Last night I went over my friend’s for drinks and merriment, as I do most Wednesdays. In attendance were two close chums who both transitioned from Dark Souls to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and they are loving it. We have this ritual whenever a new game comes out of creating a character just for messing around while we chat and drink. As I don’t yet own Skyrim, I was given the privilege of creating this just-for-fun character. What follows is a detailed account of my exploits, but not in any way a review — just food for thought.
Since I was in the company of two big fans of the game I felt obligated to flaunt the fact that I was taking it in no way as seriously as they were. I was not going to play the way that the game or my friends had hoped. The intro, for instance, has your unformed character being delivered along with several other prisoners to their imminent demise aboard a wagon. During this ride, NPCs say dramatic things as they come to terms with their death and various passers-by make comments about you and the other prisoners. The player can control where their character is looking at this point, so I choose to look at the sky, ignoring all the carefully scripted events happening around me. Yeah, I’m gangsta.
Whoa, don’t close out of this page yet, I promise it gets better.
Once the dead-man-walking wagon came to a stop and the passengers got off, I was prompted to make my character. I should take this time to express how impressed I was with character editing in Skyrim. It’s extremely user friendly and robust. I went with a female Orc because, well, how many people actually made female Orcs? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I loved being able to apply face paint and scars and other small details. In my haste, however, I regrettably forgot to look at the beard selection, which I am told is ample.
Back to my shenanigans. During the events that follow character creation, things got chaotic. It is still abundantly clear that the player must follow a certain NPC, so naturally, I didn’t. I took to exploring the area around me over my friend’s frustrated requests to proceed. After dying a few times by attempting to fight a dragon with bound hands, I discovered the first issue. By running ahead of this NPC and avoiding him, I eventually came to an area where I jumped down from a small step. Having not engaged the NPC however, he remained where he was, still beckoning me to follow him. I could not jump over this step, as I expect the developers didn’t want the player to be able to backtrack. This meant I was at a standstill, unable to speak to the NPC or proceed to the next area. Thus I threw myself once more in front of the dragon’s fiery hatred and was burnt to a handsome cinder. It was more entertaining than reloading a hard save.
Someone get this man a beard
At this point my friends were becoming quite frustrated, either from wanting me to venture further into the game or because I was mocking the game for its flaws. I humored them and proceeded to the point where I could finally equip armor and weapons. Do you remember that NPC I told you about earlier? Well, he was still at my side. I am sure you see where this is going. Running through some cave, we were attacked by bandits. Hey, I thought, these bandits just want us to get off their land. I decided mutiny was the best option. I would join the bandits in attempting to slay this helpful NPC. Sadly, I wasn’t able to take him out before he killed the attacking bandits. Still, he beckoned me onward, possibly writing my attacks off as friendly fire.
The same scenario happened again, and I leveled up. Suddenly Oblivion‘s repetitive action exploits came rushing back to me. All I need to do is swing my sword at a sack of meat and I level up. I looked at the friendly NPC, he looked back at me nervously as he realized the dots I had just connected. He was to become my sack of meat. The NPC was still on a script though, set to run through a certain path, all the while I wailed on him with my sword gaining levels and proficiency in 1 and 2-handed weaponry.
“Look, a bear!” My meat sack warned as he crouched down. I turned and paused my relentless assault. Sure enough, there was a bear staring dumbly at a stalagmite or something. I ran up to it and with my newly honed skills and felled it in two mighty blows. Back to wailing on Meaty McSack. I was actually strong enough to kill him at this point, however rather than die, he would crouch down for about 10 seconds and then recover as if nothing happened. He preceded forward on his rigid script until we exited the cave to the world of Skyrim proper.
Between the moist thudding sound from each swing of my sledgehammer, Meats told me about a town just down the road. He started making his way there under my constant assault, stopping occasionally to crouch down and recover. My friend’s frustration had turned to interest. I was level 7 now, and I hadn’t even killed a single enemy, aside from that bear with ADD. Then, the unthinkable happened: Meat Sackerton became hostile! Thankfully I was strong enough from abusing him to put him down before he killed me. He was still unkillable. I took advantage of his aggression by kiting him back a ways and repeating until I was bored.
Beware the Frostbite Spider… bears
Next I ran into town with the intention of breaking into the homes of more NPCs and bludgeoning them. The first house had two innocent women in it, one of which I killed and looted, the other had the same magical properties as Captain M. Sax: the ability to rest momentarily and come back to life. So now I had two hostile characters who were totally unkillable coming after me. My means of enjoying Skyrim was quickly becoming unsustainable.
Soon some guard appeared from the ether and wanted to take me to prison. What a blowhard. Want me to help you kill a bear? That’s a hammering. Want me to fetch you some mountain herbs? That’s a hammering. Want to take me to prison? You better believer that’s a hammering. After he was put down, I slapped on his armor and ran into the unknown. At that point I found a man proudly sitting on a horse drawn carriage. I had taken my anger out on plenty of humans, but not on a horse…yet. I gave it a strong hammer blow on the nose. It didn’t even budge. “Hey,” the man shouted, climbing down from his carriage, “that is an expensive horse!”. He returned to his seat starting off into the distance like a certain bear I once met. I repeated this until I grew weary of his presumed value of my new meat sack, so he received a healthy hammering. That was about when I stopped playing.
The game has its exploits, that’s for sure. I found a bunch in less than 2 hours of playtime. Part of me hoped that the antiquated emphasis on repetition as a means of leveling was something that would be modernized or done away with. Maybe I read too much into a more streamlined Fallout-esque system.
Playing as a total lunatic is fun, but clearly not something the game is prepared for in the early stages. This resulted in seeing a little more back-door scripting than a player should experience. Obviously the characters that cannot die are important, and delayed or non-existent hostility is just plain unrealistic. All in all Skyrim is huge and there is ton to do, but it’s clear that the developers didn’t account for three bored and buzzed dudes wasting a Wednesday night.