to deliver their crap to someone standing around doing absolutely nothing two minutes across town. Two NPCs have a crush on each other, and even after I've intervened to make them both aware of each other's feelings, they have to rely on me to communicate with each other. Each guild has its own goals and aspirations, but they all wait for me to come along before they lift a finger to do anything about it. 

This is normally not a big deal in a video game; it's kind of something we have to live with, because the whole point is for the player to interact and do these things, after all. Willing suspension of disbelief. But it becomes harder for me to suspend that disbelief in a world as big as Skyrim's, because its scale amplifies the problem, making it far more noticeable. How is a world this big, with so many people, completely helpless to get anything done without me? And Bethesda made no apparent effort to give this world some autonomy independent of the player, to make it feel like living world, and it ends up feeling incredibly hollow. 


More-prominent quests fail to live up to expectations

For further evidence of bad quest design, I direct you to Blackreach. Blackreach is a massive, visually stunning underground cavern system. It's beautiful and majestic, and is unrivaled in sheer scale. You're sent there in a preliminary step to finding an Elder Scroll, but besides that, there's virtually nothing else to do. You can mine ore, kill Falmer, and loot randomized chests, but these are all ordinary, mundane things that you do everywhere else, anyway.

The only unique quest that you can obtain within Blackreach tasks you with collecting 30 Crimson Nirnroots. So you just spend 30 minutes (or more) wandering all over this ginormous place, checking every nook and cranny for no other purpose but to find these things. "Collect X number of ingredients" quests are bland in any context, but in this situation, it just completely undermines the unique and interesting qualities of this environment. Talk about an exciting quest to match an exciting location.


As another example of quests failing to live up to expectations, see the main quest for the town of Markarth. You're there to investigate a conspiracy, where the town leaders and guards all seem in cahoots with the Forsworn, a hostile cult. In the process, you learn that the leader of the Forsworn has a deal with the town leaders and is running the show from inside the Cidhna mine. The whole time, the game paints a description of Cidnha mine being a brutally harsh and tightly-run prison, where convicts are sent to mine ore. There's a reputation that the quest is even named after: "no one escapes from Cidhna mine."

But then you get in there, and there are like six NPCs, which is kind of underwhelming, and they spend most of their time just standing idly by, not doing anything at all. All you can talk with them about is "What're you in for?" and the place looks no different than every other mine I'd already explored or pillaged. This is your hardened and well-disciplined mine? These guys all seem relatively content to be here, and there's absolutely nothing unique going on here. They talk about it like some kind of hellish place, but they don't do anything to actually depict it that way.


The main quest is no exception

Even the main quest suffers from a meandering pace and anti-climactic gameplay. The whole thing can be completed in just a few hours if you were to concentrate on it, but it's all too easy to get side-tracked and distracted because the main quest really doesn't compel you to experience it. Like everything else in the game, Skyrim could care less whether you do it or not, and everything will patiently wait until you're ready.

The whole point of this game is that dragons have returned to Skyrim, and that you're supposed to be the legendary Dragonborn destined to put a stop to them. But you can go through the whole game without encountering a single dragon if you just ignore the main quest. The world is quite obviously not at risk of anything unless you choose to continue the story. In a way, the world is better off if you don't lift a finger in the first place.

The first half of the main quest is kind of mundane, where it just feels like you're doing odd jobs for different people, instead of being part of an epic quest. The main conflict doesn't present itself until about halfway through, and so completing the quests up until that point doesn't feel like anything's really escalating or going anywhere. You just do the quests because you feel an obligation, and nothing picks up or gets especially interesting until the third of three acts.

The missed potential in the main quest is especially tragic, because you'd think it would be the best and most important questline in the game. But even the parts that could've been really fun and engaging are mired by bland gameplay.

One of the quests sends you to a formal party to investigate suspicions that the Thalmor have been resurrecting the dragons. It's an under-cover mission that you'd think would be rife with espionage and role-playing elements. Getting into the party, fitting in with the crowd, causing a distraction and slipping away, sneaking around, and getting back in time before anyone notices. Except that none of your dialogue really matters because the quest is designed to be completable no matter what you say.

There are supposed to be several different options for causing a distraction, but half of them required that you already be acquainted with NPCs at the party, and I'd never met them before. So I only had one, single option which was itself simplistic and straightforward. Once I'd gotten away from the party, I was planning to sneak past all of the Thalmor guards, but there came a point when it was literally impossible and I had no other choice but to do battle with every guard in the courtyard. This could've been a really interesting quest, but it just wasn't. 

The final boss fight is also rather shallow and mundane. Everything about it is grand and exciting, like any climax should be, but then the gameplay boils down to just another dragon fight. See dragon, cast Dragonrend, impale it with your sword. It's exactly the same thing I'd done no less than 50 times previously on all the other random dragon spawns in the game, making this battle no different than any other. You'd think they could have at least come up with a unique fight for this unique dragon, but I guess that was too much work.

After finishing the main questline, I witnessed its epilogue where I stood at the Throat of the World with dozens of dragons flying and circling around me, as if they'd pledged their allegiance to me. I really felt like the Dragonborn in that moment, and that I'd actually done something important in this world. But then they fly off and everything reverts back to the way it was, complete with random dragons spawning to attack me. If I ended the threat and am now lord to all of these dragons, why are they still spawning? I realize some of them don't "accept" me as Alduin's heir, but that's not a good excuse for making the world remain entirely unchanged after the main quest. Way to ruin the epic conclusion to your own game, Bethesda.

I did the main quest periodically throughout my entire game. I got it rolling early on so I could learn dragon shouts and get some dragons spawning, and then I went off to do side-quests, occasionally going back to advance the main quest. But I saved the climax until I was almost finished with everything I wanted to do, and I'm glad I did, because doing all of these other side-quests would've seemed even more stupid and trivial afterwards. "I'm the legendary Dragonborn, Dovahkiin, savior of Skyrim, slayer of Alduin and heir to his lordship, master of the Thu'um, and you want me to "prove myself" before I can join you? To hell with this nonsense."


Guild quests are no better

I found the guilds in Skyrim to be rather unrealistic. It's nice that they tried to add a little extra personality to them (the Fighter's Guild is now the Companions, the Mage's Guild is now the College of Winterhold), but that does little to compensate for the fact that they're all kind of shallow.

First on the list of minor annoyances is that you can become Guild Master of every single guild. There's no conflict and no overlap between them; each guild has their own self-contained questline that any character can do. This takes away from the role-playing aspect when a burly warrior is able to become Archmage of the Mage's College. Seriously, I became Archmage after only ever casting a handful of novice-level spells a handful of times in the entire game.

Which brings up another problem with the guilds; they don't do such a good job of making you fit the role. In Morrowind, for example, if you wanted to climb the ranks of the Mage's Guild, you had to get your mage skills up to an appropriate level and pay your dues before you were even elligible for quests. Joining a guild was a serious commitment, and joining one Guild or House might put you at odds with another faction. This added weight and value to your decisions and enhanced the role-playing experience. This kind of stuff is entirely missing in Skyrim.

It's also just kind of ridiculous how every guild leader in Skyrim has an impeccable propensity for getting killed or being a traitor, and that everyone is eager and willing to replace the old leader with you, the new guy who's only been around a very short time and has, in some cases, no apparent aptitude for guild leadership. At the end of the day, you just complete a couple of shallow fetch quests and you're the head of the guild. I don't know if this was supposed to be an exciting accomplishment, but it ends up feeling trite and meaningless.

For that matter, many of the guild quests just aren't that good. You remember the Dark Brotherhood quests from Oblivion, and how great they were? Well their quests have been reduced down to stealth-killing random targets in the middle of the street. Pick up contract, fast-travel to location, go into stealth mode, wait till no one sees you, shoot target with bow, fast-travel back to pick up your reward. Rinse and repeat.

One DB quest sent me to kill the emperor's cousin during her wedding reception. I thought "no big deal, I'll run around the castle parapets until I find a spot with a clear shot of her." Turns out that people are stationed in such a way that someone always has a line of sight on you from every angle that you could possibly shoot from, including the pre-determined stealth cache. So instead, I went to the ledge above the balcony she was giving her speech from, dropped down right behind her, went into stealth mode, and shot her in the back. No one seemed alarmed that a heavily-armed guy just dropped in behind her, and no one was any the wiser that it was me who killed her.

The Thieves Guild quests also fall victim to shallow mediocrity. Once you've joined up, the starting quests have you intimidating local merchants into paying their dues to the guild. You ask the guild leader for information on each target, and he tells you exactly what you have to do to shake them down. So instead of coming up with some clever solution yourself, or exploring your options and doing what you think is best, you just follow the quest arrow and do exactly as you're told.

The other guilds are basically the same, where they just give you tedious fetch quests to get some rare, important item from a dangerous tomb (which then begs the question, if the artifact is so important, why are they sending a newbie to get it?) and then following completely straightforward objectives. The Bard's College is especially victim to this, where the entirety of their quests are literally just "fetch me item X from dungeon Y," and then that's basically it. They mostly just fail to rise above the common quests and prove to be kind of disappointing.


The Civil War quests don't feel like a war at all

So the other major thing happening in Skyrim, besides the dragons, is the civil war, with Ulfric Stormcloak leading a rebellion against the Empire for their restrictions against Talos worship and their general oversight of the Nords. It's clear from the very beginning that you can pick a side in the war and influence the outcome, but I wasn't sold on this aspect at all.

