Skyrim Thieves Guild Part 5

  By Shamus   Dec 30, 2011   307 comments

skyrim_trio.jpg

We’re here in this ruin with Karliah and Brynjolf to kill Mercer. Now, we’re all members of the Thieves Guild. In fact, we’re all members of the Nightingales, the secret cult within the Thieves Guild. You would think that if anyone is ready for some sneaking around, it would be these two. But you would be wrong. You would be so wrong. You should be embarassed at how wrong you’d be. Here is how a fight goes:

I, striking from the shadows, drop a foe with a single arrow. The other foes in the area notice this, and begin searching for me. If I were on my own, I would slink away and hit them again from another vantage point, until they were all dead. With the Nightingales in tow, things work a bit differently. As soon as foes begin looking for me, these two idiots start screaming combat taunts, running out into the open and starting a huge melee. This attracts every foe in the room. They block my shots until they run out of hitpoints and go down. (They take a knee. They’re actually immortal.) The foes then abandon them and make a beeline for me, thus forcing my squishy, stealth-focused character into this huge clusterfarg of a battle. Assuming I manage to survive, Karliah and Brynjolf then stand up and spout a couple of triumphant taunts.

This is a move right out of the Leroy Jenkins playbook. (More of a pamphlet, really. It only has one play.) It is completely mystifying to me that the designers would saddle you with these two morons for this extended dungeon crawl. They ruin the atmosphere, they ruin the gameplay, and they’re a constant reminder that the quest I’m on makes no damn sense.

Their one saving grace is that they are just as stupid and clumsy as Mercer, and you can lead them into traps to amuse yourself.

Come on guys. Just a little closer. Remember: Pain is just comedy leaving the body.
Come on guys. Just a little closer. Remember: Pain is just comedy leaving the body.

We reach the final chamber and the game has the nerve to grab my camera for a cutscene. It stands me up and forces me to listen to the other characters yatter on while I’m prevented from taking any action. Mercer uses his powers to make Brynjolf attack Karliah. So after babysitting these two idiots through the entire complex, they’re out of the fight. This is a shame, because this is the only fight where they might be useful.

Now, the game hasn’t really pulled the player out of stealth. Although, it’s perfectly understandable for the player to think this is the case, since your foe is looking at you and talking to you. By reflex I hit the crouch button as soon as the conversation ended, which caused me to stop sneaking, since the conversation hadn’t actually outed me. This camera-grab is sloppy and frustrating, but I don’t have time to dwell on all the reasons this is bad from a game design perspective. Let’s just move on.

skyrim_frey.jpg

The room we’re in is collapsing. Karliah mentioned something earlier about how Mercer’s power is causing this place to become unstable. It’s not clear if he’s doing this on purpose, or how it could possibly benefit him, or where this power is coming from. Is it some secret power held by the Skeleton Key? Is this an innate power that the key unlocked? Who cares! Camera shaking means tension and excitement!

Karliah and Brynjolf loop through some canned messages while they fight, and Mercer brings out his well-worn collection of combat taunts. It is, I have to say, very chatty in here. Anyway, Mercer bites it and I grab the skeleton key and the Eyes of the Falmer so we can leave. Mercer’s earthquakes cause a tunnel to collapse and the chamber to flood. This would be a cool sequence if this entire setup wasn’t so humiliatingly contrived and absurd.

We make our escape. Outside, Karliah tells me that it’s time to take the skeleton key back to Nocturnal. She can’t do it, because she’s afraid to face Nocturnal again after her failure. Thank goodness. Maybe Nocturnal will pay me for babysitting these two.

So I’m sent to a new ruin. Inside the door I meet the ghost of Gallus.

Greetings, mortal. Did you bring a deck of cards? Maybe a book or something? I seem to have a lot of time on my hands in here.
Greetings, mortal. Did you bring a deck of cards? Maybe a book or something? I seem to have a lot of time on my hands in here.

Yeah. In case you thought that whole, “Serve her in death” business was just hyperbole. We’re apparently doomed to spend eternity locked in the dusty old tomb. Sadly, the other Nightingale ghosts have all gone insane and will attack me on sight. So, I might end up spending eternity locked in a tomb and insane. This deal with Noctural is the most expensive nothing I’ve ever bought.

I get to the end of the dungeon, stick the Skeleton Key back in its proper Skeleton Lock, and Nocturnal shows up to blather at me. She’s so smug she should challenge Reaver to an eye-rolling contest.

skyrim_temple2.jpg

I look to one side and I see…

skyrim_temple3.jpg

Gah! Karliah? You specifically said you couldn’t face Nocturnal, and now you magically appear at the end for no reason?!? Can this questline go for more than ten minutes without contradicting itself?

Karliah ends the questline by talking about how the guild is restored and there are pockets just brimming with coin out there. There are valuables, ripe for the taking! Let’s go be thieves!

Pffft. Why start now? Hey genius, how about we start with tracking down the seven treasure chests of loot that Mercer swiped? No? You forgot about those didn’t you? Oh well. Have fun picking pockets. Loser.

I get it. This last quest is supposed to be ironic, because we’re returning something instead of stealing it. Except, it fails at this because none of my other quests ever had anything to do with stealing valuable items. I extorted money with vandalism and threats of violence as part of my initiation. I stole a document (and committed arson) at Goldenglow Estates. I perpetrated fraud and food poisoning at Honningbrew Meadery. I attempted the murder of Karliah. I made a copy of some intellectual property by making the rubbing of the translation guide. You might think that the Eyes of the Falmer count, but that wasn’t a heist. Those were in a ruin. If that’s theft, then Indiana Jones is the biggest cat burglar in history. Theft was never, ever a theme of these quests, so one more quest of non-theft isn’t ironic at all. It’s just more non-Thief crap for me to do. You had idiot berzerker companions with you for the two set-piece dungeons, so the missions barely involved sneaking.

Let’s recap:

Mercer stole the Skeleton key, which allowed him to rob the guild. Then he hung around and ran the guild diligently for twenty-five years. (Maybe he was stealing, but it was never enough for anyone to notice. Nobody ever complained about his leadership.) Then once they were (allegedly) broke, he cleaned them out and left. Isn’t the point of theft to get something for nothing? Why didn’t he rob the guild twenty-five years ago when they were supposedly flush with cash? Working for a quarter century seems like a pretty labor-intensive means of theft.

Gallus knew Mercer was stealing from the vault, but he never took action. He was the guild leader, yet he made no effort to expose Mercer. He knew Mercer had stolen the Skeleton Key, but he never told Karliah. We don’t know the details of what happened when Mercer killed Gallus, but if Gallus had just said something then Mercer’s entire plan would have failed.

Karliah was blamed for the murder and then did nothing for twenty-five years. She never tried to clear her name. Never checked on the temple she swore to protect. Never tried to recruit new Nightingales to replenish their ranks. When she did take action by going into the mead business, it was convoluted, expensive, doomed to failure, and ran counter to the goals of clearing her name. When she at last had the chance to capture her nemesis, she shot a stranger instead.

Brynjolf (and the rest of the guild) accepted the translation as irrefutable evidence that the guildmaster was the Bad Guy. Then they somehow failed to notice someone carrying off seven chests of loot that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

Nocturnal is a deity (or some sort of supernatural being) and doesn’t need to make sense that other characters do, but for the sake of completeness: She created an artifact and then formed a secret society to prevent anyone from using it. When she was betrayed, she didn’t bother telling her remaining follower. She never revoked the powers she gave Mercer after he took the key. Instead, she put a curse on a group of people who had never heard of the artifact, had nothing to do with its theft, didn’t benefit of its use, and who had no way of making it right.

