There are plenty of big things that will get tweaked one way or the other as the Elder Scrolls franchise moves from Oblivion to Skyrim, but this is not about any of those. This is about the tiny things that bugged me as I played through 300-some odd hours of Oblivion; the small, broken pieces that kept nagging at me while I was prancing around Cyrodiil. It’s entirely possible that not a single thing on this list ever crossed your mind as you played, because they’re not game-breakers. They’re, at most, game-denters. Maybe not even that, maybe just game-bumper-into-ers. Yeah, that’s a technical term.
So here are five small annoyances that I really, really hope get doctored for Skyrim.
1. The Persuasion Wheel
I appreciate the idea that went behind Oblivion‘s Persuasion Wheel minigame; rather than just selecting your response from a drop down menu, you engage with the person by figuring out what particular kind of buttering up they’d enjoy. In theory, it’s a fine idea, but in practice, it’s tedious and repetitious. Everyone expresses their dismay or appreciation just about the exact same way, and once you figure out how to game the game, it all just becomes mechanical. It also doesn’t leave much room for role playing. It doesn’t make sense for every kind of character to be good at joking or coercing, but your stat only affects whether or not you can even start the minigame with someone, not how effective your boasts are.
2. Let Me Rearrange My House
You could buy a house in every single town in Oblivion, and the game’s downloadable content gave you access to several more. You could also buy several different sets of furniture for each location, everything from wall tapestries and candles to beds and storage chests. The houses served the practical purpose of giving you a place to rest – and heal up – no matter where you were, but it also helped create a sense of immersion and belonging. I bought each and every domicile I could and tricked them all out to their fullest extent, but while I had many houses, only one was my home: the one in Cheydinhal. There was something about the colors and architecture of that city that really appealed to me and gave me a sense of peace that romping around Bruma just never provided. I was happy to turn over hard-earned gold in exchange for the knicks and knacks that would fill the space, but was disappointed when I discovered that it was about as interactive as wallpaper. I couldn’t put my trinkets in the display case, I couldn’t move the dining room table closer to the window – not that it really mattered, as I couldn’t sit down at it anyway. Not every hero wants to spend their off-hours redecorating their house, but it would be great if those of us who wanted to indulge our inner Martha Stewarts could. (Not the going to prison part, the homemaker part.)
3. Better Banter
If you stopped to listen to a pair of Oblivion‘s NPC mid-chat, you’d quickly become convinced not only that everyone in the province was part of some kind of world-wide hive mind, but that the mind in question belonged to a paint-eating moron. Whether you were in Anvil, Chorral, or Skingrad, everyone seemed to be talking about the same, stupid things. “I saw a mudcrab the other day.” You live in the SWAMP. You must see a mudcrab EVERY day, do you really feel the need to bring it up like it’s hot news? I mean, ok, maybe it’s kind of noteworthy in Imperial City, but with the Emperor dying and demon-spewing Oblivion gates popping up all over the countryside, you’d think people would have something slightly more interesting to talk about besides their dislike of mudcrabs. I think I’d actually prefer walking through an entirely silent populace than hear this kind of mind-numbingly stupid natter in the background for another 300 hours.
4. More Voices
If you could overlook the uncanny valley-ness of the NPCs and weren’t put off by the supermegazoom-in whenever you started chatting with someone, you probably couldn’t help but notice that there were maybe six voices in all of Oblivion, not counting Sean Bean and Patrick Stewart. I could deal with the hyper-Botox nature of the characters, but hearing the same voice coming out of five people in the same town killed any sense that I was inhabiting a real world and reminded me forcefully that I was playing a game – and one with limited resources for voice work, at that. Yes, I know that Oblivion was huge, with umpteen quintillion lines of dialog, and perhaps when Oblivion was released we didn’t really understand how important really good voicework was for an immersive RPG experience. Ok, I totally made that last part up in a desperate attempt to give Bethesda the benefit of the doubt. Just hire some more actors, ok?
5. Bring Back Silt Striders
Silt Striders are actually a holdover from Morrowind – Oblivion didn’t have them, opting instead for a simple fast travel system that let you move between locations by selecting them on a map. The huge bugs were basically bus lines that ran between certain cities; in order to get where you were going, you had to know where to pick up the nearest silt strider that serviced that location. Oblivion‘s fast transit system is certainly easier, but I miss the insider feeling I got from knowing which silt strider line went where. It was a small bit of information that made me feel like a local, as opposed to some out-of-towner with their nose stuck in a map. Abandoning Oblivion‘s easier system of getting around would undoubtedly just piss people off – and understandably so – but how about bringing back the silt striders (or something like them) for the rest of us?
See? Told you they were minor. But Bethesda already knows about all the big stuff it has to fix – like the scaling difficulty and the skills that nobody ever used – so someone has to remind them that the little things matter, too. Feel free to add your own suggestions to the Wishlist, but make sure they’re tiny!