Pimpin Reviews: Skyrim -Part 2: Thieves Guild and the Creation Engine-

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Pimpin Reviews: Skyrim Month

Part 2: Thieves Guild, Related Skills, and the Creation Engine

Previously: Part 1: Companions and Combat

*Warning, this review contains mild spoilers about the quest line of this part of the game.

I've never really held much respect for thieves. Lurking in the shadows, making their moves in the dead of night, earning a living by breaking into places and taking things...it's not the life for me. (I prefer the much more honorable life of the assassin. You know, lurking in the shadows, making my move in the dead of night, earning my living by breaking into places and taking lives.) Regardless, in the world of Skyrim it pays to be a thief. That's why in Part 2 of Skyrim Month we're taking our talents to the ratways of the crime infested city of Riften, to take an in depth look at The Thieves Guild of Skyrim as well as the fundamental gameplay mechanics and changes to the series that have improved or harmed the experience.

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Its been 200 years since the events of the previous game, The Elder Scrolls V: Oblivion, and the Thieves Guild of Skyrim is drastically different than that of Cyrodiil. The old guild was a loosely associated organization of every kind of criminals from robbers, smugglers, pickpockets, and petty criminals. Lead by the legendary Gray Fox, an untouchable criminal mastermind, the group was less of a hardcore gang of felons and more of a Robin-Hood-esque crew of good guys stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor. In the newest installment, the Thieves Guild is based in the sewers of the crime -infested city of Riften. The city's Jarl is in the pocket of the guild's matron, a large-scale meadery owner. And lastly, members are no longer held to a code of honor or sense of duty to the poor. The player is dealing with merciless thugs and cutthroats, and a much darker guild than ever before.

It's highly appreciated, though. It's nice to finally play with thieves who do legitimate crime. Joining the guild is as simple as walking into the bustling Riften market square, where a charismatic Scot will approach you with a simple task that will prove your worth as well as initiate you into the guild. I recommend you join, because membership comes with a bunch of perks. For one, guild fences are the only people who will buy stolen goods. The rest of the world still becomes sentient to any ill-gotten gains the moment they get into your possession, a trait carried over from the last game. Even more useful is the ability to bribe guards on the spot, which can get the player out of trouble no matter what kind of bind they're in. But the largest perk, of course, are the many opportunities to score some gold.

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The primary way to earn gold is through the main quest line of the guild, which can be a little hit-or-miss. The premise is that the guild has fallen on some tough times since the murder of the previous guild master by a member within the guild. The player character is, of course, tasked with bringing glory and power back to the guild while hunting down and revealing the traitor that doomed the entire enterprise. There's a lot of cool occult stuff, interesting quests, and useful rewards but the biggest flaw in the main quest has to be that there is definitely not enough thieving. Unlike the main quest line from the Oblivion guild, there are no central mission quests that deal directly with stealing goods and selling them to fences. Even the final quest isn't a grand heist like it was in the last game, where you stole one of the freaking Elder Scrolls themselves from under the noses of the Imperial Guard. It's a bit of a let down.

If you are looking for some thieving, you're better off trying the endless odd jobs that a handful of special members offer. They come in a decent variety too, and are of some real importance. Jobs involve everything: planting evidence; robbing specific houses, items, or cars; forging business ledgers to create disruptions in profits. Doing a couple of these jobs in some of the specific holds unlocks larger jobs, which once completed advance the entire guild alongside your own finances. This brings in new merchants, more gold, and various changes to the look and feel of the guild as it gets richer. Simple additions like this make the repetitive quests worth doing, as the player will actually see the guild evolve as a direct consequence of their actions.

The best arsenal for a thief is less in his tools and more in his skills. In Skyrim, these skills include lockpicking, pickpocketing, light armor, sneak, speech, and somewhat inexplicably, alchemy. When trying to stay in the shadows, toggling the crouch key brings back a the familiar see-through Eye Icon from the last game. When it is closed, it means that Non-Player Characters are completely unaware of the player's presence. As it opens up, enemies in the area will start searching for the player character, and when its completely open, they're looking at you. A bunch of factors influence the effectiveness of your sneak such as the weight of your clothing, the type of your armor, and even the speed of your movements.

