Skyrim Thieves Guild Part 1

 By Shamus Dec 26, 2011 402 comments

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The Thieves Guild is not the worst bit of writing in Skyrim. (I think I’d give that honor to the quest in Markarth where you have to deal with the Forsworn.) But I don’t want you to think I’m cherry-picking some halfhearted sidequest. This is a major part of Skyrim and a lot of environments, characters, and cutscenes are dedicated it This is a shame, because the Thieves Guild questline is a mess. It’s unnecessarily terrible, failing at multiple levels and attempting things that aren’t even needed. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning…

The introduction to the Thieves Guild is kind of strange. It’s not horrible or broken, but for the sake of setting this up I need to plod through these first few quests.

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Brynjolf walks up to me, a total stranger, and says, “You’ve never worked a day in your life for all that coin you’re carrying around.” This is a really screwy thing to say to an adventurer. (I imagine running over mountains and fighting through tombs is pretty labor-intensive.) I guess he’s supposed to be insinuating that I’m naturally a thief, but he says this to the player regardless of what gear they have or how much money they’ve got. It’s also odd because you can’t steal for a living until you join the guild, because you have no way to unload stolen goods. He’s implying you’re a thief, when by definition you can’t be one yet. So no matter who you are, he’s flat-out wrong. It’s also odd to be approached to join the Thieves Guild. I get that the guild has fallen on hard times, but this still feels awkward.

I do a little job for him where I steal a ring from person A and slip it into the pocket of person B. I’m actually railroaded into asking why he wants me to do this. Apparently Bethesda thought everyone was too stupid to to untangle the threads of this thuddingly obvious frame-up. This is not the last time they will underestimate the intelligence of the player.

Once that’s over I do an initiation where I have to run around town and extort money from a few of the locals. Once that bit is over, we settle into the main plot of the questline.

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I’m sent to Goldenglow Estate, a bee farm. Maven (the local crime boss) buys honey from the farm and uses it to make mead. The owner of Goldenglow has stopped selling his honey to Maven, and so I’m supposed to teach him a lesson by burning some of the hives and clearing out his safe.

When I rob the safe, I find a bill of sale inside. The owner of Goldenglow sold the property to a mystery person.

Dun dun dun!

Yeah, not exactly a nail-biting moment. At this point I was already feeling a little underwhelmed. Someone is engaged in a plot to reduce the margins on mead production for the local crime-lord?!? This is not exactly a tale of intrigue worthy of this sort of guild. It’s not theft. Heck, it’s not even illegal. This might work as some sort of “business tycoon” quest line, but for the Thieves Guild?

Next I’m sent to see Maven. The quest line has been building her up, talking about how important she is to the guild and how she has half the city in her grip. Fine, except once this quest is over she never comes up again. I don’t mind if the game puts in interesting “flavor” characters, but Maven is cutthroat in a very bland way, she never seems terribly important, and she’s not at all imposing. She’s just another map marker to chase down on your way to the end of the quest. Despite her build-up as some kind of crime boss, she comes across as a cranky dimwit. You don’t even meet her in an impressive office or estate. You meet her in an open hallway of the inn. She doesn’t even have a bodyguard.

Maven is a jerk to me, and then she sends me to see a guy named Mallus. He sends me to Honningbrew Meadery, which is is a mead distillery in the city of Whiterun. It competes with Maven. The owner of Honningbrew is about to hold a tasting for the captain of the guard, and my job is to poison the mead.

Okay, this is where the quest line starts to come apart. First of all, you have to put the poison into this mead tank:

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Then walk next door where the tasting is taking place:

skyrim_mead2.jpg

The poison I just planted next door is now in this small keg. Somehow.

Anyway, the captain of the guard takes one sip, and then instantly arrests the owner of the place, promising that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. The Thieves Guild makes a big deal out of never killing their victims, but this doesn’t seem all that different than killing to me. I mean, I thought the point of the Thieves Guild was to act unseen, and to take valuables without hurting people.

You can murder a civilian in broad daylight and allow the guard to take you to jail for a modest span of time. (Or just pay a 1,000 dollar fine.) But inadvertent food contamination with no victims is worthy of life in prison? It’s a worse offense than murder, even though it might have been an accident or sabotage? And the Honningbrew owner never points the finger at me, the mysterious stranger who he recently allowed into the distillery? He pulled a fresh batch of mead from the vat and never saw fit to taste it himself first?

Then the captain of the guard tells Mallus to take over, and Mallus tells me he’s going to start converting the distillery to make mead for Maven.

Wha??

Look, if the health inspector shuts down your McDonald’s, the police don’t come in and give the building to Burger King. Who owns this place? What’s happening here?

I check the books, and find this place was cutting a deal with the same mystery person who bought Goldenglow. I bring this information back to Mercer Frey, and he’s very concerned. He says they’re obviously facing an organized and well-funded enemy. He’s impressed with them.

Dude, are you kidding? We just made a fortune. This foe cut a deal with this distillery, but we did a bunch of nonsense and now we own it. (Or run it. Whatever.) They bought the Goldenglow bee farm, but now they don’t have anywhere else to sell their honey. They spent a fortune, and have nothing. This other party is not a criminal mastermind. (Hoo boy. Just wait.) They tried to legitimately compete against deeply entrenched organized crime, and lost everything before they made a single shiny coin.

Mercer says they were doing this to drive a wedge between Maven and the Guild. How would making mead accomplish that? If a bunch of people conspire to control all the beer in the city, and then someone else tries to sell beer, the conspirators wouldn’t necessarily turn on each other. They would probably work together to drive out the competition. That’s the whole reason they conspired in the first place.

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Mercer, worried about this inept non-threat, sends me to see Gulum-Ei, the guy who brokered the property sale. After a bunch of screwing around, Gulum-Ei finally breaks down and tells me that the mystery client is Karliah. Twenty-five years ago she apparently killed the previous guild leader and then vanished. (Twenty-five years. Remember that.) Now she’s back and… trying to break into the mead business? Or something.

Karliah left a clue. She told Gulum-Ei that she was going “back to where the ending began”.

Mercer believes that this can only mean one place: The ruin where she killed Gallus, the previous guild leader. Mercer decides to meet me there so that the two of us can kill her.


A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!2402. There are now n+1 comments, where n is one less than the number of comments.


  1. Roi Danton says:

    *g*

    Thanks for the quest/story analysis so far. I myself had a few WTF moments while playing Skyrim (especially because I just finished the Thieves Guild storyline this morning) and I’m actually thinking that I’ll find a few more until I get bored and stop playing.

  2. X2Eliah says:

    Mercer says they were doing this to drive a wedge between Maven and the Guild. How would making mead accomplish that?

    The thieves guild were tasked with extorting & controlling the honey suppliers, so they supply only Maven’s business. The Aringoth estate bailed out, so the Guild failed in their task. Hence the wedge – Maven now considers the guild inept and untrustworthy.

    Then the captain of the guard tells Mallus to take over, and Mallus tells me he’s going to start converting the distillery to make mead for Maven.

    Wha??

    Look, if the health inspector shuts down your McDonald’s, the police don’t come in and give the building to Burger King. Who owns this place? What’s happening here?

    So.. didn’t you pay attention to what Mallus was? He was a) second in charge in that meadery; b) Maven’s incognito underling from the get-go. Since the guard captain deposed the chief of this meadery, he had to leave someone in charge so that the place wouldn’t fall to bandits or somesuch. Mallus is the OBVIOUS choice. Next, why are you surprised that Mallus, basically Maven’s goon, is going to turn this meadery to work for Maven? What, should he have gone on his own, trying to compete with the person holding A WHOLE CITY UNDER HER CONTROL right after helping her depose of the old competitor?

    More to the point, at this stage you alredy know – or should know, if you paid any attention – that this foe is NOT competing with Maven and her mead-nonsense, but trying to sabotage the guild by setting their most influential backer against them – by making Maven think the Guild is way too incompetent (which is kinda is…). Making coin was never on the other party’s agenda.

    Anyway. I agree with most of your arguments, but some of this stuff you have either misinterpreted, or just plain ignored for a more “pretty” rant.

    It is a shame that the Thieves guild, all in all, are more like a “thugs’ guild”, but then again, in Oblivion you had this “Robin Hood protect the beggars steal only from rich” nonsense, which imo was worse. At least in Skyrim, it is hammered home that the Thieves are NOT good guys.

    On another note… Idk if I’m actually that interested in this series of “game review” – if it continues to be just plain overblown ranting about the bad things, I’m not sure why it would be of any interest. So far you aren’t constructive, you aren’t unbiased, what you are doing is embellished point-and-laugh, essentially. Do other readers find hateful, nonconstructive bashing enjoyable? ‘Cos I actually don’t. There’s plenty of bile and negativity festering on the Internet… I’m not sure why Shamus, of all people, should want to contribute to that.

    • Shamus says:

      “The thieves guild were tasked with extorting & controlling the honey suppliers, so they supply only Maven’s business. The Aringoth estate bailed out, so the Guild failed in their task. Hence the wedge – Maven now considers the guild inept and untrustworthy.”

      Then she’s stupid. The problem came up, and you fixed it. Was she expecting that you would prevent anyone from ATTEMPTING to go into business?

      This goes forward to where we find out this was all being done by Karliah. The only way this actually makes sense is if Karliah expected the guild to take no action.

      “So.. didn’t you pay attention to what Mallus was? He was a) second in charge in that meadery; b) Maven’s incognito underling from the get-go. Since the guard captain deposed the chief of this meadery, he had to leave someone in charge so that the place wouldn’t fall to bandits or somesuch. Mallus is the OBVIOUS choice. Next, why are you surprised that Mallus, basically Maven’s goon, is going to turn this meadery to work for Maven? What, should he have gone on his own, trying to compete with the person holding A WHOLE CITY UNDER HER CONTROL right after helping her depose of the old competitor?”

      The fact that he works for Maven has nothing to do with this. You still can’t turn a McDonald’s in a BK by putting the manager in jail. The guy who owns the place decides what happens to it. If he’s in jail, then the property goes to his FAMILY, not his employee.

      “Idk if I’m actually that interested in this series of “game review” – if it continues to be just plain overblown ranting about the bad things, I’m not sure why it would be of any interest. So far you aren’t constructive, you aren’t unbiased, what you are doing is embellished point-and-laugh, essentially. Do other readers find hateful, nonconstructive bashing enjoyable? ‘Cos I actually don’t. There’s plenty of bile and negativity festering on the Internet… I’m not sure why Shamus, of all people, should want to contribute to that.”

      Overblown? Hateful? Nonconstructive? Bile? Are you confusing my article with something else, or projecting? My commentary is pretty dry and clinical so far.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Yes, the Thieves guild were supposed to keep the bee-farms bound only to Maven. That was the entire point of their involvement before they sold over, to keep any other purchasers away. The problem came up EXACTLY because the TG failed in their previous task. You know, she is kinda a Crime-boss, using a gang of thugs to keep parts of her business in check. So yes, I think it is obvious that she was using the thugs to prevent others from going into her business. It’s kinda how mobs work, you know?

        Also, Skyrim is set in a fantasy world with clearly medievalistic rules. Why do you expect it to follow same regulations as a contemporary business closure (macdonald’s/BK)? Would you have ten quests about legal proceedings and inheritance fraud?

        It’s somewhat exaggerated in it’s critique (“overblown”), it doesn’t say how any of this could be made better or improved (“nonconstructive”), and it is, from start to finish, a rant about how bad something was (“bile”). I’ll concede that ‘hateful’ was just the impression of tone I had from your article – the use of analogies and exaggerations to achieve a more ridiculous than neutral viewpoint, but as for the other three, no, I’m not confusing nor projecting, I’m taking exactly what you’ve written. Dry and clinical? I’d hate to see what kind of clinics you’ve been in then, and I can’t imagine what you would call ‘ranting/heated’ if this is dry to you.

        To put what I said in an excessively sugarcoated/dry/clinical tone, “Oh dear. Your article seems to consist solely of pointing out the failures in a massive game and creating statements meant to ridicule and exemplify those failures without constructive accompaniment or other possible positive concessions. I do not think that such articles are all that enjoyable to read – I wonder if other readers actually enjoy such things. I don’t see why Shamus is wasting his writing ability on such nonconstructive critique”.

        Or, let me put it this way. When you had your new novel proofread, did the proofreaders, upon finding what they thought to be issues, did they make adjustments and show you the change, or did they outlined the error, underlined in red, and made a nonconstructive comment in public about how stupid/ridiculous/embarrasing it was?

        • Joe says:

          Oh for god’s sake, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. I am enjoying it so far. Shamus’ rants are what first made me a regular reader :)

          I was very disappointed with the Thieves Guild questline. Gameplay-wise, it was OK (sneaking around in the Dwemer museum is a highlight) but the writing and even more so, the plotting, are really poor.

          • Matt says:

            “Oh for god’s sake, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. ”

            By this logic, Shamus should have stopped playing the Thieves Guild line here, and never written these articles. People criticize because they want to see something improve.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Um,because he did like it,he said so himself.He liked the game as a whole,but disliked certain parts,parts that were not in the majority.Shamus’ writing,on the other hand,is the majority of this blog.

          • Irridium says:

            If you don’t like his comment, don’t read it.

            Sorry, but I freaking HATE this response. For him to know if he’ll dislike this, he HAS to read it first. He read it, he didn’t like it, and he said why.

        • Shamus says:

          “So yes, I think it is obvious that she was using the thugs to prevent others from going into her business. It’s kinda how mobs work, you know?”

          So Karliah’s plan was to blow a huge wad of cash to mildly irritate Maven? Think about the money Karliah put into this, and what she got out of it. How did it advance her goal? At no time did it ever threaten Mercer’s control of the guild. Even if you burn down all the hives, Mercer is perfectly secure in his position. In fact, the blame falls to the player, not the guild. And even if it DID harm Mercer – even if Maven had stopped doing business with the guild – it still wouldn’t have exposed him or cleared her name.

          “Also, Skyrim is set in a fantasy world with clearly medievalistic rules. Why do you expect it to follow same regulations as a contemporary business closure (macdonald’s/BK)? Would you have ten quests about legal proceedings and inheritance fraud?”

          That’s exactly the problem. The subject matter here is wrong. If you don’t want to explain legal proceedings and property dealings, then don’t build a chain of quests with those concepts as the focus.

          The constructive bit comes at the end.

          • X2Eliah says:

            The constructive bit comes at the end.

            Well, I’m genuinely looking forward to it. I hope it will be more than one paragraph at the very last article ;)

          • pffh says:

            Skyrim is some weird mix of vikings and medieval stuff but in Viking culture an attempted murder with poison would be considered worse then a murder with a weapon. In fact the latter wouldn’t be called a murder but a killing and a murder is much worse (poison, killing someone at night etc is a murder) and would strip you and your family of their honour and their legal rights.

            Also in viking cultures handing over the property to the second in command after the owner tried to commit a murder since he has shamed both himself and his family would be fairly normal.

            • tengokujin says:

              Where did you get this information and can I go there to find out more?

              • pffh says:

                From being born, raised and interested in viking culture since birth. It’s my heritage but if you want to know more I think the Eddas and all the sagas have been translated to english.

                • Shamus says:

                  Giving you the benefit of the doubt:

                  Well, for those of us born after the 11th century, this quest makes no sense and goes against what most people understand about criminal justice and property rights. There should have been a line of dialog at the start, “If we can accomplish this, then Skyrim law says that the property will fall to Mallus”, or whatever. That would properly prepare the player for what would otherwise strike them as incredibly illogical.

                  When the rest of the quest is in such a shambles, the player is not going to say, “Man, this writer much have exhaustively researched Norse law.” They’re going to conclude that this quest is like the others: Lazy and incoherent.

                  • Kdansky says:

                    And considering what we expect of Bethesda, nobody would go with the more complex explanation without very solid reasoning, if “they screwed up” is a working alternative. If you got a certain reputation, you have to try extra hard. Which they still don’t, when it comes to writing.

                  • pffh says:

                    Yeah this should have been explained somewhere I’m not arguing against that (and I doubt the writer researched norse law). I’m just saying that probably through sheer coincidence it makes sense to someone that knows old norse law.

                    In fact I would have loved it if someone in game explained the difference between murdering someone and killing someone. That would have been a huge sign for me that the writers didn’t just randomly throw in stuff that seemed vikingy. That would also silence some of those that sided with the Stormcloaks simply because of the execution scene. They were trying to kill you not murder you, huge difference.

                    • Nargon says:

                      No, it would still qualify as a murder, coz executioner had an axe and you hadn’t. if you tie someone up and chop his head of just because you’re bored, this definitely is a murder

                    • pffh says:

                      Hmm can’t reply to Nargon so I’ll just reply to myself instead.

                      It’s the middle of the day and you were apprehended nearby a known outlaw. Just because it’s an execution doesn’t make this a murder.

                    • James says:

                      you get some cool armor at the end, and in the end, i didnt care for the plot, examining it like this its, odd, the Oblivion thieves guild was basically, steal things, steal more things steal even more things steal and Elder Scroll to life a curse and reinstate the Lord of somewhere or other, you get to steal and Elder Scroll from the Imperial city, from the actual white gold tower. in skyrim you find out about some mead thing, then something to do with a previous guild member, then you just do a series of dungeon dives killing people. still awesome armor at the end, and you get the UNBREAKABLE lock pick for all of 15 seconds.

                  • ps238principal says:

                    Shamus, are you a fan of Terry Pratchett? I get the impression from Skyrim and what little I’ve played of Oblivion that the writers seem to vacillate between some kind of actual organized crime model and the organized crime as evidenced in Ankh-Morpok:

                    The Guild of Thieves, Cutpurses and Allied Trades and the Ankh-Morpork Thieves’ Guild in Discworld is a sophisticated example. Lord Vetinari legalized them as one of his first acts upon becoming Patrician, reasoning that a police force would have to work harder to reduce theft, while the thieves’ guild would have to work less. The system works fairly well – a customer can be robbed in the safety and comfort of their own home at the start of the year and afterwords walk the streets without fear (or more fear than usual, this being Ankh-Morpork). The Guild has little tolerance of unlicensed theft, and won’t cause too much trouble to the city now that they’ve become respectable and Vetinari knows where they live, who their wives are, and where their kids go to school.

                    From the TVTropes entry on Thieves Guilds.

