In celebration of the Xbox release of Skyrim’s Dawnguard DLC, I thought I would tear into the game a bit. While this post will be very negative, it is important to remember that I actually quite enjoy Skyrim. I’ve played through it multiple times and have obtained a Platinum trophy on the PS3 for it. Nevertheless, there are many ways in which this game came up short, and I think it will be more entertaining to post about that then to explain the mundane things that Skyrim improved upon. For the five people in the world who don’t know what Skyrim is, it is the latest game in the Elder Scrolls series. It is an open world WRPG (Western RPG), whose main purpose is to suck countless hours of your life. The Elder Scrolls series was a PC series until it became multiplatform with the previous game, Oblivion. Because of that, many PC gamers criticize Skyrim as dumbing down the game for consoles. Other gamers heavily criticize the fact that it was released with, and continues to have bugs. Neither of these points will be addressed here because the first is a non-issue and the second is par for the course for every open world RPG of this scope and people need to suck it up.
|Seriously people. Learn to deal with bugs or stop gaming|
6 – Vampires and Werewolves
Lets start with something that Dawnguard will be improving upon. Vampires and Werewolves were horrible in vanilla (No DLC/Mods) Skyrim. Werewolves were extremely easy to unlock as part of one of the main questlines in the game, and there was nothing to them. Weak attacks and weak abilities made me wonder why anyone would willingly use the power. Sure it fits roleplayers nicely, but why couldn’t the Werewolf power have been a short-lived major damage boost power. As it stands, it is completely useless after the early game, which is not cool for everyone clamouring to be a Werewolf. Vampires are worse, however. Vampires have a much bigger tradition in the Elder Scrolls, and they all have one thing in common: being a Vampire makes you stronger than any character could be, in exchange for some major downsides like sun vulnerability or being hated by people. Skyrim minimized both the disadvantages (Not taking damage in the sun), but also greatly reduced the advantages. Where before being a Vampire meant being all-powerful, now I wonder why anyone other than roleplayers would handicap themselves so much. The only advantage worth mentioning for Vampires would be in connection with the Necromage perk, but that still isn’t enough. It is confusing why Bethesda would include Vampires and Werewolves if they weren’t going to bother making them useful. Fortunately, Bethesda noticed they dropped the ball here and Dawnguard addresses some of these issues.
|Glowing eyes eases the pain, but I have to wait with all the other PS3/PC users|
5 – The Civil War
Your character is introduced to the Civil War at the very beginning of Skryim, meeting both leaders at the execution grounds and hearing about the split in Skyrim. So why is it that the Civil War has no importance whatsoever in the game? Truly this is the biggest missed opportunity of the game. Real political agendas on the backdrop of crushing brother on sister Civil War could have been a wonderful stage for the game to be set against, and one that would have been far more engaging then “Oh my God! Dragons!” Even with the Dragon plot in the game, brining Skyrim out of Civil War to fight a common threat would have been wonderful. Instead we have one paltry ceasefire treaty in the main story, and one Civil War questline, where your character can end the Civil War in about an hour if you want. The characters on both sides are boring and two dimensional. The Stormcloaks are all racist idiots yelling for free Skyrim without any context of what that would mean in the greater world, and the Imperials… actually, the Imperials don’t say much unless its about killing Stormcloaks. A Civil War is a major event, and Bethesda shouldn’t have even included it if they were going to half-ass it this badly.
|Remember this guy? Me either, but apparently, he is supposed to be one of the biggest forces in Skyrim.|
4 – The Dragons
This point is twofold. Firstly there is Dragon combat. Fighting Dragons is really fun, at first, but all Dragons follow the exact same pattern, whether they are a basic Dragon or one of the more advanced ones. In the end, when you can kill one Dragon, you can probably easily put down any number of them. While a circling opponent eventually coming down for the kill is fun as a cinematic boss fight, it becomes boring and tedious the more Dragons you fight, and Dragons simply become one of the more boring aspects of Skyrim. The second complaint is with the Dragon-centric story. In short, the main questline is absolutely trash. There is nothing redeeming about it. Bringing in the Blades as “Dragonslayers” seemed like a nice touch, but it never went anywhere. Alduin was never a threat even though you were told he was constantly. You witnessed the Dragon’s fury at the beginning of the game, but never again, and he always seemed to show up when you needed him. Infiltrating the Thalmor Embassy was the highlight of the story as the Thalmor were actually interesting as antagonists. I never once felt that Dragons were a threat to Skyrim in the main story, but I always thought that Bethesda was going to go somewhere with the Thalmor. The utter cheese of going to Sovngarde (Valhalla) at the end was absolutely ridiculous and anticlimactic. Basing the entire game around Dragons was a mistake. Keeping your character as the Dragonborn, having some Dragons in the game, but not as the central antagonists would have been far more interesting.