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I think my Sim needs to go to the bathroom

Sneaking is some of the most fun to be had in the game. Slow-motion cutscenes are triggered as you sneak up and literally back-stab an opponent, or slit the throat of an unwitting civilian. My personal guilty pleasure is creeping around with a poisoned arrow, finding good leverage, and shooting an enemy dead before disappearing into the darkness of the night. There's a bunch of other cool tricks that can be done with a bow and an arrow. Firing an arrow randomly will draw an enemy's attention to the area it landed, allowing you to get a better view. Shooting at a soft substance like wood will only be noticed by a few enemies as opposed to if you hit harder substances like rock or steel, from which the increased volume of the impact will draw the attention of a greater radius of baddies. Not to mention certain perks that allow you to zoom in, basically snipe, with the bow and even slow down time while doing it.

Lockpicking (formerly named security) takes more after the newest Fallout games this time around. Instead of the annoying old tumblers, that were nearly impossible to predict, you pick a position and rotate the bolt and pick independently until it twists open. Its also a lot more useful in Skyrim, as chests and locked doors are a lot more prevalent around the world. Pickpocketing as a skill returns but I can't say much because honestly despite hundred of attempts, I still have not performed a single goddamn successful thievery.

All of this new stuff is allowed by the abandonment of the old Gamebyro engine, which had been featured in every Bethesda game from Morrowind to New Vegas. Skyrim introduces the internally developed Creation Engine, which allows for a much-needed improvement to the technology that creates such a real world. Gone are the static shots that cut through time when you start a conversation with an NPC, which is now fluidly done in real time. Other characters can be seen in the background, performing their daily tasks and interacting with one another. Not even the person you're talking to is standing still all the time, and are frequently seen resuming their tasks like cooking, cleaning, and blacksmithing while conversing with the player character.

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Good Kitty / Bad kitty

It's the improvement of the Radiant AI system that breathes life into these characters. Though many have assigned schedules, most work 12 hour shifts from 8am to 8pm and hit the local tavern for a drink before going to bed for the night. But this changes to account for the children, the elderly, and even the poor. Unlike in Oblivion, character models have realistic variation, the most obvious being children interacting like they did in Fallout: New Vegas (being whiny-voiced annoyances that sadly cannot be murdered).

That's not to say that all the issues with the AI have been fixed, because they do act remarkably stupid some of the time. Most of these include times of combat, where a stealth character will rush in yelling chants filled with bravado, or mages attack with daggers rather than their large arsenal of supposedly deadly spells. If the player decides to bring a companion along on their mighty quests, they'd best be prepared for their allies to perpetually block doorways, crowd pathways, and even obscure quest markers, though the more detailed way to give them instructions makes them much more manageable than ever before.

The bulk of AI stupidity is seen when sneaking around large groups of enemies. A comrade that was alive and kicking just a moment before can suddenly be found laying face first in a pool of their own blood and the only reaction of his bandit friends would be, "I will avenge you," before casually walking away to resume their dinner. The player can even shoot an enemy directly in the chest with an arrow and, as long as they've remained hidden, the NPCs will brush it off and blame it on the wind or something. It's worrisome that not even a simple fix was included. Something as simple as leaving an entire room on high alert after such an event, even if they don't find the player character right away, they should still be searching.

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That awkward feeling when you know an entire city's GDP is about to take a dip

Luckily, interaction with NPCS has improved with the new Speech skill, an amalgamation of Speechcraft and Merchantile. First of all, Skyrim has abandoned the old speech wheel mini-game from Oblivion. Instead, options like Persuade, Intimidate, Bribe, and even Brawl open up as you level it up. Speaking with the many inhabitants of Skyrim open up many diverse and interesting options , even the characters that aren't significant in any way. I was particularly fond of one particular thief, a girl named Sapphire, with a particularly dark past. Speech perks even allow you to invest gold in businesses that will influence what they carry, how much they carry, and how much gold they have to buy any goods you're selling.

Previously a school of magic, Alchemy now counts as a stealth skill even though it doesn't make sense. But despite this awkward inconsistency, alchemy is greatly improved from how it was handled in Oblivion. In Skyrim, Alchemy is done in labs scattered throughout the world rather than by carrying around heavy mortars and pestles. Even if it isn't as on-the-go as before, its a much more realistic and appealing approach to the skill. Speaking of realism, ingredients you pick up are initially unknown as they would be if you picked up a random ingredient in real life. Players discover ingredient effects by tasting food and through trial and error on the Alchemy table. The skill is way overpowered, however, seeing as how the strongest potions and poisons can make you invincible and kill enemies in a single hit.

This incredible ability to kill is only matched by the Dark Brotherhood itself. That's why in Part 3 of Skyrim Month, we're going to cover the deadly gang of Assassins known as the Dark Brotherhood and take a look at the environment and tone of the world at whole.

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Hells yes Pimp!
This was another good read. Well done!
I was also a little miffed at how short their questline seemed...but at least it was fun!
Looking forward to your next installment!

