I have a lot more games than time. As a result, I’ve developed a habit of passing judgement on games pretty quickly. Recently I realized that I could turn this tendency into short posts about games I’ve played and why I bailed out of them early on. This isn’t really a review so much as a journal of games where my first playthrough can be described in less than a couple thousand words.
Today we talk about Skyrim, a game that I didn’t pay any attention to in the beginning because I’ve literally never played an Elder Scrolls game that I still cared about after reaching level 2. But Fallout 3 was fun enough to beat and everyone seemed to agree this game was amazing and so I ended up trying the “Legendary” edition. I’m not sure I even remembered to install the DLC, but as we’ll see, that hardly matters.
The game starts and I’m in a cart with some prisoners. I find out that I was captured trying to get into the country and that my cart-mates are one thief and a handful of rebels against the current ruling government called “Stormcloaks.” Apparently everyone involved expects to be executed.
The cart gets to the town and I customize my character. The Imperial soldiers running the show aren’t expecting me and don’t accuse me of any crime, but shrug their shoulders and decide to behead me anyway. I’m saved at the last minute when a dragon attacks the town and the soldiers are too busy taking up arms to finish executing me.
The first thing I’m asked to do is flee to safety, with the game giving me a choice between following Hadavar (an Imperial), or Ralof (a Stormcloak). Even in hindsight, I’m not sure why this “choice” is even here as the result is almost exactly the same either way. In the heat of the moment, I “chose” Hadavar because he was in my field of vision and Ralof wasn’t.
The rest of the town is an uneventful tutorial/dungeon crawl. When I get to the end, Hadavar tells me that it would be a good idea to join the Empire, that I should head for a relative of his, and that we should split up. I think only the last one sounds like a good idea (and in hindsight I was actually wrong about this; for those who know the game, I’m one of those people who missed the Standing Stones as a result of this line)
Hang on, game. Why would my character want anything at all to do with the Empire? They just tried to kill me for no reason! In fact, why am I in this country in the first place? I understand why games let you fill in your backstory, but there’s a difference between being invited to fill out your character’s past vs. needing headcanon to make any sense of your character’s present. My big question here isn’t “What are we going to do about the dragon?” but “Why don’t I just flip Hadavar the bird and flee the country?” and the game refuses to answer it. I guess Hadavar said something about the dragon possibly destroying the world or something, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was going to chop my head off because “whatevs.” If the writers expected me to trust these jerks, they should have given me a reason, or failing that, not given me such a strong reason to do the opposite.
I realize I have no in-character motivation to even start this plot. I realize the inventory system is going to be just as bad as Fallout 3 except with the added disadvantage that I don’t know it yet. I realize I have dishes that need doing. I turn my Xbox off. It actually RROD’ed before I found the motivation to try Skyrim again.
I have since read what a lot of other people have to say about this game. I understand how popular it is. I am at peace with the fact that other people love this game even though I find it unbearable (an opinion informed by further information outside of this “playthrough”). I don’t think I will ever be at peace with the fact that some people profess to play this game specifically for its story.