Have you ever been in a situation where the gaming media, the online discussions and your friends are raving on about a certain title that has critical acclaim that you just don’t understand the hype for? I Just Don’t Get It?! is GameRVW’s new series where our writers name the games that they felt didn’t quite deserve to be placed on the pedestals they currently sit on. In this edition, Staff Writer Ben Gibson tells us why he’s chosen Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Let me start out by saying that I don’t consider Skyrim to be a bad game – that would be unfair. It does have several things going for it. The original version released almost 9 years ago, and the modding community have created a number of texture packs and custom designs to improve the look of the game, but even the original aesthetics hold up pretty well to this day. Mods have also added extra content of various kinds which you can cherry pick to customise your own experience. The music is also solid, both in terms of the background audio and the tunes played by the bards in Skyrim’s various taverns. Perhaps the game’s biggest strength is its amount of content, and the freedom to approach it in any order and in any way you want to do so. Customise your character, choose your playstyle and write your own moral code.
However, despite its merits, I don’t find Skyrim worthy of its reputation and struggle to understand the need for Todd Howard to constantly re-release the title on as many electronic devices as possible. One major gripe is with the combat system. Although you have the choice of what weapons, equipment, and skills to focus on, the actual fights are pretty lacklustre. Melee combat has little involvement other than hitting attack and occasionally blocking. Archery is only effective to soften up an enemy before engaging in melee, or as a stealth option, with the somewhat dimwitted AI easily exploited. Magic is comparatively better, with various spell types to choose from, and is a definite improvement from Oblivion. As I normally like to play a melee character in RPGs, I was a bit disappointed at how basic the combat was, which isn’t helped by the fact that most enemies’ tactics involve running straight at you. The poor AI also translates to your companions, who constantly get in the way and run through the traps in dungeons. Even the novelty of fighting a dragon wore off quickly, as it resulted in waiting for it to land and mashing the attack button until it died.
Though the breadth of content on display in Skyrim is impressive, it’s often lacking in terms of how engaging it is. Some stand out storylines include the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild, as well as a few of the more interesting side quests, but a great deal of what’s on offer is repetitive and rather uninteresting. Skyrim suffers the same issue as Oblivion in that a lot of its content revolves around going into a cave, killing the same kinds of enemies (with the lacklustre combat), rinse and repeat (look, another dragon claw). The main questline isn’t poor, but it’s rather forgettable. The rebellion plotline between the Stormcloaks and the Imperials was an interesting thing to add to the story, but the actual quests for this plotline are dull regardless of which side you take. The writing and voice acting are passable in most cases, but are not good enough to create enough memorable characters.
Skyrim’s sheer scale is both it’s strength and its weakness. An impressively sized world map and freedom to explore came at the cost of trying to provide interesting content for all of it, which the game unfortunately fails to do. This all leads to Skyrim’s biggest overall issue, immersion. For the amount of things you can accomplish as the Dragonborn, nobody in the world seems to really be affected by what happens. Guards will see you bring down a dragon and consume its soul, before wandering off and giving you a normal line of dialogue a few seconds after this event takes place. It’s odd being the head of every organisation at once, as well as the saviour of the world, and have nobody really care. The guards are copy-pasted into each city with the same voices and dialogue, which gets old quickly, and many named characters seem to have almost the exact same voice. Combine this with a forgettable main story and a lack of any reason to care about any of the characters, as well as repetitive side activities, and Skyrim ends up feeling like a game where the developers tried, and failed, to produce enough interesting content to fill the world.
Make sure to come back to the site for the next edition of I Just Don’t Get It?!