What follows is a list of notes made throughout the 180 hours I played of Skyrim. I was going to write a review, but in the end my list of notes became so long and crazy that I decided to just leave them as they are. It seems like mostly negative comments, but you can safely assume if it’s not mentioned here, it’s pretty Freaking awesome. See how there’s a capital F there? That’s how awesome Skyrim was. Freakingly. Enjoy the madness.
And yes, this article contains spoilers!
By the way, what follows was played on Skyrim v126.96.36.199 on an Xbox 360.
Horses be crazy
While the Xbox horse controls are sensitive enough, the PC controls by their keyboard-nature can’t be. As a result, the horses handle very badly in the PC version. If you try to turn your horse on the spot (without pressing forward at all) it will walk forward ANYWAY, often pushing you both straight off a cliff and to your deaths. Because of the terrible handling (which isn’t even great on the Xbox anyway), I shyed away from horses for over 80 hours of the game. They just weren’t worth the constant hassle.
On the subject of horses, my horse attacks everything. I get off it for a moment to pick up a Nirnroot, and it’s run off to fight a Mud Crab. I get off it at a decent distance from an enemy to sneak up and attack their camp, and the horse runs straight in, alerts all ten of them to my presence, and I either have to waste time and potions to get through the battle, or I die. GOD DAMN HORSES!
Guess what, companions be crazy too!
Companions (as in the guys that follow you around). They sneak when you sneak, draw their weapon when you draw your weapon, but they don’t know when to pull back to lure someone in, or when to hide. If someone’s almost spotted us, that’s good enough for a companion, and they will run straight in, pulling as much aggro as my horse does. I could order them around all the time, but that would be a huge waste of my time. GOD DAMN COMPANIONS! What’s even worse, are the people who don’t act like companions. They follow you through a crypt and don’t sneak at all. They walk right into your face constantly, they block the doorways, which is something Companions do too, by the way.
All horses, companions, and tag-along NPCs do, is get you killed. Avoid them at all costs.
Skyrim puzzles are like cracker jokes…weak
Dragon-Claw doors are cool, the first time you use them. The second and third times you use them, they’re still pretty cool. I understand it may be asking a bit much for a huge game like this to cram even more stuff in, in the form of more kinds of puzzle doors. But it would still be nice.
On the subject of puzzles, almost all of the puzzles in Skyrim are the dragon/fish/snake symbol puzzles, who’s solutions are usually etched in stone right next to the puzzles themselves, turning the “puzzles” into pillar-turning wastes of time. Not being any good at puzzles myself, part of me is glad that a Giraffe could solve these things, but at the same time I’m let down by how simple-minded the puzzle-makers seem to think their audience is, in a game full of otherwise rich, deep, excellent content.
As a side note, I do love how the Dragon-Claw doors, upon opening, huff and puff a little before they manage to really get going. Great touch.
Dungeons are often unique and really interesting
When I thought I had an understanding of all that Skyrim could throw at me, I went into a tomb somewhere on my wandering travels, and some small, friendly, melodic floating and bouncing globes of aqua blue light started to follow me around. More of them appeared as I went along! Bethesda really took the idea of making dungeons as unique as possible to heart.
I would give Skyrim a 10 out of 10, but it doesn’t have Patrick Stewart at the start telling me what the date is. Seriously though, the in-game rendered opening to Oblivion blew me away, and I was really hoping they’d do something similar with Skyrim. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change anything else about the start of the game, just have an epic helicopter-camera-view opening, that zooms down to the horse and cart you find yourself on in the beginning, like Oblivion zoomed in to your jail cell.
Falkreath, Dragons and Mudcrabs.
What’s harder to kill than one dragon? TWO DRAGONS. My save starts in front of the dragons, but I lured them to Falkreath, a capital city that I had not visited up until that point, 106 hours into the game. It was great to see “FALKREATH DISCOVERED” as I jumped and sprinted and dodged down a rocky slope with streams in it, towards this town, while the shadows of dragons danced about me, and the rumbles and shakes of their wings make me stumble and wish I could sprint faster. With a little help from the town guard, I manage to bring down and kill the first dragon, who was already wounded. Then the second dragon caught up, and I had to try to make it out to attack through the swirling haze of the previous dragon’s soul being absorbed Highlander style into my body.
