Let’s talk about Skyrim!

At the time of writing this, Skyrim is the most popular single player RPG on the planet and there is good reason for this. But while the rest of the blogging hive mind will only sing it’s praises, in this post I want to discuss the good and the bad elements of this game.

Let’s start with the good:

  • The game doesn’t hold your hand, unlike a lot of the so-called RPG’s that have hit the scene lately such as The Witcher 2, which ended up being an RPG on rails, Skyrim is much more open ended and there are a lot of things you need to figure out on your own without a help overlay. Skyrim has deep roots which go back to the fun days of gaming.
  • Skyrim’s game glitches are awesome. What am I talking about? Let’s say you’re facing a powerful enemy in raw combat. Sometimes it is impossible to brute force your way to a kill. It is often easier to find a glitch such as getting your enemy stuck behind a rock, while you stand at a distance sending regular balls of fire his way. Glitches are not bugs, and good glitches make good games even better. Another unrelated example of this is Minecraft booster tracks – awesome glitchy dynamics left in the game which adds to the experience.
  • There is a lot of loot you can pick up and a lot you can do in the game. Sometimes I feel like there is just too much to do. If you’re hell bent on completing all the quests and exploring the whole game, and leveling all your skills, you better be in for the long haul.
  • Combat isn’t too difficult, but at times you find yourself in epic battles that require your full concentration. Those are the moments that imo are the most enjoyable in Skyrim.
  • The excitement of finding new places to explore – caves especially, you can be sure it’s full of loot and you’re likely to encounter a boss at the end with some good gear.
  • Alchemy: Really awesome that you can try and combine any ingredients for an effect, I think this is the first RPG to do this?
  • Smithing – I know I don’t really need to learn how to craft dragon armor. I’ve already finished the main quest, and I can handle most enemies that come my way. But for some reason I’m hooked on levelling my smithing – to get it to 100 is an epic challenge, another example of good game design.
  • The unknown, been playing Skyrim for a while now and still finding out new stuff. There is still a considerable amount I do not yet know. An example is – how to turn pelts into leather. Just yesterday I found a grind stone. I’m pretty sure I don’t have every shout. I’m also wondering where Lydia went, who I seemed to have lost about a week ago. I’m starting to hear rumors you can get married, but I wouldn’t even know where to start. Pretty exciting all in all.
  • The fast travel. Fallout 3 was the first RPG I played with fast travel, and it was awesome but it meant the main quest line gets finished quicker. In Fallout 3, you can pretty much put the game down once you’ve done the main quest. In Skyrim the main quest line is a side show, there is MUCH more to the game than the main quest line. Point is the fast travel doesn’t kill the game.
  • The voice acting is top notch. Pretty much the best voice acting I’ve ever heard in a game. There is so much voice content too.
  • The graphics aren’t bad either and the water looks pretty amazing.
  • The whole game feels good and well polished.

The bad:

  • Lack of character immersion – for example there is one vendor I try visit at least once a day in Skyrim time. Everytime I visit this vendor its the same old dialog – “What have you got for sale” , “Swords, Armor! Don’t forget to check the shop inside!” You would think she would say “Welcome back” or “Heh buddy good to see you again”. This type of character interaction breaks the game immersion, you realise you’re playing “Just another RPG computer game”.  -> What should future games do to improve this? Include much more realistic character relationship development.
  • This is a big one – the inventory management. It is super slim and a flat list. Would be good to have a real RPG inventory with drag and dropping of items and a view of what you are wearing. All Bethesda games follow the tradition of having this overly simplified inventory, but I must admit there are more classier ways to pull this off.
  • I’ll make a small mention of bugs. I didn’t find any bug I couldn’t get around. I used Google and found solutions. Bugs didn’t subtract much from my enjoyment of Skyrim.
  • Some robes take up the head slot too. I found this pretty cheeky, decided to sell that item right away.
  • Some people will tell you there is a lack of things to do with gold – clearly they’re not leveling smithing!
  • Inability to become a tycoon or manage your own outfit and have people work for you.
  • The dynamics of selecting spells. Really annoying not to have hot keys which assign differant spell sets or for that matter item sets. There is a favorites menu, but that hardly helps much.
  • For the likes of me, I couldn’t understand the benefit of doubling up a restoration spell. If you’ve got both hands healing, how exactly are you supposed to fight? On the subject, if you’ve got both hands bound to the same destruction spell, how are you supposed to heal?
  • Given all the cool spells and leveling abilities of mages I have no motivation to roll or play a warrior type character. I don’t think I will. This really isn’t a game flaw or maybe it is? I just felt like saying this.
  • Inability to track the MISC quests.
  • No multiplayer.

That just about covers what I think about Skyrim. All in all an 8/10 classic style RPG getting back to the heart of gaming, but not pushing the immersion boundary far enough to be revolutionary. But definately the best RPG of the year and I don’t think anything will top it next year either, but we’ll see 🙂