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Sheogorath Would Be Pleased

Three days ago, I pondered exactly what I must want to do to address my Skyrim snit, and came to the conclusion I could probably do a Sorceror-type character, which in Elder Scrolls terms is basically a magic user who spurns weapons but wears heavy armor.

The resulting character, Makor Mystwielder, lasted about 8 hours.  At about that point, I had managed to score some pretty decent destruction magic at level 18, and I found myself thoroughly bored by the fact that stuff was dying nearly as easily as a smithed bow stealth kill.  Thus disheartened, I then spent an entire day browsing forums instead of playing Skyrim.

I knew was in trouble, as I had now set up the following premises for myself:
  • I can't take a melee weapon or a bow, because they could all be smithed to the point where everything dies too fast and it's boring.  (Funny how "then just don't smith," is not an option for me, isn't it?  Part of the reason for that is because having access to that kind of power is just too much of a slippery slope for me to resist for long.  The other part is because doing without smithing does not strike me as the way the game is meant to be played.)
  • I can't take destruction magic because, once you've got some decent destruction spells, everything dies too fast, albeit not quite as fast as a melee weapon or bow.
  • Turning up the difficulty was not a good solution because it does more than reduce your damage, it also increases the enemy's damage, and when I'm not annoyed at how fast the enemies are dying I'm annoyed at how fast I'm dying.
Now, a reasonable thing to say at this point is, "Look, those are all the ways you can inflict damage.  Clearly, you're too burned out from the game to continue to play it."  But the title of this blog is not, "Face it, you're bored," it's "Digitally Staving Off Boredom."

Faced with the knowledge I can't inflict damage directly, I realized there was still one more option: restrict myself to inflicting damage indirectly.  Thus was borne my 20th-something Dovakiin, "Floyd The Indirect."

Floyd The Indirect himself.  (Sorry if it looks a little dark, this Viewsonic monitor
presents such vivid colors I have to fudge the gamma to get a sense of darkness in games.)

This character basically runs on an arbitrary set of rules intended to get me to play the game in a way I never had before.  He's not allowed to invest perk points in the obvious damage-doing skills: one-handed, two-handed, archery, or destruction.  However, like any Skyrim Dovakiin, he's going to be facing a slew of enemies that need to be killed to complete most quests, the game does not give him a choice.  Dragon shouts are allowed, but too awkward to use as the sole means of damage doing.  The bulk of his damage, then, comes from "indirect" means, such as conjured allies, illusion spells confusing enemies into attacking each other or keeping them otherwise predisposed, keeping his follower healed and actively inflicting damage for him, and sometimes even using a dungeon's built-in traps against enemies.

In practice, it's less oddball and unique than one would hope, essentially the fourth way to do things after straight up mage, warrior, or thief.  I can see plenty of builds on the net that discuss going this route.  "Illusionist" is usually what it's called.  At one point the Skyrim wikia called it a "priest," build, but whatever wiki contributor did that probably should not have used a word that means so many different builds to different people.  The builds are not on the wikia anymore, probably reflecting a consensus that Skyrim does not have builds because the natural progression does lend well to trying to pursue one.  This is why I say "essentially a fourth way to do things after straight up mage, warrior, or thief," - yes, there will be variations.

I would not have minded taking a bit of armor to blunt physical damage, and it's certainly not against the rules I have set up for myself, but I decided I'd only take armor if I decided I needed it.  I'm level 32 and so far I really haven't; I've the necessary illusion perk for my spells to affect all targets and so I just throw an illusion spell on anything that threatens me.  For the most part, I stay hidden and use the illusion "quiet casting" perk to throw out conjured atronatch to dispatch my foes.  Sometimes I'm discovered, but rarely do they focus on attacking me, and I'm not without means to turn them away when they do.

Skyrim once again fails to challenge me, and so I'm done with Floyd the Indirect.  Sure, my cloth mage can be one-shot-hit killed by a beefy two-handed weapon user (like a Bandit Chief), but I would have to let them close enough first, and it's simply too easy not to when you've the upper hand of stealth.  In a way, going "indirect" has made the challenge problem even worse than going direct: were I to bump up the difficulty, the foes would just be hitting each other harder while under the influence of my illusion spells.  If I'm already getting one hit killed, then having a higher difficulty level cause me to be hit me even harder would not change anything.
"Just in case on our coral dragon claw falls into the wrong hands, we better put a combination lock trap
on the door.  Hmm, but where shall we put that combination? Oh, I know, lets put it on the claw itself!"
The ancient Nords liked this idea so much, they made 10 claws just like that.  It's generally agreed
among present-day Tamriel archeologists that the ancient Nords were incredible idiots.
There's no way out, so I might as well accept it: Skyrim is casual friendly, and consequently it's not really balanced to be a game of a depth and balance suited for a more hardcore player, like myself.  Come to think of it, the developers' idea of a puzzle being, "spin the three-sided combination until it looks like what's being pictured in plain sight" should have been a pretty good warning that they were looking to avoid challenging the players overmuch.  Granted, you can mangle your character progression to the point where you can't progress very smoothly, but that's not fun, and probably a design flaw rather than intentional.

Casual Friendly, And Tiny Too

Funny enough, I've come under an interesting revelation over the 17 hours I spent playing Floyd The Indirect: Skyrim is actually a fairly small.  "Madness!" you might exclaim, "There's over 2000 cells in the game!  Haven't you seen that video where it takes a guy a half-hour to jog from one side of the game world to the other?  That's an awful lot of content!"
Yeah, alright, that's a lot of virtual real estate.  But what I'm actually noticing is that, in the list of quests posted up on the Skyrim wikia, there's not all that many quests on there, perhaps other games developed similarly had about as many on release.  Now, if I were to compare that to a game that draws the player out a bit, like Guild Wars 2's quest list, that's actually quite a bit more to do.

Basically, all this fretting I'm doing over how long I'll have to stick with a single character is a bit misplaced because Skyrim is not a game of all that long of a duration compared to MMORPGs I've played.  Consequently, starting over characters has been a waste of time.  Had I simply focused on one character, I may well have finished them off before I have to go to work on Monday, and that would be that.  Now, it seems unlikely I'll succeed.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to start over again because ruining the game for myself using cheap stealth summon/illusion tactics is all Floyd The Indirect can do; in trying to avoid a trivially broken-balance, I essentially outsmarted myself into creating a character that focuses on breaking the balance entirely.  Maybe my next character (or preexisting character with similar traits brought back) will go something like this:
  • Being a toe-to-toe fighter is probably the only way I'm going to feel the enemies are meaningfully engaging me in combat.  I should expect that, later on in the game, I'm just swatting most of them aside because of the way Skyrim is balanced.
  • I prefer to block because it seems deeper to me than dual-wielding (which replaces blocking with a second equivalent attack). With block, I have a choice to dodge or block.  Without block, I only have the choice to dodge.  Although an offhand weapon enchanted with something game-changing, like paralyze, is potentially interesting.
  • I might as well enjoy using smithed weapons again.  It doesn't make a difference, the game becomes trivial no matter what I do, and playing with upgrading my weapon is more fun than not.
  • Kick the difficulty level up some more, as that will slow the damage I do.  Maybe I can compensate for the enemies doing too much damage by exploiting smithed armor as much as I can.  If I die too often, I'll have to turn it down again, as being killed constantly is not much fun either.
  • The cheap tactic of using the conjuration spells to summon foes around a corner with quiet casting, inflicting damage while avoiding all reprisal, is just killing my own fun.  Don't do that.  (Unless maybe I'm stuck.)
  • Focusing on the illusion skills trivializes the game overmuch.  Not focusing on it makes that spell school too weak to affect any enemy you can't easily dispatch anyway.  So forget illusion, the alchemical and dragon shout equivalents are alright.
  • Considering that there will be times when being without a ranged attack would leave me at a disadvantage, I could potentially mix things up a bit with archery, and that could add a bit of needed variety, but I'm going to need a limiting factor.  Something that occurred to me is that I could use a crossbow, whose ammunition supply is not simply replenished off enemies.
No guarantees I'll be able to muster to will to do so.  I played the game normally, it was great, but then I got bored of it.  Then I played the game abnormally, and got bored of it.  This is below the bottom of the barrel in my attempts to wring fun out of Skyrim.  Success in my endeavor to finish Skyrim seems dubious, and it's only the lingering thought that, "actually, this game is shorter than it looks," which makes me want to try.

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