Then, after a swoop or two the dragon lost interest in me, instead opting to attack a camp half way up a mountain next to the town. I couldn’t find my way up there, and regardless of how many times I hit the dragon with my bow, or fired shouts at it, it just wouldn’t come back down. That’s the story of far too many of my dragon battles. They are the most frustrating enemy in the game. Not because they are so hard to survive against and kill, that’s what makes them brilliant. They are frustrating because most of the time, they will lose interest in you, and go attack a Mudcrab in the far distance, leaving you to try to sprint to catch up, assuming there are no obstacles in your way.
Surely it should be me running away from the dragon, not the dragon running away from me? It ruins the whole experience for me.
After a three minute long sprint to try to find the way up the side of this mountain, I found myself battling the dragon once more. But then the things the dragon had been fighting showed up. Dragur! I had to handle those, as well as a Frost Dragon, in my already weakened state. Once the Dragur were dealt with, I got back on to the dragon. we fought, both of us getting injured, and finally when I had him down to less than a third of his health, he flew up, over the mountain peak and away. He was gone, for no reason. So, I spent four minutes finding my way around the mountain, then I cleared the skies on the other side and saw him, on the other side of a lake (back where I first saw him, as by this point, we’d gone in a big circle). I attacked him and…..he had all his health back!
At this point I decided fuck it, and I went on my merry way.
I decided to head back to Falkreath. The Dragon followed me, and I realised I was going the exact same route as I did the first time around. Now the dragon was in the town, fighting with me and the guards, as the first did. Oh, and this dragon decided to be blury and out of focus. then, as I land the killing strike with my bow, my camera is swung violently around to a guard asking me if I’d seen a dog. NO I’VE NOT SEEN A DOG, I’VE BEEN BUSY TRYING TO SURVIVE THE MULTI-DRAGON ONSLAUGHT ON YOUR SMALL TOWN. WHAT THE FUCK GUY?
Oh, and did I mention, when I went back to loot the first dragon, it had mysteriously disappeared? Still, at least I got the 20 dragon souls achievement. What a day. To top it off, as I was leaving the town, a dog came up and spoke to me in an American accent, and took me to see a Gok Wan soundalike.
I keep expecting to say “and then I woke up”. But all I have to say is…and then I continued to play Skyrim.
Rain is pretty weak, with the exception of the Storm Call
I experienced my first thunder storm 107 hours in. Having only ever seen lightning when I used my Storm Shout, I thought I’d accidentally used it. However, the rain in Skyrim is pathetic. It always feels like a light shower, and it never feels like it’s stormy, or pouring down. It’s far more stormy in the actual storm shout than it is in the rest of the game. They’ve done blizzards well (though less visibility would be cool, I want to stumble around blind in the snow!), but their thunder storms are exactly the same as their normal rainfalls, pathetic.
Horses, arrows, frame-rate! Oh and decapitation
I got on a horse that didn’t have an owner somewhere far North-East, and not long later it died. Before that I’d had Shadowmere, and I figured he’d returned to his bubbling pool to be picked up. He hadn’t. He was nowhere to be seen, and no amount of fast traveling and waiting would bring him back. I had hardly used him (he was the only horse that could withstand a real fight), and now he was gone forever. It’s a terrible shame, and a terrible bug.
I saw my first Daedric Arrows on a Dwarven Centurion around level 44, about 130 hours in, and was really disappointed. While I like the pincer design of the arrow heads, they are bland and grey, unlike the cool bronze of the dwarven arrows, or the beautiful green of the glass. I like the direction they went with Daedric stuff in this game in general, what little I’ve seen of it so far, but they went way too bland with the arrows.
The frame-rate only ever dipped to any particularly noticeable degree when I was stood near a dragon wall, teamed up with two ghosts fighting a dozen or so Draugr, in Olaf One-Eye’s crypt. With that one exception, smooth throughout.
In one quest, I was forced to play without any armour, abilities or weapons, save one staff. It was all cool, until the quest put me up against a bandit, and he cut my head off on his first strike. How am I supposed to defend myself against that, Skyrim? I had to start right back at the beginning of the quest when I last saved. It was rather annoying.
The load screen has contextual messages and objects, and that’s cool. I like the load screens for the most part. However, since I became a werewolf, something like 2 or 3 quarters of all of my load screens have featured a big black werewolf. Fuck off with your werewolves.
I get it, I’m a werewolf. I don’t even want to be a werewolf, I want my resting bonuses back.
Also, it wasn’t made clear how I could cure my lycanthropy during a certain quest, and now upon Googling it I see that I have to jump through hoops to get back to being able to cure it, and I just can’t be bothered. You know why I don’t use my werewolf ability? You turn into a Werewolf, and while the running and jumping is bad-ass, my armour and ability to do damage go right down, and there’s no first person view so it becomes hard to pick your targets and fight properly.
