It was seven months after its initial release date that I finally had a chance to take a crack at The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Every day leading up to it, I continued to hear rave reviews of the game and stories of the ‘epic’ experience it provides. Being a fan of Bethesda’s other RPG franchise, Fallout, I decided to give Skyrim a shot.
When I start a game, it’s always with an open mind. I really did go into Skyrim hoping to love it as much as Fallout III and to spend hours upon hours exploring the world – even becoming invested in the story and the characters I encountered. This … didn’t happen.
From the start, Skyrim feels weighted under the world its attempting to flesh out and the overarching narrative. Expositions dumps are immediate – both in gameplay and tomes you collect. This took me aback because Fallout was easily able to define itself without having to take this approach. A few details are given and then we’re thrown out into the Wasteland to unravel the rest for ourselves – if we care to. You could always just run and gun, leaving no survivors.
That’s a massive difference between the two franchises. In Fallout III, you feel completely in control of the character whose story is yours to flesh out based upon your actions in the world. You could be a Champion of Justice or the Stuff of Nightmares. You could nuke an entire city, enslave innocents, or help out all those around you. The choice was always in your hands and the consequences were yours to deal with.
Skyrim … makes it very hard to be a rotten character. Playing it, I always felt boxed in to being a knight in shining armor which was far from my intention. One of the most enjoyable aspects of an open-world game is just being the worst person ever. I went into my first Skyrim playthrough with the intention of stealing everything that wasn’t bolted down, slaughtering anyone who looked at me weird (or looked as if they had yummy loot), and being a scourge on the world. Unfortunately, this proved impossible based on the bounty system. After a crime or two, my bounty was worth several thousand gold pieces and, as a result, guards and hired thugs seemed to spawn incessantly. This would have been amusing in other games because .. hey .. more people to strike down; but in Skyrim, it slows gameplay to a crawl – then a full stop.
While this is a travesty in my eyes, I decided to continue with the game as a stereotypical hero. After all, this is one of the most acclaimed games of this console generation. There has to be something to it, right? Ehhhh … not so much for me. I found the characters, story, and world boring. Glitches and bugs were also rampant in the game. However, what really put the final nail in the coffin were those easily fixable issues that, for whatever reason, were simply overlooked – muddled inventory screens, an upgrade system with far too many branches (thus making each choice feel minor), and the lack of a oxygen meter when underwater. All of the above could have been fine-tuned; but they weren’t.
Is Skyrim a terrible game? No. Time and love were obviously put into it and millions enjoy it. However, the game just strikes all the wrong chords with me making each time I delve into it feel like a burden. No matter how many accolades a game has, I just can’t justify sitting through something I won’t enjoy. I’m much happier in Capital Wasteland than I could ever be in Skyrim.