Like most of the American, male, 14-24 year old population, for the past two months I’ve been playing a shit ton of Skyrim. Skyrim, in case you didn’t know/enjoy extraneous explanations, is a videogame which basically allows you to fuck around and do random quests in a magical world with dragons, unicorns, wizards, and shit. It’s like J.R.R. Tolkien meets Grand Theft Auto, except J.R.R. Tolkien got kind of disturbed by the misogyny and violence of Grand Theft Auto and asked it to turn it down, turn up the epicness, and transplant itself into Middle Earth, because Liberty City’s fucking boring to be in if you can’t randomly mow down pedestrians. Now, don’t get me wrong, Skyrim’s an awesome game, but there are certain things in it that are questionable, misguided, or just plain annoying as fuck.
1. No one can solve their own goddamn problems
I’m not sure at exactly what point in between me becoming the official chosen descendant of dragons or savior of the world I got a sign that said, “Talk to me about your stupid issues,”, but it had to have been some point, or else I wouldn’t constantly have people coming up to me complaining about their shit. For example, I was standing in a bar somewhere outside of Whiterun, getting my virtual drink on, when suddenly the barkeep’s son starts yapping to me about how his dad won’t let him be an adventurer. What makes him think I care? And, even if I do, isn’t this something he should settle between him and his dad? Like, I understand when a king asks me to slay a dragon for him, because I’m a fucking badass, but at no point did I learn anything about family therapy during my time as the Most Interesting Man in Skyrim. And, the worst part is, I knew that it wouldn’t even be a difficult problem, because, along with people in Skyrim being helpless, they’re also incredibly emotionally immature. So, I walked up to his dad, threatened him with becoming a kebab, and he let his son become an adventurer. Voila! And, lo and behold, the son instantly donned adventuring gear, and then—stayed in the bar for the rest of the game. Which brings me to my next issue…
2. No one gives a shit after you solve their goddamn problems
Besides immediate rewards of gold, swords, and other shiny stuff there is no point to solving most of the world’s problems. People seem to forget about what you’ve done as soon as you’ve done it, and there’s no way of reminding them. Save a merchant from having the shit kicked out of him? You’re still paying full-price. Save a guard from getting eaten by a dragon? “I’ve got my eye on you.” No thank you, no breaking down and crying, no nothing. And this extends the other way as well. I literally killed an entire room full of people until there was only one guy with a tiny dagger left, and what does he say? “You’re not leaving this room alive!” Unless he’s a wizard, a 7th degree blackbelt in dagger-fu, or locked the door and hid the key, I’m pretty sure he’s wrong. The worst came from when I became head of the Assassin’s Guild, and literally became the personification of the Demon Prince of Death on earth. I was feeling pretty kickass, so I decided to go do a quest that involved taking down a crimelord. Lo and behold, as soon as I start, she threatens me with how friendly she is with the Assassin’s Guild. Bitch, I am the Assassin’s Guild! And I don’t mind that she doesn’t know that, but it does bother me that there seems to be no consequences to any of my actions. And, speaking of no consequences…
3. The combat is ridiculous
For a game that devotes an incredible amount of time to having you kill people, the actual killing of people is rather underwhelming. It mostly consists of running in circles around people hitting them with a sword until they fall down and die, apparently of dizziness. There’s no weight to the weapons, no one ever gets tired, and getting hit by a sword is something that you can pretty much shrug off no problem until the very instant you die. I’m not saying I want movie quality fighting, but, come on, if I hit you in the face with a 6 foot hammer, you should at the very least step back a bit, or even just flinch. And the stealth is even worse. I’m not entirely sure why, but the developers seem to have forgotten to allow the characters to infer contextual clues, like that if your comrade has recently passed away with an arrow to the face, it is likely that someone is shooting arrows at you. It gets especially bad once you get better at hiding, and enemies literally cannot find you in broad daylight. I killed one bandit by shooting him repeatedly in the face from 5 feet away, while he repeated the phrase, “Is there someone there? Huh, must have been my imagination.” While I’m all for the power of imagination, I think there are certain limits you have to acknowledge for it, especially when you could start a secondhand archery shop with the number of arrows you currently have lodged in your sinuses.
4. The difficulty of enemies seems entirely random
And this combat problem gets even worse when it’s impossible to tell how difficult an encounter will be in advance. In the quests, your main enemies are dragons, giants, necromancers, zombies—these are surprisingly easy. Most of them fall for the “Run around in circles while wildly swinging a sword”, and those that don’t are surprisingly susceptible to “Climb on top of a ledge and shoot arrows while they stand at the base of the ledge and wait for you to come down”. However, there is one enemy that is impossibly difficult, and cannot be defeated by these tactics nor by any other tactics other than sheer attrition. That enemy is: the bobcat. Seriously. If you climb any mountain in the game, sooner or later you come across these bobcat, mountain lion type deals. They are fucking vicious, and will tear your face off. I was stuck on one mountain pass for several hours because I couldn’t get around this mountain lion standing in the middle of the path who repeatedly mauled me as I tried to get by. I only eventually succeeded by shooting an arrow at him to get his attention, and then outjuking him and sprinting to the nearest town. Now, I wouldn’t mind this so much if there were an explanation for why bobcats are so vicious in the canon somewhere, like if they were the chosen animal of the patron saint of fucking mountain climbers over, but, as it is, I can’t help but feel dragons should probably be the tougher animal.
5. You are the chosen one, but you’re not sure why
This final problem is the worst one, and actually led to me putting the game down altogether. Wherever you go in Skyrim, you pretty much instantly become the cat’s meow at whatever you do. Join the mages’ college? Give it a couple hours and you’re the head. Become a member of the fighters’ guild? Give it a couple hours and you’re the head. Go to a shrine? It doesn’t even take a couple hours, you usually instantly become that god’s chosen one. Now, this happens in other games, but it’s not so bad. In Grand Theft Auto, it takes many hours of hard work before you can become the baddest motherfucker in the city. Or, in Halo, you’re made that way, and they specifically mention how you’re engineered to be awesome. But, in Skyrim, you’re just some dude (or chick, if you prefer). There is literally no reason why people give you all these honors when you’re no better than anyone else by design. So, ultimately, you’re left with this empty feeling, where everyone is heaping shitloads of praise and rewards on your head and, while it’s fun, you just want to give it back, or at least be made to earn it.