I sided with the Stormcloaks, and storming Whiterun was one of the first things we did. And it was fun because it was a dynamic situation. I saw a familiar place with barricades set up around it and houses caught on fire, and it was just nice to see the world sort of changing as a result of this quest. But then once I made it to the Jarl and got him to surrender, everything was back to normal all too fast. Some NPCs would give a single line of commentary on the new leadership of Whiterun, but they all explicitly said things aren't really that different with a new Jarl, and for all intents and purposes, everything was, in fact, the exact same as it was before. 

The entire remainder of the civil war played out with me reporting to Ulfric's right-hand man at various Stormcloak encampments strewn about the place, and then him tasking me with joining other Stormcloaks in an attack on an Imperial fortress somewhere. Rinse and repeat for a few more fortresses, and the Stormcloaks had completely overrun the Empire. It's a little simple and repetitive by nature, but the problem I had was that these battles didn't feel like a war, they just felt like random skirmishes.

I'd spent a hundred hours killing things, and raiding an imperial fortress played exactly like I was raiding any other fortress or dungeon. Just go there, kill 15 imperials, rinse and repeat. I would've expected a war to be on a much larger scale, and it would've been nice to have two entire armies clash in a climactic confrontation in a wartorn battlefield, but there's nothing quite like that. What we have instead is just kind of mundane and a bit of a letdown.


And all the minor issues

So the big problem with Skyrim lies mostly with its quests and the balancing of its content. There are still other minor issues that I may as well complain about, while I'm at it. These aren't major problems and can be overlooked, for the most part, but they do get annoying or fail to live up to Skyrim's potential.


Dragons are really kind of annoying

Skyrim may be the first game in history to make battles with dragons boring, tedious, and annoying. I mean come on, dragons are supposed to be legendary mythical creatures, and in Skyrim they get to be kind of like gnats just buzzing around and pestering you from time to time. Sure, the first couple of dragon encounters are somewhat exciting (except that very first one in the terrible, terrible tutorial), but after that, all they ever do is interrupt what you're already doing.

You're heavily involved in a quest, and then a dragon spawns and you have to drop what you're doing and grumble "oh great, now I have to fight this stupid thing." Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if dragons weren't complete imbeciles, but a lot of times a dragon will become fixated on one stupid rabbit and fly all over a square-mile region, attacking every wild animal and completely ignoring you, never landing anywhere for you to attack it. Even with Dragonrend, the shout that's supposed to force them to land, sometimes they spend so long flying around looking for a place to land that the effect wears off, or they land somewhere 300 yards away and you can't get there in time.

It just got to a point where I turned the difficulty all the way down to novice once I spotted a dragon, just because I didn't want to have to deal with the tedious frustration. Get it over with quickly and get back to what I was doing. But then in the second half of my game, I was so strong that I could just stand there and take a beating, barely losing any health, even in Master difficulty. Once you fight one dragon, every subsequent dragon fight is basically the same, and they get old, repetitive, and tedious after a while.


So many loading screens

Does this game really need to have a loading screen every time I enter a city, every time I enter a cave, every time I enter a house, sometimes multiple times in the same cave or fortress? I realize it was designed for the consoles, which are holding the PC version back, but this is really something that should have been phased out by now. Even Gothic 3, back in 2006, had a huge sprawling world with zero loading screens.


Sometimes it gets especially redundant. I understand needing a quick loading screen if you're fast-traveling somewhere, but why can't you fast-travel from inside a house? Suppose I'm in the Blue Palace and someone tasks me with bringing them some troll fat. I say "I have some of that in my storage chest." Load screen to step outside of the Blue Palace, load screen to fast-travel to Whiterun, load screen to enter my house, load screen to leave my house, load screen to fast-travel back to the entrance of the Blue Palace, load screen to enter the Blue Palace.

Does there really need to be six load screens in that sequence? Surely they could cut at least two of those out by letting you fast-travel from within a building, and maybe one more if teleporting to the Blue Palace would place you inside of it, instead of sticking you right outside the door where you'll just have to sit through another load screen. These things just get kind of annoying after a while.


Why are horses so useless?

Normally you have a horse to move around faster and to help carry more stuff than you can fit on your person. But the horses in Skyrim don't run much faster than you can sprint, so the speed benefit is only marginal, but there are a number of extra downsides that make them basically useless.
  1. Your followers can't ride the horse with you, so if you use a horse they get left in the dust, usually to become lost forever unless you slow down to wait for them, in which case you may as well just go on foot
  2. You can't attack enemies or talk to NPCs from horseback, so you have to stop and dismount every time you need to do something (even Ocarina of Time from 1998 let you shoot your bow from horseback)
  3. Horses are way too aggressive and attack every hostile target nearby, so they just get in the way of your combat, ruin your stealth, or run the risk of getting themselves killed, either by the bandits or by your own attacks
  4. Horses tend to wander off when not in use, and there's no way to call it back to you or see where it is on the map to go fetch it, so the only way to get it back is to fast-travel somewhere and have it magically spawn with you
All of these things just make horses more of a hassle than they're worth. Why even include them in the game if they're going to be this useless? Are you planning to sell us $5 horse armor that makes them more useful?


Followers are rather disappointing

One of the many things that Bethesda picked up from Fallout universe and stuck into The Elder Scrolls is followers. Whenever you make a friend (or punch someone in the face the requisite number of times to win a bar room brawl), you gain the ability to let them join you in your adventures. But all they really do is serve as a beast of burden for carrying your spare loot, ruining your stealth, activating every trap in a given area, or getting themselves killed.

The big issue with followers is that they don't level-up with you. So if you meet someone at level 5 and decide you want them to accompany you, by the time you're level 25 they'll still have their pathetically weak and useless level 5 stats. This is easily corrected with console commands, but it's just astounding that it wasn't a feature by default. What are Xbox or Playstation users supposed to do, or even a PC player who doesn't realize what's going on?

Besides that, there's all kinds of issues with poor pathfinding. Followers often get stuck on a rock, running in place, or refuse to follow you down a two foot drop and instead run three miles around a mountain to get to you. Or sometimes they just glitch out and stop doing anything altogether. If there are alerted enemy targets nearby, but you're still hidden and trying to get a stealth kill, your follower will sometimes go charging out of the darkness in order to "help" in the fight. Or they just get stuck in a loop activating the same damn trap over and over again. 

Lydia getting impaled by a spiked gate, and not learning from the experience

The main issue I have with followers is that they're all bland and generic. Most of them don't have any personality, they don't have any ongoing quests that develop while they're with you, they don't have any unique gameplay characteristics. You remember how, in Fallout: New Vegas, each follower gave you a unique buff that made you want to use certain followers over others, or how they all had developed quests that you could complete as you gained their trust, and they'd unlock more bonuses, or how they'd talk to you and comment on things? There's absolutely nothing like that in Skyrim.

And also, Bethesda, I think you may have missed the memo, but we're an entire decade into the second millennium. It's not 2002 any more, or even 2005, for that matter. Why are follower NPCs still standing in the middle of doorways in this day and age, refusing to get out of the bleeping way when I'm ramming into them? As early as 2006, maybe even earlier, Valve had effective coding parameters that made Alyx Vance back up and get out of your way as soon as you got up close to her. They're on the ball; you guys don't even know where the ball is. It's just ridiculous that we have to deal with this crap in 2011 and 2012. 


Marriage is equally dumb and pointless

Continuing the pattern of adding something new and then totally half-assing it, Bethesda added marriage as an option to Skyrim. So let me explain how it works: you go to Riften and buy an Amulet of Mara, an item that labels you as "single and looking for love." You wear it and approach an NPC. If you've already done some trivial task for them (like bringing Ysolda a mammoth tusk), then that's all you need to earn their love and affection. Then you go through a dialogue sequence exactly like this:
"Interested in me, are you?"
"Won't lie, I am. And you?"
"I won't lie. I am."
And then you're ready for your wedding. This is a truly marvelous display of immaculate writing talent being put to work. So then you attend your wedding, wearing your full suit of battle armor and your bloodied-up sword, and as the Priest of Mara finishes the ceremony, everyone in attendance, including your new wife / husband, gets up and leaves while you're still stuck in dialogue with the Priest. Should that really be happening at a wedding? Who designed this crap?

Now you're ready to settle into married life. What can you look forward to? Basically nothing. Your new spouse just sits around in your house all day, supposedly running a business, but they just sit there 24/7. The only ways you can interact with your spouse are to beg for your share of the businesses earnings, and get her to cook you a meal. Which I guess is actually exactly like a real marriage, so I really shouldn't be complaining about how lame and unrealistic the marriage in Skyrim is. 

Oh, and you get a "well rested" bonus for sleeping in the same bed as your spouse, which grants a temporary bonus to the leveling rate of your skills. But I was a werewolf and werewolves don't get resting bonuses, so the only semi-tangible, worthwhile aspect to marriage was completely useless to me. And the rest is just laughably shallow and pointless. 


Can I get some better animations and better NPCs?

