threeproblemswithskyrim

Before I get flamed, let me first say this: I really like Skyrim. I feel that it’s one of the greatest technical achievements in video gaming in the last 5-10 years.  It just has a few issues that are really starting get to me.

Skyrim is extremely engrossing and accomplishes something that many modern games fail to these days – it actually lets you craft your own story. It also offers a different experience to every single person that plays it. Perhaps one gamer decides they’re down with Bethesda’s epic main story quest, or maybe another gamer decides to join the companion’s guild and focus on that story thread. Then there are the people who just want aimlessly stroll the wilds of Skyrim, seeking out random adventure and fortune. Two people’s trek through Skyrim’s vibrant landscape and story are never identical and that is a truly beautiful thing.

So, now it’s time for the bad stuff. Maybe I’m so disappointed with certain aspects of the Skyrim because I really didn’t read any news or information about the game leading up to its release. I actively avoided reading anything about the game prior to release, an effort to ensure I would be surprised by what I experienced the first time I played Skyrim.

In many ways I accomplished this, but that’s not what this story is about (I may write about what I love about Skyrim soon). This column focuses strictly on what I see as the negative aspects of Bethesda’s latest open world title, elements I hate about the game and things I feel should have been improved from Oblivion.

1. Character Animations

Wench, you look impressive but you're still a mechanical robot.

So where are those awesome character animations we were promised? I remember hearing that Bethesda were supposedly going to be substantially upgraded from what was present in Oblivion (I think I probably got this info from IGN’s Daily Fix). So I expected realistic, fluid NPC (non-player character) and avatar animations. From what I’ve played so far (probably about 20 hours or so), character animations seem to have been upgraded slightly, but they’re still pretty lack luster.

I feel that in some ways they actually look almost identical to Oblivion’s character animations, resulting in an overall feel that isn’t exactly as ‘next generation’ as I expected. This makes Skyrim’s battle system – a system that has undergone a substantial overhaul when compared to anything Bethesda has ever created before (I’m not denying that) – still feel occasionally awkward and robotic. Sure, NPCs can hold items now in a more realistic manner and walk around slightly more fluidly than they have in past Bethesda titles. But they’re still choppy and mechanical, resulting in me often being completely pulled out of the game’s experience, snapping me abruptly back into the dreary world of reality.

My own character’s animations only make matters worse, thus I don’t even consider changing the game to third person mode. In one instance, I was climbing down the side of a gigantic snowy mountain.  Instead of making contact with the ground beneath me, my character’s feet just slide across the surface as if it were ice and I was skating across a massive vertical rink. I think the main problem with Skyrim’s animations is the fact that they don’t seem to have any realistic weight to them; characters float and slide across the surface of objects all the time.

 2. Load Screens

Be prepared to look at this screen a lot.

Skyrim is beautiful, I’d say it might even be one of the best looking games of this generation. But its load times? I really just can’t stand them. Staring at a beautiful 3D model of one of the game’s colourful characters or items can only hold my short attention span for so long.

Completing simple quests in a town become a chore because of the game’s load times. Need to get into the Companion’s guild in Skyrim? Be prepared to wait 20 seconds. Need to buy some new armour? Get ready for another few seconds of wait time. Loading up your saved file? Be prepared to wait about a minute or so. The load times got me so annoyed that at one point I actually started playing Super Mario 3D Land in between loading screen, just to ease the pain of waiting.

I understand that Skyrim is a graphical powerhouse and that’s probably why load times are so excruciatingly long, but come on, it’s 2011. Should I really have to wait this long for a game to load? Maybe I just have a short attention span or something, but my adventures in Skyrim would be way more fun if I didn’t have to sit twiddling my thumbs so often and for such long periods of time.

I’m playing the Xbox 360 version of Skyrim, but Kory Baldwin’s experience with load times on PS3 has apparently been comparably bad.  Apparently only higher-end PC’s are experiencing reasonable load rates.

3. Horses Aren’t Fun

This screenshot may might make it look like riding a horse is fun, but trust me - It isn't.

Riding your horse sucks. It’s not fun, looks awkward and is down right annoying. Purchasing a horse in Skyrim is the worst thing I could have done with my hard earned (stolen) 1,000 septims. You’d think Bethesda could have managed to make riding a horse entertaining. I mean, I’ve never actually rode a horse in real life, but I imagine it’s probably a reasonable amount of fun. In Skyrim, however, your horse  glides and hovers over the land, much like your character often does. Also, why does my horse seem to want to get involved in every single battle I fight?