The Player is railroaded into accepting this idiotic sequence of actions, is prevented from asking reasonable questions, and is forced to ask stupid ones. (Particularly at the beginning.)

You know what? I would tolerate all of this willfully stupid and lazy writing if the quests themselves worked thematically. In Oblivion, the Thieves Guild quest ended with a major heist of an item of supreme value from a well-guarded location. (You actually steal one of the Elder Scrolls, for which this franchise is named.) The Dark Brotherhood quests in Skyrim are a fun chain of assassinations, beginning with bottom-feeders and ending with a daring, audacious kill that will go down in Tamriel history. Along the way there are twists, turns, and betrayals. Sure, there are a few plot holes, but at least you’re playing the part of an assassin. The Thieves Guild quests are this muddled chain of gibberish actions that don’t follow any sort of logic and don’t have anything to do with sneaking and stealing.

The Thieves Guild quests were packed with cruft. The game had to explain property dealings, the structure of organized crime in Riften, mead brewing, the purpose of the Nightingales, the nature of Nocturnal, and the business with the Falmer language. The game would force-feed you a bunch of exposition, which usually was only important for one quest. (And was often illogical or self-contradictory.) Then instead of building on that established base, the game would bring out a new slate of plot elements that needed to be explained. This can work when the writer has a passion for world-building, foreshadowing, and a knack for misdirection and plot twists, but that is not the case here. This writer had no head for this sort of thing, and I don’t understand why they went to all this trouble.

None of this was necessary. We didn’t need the Thieves Guild quests to try and tell a convoluted tale. Once again, I’m not insisting that all games be Portal or Planescape Torment. (Although, a few MORE games like that would be nice. But I digress.) I don’t demand that every game have solid gold writing, or be long, complex tales with a huge cast of characters, deep imagery, profound ideas, and multiple twists. All I ask is that there’s enough story to give your actions context, and that the story (long or short) make sense. The Thieves Guild quests could easily have been a series of thefts, building up to a single audacious heist. Maybe throw in a betrayal at the end if you want to be really fancy.

Some parts of the missions were fun, but those moments happened when the story left me alone for a while. If all you want is a little shoot & loot, you’re better off just wandering around the wilderness, diving into random dungeons. If this quest had been a stand-alone game, I would have given it a Goldun Riter Awward in a heartbeat.

Bethesda, you can do better. The first half hour of this game proves it.


A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!7307 comments? What, did somebody start a flame war or something?


  1. Type_Variable says:

    I had the Skeleton Key in my hands, and was told that I must pass through Pilgrim’s Path to return it to the Twilight Sepulcher because it was locked off from me. At which point I cried out; “BUT I HAVE THE KEY. THE KEY YOU SAID UNLOCKS EVERYTHING!” Karliah talks to you earlier about the Key’s power to unlock everything, you even get a dialogue option to comment on the power of it, but being forced to use Pilgrim’s Path felt silly.

    That’s not to say Pilgrim’s path wasn’t a fun little dungeon. It was, until the last challenge where you fall down the hole – which implies that the only people who have ever finished the path are people who returned the Key. Seriously, according to the dead guy’s journal he couldn’t get through, and it’s not a matter of valor or intentions or Nocturnal wouldn’t have let Mercer join. Nocturnal even states that the Key gets stolen and returned like a cycle.

    Which then headspins when you remember Karliah said the uninitiated haven’t been in Nighingale HQ in over a century, and from our experience of the Pilgrim Path it’s likely Mercer and Gallus didn’t finish it, so the only option is that Bethesda has shown through the course of the TG questline to have no concept of time.

    • Gamer says:

      The best part. The player doesn’t have to return the key. All he/she has to do is leave the quest unfinished.

      • rofltehcat says:

        Don’t you dare! They’ll come after you and hunt you. In 25 years they’ll come and try to sabotage your business, fail miserably and make you even richer.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But why would you want to take it?

        • CTrees says:

          Well, until you hit 100 Lockpick, it’s kinda useful if you don’t want to pay any attention at all to that minigame.

          Sorta like a Ring of Freedom of Movement in 3.X D&D – it allows you to ignore an entire game mechanic.

          • Flo says:

            Even without 100 Lockpicking it’s quite useless, as you find gazillions of lockpicks lying around. More than enough the open all chests in Skyrim twice.

            • Anon says:

              Except when a lockpick breaks you lose your location. When it doesn’t you can just slightly adjust it every time. It’s a pretty overpowered lockpick booster really, plus you have the strongest sword in the game and the whole questline is easy.

        • Gamer says:

          And you (like me) could be role-playing as an incredible spiteful thief who hates stupidity.

          • Captain Pandabear says:

            It’s not like she has the power to hold you to the deal anyway. Mercer stole the key, died, and isn’t seen guarding so much as a sweetroll in Nocturnal’s shrine.

      • Vect says:

        That reminds me of how in Deadly Premonitions one of the quests requires you to retrieve a guitar for a character. Thing is, the Legendary Guitar Grecotch is the best melee weapon of the game and by not completing it you can one-shot of the enemies, turning combat from frustrating to a chore.

  2. Josh H says:

    The “fist half hour of the game”? Might want to that hyperlink at the end, unless I misunderstand and you’re using some kind of really obscure slang.

  3. Destrustor says:

    Sneaky-type characters don’t have to be frail and weak in battle. My dude has over 700 armor rating with his almost-full-suit of dragonscale armor and double-enchanted daggers, and if the enemy is especially though the “marked for death” shout does wonders. I can kill ancient dragons in five or six hits.
    The annoyance of Karliah and Brynyolf wasn’t much of a problem for me, as they are bethesda companions. With fallout NV (yes, obsidian, I know, whatev’s) and the rest of skyrim, I knew npc companions can’t sneak at all, so I went in there fully expecting their stupidity and barely bothering to sneak.

    • TrentB says:

      None of what you said isnt false, of course… but none of what you said goes any way toward countering or supporting Shamus’ argument.

      Actually, acknowledging that the NPCs are worse than useless goes some way toward supporting it… but uhm. Yeah.

      I DEDUCT THREE POINTS.

      • Piflik says:

        ‘None of what you said isn’t false’

        I deduct five points for the triple negative…and five more for not saying what you intended to say, which is ‘everything you said is true’, the opposite of your triple negative ;)

        • TrentB says:

          Hahaha! Owned!

          You know what I did? I edited the sentence into an incorrect triple negative whilst re-reading. I was like ‘is false? no no, i mean isnt false, because its true!’ but then completely forget about the first word of the sentence. Because I am a tremendous fool.

          I admit my failure and accept my punishment. =[

      • Destrustor says:

        Now that I’ve had time to think about it and formulate my thoughts better, what I meant is: The fact that they are forced companions that you can’t order around or dismiss is, in itself, infuriating me to no end. It actualy didn’t matter WHAT they did, I simply couldn’t hate them more.
        I have become de-sensitised to the idiot NPCs of these games, is what I was saying.

    • Gamer says:

      But that’s a problem. The Thieves’ Guild questline should assume that you play as a stealth character. Why the hell would they give you useless companions if they knew sneaking with them is nigh impossible?

      This could be applied to Mercer’s dumbass too.