So Bethesda managed to improve the look of the NPCs. They actually look like real people now, instead of bloated zombies. Other graphical enhancements are also a welcome sight, but a lot of the animations for things aren't praise-worthy at all. There's the way you run with a bow equipped, I found some of the 3rd-person, two-handed animations clunky and awkward (some didn't seem like they synced up with what was actually happening (or should have been happening) damage-wise), there's the way skinny NPCs have their arms out like gorillas, the bow-legged jump animation, the way some characters run.

These aren't such a huge deal, but there's a noticeable lack of animations in dialogue, when you'd think there really should be. Unless it's for a very specific moment in a very specific quest, most NPCs just stand perfectly still during a conversation. And if they're sitting down then you're really in for a good show, because they move even less. If someone was using an enchanting table and you approached them from behind, they stay hunched over the table barely looking over their shoulder the entire conversation. No gestures, no body language, nothing to spice things up a bit and make conversations feel more lively. 

The most animated quest giver in Skyrim

Consequently, a lot of NPCs feel like cardboard cut-outs. There's a noticeable problem with NPCs having no personalities or any other unique qualities, and of course the traditional problems with shallow Bethesda writing. Most of them don't serve any purpose in the world, either, except to dole out one simple quest and promptly become useless and obsolete. So for the most part, characters are entirely forgettable, and even the important, main characters aren't especially likable. Most characters could easily be replaced with a quest board or bounty board and it wouldn't affect the gameplay in any serious way. 


Or how about some more intelligent puzzles?

Every single puzzle you encounter in all of the thousands and thousands of caves, fortresses, crypts, and ruins are all the exact same. And they're all a simple matter of picture matching. See a couple of stones with animal pictures on them, and rotate them to look exactly like the pictures on the wall right above them. Brilliant and exciting. 


Or how about the Dragon Claw doors that require a specific type of Dragon Claw (Sapphire, Ivory, Golden, etc) to open a specific door in conjunction with a combination of pictures that you have to align properly. Except that the solution to the puzzle is printed right on the key. Isn't that like printing your pin number on your bank card? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?

The first Dragon Claw door had me stumped because I didn't even realize I could rotate items in my inventory, which you have to do to see the solution to the door puzzle. So it was slightly clever at first, but it got kind of stupid solving the exact same puzzles for the next 100 hours. Couldn't these have been a little more sophisticated, or perhaps just a little more varied?


More voice actors, same old problems

They hired an unprecedented number of voice actors, but it still feels like every NPC is voiced by the same six people. Everywhere I go and every NPC I talk to, I'm recognizing that voice as someone else. It's especially bad with guards, all of whom are voiced by essentially the same person. And the actors don't even try to do lines with different accents or intonations, so there's no variation. Maybe that's a genuine problem with having a thousand fully-voiced NPCs in a video game, and maybe, Bethesda, you should find a way to work around that? 

And while we're talking about voice acting, I may as well mention the fact that you hear so many lines repeated all over the place. I mean, there's the whole "arrow in the knee" meme, where apparently every single guard used to be an adventurer until they took an arrow in the knee. But to top it off, every single merchant you talk to says the exact same things. "Oh a bit of this, a bit of that," "Some may call this junk, me, I call them treasures." Just the same damn stuff.

You're not supposed to be in here

And then there are characters who just bombard you with the same lines when you're just out wandering the street. If I had a penny for every time I heard Sigurd tell me that he works for Belethor at the General Goods store, or every time Nazeem asked me if I made it to the Cloud District very often, or every time Amren said "Divines smile on you, friend," or every time Adrianne talked about Eorlund Grey-Mane's legendary steel, .... where was I? Oh, yeah, if I had a penny for every time I heard some some of those repeated lines, I'd have enough money to buy out Bethesda and hire some people who can actually make a good video game.


I'm not a big fan of Jeremy Soule

Chalk this one up to personal taste, but I just don't find Jeremy's compositions all that memorable or special. There's something indescribably generic about his style that I find almost unappealing. I can't recall or even recognize a single musical composition from Skyrim, except for the main theme, "Sons of Skyrim." And that's just because it's the main theme that played every time I launched the game, it played during the climactic final boss battle, and it's the same variation of every Elder Scrolls theme since Morrowind. But that song is pretty good, though.

I guess the Skyrim soundtrack is good at providing ambiance for your adventures. The kind of thing that bolsters the atmosphere without intruding on the experience. And I suppose that's a compliment, because that's sometimes a very good quality to have in a soundtrack, but I feel no desire to buy the OST or search for any of them to play on YouTube just to satisfy my cravings for Skyrim music. Even after spending 130 hours in-game listening to the music, I have no lasting impressions, here.


In Conclusion

For all the complaining I do about Skyrim, it's still a pretty good game. I've said that the first 20-30 hours are spectacular, and that alone makes Skyrim worth its cost when you consider that some games only last 10 hours and are not especially remarkable. I got 130 hours out of Skyrim, and it wasn't an unpleasant experience. It just wasn't that great. It was kind of like a soulless game churned out by machines, with all of the requisite components there, but just missing some kind of creative spark or a touch of humanity. 

Judging Skyrim by its own merits and potential, it's quite clear that it has a lot of flaws and falls short of being as good as it could have been. Yes, there's a crap-ton of content in this game, but none of that content is outstanding because everything is stretched too thin. It's kind of like they took a single serving of Nutella and spread it out over a 2 foot long sub roll. You get a whole lot of sub roll for your money, but not very much Nutella, and the Nutella is the stuff that's supposed to give it some flavor. Unless you really, really like bread, you're not getting such a great deal.

Everything that Skyrim does has been done better in some other game. The one thing Skyrim really has going for it is that it's an open-world experience where you can just get lost in its world. That's certainly true, and that's a remarkable thing in and of itself, but none of its content even comes close to matching the kind of experience you can get with a more tightly-focused game. And there's no reason Bethesda can't strive to have top-notch quests, writing, combat, NPCs, game balancing, and so on, to match the quality you get from other, tighter games. It's like Bethesda set really low aspirations, and then multiplied everything to make the game "bigger." 










The back of the box proudly declares that "Skyrim reimagines and revolutionizes the open-world fantasy epic," which is really not true at all. More than ever before in an Elder Scrolls game, Skyrim is an archaic hold-out, out-dated and obsolete. It's like they took Morrowind, stuck it in a shiny new graphics engine, and got rid of all of Morrowind's sophistication while retaining many of its bad, old designs. (Which is basically what they did with Oblivion.) Games have evolved in the last 10 years; The Elder Scrolls has not. And if they're referring to the "radiant story," then their so-called revolution was actually a step backwards.

This is what bothers me about Skyrim. I've spent countless thousands of words (over 12,000) detailing why this game is so far from perfection, and why it's actually quite shallow, despite its grand setting and appearance. It's not just to say that Skyrim sucks or that it's a terrible game. It's not. 

The point I want to make is that Skyrim should not be the standard against which we compare our games and shape our future expectations. There are already better games out there, and there's so much that Skyrim just doesn't do very well, that we shouldn't be hailing it as the messiah of open-world RPGs. By scoring Skyrim a 94/100, we've just praised low aspiration and shallow game design. We shouldn't be forgiving or excusing these things if we want games to actually evolve and become better, to become truly great. Otherwise, we're just shooting ourselves in the foot.

If Skyrim is the best video game humanity can muster in this day and age, then we're royally fucked. 

88 comments:

  1. Wow, I didn't think it could get worse. More spoilers.

    You jump on top of a Manhattan-bound LIRR train heading down through Long Island City - despite problems I mentioned earlier, and god knows how you know which train - but only after having spent ALL FUCKING DAY with a couple of NSA-alikes who are more interested in the fact that you shot your CO than the nuke that's in the city. ALL. FUCKING. DAY.

    Your compatriot hijacks a squad car and beats evening traffic to get to midtown before you, and just happens to know which manhole you're gonna peek out of. You both peel up Seventh Avenue so that a thousand people get to watch you fist-fight a guy - who, consequently, didn't even have to be there considering he successfully did Paris by proxy - who just shot a soldier dead and then threw away his empty gun.

    The fact that nobody in the huge Times Square crowd steps in is, by far, the least stupid thing of all I just mentioned, and even that's pretty fucking stupid, considering there were two shoot-outs and an attempted car bomb in the last two years in Times Square and people were all up on that shit.

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  2. Nice rambling :) Will you try mods for skyrim? There are some chances that they will fix some game mechanics (like more challenging fights).

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  3. I ran Skyrim with over 30 mods. They were mostly aesthetic tweaks, atmosphere enhancers, and bug fixes. For a first playthrough, I usually like to experience a game close to the way it was originally intended, and so I tried not to add anything too radically game-changing.

    Although, by the time I finished playing, the Creation Kit had just been released, so there really weren't (m)any game-changing mods available since the community didn't have the tools or the time to mod the more critical aspects yet.

    Here is the list of mods I ran with Skyrim, as well as ones I was keeping an eye on. I'm sure there are dozens of new, interesting mods released since I made that article, but I'm not playing Skyrim any more to have much of an opinion on newer ones.

