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Oh Bethesda... Not This Again...
on July 16, 2013
Total disclaimer: I am not a veteran of the Elder Scrolls Series, so my opinion is based on Skyrim as a stand-alone game.
So let's get this party started. I like Bethesda games. I like how horribly ugly their characters are and how astoundingly complex their games turn out to be. When Skyrim broke out onto the market, I studied it from afar with chilling aloofness. My four infuriating hours attempting to figure out Oblivion in the past made me skeptical and overtly biased. When a leopard highwayman chases you through a load screen in an attempt to murder you, you get a little freaked out.
In an effort to not be prejudiced against Skyrim based on my fleeting (exasperating) experience with Oblivion, I decided to give it a try. Holy pie fight, Batman, this game is overwhelming and awkward. Here is my list of grievances:
1. This game tells you nothing. Skyrim needs a laundry list of explanations, but very rarely does it explain things to you. I do not consider myself an inept gamer, but I feel so totally discombobulated and lost when I play Skyrim that it is almost disheartening. Within the first few hours of game play, you get hit with an avalanche of options. Who do you want to be? Which faction do you want to follow? What magic stone do you want to activate? What crap are you accidentally picking up as you blunder through the forest? Is that magic? Do you want magic? Hold A to charge your laser! I'm so confused!
2. The fighting mechanics are so awkward, you might as well be swinging bananas on yoyos. What the crap, Bethesda? Why do I swing like a blind man and charge like a rhino when all I want to do is beat someone to death? Ridiculous. Fortunately, the range option with bows and arrows is much more rewarding than trying to assault an enemy up the nose.
3. Menus, menus, and more menus. Get ready to pause in the middle of every battle to eat yourself a ten-course meal. Want to swap weapons quickly? Still a pause menu. Notice that the term is "favorites" and not "hotkey" - because the ability to swap in this game does not function like a hotkey, but like a favorites menu. Ugh. I find this incredibly disruptive to the flow of the game. The skills menu is beautiful, but horrible to navigate. Options out the wazoo, but you can't look at it holistically and I find that annoying. How do I know what I want to work toward? Rhetorical. I just pick something and move on.
4. The companions are big fat loot bags. Yes! Not exactly a grievance, though the companions I have absconded with were either totally useless or obscenely better than me. Who is the hero of this story?!? Be forewarned: you cannot push the companions. They are made of stone. If they block a doorway, good luck getting past them. Inevitably they become my secondary loot bag for all things I attempt to fit on my person; which has its benefits since they will use your excess weapons and armor sans degradation; yet whose purpose is totally defeated since they are always late to the party that is my funeral.
5. Distances are deceiving. Since the game decided that it was not pertinent to explain fast travel, I did not know that I could do such a thing. Instead I hoofed it cross-country on my stubby little cat legs for endless hours only to find destinations I was clearly not prepared for. Do you see why I am unhappy? Don't trust your map. Ever. The towns located half an inch apart are really 3 hours worth of booby-trapped woodlands to run screaming into. And get ready to be ambushed by everything and its mom. Including, but not limited to, saber tooth cats, bears (wtf bears), wolves, and racist bandits. Most everyone is racist toward my Khajiti cat.
6. This game tells you nothing. SERIOUSLY! Dialogue from the NPC's overlaps all the time, and not in a good way. Maybe the game is telling me things in its 6 point font that I am unable to do more than glance at as I get stalked by teleporting shopkeepers that keep profiling me as a thief. I'm just crouching behind your counter because my legs hurt, geez.
Needless to say, I don't often know what I'm doing in Skyrim. That being said, the game is very entertaining. Bethesda never fails to impress with its depth and breadth of options. Bored with questing? You can go out and pick flowers, mine ore, and scrounge for various other odds and ends that will inevitably make you overweight. Lost? Me too, but I'm still truckin' on. If you enjoy sandbox games that are difficult and full of glitches, Skyrim will not disappoint. It is dense and complex and often times funny despite the somber tone of the plot.
I would comment on the DLC, except I haven't installed it yet (therefore negating the value of this review). Three stars: very tough if you aren't familiar with the mechanics of the series. The controls and options will overwhelm you, but keep swinging those bananas on your yoyos and name yourself something hilarious. When you get the assassination notes, it'll be worth it.