Well, this is was inevitable, I suppose.
By now, it should be well known fact that when it comes to Skyrim, I have
a passionate dislike for it, bordering on monomaniacal hatred one or two issues with it.
However, upon reflection, I have realized that for all my ranting and raving, I have been incorrect in one of my criticisms about this game.
Dave: Ah, so you admit that you were wrong!
Yes. You see, much like when I wrote the addendum to Die Another Day, I feel that I have a duty towards the people reading this. It’s true that I am incredibly opinionated, angry and hate this game with the intensity of a medium sized star, but I will not stoop to knowingly spreading false information to prove my point. It’s beneath me, and it hurts my position, since I should not have to make up reasons to criticize something.
Least of all this game.
And as such, I will not just make an edit in the previous chapters. Instead I am writing this additional chapter, in order to address my mistake and set the record straight.
Dave: Glad to hear that you can admit to being wrong once in a while. So what is it you were wrong about? The dragons? The lack of choices? Alduin actually had a well defined reason to attack Helgen?
No, nothing that big. This is about my criticisms about the characters in the game. Specifically, that I stated that they are either morons or assholes. I stated that the characters in the game were either evil, stupid or, in some cases, both.
And this, I have realized, is not true. At least not with the humanoid NPC’s. The Redguards, Nords, Khajiit etc.
Dave: Aha! Vindication at last! You’ve finally realized that the characters have depth to them, and that the writers are not as incompetent as you thought! You’re admitting to being too harsh in your criticism!
What? No, I didn’t! The writers are as incompetent as ever, if not more so than I previously thought.
Dave: But you said….
I said that I was wrong about the NPC’s being either evil or stupid. What I mean by that isn’t that I was being too harsh.
What I mean is that I wasn’t being harsh ENOUGH!
It’s not a matter of whether or not the characters are evil or stupid. It’s a question of whether or not they’re evil AND stupid. Make no mistake, they are stupid, just not always evil.
Dave: Really? And how, exactly, did you reach this conclusion?
Very easily, as it happens.
See, among the skills you can train yourself in, there is the “pickpocket” section. Like all skills, it can be improved to the maximum of 100, using the levelling system I have already written about and expressed my dislike over.
Dave: So? What’s wrong with that?
Well, upon reaching 100, you are able to activate the perk “Perfect Touch”. This perk allows you to pickpocket items from your targets, even if the item is equipped. This includes rings, necklaces, and clothes.
You can go up to someone on the street, start picking their pockets and literally leave them standing in their underwear. And they don’t notice anything.
THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE.
And not only does this apply to clothes, but also to ARMOUR! As in, the heavy, reinforced type of attire, secured and fastened for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of not falling off!
Dave: You DO know this is fantasy, right? It’s just a fun little thing they put in. Surely, you can allow for some willing suspension of disbelief?
Oh, sure, I can! It’s what allows me to accept dragons existing, people turning into werewolves, ghosts rising from the grave, or people being able to shoot fire with just a wave of their hand. But even in the face of all that, I’m calling bullshit on this!
There is willing suspension of disbelief, and then there’s insulting my fucking intelligence! You cannot blitz something like this past me and not expect me to ask a few questions. This “funny little thing” tells me that the characters in this game are complete fucking morons!
Think about it. Look at the clothes you’re wearing right now. Can you imagine what it would take for someone to steal your shirt without you noticing? Or your shoes?
Dave: Well, I…
Actually, I can tell you what it would take. You’d have to be so catastrophically incapable of basic thought, you’d be considered braindead. I don’t mean just a bit thick. I don’t mean plain stupid.
I mean being fundamentally unable to register the information your body is sending to your brain. Remember, we’re not dealing just with the sense of touch here. We’re dealing with balance, vision, temperature and hearing. For all of those not to register something as being amiss, you’d have to be comatose! Brain activity on par with a boiled potato!
Talking would not be an option. Eating liquid food would require assistance. Walking would be doubtful. Remembering to breathe would basically be conscious effort rather than reflex.