|Aurora Borealis doesn’t distract from the terrible last boss|
3 – The Guilds
Every Elder Scrolls game has its set of guilds. Fighters Guild (Companions), Mages Guild (College), Thieves Guild, and Dark Brotherhood are staple factions in the series, so why are they so poorly done? The Dark Brotherhood is always the standout, but this time, the questline seemed so artificial, so obviously trying to one-up Oblivion. The Thieves Guild questline quickly became about three characters that I doubt you could pick out of a lineup of four. Same boring fantasy revenge story, but without any engaging lead to bring it forward. The Companions was the most interesting and it offered a nice beginning and end, but there was quite a bit of filler in the middle. Nevertheless, it was the most well done. Then there is the College questline. This had so much potential as you start out as a pupil and actually learn magic. Unfortunately, you quickly drop the student role and within an hour you will become a “chose one” and then take up the mantle of Archmage because why the hell not. The pacing in these questlines are ridiculous. You always have to reach the top at the end, I know, but why couldn’t they get you to put more than an afternoon’s worth of effort for it. The titles are meaningless when so little work has to be put in for them, and more-so because the questlines leading to them are tripe.
|I’ve been here two days, Mr. Archmage. I would say I’m overqualified for your job.|
2 – Balance
I know what you’re thinking, internet, “why would you complain about balance in a singleplayer game?” The answer to this is simple: there are multiple ways to play through the game and one way is clearly better than the others. One of the great things about the Elder Scrolls games is that you can really develop your character anyway you want. Sure the game is always easy to break with things like 100% chameleon and the like, but no matter what build you play as, you have equal opportunity to totally “own” in the game. This is not true with Skyrim. The problem lays with mages. Destruction magic is totally useless at the end game. There is an enchantment that allows you to cast Destruction magic at a reduced cost and you can stack this to make all spells free. This should be game-breaking the same way that max Smithing is, but it really isn’t. The only way that Destruction magic can even begin to compete in the end game is with this enchantment, and Warriors can make use of it just as good if not better than mages as they haven’t wasted all of their points in Magicka beforehand. One swipe of my sword at the end game can fell a Dragon, but it takes dozens of fireballs to even make a dent. How was this not tested? Why were mages made so inferior to melee classes?
|Get ready to cast this 30 times to kill a weak enemy|
1 – The Characters
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Skyrim doesn’t have a single memorable character in the whole game. The boring mad jester stereotype Cicero and the barely-present Paarthurnax would be the closest things to standout characters and they are terrible. I suppose the Daedric Princes are as good as ever, but they don’t count as they are ancillary and from previous games so no development is needed. Every companion you can bring on quests is totally devoid of a personality, but at least you can marry all of these faceless warriors! However, the real problem lies with the main characters of quests. Not a single one of them is worth remembering their name, and they are so generically created that I would never remember what they look like. Of course your character is a non-entity, but why does the rest of the world have to be as well? I cannot believe Skyrim got through development without a single employee questioning the fact they, while they have tons of characters, not one is going to be memorable. This would be excusable is other open world RPGs didn’t already fix this problem. Other Elder Scrolls games suffered from this, but at least Martin Septim and the members of the Tribunal were interesting characters. Fallout: New Vegas come out before Skyrim and it is loaded with excellent, memorable characters. Why couldn’t Skyrim restrict the amount of followers, but make each one completely unique with his or her own questline and related perks? Why aren’t the faction leaders huge and memorable characters like New Vegas’ Mr. House or Caesar? Why is the writing in Skyrim in general so damn poor? These are questions I don’t think we’ll be given an answer to any time soon.
|When your most unique character is a shameless, poorly done Kefka/Joke ripoff, you are in trouble|
As you may have noticed in this list, I don’t think that Bethesda knows how to write for a game. They are capable of giving the players huge, amazingly intricate worlds, but they can’t write a single interesting character or quest. The same was true with Fallout 3, which similarly lacked any interesting character or quest, but offered an amazing world. Werewolves and Vampires are great, and I’m glad they are expanding on them, and maybe one day they will address the balance problems instead of wasting their time with horse combat, but the writing is forever. You can’t fix Skyrim’s poor writing and I really hope Bethesda isn’t helming the next Fallout game, or it could end tragically.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer