The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Screenshot

So, Skyrim.

Everybody's heard of it, everybody's playing it, and it's getting stellar reviews. Clearly this game is the jam for a whole lot of people right now, and that's pretty cool. Seriously, no hate coming from me towards those of you who dig it, at all.

For me, though… I have to say I'm just not feeling it.

As of this writing, I've put somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 hours into the game, and yes, I do realize that in the big scheme of things that's barely even scratching the surface of the ridiculous amount of content present here. However, that's still a pretty sizable chunk of time and I'm not too sure how much more (if any) I'm going to devote.

What's good?

Content. Like I just said, the game has an unbelievable amount of content. I've got something like twenty or thirty incidental quests on my to-do list that I haven't even touched yet, and I've got at least five or six "major" quest lines going at the same time. For any gamer who is concerned about getting the most raw playtime possible for their $60, I'm guessing that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim probably offers the best value of the year.

Landscape. It's pretty damned beautiful. I've found myself looking out at tremendous vistas and often pausing just to sweep the camera around and take in the environment. Really impressive.

Build choices. I picked a fighter-type character specializing in two-handed weaponry and heavy armor, but I could just have easily have gone the stealthy archer route or dabbled in several different kinds of magic use—or any combination thereof. Add in all sorts of weapons, spells, and armor, and there's a lot of toys to play with.

What's not so good?

Character. I'm the kind of player that likes a lot of personality in my gameplay, and I'm a sucker for great writing. So far, it doesn't seem like Skyrim has much of either.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Screenshot

The characters I've met feel flat and unmemorable and I don't feel any investment in what's going on. Without any kind of human connection, the game comes off like a giant laundry list of quests to do because they're there to be done. Furthermore, the game introduces "companions" to quest along with you, and they could hardly be more dull. They barely say anything, they've got no discernible personality once they join you, and they don't offer much in the way of getting to know them.

In contrast, look at something like Fallout 3. Within the first hour, the player stumbles across a nuclear bomb in the middle of the beginning town and meets several interesting characters with a variety of problems. Later on in the game, there are any number of varied and diverse things going on—two dueling superheroes, an orphan that needs a home, cannibals inviting you in for dinner, vampires, robots, and more… and the companions? Some were certainly better than others, but they were all interesting in their own way and had a ton more personality than those in Skyrim.

Although Fallout 3 has several complaints that could legitimately be leveled at it, I don't think anyone could deny that there were plenty of interesting characters and events happening there—honestly, the first hour of Fallout 3 is an order of magnitude more interesting from a story/character perspective than anything I've seen during my entire time in Skyrim.

Quests. Now I fully admit that I've only seen a small slice of the quests available in the game, but what I have seen has not been very rewarding or entertaining, and I'm not encouraged to push forward. Almost every dungeon I've been to roughly follows the same "underground narrow hallways with some larger rooms" blueprint, and each final chamber has a very convenient shortcut door back to the surface. Whether I am clearing out a barrow, "sneaking" in somewhere to get some information, or just exploring, it all boils down to entering the dungeon and killing everything that's inside. There's nothing inherently wrong with dungeon crawling, but with a game that's so huge and so sophisticated, the variety of quests has been sorely lacking—in fact, many are outright boring.

Where are the "tough choices" that make you sit back and think? Where are the quests that are won by tricking your opponent with clever speech, or by winning them over with your charm? Where are quests that don't involve traveling to a location and killing everything that's there? I mean, I've done a few where I'm taking an item to a certain place, but those are so piddling and forgettable that they hardly even count as quests.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Screenshot

Weirdness and frustration. I've heard several reports of bugs and glitches, and I've seen more than a handful myself.

  1. I was walking through the countryside and a cluster of inanimate bodies fell from the sky to land at my feet. No explanation, no reason.
  2. A quest giver was on a staircase, and when I approached to complete the quest, they were unable to decide whether they were going up or down stairs and I could not complete the quest without reloading a save.
  3. I traveled to the correct location for a quest, but the person who was supposed to be there was not present. I spent several minutes trying to figure out what was going wrong and then eventually reloaded to save and tried again—and that time the person was there.
  4. I was supposed to take an item to a location, and my map marker showed that it was all the way on the other side of the world. I fast-traveled as close as I could and then walked the rest of the way, committing a sizable amount of time to travel. As soon as I got to the map marker, it disappeared and reset itself to the actual location, which was fifty feet from where I originally started.
  5. There have been multiple times when I've been in the middle of battle, and then an NPC quest-giver approaches me to ask for a favor. I am CLEARLY in the middle of battle, and these people end up dead without ever having given their quest, more often than not.
  6. I gave a large number of items to one of my followers, and then that follower was replaced with a new one that was required by a certain quest. My original follower disappeared, and I've never seen them again despite going back to the original location where we first met. All the goods he was holding? Gone as well.

Those things were clearly glitches, but there are a number of other things that I personally find irritating… things like the clunky, cumbersome menu system, having to go to different shops in order to sell different goods (yes, I know that this is a perk to be earned, but it's time-consuming and inconvenient.) It was also irritating to not have a place to store goods when over-encumbered… I eventually bought a house after much time and effort, but something so simple should be introduced to the player right off the bat, if you ask me.

…Oh, and the dragons? Talk about underwhelming. At this point, I've killed at least six or eight, and each one was less than impressive. I expected that a game which features a dragon theme so heavily would make each encounter more of an awesome event, but they're just random enemies that pop up in the world, and they're not even hard to kill. More annoyances than anything else, I had a much tougher time fighting giants and mammoths than I did the dragons. These flying lizards are the definition of anti-climactic.

Is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a terrible game? No, not hardly.

I've played dozens of games that were far worse this year, and there's a lot to like if you're inclined towards fantasy adventures. On the other hand, is it deserving of the 25 perfect scores (360 version) currently shown at Metacritic? Is it going to rank as one of the years best games? For me, the answer is no to both.

To be perfectly honest, it feels too flat and dull to consider sinking as much time as it probably requires to get through even half… I'd much rather play something with more variety and better characters, and certainly something that feels less repetitive and checklist-y. I'm glad I tried it and I can understand why some people love it, but I don't think it's for me and I'm very glad that I'm not on the hook to do the review.

Probably going to move on.


Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been gaming since the days when arcades were everywhere and the Atari 2600 was cutting edge. So, like... A while.

Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.

Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway
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13 Comments on "Fifteen hours with Skyrim–and that’s enough"

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Anonymous
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Anonymous
3 years 11 months ago

and to add to the pile…

Making killing dragons a chore is something I never thought would be possible in a large-scale AAA RPG.

Fast-traveling is useless when it entails at least two loading screens (fast travel to Dragonsreach – load screen – open the gate to Dragonsreach – load screen – and that’s just if you want to stop at the Jarl’s throne, you get more of them if you want the porch or the dungeon)

Anonymous
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Anonymous
3 years 11 months ago
I’ve played the game for 10 times the amount of time you have and I have to say you’re dead right on all counts. Decent-to-solid game but nowhere close to a 10 or even a 9. If they’d cut out all the chaff (backtracking, load screens, taking items out of storage for smithing/shopping) it would’ve been better, but the main problems for me reside in the absolute vacuity of the writing, the repetitiveness of most quests, the lack of impulse to go forward – except for the increasingly ubiquitous “virtual carrot” gameplay. There is no carrot. There’s a lot to… Read more »
Josef
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Josef
4 years 7 months ago
All I’ll say to this is that Skyrim is a heavily player-driven experience. It is easy to get distracted simply because of the sheer volume of content you are presented with, but if you were to push that aside and focus on completing the various story missions, it doesn’t take -nearly- that long to “get good”. You run into the start point for two major quest lines (the main story and the rebellion questline) before you’re out of the first dungeon and nothing’s stopping you from disregarding the huge, expansive world and focusing entirely on those quests, both of which… Read more »
Mike Doolittle
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Mike Doolittle
4 years 9 months ago
Actually, I’m with Brad to the extent that if he didn’t like it after 15 hours, it’s probably just not his cup of tea. You shouldn’t have to suffer through a game you don’t like, just waiting until the moment when it finally gets good. For me, Skyrim was awesome from the start. I took some menial-sounding errand for a local merchant, and ended up on a three-hour quest through a huge dungeon filled with nasty enemies, lots of loot and fun (easy) puzzles. It sucked me in and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. There are, though, plenty of… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
4 years 9 months ago
I believe you are doing this game an injustice, by expecting something else from what it is. You are judging it not based on what it is, but what you wish it would be. Bethesda never created notable characters or plots with depth. Quests in all of its games were and still are boring. Since Morrowind all they seem to care about is making nice screenshots with beatiful vistas and filling their games with random generated content. That is also the reason they don’t care about things like animation,facial textures, voice acting, AI, depth of characters and quests. All these… Read more »
Googoo24
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Googoo24
4 years 10 months ago

