Skyrim: What Pisses Me Off About It


In furtherance of my resolution not to post too much overly-personal shit that nobody cares about, in addition to my current infatuation (only now slowly waning, thank christ) with Skyrim, I've decided to post more shit about video games. Lucky you!

Also, I've decided to do it in list form -- in fact, I've decided to use lists more often. Why? Because they're an easy way for a lazy thinker like myself to organize his thoughts, and they're an easy way for a lazy reader to digest anything longer than a tweet. Maybe all of my future posts will be lists from now on.

"Top 10 Reasons I don't like getting a haircut," "Top 20 reasons I don't feel like leaving the house right now, maybe later though," etc.. I could start writing for Cracked.

Alright, enough preamble. I present to you: The top 10 reasons Skyrim keeps pissing me off.

But first, more preamble. Despite the lengthier-than-anticipated rant to follow, I have to say that I love Skyrim. It's one of my favorite games, possibly ranking in my top five, and certainly top ten. It's right on par with Morrowind, and I honestly cannot, at present, decide which I like better. Ask me again after I've put several years' distance between myself and the newness of Skyrim for a fairer comparison. If we're comparing the sheer number of hours played, Skyrim is very close to surpassing all but a handful of my most cherished games.

The following is a list of things that piss me off about it, but if these were fixed, Skyrim would be damn-near a perfect game to me.

10. Spell stuff

In most ways, the 'meat and potatoes' of Skyrim's magic system is better than that of either of its predecessors. And yet, I still find the ability to roll my own so much more compelling. What's going on now, even if it's prettier, still feels like the series is going backward.

I know why they took flying out, but I'm still bitter. It's worse in Skyrim than even Oblivion, because Skyrim has such epic mountain scenery and man, can you imagine how cool it would be to fly around with the dragons? You are Dovahkiin after all. This is just another restriction that makes Skyrim and Oblivion feel limited compared to Morrowind, which is ridiculous considering how much more impressive the newer games' engines are.

Overall, this is a very small gripe. By and large, I approve of Skyrim's magic system and much prefer it.

9. Walled cities

Oblivion and the new Fallouts (to some extent) have this problem, too. I'm not quite sure why they still opt for this way of separating 'city' from 'overworld,' other than to maybe alleviate the problem of dragons or giants going on killing sprees. Of course, with half of the population being immortal, I don't see why that's such a goddamn problem. And if it is, maybe REDUCE THE NUMBER OF FUCKING DRAGONS, JESUS CHRIST.

Again, this is another area where Morrowind really shines in comparison to its successors. It still has separate 'instanced' areas apart from the world map, of course, but at least I didn't feel like I was 'zoning' every time I entered a city. They allowed for a higher degree of freedom and general fuck-aroundery, which was fun.

I'm not actually against the idea of walls, mind; I just think it's annoying the way they're implemented. This is especially annoying in Dragonsreach (Dragonreach? Can't remember), where the 'great balcony' or whatever it's called has a huge, novelty-sized rail that would prevent anyone from enjoying any type of appreciable view. Can't have the player jumping off and ruining the illusion of actual, honest-to-god scope now can we? It makes the whole game feel like a disney ride.

The whole 'city zones' thing makes sneaking into them much more difficult, as well. And why can't I ride my magnificent steed through town? Grumble grumble grumble.

I really wish they'd tweak the engine so that there was no concrete difference between 'inside' and 'outside', other than the differences we recognize in real life. Despite how primitive Minecraft is in comparison to Skyrim in so many ways, I'm always way more impressed walking around inside cities, dungeons, houses, etc., knowing that they aren't special, set-aside set-pieces that will only rarely see any real change; and even then, only scripted.

The best example for what I mean is when that one dragon flies you to the place where you enter the portal to Sovngarde. I was actually looking forward to seeing the ground soar beneath us as I rode on his back, but nope. A 'cutscene' of us flying away, briefly, and then I'm just teleported to the area like all other fast travel. Lame.

8. Fast Travel

I mostly don't hate fast travel, if I'm being honest. I will say, though, that I still prefer Morrowind's method of dealing with travel to Skyrim's or Oblivion's. I'm totally fine with paying a guy to drive me to a different city, or paying a wizard to teleport me there. This thing where you just pick a spot on the map and zip to it instantly, though? It takes me out of the game somewhat.

Firstly, I'm annoyed at how the game acts as if you just magically teleported to the spot at which you appear. So I'm a wanted man in Markarth, but I was able to saunter in through the gates unmolested? Nobody gave a shit that I was there until I went to stand in front of the Silverblood Inn, and then suddenly it's goddamn World War III between me and the guards?

Comparing Skyrim to Morrowind, Skyrim is generally the more impressive game when it comes to atmosphere. And yet, despite this, I'm able to immerse myself more completely with Morrowind. I don't have a magical quest log that spells everything out for me in Morrowind -- I very nearly do, but it's written as if by my character; there's no MMO-style quest marker to hold my hand; and finally, being made to trek across the land on foot or pay for transport really sold the breadth of the place. It felt more like I was there, rather than simply choosing places to visit from a hub.