      • rofltehcat says:

        It really makes no sense to have a quest line for the sneaky and thievish guild without any actual sneaking and thieving.
        Hell, I made Archmage in Oblivion without actually using any magic but at least the quests were about magic!

        • theLameBrain says:

          I can respect that they wanted to make the thieves guild open to non-sneaking characters. It doesn’t really fit the theme, but it shows that Bethesda is aware of the fact that people will go through and play all the guilds with a single character.

          I just wish they wouldn’t take the same approach with every NPC. I am with Shamus in my dissapointment that the “stealthy” NPCs just charge into battle the same way that Lydia would. It would make more sense for them to stay hidden and snipe the enemy.

          • roymacIII says:

            Meh, I don’t understand why that’s something to respected. In a game like this, I don’t expect every single quest to be available to every single character build. If you don’t have stealth and aren’t interested in stealing things, then you’ve no business in the thieve’s guild, and those quests shouldn’t be available to you.

            • Piflik says:

              Exactly…the biggest problem I have, is that I am not only allowed to do these questlines, I am nearly forced to do them, if I want to get shouts that are locked inside dungeons you cannot enter due to plot doors…my favourite shout, Slow Time, needs the beginning of the Civil War and the final mission of the Mages’ College to get to level 3…

    • Eric says:

      All your post did was highlight how colossally stupid it is that Skyrim lets you sneak around effectively in plate armour.

  4. And we didn’t even get to the part where you have to do like 20 miscellaneous guild quests in order to become guildmaster despite the fact they said you could once you’d gotten back at Mercer. Someone looked at this and went “Wait! we didn’t put in any stealing! What do we do? I know, make them do radiant quests!”

    • Dwip says:

      This is the part that really gets me – the radiant quests are disconnected from the plotline in all the guilds, and that’s a pretty unfortunate design decision all by itself (yes, 30 second long Companions questline, I mean you), but the TG looks for all the world like somebody said at the last minute “Hey, the radiant quests should matter!” and they did a hackjob on it.

      I mean, I know Bethesda knows (or knew) how to create a chain of quests, I know they know how to have quests require other quests as prerequisites (I spent years looking at this in detail in Oblivion), and it would have been fairly trivial to have some NPC say “Hey, I don’t think you’re ready for this next quest yet, why don’t you do a few more jobs for the guild first?”

      But no, instead I’m sitting here at the end of the main plotline, going “Why aren’t I guildmaster? Brynjolf said I was guildmaster! I don’t understand what’s going on!”

      And then you do this (at that point in your career) completely asinine set of pointless fetch quests for chump change. The actual capstone quests for each settlement are pretty cool, but the old “steal X septims” thing from Oblivion was a way better mechanic.

      Very, very puzzling design decisions here.

      • Gamer says:

        All they really had to do was allow for some intermissions where you do these radiant quests. The story would have flowed much better had they just said “Take a job or two and then we’ll get back to you.”

        The Companions did that at first. I don’t see why they didn’t here.

        But I have to admit, I liked those radiant quests for the Thieves’ Guild.

        • Piflik says:

          Exactly…just like in the Dark Brotherhood. You had these small jobs in between (or simultaneous later) and I never had the feeling that these quests were just padding…

        • psivamp says:

          I also liked the non-story Thieves Guild quests. Although it would have been nice to be a little more focused on doing jobs in new cities to get all of the capstone thieving jobs without putting in several hours doing redundant jobs or ten minutes at a stretch getting whined at for quitting useless jobs.

    • Gamer says:

      The other problem is that you can’t pick what city the quests are in, meaning that you could spend 10 minutes or so just accepting and quitting quests until you get the ones that you need.

      It happened to me and I know that it happened to others.

      • vukodlak says:

        It’s happening to me now, and it’s really putting me off playing the game. Idiotically, the scripted ‘influence’ quests in each city are actually pretty good fun. But forcing the player to wade through an unlimited number of Radient quests to get to each one is moronic.

        I am especially peeved as I actually took a bunch of radiant quests (20+) before I knew I had to take them – but only got the Whiterun influence quest. Now, at level 54, I am begging Delvin for jobs, hoping that he will give me one not in Riften or Whiterun. What a bizarre design decision. Collecting Nirnroots was more fun!

        • Destrustor says:

          Man, I had no idea about any of this.
          After the first time delvin sent me on a burglary job in a town I had already done, I just assumed these were random and served no other purpose than getting some cash. When I got to 50000+ gold, I just stopped doing these ’cause I thought I was wasting my time.

          And you know what? It sounds like a huge waste of time even now!
          They should at least have said something about these quests giving you more in the long run than pocket change. Nowhere is this mentioned.

      • tengokujin says:

        What sucks is when you accept/quit a sweep quest (from Vex). For some reason, when I accepted a sweep quest, it would immediately spawn the items I needed to steal. But when I quit, it wouldn’t despawn them. So, if a quest location repeated itself, more items would spawn over their previous, obsolete selves. In some places, these were 5 deep. I had to go into console to remove the ones I couldn’t pick up, because they weren’t supposed to be there. >.<

        • vukodlak says:

          Oh. Oh dear. That’s not good. I’ve been accepting and then cancelling these quests by the busload. That means there are dozens of non-interactive golden urns out there in the world somewhere…

        • guy says:

          Odd, I distinctly recall finding quest targets for theives guild quests I never accepted. I figured there were a bunch of preconstructed targets you could go for.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Why did you guys wait until after the main thief quest was over to do those?

      I got to the guild, they were like, “these are the people you talk to for thief-work, this is your fence, here’s your armor.” So, I took some thief-work. I’m there to make money, after all, and that’s how you make money in the guild.

      The story quests felt like this other thing, this over-arching problem that needed to be figured out, but I didn’t stop doing my normal work. I’m a thief, it’s what I’m there for!

      Even when those side-jobs began to get old, I’d get one of the special ones, that unlocks a city for the guild (those are the real fun), or gets the Khajiit to fence, or whatever. By the time I got to the end of the story line, I’d done everything needed to become leader.

      It’s not the game’s fault if you ignore the flashing neon sign that says “Go Here To Steal Stuff!!”

      • Gamer says:

        The problem is twofold:

        1.) It’s not immediately obvious that doing those side-quests is required to advance in the guild.

        2.) The questline itself doesn’t really give you any breather room to do them. As soon as you finish one quest, they are ready to hurry you off on another.

      • Because I was already fabulously wealthy and didn’t need the extra cash. I went in going “let’s do the thieves guild questline” then saw the radiant quests and I was like “well, OK, if I get bored I guess I’ll give them a go”

    • Wes1180 says:

      When I finished the thieves guild quests and wasn’t made the head I assumed that the game had glitched and did not even consider that I needed to do about 20 of these unlimited quests, so I opened the console and put in the command to start the quest to become the head.

  5. Dwip says:

    “fist half hour”, eh?

    If anything, your recap of the confront Mercer quest made things clearer than when I was actually playing. Stuff was happening with Karliah and Brynjolf? I had no idea. I walked in, Mercer said some forgettable crap, I shot him in the face with an arrow, suddenly, flooding. The flooding was (sort of) cool, except for the eye-rolling “Hey, I bet it’s going to make us almost drown, then some rocks fall and…”

    *rocks fall at this point, opening a tunnel*

    “…Really?”

