Format: XBox 360
Release date: 2011
Place of purchase: Amazon
Here’s my problem with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: it was dull. Its large world felt dead, despite the meticulous attention to detail that was doubtless lavished on it.
Here’s my problem with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: it was dull. Its large world felt dead, despite the meticulous attention to detail that was doubtless lavished on it.
I did, therefore, approach The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with a certain amount of trepidation. The pre-release hype was immensely appealing, though, and there were dragons. Lots of dragons. Big, fuck-off dragons with fiery breath, flappy wings and a propensity to go ‘roooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh’ at inopportune moments. Let’s be clear about this: in my fantasy-addled mind there is nothing that cannot be made better by the inclusion of dragons. Bethesda were making all the right noises about the game: the clockwork automatons of the previous titles will be replaced with more realistic ones, the combat will be improved from the frankly rather dull click-click-click of before, and so on.
Delightfully, I pre-ordered the game. Excitingly, it was dispatched. Thrillingly, it arrived through the post. With a quivering sense of anticipation dampened only by the fact I knew I’d have to install a patch, I slipped the disc into my 360 and prepared myself to play. Some 80-odd hours I came away feeling, well, a little exhausted. In truth, I’d wanted to get my character up to about level 50 and clear off most of the big side-quests before attempting the end-game, but I got bored. Bored of the wandering around, bored of going into dungeons and killing Dragurs, even bored of fighting dragons, which is something I never thought I’d say. I think I’d just played it too much; I’d really enjoyed the first 60 or so hours, but after that it did just become a bit too much like a job, and a tedious one at that.
I know of some people who’ve spent hundreds of hours in the world of Oblivion, and no doubt there are plenty others who’ve done the same with Skyrim, but all I can say is that they must be happier than I of essentially doing the same thing over and over again. This, perhaps, is for me Skyrim‘s problem: it’s just too big. Too big, and again a touch too ‘dead’. True, the world is a more believable one than previous Bethesda titles, but it still seems false. Maybe it’s me, but it seems less alive than Baldur’s Gate II did, or even Dragon Age (maybe not Dragon Age II). The people wander around and do the same things day after day, the shop-keepers are always there and always say the same things, the world just doesn’t change enough. Oddly I think the difficulty is that they try too hard to make the world real. Designers like Bioware who are creating some that is perhaps a more linear, traditional gaming environment have an easier time of it since they can work within the generally-acceptable boundaries of a game and make something that seems more ‘full’ though actually isn’t.
I’ve no idea if any of that makes any sense.
In any case, I did enjoy Skyrim, but do feel as if I spent too long in its company and now don’t really want to go back and play the (apparently slightly disappointing) Dawnguard.