Skyrim's style is superior in some obvious ways, and for some games it's far preferable to Morrowind's. For this type of game, though, and for what it's trying to achieve, I can't help but feel like the fast-travel system is self-defeating.

7. Scaling bullshit

Everyone else has gone on and on about this, so I'll be brief. The leveling system is still flawed in Skyrim, despite Bethesda's constant assurances that they would fix it from the train wreck that was Oblivion's. They weren't lying completely; it is significantly improved. But there are still so many obvious and easy to fix problems that I have to wonder if Bethesda's intentionally trying to railroad users into playing the game a certain way.

If you must have scaling, how hard is it to just take a gauge of your character's fighting prowess every level and scale according to that, rather than just the character level? There's basically no way to play this game as anything other than a killing machine, not if you don't want to be getting fucked in every encounter. Maybe I want to be an alchemist or a blacksmith, but NOPE. Congratulations on your crafting skills, here, now fight these enemies that have been scaled up so that they'd challenge you if you had dumped all your effort into combat skills. Oh, you didn't? Sucks to be you then.

I'm not against limited scaling done right, but even if you are a combat-heavy player, this game gets a little dumb. It's like there's some malevolent Bandit overlord somewhere, carefully plotting to thwart your efforts over the course of your adventure. He constantly sends tougher and tougher enemies at you, doing his best to keep pace with your progression (it's only fair!). That's the only explanation I have as to why enemies seem to be no easier to kill as I progress, despite my intense training in all things combat and wearing half a million dollars worth of armor and the best sword money can buy.

At least it's not as bad as Oblivion, though, where shit gets almost impossible if you play too long.

6. Dragons

Yeah, okay, the game has dragons I GET IT. Can we cut it out with the goddamn dragons already? From now on, I'm not even going to talk to the Jarl of Whiterun until I'm level 40 and ready to end things, because this "can't leave the city walls without running into at least one dragon every time, guaranteed" shit is getting old.

They're kind of intimidating at first, but before very long at all they're just a nuisance. This is what happens every time: I'm exploring the countryside with my horse, we're minding our own business and looking for adventure, the usual. Suddenly, I hear a roar from above in the distance. Do I feel a shiver of fear running through me? Do I flee? No. I save to a new slot, dismount my horse (we'll get to that shit in a minute), and play a long, tedious game of "I wonder if the dragon is going to land and fight me this time." Usually the answer is "no." The dragon will circle above, roaring, while I tear across country looking for as wide an open space as I can, hoping to coax him to land and fight so we can get it over with. It almost never works, and he retreats into the distance, half the time clipping through a mountain or whatever.

The exception to this scenario is when I fast travel to a place, which results in the loading screen disappearing and an immediate dragon's roar, like he stealthily followed me from above and waited until I got to town before deciding to ambush me.

Also, engaging in conversation with a dragon while in first-person mode is maybe the silliest thing in the game. There's really nothing that can be done for this, I just think it's funny. All you see is the dragon's 'beak' moving up and down like a muppet, filling your vision almost entirely. It's so goofy, and no matter how ancient and solemn the dragon is supposed to be, I just can't take it seriously.

5. Horse stuff

Horses in Skyrim are actually pretty boss. I find it genuinely charming that half of the time, your horse charges in with zeal and fights to the death, and the other half of the time it immediately flees to hide behind a tree somewhere.

I've even run into a couple of situations where my horse flees, then steals the last hit from something I'm just about to kill. It's difficult to describe in words; I just begin laughing when I'm about to deliver the final blow when all of a sudden, horse hooves stomp down in front of me and I hear a ferocious whinnying. Yeah, thanks horse, couldn't have done it without you.

However, for the most part, horse combat fucking sucks and I can't think of a great excuse for it. Zelda had most of this figured out in 1998, more than a decade ago. Hell, Twilight Princess nailed it, and that was what... 2006? 2007? A good while before Skyrim came out, at any rate.

As much as I like horses, and as proper as it feels for my 'Paladin' character to have one, I mostly just avoid it because I hate having to deal with the hassle of horse combat (or lack thereof).

"Oh look, more inexplicably hungry and vicious wolves standing in wait along the side of the road. Guess I'd better slowly dismount my horse as if I was in no particular hurry at all. Nevermind the fact that the wolves are taking bites out of my ass and my horse's, I'll get down when I'm goddamn good and ready. Further, what kind of milk-drinker fights from horseback? Why, such a thing would be ridiculous. No warrior could ever possibly avail himself of such a tactic. Now, you run along little horsie, I wouldn't want you to get hurt. Make sure to sprint at least half a mile to someplace where I'll never find you."

Lastly, horses are too damn slow.