From what I’ve seen (and done) I like the game a lot. If you’re a fan of games like Witcher 2, and hope that your decisions will meaningfully affect the world much, you’ll be slightly disappointed.

There are, however, an abundance of quests that have unique aspects; particularly the guild quests. I implore that you play the game further in this regard, Brad.

The main issue I have is that this game was released in an unacceptably buggy state. Other than that though……..

RK
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RK
4 years 10 months ago

For me, most WRPGs feel hollow and fail to engage me for any meaningful amount of time. They generally lack character development, a well told narrative and their combat systems and exploration capacity fail to overcome their flaws. A lot of WPRGs are like a big, beautiful movie set: Alluring, but with nothing behind it.

DeeJay
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DeeJay
4 years 10 months ago
I’m only about 8 or 9 hours in and I’m enjoying it a lot, playing at quite a slow pace and just enjoying the atmosphere and exploration, doing the odd minor quest here and there. I’m in no rush to get through the main storyline. I think it’s a great game, despite it flaws (some of which Brad has mentioned) – personally I’m a lot more into this than Fallout 3, which I eventually completed out of a sense of duty. I found the dull post-apocalyptic landscapes and endless subways quite boring, but I’m really liking exploring in Skyrim. For… Read more »
TickTock
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TickTock
4 years 10 months ago
Thank you so much for your critique. You cannot believe how relieved i am about how there is another person on this planet that doesn’t like this game either. I thought i was going crazy, being the only one who thought this game was quite frankly boring and mundane. The biggest problem i had with the game was that i had already played this game 2 times before. I played the same thing in Morrowind and the same thing in Oblivion. It not only has the same structure but also the same spells, the same weapons and the same “look… Read more »
Helel Ben
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Helel Ben
4 years 10 months ago
Mmmmm, so….you can’t grasp the “world” , the game itself after 15 hours ?… well , i for one , dont think that 15 hours can be compared to 30 minutes. If after 15 hours a game has not been able to get me interested enough …well , i won’t expect it to change my opinion in the next 15 hours. I did play it , i did play fallout 3 , did play oblivion… i liked them , but , i know what he means. Is not that there is not story, it is there , but there is… Read more »
FidgetyAcolyte
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FidgetyAcolyte
4 years 10 months ago
I think that if it takes over 15 hours (HOURS, that’s over half a day) for a game to start “getting good,” then why didn’t they just cut those tepid 15 hours of the game out? Would it make sense for me to bore myself for 10 hours just so I can play 20 hours of what might be a great game, but has shown no real promise in the already substantial time I’ve given it? (Note: I’m speaking purely hypothetically, as I have not played Skyrim) I think Brad makes a valid point that, if the game is so… Read more »
Oz
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Oz
4 years 10 months ago
No offence but you haven’t played it long enough to make a clear judgement in my opinion. Playing Skyrim for 15 hours is like playing for 30 minutes in another game. Did you try the main quest? How about the Dark Brotherhood or the Thieves Guild? Did you join the College of Winterhold or the Companions? Did you try any of the Daedra quests? How about the Civil War, did you choose a side and follow through? There is a ton of content and characters in Skyrim and the scale of the game is fantastic. Yes there are bugs and… Read more »
First time poster
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First time poster
4 years 10 months ago
How else COULD the dungeons be designed? If there wasnt a quick way back to the surface at the end of each dungeon – how long would it take people to get tired of backtracking out of each one instead? Did fallout give you somewhere o stash your goods off the bat? No. Did Oblivion? No. Does ANY Western RPG? No. Your after choices and tasty moral choices? Find a Daedric Shrine/Quest. Each one of them offers multiple outcomes. You dont like fetch quests? Dont do the misc quests then! Focus on the side missions – many of hem offer… Read more »
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