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  4. right on. i hate how apprentice destruction is better than expert and master. skyrim has some serious balancing issues like you said. conjuration basicly adds about 800 hp with 2 demoras, and you can keep casting until they kill everything, and you can just stand there doing nothing besides clicking the mouse every time a demora dies, illusion is stupid, you have to sneak even when invisible(FO:NV's stealth boy worked so that you didn't have to sneak, which is the point of invisibility), frenzy spells cause enemies to run straight at you instead of attacking the nearest enemy, fear is useless, calm is retarded, no npc use illusion only the player uses illusion, that's not immersive, and magicka is useless with enchanting, who would increase magicka over health...why is it even an option to increase magicka when it's totally useless, and yeah the quests are terrible, the lack of dialog options kills the immersion, thieves guild guy said that i've never earned honest pay or something like that...after all the fetch quests i've done i can't disagree with him, and before you kill mercer for the key you have only one option to say that you've never retrieved anything cuz youre a thief, after all those fetch quests.and i was shocked there wasn't a quest line to destroy them, skyrim is just a disgusting piece of trash, d*mn essensial npcs disrespecting the dragon born way too much, pheasants asking the dragonborn to do their errands way too much, should be the other way around...dragonborn should be taking over the empire...not joining some thieves guild so he can take a job and get disrespected by some lowlifes living in a sewer i don't need gold and fuck the job that delvin has available fuck the entire thieves guild, and why the hell does the "college" of winterhold has...i counted 10 members?, and thats before the master wizard, the arch mage, and arniel gains die, so when you're arch mage you have about 7 or 8 ppl in the college...thats retarded. skyrim is retarded it's spread too thin, theres too many npcs and too many cities, level scaling on it's own destroys the game...

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  5. Nice article and I wholeheartedly agree with it.

    Most of the points you mentioned where kinda the deal breaker for me. After the initial fascination, the game lost its lure quite quickly.

    Quests are VERY repetitive, dungeons so as well, most of the guild quests are asinine and kinda end before they even started. Take the nightingale stuff, I sure would have liked to experience what it means to be a nightingale, instead of prance around in the armor and imagine it for myself.

    Sure, a ton of npc and such to talk to, but very low content wise. Yah, quite a few cities, very few NPCs worth while, or even worth remembering.

    I for sure wont remember Skyrim anywhere as well as say the Monkey Island saga (Stans previously owned coffins/boats! Grog!) which pales in comparison in almost every aspect, except - content.

    Thanks for the post, glad to see Im not alone and an interesting and just opinion.

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  6. Wow....I don't feel that alone anymore. I recently got rid of Skyrim after it was sitting around since before Christmas in exchange for dark souls. I don't know if any of you like that game but I found it to be much more enjoyable for me. Combat is nice, the few npcs are interesting and don't really care about you. They will help you with subtle hints and that's about it. I loved morrowind even on just a 360 and didn't find oblivion too bad but I can see the direction tes is heading. If they took Skyrim and folded it in half it would have been a little better. I felt as if maybe I did not understand Skyrim but no, there isn't anything to really learn anyway. Thanks for an honest thought out review. I don't even confided it a rant. You provide the much needed clarity behind your decision and broke it down so anybody reading it would understand what you're trying to get across. Kudos to you dude.

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  7. You're not supposed to be in here.

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  8. Gaming studios and many well known review sites are in bed together. Plain and simple. I wouldn't trust these review sites with a 10-foot pole. Their views are solely influenced by the financial support they receive from gaming studios.

    The collusion, although not illegal is definitely immoral. Take everything a review site states, with a large bag of salt. They are not providing a 3rd party, non-biased review. Unfortunately many young readers are oblivious to this and continue to be falsely mislead by these review sites.

    So where else do you get reviews? Like this site here., which seems to be a fair non-biased opinion.

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    1. Wow, nice to hear this from someone else, and that I'm not crazy. It just makes too much sense, and it's becoming too freaking obvious. I mean, just look at Watch Dogs review. Does nothing new, terrible game play, errr... 8/10 GOOD JOB!!!

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  9. "If Skyrim is the best video game humanity can muster in this day and age, then we're royally fucked."

    People overhype Skyrim because they want to pretend exactly the opposite.

    It's like the way people say things like global warming is good for humanity or that we're so smart we'll be able to fix whatever environmental catastrophes we create with some sort of mythical future scientific innovations.

    It's like our brain-damaged election system, which is a long farce designed to fool the public into thinking the president isn't appointed by the super rich. Look at how idiotic our politicians are, and how idiotic the people are who are fooled by them.

    We are fucked.

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    1. That's a pretty good assessment. I believe fossil fuels allowed humanity to artificially exceed its management capacity.

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  10. I love your review and agree with everything you said about Skyrim except one thing! I actually liked Oblivion better. I felt like the quests in oblivion were more imaginative and varied while Skyrim is all about getting you into another samey dungeon. Oblivion guilds were all much better.

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  11. Wow, this is a really amazing review!

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  12. Couldn't agree more. For those of you who are similarly disenfranchised check out http://www.andoran.com/en/

    Upcoming total conversion using the Creation Engine. Promises to have a lot more in common with the seminal Morrowind than the vapid heap of commercialised mass-marketed shit that is Skyrim.

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  13. Not sure if you're aware of this, but your blog is the third thing listed when I do a Google search for "Skyrim sucks."

    That said, thank you for pointing out every major issue I had with the game. The best way I've heard Skyrim summed up was that the game is "a mile wide and an inch deep." The only thing the game has going for it is that it is very mod friendly...too bad modders seem more interested in making bikini armour than improving the game.

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  14. It seems to me that this guy expects too much from video games and media in general. He states that games have moved on but rarely compares any games to skyrim.

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    1. If I expect too much from Skyrim, it's because I've played legitimately better games than Skyrim. Gothic 1 & 2, Fallout 1 & 2, Fallout New Vegas, Planescape: Torment, Arcanum, Vampire the Masquerade - Bloodlines, The Witcher 1 & 2, and so on, are all much better RPGs than Skyrim. Even certain non-RPGs like Deus Ex have better RPG mechanics than Skyrim.

      The funny thing is that each of these games was made by a smaller studio with a smaller budget, and even despite some of them being over 10 years old they STILL have superior RPG mechanics and design, compared to Skyrim.

      As for comparing other games to Skyrim:
      http://thenocturnalrambler.blogspot.com/2012/08/new-vegas-is-better-rpg-than-skyrim.html

      http://thenocturnalrambler.blogspot.com/2012/02/on-gothic-series.html

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    2. What Nick Burgener and several other enlightened ones on here can see (which a large majority of the gaming public can't seem to) is that the art of making an actually good game seems to be dwindling in favour of making one which ticks all the boxes, but have no "soul" instead.

      It's worrying because game companies now think that is what Joe public want, and Joe public is stupid enough to keep demanding it!

      As Nick says, there's no RPG to be found in Skyrim - it's just a chore fest with the only difference being taking out the trash is replaced with killing monsters. There is no rhythm or flow to the game, basic RPG principles are nowhere to be found, yet it's been hyped up as the greatest RPG ever. It's worrying.





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  15. This is the type of review/breakdown people should be looking at to sober up...Job well done!

    Oblivion at least made major strides since morrowind at that point in time.Since Morrowind was the definition of static.The core of Skyrim's problem is that it has NO depth and that nothing you do has any impact whatsoever.

    Like you said about the world waiting and revolving around you doing something.They should have downsized it and added more quality content.There has been absolutely zero improvement on the AI.

    I was thrilled in my first few hours at the new content,but I quickly realised that this game was just an empty shell filled with generic fetch and kill quests exactly as it's predecessors or even worse.Just totally dissapointed...

    Modders can't redesign a game.Only Black Mesa Source succeeded in truly remaking a game as it should be done

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  16. I just started playing the game (I'm really late to the party here) and I couldn't agree with this article more. Such a boring game, that had such amazing potential. Literally EVERY time I play this game, my thoughts can be summed up like this:

    1 - 45 minutes: "Holy fuck, this world design is so badass! Wish more was going on, but it's designed so well it's FUN to climb a mountain and look across the land."

    45 minutes - 60 minutes: "I really wish there was something happening in all this open space. Ok, I just killed two wolves again, why don't these things travel in packs of more than 2 anyhow? Holy fuck is this boring. What a waste of an amazing map!"

    60 minutes - 65 minutes: "Why the hell did they use this "compass" style thing to guide me? Can't they have an option to toggle a little map in the corner of the screen, like in most other open worlds? This shit is so hard to use to navigate."

    66th minute: Fuck this shit, I'll try to play it again later.

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  17. I'd settle for a game world that is 10x smaller but dynamic.

    That's the heart of the matter. While stale, boring quests don't help, the biggest problem is that nothing you do matters. If I join the Stormcloaks, the Imperials don't care. If I kill the emperor, no one cares. If I clear out the local bandit camp, no one mentions it.

    Here's a simple idea to make the game better. Imagine if there were multiply options for the civil war. Perhaps you could assassinate, frame, bribe, intimidate, and/or kidnap (along with more positive methods) key political leaders. Every key individual has their own set of morals. Some double cross you, some only respect you if you're honorable, some are pushovers. Each action would affect the way the populace and their leaders view your side. You could inspire them to join your faction or intimidate them away from supporting the enemy. You would need to decide on the appropriate course of action for each situation. THAT would be a game worthy of a 94.

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  18. That's why people are still playing Skyrim after a Year, right? Everyone I know is. And that's because it's actually a good game. The OP is just shooting up that he wants more and can't take what he gets -- greed. He's probably never even touched the hardcap, and kept a negative view the entire time, just seeking reasons to make the game sound bad. Everything about this game kept me playing it well over 100 hours, like almost everyone who owns Skyrim. And they're still playing it because it's FUN, deeming all your arguments invalid.