4. Magic compass

Listen. I get that it makes things easier, I do. I use it all the time, because it's there. But really, the compass (and some other aspects of how the quest system work) have rendered the game more or less completely brain-dead. I understand that Bethesda wants to sell a billion copies to the COD brotards, but isn't there some point at which integrity and quality are more important than money? Oh god, I feel dumb for even asking that.

I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. When 'look at the claw in your hands' and 'spinning pillar with the answers on the walls RIGHT NEXT TO THEM' are the apex of the mental activity needed for this game, I almost begin to feel a little insulted. I'm not saying you need ultra-hardcore puzzles all over the place, but christ, do I need a floating quest arrow pointing at a book ten feet away when my 'challenge' is to search a tiny library for that very same book? Really, there are only like, three or four books that haven't been mysteriously ruined in the building. It's not that goddamn hard to find.

It's gotten to the point where half of the time, I didn't even bother paying any attention to what the NPC was telling me. My quest is to find the WHATEVER THE FUCK WHO CARES LOOK THE ARROW IS POINTING THAT WAY OFF I GO NOW BYE!!!! Every quest in the game becomes, "follow the arrow to the thing where the arrow is pointing at, then follow the arrow back here, also kill things along the way, repeat for 40 hours."

3. Immortal kids

Alright, I know that it's not exactly 'in vogue' to go around slaughtering younglings in video games -- or in real life for that matter, unless you work for Planned Parenthood. But Bethesda (and all other developers): Grow some fucking balls, alright?

I know there are people out there who would be OUTRAGED!!!!! if you could Fus Ro Dah these annoying little shits off the sides of mountains, but fuck them, they're stupid. These aren't actual children, and even if they were, I don't buy that kids are somehow that much more sacrosanct than adults. I can murder Elfonderelf, the helpful archer who contributes to his village, but I can't Sith Lighting the Jarl's ugly, spoiled, shit-talking worthless fucking nut sprout? Go to hell.

Shit, I can't even give him just a little bit of a backhand to shut his dick-sucker for ten seconds. That's probably why all the kids in this game are such jerks; they're all goddamn immortal, and nobody can lay a finger on them to shut them up.

2. Immortal... anyone

Bethesda. Bethesda Bethesda Bethesda. Why, oh why, do you go to such great lengths to piss me off? You had the perfect system with Morrowind, a game you released a decade ago. You kill a plot-essential NPC (PLOT ESSENTIAL, not 'might pay me to fetch her a mammoth tusk one day') and a little dialog box pops up saying, "Hey, you just killed someone important: Reload or continue in this fucked-up world." Hell, that wasn't even strictly true; you could still beat the game just fine if you knew what to do, it's just that the main quest wouldn't be fed to you properly.

But no, now we have assholes who just don't die. This shit started with Oblivion and has been a putrid stain on three other perfectly fine games (Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim), and at some point or another in all of these games it's completely shattered any sense of immersion I might have otherwise had. And, while I might just be misremembering things, Skyrim seems to be the worst offender by far.

It seems like every time I go crazy in town and start killing everyone just for fun (shut up, you know you do it too), something like half of the motherfuckers are immortal. This is especially vexing for people I know I'm just going to end up killing if I accept their quests, like that lizard guy in Solitude who sounds like he's trying to sell me a blowjob every time I walk past him.

The worst examples are anything involving the Dark Brotherhood. Oh sure, it's mostly all fun and games if you play ball -- until you get to the mission where you have to kill some pirate chick. I sneak on board, assassinate her, and decide to 'clean up' the witnesses just to be thorough. Too bad half of her crew were unkillable; boy, would my face have been red if I actually needed to fight them! While I imagine that IMMORTALITY would be a handy quality to possess as a pirate, I was nonetheless annoyed at having been sent on a mission where I could have very well ended up fighting people who could not be killed.

But that was my second playthrough, with my assassin/thief guy. My first guy wasn't so amiable toward them; they made an attempt on his life, and he sought to wipe them out entirely. I played along until Astrid brought me to their lair, and after everyone was done standing around listening to the vampire girl with terrible voice acting (yet another reason kids should be killable in these games), I set about my task of killing them all... except, not. Joke's on me, some of these motherfuckers can't be killed! Wonderful. I think it would stand to reason that if I'm killing them, I don't want their quests, and yet they remained immortal in case I changed my mind about murdering them all.

Lastly, I really don't get why these people need me to do their dirty work if they're all immortal. I sometimes attempt to kill quest-givers just to test their immortality, and the quest feels hollow when I know they can't die. Why are you scared to go into the crypts, asshole? You're the goddamn Chosen One apparently. You're not going to die! Get your own ancient family heirloom or whatever.

Thoroughly frustrating.

1. You can't play instruments

WHAT THE FUCK!? Why would you include so many musical instruments and bards in every tavern, AND A BARDS COLLEGE, and NOT let me play any music instruments at all? Have we learned NOTHING from Betrayal at Krondor?

Fuck you Bethesda, fuck you.