5 Reasons Skyrim is Kind Of Dumb

People have been eager to hurtle multiple “Game of the Year” awards to Skyrim, a game that lustily devours critical reception just like its predecessors, Oblivion and Morrowind.

I think that it probably deserves the praise.

But let’s take a step back from the breathtaking world, the amazing sound, and the overall immersive euphoria that the game evokes.

Are we there? Good. No, look away from the radiant waterfalls. Don’t glance at the mountains in the distance that you can definitely climb up.

Close your eyes. Let’s talk about something serious: Skyrim indicates that there are still some things that Bethesda still can’t seem to get right after their fantasy series has gotten three Games of the Years in a row.

I’ve logged the requisite “hundreds of hours” on Morrwind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, so I think I’m qualified to say that there are five reasons that Skyrim is dumb. Not bad, but definitely dumb.

This is something I’ve had to get off my chest for a while. Here goes:

1. There Are Like Six Monsters

Approximately half of the monsters in the game: human or humanoid.

Once you’ve explored a mountain, a cave, a tomb, a Dwemer ruin, a forest, and a fort of some kind, you’ve generally encountered everything you’ll encounter in Skyrim.

The continent seems to be some kind of cruel, Darwinian experiment. If you’re not a troll, dragon or giant, then you have to be a machine or dead.

Skyrim’s world may be gargantuan, but you’ll find that select species seem to have readily populated every corner of the place, apparently having destroyed all other kinds of monsters in the process.

After a while, any monster becomes a pest. It ambles forward from some patch of bushes (or from the clouds), growls at you for a while, then proceeds to die, so you can continue to look at the scenery in peace.

2. There Are No Characters.

Hi there, what’s your story, why don’t you have a shirt in the mountains here? Oh, okay, I can only ask about your weird god. I didn’t really care about that, but… all right. I guess I don’t care about anything else, since I don’t have any other dialogue options.

Remember Baldur’s Gate? Remember Minsc? God, I didn’t even have to Wikipedia the spelling of his name, that’s how memorable he was.

More recently, there have been the Dragon Age and Mass Effect trilogies. These have things that Skyrim doesn’t: real voice acting and real characters.

And you’re a character, too! You get to ask questions and actually behave like a person.

In Skyrim, you actually have zero options in the game. It’s an open world, but your relationships with characters – and your own character – have a strictly linear path to follow. Even if you get married.

This isn’t to mention the fact that, let’s be fair, the two actors who are the voices behind every single character sound like they inhaled a beehive through their nose and then tried to imitate a German-Russian-Polish accent.

And I swear, if I’m smithing in Whiterun and hear the blacksmith ask if I’ve met her father one more time, I’m going to run her through with the next exquisite weapon I make.

How can you have characters if they all say the same thing and have no personality? How can you even be a character if you have no choice in what you say?

Case in point: Meet Benor.

How I Met Your Benor.

Benor and I met a long time ago, on a romantic rock, where we proceeded to beat the living crap out of each other. This isn’t original, by the way, because this is how you meet all of your mercenaries.

After I defeated him, Benor started to fight alongside me. We’ve been through a lot of traumatizing stuff together, including the time I had to reload because he got burnt to a crisp by one of my errant fireballs.

That’s how dedicated I am to him.

Problem is, my character isn’t dedicated to him, and Benor doesn’t have much to say, ever. In fact, he’s a lot like all of the other mercenaries who I burnt to a crisp before.

In fact, after all this time – and equipment – I invested in Benor, my character and he both still think he’s in town, doing something else. 

Is this really all our friendship means to either Benor or my own character?

This kind of stunted character development puts Skyrim in a very awkward position.

Are we saying that I’m the same person as I was when I was a prisoner instead of Dragonborn, the leader of the Stormcloaks and guildmaster of The Thieve’s Guild?

Why do people I talk to still seem to think the country is at war? Why do people dare treat me like crap if I’m a legend?

How can you role play if there are no opportunities to actually interact with other characters?

Then again, maybe my character has no emotion, just like every other character in the game. Everyone in Skyrim sounds passionless and bored, like they know you’re not going to pay attention anyway, because they have nothing new to say.

3. There Are About 4 Spells.

Me, casting any fire spell in the game.

I’ve almost maxed out my Destruction skill, so you would think I could cast some pretty sweet spells. After all, it is a fantasy game that has to follow the eight billion spells available to sorceresses in Diablo II.

But no, I’ve got about one spell in four available formats: a little bit of fireball, a little bit of firewall, and the occasional fire rune.

How can anyone spend hundreds of years at the College of Winterhold, researching spells, if there are about four or five possible types for each school of magic?

Hell, I’d be in and out of there in one semester.

4. You Get Too Powerful Too Fast.

Oh, bro, I’m so sorry. You haven’t met my sword that freezes everything before?

Okay, I know that “too fast” is a relative term. I don’t think that should matter. Skyrim scales difficulty for a while, but then, abruptly, the end of the scaling arrives and nothing can possibly fight you past level 30.

