I’ve been playing Skyrim for a total of 6 hours. What follows are my initial impressions, and there are going to be some spoilers for the start of the game.
My character is currently level 8. I decided early on that I was going to play a sneaky character, one who uses bows and daggers. An assassin or a thief, basically. This is the same character I played in Oblivion, which I loved, but the primary reason for my intended character build is simple: I saw a really cool assassination animation in some of the Behind-the-Scenes footage. I want to go do that one cool thing to as many NPCs as possible. That’s all.
REMINDER: There are going to be spoilers beyond this.
One of the first things that struck me about Skyrim is just how long it takes to get started. In Morrowind, you could start a new game and be out in the world in five minutes or less. That’s the kind of opening I’d like to see here; get me into the game as soon as possible, give me a bread crumb to get me started on the main quest, and then just leave me to my own devices. Bethesda, trust that your players are not morons.
The game started with my character being transported via wagon. I was crossing over the border and got caught, or something? The dialogue was very explanatory, and it gave me the feeling that I wasn’t going to be playing my character, but rather a specific character of Bethesda’s own design. One of the other guys on the wagon, Ulfric Stormcloak, apparently killed the High King of Skyrim, though. Now that got my attention, but not enough of the dialogue focused on this more interesting character.
The wagon ride was too long. It eventually ended at a fort, where some guy’s head was cut off. Cool, decapitation, now the game has my attention again. I totally want to behead some NPCs now. But then a dragon attacked and it was time for me to get out of there.
I have to hand it to Bethesda, though. The character editor for Skyrim is just phenomenal. I feel like I could create my character in my image if I wanted to. I opted to play as a Khajiit, though; night vision for the caves, claws for when I go to jail and my gear is confiscated, and an increased jumping ability. All of that, plus a bonus to archery and sneak! It would be awhile before I discovered that there is no more acrobatics skill and that Khajiit don’t jump higher. Oh well, at least the other bonuses are tangible. I don’t even mind looking like a furry, because I play in first-person and thus can’t see my character anyway. Wins all around!
During the dragon attack, some guy whose name I forget helped me escape from town, and we ended up going through a cave. The quest objectives said that I could regroup with either the dude I was following, or one of my fellow prisoners from the wagon. I wanted to find my fellow prisoner, because there’s honor among thieves; after all, these authority people were about to behead me, which was only put to a stop because of the dragon, who then proceeded to try and roast me. Basically, the only people I felt safe around were the people who had their hands bound, just like me.
Okay, so after getting out of the cave of boring tutorial, I found myself out in the wilderness. I eventually made it to the town of Riverwood, arriving in the middle of the night. The first thing I did was find a vendor and sell off all the loot I found for… 900 gold. Better than nothing, I suppose. Had I known that I wouldn’t get the full 1500 worth I was carrying, then I would have dropped the excess 150 pounds and saved a few minutes off my journey.
In the morning, I overheard a guy named Sven complaining about his love life. Sven was caught in a love triangle and looked for my help. “Yes!” I thought to myself, “something worth doing that I can sympathise with!” Sven wanted me to deliver a faked letter to his love interest, Camilla, on behalf of his competition, so that she’d be driven into Sven’s arms. Well, I went to go deliver the letter, and it turns out that I could tell Camilla the truth about the letter. So I did, and ruined Sven’s love life. As a bonus, Camilla’s love interest, Faendal, became my new friend. He’s an archer, and he carries all my excess loot.
While I was delivering the letter to Camilla, I overheard her talking about an adventure with her brother. I had a new quest to go retrieve a golden dragon claw, or something. Finally, a real quest! The claw is being held in some barrows overlooking the town.
Faendal and I went up the mountain, dispatched some bandits, and then broke into the barrows. We fought some draugr, Nordic undead, and retrieved the golden claw from a dark elf. I stabbed the dark elf in the chest. We eventually got to the end of the barrows, and it turns out the claw is a key. On the other side, a dragon wall, where I learned my first Word of Power… even though I can’t use it yet. I found a dragonstone, though. Don’t know what that’s for. Maybe I can sell it!
On the way back to Riverwood, I met an old hag living in a shanty cabin named Anise. I killed her and stole some of her stuff. Turns out she’s a witch.
I returned the claw to Camilla’s brother in Riverwood, and he paid me for my services. Next stop was to travel to Whiterun and inform the Jarl about the dragons, so that Riverwood can be protected. So I ran all the way to Whiterun, met the Jarl, and he had me talk to his wizard. The wizard wanted me to go all the way back to the barrows overlooking Riverwood and retrieve- wait, seriously? I have to go all the way back there for some goddamn fetch quest? Whatever. The wizard wants me to retrieve a dragonstone from there. Aw, I was going to sell that!
After handing the stone over, a dragon is seen flying over the west. The Jarl wants me to go kill it, because I’m just the messenger saying that dragons are brutal. I have no combat experience! I stopped playing after getting out to the dragon and putting the mythical beast down. See, I returned to Riverwood to bring good news about the Jarl lending his support, but then three assholes came walking down the street and threatened to “put me in my place.” That’s slang for, “we’re going to try to kill you now.” And they did! Many times. With a single attack, every time. The guards stood around and did nothing. I’m only level 8 and being hunted by guys who can kill me with a single attack. What the fuck, Bethesda?
Overall, the game just isn’t very fun. The most fun I have had with the game so far has been crawling through the barrows. But I’m spending most of my time just running around from point A to point B. There is a lot of open ground to cover and just not enough interesting stuff in between. All too often, I’ll be running along and think, “am I there yet?” The environments around Riverwood and Whiterun are not interesting to look at or be in, as there is very little to see or do.
On top of that, what appears to be the game’s sub-plot keeps rearing it’s ugly head. Okay, there’s a war going on in Skyrim, I get it. But I don’t know anything about it, yet on what seems to be a constant basis, I am being asked to pick a side. Hey, Nords: I don’t care about your war. There are dragons out there, and those are going to kill everyone; dragons don’t care if you’re a Stormcloak or an Imperial, a Battle-Born or a Greymane. So stop bothering me, shut the hell up, and just let me take care of the real problems, okay? If you really want me to pick a side, then you had better make a pretty damn compelling argument against the other side than, “we don’t like them.”
Although I’m definitely not going to side with the Imperials. Those assholes tried to behead me!