    Bad overly cinematic writing aside (a pretense of letting me find a way out? No? We can’t have player agency? Ok then), the worst part for me was the complete anticlimax of yet another Dwemer ruin. I like Dwemer ruins, but I just got done raiding like 6,458 of them. Part of the attraction of the Thieves’ Guild has always been going to new and interesting places with new and interesting people and stealing their stuff. The Eyes of the Falmer would have made a cool non-TG side quest, but as a climax to the TG, it falls so flat it actually makes a dent.

    I don’t even remember Nocturnal’s little maze. Tomb architecture, I think? Who even knows. By that point I’d raided a hundred or more of the things, and they’re essentially interchangable. In some ways it’s even worse than the Dwemer ruin.

    On the other hand, my Karliah and Brynjolf performed flawlessly, doing everything precisely as I wanted them to. Freak coincidence? Am I now locked in some sort of AI Stockholm syndrome? Dunno, but my experiences with the AI as a rogue were actually pretty positive, with all three companions.

    • Indy says:

      As an Argonian, the flooding and drowning did nothing to me. I sat by Mercer’s body and just waited until I could see a door.

      The Pilgrims’ Path was a fun sneaking dungeon. The lights hurt you, the trip wires were silhouetted at the top of the stair case if you were crouched but not when standing. Turning off the lights to open a door made sense to me but jumping into the well seemed like the ultimate mistake. I loaded a save before the animation because I thought I was stuck.

    • Zagzag says:

      I too am in the position of having had Brynjolf and Karliah perform perfectly. I was actually impressed at their AI, and how much better they were than Mercer…

    • tengokujin says:

      Heh. I ignored all my AI companions. “They’re more or less immortal. They don’t need a babysitter to make sure they make it through the night. And besides, they’ll spawn nearby if their path is blocked sufficiently and they’re set to follow.” Since I was essentially an one-hit killer, it’s not like they could even mess up my groove :p

    • Dev Null says:

      Rocks fall, nobody dies?

      Thats not right.

  6. TrentB says:

    Ugh. So glad I didn’t buy this game, for a variety of reasons. I honestly don’t even think I’ll get it when its cheap.

    God dammit.

    • Sucal says:

      Considering your likely just posting here to try and look cool with your ‘I’m not going to buy this incredibly fun and time consuming game’ rant, I almost feel like this is a waste of a reply. Then I realised that no one else has replied yet so meh.

      You do realise that Shamus has said this is about one quest line, out of about five to six major, and I don’t know how many minor ones right.

      • TrentB says:

        =|

        Hello, friend! Hope your day is going well.

        Listen. I don’t need to look cool on the internet.

        Fun is subjective. Time consuming is not. I have different priorities to you. Waste is also subjective. <3

        Also, an important part of my comment (that I added specifically after re-reading) was "for a variety of reasons".
        I'm not saying "THATS IT! Im not buying this game because of the foolish Thief Quests!"… Im saying "I'm glad I didn't buy this, because the things I dont like about it seem to permeate the entire game".

        Please be more positive! I think its important to remember that the way you interact with people online can have a profound effect on their happiness. I'm fine, other people might get upset.

        Love you! T.

        Also: You’re.

    • empty_other says:

      Because of one quest?
      Despite many hundred hours of other quests?
      Despite many miles of free-roaming beautiful terrain to explore?

      Did you take an arrow to the knee? ;)

    • Gamer says:

      It’s still very much worth it despite this one bad questline.

    • TrentB says:

      Hello, All!

      Thanks for your input! I understand that I am probably in the minority here… It’s just not the game for me.

      I have a whole pile of reasons that I could passionately rant at you, but obviously you guys like the game so thats not going to achieve anything.

      The main thing is that it was rushed, as many games are nowadays. I don’t like that someone, probably towards the top of the companies involved, doesn’t respect his/her customers enough to spend the time (and money) to release a well made game.. which is a shame considering the investment of people and funds.

      For a recent example of the opposite, see Bastion.

      <3

      • Simon Buchan says:

        Probably the reason why people are responding (on this site at least) is less because you don’t like a game they do, but because the reasons you’ve stated don’t make much sense – for example, “rushed”: Skyrim’s been worked on for like 6 years and has a ludicrous amount of content, rivaling many MMOs, so it has good reason to be unpolished in many areas (though of course I would prefer it didn’t).

        Now if you want to say something like “I don’t really have the time to sink into a 70-300 hour game when I have Bastion, Batman, Saint’s Row, Dead Island, LA Noire, Space Marine and/or X3 to finish” *then* you have a (really) good reason. And I’ve seen enough people say they didn’t really enjoy Skyrim to know you might not either. (Though enough *other* people say they thought they would hate it, but ended up loving and buying it after playing someone else’s copy or whatever to say you should be wary of assuming you will hate it)

        Of course, I just don’t like to let bad arguments stand unopposed (insert obligitory XKCD link here), I hardly need you to play it to validate my enjoyment or anything, so don’t if you really don’t want to :).

        • Trix says:

          This was my issue. I thought I wasn’t going to touch it, because Oblivion was not fun for me. Then somehow I caved and I’ve been hooked ever since.

          • Eruanno says:

            Same! And this happens for me with every single Bethesda game.

            Fallout 3 – “Looks kind of meh, I don’t know if I will play it much.” *Plays it for months and months*

            Fallout: New Vegas (okay, it’s Obsidian, but shut up) – “Naaahh, looks bland. Maybe I’ll try it and-” *Plays it for over 100 hours* “-…shit.”

            Skyrim – “Generic fantasy setting, no memorable characters, looks stupid.” *Still playing it, too busy dicking around for 70-something hours to do the main questline*

      • Mistwraithe says:

        I think it is actually comparitively UNrushed and most of the time that shows in surprisingly immersive and even at times realistic behaviour of the people in the game.

        Of course saying comparitively UNrushed is still comparing with a low base of recently released games ;-).

        • TrentB says:

          Hehe yeah, that last bit is (part of) my point =]

          Relative is… well… relative =P

          It might not be rushed in the sense that 6 years is a friggin long time…. but its obviously not finished, which I interpret as being rushed.

          It’s still an amazing game, and a wonderful achievement from a talented group of people… but I don’t want to play it. Too much time spent on the things I don’t care about, is all.

          Also, bugs.

          • theLameBrain says:

            We came here because Shamus was ranting about Skyrim. Then Trent B said he doesn’t want to play Skyrim, and we attack him.

            I just want to post my enjoyment of this moment of irony.

            ***aaaaaaaaah!!!***

            • Hitch says:

              Shamus is ranting about one quest line that stands out as particularly poorly written in an otherwise excellent game. Trent B is saying because there’s a flaw anywhere in this game he doesn’t want to play it. Other people are pointing out that a little perspective would be a good thing.

              • Aitch says:

                I get the feeling that this was a final straw sort of thing for Trent, i.e. his “various reasons”, and not him throwing away a possibly enjoyable gaming experience on one review of one quest.

                Some people just can’t force themselves to play a game where the flaws are so constant and obvious and plot breaking. If you can look past these things, and find yourself having a great time… well, honestly, I’m jealous cause this feeling of “meh” has been pervasive throughout my life whenever I try to get in on what most other people seem to like doing with their time.

                But it feels like a waste to me if I could be reading a book with a plot that I enjoy more, or watching a movie with acting that I could believe more, or playing a game where I could forget myself and just enjoy playing instead of being left with lingering questions of logic and having my subconscious attempt to formulate some semblance of plothole putty with every bit of nonsense.

