Saturday, 7 January 2012

Skyrim - The Cracks Are Starting To Show

OK.  Long Skyrim rant coming... 

Don't get me wrong here.  I love the game immensely and have much more to discover and explore.   There's a lot to love and admire, but also a lot that needs fixing...some of which comes down to choice though as you'll see further down about companions, if you read that far.

Besides the quest bugs which I can live with at the moment, and I assume will be fixed, I'm sick to death of endless Draugr, skeletons I only need to breathe on to disintegrate, the same old spiders everywhere, the Forsworn, the Falmer (although not as prevalent) and lack of variety in dungeon enemies.  I do like the variety of dungeon design and the Dwemer ruins though which is a massive step up from Oblivion.

I play on Adept which gives me enough challenge, although now I'm level 49 (Sneak, Archery, One Handed, Block and Destruction)I can kill almost anything easily using strategy if I'm careful.  I would go to Expert but I can't see the point in upping the difficulty when my character just gets handicapped with lower health and the enemies have increased hit points. 

It would make a lot more sense IMHO if a few more mobs spawned or something to make it harder and more interesting instead of just having to whack mobs over and over for no extra reward rather than just prolonging the fight.  Or maybe a survival mode since there's so much fresh food laying around one would never bottled water though but plenty of rivers and streams...if one could only use them.  That might be an actual reason to role play, but would probably get boring after awhile.  But, then again maybe not if it was well done.

I've seen a lot of complaints about the over abundance of dragons before and after the end of the MQ, but I don't actually see that many, just enough to have half a dozen or so souls in reserve.  I do get them if I fast travel as they seem to be triggered by it, but I don't fast travel that often...maybe if I get bored or have to sell or store gear in a hurry. 

I did meet my first Ancient dragon a couple of nights ago out in the open with nowhere to hide from it's breath attack.  Even Spellbreaker didn't help.  Let's say it didn't go well even though I also have Dragonrend and the sword Dragonbane.  I seem to have skipped Elder dragons unless they are hiding out somewhere.  Anyway, when I got back in game after dying it was distracted by a bear so I legged it while it was occupied and haven't seen it yet.  

Being railroaded into all the Guilds to complete the main and other major quests, or in fact to be able to get all the complete shouts, whether you want to or not was a very bad decision on the developers part.   I don't want to join the Dark Brotherhood, others don't want to join the College of Mages, be a werewolf or join the Thieves Guild, but it's a must to finish certain important quests.   If it were only the fetch and other minor quests it wouldn't matter so much as one can make multiple characters and choose other styles if they want anyway.

One problem with that is for the most part I try to play these games from the standpoint of what I would morally do if I were really in the game.   I do usually join the Thieves Guild though so maybe that says something about me...who knows.  Anyway.

Take the Fallout games for example.  I am against slavery or any kind of subjugation so the quest lines would always have me working against those factions where possible and I never play the opposite sides just to see what it's like because I don't wish to.  I don't murder people just because they may offend me or someone tells me to, not that I haven't thought about it.  It's different in combat where I'm attacked first or I know I'm going to be as in a bandit camp or dungeon etc.

I can hear people scoffing now though ...but it's just pixels in a game.  Blah! Blah ! Blah!   Well, I don't role play to the extent others as in trying to live another life, but I still have a conscience that would bother or not.  I don't use the sick sex mods using animals, necrophilia and other disgusting practices either and they are also pixels.  Highly realistic pixels none the less and the products of disturbed minds.   So, I guess that is role style. 

Anyway.....I personally put a lot of the forced options(??) down to the juvenile console "achievement' mentality and trying to code a game for popularity of the casual gaming masses instead of real role playing.  The lack of consequences and recognition for your actions if also another very big omission, but that's been the same in all Bethesda games.   I have had NPC's call me friend or recognize that I did something good for them, but the Dragonborn remains forever a nobody whose sweet roll was stolen.  I suppose killing Alduin and saving the world was like a top secret dark ops mission and only certain people were need to know so as not to panic the peasants.

