I was originally going to play The Stanley Parable over the prior weekend to give me something to experience than more Skyrim, but no, instead I am here and losing my patience with the game, well, not quickly, as I am at the 95 hour mark right now… God do I wish this game was shorter.
Now, I only ever previously played Skyrim as its vanilla version, no DLC, buggy as hell, and with a steady stream of people still playing the title despite how packed the winter of 2011 was in regards to games. So naturally everything involving Hearthfire was new to me, and boy, oh boy was I left disappointed by it. All I really knew about it going in was that it was a home building simulator of sorts with a few preset locations, three in total, but I also expected a good amount of customization with building a house from scratch. That is not the case with Heartfire, as it is essentially a resource based checklist with only three real points of choice, aside from selecting you want to build something and be stuck with it forever, or to not build it while regretting how you did not decide to build something the game provides the player with only a blunt description of, and does not go through the proper details about what the house would be like if you did X. And remember, no going back because that is the fool’s way, as who the hell doesn’t play a game without intensively researching their every decision and making saves at every inter hole, doing nothing of note in between? Yeah, it sucks eggs through a straw.
But quickly shifting gears to a happier note, one thing that characterized Skyrim, well, one of the many things that characterized Skyrim were the very common dragons. Massive boss creatures who roamed the skies and often stood as a guard for certain rewards. With their insides being the most valuable, as it can be used to craft some amazing gear, and their souls can be used to unlock unique powers. Here’s where I criticize this mechanic while saying that I adore fighting dragons during the minute to minute gameplay, and get giddy when I see one peer in from the horizon. Well, beyond how dragons can get bored and just leave combat if you cannot hit a flying creature well enough and there is something more interesting half a mile away and across a mountain. The whole Dragon Shout system is a little bit too diverse for its own good. Yes, I praised the game’s length in the previous iteration of this segment, but the amount of effort it takes to unlock a new one, or even an upgrade to an existing shout is far too high given the likelihood that the player would settle on a few shouts that work well for them. And slaying dragons only provides the player with the means to unlock a single shout or level to a shout. They do provide both Dragon Bones and Scales, which can be used to craft armor and weapons, but the amount of grinding that must be done in order to achieve that is nothing shy of absurd, and after making one set of light or heavy armor, the only thing left to do is sell it, which leads to more money, which leads to me wondering what I should do with the money.
Now, the obvious answer is to either buy stuff, which I did quite frequently prior to writing this post, or investing in trainers. Yes, trainers, who I made the grand assumption to be far more limiting than they actually are, as I didn’t properly read how you can receive training five times per level, and not just five levels per individual skill trainer. However, this did become the sole deposit for my income, well, excluding iron ore for smithing grinding, which I finally maxed out… near the 90 hour mark. But backing up a bit to how exactly I got all the money, the whole dungeon raiding and selling of valuables thing, it is only after playing the game for so long that I am shocked at how Skyrim lacks the ability to send items into a “Junk” category where they can be easily found and sold to shopkeepers, as opposed to the mundane hunt through the many items I acquired during my dungeon runs. I don’t recall where I saw this used aside from Torchlight, likely either from Divinity II or Two Worlds II, but I don’t see there being any excuse against this beyond not wanting to defile the already mundane shopkeeper interactions.
Speaking of mundanity, while going on the dungeon runs I keep mentioning, I often come across many puzzles, which I understand for flavor and variety, but the majority of them are so simply and easy that they come across less as variety and more as time consumers. Especially seeing as how they do not in any way reflect how much the game rewards the player for doing just about anything else. In fact, the constant and steady stream of trackable progress in terms of character progression and completion of areas, obtainment of money and et cetera, actually make Skyrim incredibly rewarding in terms of the minute to minute gameplay. Even going through near identical combat encounters represents the level of freedom a well equipped adventurer has, as you will likely obtain a load of spells to play with along with, at least in my case, a long and short ranged weapon which you are given trackable level progression for utilizing.
Heck, it made seemingly mundane and repetitive acts like turning into a wolfman quite a bit more fun as you are being rewarded for defeating and feeding off of enemies, as your character is made stronger by being used more and more. That said, beyond leveling up my characters werewolf form, I don’t see myself using them again due to a few reasons. One, they are unable to interact with items in terms of the inventory. Two, they have a set invisible time limit to how long they may be accessed, which can be extended by causing more death, but once you do that you need to use the game’s wait function to then turn back into a human, or humanoid I guess, where you then must equip your character. And three, you can’t make any real progress as everybody views your character rightfully as a monster… excluding a group who wish to kill my character anyways because I prayed at a shrine I shouldn’t have.
Although, being a werewolf was oddly the easiest way for me to slay quite a few dragons , despite how they were often airborne, shooting projectiles at my character as I was left more or less helpless, even as a Dunmer. Yet after the sour reward of dragon parts that had become useless for me upon perfecting my gear made from it, I was often surprised to see something that had become useless shortly after the game began within the dragon’s innards, with an often nearby chest housing similarly odd rewards. It is very confusing to me why chests offer only a meager sum of gold, never going above 350 in my playthrough thus far, yet will offer items so valuable that I cannot sell them to a shopkeeper while receiving what the game dubs I should get for that random piece of gear. And that is just what the game needed, another excuse to send you back to the same environment to hear the same bits of dialog from actors the game uses very, very frequently throughout, with some characters being more than a wee bit difficult to tell the difference between, as they are voiced by the same man doing a grizzled voice off by being either higher or lower than the other six.
Speaking of six, that is the optimal amount of seconds I want to occur between deciding I want to play this game and starting it up, but launching it from Steam takes, and I timed this multiple times, three minutes. I have no idea if this is due to the mods, which the game checks after the aforementioned wait time, but considering I started this game at least 40 times, it got annoying pretty quickly. Though I would not say that about the process I and I am sure many others had developed as they played Skyrim. In short, you go into a dungeon, either by request of by your own choice, raid it, sell what you don’t wish to keep, place what you do back home, and do that ad nauseum until you have enough money to afford maxing out most of your skills. It was prevalent in this play period above all else, and whatever joy that the process once had is dissipating before I even got to Riften, a quest that has taken me 10+ hours, as I just cannot seem to say no to side quests which offer no massive reward as my equipment is maxed out aside from enchantments, which is one of the 12 side projects I have going on in this diabolical divergence from the rest of my Steam library.
Skyrim has been the revelation that if a game exceeds a certain length, I both lose a great deal of enjoyment I once felt by playing it and feel more and more like I’d been playing it wrong despite my best intentions and desire to make the most out of the massive title before me, not unlike, say, Persona 4 Golden, another title I will not deny being good, but my time with it resulted in some tracks from the game making me feel a little physically ill when I hear them simply due to the absurd quantity of time I spent playing and attempting to master that fu- …that poorly composed masterpiece.