                    • Vect says:

                      He’s not. He hasn’t read the books last I heard him mention them.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Its not just skyrim.It became so popular to have a thieves guild similar to a discworld one.And I dont get why,since most of the time they try to use the thieves guild as a serious thing,when originally it was meant as a comedy.Not that it cant work as a serious thing though,but it would require much more work.

                  • Kyle James says:

                    I think the rant is hilarious but the thing is Mallus tells you that him and Maven had been planning this for months so they obviously knew what the outcome would be. So you, as their instrument, don’t need to know the details. You just need to do the work. If you would ask frivolous details they would just tell you that they don’t pay you to think but instead just do the on. Besides that information isn’t important because tedious information like that makes the storyline boring to those who are adhd and just want to get the meat of the story.

                • Roll-a-Die says:

                  Except it was entirely up to the Jarl, whether or not an individual Karl of one of your businesses had shamed his entire family, and oft times the Jarl ruled in favor of the son taking the lead, because in Norse myth, the Sins of Odin did not become the Sins of Thor. Or possibly I’m saying that backwards, it’s been a long night.

                  NOT ONLY THAT BUT SKYRIM WAS REPUTEDLY THE MOST CIVILIZED DEVELOPED NATION IN THE ELDER SCROLLS BAR CYRODIIL PRIOR TO NORSE CANDYLAND THE GAME.

                  Also Norse mythology suffers from the fact that the records we have of it come from the point in time 100 years after Christiandom came.

            • As someone who likewise grew up in a ‘Viking’ culture and now brags about it on the Internet: You speak nonsense. Let’s see you find an example of this in the sagas.

              If someone lost property due to being convicted of murder – which would happen in a duly convened Ting, not on the say-so of a random passer-by whatever his rank – then the property less court expenses would go to the victim (or his family) as compensation, not to a known associate of the murderer. (Also note that no society before, say, 1850, was much into long-term prison sentences as retribution. Execution is much cheaper, so is exile, and fines have the added advantage of giving compensation to the victim.) On the other hand, if the property in question was not taken from the owner, then he still owned it and could run it as he liked, subject to possible fines or exile. If he were exiled, then he might perhaps ask his second-in-command to run it for him until he could get back; or he might find a relative.

              If we suppose that the place was actually owned by someone else and the chief was just running it for him, then promoting the second-in-command to that position would make a certain amount of sense.

            • Dev Null says:

              From what I know of Viking culture, I believe you are correct.

              From what I know of Bethesda, I believe they would be very surprised to learn this.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “Also, Skyrim is set in a fantasy world with clearly medievalistic rules. Why do you expect it to follow same regulations as a contemporary business closure (macdonald’s/BK)?”

          Probably because current business practices evolved from how things worked in the middle ages,when you still couldnt just inherit a shop because the owner died simply because you were working there.

          As for your criticisms,if you havent noticed,exaggeration is what Shamus uses plentifully for comedic purposes.Why are you reading his blog if you dont like that style of writing?As for it being nonconstructive,I thought those things are usually written in the end of articles/reviews,and not in the part 1.As for it laughingly pointing out bad things,again Shamus did that for practically every game where he found a major flaw in,and yet here you are,still reading his blog despite not liking that style of writing.Why?

          • X2Eliah says:

            Because he has been known to write better things. I dare say that not all of his articles are 100% “comedic” (<- matter of opinion) destructive criticisms, and a lot of them have genuinely good, witty, constructive points as well as brilliant ideas. Just like not all Spoiler Warning videos are 100% cursing/ranting.

            I am flustered that none of that, unfortunately, appears in this entire article.

          • Phoenix says:

            Come on give him time to understand and level.

        • Raygereio says:

          Edit: Got ninja’d, did not mean to dogpile onto you.

          Why do you expect it to follow same regulations as a contemporary business closure (macdonald’s/BK)?

          That wasn’t the point of the analogy. The point was that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

          X2Eliah, a friendly tip; step back a moment and look at what you wrote. Yes, we all get upset if someone dares to speak ill of something we hold dear, but do try to channel that outrage through less ridiculous ways such as a completely overblown reaction through a barely coherent rant.
          Seriously, you’re making yourself look pretty silly. And concidering that this is just part 1, you might want to try and calm down before you pop a fuse at the end of the week.

        • Silfir says:

          You expect Shamus to be “constructive”? He’s some guy with a blog, it’s not like someone at Bethesda is going to read this and go “Damn, better release a hotfix”. I love reading Shamus take apart game storylines, whether I’ve actually played the game or not, and it’s not because I expect his dissections to be fair or level-headed (I do, since they usually are), but because I expect them to be entertaining to read.

          • Phoenix says:

            Shamus rants so much that it’s understandable that sometimes he exaggerates on flaws. Usually I agree with him. Rarely he reminds me of whiners in mmo’s :) I liked dead island for example (but I played it patched). Reading only this blog it looks like an horrible game. Still fun to read obviously or I wouldn’t be here.

          • Sumanai says:

            It’s not wrong to want that all criticism would be constructive, even if the makers of the original game won’t be reading it. It makes the criticism as a whole more interesting, at least for me. Also there’s a chance that someone else who is in the process of making the same mistake will read it and then solve it.

            However it’s wrong to expect someone to do it while in the way of explaining all of the problems that exist, since without the readers understanding all of the problems, the solution(s) might not make sense.

        • Eric says:

          Skyrim is a broken game with terrible writing, horrible balance, tons of bugs and generally is only a minor step up from Oblivion in terms of overall quality, which is to say it is slightly less likely to induce seizure on an hourly basis. Picking out “one thing” to complain about serves as a case study into just how incompetent and ill-realized certain aspects of the game are. People need to be critical about works of art and entertainment – it’s the only way they can improve, and Bethesda need more help than just about anyone else.

          To be told by the gaming world that Skyrim, a product whose sole innovations are a graphics bump and the worst UI ever made, is “game of the year” without serious critique and consideration, reveals the truth of the games industry: that as much as it wishes to be taken seriously as a narrative medium, its most successful and most-praised titles are still well below the standards of even the most banal children’s novels as far as storytelling goes.

          Perhaps the piece wasn’t constructive, but in case you didn’t notice, this is the first part of many in a series. Would you like me to chastise you for attacking something you haven’t even read past its beginning?

          • Dasick says:

            Same thing with movies and literature. Critical acclaim of Avatar and Twilight come to mind.

            • Roll-a-Die says:

              Excepting the fact that Twilight is frequently lambasted by actual film and book critics, and Avatar actually met some fairly mixed reviews. It’s completely unlike the games industry, where SKYRIM GOES TO 111111 Oh I’m so witty with my complete disragard for any ACtual scoring sysTEMs and instead I’m going to be a shill(Though at least when the “Critic” I’m aping praises it it’s for its defiance of standard games principles.)

              Avatar was praised for its technical accomplishments mostly, but it also met some harsh criticism for it’s story.

              Also, even when the Killers were HOT HOT HOT SELLING LIKE FIRE IN A RAINSTORM, they were still met with critics basically pointing out that they are being original at that time by aping the 80s pop songs of old, with very slight notations in the sides to let you know it’s fresh.

              Yet in the gaming media, SKYRIM GOES UP TO 11, because that’s how a 10 point scale is supposed to work. Its glitches are cute, its bugs are charming, and it’s poor follower AI is novel. Yet when the only game to ever come out, that was as glitch filled and poor choice laden as Skyrim for me, is DAIKATANA, you’ve got issues. And yet it’s a media darling.

              • Aldowyn says:

                As far as the bugs go… I’m okay with most of them. The Radiant AI is incredibly ambitious, at least as I see them, and that’s where most of the major bugs are. A lot of the rest of the bugs that have to do with physics and things like that, were purposely left in because they were funny. Like the giants crazy punch. (Something said that that happened because the engine converted extra damage into momentum. Whaaat? How does that make sense?)

                • Dys says:

                  The harder you’re hit, the further you fly. Makes perfect sense from a design standpoint. And it more or less works in normal combat, in so far as ridiculous ragdoll physics ‘work’. The ‘bug’ appears when you’re hit by something that does such massive damage in a single hit, and does it straight downwards, so you bounce off the floor and end up stratospheric. Which is hilarious. The game would be poorer without those moments which make you laugh aloud at their sheer ridiculousness.

                  • Aldowyn says:

                    It is funny, I won’t deny that. I suppose they made the engine work that way on purpose, so it did what it was supposed to, just not to that… excessive… degree. I tend to just drive things through the ground instead of bouncing them though :(

                    • Avilan says:

                      Bethesda stated, publicly, that they will KEEP all bugs that were funny and not game breakers. Hence the giants.

              • ps238principal says:

                Here’s the thing: It’s got more freedom than most other comparable (that is, mainstream) RPGs out there, coupled with appealing graphics and some pretty fun gameplay. I’ve played the “Dragon Age” games, and I’d say even with all of its flaws, “Skyrim” is superior because I’m not stuck on rails. That sort of game is more like a movie where I get to pick the costumes (and DA:O even screwed that up, as nearly every outfit I had was removed or glitched in the third-person sequences, especially any headgear). If you give me a completely error-free RPG where I get to make no choices other than how much I’m going to stink at combat, I’d still prefer the buggiest Skyrim/Fallout 3 style game just because I’m not having to completely give up choices about how the game progresses or turns out. And given the fairly limited results Bethesda often hands out as endings, that’s saying something.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                But thats the problem with game critics,not with skyrim.For the critics,an average game is bad,and any game thats above average is OMG DA BEST SH!T EVAA!!

            • AyeGill says:

              If anyone praised Skyrim for the storytelling, they cleary don’t deserve the right to praise stuff. I absolutely freaking loved it, but it was not my impression that the brilliant plot, fantastic narrative and amazing delivery was the reason everyone liked it. Because it had exactly the opposite of all those things almost everywhere.

              • Aldowyn says:

                I shall praise Skyrim because the basic mechanics are so, so fun this time around (loving the addition of the finishers). Also the lore is pretty incredibly in depth.

                It’s miles better than Oblivion for me because they fixed the friggin’ leveling system. I’ve made two completely different characters, and it seems to work exactly as intended, a remarkable step up from the last one.

            • Kdansky says:

              Avatar and Twilight in the same sentence hurts. Twilight is designed to attract young girls and make a lot of money. Avatar on the other hand actually managed to move the bar for “what’s the best a movie could possibly look”. It did push boundaries, and showed what is technically possible. Sure, it used a very simple (but logically sound!!) story. In the end, Avatar is what most games should strive to become right now. It looks good, it feels alive, yet not earthly, the characters are all well-developed and barely not one-dimensional, and the plot makes sense. It demonstrates that execution can trump source material, if execution is just insanely well done. Which is actually what Blizzard and Valve are doing too.

              Skyrim on the other hand has complicated plots, which never work out. I really would prefer an Avatar-plot to the mess Skyrim ends up with.

              • ps238principal says:

                “Logically sound?”

                Get thee hence to the Plinkett Review! And try not to trip on the (ugh) Unobtanium.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Avatar pushed the boundaries?With what?With cgi that was used so much better in other stuff(toy story,for example)?With 3d that adds to nothing?Or with the money poured in it simply because its the guy who can make visually great movies?

                Dont get me wrong,I do think that the movie looks cool,but its not ground breaking.Now terminator 2,that was ground breaking visual effects.It still may be the most ground breaking movie ever.

                • skud says:

                  Yes, it did push the boundaries. Not boundaries in storytelling or anything meaningful. It did however show us what a movie could look like if the look was executed well and skillfully.

                  It pushed the boundaries in that it showed people what can be done and thus perhaps one day in the future, a movie with a really good story will benefit from Avatar’s cgi breakthroughs.

          • JPH says:

            People praise Skyrim plenty, but they generally don’t praise its narrative. To say that Skyrim is horrible because it has nonsensical storytelling is to sell gaming short because you’re neglecting the fact that there’s more to a game than its story.

            I’m not saying that its story isn’t worth criticizing, because it absolutely is. If it’s there, it’s worth criticizing. But to say the game fails as a whole because of that bad writing is unfair.

      • Skalpadda says:

        “Then she’s stupid. The problem came up, and you fixed it. Was she expecting that you would prevent anyone from ATTEMPTING to go into business?”

        But the thieve’s guild had tried and failed to fix it before you showed up out of the blue. Karliyah had no knowledge of the player character’s existence when she set her plans in motion and Maven would have assumed (and rightly so) that the guild wasn’t up to the task of protecting her assets if you hadn’t shown up to save the day.

    • Zagzag says:

      The fact that Shamus misinterpreted several plot points of this quest is surely more the game’s fault than his. He has done nothing so far to suggest irrational hatred of this game, so surely this implies that he genuinely missed several points of what was going on. If this is the case then it is the game’s writing at fault here, which coincidentally is exactly what he was complaining about in the first place.

      • Kdansky says:

        I came to the exact same conclusions as Shamus, on all points. Misinterpretation? Of what, exactly? While some points are still unsolved or seem weird, due to the rather obvious upcoming plot-twist, the characters are still stupid. Mercer has no idea what he’s talking about. At this point, he knows nothing about Karlia’s involvement, yet still suspects an evil Mastermind (despite evidence to the contrary). If anything, he should point out “this doesn’t make sense at all” to the player. That could/would result in the absolutely identical plot and quests, but not make him look like an incompetent buffoon.

        Karlia on the other hand? She has no sensible motivation for trying to get into the mead business. If anything, it will only strengthen the bond between Maven and the Thieves Guild. The wedge-plan succeeds only if the Guild attempts and FAILS at protecting the business. Which is unlikely, seeing as the plot device is in Mercer’s hand, and Karlia does jack shit to help out.

        • Zagzag says:

          I was specifically replying to the second post in this thread, claiming that Shamus was going out of his way to hate the game, and pointing out that some things he said could be justified by the plot, such as the meadery being given to its second in command when the owner is imprisoned. Since about half a library has been posted in between now, due to the way this site formats post order (not that I’m complaining mind you) you could be forgiven for missing this. I admit that my post doesn’t necesarrily make that much sense out of context, given that Shamus posted his reply to the post while I was writing mine. You can basically ignore my original post, since Shamus said everything many many times better than me.

    • I’ll confess – I didn’t get that he worked there either – I thought he was just a contact or something, so I too got the impression the guard had just given it to the nearest guy who didn’t try to poison him.

      I agree with the wedge thing, but I would like to say that the thieves guild shouldn’t be beholden to a mead-baroness anyway. We get told she’s a bigshot crime boss but unless you make her Jarl you never see any of that, and she just insults you from behind her plot armour. Which is OK because I pickpocketed all her stuff the moment she stopped talking. In any case, it’s in keeping with this game’s theme of you only get to affect the subordinates of anything, never their bosses.

      For example: no stopping the Thalmor, only the Empire/stormcloaks, no killing the lieutenants in charge of camps, only the soldiers, no taking down Maven, only petty thievery. Basically its annoying.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Hm. As for the whole ‘beholden’ thing. Well, what I understood was that Maven is using her influence over Riften’s court/Jarl to keep guards out of the Ratway, and to allow the TG to keep operating; in exchange for the TG doing favours for her. So… By getting Maven to stop covering the TG, their lair could be raided by the guards/armies, or they could be driven out of Riften entirely.

        Granted, that’s not a very stable conjecture. I think that’s what the writers meant to imply, but, yeah, it wasn’t shown well at all.

        • Lalaland says:

          I think this is where the criticism of a lot of Bethesda writing comes in, you practically have to LARP to make plot points make sense. Maven was the worst sort of plot villain, whose influence and agency in the world is only expressed via quest text and dialogues. At no point is it ever expressed by other characters or in dialogue with the Jarl whom you might imagine would resent orbe toady for this powerful crimelord.

          • Kdansky says:

            I actually expected the majority of the Riften-quests to come through her. And then she was just a one-time visit in a tavern. What a wasted opportunity.

          • Phoenix says:

            Those guy at the brewery are scared by her. But they tell you that in front of her (the dialogue says something like if he ear us we’ll be dead somewhere). Kinda funny.

          • Skalpadda says:

            Maven does pop up at one point in the main plot which makes her out to be quite an influential figure who has connections with the Thalmor, she owns a big mansion in Riften, a hunting lodge full of hired guards outside of town and of course the Black Briar Meadery.

            Saying her influence and agency is only expressed through quest text seems a little silly.

  3. Oh boy, and it only gets stupider.

    I think my favourite aspect of it is that there are essentially no thievery quests in this questline. There’s framing, extortion, sabotage, eavesdropping, assassination, forgery, item recovery, information gathering, dungeon crawling and deal making, but at no point are you ever asked to steal anything. Oblivion’s questline ended with stealing an Elder Scroll, and in this the only magical artifact you get has to be returned anyway.

    Also this game removed the luck stat, but their patron Daedra is, in this game revealed to be responsible for Luck, meaning earning her favour gives essentially no benefit at all.

    • Raygereio says:

      at no point are you ever asked to steal anything

      Bwahaha! That’s amazing.
      What’s the questline for the mage’s guild? Do they give a sword and shield and send you of to chop up rats?

      • Pete says:

        They send you to go stab a zombie and steal his staff. You have to provide the sword yourself.

      • Shamus says:

        Actually, the final dungeon of the MG quest is designed to be hard(er) for mages, for some reason. There’s this magical particle effect that rushes through the place now and again, and it saps all your mana. The final fight is against a caster of some stripe, and my thief dropped him with two arrows and no personal danger. Meanwhile, my mage had a heck of a time bringing him down, and I had to chug a lot of potions to seal the deal.

        Although, perhaps this is proof that stealth+archery is overpowered, not that the fight was designed wrong. Still, the mana-drain seemed like a pointless annoyance. It would only hurt mages, and it seems like being a caster should be an advantage here, not a liability. It would be better (thematically) if the place was brightly lit and drained stamina.

        • The weird thing about the mana drain is it’s a one-off script at certain points so you can just let it recharge while you search for loot. I barely noticed it.

          • Shamus says:

            I used the wait button. Yeah, it’s not game-breaking or anything. It’s more of a, “Why did they do it this way?” kind of thing.

            • Lord Nyax says:

              Honestly I never even noticed it. I went through the whole dungeon and I didn’t even know that there was a mana sucking particle effect until you just said it here. Weird.

              • Zagzag says:

                It’s at the parts where the boss talks to you and tries to figure out who you are. His speech drains your mana for some reason…

                • Oh that’s the boss talking then? I thought it was just like an “abandon hope all ye who enter here” type enchantment meant to discourage tomb robbers and things. Like maybe if it made you lose all your magicka you’d be scared off because there’s obviously something evil and powerful here. As opposed to the boss who I killed so fast I don’t even remember him.