I understand it’s just trying to lend a helping hand, but the creature is expensive; I don’t want it to perish in the heat of battle. Also, why can’t I fight while on horse back? The game doesn’t even let you to shoot your bow while galloping across the country side; a feature The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time accomplished over twelve years ago. I just feel that if more time had been put into Skyrim’s horses, they could have been much more fun than what the game was released with. And where is my horse armor (that I hopefully won’t get later as a severely overpriced DLC ala Oblivion)?

So honestly, there really isn’t a lot wrong with Skyrim – for the most part it’s quite amazing. These are the few major gripes I have with the game. They obviously don’t affect the experience that much (after all I am playing Skyrim while writing this story), but they are still incredibly annoying none the less. Skyrim is a big picture game, you can’t let little issues like I’ve mentioned above get to you. You have to look at what Bethesda has accomplished as a whole with the title in order to enjoy it. Also, you have to completely ignore the game’s incredibly brain dead AI (I didn’t include this in my list of problems because I felt it was a little to obvious).

Maybe I  just expected too much out of Skyrim, but I really wanted to see a significant improvement when it came to character animations because robotic movement has been plaguing Bethesda titles for years. Oh well, maybe when the next Elder Scrolls comes out in another five years they can finally get it right.

  1. mrJMAN16 says:

    skyrim V is my first elder scrolls game so i dont know about oblivions graphics but what i do know is is that for the true fans of this game like myself,i would wait an hour just to go in and out of a house if it meant i got to continue playing this once in a decade game. no matter what flaws are placed upon its title it will always have a place in our hearts. no criticism could ever be put up against that! maybe in a few years or so another will come out that will be soo perfect that it recieves no critics at all! :O yes yes i understand you are just a gamer reporting facts thats the animation artists already know about. of course thats not criticism! >_>

  2. Riu Tenshin says:

    Not to say I wasn’t disappointed in some areas with Skyrim…because I was, but not to say I hate it either because I don’t. It’s quite a fun game and I enjoy it greatly. Most complaints I agree with: the graphics were not what I expected over the hype of the ‘upgrade’ from Oblivion, the dialogue and conversations are still dull and irritatingly repetitive, animations are still kinda funky and not realistic, storyline is still extremely repetitive, the game suddenly decides to auto-kill you at random times, horses are painfully slow and just all around terrible, ect…ect…ect…

    But sitting here going through a ton of reviews, reading all these different critiques, one consistent complaint is really beginning to piss me off.
    Yes, the loading times are a bit slow…for me I think the longest was a minute and a half, shortest being just a few seconds.

    But guys…take a second to think about this…it is a HUGE fucking game. You cannot expect someone to make a game quite so large and it be able to load all its crap in a millisecond (on top of whatever else you have taking up console/PC memory space). Sitting here reading what I am assuming to be grown ass adult-ultra-gamers bitch about having to sit and wait 30 fucking seconds (just stop and try to realize how absurdly moronic that sounds…complaining about having to wait 30 fucking seconds) for a screen to load on a game that is packed to the brim with information…is just the epitome of modern human narcissism and idiotic childish impatience. Quite irritating that so many cannot control their need for instant and immediate self gratification they feel the world owes them. Like five year olds.

    It’s…just…a…game. Not only is it just a freggin’ game, but it’s a game that takes HOURS to play. Why is everyone bitching about having to take such an extremely short break from their 3 to 10 hour game to wait while it loads (if you are really waiting 20 minutes for it to load…I’m pretty sure it froze and all your fuming was wasted)?

    Also…for the xbox users…if the wait is really so unbearable clear your cache. It helps a lot. Other than that, stop getting your thongs all twisted up over a LOADING PAGE. Jeeze.

  3. skaffa says:

    turning off the save on travel option seems to shorten the loading time

  4. Some Guy says:

    Surprised the atrocious “instant-kill” system in this game didn’t make the list. It pisses me off to no end that there’s often a pretty decent chance that the game will literally decide to kill you as you watch helplessly.

    I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve watched my character stand there like an idiot while a slow attack I could have easily dodged kills me when I had a nearly full health bar. This hardly complements Skyrim’s awful save system, either, because it’s really annoying having to do over 10 minutes of gameplay simply because the game randomly decided that I should just die.

