Skyrim: A New Review For A New Year

 

   After putting 170+ hours into Skyrim, I have to admit that I am overall disappointed. The game seemed to have a lot going for it at first, but I feel that Bethesda may have gone too grand with its ideas and it led to somewhat of a boring experience. In other words, less could have been a whole lot more. I know a lot of you will be reading this and thinking “What is he talking about?! This game is awesome!”  Allow me to explain.

Infinite Quests

     First off, the idea of infinite quests must have looked good on paper, but it’s implementation in the game is rather dull and pointless. The best part about it is if you’re in the mood to collect dragon souls, then you’re in luck! You can return to areas and kill dragons over and over as they become readily available as marks for quests given to you by the stewards. Of course, there is not exactly a shortage of dragons to begin with, but we will get to that later.

The repetitive quests of go kill this dragon here, now go kill this guy there, now go kill this dragon here again quickly becomes monotonous. And the quests always seem to take place in the same hold you received them in and in many cases the quest is in a place you’ve probably already explored. Exciting right? Anyways, I think they could have had limited quests and still had plenty to do in the game. Instead of infinite repetitive small quests, there could have been fewer quests that were larger and took longer to complete. I think 20 or so quests per larger city would have been plenty to keep gamers busy for quite awhile.

Dragons

     Now, onto the aforementioned dragons. As I said before, there is not a shortage of dragons in the game. If anything, there are actually too many. I’ve literally found myself battling 2 dragons at once and coming out the victor just to make it to a town 2 minutes later and have to battle another one. I like the idea of having dragons in the game, but when they literally just appear out of nowhere at a rate that seems like every few minutes, it gets rather annoying. Besides, how many dragons can there be? Hundreds? Thousands? Maybe there should’ve been only as many dragons as souls needed to learn all the dragon shouts. I believe that would’ve been approximately 44 dragons total. Each battle could have been of varying difficulty and maybe certain dragons could be weak against specific shouts. You know, so that using the shouts was a must in order to defeat the dragons. As it stands, all you have to do is shoot them with arrows or spells, wait for them to land, and then beat the ever living steaming pile of soul out of them. Not very epic. In fact, I’ve yet to have an “epic” battle with any of the dragons I’ve fought. Difficult? Yes. Epic? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong though. I have had epic battles in the land of Skyrim, just not with dragons.

Major Questlines

     The next thing I am going to tackle are the major questlines. Why are they so short and easy?  I finished the Companions and College of Winterhold questlines in one sitting. A total of 16 quests together. If you combine the Fighter’s Guild and Mage’s Guild quests in Oblivion there are 36 quests. 38 if you count becoming Archmage and Guildmaster. And some of the quests took a decent amount of time to complete. According to a friend of mine, he said that the Thieve’s Guild questline in Skyrim is also very short. I don’t know from personal experience, though, as I have yet to complete that questline. The point is they are way too short.

Even the main civil war questline suffers from a lack of depth. I chose the side of the Stormcloaks, and I must say that the story felt very rushed and uninteresting. The dialogue dragged out, and the battles in between were very short and uneventful. My Nord didn’t even require a bandaid after any of the battles. In fact, the battles were so weak that the fighting literally lasted anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute each time. Not much of a war huh? Taking over Solitude was as easy as walking up to the gates and saying “Let me in!” and a guard on the other side would reply “OK, but you have to pretend to fight us before running passed us to go murder our general.” At least that’s how the battle seemed to play out. Oh well.

Cooking, Wood Chopping, and Marriage

     Next on the docket is the addition of meaningless activities. The ones I’m specifically referring to (if you haven’t guessed by the subtitle) are cooking, wood chopping, and marriage. Why are these even in the game? None of it serves a purpose and overall there are no really good benefits for doing any of them. Let’s break it down a bit more shall we?

Cooking. You can mix food items and ingredients to create what are essentially home prepared meals. The problem is there is no point to ever eat any food in the game anyways. Your character never gets hungry and never suffers any type of penalty for not eating. Also, the majority of prepared foods contain such a small boosting effect that they aren’t noticeable. The only dish worth making is the Elsweyr Fondue. It boosts your Magicka regeneration by 25% and also gives your character a 100 point increase to their Magicka. Both effects last 720 seconds. I can see that coming in handy for spell casters as it does give them a little extra edge for battles. Now, with the exception of that one dish, food mostly serves as decorative items strewn about tables and shelves. Nothing more.

Wood chopping. This could have been a very cool addition to the game if all the wood in the game wasn’t chopped up for one purpose. Firewood. Tons and tons of firewood. I understand it’s cold in Skyrim, but damn. The firewood doesn’t even seem to get used. It’s just piled up outside people’s houses. Some of that wood could have went toward building me a new house or even furniture for my new house. Anyways, the purpose behind chopping up wood for firewood is to make money doing it. The problem is it is a very time consuming and the pay is crap. Not to mention that each piece of firewood weighs 5 lbs, so be prepared to be overburdened quickly.  So I say skip this activity altogether. Well, do it at least once so you can snag the ‘Hard Worker’ Achievement/Trophy.