But the characters in the game are not unconcious! They’re standing around talking, laughing, shopping, fighting and drinking.
Surely, you can see how terrible the writing is, with these two facts blatantly contradicting one another.
Dave: Perhaps the skill involves using some kind of magic or manipulation?
Sorry, but I’m not buying that. Manipulating others to that degree falls under magic, specifically the Illusion school. Pickpocketing falls under the thief’s section of skills. As such, it’s not magic, but a skill based of dexterity and stealth.
Dave: Well… maybe you’re just that good? Did you ever consider that?
Yes, I did. And you know what? That answer doesn’t work either. After all, this would mean 100 in one particular skill is “god-like”. So let’s go with that. Let’s say that 100 in pickpocketing enables you to do something that, let’s face it, only gods should be able to do.
If so, suppose you have 100 in speech? That would make you basically a god of speechcraft. There shouldn’t be a confrontation in the game you couldn’t talk your way out of, nothing you couldn’t convince someone else to do.
In other words, convincing the Blades to spare Paarthurnax should be the easiest thing in the world!
Dave: You’re still on about that?
Yes, I am, because that mission perfectly exemplifies what a failure of an RPG this is.
100 in speech shouldn’t just mean I could convince the Blades to spare Paarthurnax. It should mean I could go up to Alduin and convince him to not destroy the world! Convincing armageddon incarnate to abandon his purpose, his entire raison d’etre, should be a cakewalk for someone with 100 in speech!
Dave: Wait… So you’re complaining about being ridiculosly good… before complaining that in another situation, you want to be ridiculously good?
No, what I want is consistency.
After all, what I’m suggesting is no less ridiculous than what 100 in pickpocketing offers.
Dave: Well, either way, you’re being stupid. There have to be limits to what you can affect in a game.
EXACTLY! But they don’t set reasonable limits! One fully upgraded skill tree should not be infinitely superior to another fully upgraded skill tree. Otherwise, the numbers have no meaning or purpose other than looking pretty.
Going back to Fallout: New Vegas, 100 in speech doesn’t make you the unquestionable king of diplomacy. You can’t go up to Legate Lanius and convince him to leave the Legion and open a small diner. It allows you to, among other things, manipulate him into withdrawing his army, convinced that attacking the west will eventually cost the Legion both the east and west.
It allows you to play to his pride, his fear or his honour.
By the same token, 100 in medicine doesn’t mean you can raise people from the dead like you’re The Lord Jesus Christ himself.
Basically, the people behind this game are still incompetent. It’s just that either their character writing is worse than I thought it was, or their skill system is fundamentally broken by how unbalanced it is.
And while it’s true that the “Steal clothes” thing only works on non-essential characters or characters not wearing unobtainable clothing, my point about the NPC’s being mind-shatteringly stupid in general would still apply.
Of course, there are solutions to this.
Either, you can have every skill culminate in the same kind of god like level. You then assign a level cap, assuring that it’s only possible to max out one or two skill trees, with hard line dedication. Basically, if you want to become a god among pickpockets or blacksmiths, you have to earn it, at the cost of other skills. You’ll be unto a god, but it’ll cost you.
(This, of course, would lead to replay value, since you could play the game several times, just to get a different end result)
OR you can remove the ludicrous, God-like skill. If they just settled for allowing us to steal rings, necklaces and other jewelry, that’d be fine, while also remaining an amazing display of skill. Even stealing a sword or an axe, while impressive, would be allowed as a display of how talented your character is.
Obviously, that doesn’t change the fact that speech, by comparison, is still virtually useless, but it would at least not be as blatant in how worthless it is.
Ideally, you’d create a middle ground, where maxing out all skills is possible, but it takes a lot of planning and patience, resulting in a character who is great at many different things, making him or her a force to be reckoned with, without necessarily being a god among men.
But such a thing, I suppose, is too much to ask. A game like that is only a figment of a hopeful imagination…
That is, unless you’ve played Fallout: New Vegas, where you can play that exact kind of protagonist if you so wish.