Fallout New Vegas is an example of good quest writing with choices and consequences.  So what happened Bethesda?  Perhaps you should have looked more carefully at Obsidian's style and consulted with their writers and quest makers.  New Vegas, in my opinion was a much, much better game story wise and all round actually, than FO3. 

And...changing the subject a little.  Another thing I'm increasing pissed at is the slow walk speed my female Khajiit (and me) has to endure.  This may seem minor to some, but it's really getting to me.  I know Bethesda took a lot of ideas from a lot of Oblivion mods, (and botched the implementation of some of them) but this takes the cake.  I'll eat my hat if they didn't emulate the female "sexy" walk animation rubbish because it seemed popular.

My Khajiit looks like a ridiculously slow walking catwalk model, (no pun intended) sashaying in tiny steps behind any NPC, at a painfully slow pace and she can't keep up without breaking into a run.   She looks like her feet have been tied together at birth and long fast, walking strides are impossible!

It makes follow quests very painful when said NPC won't continue unless you are actually following right behind them.    I absolutely hate it.  Just as well I mainly play in 1st person because I can't stand looking at the walk animation.  Women don't walk like that in daily life and it looks so stupidly fake.   I'm a warrior not a strutting super model wanna be.....

While I'm having a rant....What the hell is with all the dog meat everywhere.  I find it hard to believe anyone but the most desperate losers in Skyrim eat dog meat when deer and elk, rabbits and domestic animals are so prevalent, not to mention plenty of fresh healthy vegetables for Vitamin C so they don't get Scurvy.   I found it in all of my owned houses so I took it out and threw it on the street for the beggars, especially that bastard Degaine in Markarth.   I'll give him "back biters," with a little Nightshade tonic.

Dogs are supposed to be valued as protectors and companions by most "normal" people, not as meals.  It's disgusting, but then so is cannibalism.  I haven't done that quest and probably won't, along with a couple of the other more distasteful Daedric quests. 

Oh Hell....I nearly forgot level ultimate and most hated thing of all from Oblivion.  It was much better in FO3 and FO:NV so why did Bethesda screw it up again in Skyrim.  I could tolerate the rest of the glitches and little annoyances if the scaled quest rewards and other balance issues were fixed.   There should be no need at all for scaled quest rewards.   No-one should be able to complete the main quest and higher level faction quests at low levels or "beat" it in 4 hours as I've seen some mention.   You're basically out of luck if you complete a quest at level five for example, and get what seems to be a nice reward that's totally useless a few levels later because of level scaling. 

Anyway, I've got off track enough and my main gripe today is about followers.  Yes, I know it's a choice to use them or not and it's rapidly becoming "not."  Skyrim can be a lonely place and a traveling companion can be fun and helpful, but there are too many drawbacks to make it enjoyable for me.

Companions in Skyrim are a pain in the neck and are only really uselful as pack mules, especially when it comes to dungeons.  Outdoors they aren't so bad, but often I'm more likely to get help from a bear to kill something rather than my follower who may be busy staring into the twilight or being stuck on part of the landscape, or just not there at all.

Dragons do seem to get their attention though which usually springs them into action so that's something useful I guess. 

Why anyone would want to marry such stupid NPC's even if it's just in a game is beyond me.  It doesn't interest me at all from a role playing point of view, but if the prospective partner just had some kind of personality or even facial expressions when they react to certain situations it might be worth a one time look. 

I've watched some Let's Play videos on Youtube and one followed through the process of proposing to the prospective spouse and on to the very brief, unemotional wedding ceremony.  I found the dialogue that basically says, "there's not much time for courtship in Skyrim" a huge copout and an excuse not to make the quest and wedding a bit more worthwhile.

Not that it bothers me.  There's no marriageable Khajiit for my character and even if there was he would either have to come adventuring with me or be a very lonely stay at home husband.  I only pop in and out of my houses to drop off gear or collect stuff.  I don't even sleep there.  A campsite or bed in a cave is fine with me, if I even remember to sleep.  That can work in my favour as I contracted vampirism last night and didn't check my active effects.  Luckily, a merchant mentioned how peaked I looked and I remembered the vampire cave.  That was a narrow escape as I do not want to be a vamp.  Not that it matters too much as I save a LOT in this game as I never know when or if it's going to crash, so I wouldn't lose much play time by reloading.  I haven't actually had a single CTD since the 1.3 patch though...just a couple of freezes in many, many hours.

