Skyrim...

Why I couldn't be bothered to finish Skyrim

(I've had this on my hard disk for some time, wanting to give it the finishing touches it needs. But before I delay it even more, I decided to post it here)
The title might not be ideal, but here we go:
Skyrim is just not immersive, while at the same time lacking a lot of the fidelity to create a believable world. Then there are also the aesthetics...

I've just always thought about this problem: Why don't I really like Bethesda RPGs that much? Most of the time I couldn't come to a conclusive answer. But now, I think I have it worked out.
Don't get me wrong: I love Fallout 3 and Skyrim is by no means a bad game. I've played roughly 120 hours of it (while having played over 100 hours of Fallout 3 in one go)... and thus I will try to explain why it falls short of being as great a game as most people make it out to be.

Let's kick it off with the question of immersion: it's a make-or-break factor for RPGs, as we are all well aware. So what does Skyrim do wrong here? Well, first we've got the User Interface. It's a bit clunky overall, but that could be forgiven by its design. The thing here is that the design isn't all that good. It would much more fit a futuristic game and feels out of place in a (very much medieval) RPG - it's transparent, with pronounced edges. It's normally nice that the elements get hidden away when not required, but with Skyrim's style, that's somehow even more immersion-breaking. And then there's the other problem of it not being navigable by using only the keyboard, such as to see less of it. Or that it constantly asks you "are you sure" in dialogues that can only be taken care of with the mouse, while my hands are all comfortably sitting on the keyboard.
Then you've got the textures... they're horrendously inconsistent. sometimes you'll get a really low resolution texture, then you're going to get treated to a very high resolution texture. And worst of all, sometimes you can see the texture tiling. And then there are the models... some of them lack a load of details, some of them are plainly in the wrong place. At some places, models that should be different are the same. Some of the models aren't even normal mapped for details where there should be some.
The everyday items are all too similar... except the plates, strangely.

Both first and third person perspective are messed up. One is always messing up your movements, while the other lacks any kind of feedback that you're actually somebody walking somewhere and not just a camera hovering 6 feet above the ground. Then you've got climbing... oh man that looks bad. And this ties in closely with the bad case of invisible wall syndrome the game has. It has the habit of walling you off at all times, only allowing you to travel along specific routes. The walling off nearly never feels natural, and is mostly artificial. Such as not letting you climb mountains above a specific grade of steepness and having you just slide down them when trying to scale them.

Artificial intelligence is worse than just messed up. Sure enough merchants go to bed and have their own working hours, but they still feel like lifeless puppets. When in Morrowind you could ask anybody about nearly anything you could type and sometimes receive an answer, here you've got very little and very rigidly defined topics you can talk about. The companions you can take with you also have caught that brain-damaging virus everybody else seems to be infected with. They're incredibly stupid and act very unnatural. I may have noticed this more than is usual because all the way up to level 22 of my first venture into Skyrim I kept Lydia with me (because I though it'd make the game easier).

Stupid difficulty I also have an issue with: I can respect a game like Two Worlds 2, that basically tells you "level up and then come back" through their monsters, but playing on Master in Skyrim is just irritating most of the time. AI directed idiots will randomly spawn in and beat you up, dragons will suddenly attack while you're busy doing the laundry et cetera.

At first you look at the screen shots and think: what's wrong with the fidelity? Well, for starters: bandits subsist entirely on cold air and the hopes of beating you up for your gold. Nobody reacts to anything you do to their belongings. This is especially weird when you consider that you can basically raid the Jarl's whole castle and sell everything, him watching in that pose of his all the time. This can again be attributed to be another uncanny valley problem, but it's more than that: it pushes the game farther into the uncanny valley.

