First Person

First Person
Skyrim is Soulless

Dennis C. Scimeca | 8 Dec 2011 13:00
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When I'd finished exploring the Fort I returned to the kitchen where Agnis was now cooking something in a pot over the fire. I clicked on her. "Hard enough to keep up with who owns this Fort," she said. "One side takes over, the other runs away. I tell them, 'I ain't leaving, I come with the place.' Ha!" and returned to her cooking.

I saw a room connected to the kitchen and peeked in to investigate. It was Agnis's room, and the items in her dresser and on her table and shelves would earn me enough money to make it worth my while to take them. They still weren't indicated as items I would be stealing, but definitely felt like they belonged to Agnis.

"I remember one morning long time ago, I woke up and the place was run by some Orcs," she said when I clicked on her again. "Went to bed that night, it was all vampires. Pshh. Don't matter to me!" When I clicked on her once more, she muttered, "Now, then, I've been gabbing long enough. Too much cleaning to do." The broom appeared in her hands again and she swept the floor upon which the two corpses still laid.

I tried to get more out of Agnis but she'd run out of dialog. She ceased to feel real to me. I loaded up Lydia and myself with loot, and made the trek to the city of Whiterun to drop all that loot off in my character's house before returning to Fort Greymoor for the rest.

Upon my return I found Imperials, soldiers from a human empire occupying the land of Skyrim, in charge of the Fort. I had no quarrel with the Imperials and so kept my distance when they warned me away, sneaking back into the Fort through a side door so that I could collect the rest of my rightfully-earned loot, and ran into Agnis again.

Nothing had changed. She was still oblivious to the two corpses on the floor getting in the way of her broom. Her indifference to the change in ownership at Fort Greymoor was in line with her previous dialogue, but even a little recognition of the fact that I had changed the conditions of her world yet again would have been nice. After all, it was just one more line of dialog to record.

I finally realized the problem I was having with Skyrim: It felt soulless. I may as well have killed Agnis and taken her stuff, because what did it matter whether she was there or not? I suspected that nothing I did would ever matter, and that has been my experience as I've progressed through the game. Skyrim is a huge world drawn with a level of detail that entices us to lose ourselves there, and is filled with things to do, enough to keep us occupied probably for years. But it also feels empty and pointless.

Everyone is so impressed with Skyrim, but I can't help thinking about another open-world role-playing game published by Bethesda last year, Fallout: New Vegas. By the time I had logged as many hours into New Vegas as I have in Skyrim, I felt like I had big decisions to make that were really going to change the world of New Vegas.

Perhaps I haven't arrived at that point yet in Skyrim, but I'm finding it difficult to continue caring about a world that feels completely indifferent to me and what I'm doing.

First Person is a weekly column by Boston, MA-based freelancer Dennis Scimeca. You can read some of his other musings on his blog punchingsnakes.com, or follow his random excitations on Twitter: @DennisScimeca.

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