                • Lord Nyax says:

                  The boss talks to you? Really? He didn’t say anything to me. Then again, I never got withen thrity feet of the guy. I sent my flame atronach down to tie him up and spammed staff spells at him until he was dead. Took almost all of my soul gems too, that sucker was tough. But I thought he was just a mute zombie thing. Guess he doesn’t lower himself to talk to mages that hid in the shadows and use staffs like lighting throwing machine guns.

                  EDIT: Oh wait, do you mean the deep voice that happened every now and then in the dungeon? Ooooooooohhhh……honestly at the time I thought it was the big bad dragon from the main quest. For some reason. He sounded dragony. I forgot all about it by the time I got to the boss. Funny the things you get used to. I never realized that it drained my mana either.

                  • Shamus says:

                    I also thought it was a dragon. When you enter the dungeon, you fight a dragon skeleton, and voice sounds a lot like the other dragons in the game. I think this naturally (but unintentionally) telegraphed to the player that they were up against a dragon.

                    • Well yeah, because he kept going on about “why don’t you understand me? do I have to talk in your unclean tongue?” or something which is pretty much in keeping with dragons. I mean, they are the ones who Bethesda made a big deal about having a new language and being prideful and ancient and resurrecting and things, so it fit pretty well. Of course halfway through I’m like “how would a dragon even get in here” so I just assumed it was a security system instead.

                    • Dys says:

                      I do believe the boss at the end of that is one of the Dragon Priests, of the mask wearing inner circle in fact. He almost certainly was speaking in the Dragon language, since those priests have been dead since the Dragon wars.

        • acronix says:

          My first archmage was a hammer-wielding warrior. He stomped on the lich with a few swings, (though he lost a lot of health), so I´d say the developer of that quest thought it would be “cool” to give the player a handicap, except he forgot to handicap every other style besides magic.

          • X2Eliah says:

            Aye, but that is a bit more to do with the meelee/stealth/magic balance as such; the handicap given by the dungeon-design is a bit negligible.

          • Kalil says:

            Shorten that sentence:

            I´d say the developer thought it would be “cool” to give the player a handicap, except he forgot to handicap every other style besides magic.

            I just encountered Krosis on my mage (conjuration/destruction specialist). He shrugged off my spells, mind controlled my summon, and killed me in two hits. The various Helpful People On The Internet all recommend either taking him down with melee or letting Shadowmere kill him.

            I just re-rolled a rogue.

            • tengokujin says:

              Enough sneak + perks + sneak bonuses from armor (+192%) + muffle + bow + archery damage (+192% or +144%, depending on whether you use the circlet + falmer helmet glitch) essentially means you are the death from the darkness. Especially when your smithing is pumped up enough to improve your bow to ~300 damage (w/o the bonuses).

              Yeah… rogues are broken.

              • Dys says:

                My latest character is a vampire, and I took Stealth and Illusion specifically for the bonuses. When the AI is attacked it will move toward the location of the origin of the attack but usually stops a few paces away. With sufficiently high stealth you remain unseen at that range, and the Silent Casting perk from Illusion allows you to throw firebolts at whatever it is until it’s dead, without it ever seeing you.

                Stealth is indeed overpowered, although in direct light it’s still quite hard to hide.

              • Captain Pandabear says:

                Everything but mages can be made broken and ridiculously powerful. The enchanting professions are just absurdly easy to level and powerful.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          For me,the sapping of mana actually makes sense.If you really want to be a badass mage,then you have to be prepared for every situation,and every type of enemy.So its logical that to become a badass mage,youd have to face something that severly hinders your magic,and still overcome it.One way to do this is to enchant a bunch of items to reduce spell cost as much as you can(0 would be most preferable).

          As for stealth archery being overpowered,I wouldnt know,I did have much need for bows any way.One thing I can say,though,is that if you focus on melee,you deserve the trashing you will receive.I mean the most well known selling point of skyrim is its abundance of dragons,and dragons fly,so why would anyone even try to go for a melee character?

          • Have you tried hitting dragons with a bow while they’re in flight? It’s not nearly as easy as just waiting for it to land then stabbing it a few times.

            Still, it’s not stealth archery that’s overpowered so much as stealth melee. With the right enchantment you can get 30x sneak attack criticals. 15x if you just use perks.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Didnt try it with a bow,but I did with spells,and its not that hard once you get the hang of it.Especially when it lands.Furthermore,you dont have to race to it when if it lands far from you.

              • Aldowyn says:

                Best way to kill dragons – wait for them to land, hopefully a medium distance away, hide behind a rock. Shoot them, dodge behind the rock when they breathe at you. Piece of cake.

                Much more fun to hit them in the head with a warhammer, though.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Hide?Why hide if you can pellet them while you are still out of reach of their breath.Or summon something to get their attention and finish them from behind.

                • Dys says:

                  Personally I found that the BEST way to kill dragons was to have a shield, enchant it with resistances and take the elemental block perk. Decent armour will let you stand in front of it, blocking its attacks. When it breathes, smack it in the nose with your shield and hack at it a few times.

                  That said, with my warrior I did power through the main quests until I had Dragonbane and Dragonrend. Getting them to come down and fight me was the main challenge.

          • Factoid says:

            I’m a stealth melee character and I can promise you that the best feeling in all of Skyrim is to deal double stealth backstab damage (x30 damage) with an enchanted longsword that has a base damage of 150+.

            • Nargon says:

              you cannot get x30 damage with longsword, only daggers. for swords it’s x8 i guess

              • Factoid says:

                Sorry, you’re right. It’s x12 damage with a longsword.

                x30 with backstab from a dagger. This is assuming you have on double backstab damage gloves.

                Still. One-shotting a dragon is absolutely priceless.

            • Dys says:

              But my Blade of Woe is doing something like 200 damage after enchants are added up, and does get a 30x multiplier. 6,000 damage backstab. It will one shot anything in the entire game. It’s so overpowered I don’t even bother using the assassin’s gloves any more, just a +50% enchant on daedric gauntlets.

              Stealth does kinda break the game, but then so do a lot of other things at max skill level.

              • Factoid says:

                I do so love my Blade of Woe. I can’t remember what it’s damage is including enchantments at the moment. I am about level 33 and have about a level 75 one-handed. So I can’t quite get a +80% to damage perk yet. By the time I can get the +100% there’s really no need to have it anymore.

                I’ve actually discovered that of all the skill perks I really only NEED the crafting perks a couple sneak perks and a handful of weapon perks. Most of the top level stuff is really fairly uninteresting to me.

                Haven’t played a mage yet, though, but I assume you really do need a good chunk of perks for the various schools of magic.

                • Kdansky says:

                  Magic is broken at all levels. Early game, you can’t kill anything with it before running out of mana. Mid-game, it works decently, but you need to rely on other means for multiple foes. Endgame, you can spam spells without care, and they stun. Which means as long as you can backpedal (in circles) you can take on any number of enemies, and if you can’t, you can still 1v1 anything.

                  Also dragons have way less HP than some Draug, and dropping them in seconds is really strange.

                  • Aldowyn says:

                    The last mission had dragons as… mid bosses, I guess? But yeah, basic dragons are easier than mid-level draugr. And for some reason my level 35 character never ran into anything higher than a frost dragon, so no hard high level fights for me. I have real issues keeping my dragon souls ahead of my words of power, which is … odd, from what I hear.

                    • thebigJ_A says:

                      Elder and ancient dragons are much more challenging than regular/frost/blood dragons.

                      You don’t see those till lvl 40ish, and you’ll still run into the occasional normal dragon you’d fight at lvl 5, which is a bit anticlimactic.

                      Still, when I see that the dragon coming my way is larger and bronze-colored, I know it’ll be more of a fight.

          • Even says:

            Funny how with Dragonrend engaging them in melee becomes fairly trivial, barring they land somewhere out of your immediate reach if you happen to be in bad terrain. Still, the cooldown is so ridiculously short you can just keep spamming it.

            • Aldowyn says:

              I think it’s so short because it’s actually kind of hard to hit dragons with it occasionally. I died a couple times in the final fight because I just couldn’t hit him and he doesn’t like to land. He prefers just meteoring you to death :/

          • Klay F. says:

            I see you have no discovered the power of Dragonrend.

            EDIT: Darn ninjas are everywhere.

        • Eric says:

          You might have had a hard time because Destruction magic is colossally underpowered. As of now, melee and ranged damage scale with character level, but magic damage does not. This means that as a mage you effectively become less capable in combat as soon as you hit around level 30 and it only gets worse as you level up. There are mods to fix it, but it serves as just another example of how amazingly incompetent Bethesda are. It’s like they’re determined to be screw-up artists.

          • The Hokey Pokey says:

            It’s not that underpowered. It makes up what it loses in damage with the impact perk. Impact staggers everything, every time. Also, by level thirty you should be able to create a set of armor that reduces mana cost of destruction spells by 100%. My first character was a mage, and when I figured out that destruction magic didn’t have to cost mana the game busted in half. I killed the final boss without it being able to move. It became impossible for me to die because I would just stun lock anything in my way.

        • Aldowyn says:

          I’m actually not getting the “stealth+archery” is OP. Maybe I just haven’t played enough, but I just can’t 1-hit often enough to make it work. Of course, in the dark… they’ll never find me, muahahaha! (Overall though, dagger + assassin’s blade + shrouded gloves = 30x damage. Amazing. STILL can’t one-hit most bosses :/) In any case, it’s really good against lots of not-so-good enemies, but I have issues against a single tough enemy.

          My heavy armor/two-handed was ridiculous, though. My warhammer had well over 100 damage at level 32, and I didn’t exploit or anything. (70+ 2-handed and a daedric warhammer improved with 100 smithing does that…)

        • CalDazar says:

          I was under the impression that the fellow was gaining power from your mana. He says something about “your power will be your undoing” or something slightly odd that suggests you’d wish you were not a Mage.
          But I was a warrior so I didn’t give it any thought.

      • That would be ridiculous. You have to supply your own sword and shield, and you have to kill zombies, not rats, then they make you arch-mage about two days after you nearly destroy what’s left of Winterhold.

        This happens despite many more qualified staff members being present, and the person who promotes you not actually being a member of the college.

        • acronix says:

          I handwave it by thinking he used his jedi mental tricks on the whole college to make them agree. After all, if they can stop time completely they probably can jedi trick everyone in a castle.

        • Raygereio says:

          @Shamus: Whu? Now, I haven’t played Skyrim yet beyond the intro sequence, but draining your mana isn’t making things difficult or harder, it’s activaly shutting down a portion of your character’s skillset. In the case of mages, your primary one. That’s flatout telling the player “We don’t want you to use magic here. Did you remember to bring a sword?”.
          The final dungeon in a quest line specifically for mages is designed to actively discourage mages from being mages?

          @PurePareidolia :

          the person who promotes you not actually being a member of the college.

          I don’t even… How does that work? Does Putin show up to declare your character is now President of US?

          • The quest revolves around a magical artifact the college wants to research. Once you kill the evil advisor who wants to harness its power for himself, this guy shows up out of nowhere with some friends, steals the artifact because it’s “unsafe” and declares you the new arch-mage.

            So it’s more like Putin shows up, steals a nuke, tells you he always believed in you, then declares you president the moment his men have left the room. And the white house staff just go with it because who are they to argue?

            • tengokujin says:

              Well, to be honest, it’s more like “the guys who used to declare the new Arch-Mage showed up after a centuries-long hiatus, take away the world-ending artifact, and declare you the new Arch-Mage, before they skip off to do the Divines-know-what with the artifact”.

              So, it’s more like… the electoral college, after years of absence, shows up to declare you the new President, before they skip off with the world-ending nuke you uncovered, for “your safety”. Technically, they *can* declare you President, they just haven’t done so for years >.>

            • Dys says:

              I don’t think he actually does declare you Arch Mage. From what I recall the exact words were ‘I can’t think of anyone more suited to take Savos Aren’s place as Arch Mage.’

              Then the rest of the college, which is like seven people, generally agree that you’re way more badass than any of them and give you the Arch Mage’s quarters.

              At no point in the game does anyone outside the college register the fact that you are the Arch Mage, and you can’t give orders to anyone inside the college. So I’m not sure it’s all that great an honour.

              • Kresh says:

                Welcome to being in charge of ANY group in Skyrim. You mean nothing… no matter what you’ve done. Also known as the “Welcome to the Post-Main Quest Playthrough Mode that we added because people bitched about it in FO3 and NV. Joke’s on you thought because it really doesn’t matter, and nobody cares what you did. Pbbbbth.”

                Really, you can run every guild, be Thane of every hold in Skyrim, hold more potential power than the High King of Skyrim… and it doesn’t matter. The town guards still talk sh*t to you, the jobs are the same crappy jobs you get when you first joined up (for the most part), and you’re still a nobody. You have lots of money and can one-shot a dragon… but nobody really cares.

                The game feels as if you’re supposed to start a new game after you finish any guild quest line, except for what I like to call “The Riddle of The Masks.” A “free-form” quest that requires you to join the College of Winterhold (in fact I know of TWO free-form quests that require you to join the College to one degree or another, to say nothing of the MAIN quest line) if you’re going to complete it.

                I’ll agree with Shamus on the Thief’s Guild. It’s emblematic of the poor writing that litters Skyrim like the Dragons. It’s hard to go anywhere or do anything without either interrupting your journey. Both kinda suck upon reflection. One is kinda neat but weighs you down with mostly useless (but pricy) loot, the other is kinda neat but makes you wonder if they were just phoning in the writing, or if they really think the console audience is just that dumb. I’m thinking it’s the latter because the writing isn’t a farce in a single questline, it’s a farce in all questlines. See: Helping the Empire win the Civil War AFTER finishing the Brotherhood of Assassins questline. Lulz indeed.

                I’m enjoying the game but the CK can’t come out fast enough. At the very least I’ll be able to self-fix fix the monstrosity that is Blacksmithing. That alone will make the game more enjoyable. After that, well, it’s a long list. Thank heavens for The nexus.

                • Aldowyn says:

                  I’m feeling the biggest problem with blacksmithing is how horribly easy it is to make it completely, horribly OP in combination with enchanting and alchemy…

                  • Dys says:

                    That is definitely the key to being disgustingly overpowered. I have a full set of crafting gear which gives a total of +100% on both alchemy and smithing, plus potions which improve smithing by something like 120%. With max skill, even without smithing perks, it makes armour and weapons vastly overpowered. To the point where you can stand in front of a dragon or giant and simply not take damage.

                • My favourite part is helping the empire win the war then everyone complaining about how hard the war is on them and if only this damnable conflict would end.

          • Basically. it’s worth noting he also just stole the macguffin the entire questline was focused on before doing this.

            So it’s more like Putin shows up, steals a nuke, THEN declares you president.

            • Oh so it didn’t actually eat my post. And I can’t delete it – awesome. Ignore it basically.

              • Shamus says:

                I had to pull a bunch of your posts not just out of moderation, but the spam queue. (Which means I need to un-spam them, THEN un-moderate them. Stupid that WP doesn’t let me do both at once)

                I have NO DIEA why. There is nothing wrong with them. This is becoming more common. Once I get the time I’m probably going to have to fuss around with the filters and see what’s malfunctioning.

                In the meantime, sorry for the inconvenience.

            • Raygereio says:

              Dear readers of Shamus’ blog located in North-West Europe,

              If you just experienced a series of tremors, then that’s nothing to be concerned about. That was just me bashing my head on my desk repeatedly after reading the uesp.net/wiki entries on Skyrim’s mageguild quests and realised that PurePareidolia was being serious.

              Also my head now hurts and why are do you all have flaming badgers for heads?

              • Aulayan says:

                Except for becoming Arch-Mage at the end the gameplay WAS quite fun. Hell I played a stealth-mage at this point, and managed to beat him. Granted I couldn’t do any Conjuration (And I was a conjuration primary), and I spammed the hell out of Slow Time, but I still beat him.

                Also what you get out of it, the item the Big Bad is holding in the dungeon, is very very very very very good for mages. Very good.

                • Zagzag says:

                  None of you have tried to do that fight as a vampire have you…? For some reason the final boss fight is counted as daylight. I got into a situation where I couldn’t wait because enemies were nearby, and had also left everyone in the place alive because I was playing a stealth character, and had got a bit bored of one shotting everyone so decided to get through silently. Fighting that guy with no health or magicka regen is very very hard. My F9 key is now illegible…

                  • Dys says:

                    Did you know that the regen bonuses on enchanted items are not affected by the vampiric weakness to sunlight?

                    I usually wear mage robes on my vampire, and while sunlight is annoying, particularly when the game decides to nerf you in a cave deep underground, it doesn’t stop my regen, just halves it as my natural regen is removed, but the 150% from the robes remains.

              • Even says:

                It’s all the more ridiculous when you play a character who’s probably the crappiest mage ever to enroll in the College. I never invested in magicka and only managed to get in once I found some gear to increase my manapool in order to be able to do the initiation spell.

                • Hitch says:

                  A Dragon Shout is impressive enough to get you past the entry screening. My stealth archer/two-handed fighter with the base 100 point of majicka and about 3 spells at novice level became Archmage. Because they could think of no one better.

                  I weep for the state of magic in Skyrim.

                • Eruanno says:

                  Yup! Same deal for me, heavily invested in all kinds of weapons, barely know a healing spell.

                  “Umm, the current arch-mage is… dead I guess. Or something. Hey, do you want to do it now? No? Well shut up, you’re the arch-mage now. Cheers, mate.”

                • Aldowyn says:

                  It annoys me that to finish the main storyline you HAVE to be technically enrolled in the college. No, thanks, I’m good. You don’t quite have to with the thieves’ guild, but I’m pretty sure it directs you to talk to Brynjolf.

                  Odd that they did that with the undeniably worse ones…

        • Dovius says:

          To be fair, on my Mage I was playing my character as a complete and utter arrogant asshole.
          So the rest of the College Staff, exhausted by attempting to contain the artifact for hours or days on end, are now faced with a nigh-demigod Magick-using Dragonborn, wielding the fabled Staff of Magnus, who just kicked a top-level Thalmor Magister’s ass single-handedly, while said Thalmor was draining ludicrous amounts of power from another fabled magical artifact to make himself practically invincible, after which the fabled,long-lost Psijic Monks named me the best possible candidate for Archmage
          As far as I figured it, they were faced with either giving me the post of figurehead leader of the College (It’s said before that the Archmage doesn’t really do any actual administration, that’s handled by the Master Mage or whatever Tolfdir becomes), or making the aforementioned Mage/Dragonborn pissed at them.
          Wouldn’t be a hard choice, I think.