                And I understand why so many people seem so incensed that someone would be unimpressed with a game like this. Many of those people have sunk enough time into it that it’s practically a part-time job for them, and one of the lamest feelings is to feel like someone is making fun of or shortchanging your job or your favorite hobby.

                But it’s not that. People have different tastes is all. Right?

                No? Ok, sorry, let’s all go fly fishing and every last one of you had better enjoy every last hour of it or you’re just acting fussy and spoiled.

                I say it with love! I swear!

            • Dys says:

              I think to enjoy Skyrim you have to do so despite its problems. You’d have to be blind to play it without noticing them.

              Like most major games these days Skyrim suffers from symptoms of ‘too much to do, not enough time to do it in’. I was rereading a review of Daikatana not long ago, and it struck me that a decade ago a four year development time was considered absurd. Yet for modern AAA games it’s probably the minimum time allowable. Quake was built in six months by nine people. I doubt even a budget indie title could manage that now. Carmack is on record saying dev times cannot continue to increase. It seems like an obvious statement, but there’s not much evidence of it being taken seriously that I can see.

              Bluntly, you can either have a big game, or a polished one. Skyrim or Portal. Not both at once, at least not yet. I like both, but I can see why someone would feel differently.

              • TrentB says:

                Your last point is very true and definitely deserves a whole new discussion =]

              • Trix says:

                Graphics may well be the main reason for this.

                • Dys says:

                  Certainly a large part of it, but many other aspects of development have also expanded. The voice acting is an excellent example. ~70 actors, ~60,000 lines of dialogue. That’s an awful lot of time and money that could have gone into polishing. Whether you’d get a better game with text in place of voices is another matter, but I suspect that it’s the kind of thing that would drive a title out of the mainstream. A majority of players won’t want to read quest text when it could be spoken.

                  • decius says:

                    Worst of all is that the voice acting has a fairly long lead time. It becomes even more expensive to make late changes that require getting the voice actors back in to rerecord slightly different lines. That means that you have to finalize the polished portion before you can make a build finished enough to test…

    • For what it’s worth, I used to feel exactly like you do on account of my long and unhappy marriage with Fallout 3, but after playing Skyrim a bit at a friend’s house, my opinion changed completely. I’m not saying that trying it out will necessarily change your opinion, but I can certainly understand how one can have serious reservations about a Bethesda game which largely melt away if you give the whole mess a chance to grab you. I’m just saying you should be open to the idea that your reservations about certain things might not be such a big deal, and that even if they are, you might mind them less in context.

      Unless of course you’re not into sandboxes, in which case obviously you won’t enjoy the game. It’s just that your frustrated-looking “god dammit” seems to indicate that you wanted to like the game and now think you won’t. You might, is what I’m getting at.

      • Destrustor says:

        I approached Skyrim with one hope: that it be better than oblivion. I fully expected to be sourly disappointed, but after watching a friend play it, I gave it a chance and the disk hasn’t left my PS3 since.

        Like someone above said, I used to like bethesda, but the 150 hours I spent searching for anything fun or good in oblivion, getting increasingly bitter about it made me very wary of their games.(also: then I took an oblivion to the knee. there, I said it!)
        Fallout 3 was an acceptable improvement, but with skyrim I finally feel like they’re back on track.
        So you should give it a chance, good sir TrentB, it might surprise you. I’m sure you could rent it somewhere, so you don’t even need to actually buy it.

      • TrentB says:

        Haha! I kind of love that there are so many people willing to expend such effort to convince a stranger to play this game.

        Frustrated is correct, wanted to like the game. Love sandboxes! The thing about sandboxes is that it is so important to have immersion (buzz phrase, still appropriate =P). To my mind, the whole concept of a sandbox falls apart when you don’t feel like the things that are going on around you are reasonable.

        It took the points raised in this discussion and spoke with a friend… he said something noteworthy – I have been spoiled by IRL RPGs. In those, I can truly do whatever I want and (if the game is run well) everything I do has an impact on the world, on some level. What Im after is an RPG that can simulate that sufficiently. Not perfectly, just well enough that I can accept it as a real world, I guess.

        For me the improvements of Skyrim over Oblivion, though impressive and extensive, were not in the right direction. I was hoping for greater NPC interactions, faction relations, that sort of thing. Write the code for more choices in the the completion of quests, eg selling your soul to some uncharismatic, second rate deity with a sense of entitlement and senseless motivations should not be a mandatory step in acquiring a managerial position within a thieves guild. I had unrealistic hopes perhaps, but thats why they were hopes and not expectations.

        Also, as Aitch said earlier, I cant really enjoy a game when the flaws keep tearing me out of it. That may not happen for most people, and thats truly great, but it does happen for me. I stopped playing Civ5 (and a bunch of other games) for the same reason.

        Anyway listen, Ill buy the damn game haha. The combat in Mount&Blade Warband is so much better, by the way. Harder, and probably less accessible to the average Xboxer, but better.

        (ps I have played it on a friends machine, for the record, I just wasnt going to buy the thing. I had a cat-lady. She didnt want to go with either of the men.)

        • You’re definitely right about sandbox games’ problems with maintaining genuine immersion throughout the experience, and I think it’s a fundamental limitation of current game development technology that’s keeping sandbox games from reaching their true artistic potential. Sure we can quite comfortably immerse ourselves in the identity of a brave adventurer when we’re tearing through hordes of uglies in the game’s dungeons or hiking over the gorgeous scenery in search of new wonders, but the second a game tries to simulate any sort of personal interaction, the sheer impossibility of a game designer’s ability program for or even comprehend the infinite possibilities and nuance of player response brings down the whole house of cards. The reason tabletop RPGs don’t have this problem (unless you have a particularly inflexible DM) is that all your actions are interpreted and responded to by an actual human being who would hopefully be able to respond more realistically to your character’s choices and motivations than a programmed contingency plan.

          Skyrim is barer than most RPGs in this regard, with most responses boiled down to “Yes”, “no” or “exit conversation and KILL ALL THE STUPIDS!”. This obviously makes the lack of proper immersion particularly apparent, and is why I think that for all the crazy fun it’s provided me, Skyrim stops dead at being a Great Game: nothing more than great, and nothing more than a game.

          Again though, this boils down to technical limitations that permeate the entire medium. I feel that a sandbox can never be truly immersive at every level(and thereby generate the genuine human connection between the player and their experience of the medium that I feel is necessary to games as an artform) if its NPCs display anything less than true AI, a technological impossibility at this time and maybe a moral impossibility in the future.

