Pimpin Reviews: Skyrim Month
Part 5: Daedric Quests, Misc, And Radiant Storytelling
Previously: Part 4: College of Winterhold and Magic
*Warning, this review contains mild spoilers about the quest line of this part of the game.
Now that's worshiping
In my personal life, I'm not much of the religious type. It's not that I find anything wrong with those practicing, but I'm just more enthralled by the capabilities and triumphs of human potential than those of spiritual or divine deities. However, if I lived in the Elder Scrolls' universe, I have the feeling that I'd be all over daedra worship. In the game's universe, there are two kinds of celestial beings -the Daedra and the Aedra. Which play very different roles in both the lore and the Skyrim experience
Most of the population worships a group of Aedra known as the Eight Divines. Akatosh is the Zeus-esque chief deity of all the gods. Dibella is the goddess of beauty while Mara is the goddess of love. Arkay is the balance between life and death. Zenithar is the patron of work, commerce, and wealth. Stendarr is the god of mercy. Kynareth is the goddess of the heavens and the matron of travelers. Lastly, Julianos is the god of literature, law, history, and contradiction. Some people choose to include Talos, essentially the world's equivalent of Jesus, though as of late his reverence has become somewhat of a hot-topic issue.
Daedra worship is far less accepted. Followers are forced to practice their occult activities far from the general population. These gods aren't considered wholly evil by nature, but they're not the type of people that one would invite to a party, either. There are sixteen Daedric Princes that love to dabble in mortal affairs. Azura is the goddess of dusk and dawn. Boethiah rules over deceit, conspiracy, and treason. Clavicus Vile is the lord of bartering and meddling. Hircine is the god of the hunt. Malacath is the patron of the spurned and the ostracized. Mehrunes Dagon is the lord of destruction and Molag Bal the leader of slavers and rapists. Mephala is the web spinner, Vaermina the nightmare weaver, and Meridia the guardian of the living. Nocturnal acts as the mistress of shadows and her sister Namira the matron of the hideous. Peryite is the taskmaster, Sheogorath the madgod, and Sanguine the lord of hedonisms. Lastly, Hermaeus Mora is the Daedric lord of forbidden knowledge.
Unlike the Daedra, the Aedra don't like to revel in the misery or the affairs of mortals. The player will have very few interactions with these extraterrestrial beings. The most common way for a player to interact with one is to find a shrine or a temple within a city or out in the wilds, where they can pray to it in exchange for a blessing in the form of a stat-boost. There are a handful of quests involving followers, but once again the Aedra don't make much of an impact in the game play experience.
Very much unlike the Daedra, who play roles in some of the best quests the game has to offer. For the most part, the player will stumble into servitude of one of these menacing gods without even knowing it. Open the right doors, accept the right quest, or simply talk to the right person and the player will get suckered into performing a task at the behest of one of these trickster gods. Compared to Oblivion, which required you to do some arbitrary sacrifice, the Deadric Quests in Skyrim really place the player at the mercy of the gods. It's a great touch.
Not that it completely stops that annoying "collect X amount of random crap to sacrifice" altogether, but far fewer of the quests require it. There is a minimum level cap before starting certain quests, however, a tool that I feel would have been beneficial to have been implemented in other parts of the game as well. The quests that you don't stumble upon can be a bit difficult to find ,I personally needed to look them up, but for the most part the player is will come across the quests as they progress throughout the natural course of the game.
The player will definitely want to take the time to do them, seeing as become a Daedra's Champion (a title I feel like they throw out too loosely) will come with some handy swag. Daedric artifacts are some of the strongest items in the game. There are a bit over a dozen of them to collect, and some famous items from previous games -like the infamous Wabbajack, a staff that morphs enemies into random creatures- make a worthwhile return. Still, there is a heavy division between gods that give out unique reward and those who offer meek barely remarkable blessings. The player will feel short changed buy some of the random crappy rings and armors after being spoiled by tools like Merhunes Dagon's Razor or the Mace of Molag Bal. To add insult to injury, most of these rewards are weaker than their Oblivion counterparts to begin with.