    The only argument I saw that made me laugh most was the whole "wander around and the world felt static, and wolves, blah blah blah." mentioning. Do me a favor -- Go outside (requires you to walk) and find some woods. Walk around in it for a while, and tell me if you find something more interesting.. Maybe you'll get lost and we wont have to read these false whiny complaints about a game that actually deserves it's rating. Do us all a favor actually, and quit making blogs about great games.

    "If Skyrim is the best video game humanity can muster in this day and age, then we're royally fucked. "

    No, you're just royally bitchy that you can't make a game as worthy as Skyrim, so you ramble about every opinionable negative point you could possibly muster.
    Bad blogger is bad.

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    1. Let's face the facts here:

      1) compared to all of the classic RPGs (and even compared to some of Bethesda's previous games), Skyrim is a shallow disgrace of an RPG. If you somehow think Skyrim is a grand champion among RPGs then there's something very wrong with your perception.

      2) I put in over 130 hours in Skyrim and acknowledged that it's not a terrible game, despite how much I criticize it. After all, it must be doing something right if it held my attention that long.

      3) Just because you judge someone to have an inferior opinion than you, it doesn't mean they have extreme aversion to mild physical exertion. Insinuating that I'm a fat lazy asshole who hates going outside is incredibly rude, offensive, and only goes to belittle your own position. Basing all of your counter-arguments on conjecture and insults only shows to me that you're just mad that a game you like is being criticized.

      4) The "you can't make a better game" argument is one of the most irrelevant arguments ever made in defense of a video game. Of course I couldn't make a better game than Bethesda, but if I had all the years of experience and all of the wealth that Bethesda has, I probably COULD make a better game. But none of that really matters, since there are, in fact, already better games than Skyrim out there, both new and old.

      5) People having fun with something (a subjective quality) does not equate to objective fact. Sure, a lot of people like Skyrim -- but a lot of people like Justin Bieber and Jersey Shore. Some people are sexually aroused by feces. It's not much of an objective validation to say that other people like something, therefore it must be good.

      6) When it comes to games you like, isn't it important to be critical of shortcomings? Blind fanaticism tends to ruin game series because people don't call developers out on their faults. Can you honestly say that NOTHING I criticized in this article could be improved in ANY way? Are you honestly saying that Skyrim is PERFECT in every way? If you answer "yes" to these questions then you're just a delusional fanboy who doesn't deserve even an inkling of the time and attention I've already dedicated in writing this response.

      So in short, do us all a favor and restrain your venomous tongue unless you have something reasonable to say.

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    2. indeed. according to his/her logic, justin beiber and niki manaj are the greatest musicians of all time. oh the humanity.

      i've read dozens of reviews both before and after playing skyrim and yours has been BY FAR the most articulate and accurate.

      KUDOS.

      played over 100 hours myself (thanks to mods). yeah it's about an ocean wide but about an inch deep.

      and just for the record:
      oblivion is released and my female character walks like a man. a year later a tiny 40kb mod is released and my female now walks feminine.

      almost FIVE YEARS pass...

      skyrim is released and my female character still walks like a man.

      *facepalm*

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  19. Quite simply THE best review and opinion on Skyrim ever.

    Absolutely bang on the money.

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  20. A-bloody-men, mate. The best word I can think of to describe Skyrim is "INCOMPETENT."

    Normally, when a game arrives in an extremely buggy state, you can usually blame it on the publisher pushing the game out the door before it was ready (see Fallout: New Vegas). Bethesda doesn't even have that excuse, considering how many years the game was in development.

    For example, Bethesda apparently forgot to enable the compiler optimization routines when compiling the game, resulting in the game being about 50% slower than it ought to have been. Someone had to make a mod to fix it before Bethesda turned on the optimizations in the following patch. To put this in perspective, a few years ago I decided to muck around with some DirectX 10 programming, and made some silly little application that would make the screen flash wild colours. And I always remembered to turn on the compiler optimizations before making the final build. If I can remember to do this simple step, what excuse does a supposedly "professional" game developer have?

    Or how about the UI, where attempting to swap the functions assigned to the left and right mouse buttons would fail? Or the UI itself, which is a complete cock-up in terms of design?

    Or how about the game-killing bug on the PS3 version, which most of the "professional" critics failed to mention?

    Really, what does it say about the quality of a developer's products when the rallying cry of the fanbase is, "The modders will fix it!"?

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  21. Just wanted to say that I just recently started playing Skyrim, and after finishing the Golden Claw quest I immediately searched Google for "Skyrim sucks".

    The first thing that struck me is how *ugly* the game world looks. In the daytime it's not so bad, but at night everything is so grimy and muddy, with textures and shapes so jarringly acute or simplistic, and polygon count terribly low, that it's really not at all fun to look at. Metroid Prime had 1/10th the polygon count but infinitely prettier winter environments.

    The intro was about as exciting and purposeful as mud. One thing I remember about New Vegas was how excited I felt with the story introduction. I truly sensed that I was stepping into a living, breathing world while starting off in that tiny town (Goodsprings, I think?). You weren't "thrust" into anything... you were gently placed into a world that existed without you. Skyrim in contrast had a TV-show like intro for 10 seconds, and... 5 or 6 NPCs standing around aimlessly to execute the LEADER of the rebellion??? Shouldn't that have been a momentous occasion with something like half the kingdom in audience? (and why does everything have to be so dark and grimy? it's disgusting!)

    After completing one quest I leveled 3 times. Wth...? The UI is atrocious, the explanations are lacking, and everything is so generic.

    It really bothers me that the creators of the brilliant New Vegas got the short end of the stick while Bethesda rakes in the dough for this half-hearted RPG.

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  22. Great review; you make many of the same of the points that I did in my recent review. (Shameless plug alert)

    Bethesda...nothing good to say about them. They've essentially made their name creating the same game over and over, each time removing just a few more RPG features (and throwing in an unkillable NPC, M'aiq the Liar, who serves no purpose but to mock fans who complained about the removal of features. They're so creatively bankrupt that they even shoved Fallout into the TES mould, and one of their developers stated that he was mystified as to why games like Starcraft and Diablo weren't being made in a first-person perspective.

    BioWare's latest games might be awful, but I'd still take them over anything Bethesda puts out.

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  24. I like to thank your for your review.
    I read a few other balanced one's after I became suspicious about the gloriously positive reviews. The balanced one's mostly agree with you, although some are more harsh in their final judgement than others. I more value these reviews because most of these reviewers played for a long time. Many state that the game is awesome for it's first 20 hours then it starts to become tedious.
    I tried Morrowind and I played through Oblivion. The first game I never got around to playing really. I was more hooked to the mods. I can't remember what the story was about.
    Oblivion I played to the end, but I can't recall any great experiences but for these three: the start of the game, the first hell gate and the beautiful world.
    I found both Morrowind and 0blivion uninteresting. I think it is best illustrated with this: In oblivion a hell gate opened near a town and road. The monsters roamed around. You would have expected that it would cause widespread panic, but nobody seemed to be concerned. The hell gate didn't cause people to flee or ready themselves for the onslaught of monsters..
    When you closed it nobody seemed care one way or another. That is how I experienced it.
    A friend of mine likes all the elder scroll games, so it remains a matter of taste. I think the main problem for me is that pure graphics, loot and leveling isn't enough to keep me going, i like a developed story line with interesting characters and perhaps some sense of humor, even if it's corny. I think I missed that the most. (an example of dragon age II: Isabela after discovering that some apostate wizards are doubling as prostitutes. Apostate prostitutes...? Apostitutes! laughs at herself.)
    I considered to buy Skyrim, but I just decided not to. I didn't care for Morrowind nor Oblivion and I see no improvement in Skyrim where i like to see them. Perhaps I acquire it when it's in the bargain bin some time in the future, but I doubt it.

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    1. DA was great for the followers keeping you entertained..either Morrigan and Alistar bickering at each other, or having Isabella, Fenris, Merrill in your squad cause Merrill is just fascinated with Isabella, in turn Isabella likes Merrill referring her to Kitten, mean while Isabella is basically wanting to rape Fenris lol.....

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  25. Good article. I can't believe I've read it all and agreeded with almost every point.

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  26. I used to have real respect for Bethesda, but it's pretty apparent that they're taking the Activision/EA crappy road. Morrowind was far and away the best Elder Scrolls game. Each step forward was two backward. Oblivion was bad and Skyrim is even worse. Why did they take out so much? I agree with a lot of what you said. The bland dungeons in their familiars grinds were boring in Oblivion and guess what? Suprise! They're back in Skyrim! Is it just me or is there nothing of value to find in Skyrim? I know bandits wearing Daedric doesn't really make sense, but at least in the previous two games you could find some good loot. In Skyrim the only way to get anything good is to craft it and really what sense is that? Hell, a good portion of the Daedric Artifacts didn't even make the cut. Basically to me the game felt massively dumbed down for no good reason. And I agree with your score reaction as well. Why reward a game for being medicore? The worst part is, it doesn't feel like Bethesda was resting on their laurels or anything, it feels like they purposefully screwed up the formula.

