Yes, I'm going there.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivionit hasn't aged well. Hell, many games don't. For example, I absolutely love the originalHalf life, But this isnoa beautiful game. In the same way,The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivionit's kinda messy(Jen: meit cannotbelieve you've been there. #so offended).It's a technical disaster on consoles, with horrible framerates, muddy textures and stiff character animations. Even so, it's impossible for me not to love it. It's the only game Jennifer has completely finished and I've spent hundreds of hours playing it. It's not perfect, but it sure is a great game.
It's hard to define what attracted meForgetfulnessso deeply(Jen: How about all the wonder it offers? Duh). After all, on the surface,SkyrimeForgetfulnessare similar in many respects. Both give the player a high level of freedom to choose stories to pursue, feature deep customization options, eschew traditional RPG mechanics in favor of letting players use gear and skills as they see fit, and feature massive open worlds to explore.Skyrimit's a much more technically impressive game, and the Special Edition makes it look even better. With the right mods, you can achieve near realism.
Regardless, I have to maintain my opinion thatForgetfulnessit's a better game.
Less is more
The Sorcerer's Stone
It is difficult to find an adequate comparison for the worlds ofForgetfulnesseSkyrim, but based on what I could find, their maps are about the same size. Even so,Skyrimstill feels emptier to me. WhereForgetfulnesshas side quests that involve unraveling Glarthir's conspiracy in Skingrad and reuniting long-lost twins(Jen: "I'm sick and tired, tired and sick, and maybe a little drunk"),Skyrimdoesn't seem to have the same equivalents despite having more side quests to complete(Jen: I'm surprised that's true.Forgetfulnessit seems sothenmuch more to offer).
The key to this problem seems to stem from the quantity versus quality debate.Skyrimtemmoreit seems that they are quests, but their quality seems to be lower. The number of seek/kill missions inSkyrimare significantly higher, especially if you take radiant missions into account(Jen: They didn't put as much effort into creating a unique game (and missions)Skyrimlike they did inForgetfulness).
I would really like to see Bethesda do away with radiant quests in their open world RPGs. They're not fun, they're fillers. There's a reason people created mods fordisable radiant missionsit's becausePreston Garvey has become a memeemFallout 4 Effect. Radiant quests have a place, and it's in MMORPGs where the story isn't the main focus, nor in single-player games. In my opinion they are too lazy; they are filling. Radiant quests are what you put into a game when you run out of ideas.
Skyrimdoesn't have a Preston Garvey, but it isn't free from the endless supply of rewards and villagers' appeals tokill bears and bring back their skins. The worst example of lazy searching I can think of inForgetfulnessIt isGo fishing, but at least when you complete it, you get awonderful ringas a reward(Jen: Slaughterhouses areterrifying! I remember playingForgetfulnessfor the first time and avoiding that mission, until I leveled up more, because the fish kicked my buns).
Where's the meat?
No, this is not a barbecue.
SkyrimeForgetfulnessfeature many of the same pitfalls outside of side quests as well. Both feature guild-based questlines, as well as an overarching narrative to complete. However, again, whileForgetfulnessfeatures more memorable questlines (see theThieves/Fighters/Magicians Guilds),Skyrimfalter. This is not to say that the faction quest inSkyrimare objectively bad, but definitely lack creativity by comparison.
Where would one find oneself completing a daring heist to steal an Elder Scroll for the Gray Fox inForgetfulness, the Thieves Guild inSkyrimrevolves around trying to restore the guild to its former glory(Jen: ThatForgetfulnessthe mission ranks among my favorite missions in a video game, hands down). This is a matter of taste for sure, but the overall satisfaction of completing the Thieves Guild questline is something to behold. Same goes for the Dark Brotherhood I suppose (ForgetfulnessThe quest line has one of the best plot twists in a game, I think, and a murder mystery!). However, whereSkyrimreally loses toForgetfulnessis in the comparison between the College of Winterhold and the Mages Guild. The entire College of Winterhold storyline feels poorly implemented and incredibly short. It involves tons of dungeon crawling, and instead of working your way up the guild, you go straight from new recruit to archmage(Jen: Unless you're a completionist or a mage, just avoid this questline).
Also, why does Bard's College exist? It's a missed opportunity not to have developed this guild more.
Of course, the same could be said for the civil war between the Stormcloaks and the Empire. The entire civil war mission feels like a weak attempt to mimic the conflict inFallout: Nova Vegas. No factions right or wrong, just shades of gray(Jen: Guys, nofiftyshades of gray. Our). Except, as with most questlines inSkyrim, there's a lackluster ending to all of this that doesn't change anything in the end.
It's beautiful. That's sure.
I think the questions surroundingSkyrimare indicative of a larger problem; something that has plagued Bethesda's open-world RPGs for years. they have no soul(Jen: My God, are they all redheads??!!!).
Fallout 4 Effectis obviously the pinnacle of pre-made game design, but you can see the writing on the wall for this downward spiral ofFallout 3for the release ofSkyrim. As Bethesda games grew in scope, they adopted more and more aspects ofmodular game design. A simple example of how this type of game design methodology is used is withRUINit's SnapMap. Using the level creation feature in 2016RUINit's as easy as piecing together a game, allowing players to create their own levels to play with.
Bethesda used this kind of game design technique for environments, but I'd say they started utilizing a form of it in their quest design withSkyrim. I can't say that I necessarily blame them, as game design isn't an easy task, especially when you're getting into the scale of Bethesda's games. However, when his earlier efforts had more unique properties, it's hard not to draw comparisons to his earlier works and yearn for a return to the days when his open-world RPGs felt less like MMORPGs.
Skyrimjust doesn't have the same spirit or soul asForgetfulnessdid. You can hear it in the voice acting, see it in the missions and level design, and experience it in the missions. You can even see this in Bethesda's endless portabilitySkyrimfor more platforms. It's the mantra that quantity is more important than quality. What part of something great isn't as good as tons of something that is just plain useful.
Jen: I loveSkyrim, I want to, but there's something incredibly special aboutForgetfulnessthat I will always hold close to my heart. When I think of the fantastic games I've played, though not that many,Forgetfulnessranks first. Sure, there are flaws and it doesn't look as good anymore, but when they released it, it was entering a new era of gaming. Players were drawn into a beautiful, captivating, and moving world. Or maybe it was just me.
Sadly, I'd say if Bethesda managed to makeThe Elder Scrolls VI, you would see a game very similar toFallout 4 Effect. A giant, empty map full of radiant quests and boring environments. But hey, at least there would be a bunch of random stuff to do!
Thoughts? Comments? Anger? Tell me what you think.
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