Posts Tagged ‘Elder Scrolls’

NOTE: This has been gathering dust in my “Drafts” folder for more than a year and I never got around to finishing it. It’s good enough to get the point across, though.

Talk about a title that’s almost guaranteed to start a war…

This little rant was prompted by a couple of vlogs at YouTube. The discussion was initiated by Samyoulonline about 6 months ago and followed up about three months later by Jingles1215. In his video, Samyoulonline made several points:

  1. You can’t fail
    1. I pretty much have to give him this one. Aside from dying and its attendant loading of a saved game, this is pretty much the case. Stepping up to Bethesda’s defense, this is something that has been building since Daggerfall, where it was exceptionally easy to fail. In TES2, 12 days meant 12 days. If you took more than that, you failed. On the other hand, the consequence for failure in Daggerfall was merely the loss of a couple of points of reputation with whichever faction assigned the quest. But still…failure was definitely an option in earlier games.
    2. On the other hand, it’s pretty much the same across games. You can’t fail (aside from dying) in the “Halo” games. You can’t fail (aside from dying) in the Bioshock series. You can’t fail (aside from dying) in Baldur’s Gate. You can’t fail (aside from dying) in Deus Ex. This is not something where Bethesda stands apart from the rest of the industry, so I don’t see the point, other than to be bitchy.
    3. In trying to look at this from Bethesda’s perspective, this seems to be “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. If they heed the complaints of their customers, especially about the quest system, gameplay and the like, they’re dumbing down. If they don’t, they’re deaf to the fans. Can’t win either way. Tell me, do you still beat your significant other?
  2. There are no consequences for faction membership.
    1. True and not true. In Daggerfall, you could join all factions. The only thing limiting your membership were (a) your skills and (b) your patience. Many quests impacted your reputation with factions (most notably the shadier ones). Vanilla, unpatched Morrowind (which Samyoulonline seems to revere) also allowed you to join opposing factions. This proved to be glitchy, especially with the Great Houses stronghold quests, so was patched to exclude membership in some factions if you had joined others.
    2. Morrowind (of which Samyoul is so fond) only had a few factional conflicts:
      1. If you joined one of the Great Houses, you were excluded from joining another (patched version – it was possible to join more than one in the unpatched version)
      2. If you joined the the Thieves Guild, the Camona Tong hated you. But you couldn’t join the Camona Tong, so I don’t see the big deal.
      3. If you joined the Morag Tong, the Dark Brotherhood hated you. But you couldn’t join the Dark Brotherhood, so I don’t see the big deal.
      4. If you joined an Imperial faction, House Redoran disliked you, but you could do neat things for them (quests) and they didn’t seem to mind anymore.
      5. If you joined the Mages Guild, House Telvani disliked you, but you could do neat things for them (quests) and they didn’t seem to mind anymore.
      6. Seems to me that consequences for faction membership were, at worst, a bit superficial, so I don’t see the big deal. Well, aside from an opportunity to be bitchy.
    3. If you play on PC, you get a Construction Set/Creation Kit and the ability to mod your game. This strikes me as something along the lines of “if you don’t like it, feel free to change it”, which kind of moots the whole point, so “kwitcherbitchin”
    4. If you play on a console, you’re stuck with whatever Bethesda chooses to give you. But this is not something that is unique to the Elder Scrolls series; it’s the same for every console game out there. And console gamers accepted that limitation when they chose their platform. Since the whole point of the vid was that the series had been dumbed down to accommodate console gamers, this strikes me as being just a touch inconsistent.
  3. You have little impact on the world
    1. So what? That’s been true in every TES game since its inception. Your reputation might have an impact on how NPCs respond to you, but the world didn’t change, no matter who/what benefitted from your completion of the main quest in TES2, TES3, TES4 or TES5. This isn’t anything new, so “kwitcherbitchin”.