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  27. I see a lot of people seem to have found this article by typing 'Skyrim sucks' into google or something similar, given the pile-on happening in the comments.

    Here's the thing -

    Skyrim is what you make it. If you don't put any points into magic, power-level Enchanting, and stack up Destruction mana cost reduction for free spells, is that 'broken?' I suppose you could define it that way. Does it get even worse if you add in Stealth that really doesn't fit your character concept, and power-leveled Smithing so that you can hit that armor cap and run around taking 80% reduced damage with your 500 Hit points, free spells, and mystical near perma-invisibility?

    Yeah, of course it does.

    I'm going to say this again - Skyrim is what you make it. It's not my favorite game in the series (That would be Daggerfall, which suffers from all the things you say Skyrim 'improved' on), but it's still an amazing game. If you don't like being an overpowered nuclear ghost assassin, or whatever, then... don't be one. Is there some way for me to put that in bold or italics?

    At no point as Bethesda ever set out to achieve perfect balance. Some people like being wildly overpowered. Some like playing as a high-concept Bard who's only skills are One-Handed, Light Armor, and Speech (being a bard used to be a lot easier in older Elder Scrolls games...).

    Skyrim is a sandbox. It lets you do what you want. It never ceases to amaze me that people seek out ways to break the game rather than playing a character that is enjoyable to them, and then complain that the game is broken. Don't like that 100 Enchanting is absurdly overpowered? Then don't rush your enchanting to 100. Try something that's actually a challenge, like playing on a high difficulty with a concept character who does NOT actively work to exploit the 'broken' systems.

    You get out what you put in with Elder Scrolls games, and that's why so many people love them. Games like the ones you name as better (most of which I also enjoy) such as The Witcher, Torment, etc, don't suffer from these 'broken' mechanics because they make no effort to give the player the same agency over their character. The more tightly the devs control what the player does, the more balanced they can make things. Bethesda has always sacrificed actual gameplay balance in exchange for complete player control over their experience - many players find a way to make it a challenge and have a wonderful time.

    Some look for ways to break the system and then come online to bitch about it. Though if you really dislike it so deeply, it's a wonder you'd dedicate so much time to saying so.

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    1. I think you're missing the point Nick was making about the smithing and enchanting skills. What you're saying is that the people who complain that the game is unbalanced are at fault for developing their characters that way. However, power-leveling your smithing and enchanting skills is the only way to get the most powerful equipment in the game - which means that this was actually the way it was intended to be played. The developers could have made this equipment available at various locations in the game, but they did not. Surely they realized this was the case: it is far more common for games to give players more powerful equipment after completing more challenging quests. But for whatever reason the developers of this game chose to implement an experimental system that is completely backwards instead - probably because they think that gamers prefer to be entertained rather than challenged. That may actually be true for the majority of the audience they were advertising to.

      Further, it makes absolutely no sense that you can learn to craft exquisitely rare items by creating the same handful of incredibly basic items over and over again. To put it in perspective, you can't master how to cook a filet mignon by making a million hamburgers.

      Your other rebuttal about games that are said to be better yet give the player less agency also misses the point. Yeah, Skyrim lets you "go anywhere and do anything." The problem is there's no reason to do any of that stuff. You kill a dragon, it lands on someone's house, and they immediately go back to sweeping off their porch or whatever and telling you that you look rather pale for the hundredth time. You become the Dragonborn, overthrown the Empire, and nobody really cares. In Morrowind, you couldn't join the Thieves' Guild and the Mages' guild (or maybe it was the Fighters' Guild - I forget) because people weren't crazy about known criminals joining their factions. i.e., it actually mattered what you did in that game.

      Most of the points that Nick makes in this article are pretty solid. I don't know why you think people ought to keep their mouths shut when they have valid critiques.

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    2. Agreed with anon. Thats exactly right, i think thats why most Fans of the series love it so much, sandbox nature and choice to play which ever way you want. I mean yeah sure i can set up to powerlevel my smith or enchant by making effing daggers, but i choose not to.
      You can find ways to make yourself overpowered in most games.

      What i dont get is people complain after they have played for hundreds of hours, that they have run out of things to do, or they are now overpowered and nothing is a challange.. ISNT that the point when you are lvl 80 with max perks and deadric gear? You played a game for 100 HOURS AND IT SUCKS?? Why did you play it for 100h then seriously?

      Compare to some of the linear RPG, like witcher i played recently sure it was good and i like it but it took me maybe 10-15h to finish and it really has no replay value. Same goes for most other linear RPGS with awesome story. Mass Effect was awesome, only for one night though.

      While surely Skyrim lacks in some areas its still a solid title and experience and if you dont like it dont play it.. (Only for 100hours lmao)

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    3. "Compare to some of the linear RPG, like witcher i played recently sure it was good and i like it but it took me maybe 10-15h to finish and it really has no replay value.

      I spent about 80 hours in my first playthrough of the first Witcher and later replayed it. Steam says I have 71 hours in The Witcher 2 between one-and-a-half playthroughs. How (or why) in the world did you beat the game in 15 hours? For someone who so strongly advocates the positive aspects of sandbox gameplay, it seems to me like you completely ignored those aspects of The Witcher games by just blitzing through the main questline. They may not be true sandbox games, but each chapter offers a lot of freedom to go off on your own exploring and completing sidequests, and if you only played either game for 15 hours then I seriously think you must have deprived yourself of the full game experience and have no grounds on which to compare them to Skyrim.

      As for no replay value, that's just absolutely wrong. I would argue that The Witcher games have way more replay value than Skyrim for the main fact that quests have different outcomes and can be completed differently, with truly branching questlines. In Skyrim every quest has the exact same straightforward, linear path to completion and will be the exact same on a second playthrough. The Witcher 2 features two completely different middle chapters depending on your choices in the first chapter, which will have you exploring completely different areas, doing completely different quests, and taking a completely different stance on the main questline. Even the various side-quests have different paths to completion with different rewards, allowing you to role-play Geralt a little differently each time and to see new content you missed in the previous playthrough.

      Furthermore, The Witcher games have more truly branching skill trees limiting what you can do in a single playthrough. In TW2, for example, the level cap is level 30 or something, meaning there are enough perk points to "master" one skill tree and lightly dabble in another. Granted there are only three skill trees, but that leaves you with 66% of the game's skills totally unused, which will be a completely new experience in a replay. In Skyrim it's easily possible to master any and every skill you could possibly want in a single playthrough, and then branch out into a hybrid class (if you want), after you've mastered all of your primary skills and want to keep leveling, learning and using essentially everything.

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    4. "As for no replay value, that's just absolutely wrong. I would argue that The Witcher games have way more replay value than Skyrim for the main fact that quests have different outcomes and can be completed differently, with truly branching questlines. In Skyrim every quest has the exact same straightforward, linear path to completion and will be the exact same on a second playthrough."

      These are two different designs. Witcher is strictly designed so, that you're supposed to play it more than once in order to experience all of the content (Rinse and repeat, hello?). Whereas Skyrim is designed so that you don't have to start over, but you might get a little extra if you do. For example by choosing that other, although usually short & merging, branch of a quest line. On the other hand, you're (supposed to be) able to just change play styles mid-game from warrior to mage for example, without starting over, thanks to the skill leveling system. (But you're somewhat screwed, because of the scaling NPC levels!).

      The sheer amount of content is so much, that if you do decide to start over at some point, you can easily take a completely different approach and do those quests that you haven't ever done before. And despite your claims, pretty much all of the quests have been scripted by hand, excluding those Thieves Guild repeatable "Heist" etc. jobs. Even the miscellaneous quests are unique, though the objective location is often randomized. I agree that the dungeons reuse too much of the content over and over again, but each one is still unique as a whole and usually contains some unique loot.

      I much more prefer the Elder Scrolls way, instead of having little to no freedom, running through a fixed story pipeline over and over again. Even Skyrim & Oblivion tutorials are a pain in the ass after the first time! And no, it's never a completely new experience in a replay, but if there's enough starting points (/ content) to choose from, you can make it as new as it can ever be. I don't remember much of Morrowind anymore, but I still remember the very (short) beginning.

      Nothing is perfect.

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    5. No matter how hard I try to nerf myself, the game is broken by level 15-20. On my latest run as a strict two handed warrior, no enchanting no alchemy and my smithing is only 50... I destroy everything in one hit since level 12. By level 18 I'm bored to tears and I've never gotten to complete dragonborn or even a quarter of the side quests out there. Turn it up to master you say? Done. Oh wait, everything still dies in 1-3 hits with my level 50 smithing and banded iron armour I found, and the only thing that's dangerous is magic users who now rape my lack of magic resistance because Bethesda's idea of difficulty is just multiply damage taken and damage done... Which necessitates alchemy or enchanting to make the requisite resistance gear (or get ABSURDLY lucky with random loot) which brings us full circle to the initial point of nerfing ourselves by skipping crafting in the first place to get out of Skyrim 'what we make of it.'

      Bollocks.

      Why am I paying a professional game designer if I'm going to do all the balancing myself via mods and self-imposed nerfs?