      • acronix says:

        Chop up rats is on the thieves guild alley. The mages guild quests involve running around killing necromancers for books, exploring old ruind for books, and saving the world from an artifact of doom.

        Shamus didn´t mention it, but to poison the mead you have to go through a rat infested tunnel (you are suppoused to pretend to be the ratkiller). And down there you find a mad magician who´s been experimenting with the rats for years.

      • X2Eliah says:

        The mage guild questline.. Well, arguably it’s the worst one of the bunch. Maybe it is a bit more plot-consistent than the TG’s, but gameplay wise it’s quite a lot more boring and “meh”. Actually… quite a disappointment, it is just far too bland.

        I’m not sure any of the four guild questlines could be called “good”, in fact. All of them have issues :|

        • Out of the four I’d still say the dark brotherhood was pretty good. The missions weren’t as creative as Oblivion, but by the rest of the game’s standards it had some really high production values and memorable moments.

          • Dys says:

            Agreed. I remember the Brotherhood quests being relatively solid. The characters are consistent and the plot mostly makes sense. Added to that is the fact that at least half of the quests involved are actual assassinations.

            I was slightly miffed to find that the poison target is plot armoured before he eats the food. I think I Calmed everyone in the room, and stabbed him, only to have him get up and go back to eating his food, which I’d knocked on the ground by then… yeah, Skyrim… not too good at dealing with the weirdness of players.

            Also, I love Calm. By far the best spell effect in the entire game.

            • Zagzag says:

              The Dark Brotherhood was the last guild quest I actually did out of the four. Rather ironically I was blown away by its quality in comparison to the other three, and loved almost every minute of it…

          • Jakey says:

            Gah. It was really good up until the big murder happened (keeping it vague to not spoil anything), but frankly turned to shit afterwards. I liked that all the dialogue choices were either subtly pro-Cicero/Nightmother or pro-Astrid but because the quests are as linear as it gets and there’s only one outcome either way, it feels like a big ‘Fuck you, player!’ out of nowhere depending on which side you’re feeling more loyal to.

            • yeah, the Dark brotherhood did have some of the best role playing dialogue, and I say that despite often feeling like I was given the choice between a doormat, a zealot and ‘(say nothing)’. Still, not being forced to side with Cicero was appreciated.

        • Shamus says:

          I agree the the Mage’s Guild is very “meh”. It didn’t set off my “WTF?” detector in the same way because everything is so vague. It never contradicts itself because it never really says anything to begin with.

          I thought the Dark Brotherhood was pretty fun. I might have a few mild nitpicks with it if I really looked for them, but it’s thematically spot-on and the missions are funny. They even build to a decent crescendo.

          • X2Eliah says:

            Yeah, DB was pretty nice, but also.. I kinda felt it lacked something when compared to Oblivion’s, actually. Maybe I’m just too inclined against the “the DB you know died out long ago, this is a completely different DB” feeling.

            • Reet says:

              I got that too. It was a little short. I feel like there was a lot of wasted potential in the secondary characters.

              No, that’s not it. I just can’t put my finger on it.

            • Tse says:

              Well, the Oblivion Brotherhood was much more fun. The Whodunit? mission was pure genius. It was so fun to kill the last guy after he killed the old lady he believed to be the killer. He was like: “We’re saved! Hey, why are you drawing a sword? (sound of gushing blood)”

              • thebigJ_A says:

                Did anyone else do what I did in Oblivion and bring Mother’s head into the room where they killed Lucien? If you drop it on the ground, the real killer actually reacts!

                I can’t remember what he said, exactly, I just remember being thrilled the game took the possibility into account.

                Also, that summon you get from the Skyrim DB quest-line was almost as good a throwback as getting Keening from that Mage side-quest (Morrowind references get me every time). And Lucien actually comments on every town you go to, and every DB quest you do after getting him. So good.

            • Irridium says:

              I’m guessing the reason Oblivion’s DB questline stood out so much was because the rest of Oblivion was… not that good.

              Compared to Skyrim, where the DB is great, but then again so is most of Skyrim.

          • Peter H. Coffin says:

            Proving once again the old adage that the story is done not when there’s nothing left to add, but nothing left to take out. (Perhaps the two parts, Thieves Guild and Mage School, had entire different scriptwriters and the later actually had a thought or two to take out.)

          • Captain Pandabear says:

            I have one major gripe against the Dark Brotherhood quests:

            Why can’t you clearly side with Astrid from the beginning and thus change the end? The dichotomy of old vs. new is so clearly illustrated, it really was just begging for a fork that allows you to finish the line siding with the new, secular professionalism over the Satanic-murder-cult aesthetic.

            Am I alone on this? I want to commune with the hot blonde murderess, not the corpse.

      • Eric says:

        The College of Winterhold questline might be even worse than the Thieves Guild. Spoilers below:

        The basic gist is that, after passing an entrance exam (which consists of casting two novice-level spells for someone), you attend a 30-second lecture and then go on an expedition into a dangerous tomb to hunt for rare, valuable and potentially dangerous artifacts. Plot dictates that the player finds one such artifact, and it turns out to be some magical object of magic that does magic things of an obscure and indeterminate nature.

        Afterwards, you’re contacted by the Psijic Order, a reclusive group of mages from across the world, because for whatever reason they’ve deemed you special. They tell you that the artifact is dangerous and offer some vague nonsense about the severity of the situation, but never help you at all. So of course, pretty soon that means the clearly evil Thalmor ambassador who was standing around protected by plot armour the whole time, decides to take control of the artifact and suck out its power, putting a ticking clock that never actually runs out onto the whole affair. In this short conflict, several members of the College, including the Archmage, are killed.

        After a bunch of dungeon crawling by the newest pupil (why the Orc with violent tendencies who tends the library isn’t a better choice, I have no idea), you find out that you need a special magic staff which was previously owned by a minor god, in order to… uh, drain the magic artifact of its power? So then the player shoots the staff at trigger script and a glitchy boss battle plays out where the player theoretically is supposed to drain the Thalmor of the magic with the staff, then kill him. Afterwards, the Psijic guy Deus Ex Machinas his way back in and takes the artifact away to his place. Of course, you don’t have a choice in the matter.

        The most absurd thing about all of it is the extreme pace that everything runs at. There’s no build up to the main quest, there’s no real test for rising through the ranks, there’s no qualification for becoming Archmage save for saving their pathetic hides. You cast those two beginner-level spells and then apparently that’s enough magical aptitude to become the Archmage. Nobody in the College does anything to help, except complain and offer directions on where you should go. It demonstrates that either the College’s master-level magicians are just a bunch of pansies, or that they are so stupid a novice can outperform them in a matter of days, despite having less magical aptitude than your average tavern owner. There’s also the issue surrounding Winterhold and whether or not the College was directly responsible for destroying the city.

        A questline to reconcile with the Jarl and even fix the damage to the city would have been way more interesting, especially because they hint and tease at it for so long… instead we get a generic Harry Potter knock-off that struggles to make any sense whatsoever. Bethesda really must be committed to preventing the player from altering the game world in any way. What’s that? The play-testers want to do something of consequence? Hmm… nah, let’s just throw in a few more grinding minigames. Chopping wood is fun, right?

        I hate to say it, but I actually miss Oblivion’s quest lines. At least they had plots that felt appropriate to them and that made a tiny bit of sense. The only guild quests in Skyrim that actually resembles a real guild is the Companions, and even then they’re willing to induct the player into their inner circle after two or three petty jobs. Makes you wonder why they’re so revered if apparently the people who have been a part of the organization for years are impressed by the player’s ability to follow quest markers. And of course there’s the whole “how did one of the most prolific organizations in all of Skyrim hide their gigantic werewolf conspiracy for hundreds of years” problem, but that’s another story.

        • Even says:

          Well the werewolf thing was fairly “new” as in some decades old and they only did it to the members of their inner Circle which was only the few on the top.

          • Alphadrop says:

            True but the inner circle is about half the Companions guild. Would make more sense if it was like in previous games with different guild buildings scattered throughout the cities but all the Companions hang out with each other all the time in a fairly small building.

        • acronix says:

          Several members of the College get killed? I´m quite sure the only one killed is the archmage. All the expert/master magic trainers survive the event, and every possible companion (the other “students”) also survive. Who are the other ones that get killed off?

          • thebigJ_A says:

            The master wizard lady (or whatever, the 2nd in command) gets killed along the way. That’s why “I keep losing my alembic” Tolfdir gets the job when you become archmage.

            I did think the repaetable “find his alembic” quest was a funny way to reference that the staple alchemy tools of previous TES games are gone.

        • tengokujin says:

          I believe that’s lampshaded by one of the newer recruits. “I never thought I’d get accepted into the Companions. I guess they’re taking in anyone these days.”

    • X2Eliah says:

      Hm. Well, I think one mistake the quest-makers did was to separate the “sidequests” (basically the jobs for Vex & Devlin, the ones where you are explicitly tasked to do thievery-stuff) and “special-quests”. If the side-quests are placed within the mainquest line, so that you get a special mission and then a few ordinary ones, then special again, and so on, it actually, imo, comes out rather well in terms of gameplay balance. But.. separating the two, unfortunately, means that most people play straight through the mainline of TG without bothering to actually do the side-quests, thu not really doing much thievery at all.

      • Dys says:

        That’s the exact problem. The quests that involve thieving are optional, where the quests that involve screwing around and non interactive nonsense plot are obligatory. If the side quests were placed in the main line, diversified, crafted and infused with plot, they would do quite well at being an actual thieves guild quest line. Much better than the infuriating claptrap you’re forced to put up with in their stead.

        • Aldowyn says:

          wait, you don’t have to do the side quests? I figured the side quests replaced the fence-more-stuff from Oblivion. Apparently not.

          • thebigJ_A says:

            You don’t HAVE to, but you want to. Do five jobs in any city, you’ll get a special quest to reinstate the guild there.

            These special quests are the best thievery-type quests in the game, as a matter of fact (well, 3 out of 4 are). It’s a terrible shame most people would miss them. I especially liked wiping out a rival thieve’s guild and burning their banner.

            Doing these gives you access to more and more fences who are richer and richer. Merchants will set up shop in the Flagon, as well. You also get the ability to wipe your bounty clean in that hold. You can turn the Khajiit caravans into fences, too.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    At least it made sense when he approached me,seeing how I had 50+ sneak and 100 pickpocket.And a bunch of junk in my house that I couldnt sell to anyone,because of the idiotic stolen flag.Which segues into:I thought you were going to tackle bad game mechanics first.Though I guess that one has been done to death already.

    • I figured it was because I legitimately had stolen thousands of septims by the time he found me

    • Raygereio says:

      At least it made sense when he approached me,seeing how I had 50+ sneak and 100 pickpocket.

      And how would the guy know that? o_O

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Probably because I left every guard I found completely naked.Some people collect books,I leave naked guards around.

        • Kresh says:

          You should start “trading” them your unused books for their armor. Fair is fair.

          “Dammit! I’m naked… but I also now have an excellent book on the legal implications of ancient Dunmer law. Those dragons sure made everything go higgledy-piggledy!”

      • Well there must be some way because everyone you walk by on the street will comment if your stats are high enough.

        This includes sneaking or pickpocketing which makes no sense because if you’re good at either you should be able to hide it in public, either by blending into a crowd or… Actually how the hell would you tell if a guy’s good at pickpocketing if they’re not actually doing it? Does your character reach for the purses of everyone he passes instinctively?

        • Dasick says:

          Pickpocketing relies on digital dexterity. I imagine a high pickpocket character constantly rolling a coin or fidgeting with stuff that requires digital dexterity

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            But if he also has high sneak,wouldnt that mean no one would be able to spot him doing it in public?

            • Dys says:

              Exactly. So when you see a guy clearly NOT doing that, he must have high Sneak. It’s obvious, when you think about it.

              Equally – unless you have a zombie shambling after you down the main street, how do they know you’re a conjuror? etc.
              I guess the rest of the skills can be hand waved with ‘reputation’, but having a reputation for being a skilled pickpocket is rather like being the most famous spy. You’re doing something wrong.

            • Dovius says:

              Maybe it’s a stance thing? So a person skilled in Sneaking would have a very light-footed stance or something?

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                While I do agree that maybe one could spot someone highly skilled at one thing or another,that should not be obvious to joe average.Youd have to either be an expert in that field yourself,or extremely observant.

                • acronix says:

                  Skyrim guards are remnants of the old Cyrodiil guards: they have psychic powers. They can´t know when you murder someone like the imperials did, but they can read in your mind which skills you have. It´s the only logical solution!

                • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

                  I have guards telling me not to barter with them. What?

                  • I think it’s because high speech skill gives you bartering perks so they’re commenting on it, but I’m not sure because the speech compliment is “I’ve heard about you and your honeyed words”. They might have two or it might just be strange non-sequiter writing.

    • Phoenix says:

      If they were to put good mechanics they would have done another kind of game althogether. The game is so big that if you fix everything you have a sandbox.

    • tengokujin says:

      And the in-game way to bypass this: go to Riften. Talk to the elf behind the front counter at the Black-Briar meadery. Bribe him to talk until you hit 25 Speechcraft (or equip the amulet of Zenithar) and then persuade him until you hit 100. Pump perks into Fence. Ta-da! No more stolen goods lying around.

      • Kdansky says:

        I don’t think that deserves a spoiler-tag. Breaking Bethesda games is the most mundane thing in the world. ;-)

        • tengokujin says:

          I’m just trying to be considerate :p

          • Dys says:

            I actually hadn’t yet found a way to grind speechcraft, that’s handy. Most of the rest I’ve some way to increase. Recently managed to boost alteration and conjuration to max. Destro and Resto are very dull though.

            • rrgg says:

              Best way I’ve found is to get friendly with the dark elf in windhelm, buy as much speech training as you can, then get back all your money by selling him all the useless expensive junk cluttering your inventory.

              The main problem I with speech is that it is almost entirly geared to making money. Unfortunately A. By the time you’ve sold enough stuff to raise your speech you won’t need anymore and B. Aside from training 5 times per level money becomes almost entirely useless later on.

            • tengokujin says:

              Yeah… I ended up summoning a Frost Atronach and firebolting it to death, summoning it, firebolting it, etc. It helped that I had 100% reduction of magicka cost, though :p

              As for restoration… go find a trap that spews fire continuously, stand there and cast healing. It’s gonna take a while. Alternatively, level your armor skills and restoration by keeping yourself healed while pissing off giants! :3

              • Kdansky says:

                And I think that trying to find a way to break how leveling works only makes the game a lot worse, because it stops being a game and becomes *cough* WoW *cough* a slideshow where you press random buttons to advance the pictures.

                • Dys says:

                  Skyrim actually tends to avoid that a lot better than Oblivion. I generally find in Skyrim that the best way to level is just to go do stuff, whereas in Oblivion I never really got anywhere, because the best way to advance your level is to go grind skills somewhere, like Sneak-autorun into a wall and go afk for an hour. I think the removal of the stats and their levelling system is what made the difference.

  5. Phoenix says:

    “It’s also odd because you can’t steal for a living until you join the guild, because you have no way to unload stolen goods.”

    Wrong, you can if you raise the speaking skill high enough (it requires really a lot of time, I don’t remember if it requires 100 or 80, I didn’t take that).

    “You can murder a civilian in broad daylight and allow the guard to take you to jail for a modest span of time. (Or just pay a 1,000 dollar fine.) But inadvertent food contamination with no victims is worthy of life in prison?”

    I think he was saying that to scare him. The point is that the game is too light on fines and jail time anyway. They should’ve counted more on escaping from prison than pay 1000 and who cares about that one you killed. But also… the idea of poisoning the mead, then the guard drinks it… I remember thinking that he would have died. Instead he survived.

    “This might work as some sort of “business tycoon” quest line, but for the Thieves Guild?”

    Since Maven protects the guild from the jarl and keeps them alive since they’re doing very bad, actually you’re working for Maven who is after all a dirty business woman.

    “Brynjolf walks up to me, a total stranger, and says, “You’ve never worked a day in your life for all that coin you’re carrying around.” This is a really screwy thing to say to an adventurer.”

    I did the guild quest line and some of the companions too, when I was about 20-30. The companions treated me like I wasn’t famous (I was) or like I was badly armed (I had better armor & weapons than them) or weak (I was stronger than them all put togheter). The game has simply too many combinations, it’s too hard for bethseda to follow all them up. It’s a game that simulates, not emulates, adventurer’s life. (It makes it funny, kinda)

    • Shamus says:

      “Wrong, you can if you raise the speaking skill high enough (it requires really a lot of time, I don’t remember if it requires 100 or 80, I didn’t take that).”

      Yes, I’m aware of that perk, which is so high on the tree that it might as well not exist. By the time you hit speech 80, you will have hundreds of thousands of bucks and no longer NEED to steal. (I sold every rusty sword I found in every dungeon and sold it. I had over $130,000, and my speech wasn’t even at 70 yet. No, you could speed up speech leveling through training, but at the later levels that gets to be around $5,000 a level. It would take AGES to recoup that through theft.

      So no, you can’t steal for a living without joining the TG. :)

      • The best part of that is, in order to level up speech you have to barter, which means to get that high you’ll pretty much have to have a lot of cash, or decent gear and probably a reliable source of income to even reach that level unless you’ve spent it all on training. So it’s not that stealing is irrelevant by that point, but that the very process of getting there guarantees stealing is irrelevant.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        You can always steal the money back from the trainer.It not only makes training practically free,but is also an excellent way of boosting pickpocket.Also,one other interesting way of leveling speech is bribing the guards.Just steal shit until you get a small bounty,then walk up to any guard,bribe them,and steal back your money.And,again,it also boosts your pickpocket,so you boost 2 skills for the price of 1(for the price of 0 moneys,actually).

      • Phoenix says:

        That’s right. I wonder why they put that sooo high. At that point you’re probably already in the guild or you simply don’t care.

