Ah Skyrim, home to the Nords and many of us for the past few months. But like any home, Skyrim has its problems. We all had that moment of awe and wonder when we played through Skyrim for the first time. The people we met, the places we saw, the dragons we slayed and everything else in-between! But that awe and wonder subsided with a second playthough.
I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but I feel Skyrim has a lot of missed opportunities. One of the first was was when Skyrim was first coming out and Bethesda talked up the way NPCs would react to you based on your race, which is true. One playthrough I made a Khajiit and NPCs would try to walk as far around me as possible. However, when it comes down to doing a quest, your race becomes irrelevant. I just found it ridiculous, if someone would try and avoid just walking near me as a Khajiit then why would they bother to ask for my help? Think about it, for most of the game your race is irrelevant, and if anything just determines how the NPCs speak to you as you walk by or how offensive the NPCs can be when fighting them. I played a female Orc on another playthrough and an NPC I was fighting said to me, “Ready to die, you Orc bitch!?!” That’s a good start but aside from whenever town guards addressed me by race, things like this just felt like a reminder of what race I was playing. I had similar feelings when I played a female over a male character, an NPC would recognize me as female but the dialogue would be overall the same. What I wanted was more to the dialogue of the game, similar to how characters are in more recent RPGs; not just in what NPCs say to my character but in what you say back as well.
Don’t get me wrong on the dialogue, it’s good and keeps the game flowing when on a quest. However, the bigger quests were kind of a disappointment, such as the Thieves Guild questline. First off, once I was a full member of the guild I was almost immediately thrown into a big job, a job that one of the veterans of the guild had to abort and was nearly killed trying to escape. The beginning of the Thieves Guild questline just felt rushed. Once it started moving it became much more gradual, not in a way that’s slow but in a way that’s easy to fully grasp what’s happening within the Thieves Guild story.
My other issue with the Thieves Guild questline is midway through. The older members of the guild talk more and more about the old leader. Eventually I’m told that the old leader of the guild had made many plans for heists in various locations across Skyrim. My first thought when learning this was “awesome,” but once I was done with the main questline for the Thieves Guild, I never learned what the plans may have been for the heists or where they may take place. It was a tremendous let down and there could have been some really interesting sneaking quests that tested any who played as a true thief. The issues don’t stop with just this quest but nearly all of the bigger quests. If anyone out there remembers Fallout 3 and New Vegas, the quests in those games were surprisingly overwhelming with how many ways one could decide on what actions to take. One could be offered a quest to go save some one, find the person they were supposed to save, kill them, lie about what happened during the quest, and still be paid. Skyrim just doesn’t have that it’s one of many missteps throughout the game. With most quests, it’s either do the quest and help out or don’t.
Skyrim’s final problem, or I should say the last one I’ll mention, is the main quest itself. A grand idea, Dragons suddenly returning to the world, but it falls flat since there’s no sense of urgency. I mean it’s dragons, freaking dragons, pure engines of destructive power and villagers walk around like it’s no big deal. One would would think that the main quest would be the most well thought out part of the game. I thought that with a main quest like this I would see towns fortifying themselves. Or perhaps when approaching a town for the first time I’d be given a quest to go and find a dragon that may have just attacked that village or settlement, anything that would give the game more urgency, not just have dragons spawn at random and have you fight one or two in some cases. I feel that with such a good main quest the delivery is horrible while traversing the world or doing side quests.
All that said, I by no means want to seem like a deterrent. Skyrim itself is a great game, I wouldn’t have put over six hundred hours into it otherwise. I just wanted more from it. When we have certain other RPGs out there like Fallout and Mass Effect it’s hard to not look at Skyrim and ask “That’s it?”. One would think that Bethesda would have learned from other developers, to go to unexpected place with certain aspects of their game. For example, being able to get married in Skyrim could have been much more interesting than “do the quest tied to the NPC and then they like you.” I had hoped that Bethesda would have tried to break out of what nearly feels like formulaic storytelling, they broke their formula for leveling with the classless leveling system but not their storytelling.
As said before, I do feel that Skyrim is a great game and I did enjoy playing it, I just don’t see it as the masterpiece people claim it to be. I do hope that Bethesda will learn from Skyrim’s shortcomings and maybe take more cues from their Fallout series or even other RPG developers. The groundwork for a true masterpiece is here I just hope the next game can succeed in being one.