Speaking of being weaker than the Oblivion counterpart, Skyrim's User Interface is downright ugly. In the last game, a single button opened a display that included the player's map, questlines, and even their stats. And it was all nicely compacted onto a screen that looked like a journal. For Skyrim, Bethesda has chosen to go with something much clunkier in appearance and usage. For one, the new map is a mess. Don't get me wrong, the new 3D effect is nice, but the sacrifice of utility for aesthetics just isn't worth it. For starters, sections you haven't explored are covered in clouds, making it even harder to see the roads that are barely distinguishable to begin with. It doesn't help that quest markers can be a bit possessive, covering an entire area indicator and making it impossible to select. They can also be a little omnipotent as well, requiring you to stand on a specific spot or knowing exactly where everything is.
It can be a bit of a clusterfuck, too
The map isn't the only thing that's wrong with the User Interface either. The menu and magic inventories are infamously unintuitive. It's impossible to rearrange items by weight or value. The player can't see his character in third person either, which is a major annoyance. What's the point of making fancy armor if the player can't take the time to truly appreciate it? However, the fact that they added some extra divisions to separate potions and foods from books and miscellaneous is a nice feature. The hotkey feature has been improved as well. Instead of the D-pad, there's a simple scroll down menu that can be activated in-game and pauses the action. It's all alphabetical though, so it can get a little difficult to organize.
But if you happen to be the type that loves organizing things, there is a plethora of houses to be bought and stocked with all the loot the player will gather in their many adventures. The player can interact with more of the objects found in the house a lot more as well, such as being able to stock the bookshelves. It's still not perfect though, the player will need to fiddle with most of their junk for hours to get everything straight anywhere else.
Fast travel is back and better than ever. It works about the same, for players who don't want to spend hours on end endlessly traversing the landscape. But for those who don't want to fully utilize this unrealistic feature, a horse drawn carriage appears outside of each town that will take the player to any of the major cities in Skyrim. The rides are criminally undercharged, and the driver makes witty remarks at each city, which is something any adventurer worth his or her salt can't miss. You still can't fast travel from safe indoor locations, which is a big annoyance when traveling around a bit.
Good Old Inflation
When Bethesda set out to create Skyrim, they set out to also create a never ending and completely unique single player experience. They called this ambitious endeavor Radiant Storytelling. While it is far from perfect, Bethesda has really created something to be marveled. The system works as a narrator for the player character, keeping track of their actions and adjusting the world accordingly. If you kill a man's wife and daughter, you'll find him in the taverns drinking away his sorrows. If you steal the weapon you've been hired to retrieve, the original owner may give you the cold shoulder next time you're in town.
The system also makes each quest slightly altered to your preferred gaming experience. This also means that each player gets a slightly different experience than anyone else playing the game. When you accept a quest, the game automatically looks for dungeons or locations you haven't explored, and custom places enemies that will give you both a challenge and a rest, depending on what the player seems to need. The game will also track friendships and enemies, generating quests based on them or unlocking bigger quest through them. NPC's will also change their dialogue to make quips about recent quests you've been on or unique items you may carry. This is noticed mostly with the guards, and many of their comments are priceless.
Find it on the Escapist Store!
This may not seem enough for some people. A common criticism levied against Bethesda games is that the world doesn't alter or respond much to player's actions and achievements. Which I guess is true, considering much of the AI will still refer to you as common rubble despite being the Arch Mage, Lead Companion, Dark Brotherhood Listener, and have saved the world thrice-over. It can be frustrating for some players, but it's never really bothered me.
Unlike the developer's promises said it would, the radiant questing doesn't have as much success in creating a never ending experience. Most of the radiant quests are mindless and repetitive. Usually some variations on something needed to be killed, collected, stolen, or cleared. It may not be something that can keep a player going on endlessly. But I think that it may be the solution to the big problem I had in Oblivion whenever I'd go back after repeated playthroughs, knowing that I had done absolutely everything I could possibly do time and time again.
But as I've said Skyrim is a big game. That's why in the final part of this series, I'll be combining all the major elements of the first five parts into The Most Comprehensive Review of Skyrim Ever. Look out for it!
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