I’ve finished with most of the main quest chains in the game — I only have the thieves’ guild and the bard stuff left, and pages upon pages of sidequests that I’ve mostly been ignoring in favor of getting the spoiler-rich main chains done. So if you haven’t finished these quest chains, I’m warning you of spoilers now.
I’m disappointed with how structured the main quest was, and how abruptly it ended.
I went through all this trouble to learn the Dragonrend shout, so that I could use it on Alduin, so then I’m like “cool, I’ve got a shout I can use to force dragons to the ground!” Then I encountered another random dragon, and immediately went to use my Dragonrend shout. It made the dragon glow blue, but otherwise did nothing at all to it. I said “well, that’s kinda lame” and continued about my business.
I got all the way to Sovngarde (a.k.a. Valhalla), finally got to Alduin so I could fight him again, and tried using the Dragonrend shout. It made him glow blue, and otherwise did nothing. My three ghostly companions then yelled out “Use Dragonrend!” and I was like “I just did, it didn’t do anything!” but I sighed and did anyway, and this time it pulled him to the ground. So, what, you teach me this shout that would actually be really useful in gameplay for fighting the random dragons that show up all over the place, but I’m only allowed to use it against Alduin during a certain part of this fight? Why can’t you give me an IN-GAME reason for why the shout has no effect? Because it isn’t explained at all. It simply doesn’t work in any situation ever unless NPCs specifically tell me to use it.
After I kill him, the guy in Sovngarde congratulates me, gives me a new shout I can use to summon a dude to help me fight (a reflavored conjuration spell) and I’m sent back to the mountaintop, which is interesting, because that isn’t where I started (it wouldn’t have made more sense to send me back through the portal I used to get there?). Once there, the dragons yell incoherently and fly away one at a time. The old dragon who was helping me said some things about how he was going to convince the other dragons to stop killing people now that their leader is dead, then flew away. The dragon I caught earlier who gave me a ride flew down and said I could call on him when needed, then flew away. Quest done, nobody else has anything to say about it.
I go to the Jarl, to tell him that the great evil has been slain and we can all rejoice that the end of the world has been averted. These NPCs all seemed very serious when we were negotiating the truce, and I had to constantly remind them that the fate of the entire WORLD was at stake. “Neither of us want to put aside our petty differences, the only reason we’re even entertaining the idea is because Ragnarok is at hand and the hero of legend is asking us personally. We’re only calling a truce temporarily until this end-of-the-world business is settled.” Now that it is, there isn’t so much as a dialogue option to mention my victory to him offhand.
The only acknowledgement I get that the citizens even KNOW about it is because the guards mention it as one of their random phrases as I walk past, in between asking me to enchant their butter-knife sword and warning me not to steal anything lest they cut off my hand.
Maybe this is just something that Elder Scrolls games just do at the end of their main story quest. I don’t know, I’ve never finished the main story in an Elder Scrolls game before. I just find the lack of any closure to be very unsatisfying. I’m not expecting a PARADE, but I’d at least like a “thank you” from someone who isn’t a dragon.
The mages’ college questchain also ended on a very unsatisfactory note. I honestly have no idea why they made me archmage after all of that.
The mysterious hooded guys, who barely said a word to anyone other than me before that moment, said that I will be archmage. The other people at the college decided that was a wonderful idea, despite the fact that I completed their quests using only the apprentice-level spells that were required for a couple of the puzzles, and used almost no magic otherwise. I spent most of my time shooting mana beasts with my bow. My magic skills are rather sad, since I almost completely stopped using all of my destruction spells about 20 levels ago.
The only reason I was sent on half of those missions was because other people were too busy doing more important things, or thought it was kinda a longshot that the thing they were looking for would be there, so basically said “knock yourself out” and sent me on my way. The only reason I was the one to go retrieve the staff at the end was because the Archmage was dead, the lady who’s second in command was seriously injured, and my professor was busy keeping the situation under control so that it didn’t get worse. Or something.
It wasn’t even a situation of “the archmage secretly wrote in his journal that he wanted me to be the next archmage before he died” thing that the Companions did. The guy didn’t even really like me. I don’t remember him saying more than a few sentences to me before he died. It was less of a “the archmage wanted you to have this” and more of a “the archmage told me I’d know what to do with this when the time comes, and I’m deciding that I need to give it to you.”