        But, if I’m not wrong, there are also certain npc’s that, once friended, buy stolen goods. Like in windhelm the dark elf, or in winterhold that guy. (but I don’t remember if they do that only if you work in the guild)

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Well it is a pretty powerful perk,so it does belong near the top.The problem is that you cant powerlevel speech like some other things.For example,illusion is so laughably easy to boost:Just purchase muffle and cast it non stop while you walk around.Unlike other spells,it always gives you experience,whether anyone is present or not.Preferably youll muffle your sound before you do this,because the sound of that spell being cast is so annoying.

          • Kdansky says:

            Powerful stuff at the top often doesn’t make sense from a gameplay perspective. WoW did that five years ago, and then realized that this results in a world where everyone is an expert in very few things, but outrageously good at those, which is completely off.

            Put another way: 80/20. It’s actually very easy to become quite competent in anything, but to master those last few things takes an eternity. The really good perks should all be at 10-50. In the end, you would not have enough points to take them all anyway. And even if: So what? Now you’re a great Jack of all trades, but still neither a Master Thief, nor an Archmage, nor a Sworddancer.

            • Aldowyn says:

              Usually the Awesome but Impractical stuff is at the top. Bottom is Boring but Practical – like the “increase by 20%” almost every one of them has.

              • Kdansky says:

                Should be the other one round. Everyone has use for the awesome stuff, but 20% bonus is only relevant for a specialist, but at the same time, 20% extra is a lot, if you’re specialized there already. As usual they let the intern do the perk trees.

          • tengokujin says:

            Please see my post about Riften. Above. Here’s the link: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=14422&cpage=1#comment-250071
            The system has holes! I exploited them :p

      • Factoid says:

        Yes, as usual Bethesda has managed to make Speech the most pointless and difficult to level skill in an Elder Scrolls game.

        • PhoenixUltima says:

          I’m not sure what you’re on about, speech is usually one of the easiest skills to raise in a Bethesda game. In Morrowind all you had to do was move/resize the dialogue window until “persuade” and “admire” (or “bribe 10 gold” if you’re rich) overlap each other and click until your finger went numb. Oblivion was slightly more obnoxious, but if you started up the persuasion minigame and just rotated the stick/mouse while mashing the accept button you’d level your speech fairly fast. And of course you just put points from levelling up into speech in FO3.

          Now, mercantile, that skill is consistently a pain in the ass to level up. Mostly because the amount you’re bartering for or how much of a discount/markup you’ve negotiated for never enters into how much XP you get, it’s just a predetermined amount for each sale. So selling a stack of cheap iron arrows one at a time for the default price gets you much more XP than just selling one expensive item at a high markup, which is insane. And now in Skyrim speech and mercantile are folded together and there’s no dispostion meter mechanic, so the only consistent way to train the skill is the same way as mercantile – one arrow at a time for a pittance of XP.

          Fuck mercantile, and fuck Bethesda for essentially replacing speech with it.

    • Sumanai says:

      Depending on what they want to make the characters say, it shouldn’t be that hard. If you want someone to just comment that the Player Character should buy a new weapon, make the engine check and compare the value of the equipped weapons of both the PC and the NPC. For instance (note: I suck at pseudocode, haven’t done any coding for well over a year and don’t know the average value of weapons in Skyrim):


      if (value.NPCweapon - 50 > value.PCweapon)
      say.GetNewWeapon
      else
      shut.yo.mouth

      Of course you could make it so they will comment on your weapon being awesome or something, but I personally feel better when NPCs keep their trap shut for once.

      • Phoenix says:

        Yes but there are really too many things to fix apart that. And they usually haven’t all the time of the world to make a game. Or maybe they think that it’s not worth the effort. Making a simulated world looks close to an emulated one requires a lot of work, because the world isn’t really living. But a simulated world allows them to put in story easily. I think there’s simply too much for them to handle.

        • Dys says:

          I think we all agree that Skyrim is a really great game. I think we also all agree that it could be significantly improved in a great many places.

          Unfortunately most developers don’t have several hundred unpaid volunteer coders, so we get the best they can do with what they have.

          And then the modders come in and make everything better.

        • Sumanai says:

          Here’s an easy fix for all future Bethesda games, that doesn’t take extra coding at all:

          Don’t make NPCs insult the PCs equipment.

          As a bonus they don’t need to record the voice actors spout lines about getting better weapons and so on.

          • Sumanai says:

            I feel to urge to note that, the reason I’m feeling strongly about this, is because this is one common way of kicking the player out of the experience. In cases like these the designers should think “can we afford to do this properly?” instead of just doing it half-way and then noticing that they don’t have time or money to do the rest.

            If nothing else, they should stop and realize that NPCs complaining about PCs weapon would end up hurting immersion when the player has good weapons and then remove the commenting script. Or add a check before the comment is played out, since as I mentioned it shouldn’t be that difficult and could be done in an update (since you don’t need more lines recorded as there’s no comment when you have a better weapon than them).

            Also there’s the feeling that Bethesda is relying on modders to finish their job for them and that the majority of players just accept this without any grumbling. Or maybe even demand that others don’t grumble about it either.

      • Aldowyn says:

        I think the most egregious offender was when… vilkas? Probably. ANYWAY, one of the companions basically says “Go talk to Eorlund to get a REAL weapon”.

        This is when I have a well enchanted orcish warhammer. The axe I got was actually WORSE.

        Not to mention the “I’ve never even heard of this dude”. You haven’t heard of me, but every single guard in the entire country knows every detail of every exploit?

        Those are nitpicks, though. I actually enjoyed the Companion quest line, even if it was a bit simple. Liked the dichotomy between Aela’s attitude and Kodlak’s.

        • Sumanai says:

          Personally I think nitpicks matter, since it’s the small things that elevate a game from the rest. Take for instance the comments below. Just a couple of weapons that draw unique lines from guards can enhance the experience notably.

          Also if you’re a game designer you’d probably want to hear about all the problems and nitpicks so you have a pool of things you can attempt to solve the next time around (if not in a patch).

      • thebigJ_A says:

        Actually, I was shocked soon after I got Mehrune’s Razor. I had it equipped walking through Whiterun, and a guard says something to the effect of “Who’d you kill to get a weapon like that?”

        Guards had been yammering at me for dozens of hours, and that was the first time they said something so very specific. I know they can tell what type of weapon you favor (“you fancy bows, eh? I’m a sword man, myself.”) but I figured that was based on your skills. To equip a daedric artifact and have the NPCs notice was… profound.

  6. acronix says:

    I just want to point out that Brynjolf does change his dialog depending on the ammount of gold you are carrying. I don´t know the exact number, but when I went straight to Riften with my rogue-like character, he suggested I should start thievery to get some money.

  7. Lame Duck says:

    The writing is bad enough that I’m almost beginning to suspect that this game was written by Bethesda.

  8. Brendan says:

    We’re obviously only on post one of six, so I’ll take it there are bigger problems I missed, but I thought that the Thieve’s Guild questline was the best of the three I’ve played. (The other two being the Companions and the Mage’s Guild.)

    It was the only one that made you feel like you’ve earned the title of Master (the other two just had some spectral bloke show up and say “Oh well, he’ll do. Hail the Guildmaster!”) The voice acting was miles ahead of the Companion’s big room of Angry Warriors. I’d put the acting and characters (particularly Devlin, Vex, and Karliah) second only to the main plotline (of what I’ve seen so far.)

    And while I’ve got a little more faith in Shamus than X2Eliah (meaning I will be reading the other posts, and I am looking forward to them greatly), I don’t see how else the Meadery scene could have gone. The plot writer had a bulletpoint that you frame the Honningbrew man so your spy inherits it, and the dialogue writer wrote a minute-long scene where a policeman comes in, gets poisoned, and cedes the place to the second-in-charge.

    What was the alternative? A trial? Proceedings? A bit about “traditional Skyrim law?” I understand where Shamus/you’re coming from, but I just don’t see how it could be avoided without being over-long or boring.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      How about forging the deed to the place so that your spy gets it,for example.

    • Shamus says:

      I hated every single person* in the TG for being either stupid or pointlessly confrontational towards you. At one point Dirge said to me, “I don’t care if you ARE friends with the guildmaster, if you cause any trouble you’ll regret it.” He said this while I WAS the guildmaster. All of them in the ragged flaggon are jerks to you, all the time, even once you’re in charge.

      * Everyone except Devlin. Devlin is, strangely enough, my favorite character in the whole game. I did the random TG quests just to hear his dialog. Love that guy.

      • Shamus says:

        Oh! Another thing about the voice acting in the TG:

        Mercer, Einther (the guy who translates the diary) Mallus, and about half the guys in the TG cistern are voiced by Stephen Russell, who does the voice of Garret in the Thief series. Talk about being typecast!

        Still, he’s good at his job, and gives a decent level of variation, considering how many people he plays.

      • Factoid says:

        I’m about 90% sure that Devlin is the same guy who voiced Smith in Independence War 2…one of my favorite space sim games of all time.

      • Dys says:

        I genuinely like Devlin, and Brynjolf, and Vex. I quite like all the thieves, most of them aren’t nearly as aggro as Dirge. He’s not too bright, and being a thug is his job. I’d like the game to let me smack him on the head and tell him to stop being a tit, but failing that, I can ignore him. Vex is a thorough bitch, but I always got the feeling she was overcompensating for her own lack of confidence. She’s a great burglar, but that’s all she has. When that seems threatened she gets very defensive. Once you’re doing missions for her, I get the impression of grudging respect.

        All of which compounds the tragedy of their quest line being so terrible. They could have been so much more.

  9. RariowunIrskand says:

    Wow. I’m not playing a thief character, so I haven’t joined this guild yet. However, I ran across the ring-theft quest, and I did it in case it became important later (It did). For a different quest I had to talk to someone who was all “Not talking to you until you advance in the Thieves Guild”, so I was forced to do the protection money quest. Even that was completely screwed up. The Thieves’ Guild is a kind of “Robin Hood’s Guild”, not the kind of people who would go around asking for protection money. Those would be the Companions (Or at least some corrupt members of the Companions). But the continuation seems to be even worse. Wow. Just wow.

    And to think I was actually planning to make a character whose primary motivation is to become the leader of the Thieves Guild… I guess my next character will be either an Imperial Legioner or a Nord Stormcloak after all.

    • X2Eliah says:

      Well that’s the thing, Skyrim’s Thieves Guild is not “Robin Hood guild”, unlike back in Oblivion. Imo.. that was one of the many things TG in Oblivion suffered for, the whole ‘noble thieves’ thing didn’t mesh well with me. But, yes, in Skyrim it is much more a ‘Thug guild’ than ‘Thieves guild’ :[

      • Factoid says:

        At least in Oblivion you pull off a major heist. Your entire quest chain is based around gathering up artifacts and putting the pieces together to make possible the greatest heist in Tamriel’s history.

        Along the way there is an antagonist to be dealt with, a couple of interesting surprises to be uncovered and a nice payoff at the end.

        In Skyrim what to you do? You rob some houses, you raid some tombs. You go through a dungeon to steal a couple of football-sized gems that are worth maybe a tenth of what you earned just getting to this point. And you have to sell your eternal soul to a Daedra for the privilege.

        Plus the plot was complete swiss cheese. How did nobody ever notice that Mercer had emptied out the vault? Do they never go in there? They made it sound as though he may have done it YEARS ago, but somehow nobody noticed because apparently the Thieves Guild, which is fallen on hard times, never opens its bank vault to pull out some petty cash.

    • Dys says:

      The thing about the extortion quest was that to me, it seemed like such an inelegant solution. People owe you money? You’re THIEVES! Take the money, it can’t be that hard. Oh, so it’s not about the money, it’s about respect? Then take the money and leave a note behind where the money was, explaining that you’ll take even more if people don’t realise where the power lies. Going around threatening people and breaking stuff? It’s amateur, and the thieves’ guild no matter what else it may be, should not be amateur.

      Common people should not fear thieves. If they do, you will never find any place safe to hide. It’s not about stealing from the rich because they’re morally suspect. It’s about stealing from the rich because they’re RICH. If you have to pay off some of the commoners to stay out of reach of the guards, so be it.

  10. guy says:

    Actually, Maven is pretty important. After the Legion seizes control of Riften she becomes Jarl.

    I haven’t progressed any further in the questline than this, and it sounds like it’s for the best.

    Opinions on the other three:

    The mage’s guild suffers from All-Knowing Jackass syndrome. The plot would be a hell of a lot shorter if EITHER of the All-Knowing Jackass characters just told us that the obvious spy was going to try to blow up the planet and we should put knives in his kidneys.

    The companion’s guild quests have questionable storytelling, but WEREWOLF!

    The Dark Brotherhood quests are completely awesome. Completely. You get to kill the Emperor. I will grant that it bugged me that somehow the White-Gold Concordiat managed to completely screw over the Dark Brotherhood for no clear reason.

    • Phoenix says:

      Actually I didn’t do the companions quest because you had to sell your soul becomin’ a werewolf or something like that. That’s true also for the thieves guild. I really don’t want to sell my soul to some daedra . So I didn’t ended those two storylines. But I’m archmage. Or so they say! :)

    • Hitch says:

      I didn’t start the thieves guild until after defeating Alduin and giving Riften to the Legion in the process (but before doing anything to resolve the civil war). so my world-saving Dovahkiin has a secret, covert meeting with the Jarl of Riften in a corridor in a seedy tavern and no one notices anything odd.

      I’ve only played as far as the end of today’s entry. Damn you, Shamus. Making me play more Skyrim.

  11. Abnaxis says:

    Did anyone besides me stumble on the TG quest by finding an unusual gem? I picked up an “unusual gem”, which led to looking into the TG for someone to tell me what it was worth.

    It still had its problems, but made a lot more sense than walking around and randomly being solicited…though I admittedly haven’t gotten far in the questions.

  12. Factoid says:

    Shamus I’m glad you’re writing about this. I thought I was the only one not singing Skyrim’s for every last detail. Most of the game is great. I’m having a blast playing it. But the quest lines are garbage.

    And it’s not just the Thieve’s guild quest. The Dark Brotherhood quest is just as awful. As is the Mage’s guild. They’re too short for one. They’re anticlimactic for another. All of them. Don’t even get me started on the pointless Companions.

    By far the best part of Skyrim so far has been the one-off quests. And there’s LOTS of them. I haven’t touched the main quest line beyond learning the full set of Unrelenting Force so I can’t speak to that yet. I also haven’t touched the Imperials vs Stormcloaks. I’m hoping that’s where they focused most of their attention because the guild quests are good for nothing except the awesome armor sets you get.

    • Phoenix says:

      The “batman set” doesn’t work well with tails of khajiit. I like the mantle :(

      I just killed the boss of the brotherhood when they tried to recruit me. They are lunatic bastards.

      • Reet says:

        Honestly, joining the DB didn’t really gell with my character at the time but I still went along with it because A) RPing in a bethesda RPG doesn’t work and B) Yay Dark Brotherhood funtimes! So my goodguy became a murdering dick.

      • Dovius says:

        I just love that there’s an option to kill Astrid and off the entire Brotherhood because they’re, well, a crazy bunch of psycho assassins, instead of being unable to do ANYTHING of meaning to them (Looking at you, oblivion).
        I join it every time, but still, it’s great having the option.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Dont worry,you arent the only one.Practically everyone who is playing skyrim knows that its full of crap,but that just gets ignored because the good stuff really is good.Heck,even the bugs mostly just make people laugh because this time around the game is stable.

      • Sumanai says:

        A friend of mine bought a horse for 1000 septims (most of his money). The first time he rode to somewhere on it, the second he jumped off its back, the horse ran straight down a cliff. Doesn’t sound funny to me.

        • acronix says:

          It will be once he can afford to buy horses daily, climb mountainsides with an angle of almost 90° and then proceed to drop his mount from ir. It won´t be too long before he gets at that point.

          • once you get sneaky enough just stealing the things becomes extremely viable – as long as nobody sees you mount it you don’t get a bounty, but it will still turn the stable staff hostile when you ride off.

          • Sumanai says:

            But it makes the commonly most annoying part of the beginning of a game more of a pain. Is it really worth it? Especially since the bug that caused the horse to run away was no doubt different than the one that allows climbing mountainsides at a steep angle. (I’m guessing the game thought the horse was stolen and sent it “back home”.)

            It should be noted that he seemed both annoyed and amused by it, and declared that he won’t be buying horses anytime soon.

    • Adam P says:

      I found the DB questline to be better executed than the TG. The TG is stupid through and through. The story is bad, the quests are bad, and the dungeons involved are bad; the only fun dungeons are at the end! The DB has a coherent story and the quests at least make sense. The dungeons are a sneak’s playground. The only stupid part about the DB is that there are only two good side contracts and they are at the end of that line.

  13. Dasick says:

    Regarding the TG initiation:

    How would you have handled it? I mean, they’re essentially the mob. You just can’t hand in a resume and wait 5-10 business days. It makes sense for someone to approach you, presumably because they’ve heard about you.

    • Factoid says:

      In my opinion every town should have some kind of low level fence that any person can use whether they’re a guild member or not.

      Selling a certain amount of stolen goods at these places is what should get you “noticed”.

      • Kdansky says:

        And boy would it be great if you could get “noticed” by the guards too, because they are actually being informed by the fence, at least in one town.

        Yeah, getting ahead of myself here. That would mean a non-static world, would it?

        • Dasick says:

          I know it’s the wrong attitude to take on this blog, but I’ve always looked at Skyrim/Oblivion as raw, community developed projects. Therefore, it has always been my goal to take what is already there, give it a nice shape, and fulfil the team’s goal of “live another life in another world”.

          An e-pal of mine is working on a “dark brotherhood enhanced” mod for Oblivion (can google if interested), where the focus is to “enhance” the guild, and make it less static.

          So any ideas that result in non-static game world are awesome :)

        • Phoenix says:

          In my opinion a living world requires a different approach. And engine, probably. It’s a risky option that seldom is taken.

          • Dasick says:

            Not really. Say what you want about AI in Bethesda games, it was MADE to create emergent gameplay. If you read their dev diaries (you like lies and blatant self-promotion, no?), Radiant AI was created because they wanted the NPCs to naturally do things they did in Morrowind quests.

            And if you cram their Radiant Story system with generic situations instead of using it to generate quests, you can end up with some pretty awesome behaviours, especially when they start to overlap.

            • Phoenix says:

              o_O Well maybe they want people to give more the feel of emulation than simulation, ie living smart world vs static dumb world.

              If you belive what they say, there are also a lot of upcoming mmorpg’s that give a lot of freedom. Sadly is mostly self-promotion.