Not only that, there are no merchants or items that I really want to pick up after about level 10. Nowadays, I leave a wake of bodies litter behind me after every battle, veritable heaps of garbage that will sit neglected and lonely in caves and forests across the country, until the end of time.

Because why should I bother grabbing that thousandth crappy magic item? There’s no reason to make money in Skyrim, because no one has any items of value past a certain level.

I am the 1% of Skyrim, but I can’t even buy luxury goods!

Why not just keep making monsters stronger? I wouldn’t mind. What about a wealthy, 1% city somewhere where everything is expensive and high-level? What about an area with all the high-level monsters?

But no. We have to leave it up to the mod community.

5. The Story is Boring and Unoriginal

Your standard, prophecy-spewing old coot who lives in the mountains and controls the plot.

There can not possibly be another RPG that has sold so many copies and had such an uninspiring story. I’m the Dragonborn? I can talk to dragons? There’s a dragon that wants to eat the world? End story.

I don’t mind the world-saving bit, I would just like to be brought there creatively, via the meandering path of Baldur’s Gate or chaos of Mass Effect, not the business presentation of there-was-a-prophecy-and-you’re-the-guy.

All of the Elder Scrolls have relied on prophecies of a stranger with an uncertain whatever and an unwritten who-cares, as dictated by some old man in a remote location.

Then again, it’s hard to create a compelling narrative when you can’t have a single memorable character in the game.

Why This Doesn’t Matter

Because there are FREAKING ANTS ON STUMPS.

About Blaise Lucey

Content Manager @ March Communications -- a writerly technology content marketer guy who's helping tech companies with content marketing... and trying to help authors, artists and musicians use content marketing, too.
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15 Responses to 5 Reasons Skyrim is Kind Of Dumb

  1. Tijmen says:

    Haha awesome post :) Agreed on most parts except for the last.

    • blaiselucey1 says:

      Thanks for reading — I know, it’s hard for me to trash the Skyrim storyline, considering I’ve spent hours reading all of the little books in the world… but that’s why it makes the storyline so sad, because there’s so much original lore that goes ignored in favor of some big, smelly dragons, haha.

  2. ppp says:

    Late I know but I do agree with most of your points – particularly the NPCs having no personality at all.

  3. I totally agree on the voice acting part, but as an Scandinavian I also feel real irritated about the fact that they chose ‘Russian’ as accent for what seems (for me) to be vikings, when in fact Russian suits better on forsworn (based on history).

    *The Germanish elements in the voice acting may have been caused since it where mostly Germanic voice actor, think i saw only 2 Slavic names on the voice acting list.

    • Blaise Lucey says:

      Not surprising, haha – I can definitely hear more German than anything else. It doesn’t help that the voice acting is tremendously bad, for the most part… especially when games like Bioshock are raising the bar so high.

  4. Doomsteel says:

    Well like the other poster, my comment comes a bit late. What got my attention was where did these people get the Powersaws, ya know they didn,t have Husqavarna,s back then im almost Positive!!! hope i spelt it right.

  5. Joseph Purdy says:

    1) There is a definite lack of monsters/NPCs to engage however, the amount of memory it takes to load up different models becomes taxing. At least they took advantage of the face/body randomness for humanoids seriously (they don’t make them all look like clones). Duplicate models is the norm for all animated characters for almost every video game.

    2) For voice acting and, character interaction within an open world RPG. It takes immense time to arrange all the dialog. Thus, many developers make a sacrifice to give greater options for nonlinear choices. My experience with Mass Effect and, Dragon Age that its gameplay is much more linear than Skyrim.

    3) Spell choices are limited. Could have spells that mimic skills like they did in Oblivion. Else, have spells that may have a use only a couple times throughout the entire game. Cause and, effect of spells is very complicated to both balance/program. A spell that does something really wonderful but, has like one use in the entire game (yet still have a workaround if your character doesn’t have it). That is not going to be even considered for an open world game and, why should it?

    4) Play it on Legendary difficulty. A few dungeons put out some serious hurt that will have you negotiating your options. The little misc. objectives and, side quests are the most difficult. The main story/guild quests are not the ones that test you. Its the ones you thought would be easy until you get down deep into 4-6 level dungeon. That are the ones that make you say otherwise.

    5) The story for Skyrim is less original then a majority of Hollywood movies that are released? Millions of people still watch them even if they practically steal the entire script from another one.

    • Blaise Lucey says:

      All good points – although I think #5 is… I mean, come on. Elder Scrolls has never really had a powerful storyline, exactly, because each version keeps so close to prophecy / bad guy destroying world that I think it’s hard to get a little more colorful with it.

      That said, I was thinking harder about why Skyrim can feel like such a hollow experience sometimes – especially when I compare it to Morrowind – and it might be more that I just want stuff to be WEIRDER. Morrowind pulled me in with a strange place and stranger creatures.