And then when the situation is resolved and the Object of Unimaginable Power was removed from the college and everything was back to the way it was before (minus the archmage), they decide to make ME the new archmage? WHY? They just say “What was that the strange hooded man just said? That you would be archmage? Sounds good to me!” What about the girl who was actually in second in command of the college? Or my very wise professor who I hadn’t taken more than one class from? Hell, even the orc librarian would make a better archmage. I’m barely even able to meet the entrance requirement of summoning a flame atronach. I’m hardly fit for leadership.
On second thought, I’m just going to assume that everyone at the college has just been mind-controlled by the psijics into agreeing with them.
And what the hell is up with that quest the Blades give me to kill Parthenax? I’m leaving the peace talks, and all of a sudden that Blades girl catches up to me on the way out and tells me that they know he’s a dragon, and that they refuse to help me any more unless I kill him, because they’re sworn to kill all dragons and they can’t in good conscience help someone who’s a dragon sympathizer. She makes a very convincing argument that even though he’s helping us now, he betrayed his master once before, and it’s not exactly unlikely that he’ll betray us too in the future (dragons do live forever, after all).
So I’m sad, but I head up to the mountaintop, and I go talk to Parthenax. I tell him that the Blades want him dead, that they don’t trust him, and he’s very understanding, says they’re wise not to trust him, he doesn’t trust any other dragons either, and it’s only through constant vigilance and meditation that he’s able to overcome the natural draconic urge to enslave humanity.
That doesn’t do anything to update the quest, which still tells me to kill him, so I’m sad as I sneak behind him and ready my bow. I hit him for half his health in the first blow, he doesn’t attack me or anything, so I think maybe he’s accepted his fate and is just letting me execute him for the good of the world.
I hit him with a second arrow, and he continues standing there, perched on the edge of the wall like before. His health goes down to zero and his health bar disappears. I keep shooting him, but he can’t die. Okay, now I know he’s bugged.
Now, I get that I’m not supposed to be able to kill him because he’s a story NPC, and he had some very important things to say during the ending sequence later, because I gave up on trying to kill him and just went on with what I was doing. However, if that was the case, why give me a quest to kill an NPC if I’m not actually able to complete it until later?
Maybe I can go kill him now that the main story is over, but I really don’t know why I would want to. I only needed their help to find out how to kill Alduin. I’ve got the information I needed now. I can kill dragons just fine by myself, thank you very much, with or without that stupid broken Dragonrend shout. Their refusal to help me doesn’t really bother me very much, as I’ve mostly forgotten where their new base is anyway.
The game gets way too easy towards the end. I spent so much time crafting in town that I had crazy high bonuses. Once I focused on being a thief archetype (having no interest in wearing heavy armor or getting up close to the enemy, and finding the magic system in this game to be so limited and anticreative that it’s pointless) and put almost all of my perk points into sneak and archery bonuses, I rarely actually fight anything any more.
I sneak through dungeons, pick off all of the enemies from the doorway with one shot from my bow, then move through collecting the arrows and other loot before saving and moving on to the next room. Very rarely do I encounter enemies that survive the first shot, and most often it’s actually because I tried to fire an arrow through a narrow opening that had larger collision than it appeared to, the arrow got stuck in the empty space NEXT to the doorframe, and the enemy hears the noise and comes to investigate.
I pick up valuable weapons and armor and gemstones and ore and animal hides, and I stash them in my house “until I need them”. My smithing and enchanting are maxed out at 100, I’ve got the best weapons and armor I can make, I have no need to craft more things.
I don’t need the money from selling these things. I haven’t had anything I’ve particularly wanted to buy since I stocked my house. I have no reason to buy more houses, because the first one holds all of my stuff just fine. Since containers hold an unlimited amount of stuff, I can stuff everything I own into the smallest possible house and it works fine.
I find myself with twelve thousand gold on a regular basis, so I splurge and spend it on five skillups from the local trainer just because I can. Trainers no longer have skill limits as they did in Oblivion — any trainer for a particular skill can seemingly train you up to the max of 100, rather than requiring you to search the country for the one person living in an abandoned shack who can train you the rest of the way.
But I’m starting to question why I’m picking up anything at all, since I don’t need money and my gear can’t really get any better. I still pick up gold and potions, though I’m not even sure why I even do that any more. I have far more potions than I have any use for, with how few fights I’m actually in. I gave up on carrying food 10 levels ago when I realized I had 50 pounds worth of health potions (due to my obsessive need to pick up all alchemy ingredients) sitting in my bags that I could use instead of devouring that pile of 100 potatoes.