              I met few games which choose freedom and gameplay complexity/richness instead of story. And in truth if you go deep with freedom you won’t need a story, you’ll made one playing. Maybe no cinematics, few-to-no dialogs. But still it will be exactly, or mostly, your way, not some preodinated path.

              Imagine a living skyrim. You can really do what you want. There’s a real economy and people really live there. You can build. You can even try to make a new town. I wonder if a game like that would sell. Dwarf fortress had a lot of freedom (but I hate the interface). Mount & blade too wasn’t bad, even if limited in many ways. Sometimes rpg’s try to simulate the feel of freedom. Certain old console rpg’s for example let you build a village and put your friends on it. Hinterland too was funny: you make a town and explore the surroundings, but that’s all you do. Unfortunately they didn’t do a sequel. But then again, probably most people prefer simulation.

              • Kdansky says:

                It would sell like booze, or better, because minors are not prevented from buying it. DF is hugely popular despite an interface that makes it feel more like torture than game. Minecraft is popular, despite being very simple. Why? Because people care about building stuff. Let’s see if the Skyrim mod community can whip up something.

      • James Schend says:

        They already do! The Khajit caravan merchants are fences.

        Am I the only one who noticed that?

        • Dys says:

          No. But the Khajit are very unreliable. There’s one caravan and I don’t know how many cities, so your chances of finding it are limited at best. I’m not sure if the merchant ever actually says he’ll buy stolen items either. Given the fact they’re barely distinguished from the rest of the stuff you’re carrying it’s often easy to miss.

          There are a lot of fences in weird places all over Skyrim, but none of them are what I’d call useful.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well,one way to get to them is if you rob a special type of jewel.Now if this was expanded to any,or most of the stolen goods you obtain,it wouldve been much better.

  14. Eldiran says:

    While we’re on the subject of questlines, are there any that are especially good? So far I’m hearing good things about the Dark Brotherhood questline, but that’s about it… I’m on my 43598th character, and this time I’ve vowed to do some sort of quests. Eventually. When I get around to it. But in the meantime I wouldn’t mind suggestions on what questlines are best to tackle. Anyone got any?

    • acronix says:

      Depends if you want plot or gear. If you want gear, the Thieves Guilds gives a nice light armor, and the College gives some outstanding robes. The comanions let you transform into a werewolf, whose lunge attack is godly against minor foes, and any humanoid if you can manage to avoid death (you are very squishy). I think they also give you some heavy armor or something, but I never bothered with finishing the quest line.

      If you want story, I don´t remember any right now. At least, not any that is “you should go get it right now”-inducing.

      • Eldiran says:

        Mostly looking for plot, though I definitely admit that I’ve joined the College with every character just to get some spells. And being a werewolf is pretty dang sweet too. Maybe I’ll go check out the Thieves’ Guild and see if I can’t just rob them of the quest reward :p

        • acronix says:

          Only way to get it (I mean the Nithingale armor, not the generic “thieves guild” one) is to complete the quest line up to a certain point. After that, you can run to the hills and never come back.

          There´s also the armor they give you once you become guild master, but that requires to complete the whole thing (and I think it gets bugged if you don´t do a lot of the “random burglary” quests they can give you).

        • Aldowyn says:

          Oh, and the companions gives you a pretty decent melee weapon for early levels, if you go do that. And it doesn’t take much, like one or two missions from the very first town.

  15. Ysen says:

    I found the Thieves’ Guild through the unusual gems, but it made even less sense that way. See, I happened to the Archmage of Winterhold. There is an unusual gem in the Archmage’s quarters. Like everything else there, it is considered my property.

    So as I walked into Riften to search for a jeweler, I got the idiotic line about how I’m clearly a thief and have never worked an honest job, which is especially ludicrous in my case because as mentioned I am the Archmage and wearing my official robes at the time. Then I go ask about the unusual gems… and get told “There’s no way you would have one of those unless you are a thiefy thief who thieves! But you need to advance further in the Thieves’ Guild before I’ll give you any more info.”

    This makes no freaking sense.

    As mentioned, one of the stones is in the Archmage’s quarters. It’s mine legally. There are also several in dungeons which the player can acquire legally. And what about the ones that belong to NPCs? Is every NPC that owns one a thief? What if someone bought one from one of those NPCs?

    It’s the same problem as the other introduction to the TG – there’s no actual reason to believe you’re a thief just because you have one of these gems. It’s as though the Thieves’ Guild are all crazy stalkers who claim everything is evidence that you’re a thief and should totally join their little club, because they desperately want to hang out with you. I feel like if I actually joined I’d find them hurriedly putting up a “Thieves’ Guild” sign with the paint still wet and putting some card tables together for their ‘headquarters’, then trying to pretend they’d been a proper guild all along.

    Also, you should be able to challenge the guy who approaches you to a round of fisticuffs for impugning your good name. I’m playing a Khajiit and reeeeaaaally wanted an option to get massively offended at his apparent assumption that all Khajiit everywhere are thieves.

    • Aulayan says:

      But…Aren’t they?

    • acronix says:

      What´s more: the jewel is a quest item and thus you cannot drop it. You can´t even put it on your nighttable for showing.

    • Dys says:

      All the gems are considered yours. At least, as far as I know, none of them have the Stolen flag, regardless of where they are.

      • Bentusi16 says:

        Just as a side, which may explain something: The jewels were pried from the crown that Queen Beranziah was buried with. Meaning that by definition they are stolen, as someone grave robbed them. They are magical in nature and not many people would know what they are, but if say a patriotic Dark Elf ran across one their might be issues.

        I’m not saying it’s a perfect reason, but if no HONEST jewelers can identify it, it makes sense that you would have to sell it to the thieves guild, because who else would have the contacts to keep that quiet and not have a bunch of Dunmer heavies show up to take back Berenziahs crown jewels.

        • Ysen says:

          It might make some sense that you have to sell it to the Thieves’ Guild to get a proper price, but it still makes no sense to assume you’re a thief merely because you found one of them. Especially since the only way you can find out they were stolen in the first place is to talk to the Thieves’ Guild guy. If nobody knows what the gems are, then it’s reasonable to assume a law-abiding citizen could come into possession of one without knowing it was stolen, yes?

          Also, if they are identifiable enough that Dunmer heavies are going to be all over anyone who buys one, what’s stopping someone from saying “Oh that’s one of the stolen jewels from Barenziah’s crown, you should really hand that back to the Dunmer”? Or, for that matter, why aren’t there already hordes of angry Dunmer assaulting the NPCs who own unusual gems (and, in some cases, display them publicly)? Why isn’t there an alternate quest path where you run into a patriotic Dunmer and help her return all the gems?

  16. Aulayan says:

    Overall, I will say this about the questlines. They are too few. Some are padded with “Do Radiant Quest for this person” But that doesn’t help.

    I would rather there be three or more questlines PER Guild, each one getting bigger and more important. Maybe you can sprinkle foreshadowing through the earlier ones to the end one. (For instance, maybe the mages guild has you find MacGuffin early, and then you do other stuff, while the Big Mages try to figure out the thing only to come up empty later on).

    But alas, that won’t happen.

  17. Lesquille says:

    The Thieves Guild in Elder Scrolls games has always been too easy to find and join. In Morrowind, there’s a few NPCs who outright ask you if you’d like to join when you first meet them. In Oblivion its a bit better, with you getting contacted by them only if you get caught stealing. (although, why would they want to recruit thieves who get caught? That means they’re bad thieves) In Skyrim, you get told that Riften is the home of the Thieves Guild before you even walk through the gates. And it’s no wonder the guild has fallen on hard times when they wear uniforms that guards can recognize on sight as thieves guild armour.

    It should be much harder to find and join what is supposed to be a hidden society.

    • Kdansky says:

      I suppose the reasoning is “if we make it hard to find, people will miss it”, but what the devs don’t realize: If the search is interesting, then that is more than worth it, and on second play-through, you can just walk in, because you know where the secret HQ actually is.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        It is hard for the developer to spend hours making something,only for the players not to notice it.Thats why they usually resort to cutscenes and railroading in a sandbox game.

        • Bentusi16 says:

          Ever play EYE Divine Cybermancy? The game was that all over, and there are still achievements that have yet ot be unlocked by ANY player because they are so impossible to figure out/notice.

          • Irridium says:

            EYE is a… special game, that’s for sure. It reminds me of Deus Ex, but the general mood of the whole thing I get from it is “we just don’t give a fuck, do whatever”.

            First time hacking I failed, and the door I was hacking hacked me back.

            Honestly, I have no damn idea what I’m doing in that game. Don’t have much grasp on the story (two factions of the same group fighting each other? Something about betreying your mentor I think? I don’t know). And yet, it is really fun to play. Of course, it has barely a tutorial, and craploads of menues to sift through. Damn-near no handholding at all, been a while since I played a game like this. Kind if nice, having to figure things out for myself.

    • Aldowyn says:

      I usually found the thieves’ guild in Oblivion by bribing a beggar. Or just showing up at midnight.

  18. Adam P says:

    I had some major issues with the Honningbrew quest. We’re given orders to find the books on the place, plant some poison, and then frame Sabjorn.

    I was having trouble getting through the cave connecting the two buildings, so I had the brilliant idea of trying to just go through the front door. Mallus said that the door is locked up pretty tight and that it is nigh impossible to break in, giving the illusion that it is possible. Maybe it’s an expert or master level lock! Nope, it’s locked with a key, and there are no other ways in despite how easy it is to get onto the roof and look into the windows.

    So then I thought, “well, Sabjorn must have the key on him, otherwise he’s locked himself out.” I look in his pockets, and what do I see? No key, of course!

    Through the tunnels, then. Maybe I could steal the papers first? Nope! The desk is locked by a key that Sabjorn also doesn’t even have on his person.

    Worst railroading I had ever seen. How dare a thief character come up with thief-like solutions to solve the problem!

  19. Stranger says:

    . . . wow. Just, wow.

    At this point I wonder if Morrowind made sense at all or if I was in strict denial with blinders on.

  20. Jethro says:

    I’m still confused by the picture of the ‘distillery’. Is it a distillery, or a brewery? It looks like someone just lit fires under the fermentation tanks with the assumption that it’d turn them into distillation vessels. Mead is almost never distilled down to liqueur levels anyhow- particularly in ancient times when that would price it out of pretty much everyone’s reach. Mead is, by and large, a fermented drink; and anyhow, that picture doesn’t show any distillation equipment. Am I missing something?

  21. Doctor Satan says:

    wall o’ text incoming

    i didn’t the quest-lines in skyrim that much.

    the mages guild ql felt like bethesda didn’t think beforehand. just because the player is doing the mages guild ql doesn’t mean he ain’t going to use his sword.(soln:- maybe the dungeons had a negative effect on uses of swords? like it didn’t affect the enemies in the dungeons or better yet it helped the enemies so the player would be forced to use magicka. also if that mana draining had been time dependant instead of locatn dependant.)

    the civil war ql was pathetic(imo). here was bethesda with a great chance to let the player make some hard choices and they squandered it. i played on the stormcloak side once and all i did was conquer small towns. no decision. no surprise attacks by the enemy, nothing. just kill some dudes. also why couldn’t i kill the usurper and take the throne? that would have been epic. then the map in ulfric’s room would become a RTS minigame. also, why wasn’t this ql more intertwined with the main ql? this ql is the 2nd most important ql and yet it is treated like dirt… george martins game of throne is how i like my medieval king war bussiness

    the main quest was too short + dragonrend is stupid and too powerful. my level 7 character defeated alduin. i was hoping for an epic plot twist and was left hoping. maybe the blades were dragons cursed into protecting the kings or whatever it is they do( by maybe alduin:”you, blades, my enemies. i curse you. may you never be able control people. may you die protecting the ones who hate the most”<- something like that)
    and now that alduin was defeated the curse was lifted and they attacked skyrim? maybe paarthanux(<-wtf name) was the real alduin and the other one was just an illusion? i dont know, i am not a writer. but i was expecting epicness…..

    didnt play the TG ql. just started the DB and companions ql. lets see how they go.

    but these shortcoming havent stopped me from logging atleast 60 hours in the game in just a week(9 days tbe). damn you bethesda! and damn you skyrim!
    dont flame me. i’m not a writer. just giving my opinion.

    • Aldowyn says:

      You killed Alduin at 7? Umm. That doesn’t sound easy at all.

      Dragonrend isn’t supposed to disable them, is it? I thought most of the time they could still do all the things they normally do when they land, like breath attacks and melee?

      • Dys says:

        The levelling system likely ensures that he’s killable at any level. I’m more impressed by the ability to get to that point in the game without having aquired more than seven levels of experience. Let me think.. intro – riverwood – dragonstone – first dragon – greybeards – horn – kynesgrove – thalmor party – ratway – sky haven – greybeards – paarthurnax – college – septimus signus – alftand – BLACKREACH – tower – Alduin on the throat of the world – dragonsreach – treaty – Odahviing – skuldafn – sovngarde and finally Alduin.

        You did all that without gaining more than six levels? You’re either a liar or a special kind of genius.

        I had to actually look up the second half of that lot, been so long since I did it.

        • Shamus says:

          I would love to know more about this. I’ve been doing a low-level play through, where I avoid taking levels in ANYTHING I don’t plan to use directly. If I accidentally read a skillbook that I don’t need, I reload the game. My thinking is that the game is “balanced” (scoff) under certain assumptions. “At level 10, you ought to be able to deal X DPS and survive about Y DPS.” If you go into town for the first time and level a ton of speech, alchemy, smithing, and enchanting, you could easily ding level 14 without increasing a single combat skill. Your gear might be a little better than average, but you’re still going to have the DPS of a level 2 character. You’ll be facing level 14 guys, and it will be HARD until your skills can catch up.

          So my goal was to level combat skills FIRST, and only get into crafting and other support skills once I had combat skills in the 60′s. I tried to keep my level as low as possible for as long as possible.

          This turned out to be really hard. I couldn’t even get through Black Falls Barrow without hitting level 6 or so. I was playing with sneak + archery. Maybe it’s easier to keep the leveling slow with (say) melee.

          • Doctor Satan says:

            there is a way.
            1) use tmm 1. so u dont wander around.
            2) dont kill unnecessary crap.
            3) rush thru the main quest.
            also if you’ll notice they arent many fights in the main quest. and u always have companions. let them ‘help’ you. :)
            if u want ill give u my save game. just hope i doesnt screw up your game.

          • Aldowyn says:

            Sneak levels unnaturally fast when that’s all you use. My sneaky character is leveling up faster than my warrior, using sneak, archery, one-handed, light armor, and smithing. Not even alchemy or pickpocketing.

            Which is weird, because I think that’s actually LESS skills than my warrior used, and the more skills you use consistently the faster you level up (because leveling up is based on number of skill increases, which get harder to get as you level up the skill)

  22. N/A says:

    As a complete sidenote…

    Shamus, I am that weird Phedre’s Boy fellow who sent you a friend request on Steam, as part of an apparently-foolish plan to send you a Christmas present. Please enable my desire to spend money on people I don’t know :<

  23. Moriarty says:

    Actually you are making two wrong assumptions here.

    The guy who recruits you into the thieves guild actually has different opening dialogue, unfortunately it’s tied to the amount of gold you’re carrying instead of the amount of stolen stuff you’re carrying around.

    Also, Maven comes up a couple times after the first quests. If I remember corrrectly she becomes the jarl if the legion invade riften and she’s present at the party the thalmer throw in the main quest line.

    • Aldowyn says:

      I find it remarkably interesting that both the legion and the stormcloaks each put at least one total scumbag in power after they take over the city. Maven in Riften, and … Throngar? Silver-blood in Markarth. (Assuming all silver-bloods are scumbags)

  24. James Schend says:

    > It’s also odd because you can’t steal for a living until you join the guild, because you have no way to unload stolen goods.

    Not true; Khajit caravans are fences.

    … it’s kind of hard to keep reading when your first point is factually wrong.

    • Shamus says:

      Good to know, thanks.

      That’s actually really nice. I hated that you HAD to join the TG in Oblivion just to unload the occasional stolen bauble.

      • James Schend says:

        Well it’s admittedly easy to miss. But when you think about it, it makes sense because the caravans, being completely outside the cities, have no idea which items could be stolen and which could not.

        What surprises me is that so many people in these comments also didn’t notice they were fences… I feel like I’m the only one!

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “But when you think about it, it makes sense because the caravans, being completely outside the cities, have no idea which items could be stolen and which could not.”

          Sure,but logically,no one should know if the apple you are trying to sell them is stolen or not.Or a blank piece of paper.In fact,how can people from one city know what was stolen in another city?Thats why I hate the stolen flag.It should either not exist,or be location and/or item specific.But seeing how it does exist and is so broad and stupid,logic is not something I use when playing this game.

        • acronix says:

          That´s because the khajit caravans are hard to spot and you only hear from them from one random npc in Whiterun. Beyond that, they move constantly and don´t stop much time in any city, not taking into account they reside in the entrances so if you fast travel you will miss them most of the time.

        • Phoenix says:

          I didn’t know about the khajit. But I’m doing a marauder/looter more than a thief. In fact I stoled very few items, and pratically I never pickpocket. I never needed money in this game because I looted everything for a long time. Only at lvl 20-30 I started to loot only items of 100+ value, and now that I’m 53 only 200+.

          Also some other peolpe fence, like the dark elf in the shop in windhelm and the seller in winterhold college, but you have to do a quest for them.

          • acronix says:

            53? Didn´t you mean 43? I thought the max level was 50, for some reason.

            • Ringwraith says:

              It’s soft-capped at 50, so it gets incredibly difficult to level beyond that point. The max level is somewhat higher, but of course requires every skill at 100 to reach.

              • AyeGill says:

                Max level is 81

                Also phoenix you should loot stuff based on value per unit of weight, not just value. It’s more useful to pick up a bunch of golden rings than one ebony warhammer, since the warhammer is heavy as shit, and the equivalent value in golden rings would weigh almost nothing

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Its best to loot trainers though,since you give them a ton of gold,and gold is both easy to steal and gives a bunch of xp.

                  • AyeGill says:

                    Some people have been talking about getting faendal as a companion, training archery, then taking back your gold. I just pickpocketed it back and leveled up pickpocket in addition to archery.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      He is much better used for lockpicking though.Get him as a companion,give him the key to his house,pick the lock,let him lock it,pick it again,let him lock it again,…

                • Phoenix says:

                  Yeah I know, I did that very, very roughly till lvl 20. I’m too lazy to do better, besides I got the npc and the horse for that (the horse allows to fast travel even if you’re burdened).