    2. Yes, there are some inconsistencies within the dialogues of the quest system. It does strike me as a bit weird that, after completing the Dark Brotherhood quest line in Skyrim, the Legion has you recite an oath to a dead emperor. But I have a hard time believing that this was something placed in the game to accommodate the wants of console gamers. Rather, it strikes me as a quality assurance issue that fell through the cracks during development. It happens. The only way to fix it would be to have the voice cast come back in, record new dialogue and push it out in a patch. Since it breaks nothing other than immersion, Bethesda seems to have taken a sensible approach. To mangle the Bard, this is such stuff as YouTube videos are made on.
  4. The quest and journal system holds the player’s hand too much (which seems related to #1)
    1. Pretty much true. This seems to be a holdover from Oblivion and I’m not sure that I’m particularly fond of it, either. In TES2 and TES3, you actually had to read your journal and figure out where you were supposed to go based on in the information in there. This is not so much the case in TES4 and TES5. Whether this is good or bad is kind of a matter of opinion and opinion is definitely divided, so Samyoul loses on this one due to subjectivity, even though I tend to agree with him.
  5. Reduced NPC conversations
    1. True, but neither Daggerfall nor Morrowind were shining examples of this, either. In both TES2 and TES3, NPC conversations were integral to completion of your quests. However, outside of quest-related stuff, they were pretty boiler-plate and hardly worth the time to read. This is not depth. It is merely the illusion of depth and most players were quite happy to dispense with it in favor of focusing on quest completion. Is it any wonder the Bethesda pared it down to its essentials? “Kwitcherbitchin”
  6. Oversimplified puzzles
    1. This is nothing new. Daggerfall and Morrowind had some decently designed puzzles. They also required an FAQ to provide the answers to those puzzles for those who didn’t want to (or were incapable of) engaging their gray matter. If players want to be led around by the nose, it is not Bethesda’s fault for catering to it. You write/design with your audience in mind. This should not be a complaint against Bethesda unless you’re going to the logical conclusion that the developer knows what its players want better than the players know what the players want. “We’re born in the Vault, we die in the Vault. All hail the Overseer.”
  7. Reduced value of items
    1. So-fuckin’-what? In Daggerfall, a quick trip to the Rusty Ogre Lodge (with saves and reloads to force respawning) could net you millions of septims in a few minutes. Ready access to cash could be a game-breaker. But I think the devs recognized this and tied access to better quality stuff to your character’s level. Yeah, leveled loot. What a radical concept.
    2. Morrowind and Oblivion tried to address this problem by limiting the amount of gold each merchant had for purchasing the player’s stuff. But players spent incalculable amounts of time trying to figure ways around this limitation. PC players could fire up the Construction Set and mod it in about 2 minutes. XBox players were kind of stuck (see point #2). Skyrim simply continued this trend, but it presented a problem in the minds of some (many?) players.
    3. Contrary to Samyoulonine’s view, items have absolutely no value outside of whatever the developers say that they do. Why does the Cuirass of the Savior’s Hide have a value of 150,000 septims in Morrowind? Because the devs said that it did. Since no merchant had that much money (short of modding it), you either took 30,000 by selling it to a museum or 5,000+ by selling it to a merchant. Of course you could keep it, but if you’re role-playing a class that wouldn’t/couldn’t use it, what’s the point?
    4. It apparently sticks in Samoulonline’s craw that a lot of players have no use for some of the loot they acquire and want to sell it off. But they’d also like to get something approximating the base value of the item. Another one of those “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” issues. Would you rather get 10% of what the game tells you is the base value of an item or would you rather get 50% of what the game tells you is the value of an item? Remember that the item has no value outside of whatever the devs say it has, and I’m back to “so what?”
    5. In one of my recent play-throughs of Skyrim, I gave up the Skull of Corruption. My character wouldn’t have used it if it had been presented on a silver platter (it’s a role-playing thing), so my only options would have been to either never acquire it in the first place or sell it. I opted for the former (I let Erendur destroy it), figuring that the potential benefit of a a follower was greater than the gold-piece value of an item that I would never use. So I’m back to “so-fuckin’what?”. It’s my game and my character. Why does the Skull of Corruption have to be worth hundreds of thousands of septims, aside from the fact that it was worth that in TES2, I mean?