That was a good review, though this actually is the first time I've seen the bust of the Grey Fox. I had thought that I had beaten the guild already.

But I agree about the sneak being a little broken still. I was honestly expecting them to revamp the entire thing. Nothing really takes me more out of the game than a bad guy and his friends who are in denial about the arrow sticking out of his eye

My next character is going to be a stealthy one. Yeah, I've leveled stealth up to 100 already, but I didn't invest any points in it, preferring the ability to just run in and beat things in the face while my 750+ points of armor, 120%+ health/magicka regen rates take care of me. I fully intend to go about with two daggers, sneaking about, being all quiet-like, killing from the shadows, rather than my "let's have fire and candlelight waving about while wearing the loudest armor possible" battlemage.

Oh, FYI--alchemy became a thief perk for balance, that each of the three major class types had 6 skills apiece. Smithing seems a natural fit for the warrior, with all the heavy weapons and armor needed. Enchanting is openly magical (magickal?), so it fits the mage. And alchemy...well, you can make some insidious poisons, so that's kinda thief/assassin-oriented.

Neonbob:
Hells yes Pimp!
This was another good read. Well done!
I was also a little miffed at how short their questline seemed...but at least it was fun!
Looking forward to your next installment!

Thanks Matt :D

JoesshittyOs:
That was a good review, though this actually is the first time I've seen the bust of the Grey Fox. I had thought that I had beaten the guild already.

But I agree about the sneak being a little broken still. I was honestly expecting them to revamp the entire thing. Nothing really takes me more out of the game than a bad guy and his friends who are in denial about the arrow sticking out of his eye

Its not a big deal item, I just think it's a cool addition. And yeah, even if it does provide many funny situations, sneak really needs to be fixed.

Thanks for commenting.

I'm glad they changed the engine. I've played Oblivion recently and the world isn't immersive, but scary. We're just taking a long trip to the uncanny valley.

I'm sort of sad that you don't finish the thieves guild quest line with a big giant heist. Everyone should be able to pull an Ocean Eleven fantasy style.

BehattedWanderer:
My next character is going to be a stealthy one. Yeah, I've leveled stealth up to 100 already, but I didn't invest any points in it, preferring the ability to just run in and beat things in the face while my 750+ points of armor, 120%+ health/magicka regen rates take care of me. I fully intend to go about with two daggers, sneaking about, being all quiet-like, killing from the shadows, rather than my "let's have fire and candlelight waving about while wearing the loudest armor possible" battlemage.

Oh, FYI--alchemy became a thief perk for balance, that each of the three major class types had 6 skills apiece. Smithing seems a natural fit for the warrior, with all the heavy weapons and armor needed. Enchanting is openly magical (magickal?), so it fits the mage. And alchemy...well, you can make some insidious poisons, so that's kinda thief/assassin-oriented.

I'm just making my character into God. Leveled as far as I can, and then just destroy anything in your way.

I get that it's done for balance, but still, its a magic skill! :P

Random Argument Man:
I'm glad they changed the engine. I've played Oblivion recently and the world isn't immersive, but scary. We're just taking a long trip to the uncanny valley.

I'm sort of sad that you don't finish the thieves guild quest line with a big giant heist. Everyone should be able to pull an Ocean Eleven fantasy style.

I dont know if I should go back to Oblivion, but mostly because every time I go back I just look at the world and the quests and think "Been here, done that".

Me too :(

Nice review, Pimp. Although I'm wondering why you didn't meld this all into one thread, so there's a Skyrim mega-review thread. Like what Stranger did with his music reviews. But this works as well. :D

Anyway, I think I ruined Skyrim for myself. I didn't level myself into a corner, nor did I make it too easy. I just did everything on one save file, amassing 105 hours on the file. So, apart from hitting level 50 and redoing some side-quests for an achievement, I've really got nothing else to do. :P

As for the contents of the review, I didn't enjoy the Thieves Guild that much, not til the end of the main quest line when it actually started feeling like the Thieves Guild, not another Fighter's Guild. And yes, Sneak is broken to fuck. When I can sneak past a guy looking right at me in a fully lit corridor, you know something is up. XD

Once again, a nice review. It was pretty interesting and insightful into the Thieves Guild even though I had no real interest in them before. I also liked how you compare features from Oblivion to Skyrim.

Looking forward to your next one :)

Pimppeter2:
I get that it's done for balance, but still, its a magic skill! :P

If you look at the constellations where the different classes met, you'll notice the skills that border each other are relevent for both classes.