    Skyrim is a FANTASTIC game, but it’s massively overhyped in almost every area. The graphics are standard, the animation is poor, the physics are unimpressive, there’s no plot (and what little plot there is is fake and melodramatic, so it’s hard to appreciate the size of the world when it’s made out of plastic, etc etc. The great aspects of the game make up for its shortcomings, but the shortcomings it does retain are so mind-numbingly amateur in the realm of gaming that it shocks me that this game got GOTY over near flawless titles like Skyward Sword. :/

  5. Animal Husbandry says:

    CONTAINS SPOILERS. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
    ——————————————————————–

    My biggest problem with Skyrim is the problem I have with all of the Elder Scrolls games I’ve played (Morrowind onward) and Fallout 3: the central plot is pretty unengaging. If fails to immerse me in the world or make me care about the fate of the world or its people.

    Don’t get me wrong, in Skyrim I have a ton of fun and then some along the way just wandering around, discovering new locations, exploring dungeons, and fighting people and creatures and I don’t entirely mind the countless fetch quests, Go Kill X, and Fed Ex side quests. I love crafting weapons and armor. I enjoy enchanting weapons and apparel and naming them. It’s all a lot of fun, but is a solid or even remarkable plot too much to ask for?

    New Vegas delivered in this respect IMHO. I felt for the people of the Mojave, waiting anxiously for the Legion or NCR to make the first move, turning the region into their battlefield. I liked the fact that I could choose to side with the NCR, the Legion, support the Status Quo by siding with Mr. House, or opting to become a hero of the common man and choose anarchy. In Skyrim all we get is Join the Imperials (who are expansionist, imperialistic dicks) or Join the Stormcloaks (who are nationalistic, xenophobic dicks led by an egotistical f***wad). There’s no room once you’ve chosen sides to double-cross or assassinate the faction leader(s) like you could with Caesar or the NCR brass. I like that there were minor factions like the Khans, whose fate you could have a real impact on depending on the choices and alliances you made. Maybe the answer is to use the talent of the former Black Isle employees, now with Obsidian who created New Vegas.

    However, I’m not holding my breath and I will be astonished the day we get an Elder Scrolls game with a noteworthy central plot. If I want a good plot, and I daresay followers (companions, party NPCs) with backstories, personality and depth, I’ll just play a BioWare game. Heck, Fallout: NV at least managed to meet me halfway by having followers I could converse with a little and who had a personal quest to complete each. A BioWare/ Bethsoft collaboration would rule, and I know BioWare admires Bethesda, but I dunno if that will ever happen, but I can always dream. :-)

  6. fucking annoyed says:

    im fucking sick of waiting 20 minutes until the fucking screen is loadded for fucks sake

  7. Dovah says:

    Two second load time for me on PC.

  8. Simeon says:

    Load times are not necessarily an issue why Skyrim though… I play it on my PC and it loads so quick that I often don’t have enough time to read the full description displayed on the load screen. Not really fair to blame crappy load times (on consoles) on the game. Oh and I don’t use an SSD HDD.

    I haven’t used a horse once. I like to roam the land and kill everything in sight (for leveling purposes, not because I am a masochist… although I probably am actually).

    I am hoping mods for PC deal with the animations…

  9. lol says:

    although i agree with 1 & 2 (never understood why people can’t wait 15 seconds on loading screens…) they aren’t things to destroy a game. 3 minor things to complain about.. then i guess the game has done pretty good.

  10. Paul says:

    I wont lie. I have a High end pc and was complaining a bit about how too fast the loading screens are at times. Ill be trying to reading one of the tips or history and only get 3 words in. Loading screens last 1 to 3 secs for me.

    • Simeon says:

      Exactly. This game should be played on PC for maximum enjoyment – especially now the mods are coming out and looking pretty good.

      @Patrick: Wow, 30 seconds for those load times on xbox? If I played it now on console I would get annoyed waiting that long… PC is 1-3 seconds.

    • Ya it’s pretty brutal at times. I would have got it for PC but I’ve never been a mouse and keyboard kind of gamer. That’s probably just because I’ve grown up playing console games.

      Playing games on a PC with a mouse and keyboard just feels so foreign to me for some reason.

  11. Kory Baldwin says:

    Patrick, I agree with the Load times and horse ridging points, but only partially with the animations. While the animations could be better for sure, they are night and day above Oblivion. Doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, but identical to Oblivion? That’s a bit of an overstatement in my opinion.

    As for loads…Skyrim makes me want to get a Solid State HDD for my PS3.

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