              • Actually only the enemy level scaling is capped at 50, there’s no restrictions on the player past that point. My first character went up to level 65 before I got bored and rolled a new one. It’s only harder because as you level up you require more skills to continue levelling.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      They are??Huh,I never knew.

    • rrgg says:

      Funny thing, even without joining the guild all the merchants worked as fences when I tried to sell them stuff.

    • Ranneko says:

      Really? Because one of the last quests in the Thieves Guild (the ones that aren’t for Mercer/Karliah) Deliver Moon Sugar to Ri’saad is to get the Kajiit to become fences.

      Could be that it just raises their gold cap, since restoring the guild to glory gives you fences in 5 non-Riften locations and gives all TG fences 4000 gold.

      My biggest huh? moment came after completing the final main thieves guild quest, you are told part way through the quest that at the end of it you would become guildmaster. You don’t, there is no ceremony and no one reacts to you being the guild master. To become guild master you also have to do the side jobs that raise the guild to its former glory. Which require you doing a whole pile of the radiant quests from Vex and Devlin. This means that you also can actually have to steal to become guildmaster. Some of the radiant quests are just steal item X, or Y value of items from a city.

    • CalDazar says:

      To be honest I’m a little sad that is the case. Khajit are called Sonoma dealers and thieves, it sounds unfair and they are treated harshly. I want to feel sorry for them but they buy and sell stolen goods plus moon suger/skooma!

  25. Dys says:

    So glad it is the thieves that came under the spotlight. I can forgive almost anything else in Skyrim, but these quests literally had me on the verge of trashing my room. The whole lot are filled with such horrible, blatant railroading that I genuinely wish they didn’t exist.

    That aside, the forsworn quest in Markarth, I imagine that’s the one that has you unavoidably arrested at the end, for something you had nothing to do with? Well, I say unavoidably, but the only character I did that quest with was my warrior. I refused to be arrested and killed all of the guards. When I went outside, I still had the bounty because… I don’t exactly know… so all the guards out there attacked me too. I killed them as well. That character has something close to 1,000 armour and cannot be taken down by pathetic city militia. Now he has a bounty of several hundred thousand, and every time I go to Markarth for any reason, I slaughter all of the guards first, and then get on with whatever I came for.

    • Phoenix says:

      I tried to kill every guard and the jarl too the first time, discovering they were immortal. Unfortunately there isn’t freedom in this game or probably I would be the new jarl of markarth.

    • Aldowyn says:

      I’m pretty sure that armor caps somewhere in the 500s. Just saying.

      • Dys says:

        Caps, as in the effect no longer increases? The numerical value certainly goes way past 500.

        Just looked it up, apparently there is an 80% reduction cap which kicks in at 567 displayed. That I was unaware of, and it’s as stupid as the pickpocketing capping at 90%. At the very least the scale should be non linear above a certain %, but just removing any additional bonus is stupid.

        • Shamus says:

          Capping pickpocketing at 90% just ruined it for me. That, and the fact that the feeble old woman you’re robbing will try and murder you with her bare hands the moment she catches you, along with every other single person in town.

          Really? The master pickpocket of the world is still going to fail 1 out of 10 times at stealing the easiest item from a sleeping mark?

          And don’t talk to me about “realism”. At higher levels, this game lets you steal the clothes that people are wearing. “Realism” was never part of the design here. This was done for gameplay purposes, and it was a bad decision. It just encourages a lot of save-scumming. (Since getting caught means surrendering and losing EVERYTHING you’ve stolen so far. Without save-scumming, you’d never get anywhere with pickpocketing.)

    • Yeah, you get framed for a guy’s murder and thrown in Cidhna mine, which it will take about 5 minutes to escape from, at which point you get your bounty removed. You don’t get the jailbreak achievement for doing this sadly.

  26. Wild Goose says:

    Very sorry, this is going to be a bit long-ish.

    Regards stealing for a living… I actually was doing that, though more of “Stealing for survival” – I tended to steal food and potions, and pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down, then ruthlessly discard weapons and armor for better gear, and keep the foodstuffs. A PC’s gotta eat, no? ;)

    Regarding the whole Honningbrew mess… Firstly, IMO you’re approaching the businesses from the wrong perspective. Honningbrew and Blackbriar are not BK and McD’s; rather, both are essentially sole traders – the owner and the business are one legal entity: the owner receives all profits and is subject to unlimited liability for all losses and debts. Thus, as the owner of Honningbrew, Sabjorn faces unlimited liability for the bad mead that’s been served to the Captain of the Guard.

    (I’d also chime in for a moment that from a medical perspective, tainted foodstuffs would be considered more dangerous than serial killers because of how far the contamination can spread. Consider that Sabjorn is trying to expand outside of Whiterun to all Skyrim, and perhaps Tamriel.)

    So, as the owner of Honningbrew, Sabjorn is thus hauled off to jail by the very pissed off Captain, and Honningbrew ceded to Mallus. I’ll admit that the law’s a bit weak on this, but one may argue that Sabjorn is being liable for his crimes by rotting in jail, and as the meadery represents an important economic fixture in Whiterun, it needs to stay open, so the Captain devolves control to Mallus. (And more cynically, an open meadery means the Captain’s weekly gift continues. No, this is not canon. It’s a brainstorm.)

    Mallus then draws up the plans for turning Honningbrew from a proprietorship into a partnership with Black-Briar Meadery; he’s now the man with power of attorney over the meadery. I’ll admit it’s still a bit weak, but it’s sufficiently plausible; note that corporations and such only really happened in the Industrial Revolution, which hasn’t hit Skyrim yet.

    (As for those who are suggesting entering the boiler room through the front door… you want to attempt to pick a lock in broad daylight, in view of neighbouring farmers and patrolling guards, who will see someone trying to force entry into a locked building. Right. That’s stealthy, I suppose.)

    Also, timing the time taken to drop the poison into the boiler, clear the skeevers and get back to the bar, it’s just enough time in-game for Sabjorn to hurriedly clean up the mess and grab a fresh cask of mead from the boilery after you’ve tainted it, and he’s in such a rush he doesn’t taste it first – the impression given by the scene is that the Captain has juust arrived and Sabjorn is trying to stall.

    (Honesty compels me to admit that I rolled my eyes when I saw that, but decided to just go with the flow… and try and steal all 234 bottles of mead that I could get my hands on.)

    Now, with regard to the mystery group – my interpretation of what Mercer was saying was that he was impressed by their resources. While not being able to put pressure financially on Maven, as their plans were thwarted, this group was rich enough to buy Goldenglow and provide mercs to the original owner, and rich enough to get in bed (figuratively) with Sabjorn. While their objectives were thwarted by the PC, their resources are substantial, which is what impresses Mercer – to him they came out of the blue, with no warning, when normally to amass such wealth would take time and usually there would be some rumors.

    Also, as interpreted by Mercer, the aim of the unknown group is not to break into the mead business – that’s purely incidental. What it aims to do is to drive a wedge between TG and Maven by making all of this happen under the noses of both parties, thus giving Maven the impression that TG is incompetent. (Which is a discussion for a whole other day. Do note, however, that Maven does not seem to hold TG in high regard.)

    The mead is just a means to an end – what mercer worries (rightly, IMO) is that if this group keeps showing up TG, Maven may cut ties with them and hire the new group instead, which would effectively kill TG.

    As for Delvin, he’s easily my favorite TG charecter. I like what he says about the state of the Thieves’ Guild(Some paraphrasing): “We’re all under a curse. That’s why life sucks so much. So what do we do? We spit in its face. Every chance we get, we do jobs and screw that curse over with hard work!”

  27. Goliathvv says:

    Actually, the whole city of Riften is a goddamn mess… It’s full of boring fetch quests and the feeling I have is that the city was rushed so the game could be released on 11/11/11.

  28. Will says:

    Love the site but sometimes you get so nit-picky about plot. From your description it sounds like a very typical example of extortion and racketeering, which is novel for video game. I like to see games branch out. The rest seems like reasonable concessions to game play.

    I’ll explain.

    RPGs have an abundance of NPCs who will tell you their life story and send you on a quest. It sometimes doesn’t make sense but it lets the player find out about the world and gives them quests to do. Since setting and quests are staples of the genre this is a good thing. Being approached by the head of a crime syndicate, as a stranger, and asked to join is a good example.

    As for the part about assuming you are a criminal, it seems like he is selling you a line. The idea that the biggest criminal in the city lies about knowing your a criminal shouldn’t be surprising. I haven’t played this part yet, but I’m willing to bet that there is an option to tell him he’s wrong and walk off.

    The mead thing sounds like extortion and racketeering. This is a story that tends to repeat itself through out history. It turns out that breaking into houses and taking things outright angers people and get can you imprisoned or killed. Instead, once you get organized you can fix some prices, limit supplies and skim a little bit off the the top. It’s steady income, raises less trouble and only occasionally requires you to bring the hammer down when someone steps out of line.

    It sounds like someone stepped out of line. A supplier is no longer playing ball, a new competitor has opened and an old enemy is behind it all, so the “legitimate businessmen” send you in to put things right. It sounds right to me, and again, novel.

    The mead teleport seems like a substitute for the passage of time. They could have faded to black and advanced the clock a few hours, but it seems just as good to me (having not played it). They could have added some more time passage and exposition for the transfer of the brewery, but then again according to some of your commenters there are explanations in the game that you didn’t bother to read.

    In the past I’ve heard you rip apart something and then gone on to play it, and not find your problems at all. It’s probably the case again.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats not due to Shamus nitpicking,which he isnt(well,not much),but due to you having higher tolerance for bullshit.And I get that.I didnt mind asscreed 2 being stupid,because Ive liked the game a lot.I noticed some of the crap,but not nearly as much as they did in spoiler warning.Of course,it also depends on the game as well,seeing how Ive noticed far more things in mass effect 2,and hated the game for it,despite me defending some of its stupid things(like the human reaper).In the end,if the game(same goes for movies,books,music,etc)suits you,you can justify most,if not all of its stupidity.

      • Will says:

        Yeah, kinda.

        Story is pretty low down the list of priorities for me. But finding out I can be a corrupt mob enforcer makes me want to play this more.

        Speaking of the human reaver in ME2, I’ll agree that it made no sense in terms of the ME2 world. But it also reminded me of the Necrons taking people to feed to their their C’tan gods (Warhammer 40k) which would make sense. So I figuratively loaded up my bolter and went out to save the Imperium, and I had a great time doing it, even though I thought the ME2 was a poorly paced linear slog for the most part.

        Also does anyone think that Biotics are anything other than an thin excuse to have wizards in a sci-fi setting? As someone that likes wizards I support it either way.

        So yeah, different priorities. Maybe I’ll just lurk on the site till we get back to programming. In the mean time I need to get out my tommy gun and protect the mob’s liquor interests in Chicago. And by tommy gun I mean longsword, by liqour I mean mead, and by Chicago I mean Skyrim.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          See,I easily explained the human reaper as it being the core of the vessel we saw earlier as a mature reaper.It looks humanoid because theyve used human dna.And theyve used dna because its the way they reproduce,because they need living tissue that can mutate,otherwise they would stagnate as a race,and that is bad.However,it being suspended by glass tubing was really idiotic.But before Ive reached that part,I already was extremely disappointed(and angry)by everything else in the main storyline,so it didnt matter whether I could accept it or not.

          • Because as we all know DNA can and should be used to sculpt metal into something with three eyes. As opposed to blueprints, or some kind of standard, highly efficient design that already exists.

            Abducted humans could have just been used to flavour the AI running the thing, but no – gotta make a terminator.

            What I’m saying is no, there’s really no excuse that can justify it more than partially.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Well of course dna doesnt work that way in reality,but mass effect is not reality.Lots of shit can be excused in a story if it is only internally consistent.What really pissed me off about 2 is that it contradicts a plethora of things established in 1,and twists the characters so much,just so they could fit into this brain dead story.Plus the incredible stupidities of the dlcs.

        • Aldowyn says:

          My issue with what I’ve heard about the TG quests is just that. It’s the Thieves’ guild, not the Fantasy Mob. I want to STEAL STUFF. After Oblivion, that’s a huge let down…

    • Bentusi16 says:

      I agree with most of what your saying, and to add my own thoughts here, the thieves guild in this game acts more like a mafia style organized crime group.

      While I agree with mister Young on the actual introduction to the thieves guild, where Brynolf (who is a pretty nice guy) approaches you out of nowhere and tries to make you a thief. But then the guild is on the skids and you are the Dragonborn. This may be a silly thing to say, but you are literally marked for greatness. The world really does revolve around you. And now that I think of it I’m not sure how I feel about that.

      Also, Bryn is not the head of the guild. He’s the public face and the second in command and part of his job is looking for recruits to help the guild out.

      The thing is, Maven Blickbriar is single handily propping the thieves guild up, and they are essentially her own personal thug force. They have been on bad times since the death of the former guild leader, and they have withered down to this position. They aren’t really their own organization. They are Mavens.

      And no, maven herself is a bit petty, and a bit of a crank, and I wanted to stab her the minute she opened her mouth, but this is NO WAY makes her less of a political power. She owns Jarls adviser, and the Jarl is totally reliant on her; she controls nearly every business in town; and she is working to take over large-scale mead production in the country. The problem is that from your position, her power is so far removed from your concerns you’re never going to see it personally, unless they have a quest line where you go in and sabotage her stuff. You’re a tool to get the job done to her, and while she could treat her employees nicer, she’s treating you like she does anyone else who’s just another cog in her machine, and a low-ranking cog at that.

      As for the brewery quest…to paraphrase homer simpson: “Rat poison is people poison!?”. The captain of the guard was not simply given bad mead; he was given mead that gave him all the symptoms of having been poisoned, on top of an obvious rat problem. While I may not have grown up in these societies, from the rest of the game, if the guards say your guilty, you’re bloody guilty. And the captain is pissed. Rather then having to send a guard out to watch the place, he hands it over to the assistant until they can get it all sorted out while he goes to puke his guts out. Now if I were Maven, I would have already set up something so that eventually it becomes a new black briar meadery. Which she has. But YOU don’t see anything about that because your just a low level thug.

  29. rrgg says:

    You also skipped the worst part of joining the theives guild. As part of the main quest you are sent to riften to find someone and delphine even suggests that you go to brinjolf for help, but of course he won’t give you informention until you do a bunch of illegal things for him to join the guild and then. . . He still doesn’t give information. Fortunately my first character tabbed out of his first conversation and got info from the inkeeper like you are supposed to in RPGs.

  30. rrgg says:

    I actually have fond memories of the markarth quest, although given that ragequit twice at first my reccollection might be skewed due to how elated I was when I found that prisoner spoiler didn’t actually have plot armor.

    Actually I don’t think that bodes well for the game as a whole if I am willing to gladly do the same sidequest on every subsequent playthrough and ignore all the plotholes simply because I get to kill someone I want to for a change.

  31. Jeff says:

    I didn’t think that ownership of the brewery was actually transferred. The owner pissed off the captain of the guard (3rd in command of the Hold?) in a place without any notion of civil rights or due process, getting himself imprisoned for life. This placed the remaining staff member in charge by default, and said new-manager then makes a business decision.

    You can’t claim in the intro that you’re being denied due process or civil rights because you’re being executed just for being caught with Bin Laden, and then complain that in another story-line the NPC has no civil rights or due process!

  32. Mike Lemmer says:

    My biggest problem with the Thieves’ Guild is that you can’t drive it out of town.

    You enter Riften, first person you meet is Mjoll, a repentant mercenary trying to clean up a corrupt town. She’s trying to be a one-woman force for good in a city where even the guards are corrupt. She’s the most sympathetic character in the city. And yet there’s no questline to help her destroy the Thieves’ Guild, humiliate Maven, and clean up the city. You can’t even go down the Ragged Flagon and kill every person in there because half of them are essential!

    I’d rather have a good Nordic Noir questline like that, than be forced to keep the Thieves’ Guild questline open.

  33. AyeGill says:

    I was totally sure you were gonna picked the College of Winterhold questline here. The thieves’ guild questline had some major issues, but the College of Winterhold was so mindbogglingly stupid i almost smashed my keyboard when i had to do it to get the final Dragon Priest Mask

  34. Skyrim is amusing, you can become the guild master of the fighter..erm companion guild, mage guild, thieves guild ass…brotherhood guild, a werewolf (immune to vampirism), head of a cannibal cult, and possibly a few other cults.

    Then there are all the Deadric lords/ladies/gods, how many are there…like almost 10 that you can become the “The Champion” for? And add to that, the fact you are (if you play long enough) a highly skilled warrior/archer/thief/assasin/whatever hybrid.

    And on top of that a Dovahkiin who is (eventually) the most powerful dragonshout capable person since the first dragons.

    The player character is thus so powerful that he/she/it could easily summon a giant army of assassins/thiefs/warriors/mages/whatever and probably a few dragons on your side as well as various other cults and a bunch of Deadric gods/cults on your side, and a bunch of people of Skyrim.

    You could rain down hell on the land, take all of Tamriel if you choose too, stormcloaks or legions would be no threat at all, and the big game endboss would just be an annoying fly you would swat aside, or force to submit to you even. (now that would be cool)

    But even with all this power you are still treated like your a gnat oddly enough.

    One would think that at some point the time would come when you say took an apple from a stall and the guy/gal tending the stall runs to the guard “Hey, arrest him he took an apple from my stall”

    “Guard: don’t worry I’ll take care of h….um…you might want to forget that apple lady…” “why?” “Guard: That’s the Dovahkiin, I would be dead before I even reached my sword, he could turn me into ash without even looking at me, or turn this entire town into rubble with one word of his voice, best let him be m’lady.”

    “Besides he freed our lands, and if he desires an apple or anything else he has certainly earned that right manyfold!”

    But alas that is not what you get is it? Maybe with another year or so development time they could have reach that level of player character recognition.

    Alternatively wouldn’t it be much more awesome if Skyrim has been more “on rails” than it is.
    By that I mean you play through the game as the Dovahkiin, but you can not become the head of the various guilds, but you do cross paths with them many times and their mysterious leaders, whom you end up helping and they end up helping you as well.