Reasons why companions suck....
I should mention I have Vigilance as well, but he never glitches and is always there when I need him to be, unlike the two legged followers who:

1. Get lost just when they are needed or disappear entirely. 
2. Set off every trap it's possible to trigger, even ones that are well hidden.
3. Often stop fighting, standing face to face with tree trunks or walls just staring into space.  Their AI seems to get confused.
4. They bump into me and send me hurtling off cliffs or block me in small corridors and into the    unwelcoming arms of Deathlords.  OR, they pop in front of me just as I'm about to take the perfect shot with my Epic Ebony Bow of Lightning Strikes (sarcasm) and I die to two of said Deathlord's Ebony arrows because I suddenly can't retreat or manoeuvre.
5. They cannot be told to use a particular combat style and  please "Stop your damn complaining when I hit you by accident which wouldn't happen if you kept your distance," or if I could tell you to stay back.
6. I can't ride my horse because I feel guilty that my follower has to run behind like a slave and then gets lost or stuck in combat and risks dying.
7. Because I may want to go it alone for awhile and go horse trekking across the land, they spit the dummy if I'm gone for more than 2 days and go back to their starting point needing to be rehired.
 8. I refuse to have to use console commands to get them to level with me or just to update their skills.  Speaking of which there's no in game way to see what their skills are besides the console so other than looking on the Wiki it's a guessing game outfitting a companions progperly according to their class or just to see what their stats are.  Other games, and indeed mods for previous ones can do it via dialogue so why not this one.
9. Probably more that I'll remember when I play next.

 I should also mention I use a mod that makes all followers essential. However, I'm finding them so damn annoying that I don't care if they die anymore.  The only one I'll be keeping is Vigilance and maybe Meeko when I finally get around to seeking him out.  I remember now why I hated followers so much in Oblivion and they are just as bad, if not worse in Skyrim.

The other alternative which I may have to use due to encumbrance issues, is to tell them to wait just inside a dungeon entrance until I return with spoils for them to carry or tell them to get lost.  I think the best option is to use my Housecarls so they at least go home when I tell them to so I can get them back easily.

Early in the game I had Lydia follow me around, carry my gear, and help save me from certain death a few times.  It wasn't long before I got sick of her whining about carrying my burdens, which I can actually understand to a point because after all she's just following her Jarl's orders.  I wouldn't like being in servitude either I admit, but she just has zero personality.

I told her to stay home and be the Housecarl, and I eventually hired a mercenary called Vorstag to fight with me and to carry my gear (the most important part.)   He is actually a nice guy for an NPC, doesn't talk too much and when he does it's not another vapid annoying comment.  We got along pretty well until I decided that since I'm a Khajiit I would like to try traveling with a Khajiit commpanion.

So I found Kharjo, a mercenary guard traveling with the Khajiit caravans.  I had to recover a lost amulet for him before he would accompany me, but that was simple enough.  This is where it all went 

The other two followers didn't last long enough for most of the annoyances to be as noticeable, but I've had Kharjo with me for around 10 levels or more, and I'm now level 49.   He sneaks well, uses almost any weapon with ease (I don't give him two handers though) and he has pleasant, unobtrusive comments.  If only he could be told to stay at ranged combat, or melee when I want to be a sneaky archer, be able to ride a horse, not trigger traps and then complain about it, NOT steal my kills and other annoying things from the list above in this post, he would be the ideal companion.   Unfortunately, he's probably going back to the caravan and mercenary life quite soon which may well suit him (and me) better.

This is Kharjo dual wielding lighting and fire staves.  He uses them like an expert though it gets pretty hectic in dungeons and I can't see what's going on half the time for the spell effects.  I eventually had to take them away from him.   I always meant to get an action shot but never did.

Finally....Bethesda, release the Creation Kit for heavens sake so we can get on with fixing all these bugs and adding more content.   Unless there's another big surprise (shock) besides the CK being tied to Steamworks thing.   One wonders.

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