          Getting back to you getting the game or not, It seems to me that since the inevitable break of immersion is something you’d have to force yourself through because that kind of thing ruins your experience, maybe your money would be better spent on a new tabletop campaign since as you said, those are capable of creating more meaningful experiences for you. Heck, I’m sure someone’s come up with some campaigns set in Skyrim’s universe, maybe you could track it down and give yer friends a Skyrim experience that the game never could :)

          I really wasn’t trying to persuade you to buy the game (what would I get out of anyway? It WOULD be a waste of my time), I just mistakenly (but understandably, I think) assumed you were planning on skipping the game without an adequate estimate of the experience, and since I was once planning to do the same (albiet for different reasons) and now know that the last few weeks would have been the worse for it, I just posted my two cents about my experience on the off chance you were like me and might have missed out on something you’d enjoy. Reading your more comprehensive reasoning has convinced me that you’re skipping the game for perfectly valid and understandable reasons so I can rest easy knowing you will.

          p.s. Not sure I liked the way you implied that Xbox players or by extension Skyrim players couldn’t handle Mount and blade. I’ve played both Warband and Skyrim extensively and don’t consider the latter any shallower after a moderate amount of skill and perk progression in a given combat field. Sure, warband has directional attacking&blocking, mounted combat and figures physics into things which all makes for superior reflex-based combat, but I actually slightly prefer Skyrim’s fairly tactical dances of death, be they physical (where they involve watching and knowing just the right times to block, stagger, jab or crush your opponent) or magical (where confrontations are a madly exciting flurry of various spells to disrupt, distract or destroy enemies based on rapidly evolving situations). If “Xboxers” can handle Skyrim, they can handle just about any action game, but aside from that I don’t see any reason why “Xboxers” couldn’t handle anything.

          • TrentB says:

            Hello!

            Sorry, the important part of my Xboxers comment was ‘average’, ie the vast majority of people who pay for games. I’m not saying console players couldnt handle it or anything, just that your average dude (who doesnt go looking for mount&blade type games to play, like weirdo PC gamers =P) may not care to spend the time to become good at chamber-blocking… which means that it might not sell as well, etc etc.

            Thats all I meant by it – not saying PC gamers are better or any of that nonsense. Though we are typically better looking. =P

            Also XBoxers is easier to type than ‘Console Players’.

            Cheers!!!! <3

            • Dys says:

              I have to ask, have you played Gothic 3? Or Risen?
              I recommend both unconditionally. They fall on the other side of the rift from Skyrim, also large and fairly rough but they absolutely allow you to affect the world. They attempt to make npcs relatable. It rarely succeeds, but those games are a very good example of what you get when you aim for the things Skyrim never attempts.

    • Captain Pandabear says:

      It’s a game with incredible value, just don’t go in expecting the writing for every questline to be strong or give you much in the way of choices. That said, it’s still a beautiful world with more content than any other game released in recent memory.

      I’d humbly advise you to reconsider. Shamus does nitpicky articles (that I like and usually agree with), but I don’t think he’s asserting that the entire game is like this. Which it isn’t.

  7. Avatar says:

    The real problem here is that none of the guilds require you to be any good at what the guild is there to ostensibly promote.

    You do not have to be a good fighter to finish the Companions storyline. You DO need to be able to make your enemies die, but you can do it how you like, for the most part.

    You don’t have to be a good mage to finish the Mages’ College storyline. There’s a single initiation test, which is being able to cast a single spell, out of a list where many of the examples are capable of being cast by first-level characters with no magic skills whatsoever. And if you’re cunning, you can just shout and get in that way. (You WILL have to be able to cast a little ward spell early on…)

    You don’t have to be a good thief to finish the Thieves’ Guild storyline. Or any kind of thief really. The one actual thief thing that’s required is a pure milk run; after that, you can be as stealthy as the average troll and still manage.

    Why is all of this the case? Simple – you can’t be good at everything in this game. Moving to a perk system makes a more focused character, without the silly dance that you had in Morrowind or Oblivion where you leveled certain skills to improve certain stats. But it also puts a cap on your eventual performance. You can be utterly great at a small number of things, or have a wider selection of a good number of categories, but it’s not reasonable to expect a character to sink eight perks into Heavy Armor and six into Illusion and seven into Pickpocketing and nine into Stealth just to be able to finish the major quest-lines with one character. However, making one character able to do these things without having the necessary perks invested means, essentially, that the character didn’t have to be particularly good at any of them.

    Part of the problem is that Bethseda seems to be pretty heavily invested in the whole “you finished the quest, now you are the one in charge” paradigm. Do you really need to be made the Archmage because you got an A+ in dungeon crawling?

    Of course, none of this excuses the crappy writing in the Thieves’ Guild quest line. It’s even funnier if you’re playing it after finishing the main quest. “What? Sell my soul? Guard a temple in the afterlife? Baby, I have already made -arrangements-.”

    Ironically, if you do the normal thieving quests, you get rewarded by having lots of fences everywhere, all of them with pockets bursting with gold and totally happy to buy anything you can haul to them, meaning you will be set for life and able to buy every house in the game without having to go all obsessive-compulsive about managing poor merchants and expensive items. It’s a far better reward than the actual quest line reward, in its own way…

    • Gamer says:

      I honestly wish there were barriers of entry into these guild. I wish you need a high enough skill in one the schools of magic to join the college, good sword and armor skills for the Companions, Sneak skills for the Thieves’ Guild.

      Admittedly, in the Dark Brotherhood, there are many ways to kill people, so they could probably be more lenient.

      Either that or don’t make me the head. There honestly isn’t a reason for each questline catapulting you to the head of an organization. I doubt anyone would be upset if Bethesda stopped doing that.

      • CTrees says:

        Didn’t Morrowind have skill requirements for advancement to different ranks in their various guilds and factions?

        • Gamer says:

          I don’t really know actually. I didn’t play Morrowind (yet).

          Though I’m a little afraid that because I’ve been spoiled by Skyrim and Oblivion that I might not appreciate Morrowind as much as I should.

          • Syal says:

            Yes they did. I for one did not appreciate them, as they only really served to stop the quest line and make you go kill cliff racers/ buy a bunch of training.

          • Dys says:

            I think Morrowind probably stands up against either of the later games, but it is a different beast. It was born in the golden age – four years after Thief, three after System Shock 2, two after Deus Ex – and is characteristic of that time. It’s larger than either of the later games, I think, and more heavily invested in its RPG mechanics. It doesn’t prevent you from doing anything, so that you can abuse flight mechanics to your heart’s content for example. There are solutions to certain quests which are barely hinted at and the entire main questline can be circumvented, allowing the final boss to be defeated in under five minutes from the start of the game.

            I wouldn’t like to say which is better between Skyrim and Morrowind, they’re too different to really compare. If you do want to try Morrowind however I strongly advise tracking down the Overhaul mod, it will pretty things up and make the game’s age less of an issue.

        • JPH says:

          Yes, and it was stupid and made no sense.

          “Okay, you’re good enough at sneaking. You can be a higher rank now.”

          “Wait, how could you tell how good at sneaking I am by looking at me? I didn’t do any extra quests between last time (when you didn’t let me advance in rank) and now. Do you have a copy of my character sheet or something?”

          • Trix says:

            Maybe some sort of trial or test to see if you are capable enough. It doesn’t have to be extensive – it just needs to be an interesting scenario that plays well off of having good skills of that type (ie: a mission that becomes easier/more rewarding if you sneak through it without killing/alerting people).

            That would probably be better, since then there isn’t a hard “gate” to pass but being more skilled would make it more likely for you to succeed. The problem would be balance I think, but that’s something that can be tweaked a little easier.

          • decius says:

            As opposed to “Ok, you can be guildmaster now, no need to be able to sneak. Or pick locks.”?

            IIRC, of the five or so skills associated with the organization, you needed to be awesome at one and good at two more.

            Morrowind also let you increase your skills arbitrarily at the cost of inconveniencing yourself varying amounts. Or you could just make potions.

      • In defense of the “you don’t need guild-appropriate skills to be the boss” deal, I think we can hand-wave it based on the fact that (weird-ass nightingale nonsense notwithstanding) the appropriate NPCs in each questline send you out to do your quests alone, so they don’t actually see you NOT using the skills they assume you have. I find it kind of hilarious that a lunkheaded fighter can become archmage because his superiors understandably assumed his quest success to be due to his unseen supreme mastery over the arcane.