    And when you get to let’s say the next “chapter”, you get a “meanwhile somewhere else in Skyrim…” screen and are brought to the character creation screen, but you are not able to be the Dovahkiin, but instead a mage or a thief or warrior or assassin (matching the guilds).

    Eventually that character reaches the end of the chapter, and it’s back to the Dovahkiin for another chapter then back to char creation, only this time you only have 3 character types rather than 4.
    Reach the next chapter and back to dovahkiin, end of that chapter then char creation but only 2 char types.

    Until the last jumparound where you can not choose a char type during character creation, play that char to the end of the chapter, then back to Dovahkiin.

    Depending on where/what the Dovahkiin is doing from here on, at each “chapter” it may vary which of the other chars the story cuts too, and whether it cuts to several of the other chars in a row or if it cuts back to the dovahkiin each time or not.

    At various times you may cross paths with the other character, and it is possible for one character to “do” some of the quests of the others.
    And how well you played and leveled and quested the other characters may benefit you during the “endgame” battle(s) where the dovahkiin would be joined by your other characters whom will tear up the battleground and deal with any annoyances so you can focus on the big bad.

    Oh and during the “personal” quests of the other characters they have the chance of becoming the guildmaster of whatever class type they are.

    Afterward the final battle you part ways. Though I assume some players might want to marry one of their “alt” chars, they would not have much interesting to say (if you’ve seen how a npc that is married to the player reacts, then it would be similar to that).
    After the “final” battle/end of the main questline for the dovahkiin you can now switch characters when you want, and even have one of the other characters as a companion while doing various world quests.

    Something like that however would probably have taken 3 more years to do, unless it was you know planned from the start.
    But who knows, there is always The Elder Scrolls VI so it might happen.
    And we never know what BioWare might do with Dragon Age III (it would certainly fit with the origins concept of theirs).

    • Jeff says:

      There is kind of a player recognition in play. If they like you enough, then they let you take things up to a certain value. The more they like you, the higher the value of items you can pocket without it being considered stealing.

  35. rofltehcat says:

    Hm… bad to hear this. I really liked the Thieves’ guild quest line in Oblivion. A few things there didn’t make that much sense there either but this here really sounds like a mess.

  36. Dwip says:

    I’m not sure anybody has made these precise points yet, so allow me to be contrarian.

    - I really liked the TG quests for the most part, and think they and the DB are the two best questlines in the game. Haven’t done the College yet, but if you want to pick on a questline, the Companions are ripe. What is it with Bethesda and making the FG questlines suck so much?

    - Want to really pick on something? How about the pervasive railroading in every quest ever? Even Oblivion wasn’t this bad at it, and coming after Fallout 3, it’s kind of sad.

    But as to the Thieves’ Guild.

    - The main annoying thing to me about the Brynjolf in the market bit is that it’s the game attempting to force railroad you into the TG, and you’re not getting through here during the MQ without this bit. It’s not quite as bad as the forced railroading into the College of Winterhold later, but it’s still aggravating.

    That said, yeah, it’s pretty screwy. Squinted at sideways later on, you can kind of shoehorn it in as part of the “the current TG is incompetent losers” plot point, and I don’t know if I have a better way to do it offhand (would it be better if he just flat out tried to recruit you for his job, skipping the weird “you never worked a day in your life” thing? Dunno), but nevertheless.

    - The main problem I had with Goldenglow Estate is that for my fairly low-level guy (7ish, IIRC), this place was WTFOMGDIEDIEDIE levels of hard, and directly contradicted the TG’s “don’t kill people!” edict straight out the gate (there’s at least one guy you pretty much have to murder), and in fact most of the mainline TG missions straight up involve murdering people.

    Plotwise, though? I’m pretty much cool with it. At this point you are, let us recall, working for an organization that is so down on its luck, so masterfully incompetent that the only way they’re able to survive (not thrive, to be sure) [i]in Riften of all places[/i], is to get in good with Maven. So it doesn’t particularly trouble me that your first big job is going to be to do shady work more or less for Maven.

    It’s also better than the Oblivion model of “steal some random crap from that one dude’s house”, but I digress. Point is, they did something different here, and I like that.

    Speaking of which, I’m pretty annoyed at the various Radiant thievery quests and how you have to do like 20-40 of them to become GM, but I do like the fact that they varied them up a lot. But I continue to digress.

    - I really got a lot out of Maven as a character, but then I took the time to really dig into it. In my mind, she really does cast a pretty long shadow over Riften. YMMV. Insofar as the bulk of the remaining TG missions revolve around the TG becoming more and more effective and breaking away from being Maven’s group of petty thugs, I’m even ok with dropping her, though a more elegant solution could have been found.

    - Yeah, Honningbrew Meadery is pretty whack, although it’s a pretty fun quest. I’m more or less ok with the “And now we’re giving it to the henchman and forging some documents offscreen” idea, but this is a little odd, I will agree.

    - The Gulum-Ei quest was pretty annoying, gameplay-wise (Skyrim has a really bad habit of just throwing a dungeon crawl at you when in doubt, even if it doesn’t entirely make sense. Also, considering how hollow that rock under Solitude is, how has the city not fallen down? I digress…again), but ok, the plot reveal works.

    - The part that seems to be missing from the analysis here, aside from your seemingly inflated belief of the TG’s competence, is that Karliah’s plan to undermine the TG wasn’t designed to actually work (why would she undermine her own group?), Karliah’s plan to undermine the TG was designed to be just enough of a problem to get Mercer to figure out it was her, and guess what – it worked. Was it the best plan? Maybe not, but her popping up in the Ratway cistern and being all “Hey! Been a while! What’s up, guys!” would have been super lame.

    But I imagine we’ll get to that part. Suffice it to say I’m relatively comfortable with what’s gone down up to this point.

  37. Joush says:

    The worst part of Winterhold is the 5 different trainers and vendors that scatter across 5 different zones separated by loading screens. It got to the point where I’d just go in the middle of the night when you could get them all out of bed to sell me things.

    It is awful at the one thing it’s supposed to be: A place to train and learn magic.

  38. LobsterEntropy says:

    For me, the worst piece of writing has to be the serial killer quest in Windhelm (“Blood on the Ice”). Despite almost immediately obtaining the journal of the killer, I had no way to tell/show/accuse anyone until the end of the quest, at which point my only choice is to arrest an innocent man. It was so frustrating to possess this piece of evidence that would immediately end the quest line but had no choice but to follow through Bethesda’s half-hearted playacting. After the innocent guy was arrested, I followed him to the cells and opened his door for him, but he just stood there.

    I guess justice is wasted on these people.

    Edit: I think the only way to solve the quest properly is to go to the innocent guy and accuse him of his crime, which you are not told to do (nor does it make any sense)

  39. A Person says:

    Grammatical nitpick in the 1st paragraph.

    Third sentence reads: “This is a major part of Skyrim and a lot of environments, characters, and cutscenes are dedicated it”

    I assume you mean “are dedicated TO it” and also to end the sentence with the customary period.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled battle of “People who love Skyrim and think anyone who doesn’t love everything about it is both biased and an idiot!” vs. “People who thing everything sucks always and the fact that you like it makes it suck more somehow!”

  40. SougoXIII says:

    One thing I hate about the TG’s quest line is that the reveal about Nocturnal made all of them look incompetent.

    Seriously? Luck? That’s what they were missing all those time? We supposedly have a collection of pickpockets, burglars & thieves in all of Skyrim brought down to their knees because their lucks have ran out?

    Furthermore, when I first talk to the ghost of the former Guildmaster, I remember telling him that ‘We should rely on our skills and not luck.’ To which he reply: ‘I absolutely agree with you but luck is what separate us from common criminal.’ First of all, didn’t he just essentially contradict himself and secondly judging how the guild was about to fall apart when you join, I’ll say luck play a freaking huge part.

    Sorry if this is spoilers for anybody, I do not know how to do a spoiler tag.

    • acronix says:

      Yes, the whole “we ran out of luck” thing is stupid. I guess the writers were thinking that Nocturne gave them some sort of awesome luck powers, but the way they handled it makes it look like she INDEED gave them some awesome luck powers since they suck without them. Or, alternatively, Nocturne´s blessing just made them so lazy over time they couldn´t get back to work properly.

      • The implication is that without the skeleton key opening the portal to the Evergloam, luck can’t enter into the world properly, so how is it that the Dovahkiin can become the greatest thief in Skyrim, good enough to strip people naked while standing in front of them, but the thieves guild can’t deal with a few bad debts.

        In fact shouldn’t everyone be unlucky, not just the thieves’ guild? I mean the entire country’s in turmoil, that might even be the case. So does that mean returning the skeleton key just saved the world from the horrible destructive path it’s been on for like 200 years?

  41. JPH says:

    Markarth… Urgh. Is that the one where you get taken to Cidhna Mine? If so, then yeah, easily the worst questline in the game.

    That whole “Escape from Cidhna Mine” thing was severely disappointing. I was expecting a chain of quests involving trickery, killing, sneaking, and whatever else in order to escape (with some possible alternative involving lots of murder or magic if you’re not a thief build), but instead you walk right in and then walk right out again.

    It wouldn’t have been so disappointing if they hadn’t spent the entire time hyping it up with “Nobody escapes from Cidhna Mine. NOBODY.”

  42. Wild Goose says:

    To be fair, the Gods and Daedra seem quite involved in Skyrim. Think of Nocturnal’s luck as being an active effect for all thieves that buffs Pickpocket and Sneak. And Delvin, at least, doesn’t believe in luck – he believes in spitting in the curse’s face and rebuilding the guild through hard work.

  43. thebigJ_A says:

    The owner of Goldenglow is supposed to be securely in the Thieves’ Guild’s pocket. The Guild is already weak, and Maven is their only major backer. They are already on thin ice, and it wouldn’t take much to convince someone like Maven she doesn’t need to keep them around anymore.

    Goldenglow is stocked with guards, so it’s not like they weren’t prepared. If the sale goes through, the Guild shows it can’t keep one measly business owner under control, and Maven stops protecting it. Either the remaining guild members turn on Mercer, in which case he’s on his own, and they’d be more likely to hear Karliah out, or the guild just collapses, again, Mercer’s on his own.

    As for Honningbrew, you can’t look at it in isolation. Assuming Goldenglow had worked out, Karliah has handled the threat like she said in the note. The Thieves Guild failing to squelch a rival company gives Maven more reason to dump them. Karliah’s goal is to make Mercer seem incompetent so he loses support and is vulnerable. Looked at in that light, I don’t see a problem with the questline so far (I do see some further in, like the 25 years thing, but not all that much).

    I took the guard’s threat to lock him up forever as an angry reaction. Besides, it’s not like there’s no corruption in Skyrim. And why wouldn’t he turn it over to the next guy in line? He didn’t say he was closing the place down. He was just arresting the guy he thought tried to poison him. And Sabjorn was too confused to even know what was going on, let alone point fingers.

    • Seems like the Skyrim writers managed to draw you in.
      Issue here is that Shamus instead got drawn out of the world of Skyrim by the same writing.

      Myself I’m able to suspend disbelief or immerse myself quite well if a game has:
      1. Good voice acting
      2. Good voice acting (a mediocre game can end up great)
      3. Good voice acting (did I mention how important good voice acting is?)

      And please bare in mind that good voice acting is not the same as having a good voice actor.
      For good voice acting you need:
      1. Assuming good audio gear is available you need a good audio technician.
      2. Good writer(s)
      3. Good director (yes. voice actors need directions)
      4. Trust the voice actor enough to let them adlib or change a few things so they get the right “feel”.
      5. Tying into 1, good audio levels, there is no point if the voices are drowned out by music and sound effect, why does nobody use smooth ducking when dialog is spoken? Leave ducking a optional checkmark in the settings at the very least.

      Anyway, Skyrim has good voice acting, the director seem competent, audio is good technically (minus the loudness issue… optional ducking would fix this), so what does that leave us?
      Certainly the Lore is not the issue, and not the writing in general. (some of the books you find are brilliant, and most of them are amusing or interesting regardless).
      So what is the issue that make you (thebigJ_A) and Shamus see things so differently?

      You might be more tolerant, and Shamus is more critical, that much is obvious, and not really the issue either.
      The issue is that Skyrim has so many missed opportunities where sometimes just a tiny change could lift the narrative up even higher, and sometimes the potential for truly epic narrative is there but remains a missed opportunity.

      • Aldowyn says:

        Skyrim is much, much better than Oblivion.

        It’s still not the best. There’s just so…. many …. characters. And somewhere something mentioned that you’re not likely to see VAs talking to themselves… yet it happens right after helgen if you follow ralof. There’s still a main male nord VA who gets a LOT of time :D

  44. Bren says:

    Something I noticed when running through the quest chain. When talking to Brynwolf the first time, certain options reveal that he was the one who set up the visitor tax scam, and he noticed that you easily recognized it was a scam. This is still pretty bad writing, but it does justify why he came up to you.

    Sorry if someone already made this comment, I really do not want to read through every one of the 300 comments.

  45. CalDazar says:

    I dislike the Skyrim thief guild, more so when I look at how the oblivion one ran. Sure it was silly but the jobs were interesting and I didn’t feel like a thug.

  46. Wild Goose says:

    One more note about Maven and the thieves’ guild – poking around the Jarl’s palace, talking to the Jarl and reading Anuriel’s documents indicates that the Jarl is vaguely aware of the existence of the Thieves’ Guild, and is trusting Maven to sort things out, saying she’s one of the city’s most respectable citizens.

    Also, Maven appears to have a significant hold over the Jarl; she gets the Jarl to compensate her for the loss of two mead shipments by threatening to move the meadery out of Riften; with the way the Jarl gives in so quickly, this suggests that Maven’s businesses are pretty much essential to Riften.

    Look, I’m not going to claim the game is perfect – it’s not. But I’ve been playing it since the day after release, continuously, with a break for Christmas and Boxing Day. No other game has engaged my interest for so long.

    It’s not perfect, but it’s fun, and when you’re having fun and are being entertained, you can forgive much.

  47. Greg says:

    How long has it been the case that if you forget to enter an email address wordpress deletes the entire comment in order to tell you that you forgot that? I’ve been lurking a while, but I don’t remember that being the case.

    Well screw the detaied comment, but I still want to say thanks for the twenty-five years thing, I missed that during the game, made me smile :)

  48. ACman says:

    I haven’t done this quest but I stopped demanding that the stories behind the quests in Skyrim make sense after the Forsworn Conspiracy.

    The FSC is irritating, railroading and stupid. What initially seemed like a gripping deep plot of slavery and rebellion forced me down a single almost linear path with one major choice at the end.

    I eventually decided to use console commands to sneak into Cidhna Mine (This making more sense to me than getting arrested; I don’t know why the developers decided to make the prison door a plot door.) and assassinate the imprisoned forsworn leader.

    I then had to deal with a plot-armoured evil douchebag of a mine owner the other option being freeing the forsworn leader leading to many deaths as they escaped.

    This led to many questions in my mind. Why couldn’t I team up with the forsworn and kill the mine owner initially? Why couldn’t I confront the mine owner with how his treatment of the workers was acting as a recruiting tool for the forsworn. Why couldn’t I team up with the mine owners and spy on the forsworn for them. Why couldn’t I expose Nepos the Nose as being a Forsworn spy? Why couldn’t I take all the evidence that you can accumulate through the course of this quest show it to the Jarl in the hopes that he’d clamp down on the the Silverbloods.

    This would obviously be quite complicated to put together code wise. It seems that Bethesda cannot handle stories more complicated than “dungeon dive to get x , give x to z”.

    The world created is very pretty and but it only has the illusion of depth. Try to push that depth too hard and it acts like an old time Hollywood Western set and falls over revealing it to be the facade that it is.

  49. Dev Null says:

    Yeah ok, so its the least of reasons to be annoyed at this storyline, but:

    He pulled a fresh batch of mead from the vat and never saw fit to taste it himself first?

    When you pull mead from a vat, you put it in casks or bottles to age for _at least_ a year before drinking it – usually more like 10 years, for the good stuff. Straight out of the fermenter it tastes terrible.

    (Edit: By which I mean that its silly for him to be serving it at all, not that its silly for him not to taste it, in case that wasn’t clear.)

  50. wererogue says:

    “I’m sent to Goldenglow Estate, a bee farm.”

    SOLD

  51. [...] and indeed I’ve already said some of it. Some of it has been said for me, for instance in Shamus Young’s takedown of the Thieves’ Guild quests, which after a promising start became too intolerable for me to bother completing. Uneven writing [...]

  52. NastyNate says:

    “Brynjolf walks up to me, a total stranger, and says, “You’ve never worked a day in your life for all that coin you’re carrying around.” This is a really screwy thing to say to an adventurer. (I imagine running over mountains and fighting through tombs is pretty labor-intensive.) I guess he’s supposed to be insinuating that I’m naturally a thief, but he says this to the player regardless of what gear they have or how much money they’ve got. It’s also odd because you can’t steal for a living until you join the guild, because you have no way to unload stolen goods. He’s implying you’re a thief, when by definition you can’t be one yet. So no matter who you are, he’s flat-out wrong. It’s also odd to be approached to join the Thieves Guild. I get that the guild has fallen on hard times, but this still feels awkward.”

    I’ve played this through multiple times, and Brynjolf doesn’t say the same thing every time. If you are poor he makes a comment on how broke you are, and has totally different dialogue. Please don’t make blind assumptions and then rant about your blind assumptions, thanks.

  53. frank the dunmer says:

    This guy is missing one major point… You don’t mess with a nord’s mead.

  54. Phidelity says:

    I was so disappointed with the Thieves Guild’s illogical quest line that I Googled to see if anyone else felt the same or it was just me:

    “thieves guild storyline illogical”

    And your article was the first result. Reading it, especially because of your entertaining writing style, was very satisfying. Thanks.

  55. [...] Guild questline as his example. The long series starts here, and is well worth a read: Thieves’ Guild Part 1. As of this moment, he’s up to five chapters, with absolutely oodles of analysis more focused [...]

2 Trackbacks

  1. By The Alduin/Dagon Dichotomy » Ludonarratology on January 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    [...] and indeed I’ve already said some of it. Some of it has been said for me, for instance in Shamus Young’s takedown of the Thieves’ Guild quests, which after a promising start became too intolerable for me to bother completing. Uneven writing [...]

  2. [...] Guild questline as his example. The long series starts here, and is well worth a read: Thieves’ Guild Part 1. As of this moment, he’s up to five chapters, with absolutely oodles of analysis more focused [...]

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