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  28. I have put over 900 hours in skyrim (yes I have a life, multiple, very interesting jobs from physical to programing, a girlfriend, all the requirements for a "man card") you make good points on the review. Obviously I disagree with you Nick but we are all entitled to out opinions. In that great amount of time in playing skyrim, I never felt more opposite of what you have written. Besides the dungeons comments because that shit gets old fast. Anyway, I'm glad that you at least got a little entertainment out of skyrim. Skyrim does not feel like a old RPG. It is a new one. It's the beginning of a new transition into new RPG style. People love it and Bethesda has a solid base of fans for the game. I know skyrim gives many other game developers inspiration to develop even better and newer RPGs.
    However because I am not one to argue about your own opinion, I will point out a few things I have ran into after playing it that long.
    If you want to start improving it with more mods, things become buggy very fast.
    If you try to do anything with the game other than just load in new content, example, change a lot of textures, things slow way down.
    Keep up your work. Maybe one day you'll find yourself playing skyrim again.

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  29. Just downloaded this obomination (yep for free((eat my ass) and im soooooo glad I didnt buy this. Im pissed I used up bandwidth for this crap, this game is Fallout3 with dragons- FAIL. Bethseda or whatever is now on my S list.

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  30. I am level 40 and bored beyond belief, and with these quests where I help an NPC achieve something, I help him fight a wolf, spider or anything and for some reason in the middle of my swing the NPC happens to get in the way and I hit him...next thing I know he's attacking me and because it's a quest HE WONT DIE & HE WONT STOP ATTACKING!! Or my follower's are helping me fight, and as I play rogue type character's I sneak all the time and when an enemy goes for my follower I sneak behind for a 15x dagger kill, and in the animation of slitting throat somehow I managed to grab my follower instead of the enemy when I was no where near my follower.

    I tried Oblivion and managed about 20hrs into that before boredom fell in. Dragon Age is so much better than this game in every aspect other than the open map, even DA2 with it's constant reuse of cave maps. Even in DA if you just walk around, you laugh because of how your followers are engaging each other. Like this post mentioned your decisions don't matter. I enjoyed it for a bit, now it's just like watching paint dry. I know the hardcore fans can't see fault and the next game in the series can even have less in it and they still defend it to death. When these fans say "you don't get it"...you are right I don't get playing a game for 300 hrs for only 30 minutes of action

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  31. Great review, agree with everything here. I've logged 200+ hours into this but after playing Mount and Blade recently I realized how much better it was than Skyrim. Like others I typed in 'Skyrim sucks' and landed here.

    Have you reviewed MB? Did a search but couldn't find it, would love to see your thoughts on that.

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  32. So basically what you are saying is that you played it for 130h, even though you dont like pretty much anything about the game...

    While i agree the game was released before it was completed, just taking a look at the code will say as much. For example the civil war was supposed to be dynamic story with much more to it that what was available. And alot of the code is just disabled. Same goes for many other features. Showing they had stuff planned but just decided to cut it short and release.

    The feature that i would have really liked to see was living economy.
    Economy in skyrim truly sucks as it does not exist..

    All in all Oblivion and Skyrim are both excellent time wasters and with all the mods for both you get even more gameplay hours out of both. I have probably put around 500h into oblivion and 200 into skyrim.


    AND now ask yourself dear OP how many SP games out there give you 100+ h gameplay.

    As i was writing i read more comments and SERIOUSLY WTF is wrong with you ppl..... You play this for 200h hours and then say it sucks! If a game sucks you dont play it longer than 1h for fck sake.
    Idiots.

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    1. The thing with Skyrim is that it's deceptive. Many of its problems aren't readily noticeable until you've spent a lot of time with it. You're not going to be able to tell that the game sucks within the first hour, or even within the first 10 hours. Meanwhile, the first ~30 hours are a genuinely good, even great experience. I was utterly fascinated with the game in the beginning and was absolutely ready and willing to sink more time into it.

      But that's the hook at the end of the fishing line: Skyrim draws you in with a strong intro and great promises, but then loses its ambition and starts going downhill, ultimately never delivering on those promises. The time lapse of my thought process playing Skyrim is as follows:

      1-40h: "This game is great, it feels so much better than Oblivion, and look at all this stuff I can do!"
      40-80h: "This game's merely "alright." A lot of the mechanics still feel shallow and unsatisfying, but it's not a bad experience, and I've already put this much time into it, so I may as well see it through to the end."
      80h+: "This game is actually disappointing. I'm getting utterly sick of this tedious, shallow, repetitive quest structure, and sick of this tedious, shallow, repetitive combat. It's time to install mods and/or plow through to the end."

      As I've said before, the fact that the first ~30 hours are so enjoyable is a great accomplishment, considering that so many games out there are only 10 hours long and only half as enjoyable. But beyond that, the game's problems start to reveal themselves, and in a game with easily over 100 hours of content, those problems become magnified and more unbearable the more you play.

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  33. Almost any of these problems can be fixed by A) carefully chosen mods or B) a better computer to handle more mods :)

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    1. Agreed. With various mods, I have something like 160+ hours invested and I still love coming back from time to time. It seems like my map is full of markers, but I am always finding new places! That was true even in the original release (without mods). I don't really agree with most of this review, especially the part about nothing existing between markers. More markers exist between markers because they don't display until you have come close to them.

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    2. I'm pretty sure that when he wrote this article, the author used "nothing" figuratively and not literally in that sentence – this is pretty apparent when you consider that there are obviously going to be random NPCs and caves throughout the map between markers. The point, however, is that there are no *worthwhile* things between markers; all you're going to find between marker A and marker B is the same cave you've already been to with random, under-leveled NPCs that drop loot 10 times worse than what you crafted 20 hours ago.

      Also, and this should be obvious also, but come on, the point of reviewing a game is to review the version that comes out of the box. If a reviewer was to be held to the kind of standard where it was necessary to sample every conceivable combination of mods, you would probably not see too many reviews. Now obviously, if you're talking about a very popular and important mod (like the redesigned button mapping), then it's a fair defense of what *the game could have been,* but it's irrelevant in terms of the scope of this article. Even so, and this is the part where I'm using only my opinion, Skyrim with mods still fucking sucks. Mods don't fix the story, mods don't fix the underwhelming combat, mods don't fix the terrible level up system, and mods certainly don't fix the complete lack of interaction between NPCs in different cities.

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    3. Mods would've been great, except that they are unorginized piles of trash in Skyrim. They don't really fix the game, and Bethesda should fix their own games and make their own DAMN DLC's/

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  34. this game just full of shit. simple as it! are games now broken as fuck? kill those motherfucking c*nts!

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  35. i really enjoyed skyrim and think it deserves all the praise :D

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    1. I can respect your opinion, but I think there are few to some mistakes within the game. The weapons don't really get broken and need repair, voice acting, script like writing or story, dull graphics, lagging, modding community, etc. I wouldn't consider it the best game after stop playing it after almost an hour and uninstalling it and returning it.

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    2. Game also gets less harder. Think about that too. Killing a wolf is just as easy as swatting dust particles in a sun beam.

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  36. i understand the logic behind this review (none) but still cant think of a game that is better than skyrim.

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    1. Trust me, there are loads of games that easily far better than Skyrim. Skyrim never lived up to its full potential and have had lots of problems.
      Should I list some? Or we? We shall wait when others reply to this comment. Thanks,

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    2. ex bro: Demon's Souls, Kingdoms of Amalur, Arkham Asylum, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Vindictus, Mount & Blade, Condemned, and Risen...

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    3. None of those games that u mentioned above can compare to Skyrim because Skyrim has it's problems but it also has an essence that none of those UTTERLY LINEAR games have. How can u compare Batman & Skyrim, just cuz they are both open world i don't think so. Combat in Batman games is also repetitive and same so i don't know wtf are everyone are bashing Skyrim's combat when in fighting aka juggling games "combat" is the same. Double standars too much?!

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  37. For me, the most ridiculously bad thing about Skyrim was the lifeless NPC:s. Dialogue options (where you answer to someone) also looked like they were written by some teenager.

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  38. As far as the vanilla game goes, this review is right on the money. Even with the DLC, while some of this has improved, it's still basically the same (there were a few companions added which actually had a pulse).

    I was never "into" the TES series. I started off with Oblivion and pretty much experienced what you stated, and exited out of the game after the introduction and just never played again.

    Skyrim was never really on my radar; I simply thought "this isn't my franchise". However, a few rantings about "open world" caught my attention, and because I was in a "sandboxy" mind frame after years of themepark walk-through-the-same-questlines, I thought it might be a nice change.

    And it was a change. In fact, the initial concepts of the game, the heart and soul, were amazing ideas. Open world, open class system, and just the sheer beauty of the visuals were amazing. How many games had snow blowing off the mountaintops? Or that you could look into a valley and see the moons setting? That actually had weather patterns?

    However, playing it was like screwing a supermodel's corpse. It was great to look at, but there wasn't much participation from the game. Nothing really mattered, quests could be put on hold indefinitely, no action really made a difference. It was shallow, as stated. Almost felt like an MMO, even though it was a single-player game that should have catered to the player's status changes.

    Now, having said that, I did give it a positive review on Steam for only one reason:

    The modding community gave it a heartbeat. Notice I didn't say "life".

    I think I played "vanilla" Skyrim all of about 45 minutes before hitting up sites like Nexus and several others. After finding mods like Interesting NPCs, Alternate Start, Civil War Overhaul, Deadly Dragons, Dragon Combat Overhaul, Populated [Insert Area Here], and the list goes on...

