Sunday, December 4, 2011

Things I Hate About Skyrim

I woke up this morning feeling like writing something, and here I am. I suppose that's a good impulse, but I'm not really burdened with a good topic to write about. Although, I suppose that, if I want to keep blogging, simply writing is the key.

Since it's been quite some time since my last blog, I guess I should mention that I'm now living in Nova Scotia, and going to a new school. Amherst, Nova Scotia is a nice place - nicer than Hawkesbury in all respects, and the school is a notable improvement(in terms of drug use and profanity), but I do very much miss the company of my best friends from my old church in Hawkesbury, and no amount of improved quality of life(it wasn't that bad, really) can quite replace the relationships I had in Hawkesbury.

In gaming news, there is little to report. I am becoming increasingly bored with modern games, notably in the lack of meaning in most games. I've been playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim of late, and while I'm enjoying the game, there are many things that bother me about it.

The repetitive and mundane speech from many of the citizens of the towns is boring me. I love the level of detail in most things in the game, but the dialogue in the game is a weak point, in my opinion. While many critics praise the use of more voice actors(Oblivion is infamous for reusing the same few voice actors for almost every voice in the game), I feel that there is still much reuse of voice talent, and the accents from the different towns feel forced and fall flat. In particular, I find that all of the town guards sound like they are doing poor impersonations of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Another thing about the guards is their total lack of any character development. While most citizens in Skyrim are portrayed as real people with lives and backgrounds(something commendable for this game), the guards are totally modular in design. While there are different uniforms for guards from different towns and cities, there are no variations in the guards besides the distinction between male and female guards(who share the same awful accents). Lines of dialogue are reused between the genders and all guards throughout Skyrim, which has led to the famous creation of a famous new meme(language warning for the images section at the bottom of the page) that pokes fun at one of the guard's lines, "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow in the knee.".

I thought I would thoroughly enjoy staying in the game's towns, but the reused dialogue has broken the immersion enough that I usually prefer exploring the games immense environments. Even this, though, has its problems. Every time I try to make my way to a new quest objective or explore a new area, I'm attacked by sundry enemies. Now, I'm not against the occasional surprise attack by a thief or two or a pack of wolves, but when most human enemies encountered in the wilderness are malignant individuals trying to steal your money or food, I'm a little jarred by the contrast between the barbaric nature of the wilderness and the civilised, polite nature of most of the citizens of towns.

While Fallout 3 was plagued with similar bandits and mercenaries, at least the game has a good reason for this. Fallout 3 uses a post-apocalyptic setting, and the world of this game is supposed to be devoid of humanity; hence, the game's world is largely populated with people trying to kill or pillage to make a living.

Skyrim is presented as a beautiful world, and though there are many dangerous creatures, we get the sense that it is a much more civilized world than that of Fallout 3's. Fallout 3 has bandits and murderers who have reasons to kill and pillage, but Skyrim's world is so rich with wild-life and beauty that it feels disjointed to have the whole land populated by thieves and murderers. There are, of course, many thieves and murderers in our world, but they are all driven by certain motives, and generally, most only do so out of necessity. Skyrim seems a world so full of opportunity to the player, therefore, I question why there are so many evil people in the game who seem to have chosen a life of isolation and corruption rather than to be a member of a society or pursue quests for the countless citizens who need messages delivered, swords to be found, dragons to be killed, or governments overthrown.

Again, while many of the citizens of Skyrim are well-developed and feel real, most of the humans in the game really only serve fodder for your weapons to kill. While the game has been commended on the fact that targets of your assassinations feel very human, most of the bandits and witches in the game don't seem to have reasons to kill you; they just try to. In effect, most of these generic characters, like the guards, feel hollow and empty, they only serve a purpose for the gameplay, either as practice dummies for you to kill, or as enforcers of the law. Would not players be more hesitant to break the law or kill off entire towns if every guard had a personality and a little character development?

Anyway, all in all, I find the game does a better job than most games at character realism, and this is quite a feat, considering the scope of the game. I do enjoy playing the game, mostly for the expansive world and the fact the everything you see in the game is real. If you see a mountain, you can climb it. If you see a river, you can swim in it. If you see a distant abandoned castle on a far-off peak, you can be assured that that is a real location in the game and there most likely treasure to be found inside.

I've recently started a little game called "To the Moon" I've only just started the game, but I've heard that it tells an incredible tale about regret and relationships, and it really sets new standards for storytelling in games. It has a unique soundtrack and a story that actually means something. Don't be fooled by the graphics, it's no JRPG.

I think that's enough random ramblings for one blog post. My Independant Study Unit essay/presentation in English Class will cover the topic of  "Games as Art", so I will try to post that(the essay) on my blog when I finish it. I'm also reading the book "The Art of Videogames" by Grant Tavinor for this essay. It's interesting so far, though it's long and wordy(reminds me of myself!), and very philosophical.


  1. A) hawkesbury is scum(agreed)VKH all the way!
    B)random attacks from bandits may happen from a teritorial point but i think what you are looking for is in the giants were you can get close but if you go were the tell you not to got or attak them they will attack you.

    ~Jeremy Lapointe~

  2. Yes, I do like how the Giants work, it's rare to see those kinds of enemies. But I do find bandits quite common, more common than hunters, anyway, and that doesn't seem consistent with the rest of the game world.

    Another thing I don't like is the very obvious distinction between evil characters and good or neutral characters. It's pretty easy to tell if a character will kill you or not based on his speech and dress. There's no tension when meeting a new character in the wilderness, most of the time.

  3. Just as in any good storytelling, a novel or movie, any character introduced needs to have a defined purpose. I know what you mean about characters acting in a random manner. If we want to be immersed into a story it needs to be as real as possible, plausible.

  4. Yes, and I think in that respect, the game is better than any open-world RPG. It's certainly difficult to make characters feel real in a game that allows you so much freedom, and for the most part, the game does this quite well. The main exceptions are the Guards and generic bandits and mercenaries, which are always cookie-cutter entities that exist only for specific purposes.

    It's a shame that this is the case, and hopefully the next Elder Scrolls game can make every character have a little depth.