Okay, a diversion from my regular topics.
And that’s what computer games are for me: a diversion. I play them because I like to be diverted from my work and from even my normal bits of hackery and play. I tend to play games with a strong story component, like the Zelda games on Nintendo, and more recently Mass Effect/Mass Effect 2 on the Xbox. Because I have a job and a regular life, I really only play about one of these games a year, usually in the span of my Christmas break. This year, my wife got me Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. And after playing it for more hours than I care to admit, I’ve come to this conclusion.
I hate it, and I’m not going to play it anymore.
It’s not a question of graphics. It’s got some great graphics, with a huge rich world presents an everchanging landscape.
Some people have dinged it for having an unimaginative plot line. I disagree: I think the breadth of the game is pretty incredible, and there is lots of stuff that you can do and follow that I found engaging.
Given my particular requirements, I am actually tempted to complain that the game is too big. It’s got so much to do, it simply demands too much in the way of time to really be completely enjoyable. It’s like seeing a good movie, but having to leave in the middle because you are getting bedsores from just sitting there for so long. But that’s not my real problem with the game.
The real problem is bugs. Bugs. BUGS!
To my way of thinking, there is one sin in game development. It’s not being boring, or repetitive, or derivative. It’s releasing software that contains bugs that affect game play. Bugs like getting wedged in a wall, and being unable to extricate yourself (yep, happened to me in Skyrim). But minor bugs like this are usually not too bad: you simply reload from the last save point and try again. For simple bugs like this, it means that you’ve lost a few minutes of playing (since your last save point). That’s annoying, but I could understand a certain number of them.
But Skyrim goes beyond these simple venial sins, and elevates them to mortal sins. It has bugs which basically prevent the completion of quests, and which you usually discover only well after you somehow encountered the bug. My current save situation has no less than five active bugs of this nature:
- I can’t complete the Waking Nightmare quest, since Erandur apparently entered the Nightcaller Temple ahead of me, and is inexplicably not there.
- I can’t get any companions to join me, because the game apparently thinks I have a follower. Yes, I’ve tried waiting for him to catch up. No dice. Scanned back to find where it glitched. Apparently somewhere about five hours of gameplay ago, although I have no idea why/where.
- I can’t complete College of Winterhold. Reasons unknown.
- I can’t find anyone to identify Unusual Gems. Reasons unknown.
- Can’t intimidate Xander. Walk right up to him, he says I shouldn’t be there. Apparently it’s buggy for lots of people.
Bethesda game director Todd Brown thinks we have a right to be pissed off. Well Todd, I am pissed off. It is a pity that you haven’t taken the opportunity to actually offer any remedy to those players who have been robbed of enjoying your games because of these bugs. At least on the PC version of the game, you can activate a console and find some secret command that can ameliorate the problems (sure, it completely breaks the game experience to have to go out and twiddle hex digits, but at least it keeps you from completely wasting your time).
Have some pride, and fix your damn game, Bethesda.