    It's actually a pretty decent game.

    I'd say Interesting NPCs and Alternate Start were the two major saviors. Adding over 100 voiced NPCs to the world (as well as followers who almost never said the same line twice) with thousands of lines of dialogue, that was what the game was missing initially. In fact, with the budget Bethesda had, I was asking myself "How the hell did they NOT do this to begin with?"

    After modding, the only thing that really stands out as "bleh" is the fetch quests or radiant stuff - and really nothing still matters about your actions in this world. Which, while disappointing, is made at least acceptable with mods.

    I know I will probably not play TESVI, unless Bethesda actively works to change this - not until it's on sale for $20 (which I am glad this is what I paid for TESV).

    The saddest part about this is that I've actually written more dynamic quests for a persistent world in Neverwinter Nights, released in 2002. Which is pretty frightening, because that was pro-bono work over a decade before, with tools far crappier than the engine in use in Skyrim.

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  39. Read every word. Great article and I agree completely. I too googled "Skyrim sucks" hoping to find fellow complainers of boredom and disappointment.

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  40. Yeah, Skyrim is crap. So shallow. Poor fighting, tanky controls, poor graphics, broken quests, bugs, and the enemies leveling together with you basically make it redundant to level up. You lose the joy of an RPG where you can level up and be stronger than your enemies cause your enemies will always be exactly as strong as you. Just a retarded way to make a game.

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  41. I'm 15 now, and its been a while since I played Skyrim, but I played it when it came out when I was just 13 years old. The only other major game I had played was any Nintendo game, and Minecraft. This game brought me 350 hours of gameplay WITHOUT MODS. I guess since I was young I had kind of low expectations, and for no reason I avoided playing with mods. But, I will download some mods one day, and when I mean some I mean like 40+.

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  42. How does a game that is so blatantly mediocre gets such praise from the critics? In a sane world this game would be 6/10 at best... It's bland, repetitive, way too easy, there's just nothing about this game that stands out or that is new except for the large world, but what good is a large world when there's nothing to explore in it, just pure repetition on everything you do in the game. Bethesda for me became the definition of mediocrity, absolutely no imagination or ingenuity just copy and paste design for their games. If you wanna play real rpg's try first two Gothic games or Planescape Torment for instance just to get a taste of what RPG in a game stands for.Skyrim isn't an rpg far from it.Awesome review sir!

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  43. The only thing bad about this review is that it does not continue 50 pages more.

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  44. I don't disagree with this review. Out of the box, Skyrim is one of the most boring, tedious games I've ever played.

    Then I found mods, and am still playing Skyrim as a result.

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    Replies
    1. But mods don't resolve the core problems of the game, well pointed in this review. There are mods for textures, environment, weapons, magic, SkyUI, etc. but at the end is still the same: Instead of a shit you have a shiny beautiful shit.

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  45. I hate Skyrim because I can't marry Jarl Balgruuf and then become the world's meanest stepmother to his brat kids.

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  46. If only I read this review before purchasing the game a while back...

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  47. I disagree very much so with the
    In Skyrim, all of that crap is gone. No assigning major/minor skills or picking starsigns, you just get into the meat of the game and level your skills as you play. On each level-up, you choose to increase your health, stamina, or magicka, and you get one perk point to use in a skill tree. You can pick and change your starsign at any time by visiting a guardian stone, making this a truly "open" class system. This new system provides much-needed freedom that lets you just enjoy the game without getting hung up on the preliminary decisions or worrying about which skill is going to level-up next, and the perk trees offer new ways to customize your character as you play.

    Those things which they removed, made it LESS of an RPG and more of an adventure game. They removed RPG elements, in an RPG. My biggest problem with the game, is the RPG aspects as they are non existent.

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    1. I totally agree with you -- the complete removal of stats and things is a prime example of why Scrim is such a shallow, mediocre RPG. However, I always thought the stats, character creation, and leveling system of Morrowind/Oblivion was fundamentally flawed. Ideally, they should have kept the stats and leveling system and improved/refined them, but I think I would gladly take NO stats and a more "open," progressive class system then the broken mess that was Morrowind/Oblivion.

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  48. I agree with everything in this review...although I would go so far as to say that Skyrim isn't even an RPG proper. Since nearly everything in the world scales to your level (it's not as bad as in Oblivion, but it's still nigh-omnipresent), character progression becomes largely meaningless. In fact, the game goes out of its way to ignore whatever character you've creator in favour of simply offering the same experience to everyone.

    For instance, you can easily join the Mages' Guild and rise through the ranks to the very top despite having little to no spellcasting capabilities. A thuggish orc with no sense of stealth or subtlety can likewise just as easily rise through the Thieves' Guild. Since the concept of the role is central to the RPG genre, and since Skyrim tries so hard to ignore whatever role you decide to play, I cannot in good sense call it in an RPG.

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  49. Great Review mate.
    I have player over 800 hours of Skyrim (i know... im retarded) and every time i step away... it lure me in again for its "potential".

    The truth is: there is not many rpg games around anymore, and people see Skyrim comparing with the new ones.

    Games like Fallout 2 (as you estated), and even Final Fantasy Tacics have great storylines that hammer skyrim to ashes.. heck.. even Bards Tale is amazing.

    Great review once more, i hope it helps me drop this trash once for all

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    1. U're not retarded u're just pathetic & weak internet suck-up. Branding urself as such just cuz u still enjoy very flawed game is so cringeworthy!

      ROFL at crappy final fantasy franchise i take a shit on that anime crap!!!

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  50. Never played the game that felt so...soulless, is that the right word for it? Like it's "civil war"...instead of having two very different, engaging stories on each side, one emphasizing freedom and independence while the other focusing on loyalty or unity, you end up with exactly the same hack&slash of soldiers only in different uniforms. Everything in this game...characters, dialogue, quests, environments...feels copy pasted over another, only appearing different on the surface.
    It pains me when I see devs like Obsidian struggling who, like it or not, always try to create something new, different or original while something this bland and without character in praised to no end.

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  51. This review is dead on %100 correct. I put a grand total of 343 hours into this game. So, I feel my opinion is, at the very least, credible. Unfortunately, I really can't think of anything to add here of technical value that hasn't already been said in the above article or in the comments section below. However, I'll leave you all with what I see to be a fitting metaphor: Skyrim is like a bad marriage to a really hot wife. She looks good - I mean 'really' good. However, she doesn't have her own mind. She is superficial to the point of being intolerable. She can't cook. She can't clean. She can't hold down a job. She's a terrible mother. She unjustifiably disrespects you. She cheats on you, and she regularly engages in other 'questionable' behavior... But at the end of the say, she still looks good... Any sane man or woman married to this girl would have no choice but to divorce this monstrosity of a spouse. I think the same thing can and should be said about Skyrim. Good day! :-)

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  52. ^^^^^... 100%. Sorry, I sometimes randomly suffer from typing dyslexia. :P

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  53. It's funny to see negative reviews on a 4 year old game from people who put in more than 60 hours into the game. The game is still popular to this day(read the post date) and people are just trying to be controversial to get popular. Well good luck with that. There are still a thousand downloaders on torrent sites and Steam is just went thru the whole Mods for Sale issue. Clearly the reviewer did his,her or their homework, still laughing at the attempt. Oh yeah Legendary is still 20 bucks where Tomb Raiders is 5 bucks. And I love Tomb Raiders, all of them even Chronicles. So screwing with Skyrim just means it's still a good enough game someone is trying to ride the popularity. Laughable.

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    1. Listen u old geezer, Skyrim is far far far from a good game. Skyrim has "IT" factor & essence but it was executed very very poorly. The more i play it to this day the more & more i see the flaws.

      Oh & i bet that u adore the new trashy "Lara Croft" who's such a phoony, fake & whining teenage bimbo compared to real Lara Croft [1996-2008]. Same goes for those new TR shitty games - from 2013 unnessecary reboot onwards.

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  54. i found your blog researching system shock 2. haven't played it yet...

    skyrim is okay if you never do any quests. you can just wander and explore for the sake of it. you never actually need or have any reason to speak to any of the other characters. except for the guy that takes you to other towns.
    yet most of this game revolves around wading through boring text. also sitting through frequent load screens. eehhhhhh
    i think hell is some iteration of skyrim dialog.

    this is how i still play fallout 3. i just keep exploring the wastes with my hunting rifle.

    it's a disappointing truth that so many people refuse to accept the flaws in the things they love. many great things have flaws. many great people have flaws. but ignoring flaws is settling for mediocrity. we can admit imperfection and still enjoy a thing. things can always be better, and we shouldn't be berated for pointing that out. why not expect the best from that which we love? but this is how people live...
    of course, why should bethesda bother to make a better game if people are going to buy it either way? all that matters today is that a thing is easy to consume.

    okay, okay, i'm going to try to play ss2.

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  55. No matter who wrote this entire article just to tell the world (s)he didn't like one of the best games ever made. This girl or guy should never touch a game again.
    Skyrim is used to compare other new games, because Skyrim is one of the best (if not THE best) RPG's ever made

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    1. Yeah, just keep on sucking that BUGthesda's dick u ain't for the better or perhaps u're somebody who works in their company? Either way u're just an ignorant idiot!

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  56. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  57. Skyrim is a 50/50 game, take it or leave it.

    Meaning it's both Good/Bad.

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