(Editor’s note: In this bi-weekly feature, Pixelitis staffer Matt Brown shares his “down the rabbit hole” look into gaming history. Having admittedly missed what many consider “classics,” join him as he dives in head first. We ask that you just be gentle with him.)
Every year, a handful of triple-A titles are released and every year more than a few of those titles fall short of all the hype. One title that for most, did not fall short of the hype was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. For almost everyone I know, Skyrim went above and beyond in so many ways. It enriched hundreds of hours of their lives and brought them great happiness. Great bang for their buck.
I did not get any of these wonderful things.
Skyrim felt, to me, like I imagine hanging out with the cast of Jackass would feel like. Repeatedly asking myself the question, “I am the only one who realizes how crazy this is?”
My roommate bought Skyrim and once he was a few hours deep, ranting and raving about how fantastic it was, I decided to pop it in the ol’ disk tray and give her a spin. Now maybe what I’m about to describe, for some people, may invalidate my criticisms of this game. But stick with me, and see if maybe I’m not just pulling a Knoxville out here.
I had heard tell of an unlimited experience tweak. There were a few floating around the interweb ether for a while but the one that caught my attention was the ability to kill one of your first companions over and over again for experience. This sounded absurd to me, but there was conclusive YouTube evidence. Still I was bewildered by it. Lost sleep over it a bit. But I did my best to ignore it. And yet, temptation is such a silly little thing.
Beginning my new and first adventure into The Elder Scrolls universe on that cart, awaiting my impending execution, I spent more than a bit of time agonizing over what race to choose and which face/ear/nose/hair combination best served my character’s…idiom. After all that, a dragon shows up and stuff gets hairy. I choose to run off with the resistance cause why the hell not? We fight some ninth legion types and get ourselves some weapons and then it happens. I find myself, key in hand, standing next to a man who seemingly will wait as long as necessary for me to open the door in front of him.
Temptation? Why, hello! I didn’t see you there! You’re looking lovely this evening!
I take my crappy little short sword and swing at this waiting-for-me-to-open-the-gate guy. Just out of curiosity, you know? Proof of concept sort of thing. Exploratory research. And by God, he gets hurt a bit. Again and again I swing until he finally falls. And then he gets up. Because it’s only a flesh wound or some such nonsense. And never, at any point, does he turn to me and take a swing back. I can sneak behind him and shoot him with destruct magic and backstab him and all sorts of stuff. Over and over again. Ad nauseum. Like a GIF, but with experience points.
So here’s the thing. I actually let this continue until I was about level 15. In the tutorial. And then I put the game down to never pick it up again. Time marched on and friends of mine asked why I wasn’t playing. I mostly dodged the question, but after a while I started to just get sort of annoyed with the whole thing. I had just seen one too many videos of a dragon flying backwards, one too many videos of a guy with a bucket on his head getting taken for all he’s worth.
I couldn’t take it. How could the game possibly be that good if there were that many glitches? One article I read discussing the aforementioned bucket head glitch actually referred to glitches in Bethesda games as a sort of endearing reminder that you’re playing a Bethesda title. “Wait. We’re actually going to let Steve-O put that firecracker…where?”
Now, I understand that it’s about the immersive story and universe. It’s about the design and crafting of the game world. It’s about interesting characters and tradition and exploration and lore. But it’s also about gameplay. And the fact that a giant could quite literally blast me to the International Space Station is a serious gameplay issue. I couldn’t help but think of Assassin’s Creed 3 when discussing all these bugs but at least in AC3, all the boats sailed the right direction.
My point is this. Should we be so permissive about glitches in these titles that we invest so much time in? Should we give so much credit to a developer when we basically expect them to throw in some fun little game breaking glitches in their biggest titles? I kinda wish that all those reviews did more to mention that this is a tad ridiculous. I’m not saying people shouldn’t play the game but we should remember the flaws as well as the shiny bits so we have a cultural portrait of the title that’s complete and objective.
I would rather have Skyrim be only 200 hours long instead of 300 if that meant that the gameplay was all tight and glitch-free. I would rather have the title delayed a month than have to wait for my character to return from orbit. I would rather play something else if this is how it’s always going to be. And honestly, until I know I’m getting a clean, professional product I’m always going to react this way.
I’m always going to react like someone just snuck me a piss snow cone.