Furthermore you can’t just turn yourself back into a human. And when you do turn back into a human, all your clothes are unequipped. So you have to go into your inventory and try to remember what ring you had on, what amulet, what gauntlets you were wearing, was I wearing these shoes or those shoes? Etc. It’s a huge pain. Thanks for putting werewolves in the game, but I do not want to be one.
Oh, and I can’t be a vampire if I’m a werewolf. I’d like to try out Vampirism, see how it compares to the game-breakingly annoying Vampirism in Oblivion (no fast travel or waiting during the day? Haha, no thanks). I’ve not actually seen more than a handful of Vampires yet in Skyrim, they seem very scarce. This is after 160 hours of play, and an awful lot of adventuring.
J’zargo is the fucking MAN!
I’ve mentioned that I hate Companions (not the guild), but I just got a guy to follow me around because I liked the cut of his jib. J’zargo. He’s a College Mage, and he can wear heavy armour. Also, he’ll wield whatever weapon you give him, but when combat starts he’ll put it away and shock people instead. Why? Because he’s fucking J’zargo.
Abandoned houses are not to be trusted
I broke into what looked like any other working man’s small home in the middle of nowhere. I was surprised the door was locked, but guessed he needed his privacy. I wanted to go in and say hi. Instead, I found an empty room with stairs to the basement. I went down there, and was met by an angry bandit woman. There was an entrance to a secret passageway behind a swing-open shelf that lead down into a Dragur style ruin bandit hideout, and an interesting little story about some bandits and their hunt for treasure. And while I was in there I found…..a Stone of Barenziah. Thank you Skyrim, for continuing to surprise and entertain.
Snails pace doesn’t win the race
I don’t know how slow all the companions are, but I find my companion extremely slow. Without using sprint at all, after 30 seconds of running somewhere I have to wait a good 15 seconds for my companion to catch up. That’s on a road without a single obstacle. I turn around and see him running towards me from the distance.
Not only should your companion be able to run as fast as you, but he should be able to sneak as well as you too. I use sneak heavily, and he keeps getting us spotted. Furthermore, your companion has no qualms about walking over pressure plates, and will often kill you and themselves in the process. What the fuck?
Aura Whisper is the best, and riding Dragons is disappointing
The Shout Aura Whisper is immensely useful in Skyrim, and it’s easily my most used shout. I don’t have to change what I have equipped to cast Detect Life or Detect Dead, and it doesn’t use up my magika. I sneak around a lot, and it’s great to know what’s going on around the corner.
At one point, you fly somewhere riding a Dragon. I was really looking forward to that, but all that happened was you get on the dragon, the camera stays fixed and the dragon flies off into the distance, then a load screen and you’re just stood there at your arrival destination. I think what I said out loud when it happened sums this up: What a cop out.
The game is visually gorgeous and appealing in many ways, which makes let downs like that really stand out.
Then Skyrim was patched to version v188.8.131.52.4, (172 hours into the game, at level 52)
So, Skyrim was patched. The first patch since I started playing the game. I’ve had a few issues up till now. One or two quests have been impossible to complete (Repairing The Phial for example), and not a single weapon storage rack in the game has worked for me at all so far. I’ve had to display my stuff Oblivion style, strewn about on tables and floors, or on the mannequin.
The patch said it would fix this, and after excitedly traveling to my home…..WEAPONS RACKS NOW WORK! YEAY. However, the Repairing The Phial quest is still completely broken. Granted, the patch notes say that it will work for people who start the quest after the patch, but what about people like myself, that started the quest dozens and dozens of hours ago, and still can’t complete it?
I can also confirm that the bug of J’zargo sounding like a weird loud crackling fire is still not fixed. The only solution is to save the game, then load the save. Or kill him….MWAHAHAAA. Oh, did I not mention that bug? Sometimes J’zargo starts to sound like a loud crackling fire. It’s……weird.
So here’s my last note, made when I was 846 saves into the game (as an old RPG load screen tip taught me “Save often, and in different slots”).
When I thought Skyrim couldn’t throw any more awesome things at me, I wander into a random cave and found it to be an underground forest, with wildlife and greenery, a very high cavern roof with holes for the sunlight to break through. It was pretty freaking stunning. It was also my first mutli-Spriggan encounter. I still have the feeling that there’s more to them than meets the eye, and there’s a quest somewhere that explains their existence…..