I should have just ignored enchanting completely. Most of the time I was leveling up, the stuff I could make through enchanting was pathetically weak compared to the loot I was finding in the dungeons. By the time I leveled up my enchanting enough to actually make stuff that was better, I had no need of it any more because my archery/smithing perks already caused me to do so much damage that increasing my bow damage by a percentage on top of that was just overkill.
Actually, I should have probably ignored all of the tradeskills. I could have continued to chug potions for health restoration, but I could have spent my money from looting tombs on just buying more health potions. The smithing bonuses are just insane once you get to a higher level, as well.
Cooking is absolutely pointless, and I was just wasting alchemy reagents (salt and garlic) on turning a piece of meat that weighs 2 pounds and restores 1 health into a cooked piece of meat that weighs 2 pounds and restores 5 health. Maybe 10 if I’m lucky. They make it so easy to steal things from towns because it ultimately doesn’t matter, because all this stuff is worthless junk even if it has “value”. Even stealing gold from people, which has no downside because gold can’t be tracked (unlike mass-produced mead bottles and pieces of fruit), has no purpose because there isn’t really anything of interest to spend the gold *on*.
So for now, I’m not going to bother to keep playing, at least this save. I still need to finish the quest chain for the Thieves’ Guild, but I don’t really like them and have no incentive to want them to succeed. I’ve barely done anything with the bard’s college, but since it doesn’t appear that I can actually play any of the instruments I find in this game, I’m sure most of it is just going to be “diplomacy while someone near you plays an instrument” or something like that. Maybe some more “go search ancient tomb X for this forgotten verse” because I’m obviously an adventurer, not a bard, and isn’t that cute, look, she wants to be a bard. How dare I try to have any profession in this world that is unrelated to plundering ancient tombs for their mummified loot.
I will probably come back to this game and play it a second time later on, when the mod creation kit has been released and people are making mods to fix the stupid things about this game. Hack my UI to make it not stupid. Get a mod to add a bunch of spells and create new spells like I could in Oblivion, and make an exclusively mage character who only wears robes and staves and throws crazy lightning bolts everywhere and exclusively spends her level-up points on mana. Make an exclusively melee character with heavy armor and a two-hander who is ethically bound to not ever steal anything or sneak around like a sneaky sneaky thief.
I can make “challenge” rules for myself, like “no companion characters” or “no stealing” or “no magic”. “No fast travel to hop all around the world willy nilly” and the corresponding rule “no staying awake for weeks at a time” where you MUST sleep through the night, which would mean mostly doing local quests around a certain location and always staying at the inn or camping out in a cleared-out bandit hideout. Or “no picking up items if I’m not planning to actually use them myself” to limit my money input to what I get from quest rewards or the gear I’ve found upgrades for.
As much as this game allows you to mix and match multiple archetypes, it really does work best if you focus on one “class”. Sure, you CAN make a heavy-armored thief who kills things with destruction magic, but the game (and the interface) really punishes you for it. If you want to be a paladin who uses heavy armor and a sword/shield but swaps back and forth to restoration magic to heal themself, you’ve gotta deal with the fact that you can’t have weapons and spells equipped at the same time, forcing you to open the favorites menu constantly during a fight in order to swap back and forth. (And before you suggest it, I haven’t had any luck with binding favorites combinations to number keys. It’s fine with two-handed weapons like bows, but as soon as you start trying to save certain combinations of spells, it really doesn’t like you.)
Even though I can continue from where I am now and complete all of the quests as my overpowered self to see all of the storyline, I’d much rather start over completely, completely ignoring the quest chains I finished the previous time in favor of becoming an unattached bard who completes odd sidequests for the towns she passes through. Probably not even doing the initial quest that causes the dragons to start flying around, so I won’t need to worry about them randomly attacking me.
I don’t really have much of a use for the shouts. The ones that actually worked were of quite limited usefulness. The only ones I’d really use with any regularity were the aura whisper to see where the enemies were in the room up ahead so I could sneak up on them more easily (because apparently “detect life” is not a spell that exists in Skyrim, or if it does, I’ve never found it) and the ice form to CC that bear and run away before it bites my head off.
And I’ll stop reading books. I’ve got them all on my kindle now, so I can read them at my own leisure and stop worrying about finding them all in-game.