        I’m imagining the next mage’s convention would be a bit awkward when the Dragonborn is asked to asked to demonstrate his/her powers to his adoring fans. Nothing the shrewd use of a fictional three-headed frost troll along with swift and creative battle-axe application couldn’t handle though.

    • Piflik says:

      I don’t necessarily want to be able to finish all the guilds with one character…for me it would add replayability…If I wanted to see the Mage Guild questline, I would have to start a Mage-Type character and experience the game from that different perspective, instead of making my Rogue the Arch-Mage…

      I never played a character in Morrowind or Oblivion long enough to be a master in every skill…I had some Illusion spells for my rogue and some smithing, but the rest were ‘class’-skills…I think characters must have some limitations (and the perk-limitation in Skyrim is definitely not enough), or every character ends up the same, and then you could as well ditch the whole character development system and replace it with a simple numerical value that is multiplied on your defense and offense and be done with it.

      • TrentB says:

        I definitely agree, but I also know why they didnt do this – its risky. They might not have sold a kazillion fund-units worth of game if they had broken too far away from methods and systems they knew to be popular.

        It always comes down to money, unfortunately…

        • Gamer says:

          You’re kidding, right. Any game with “The Elder Scrolls” on it would sell like hotcakes.

          • TrentB says:

            Well yes… evidently =[

            Unfortunately, they seem to be using that knowledge for evil, rather than good. Also, they have sequels to worry about.

            ps, depending on which particular Bethesda employee you ask, any game with just ‘Scrolls’ on it will sell like hotcakes. #MojangLawsuit

            • Gamer says:

              I’m gonna ignore the Mojang thing (lawyers being lawyers and a shitty law apply).

              But I think almost guaranteed sales put Bethesda in a unique position to experiment and possibly improve “The Elder Scrolls” series. They don’t have to (nor would I want them to) deviate extensively from the core experience. But little things like what we suggest couldn’t be too bad.

              • Trix says:

                Well, there is the concern that a poorly-received game might kill the franchise, which would be quite devastating (and disappointing).

                • Dys says:

                  Exactly the problem. The idea that TES is so enshrined as to be incapable of failure is a very bad one. Yes, it’s true the next one could be an absolute turd and still sell pretty well, though I think that after the first rush of pre orders on faith alone sales would drop off radically by word of mouth. A lot of people will argue for Skyrim, and encourage others to try it or buy it. That would not be true if it really sucked.

                  The problem is, if 6 sucked badly enough, 7 would not sell even if it WAS good. The economics of game development are only tangentially affected by the quality of the actual game in question, but an established franchise risks undermining itself with every new game. So you do what you know people want, you take safe paths and you make past proven decisions. The sales figures for Skyrim seem to indicate that’s an attitude which pays off.

    • CTrees says:

      “Part of the problem is that Bethseda seems to be pretty heavily invested in the whole “you finished the quest, now you are the one in charge” paradigm. Do you really need to be made the Archmage because you got an A+ in dungeon crawling?”

      The Imperial Legion, at least, only makes you a Legate. Which is seriously high ranking, but still, you’re not… I don’t know, Emperor? I like the advancement there, anyway, as you kept getting promoted after leading their troops to victory in several battles. Rather makes sense, really (now, the fact that they can die by the truckload, including from being in your field of fire, that’s a different issue – I tried my best to roleplay keeping them alive, at any rate).

    • Factoid says:

      I understand the dilemma that Bethesda must be facing. The perk system is pretty cool. I like what they did in general.

      But they didn’t want to force you to have to play the game 3 or 4 times with different builds in order to experience all the quests. That’s probably what they SHOULD have done…but they didn’t. They made everything generic enough that any kind of character can get through it. That makes sense for 90% of the game, but not for these guild quests. Those should be tailored to a specific type of character class in my opinion.

      You should really not be able to make it through the College of Winterhold quests without a high level mage. You really shouldn’t be able to make it through the thieve’s guild without a high level of sneak, lockpicking, etc… The companions and dark brotherhood are a little more generic by nature. Just gotta make things die…shouldn’t really matter how.

      • Dys says:

        The thing is, the majority of players don’t want to play the game twice. So if you lock them out of content because they didn’t level a certain way, you’re punishing them unduly.

        Like the plot armour, it can’t be done both ways, and more people are sitting on the other end of the seesaw. I don’t like it, but I do understand it, and from a development point of view it’s probably the better choice.

        • Gamer says:

          I don’t know about you, but I played through Oblivion like six times. With different specialties each time.

          I had a lot of fun for the most part (Archery sucked in Oblivion).

        • ps238principal says:

          I have to disagree. If a game presents me with a challenge I haven’t got the skills for, and the challenge isn’t essential to completing the game’s main goal(s), I’m happier with not being allowed to tackle said challenge with my character class/build. I don’t expect a thief-build to be able to kick down an iron-bound door any more than I do a warrior-build to be able to outclass a mage-build in a battle of spellcasting.

          Plenty of really good computer RPGs gave different classes/builds different paths and opportunities in the past. Why should Skyrim be any different? And the game is so enormous, it shouldn’t matter that some of the guild quests are off-limits unless you make a different character. Difference is what separates RPGs from what are starting to seem like digital novels laced with combat.

          • JPH says:

            I always thought the appeal of customizable builds was to give you different approaches to the same challenge, not different challenges altogether. Like with Deus Ex; that game is all about freedom and customization of your build, but you’re always going through the same levels no matter how you build your character. It doesn’t change your quests; it changes how you handle your quests.

            I like Bethesda’s new approach. If I had to create a new character just to do a specific questline, I would never get to do that questline. Yes, it boosts playtime, but in an unfair way. It causes you to repeat a lot of content that a lot of people won’t necessarily want to repeat.

            • Klay F. says:

              Deus Ex is so different from the Elder Scrolls there is absolutely no point in trying to compare them. Deus Ex is telling one story with some inconsequential sidequests. Also Deus Ex, doesn’t have a Thieves, Mages, Fighters, or Assassins Guilds. Thats called specialization, and Deus Ex very expressly avoids it.

              Skyrim is telling many, MANY stories. Some questlines are even longer than the main plot.

              If Bethesda didn’t want people to specialize, then they should have given me enough perks for everything, or they should have taken out the guild questlines altogether.

              If you deliberately miss content just because you don’t want to make a new character, tough. There is nothing unfair about it.

              • JPH says:

                Deus Ex doesn’t avoid specialization. Human Revolution does, but Deus Ex 1 doesn’t.

                You can say there’s “nothing unfair about it,” but if most gamers are going to miss out on content because they don’t want to make a new character and play a completely different way, that’s a net loss of play time and a lot of arguably wasted content. This way everybody gets to enjoy the complete game.

                • Dys says:

                  Amusingly there is an awful lot of ‘wasted’ content in both Deus Ex and Human Revolution. If you only play the game once you can only complete each section in one way, and every other path, every hidden space and secret thing, every computer left unhacked every pda unread is ‘wasted’. A large part of the power and charm of both games is knowing those things are there, and that you won’t necessarily see everything there is to see.

                  It is absolutely a choice, and some people enjoy Modern Warfare’s steel rails and linear corridors, but I think Deus Ex had more in common with Morrowind than it did with Call of Duty.

