Skyrim is a fantastic game in many ways. Its ability to tell a story is not one of them. For how good the game is, this fundamental flaw is baffling. Whether it is guild quests that begin and end abruptly or, as we’ll look at in this post, the useless main quest. I’m going to be comparing Skyrim to a game of a similar sort: Fallout: New Vegas. There may be minor spoilers, but I’m not going to be really talking about many specifics. Both games are open world RPGs, only one of them has charm and a good main story. The question in my head is: why didn’t Bethesda look at Obsidian’s great efforts, or hell, why didn’t Bethesda spend more than five minutes writing their main story?
|You are the Dragonborn! Nothing interesting happens to you!|
Fallout was revived in 2008 by Bethesda after a ten year absence from the gaming world. They were a bit lazy basically used the engine for Oblivion to make the game. This led to idiots on the internet referring to Fallout 3 as “Oblivion with guns”. Bethesda outsourced the development of the next Fallout game to Obsidian. These people are the ones that made Fallout: New Vegas. Both companies are known for buggy games, but really, Obsidian far more so. In fact, the only major complaint, and its pretty major, for New Vegas was that the game was unbearably buggy, crashing repeatedly and causing slowdown. This year, Bethesda’s Skyrim is getting similar complaints. Truthfully, as clicheed (still using ancient computer, so no accent for you) as it sounds, the problem is with the nature of the game. These games are too big to not have bugs (even if New Vegas’ were quite a bit more than “industry standard”)
|Not only do you have to save the Deputy from convicts, but from poltergeists too!|
For all of its bugs and mistakes, New Vegas tells a much better story than Skryim. More importantly it tells it better. You see Skyrim, starts off with a bang. Theres a failed execution, a dragon attack and a brewing civil war. Thats a pretty decent setup. I can see a lot that Bethesda could do with the civil war, while tying it to dragons. Unfortunately these plot points do not ever meet in any meaningful way. After the first quest you are declared the Dragonborn, and thats pretty much the only twist in the narrative, which is not only revealed early on, but every promotion tells you straight out about it. The rest of the main quest is a rather boring and short stroll though escort quests, fetch quests, and dragon battles. The final area of the game is supposed to be awe-inspiring, but all they really did was change the colour of the sky, so it too was rather boring and mundane.
|This is fun to fight, the first twenty times|
The biggest problem with the main quest is the pacing. There is none. You flip between random objectives with equally faceless and unimportant characters until you get to the climax and start wondering if that’s all they’re going to do. There’s a story to be told, but Bethesda muddles their way through it so badly, I have to wonder why I should even care. The dungeon design in Skyrim is so good, that its more fun to go into a random dungeon than it is to follow the main quest. That shouldn’t be. Fallout: New Vegas, for all of its bugs, knew how to set up a story.
|This computer screen-man is more memorable than every character in Skyrim combined|
The set up for New Vegas’ story is simple: you’ve been left for dead and you have to track down the man who betrayed you. Its basic stuff really, but its told well. Firstly at the very beginning of the game you start out at a small frontier town, but from the cemetary, you can see the bright lights and towers of New Vegas proper. Of course you can’t get there as the immediate route is blocked by the strongest type of creature in the game. That leads you following the highway down and around the lower part of the map. You find more about the person who betrayed you and more about the world at large as you travel that road, until you finally set foot in New Vegas. At that point, your character finds themselves central in a battle for control of the Hoover Dam and your character can swing the final battle in four different ways depending on your relations and dealings with the various major factions. The revenge story evolves once you get to New Vegas. As you’ve been travelling that road, you’ve been getting a stake in what happens to the Mojave so that by the time you get to the eponymous city, revenge isn’t the primary factor on your mind.
|You’ll still get to kill this bastard…or sleep with him, you sicko|
I don’t think that you can make a proper story with a mute character. However, the amount of choice and, more importantly, consequence in New Vegas comes close to making it work. In Skyrim, you can never make a choice that effects anything whatsoever. The civil war mentioned earlier can be finished in a couple of quests, and has no effect on Skyrim aside from a few brief NPC interactions. There is not a single memorable character in Skyrim. Not one. Conversely there are dozens in New Vegas. From all of your companions, to the faction leaders, New Vegas is full of interesting personalities and these personalities go a long way in terms of making me care about the world. Skyrim is a great game, but I don’t care at all about the world or its inhabitants, and it is Bethesda’s fault. They should have looked at what Obsidian did with New Vegas.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer