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Kicking Skyrim's Ass Day 4-5: Skyrim Kicks My Ass

"Oooo I am the scary Necromancer who is corrupting Dawnbreaker!"
"... You're stuck behind those rocks, aren't you?"
"Oooo!"
"...I'm just going to fill you full of arrows now."

I started this latest run at Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim thinking that I was tired of its bullshit; it was unacceptable to have put 450 hours into this game without having completed it.   So, whether Skyrim liked it or not, it's time to complete this game.  I was going to kick this game's ass.

However, as of the last couples days, it seems that Skyrim has gained the upper hand in this fight.

The root of the problem was that I had thought to myself, "Wow, my quest log is getting too bloated to look at, so I better do some of these quests."

On Sunday, I recorded doing the following:
  • Retrieved Dawnbreaker, which turned out to be a marvelous weapon for Lydia.
  • Disrupted the summoning of the wolf queen, freeing her spirit to cause trouble elsewhere.
  • Delved to the bottom of a draugr infested tomb to recover some words of power the Greybeards told me about.
  • Killed a dragon to complete a bounty.
  • Cleared out a den of vampires west of Solitude for the court mage.
  • Got to the bottom of a vampire infiltration in Marketh that resulted in clearing out another vampire den.
This is an incomplete list, and Monday was just more of the same.

Yet, my quest log is larger than ever!  It seems that every time I complete a quest, I stumble across two more!  I started this character hoping to master Skyrim, but it seems that Skyrim is determined to master me!
"You don't see that every day." quipped Lydia.
For once, I agreed.  With visuals like that, taking down the Wolf Queen
was still fun even if this was the third or fourth character I've done it with.
This is the main problem with Skyrim: this game has way to much content.    I know content is supposed to be a good thing, but it turns out that Skyrim can't support that much content.  The balance starts to disintegrate around level 30 and just gets worse from there.  It happens quite quickly; at a mere 24 hours of playtime in, I am already level 28.  Yet, the content just keeps on going: I have barely touched 20% of the quests or locations in the game!

The boring details of how the balance problem manifests has already been elaborated upon in earlier blog entries.  The short version is this: most of the enemies in this game are designed to cap out at level 30, which is also a fair estimate of when the player character's primary combat skills will have hit their maximum.  However, thanks to the extremely powerful equipment that trade skills can produce, the player character will ultimately become several times more powerful than that... somewhere around four to ten times more powerful than the toughest opponents in the game.

What could possibly by the solution to
this baffling puzzle?!
Maybe "lets kick Skyrim's ass" is the attitude Bethesda wanted the players to have.  Perhaps the whole game is a power trip, no one and no thing is supposed to offer any kind of lasting impedement to the player.  That would certainly explain why they added such ridiculously easy puzzles to all the dungeons.

Only trouble is, I can only run around being an unstoppable killing machine for so long before I am completely bored of it.  What good is virtual life without some real challenge to it?

Seems hypocritical to complain about the challenge when I leave the game on its default, "Adept" difficulty.  However, raising difficulty level just makes you do less damage and the enemies do more damage, and this does not make Skyrim feel properly challenging, it just makes it slower.  If I can't get satisfying sense of gameplay catharsis out of it, I might as well at least get it over with quickly, right?

Skyrim is essentially over now; I am already powerful enough to defeat anything that the game throws at me.  My summon-and-snipe tactics gave me an upper hand since the very beginning but, now that I am summoning Dremora Lords, I'm unstoppable.  Soon, I will be summoning two at once.  Then I will exploit trade skills for all their worth.  This is usually the point where I consider starting a new character.

That's too bad, because I am determined to finish this game, and it seems I have barely put a dent in the glut of content.  There's no way around it: if I plan to finish Skyrim, I will just have to walk it down.  The actual challenge I am facing is just getting this done before a feeling of tedium overwhelms me.  I will need a plan and the focus to see it through.

I think I'll start walking in the direction of the next leg of the quest in Dawnguard, involving tracking down two new specialist members, a troll tamer and a crossbow-making tinker.  Then I'll finish Dawnguard... which is actually a pretty lame expansion, all things considered, but at least I'll get a crossbow out of it.

Then I'll finish the Dragonborn expansion.  It scored better on Metacritic, I think I will enjoy it more than Dawnguard.  I should get a nice bit of dragon transportation out of that, which I think I will need considering this game's quest lines have no qualms about sending me to the opposite side of the entire continent of Skyrim whenever it feels like it.

Then, having exhausted the novelty of the things I haven't done yet, I'll be ready to try to finish Skryim's main quest line, something I made it most of the way through in the past.  Even now, before embarking on two expansions worth of content, Alduin himself does not have a chance against my Dovahkiin, so I think we can count the destroyer of the world as an inevitable casualty.

After that, if I still feel like playing, there's plenty of pointless busywork the populace of Skyrim seem determined to dump on me, including Hearthfire and the Skyrim civil war.   This is to say nothing of the endless radiant quest generation.

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