Marriage. Really? This is starting to sound like a Medieval Fantasy RPG Sims game isn’t it? Only difference is in the Sims there is a purpose to a lot of the things you do. Such as eating food to survive! Anyways, having a spouse in Skyrim gives you some added bonuses, but they aren’t very big ones. I believe you get a little bit better rested bonus if you sleep near your spouse, but I have yet to see this since my character has been a werewolf since practically the beginning of the game (my choice), and I am unable to receive any resting bonus because of it. Your spouse will also open a store and they will give you your half of the money from the sales they make. Of course, if you are hoping to receive a random large amount of money, be prepared to be disappointed. You will receive a predetermined amount per day. I think it’s anywhere from 100-200 septims depending on the spouse. So, if you want to receive large amounts of money then don’t ask your spouse if the store has made any money until a month or two has passed.  Not exactly a get rich quick store huh? I think the amounts should have varied. Maybe one day you receive 200 septims and another you receive 1000 septims. How is it they sell the exact same amount worth of stuff every day? Damn economy. Also your spouse will charge you the same as they charge anyone else. Where’s my spousal discount? I mean, it is “our” store right? So overall, a spouse really doesn’t add bonuses that are worth it. Oh, and if you want to get a divorce you have to do it King Henry VIII style. You know, have your spouse executed! And finally my last gripe with the whole marriage thing is that the marriageable list is too small. There should have been a lot more choices.

Favorites Menu

     Now let me start off by saying that the overall menu set up is nice on console, but I can tell it was made specifically for console as the set up does not seem very PC friendly. The only problem is the favorites menu. I don’t understand what they were thinking when they made it. I realize they took their cue from Apple on the menu set up, but the favorites menu is seriously lacking in ingenuity. Depending on how many things you favorite throughout the game, you could find yourself sifting through a long list of favorites just to find one thing. So basically it ends up looking like an “ALL” category. All that I believe was needed to make this menu work effectively was categories with drop down lists. That way you could select let’s say the weapon category and bam! there are all your favorite weapons in one spot. Another feature that could have been added is the ability to skip to a specific category via a cycle button, rather than have to scroll through the opened lists. Just tap a button and the next category is selected. Currently the set up is more or less like someone stuffing all their favorite toys into one box and when it comes time to play with a specific one, they still have to dig through the rest to find the one they want. Not a great set up.

Bugs And Other Problems

     The last thing I want to discuss are the problems people have experienced while playing the game. Obviously I can’t cover all of them, but I will mention some of the bigger ones and a couple smaller ones to give a wide range. First, if you own a PS3 and bought this game, I’m sorry. There is probably a good chance you experienced the lag that rendered the game unplayable. They say this is due to how the game saves data and the memory restrictiveness of the PS3. So basically it sucks (not the PS3, the game). And if you are playing it on Xbox 360 and installed it to your HDD then there’s a chance you got to see hideous textures that weren’t scaling correctly. Problem is, I know it wasn’t just people who installed the game that got to see ugly textures. I personally saw some dragons that looked like giant grey bed sheets floating about on the wind. That’s right. They had screwy textures and I had not installed the game. I think that installing the game just made the problem present itself more frequently.

The latter of those two problems have been fixed. I think. But as far as I know, the former is still being experienced by some PS3 owners. Now, the other thing that this game has had plenty of, is bugs. I’m not talking flying mammoths and items falling through the earth. I’m talking bugs that suck the life out of the experience of the game. For example, when I tried to buy the house in Markarth, I didn’t have enough money at first and decided to come back later. Later came and guess what. The steward no longer offered it to me. I guess it was a one time deal. I was only able to purchase the house after there was a regime change to the region. And what’s with the display cases, mannequins, and wall plaques working when they feel like it? A friend of mine can’t use any of the wall plaques or display cases in his house in Windhelm. They work fine on my game though, with the exception of the dagger display cases that eat any dagger I place inside them. Overall, the display stuff is broken. So my question to Bethesda is this: “What the hell Bethesda?!”  I realize that it is impossible to find all the problems in a game of this size, but it really seems like they didn’t try all that hard either.

 Overall Impression

     I think the biggest problem with this game was the fact that it had a definitive release date of 11-11-11. A more likely date would have been 12-12-12 or at least somewhere in between. I think that would have given them plenty of time to sink hundreds of hours of gameplay into their own game. In turn, I am certain they would have found and stamped out a lot of the issues the game has before it was released. As it stands though, everyone who bought the game is basically beta testing it and finding many problems that should have never made it to release date.

Skyrim showed promise, but failed to deliver in some major areas. Gameplay loses its fun factor very quickly and you find yourself wanting more. There is plenty of content in the game, but since there is no intrigue surrounding the majority of it, you end up feeling disinterested. I wanted this game to blow me away, but instead it just wowed me with its simplistic wonder. The game, however, does have its strong points. Some of the voice acting is good. The graphics are beautiful. A more interesting spellcasting system (even if they did take their cue again from elsewhere). Better physics (thanks to Havok). And of course, the perk trees are nice. These are just a few things that shine in the game. Are they enough to make the game playable over and over again? I will let you decide that for yourselves. As for me, I would only replay the game to mess around. I probably wouldn’t try to complete everything in it again.

Skyrim Overall Rating: C-

 

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About Tony

I work as a Pharmacy Technician at a local hospital and when I'm not taking care of Pyxis Med station problems and refilling department orders for stocked meds, I am at home playing games and enjoying life. I also write poetry and play guitar. But, like gaming, they are also hobbies.