Archery (Warrior Skill but useful for assasins) and Light Armour (Thief skill, but valid for fast fighters)

Smithing (Warrior skill but relevent for spellswords and battle mage) and Enchanting (Mage skill but useful for Warriors upgrading their gear)

Illusion (Mage Skill that's useful for people sneaking) and Alchemy (Thief skill useful for Mages)

I found that neat.

Sassafrass:
Nice review, Pimp. Although I'm wondering why you didn't meld this all into one thread, so there's a Skyrim mega-review thread. Like what Stranger did with his music reviews. But this works as well. :D

Because I'm writing these as they go along, and they're pretty huge. Idk, just never occurred to me :P

Sassafrass:
Anyway, I think I ruined Skyrim for myself. I didn't level myself into a corner, nor did I make it too easy. I just did everything on one save file, amassing 105 hours on the file. So, apart from hitting level 50 and redoing some side-quests for an achievement, I've really got nothing else to do. :P

I'm doing the same thing, I dont know if it will "ruin" the game for me. I mean, I did the same for Oblivion and still enjoyed it for 15 other new characters ;P

Sassafrass:
As for the contents of the review, I didn't enjoy the Thieves Guild that much, not til the end of the main quest line when it actually started feeling like the Thieves Guild, not another Fighter's Guild. And yes, Sneak is broken to fuck. When I can sneak past a guy looking right at me in a fully lit corridor, you know something is up. XD

I think that's the general consensus on the guild then. Haha

Nouw:
Once again, a nice review. It was pretty interesting and insightful into the Thieves Guild even though I had no real interest in them before. I also liked how you compare features from Oblivion to Skyrim.

Looking forward to your next one :)

Thank you very much. :D

WolfThomas:

Pimppeter2:
I get that it's done for balance, but still, its a magic skill! :P

If you look at the constellations where the different classes met, you'll notice the skills that border each other are relevent for both classes.

Archery (Warrior Skill but useful for assasins) and Light Armour (Thief skill, but valid for fast fighters)

Smithing (Warrior skill but relevent for spellswords and battle mage) and Enchanting (Mage skill but useful for Warriors upgrading their gear)

Illusion (Mage Skill that's useful for people sneaking) and Alchemy (Thief skill useful for Mages)

I found that neat.

Huh, I didn't realize that. It makes sense. Well there you go :P

I'm going through some rough times, but this game and these reviews are helping me through them. Haha. It just nice to get away. I can't wait for the next part of it, Skyrim RULES! :D Oh and nice reveiw!

Kangaskhan115:
I'm going through some rough times, but this game and these reviews are helping me through them. Haha. It just nice to get away. I can't wait for the next part of it, Skyrim RULES! :D Oh and nice reveiw!

I'm glad to hear that. If you'd like to share, my PM box is open to anyone that needs a friend to talk :D

And yes, Skyrim does rule!

Good stuff once again sir!
One question though...
IS the alchemy skill really that overpowered again like the days of Morrowind? My second character was a sneak character and I mastered all the thief skills but alchemy. Maybe its just my copy but I thought the alchemy skill leveled up agonizingly slowly. If it does level that slowly in all games then I think it serves as a nice balance.

Jester Lord:
Good stuff once again sir!
One question though...
IS the alchemy skill really that overpowered again like the days of Morrowind? My second character was a sneak character and I mastered all the thief skills but alchemy. Maybe its just my copy but I thought the alchemy skill leveled up agonizingly slowly. If it does level that slowly in all games then I think it serves as a nice balance.

Thanks!

Also, I guess that sort of balances things if you're playing the game correctly, but spamming a simple health potion or stamina potion can get you up there in level pretty quickly.

Pimppeter2:

Jester Lord:
snip

Thanks!

Also, I guess that sort of balances things if you're playing the game correctly, but spamming a simple health potion or stamina potion can get you up there in level pretty quickly.

Really? Perhaps its a perception problem that I have. It levels up slower than smithing and enchanting (with or without spam) so I perceive it as being far too slow to be worthwhile. *shrugs* I guess I'll give it a try on my 6th character.

Jester Lord:

Pimppeter2:

Jester Lord:
snip

Thanks!

Also, I guess that sort of balances things if you're playing the game correctly, but spamming a simple health potion or stamina potion can get you up there in level pretty quickly.

Really? Perhaps its a perception problem that I have. It levels up slower than smithing and enchanting (with or without spam) so I perceive it as being far too slow to be worthwhile. *shrugs* I guess I'll give it a try on my 6th character.

I can see that. It seems to like it levels almost as slowly as archery. To where its still fun to use but too much of a hassle to really get into.

 

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