Then you've got the aesthetics: the game wants to be a Nordic fantasy RPG. It fails miserably, starting with the pose of the Jarls and ending with the general tone it has. The people are at first made out to be tough and searching for conflict, but this falls apart rather quickly. Then you've got the astonishing amount of people with no face and no name. You've got the horrible amount of bandits, who aren't distinguished in any way and are just there, without any reason for it - they can't rob any caravans that'd pass through, THERE ARE NONE. The landscapes are mostly just more of the same, indistinguishable white-grey mountains. All soldiers look nearly the same, as do the bandits.
Getting back to the world: it feels devoid of life. All the NPCs just stand there being NPCs doing large amounts of nothing. You could equate it to watching from ther inside of a zoo cage: there are a lot of very stupid people you don't understand out there, waiting for you to entertain them. And sure enough, you do. But that doesn't change their hollowness towards you. They speak your language on occasion, only making a few select sounds before babbling away in their own. There are no caravans out and about like in Fallout 3, they just spawn in at random intervals. And when I say "they", I'm wrong. It's only that one Khajit caravan. All you ever meet out on the oh-so-busy streets are Imperial/Elven and Stormcloak patrols with their prisoners. There are no random NPCs just wandering around like they should be. And I also soon found that not taking the roads was the better option, because all the monsters are seemingly camping out one every single road in existence. Except the dragons, obviously. Those just wait for the most inconvenient moment possible to bug you.

Nearly no NPC ever lies to you. It's not like in Two Worlds, where you have to be constantly ready to draw your sword, here all rumours are true, all villagers friendly. It makes no sense whatsoever. Nobody ever tricks you into giving them huge amounts of money up front for something that never comes, or tricks you into a fight with a giant worm named Fluffy.

Combat: it feels cumbersome and sluggish, yet still everything in the whole game is either combat or intermission to combat. There's nothing to do in the world that isn't combat-related or done in preparing for combat. There's no feeling that these people live, you just get the feeling that everything is made for the adventurer business.

Please comment (feedback and criticism are appreciated).
EDIT 2013/09/10: Did away with the spelling mistakes.

I completely agree, it's an issue I've also had with Bethesda's games for a while. The thing is, I don't think we will be able to get a "truly" immersive experience with any game designed like this because it is just too big. Sure it would be nice if your companions had an actually personality, and the shopkeepers, and the quest-givers, but that's already hundreds if not thousands of NPC's right there. Not even touching on Skyrim's other faults you mentioned, that's a ton of extra work.

I think that any time you try such a large project as Skyrim or Fallout there will always be things that will be left by the wayside. Like you said it doesn't make it a bad game, there is just only so much a team can do on one project in a timely fashion.

These are some pretty good points, when I play bethesda's games I kinda expect some problems with the game as they are huge with plenty of content. There isn't ever really anything that irks me too much other than some of thier infamous bugs. One thing to remember is how far they have come with thier games, if i remember correctly Morrowind had a list of dialogue options as well, and almost no AI to boot when it came down to character schedules. While the game isn't all the way there I'd say the series is headed in the right direction. One of my problems with the way the series is going is taking out some of the role playing elements, such as not having a skill requirement when advancing in a guild. I hate being the Arch-Mage and never casting a single spell the entire game. There have been some ass holes in the game, one that comes directly to mind is the ass hold you cut from webbing then he tries to bolt with the tresure youre after. There have been others in the series, such as a guy in Morrowind who kept asking you for money then once you end up giving him quite a fair amount he dissapears, then later shows up to beat your ass decked in full ebony gear. I think the companions could be a lot worse, although they do need a fine polishing. I do agree with a bunch of things you pointed out such as the dificulty scaling and just generally not much going on in the world. I just like to think the war and the dragons detered a lot of people from fucking about outside of the towns.

There are a lot of good points here that I never really considered before.

The thing that always annoyed me about the AI companions is their complete inability to avoid traps. I can sneak very carefully around them and be fine but their path always sends them right over the damn top, triggering the trap every time. God damn idiots!

I also hate the way the game seems to push you into completing the aditional quest lines. If my character wants to collect all the dragon priest masks she needs to complete the College of Winterhold's questline which makes her Arch Mage by default. She doesn't even use magic! Why is there no option to politely decline? It's the same with the companions and I assume the Thieves guild too. It's not a role playing game when I cannot decide my own character's role.

As for NPCs being complete dicks, there is a random encounter where an Argonian damands you give him 10,000 gold because you apparently dared him to retrieve a hat from a bandit camp and he almost died doing so. If you pay the money you get a regular hat worth 1 gold. If you don't pay he attacks you.

Proverbial Jon:

As for NPCs being complete dicks, there is a random encounter where an Argonian damands you give him 10,000 gold because you apparently dared him to retrieve a hat from a bandit camp and he almost died doing so. If you pay the money you get a regular hat worth 1 gold. If you don't pay he attacks you.

You can onvine him that you were drunk and didn't know what you were doing

OT: yeah you have to really ignore thing if you want to be immersed in skyrim

 

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