      Bioshock, Mass Effect, Half-Life, these games also had weird stuff to offer. A highly unique and engaging storyline, etc. Dragborn, which I’m playing through now, kind of gives Skyrim a little of that weird, and it’s pretty awesome.

      Best,
      Blaise

      • Doomsteel says:

        To bad the quality is so low, some of the code was so badly done they can’t fix it! They like to claim ” but it’s a HUGE game” and use that as an excuse for low quality work.

  6. Joseph Purdy says:

    If you compare the quality of coding from Oblivion to Skyrim. Also, compare Fallout 3 to Fallout: New Vegas. You start to notice a trend going on not just at Bethseda Software but, by software development everywhere. Even after a year and, a half of beta testing by players worldwide. All work the put in by a large staff of QA testers they employ. The amount of bugs, glitches and, inconsistences are much more prevalent then before.

    Now, developers full well expect paying customers to modify sloppy code for them. Why should they pay diligent programmers when people will release mods to take care of it? There was a time not so very long ago (10+ years ago) that almost all video games released (by major publishers) into the market. Would have very few if any game-breaking glitches. Immense attention to even minor details was high on the priority list. The internet (patches and streaming DLCs) has allowed game developers to become excessively lazy yet, the sales are higher then ever before.

    The Japanese studios still do a better job hammering out the bugs. It would be a relief if they would stray a little more from the 1980′s formula for RPGs that are released. Squaresoft still plays it too safe with most of its releases being Final Fantasy clones. Even when they use different development studios to make a totally different game. Nintendo clings to dear life when it comes to keeping a winning formula with its first party releases. It was the Japanese that started the whole notion of long running sequels.

    Early games made here in America kept changing the formula around enough to keep people interested. Which, I strongly believed even after the video game crash of 1982. People made a return because, they knew something different was going to happen. It was only a matter of time. It has paid many dividends for the future of our gaming we now can enjoy. The new problem is we are returning back to reoccurring formulas but, with many more bugs to deal with on top of that. I mean would you think Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Halo would sell. If it was plagued by the amount of bugs, glitches, inconsistences found in both Skyrim and, Fallout: New Vegas?

    • Doomsteel says:

      Well as long as they stay single player they can give us the big greasy one, once they switch to multi player ( and i think it’s in the works as we speak ) the games are going to have a LOT more time spent on them, and that could be good or bad…my guess? BAD!! there going to have to make up the money difference in DLC. Lots of it, high priced DLC, stuff they claim there “working” on but actually it’s done and waiting to be sold already.

      • Joseph Purdy says:

        Bethseda Software began to move programmers from Skyrim to Elder Scrolls Online. This was around the time of the release for Skyrim. They knew all to well that a majority of problems still required attention, however with the sales numbers being so high. It would seem that concern over making their projected sales was what they were really after. Put out three DLCs to make an extra buck in the mean time. Good sales doesn’t mean better sales. If the developer/publisher already have people buying above its expected sales. A rush to resolve customer complaints is made almost invalid (finically speaking). When you cannot return it for a refund on your money.

        After 9 major patches you would think that reoccurring problems found in version 1.0 (initial release) should have been fixed. I have seen on the worldwide web dozens of websites pertaining to the exact same bug. All the programmers at Bethseda have to do is search for them. If one case example isn’t enough to confirm it. Then, you have plenty of others saying a similar problems exist. The sites that I have been to show detail steps that cause these bugs, and glitches to happen. There is no room for excuses.

        Some companies depend on microtransactions, and additional expenses for their server usage. Activision Blizzard whom produce games that run on Battle Net. As well as Electronic Arts that charges for its dedicated servers. Diablo 3 has caused costumer backlash with requiring users to play online. I didn’t even know that it was required to be played online, until after its release. It was buried in the forums but, not on the pre-release website they had setup. Then, the matter of using real currency in exchange to buy virtual goods. As some of you might know that buying virtual goods, with real currency on World of Warcraft. Can be grounds for termination on your Battle Net account. The gold farmers made money so, why shouldn’t Blizzard take a cut by means of a secured transaction? Now we pay to buy from a retailer/online, pay to use mandated servers (PC owners), pay to get essential equipment, pay for Playstation Network/Xbox Live (console owners), and pay an internet provider (patches/requirement to access the game).

      • Doomsteel says:

        Blizzard made the mistake of letting there original LOD crew wander off! New crew, new game! something i did not want (my own opinion) i wanted LOD upgraded to first or third party or both, more caracters even a few or lots of new spells,new skills, new land scapes, stuff like that. when i heard about all the server probs and auction house i just waited to see if it was worth buying and it turns out it isn’t . from what i have heard it isn’t even worth the packaging it,s packed in.Ithink i will play another round lod2 instead! As far as Bethesda or any name fixing there crap, lets not hold the breath to long you’ll just end up passing out! They fix em up enough to say YES! you can play and wrap the game……………………………………..eventually…just keep trying, really!

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