December 05, 2011

Skyrim: ending complaint

Ending of Skyrim spoilers below, relating to the Thieves' Guild quest series not meshing well with the rest of the story:
So, at this point everyone knows that Skyrim is a big open-world game with plenty of quests. There's a few factions which have a number of quests in a big over-arching story arc, most of which are pretty good. I was a little disappointed with the Stormcloaks and Imperial lines, simply because they're such mirrors of each other, and honestly rather thin for as central they are to the plot. (I suppose I can live with it, though, because if either outcome caused a large change to the game world, that would potentially close off content the player might not have gotten around to. But still!)

Finishing the "main" quest doesn't end the game, and you're perfectly welcome to keep playing. Which can create some oddities... the Thieves' Guild quest line being one of them. The too-long-didn't-read version is simple: the head of the guild is stealing from the guild, and you team up with people he double-crossed to take him down. One of them explains that the only way to do this is to swear allegiance to the god-patron of thieves, who will provide undisclosed advantages of "luck" in exchange for your service as a guardian of her shrine, continuing beyond your death.

At this point, my character's eyebrows ought to be going up to his hairline. Is that really necessary? I mean, we're hunting down a thief. Sure, he's a good swordsman - in fact, I know exactly how good a swordsman he is, because I just did a dungeon crawl with the guy. And the only reason he got the better of me was because YOU, miss sign-up-for-the-afterlife, shot me with your only paralyzing arrow (admittedly this was wise in retrospect) and then chickened out when it came down to the confrontation. As for whether I'm confident about taking him on, I fight dragons for sport and have finished off things with names like "World Eater".

But sign up for eternal servitude to, frankly, one of the least appealing of this world's many deity-things? Lady, I've BEEN to Valhalla. They said hello and thanks for dropping in early, shame you can't stay! There is a cushion with my name embroidered on it, next to the ever-full tankard of ambrosial mead with my arms on it, at the head of the line of buxom Nord women who think that a shaggy orc is exotic and dangerous. And I'm gonna trade THAT in for a non-specific combat buff and a set of (admittedly spiffy-looking) light armor? When I've got 100 points in Heavy Armor, and every Heavy Armor perk, and the only things I know about light armor I got out of reading books on the topic?

The worst part was, there wasn't a way to say "no"! It's like the game didn't even think that you had a reason not to sign away your eternity. Literally the only thing to be done was to take the armor, walk away with the other two standing around waiting for me to say "okay", and head straight to the pawn shop, where I sold the armor for enough to buy a nice furnished house in Whiterun.

Just for grins, I saved the game and tried doing it anyway. Cue long dungeon-crawl, ending in the climactic confrontation with the larcenous head thief (boy, how surprising is that, in retrospect), where I marched up to him and... dispatched him in two hits. They weren't even power attacks! Okay, I'm hefting a katana forged out of volcanic ebony and demon hearts that's sharpened by a master (i.e. me) and the only bits of armor that don't look like I skinned the Shrike from Hyperion is the rather nice-looking faceplate I looted off an undead dragon priest; this wasn't honestly going to end any other way. But why the mystic hoodoo? I could have taken that guy with my bare hands, or with any one of the dozen or so divine artifacts that grace the displays of my various estates. Probably I could have managed it with a Fork of Horripilation. Was the divine assistance I got limited to making this guy a total wimp? (Wait, no, that was the Shout I hit him with on the way in. I didn't even need the help for that!)

The writing left a little to be desired, don't you think? I mean, the game designers knew that your character would eventually be taking a trip to the big mead hall in the sky; it's on the main quest line. Didn't it occur to them that under the circumstances, your character might want to avoid signing their soul away? I mean, forget Valhalla for a minute; the game goes out of its way to remind you - repeatedly - that the last guy with the dragon voice juju was the First Emperor, who was deified after his death (and his shrines cure diseases as well as any of the others, so presumably there's a deity actually there?) In a setting where transmigration from man to deity is, if not exactly common, definitely not unprecedented, someone with a good prospect of pulling it off might be tempted to leave their options open, no?

There are other parts of the game where your character gets presented choices and can say "no", or at least "no, not at this time, thanks"; getting recruited by the Thieves' Guild was one of those times. Couldn't they have done a branching conversation tree here, at least offering the option to think about it a little?

But no... somewhere there is a fence trying to figure out what to do with a set of god-touched leather armor, and my orc is currently enjoying his six-month tour of the meads of Skyrim (hey, gotta be able to appreciate the divine stuff later on, right?), while two thieves are sitting around in a dank cave wondering why their buddy the orc suddenly left in mid-conversation and when he's going to come back...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at 11:32 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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"only bits of armor that don't look like I skinned the Shrike from Hyperion"


Posted by: Rick C at December 06, 2011 09:24 AM (fXrun)

2 Admittedly I liked the equipment design in this one, generally speaking. My only real complaint on that score is that you have to absolutely max out smithing in order to get gear made of dragon bone, not to mention sinking several perks into it. The rest of the time, dragon bones and scales are just heavy and hard-to-haul loot.

If smithing was a really useful skill, that wouldn't be a problem. While I'm glad that Skyrim doesn't incorporate equipment damage - that was always a big pain in the earlier games - it does mean that you aren't getting regular use out of your smithing skill, and honestly you don't swap gear that many times in this game. So to get high levels in the skill, you either have to do some fairly joyless grinding, or spend tons of gold to train the skill (and you're limited in how much you can train per level, so we're talking a long-term project for your character).

And when you CAN get it, you may not want it. Unless you seriously work on your enchanting skill, sometimes a less-advanced set of armor with a better enchantment is a better choice.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at December 06, 2011 04:23 PM (pWQz4)

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