                  I wouldn’t like to say whether locking off content due to character build is a good thing or a bad thing, but I will say that I am more likely to enjoy a game in which I have to search for a path which may be denied to me than one in which the way forward is singular and obvious.

                  It’s worth remembering that the population of this blog’s comments is probably heavily biased in certain directions.

                  • JPH says:

                    If I just happened to miss a terminal, that’s different from me going to the terminal and it saying “Oh, sorry, you have the wrong build so you don’t get to read this.” That’s what Morrowind does. I can’t recall many, if any, instances of Deus Ex doing it.

        • Tizzy says:


          The thing is, the majority of players don’t want to play the game twice. So if you lock them out of content because they didn’t level a certain way, you’re punishing them unduly.

          Certainly, but the way things are now, I am being cheated out of build-specific content for my character. I like the fact that I can play hrough the game with either a generalist or a specialist, but I was expecting that building a specialist would lead me naturally to having access to special content where my unusual level of competency would be put to the test, and hard, by having me perform impossible feats.

          Given the huge amount of content out there to enjoy, I really wouldn’t have minded if some was simply not accessible to my character. After all, I feel it’s already the case since I don’t expect to be able to level up *everything*, so that I know that experiencing everything that the game has to offer will require several playthroughs.

          • Tizzy says:

            On another note, I am more bothered by content that requires you to sell your soul into service or become a werewolf than if there was content that was closed to me because of inadequate skills. Because in the end, since the idea seems to be that everyone should be able to do these quests, it shows how meaningless these life and afterlife altering choices really are…

            • Klay F. says:

              Thus is the reason I can’t really get into Bethesda RPGs. Nothing you do has any effect on the world whatsoever. You may be the Ultimate Hero of Ultimate Destiny, but the game world isn’t going to change for anyone, save for a few scripted things, which only serve to highlight the staticness. The effect is so bad, that sometimes I feel as if I’m just another NPC mindlessly running through my routine.

              Say what you want about linear games, but at least those fucking react to your influence.

    • Dev Null says:

      Well to be honest (sic) I wouldn’t elect a guy to the head of the Thieves Guild for being good at stealing stuff. I’d elect someone who was good at politics, bribing guards, remembering to pay the rent on our hideout, and accounting. Stealing stuff is what the _thieves_ are for; running the guild is an admin job.

      But then, as I’ve said before, a guild of actual thieves makes no sense at all in the first place, so…

      • Syal says:

        I’d like to see mercenary quests for all the factions that nearly anyone can do, and then upon actually joining a guild have skill-specific quests to raise your influence and reduce others among competing members of the guild. The end result being taking over the guild because you’re the most influential and well-liked person in it.

        (I’d give it the Morrowind Houses structure in that you can only join one guild, though you could still do mercenary quests for all of them.)

        • Gamer says:

          But you’re not a mercenary.

          On Topic: That would be a pretty interesting idea. They already have a radiant quest generator so it wouldn’t be too much work. And they could give bonuses for doing it the way a guild member would (ie. With stealth for the Thieves’ Guild, Magic for the College, etc.)

          • Syal says:

            Again, it’d be like the Houses from Morrowind; there you could talk to members of the Houses and do quests for them without actually joining the house (low-level stuff, but still available), but you could only join one house to do the big stuff. Apply the same idea, helping members of the guild without being a member of the guild (who can then refer you to their friends and such), and you end up with what you have now, only more sensible.

            Although I’ve kind of wanted to see a purely influence-driven game for a while now (Like Total War, but you can only recruit like twelve soldiers and the rest have to come from other factions who are willing to help you. Same with resources, etc.)

  8. Phoenix says:

    Skyrim doesn’t have an IA for sneaking npcs and a sneak system that applies to allies and enemies. Actually you’re the only one that can sneak. That means that npcs may be good tanks/warriors and mages, and archers, but not good assassins/thiefs.

    It’s not a problem, I play with Jenassa she goes screaming attracting attention I stay sneaked and hit with the bow. Well, that before I reached 50′, now I just go screaming like an npc using the sword and shield since I’m so powerful that nobody’s really a menace.

    So that’s far more than a limit of the plot, it’s the engine itself. So either they don’t put thiefs as npc (which is hard but doable) or they put them but they’ll look stupid activating traps and running into enemies.

    • Moriarty says:

      Nearly all you followers can sneak, even those in heavy armor. The thieves and assasins are actually quite good at it. The assasins even manage to sneak up upon people and backstab them.

      The problem is that they start attacking as soon as an enemy noticed a presence, but hasn’t found you yet.

  9. Sucal says:

    Is it wrong that I believe the four ‘optional’ missions are more interesting then the actual missions your meant to do. Sure, they still rather suck when it comes to doing actual thieving, but they have plots that make slightly more sense then the nightinggale thing. Then again, I admit that I was doing the basic fetch quest style thefts even as I was doing normal missions, since I wanted the extra gold and everything to get the achievement points.

    Still, I must admit that no matter the complaints, I’ll still be doing the TG quests with every character I make, just to unlock all the various fences.

  10. Dovius says:

    I really don’t get the deal with the companions you get in the tomb. Bethesda KNOWS that their companions can’t sneak worth crap, so why do they give you several in a place specifically targeted toward sneaking?!

  11. rofltehcat says:

    WTF is this? I loved the Oblivion thieves guild quests but… this?!?!

    It really is like the incarnation of “hurr, nobody likes to be sneaky so why make content for them”. There are barely any games out there that reward sneaking and the few game franchises that were actually about sneaking are being ruined.

    WTF is this Alpha Protocol crap? I bought it for 5 bucks and as I understand it, it was supposed to allow you to be stealthy but it simply doesn’t work in any stealthy way, it is just another cover-based shooter.

    WTF happened to Splinter Cell? I remember playing Pandora Tomorrow and only every being detected once and finishing most levels without knocking out a single enemy. They’ll never know I was in their rocket base and it was awesome. Even the multiplayer was fantastic and allowed for awesome gameplay. Now it is some sort of cover based shooter that allows you to sneak through it so you have to kill all the enemies in one room with headshots instead of just… leaving?
    “HEY FISHER, I HEARD YOU LIKE BEING SNEAKY!” “HEY, THERE WAS A SHADOW, OMG IT’S FISHER!!!” “COME OUT FISHER, I KNOW YOU’RE HERE!!!”

    Didn’t play Deus Ex HR yet but Shamus’ blog entries look pretty good (minus boss fights), at least one game that seems to allow stealthing.

    Metro 2033 could have been another great game for sneaking around and the sneaking parts of the game were actually awesome although when sneaking through the whole Nazi base without being detected you still get the capture cutscene, which is a bit lame but it had too little sneaking for my tastes. And Stalker 2 got cancelled I recently heard… the Stalker games were pretty sneaky when modded to un-break the stealth detection.

    Why is there still no new Thief game? Although it would probably be a cover based shooter.

    Why are no game designers interested in making stealth games anymore? Has our entertainment medium dumbed down this much so “the general public” doesn’t appreciate clever gameplay anymore? Do investors and publishers only fund cover based shooters and Moder Warfare shooters? It makes me furious…. RAAAA!

    • X2Eliah says:

      Four words that might show you where the good-sneaky gameplay has gone to.

      Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

      Extra trivia: the devlopers of that game (Eidos Montreal) are the ones currently making ‘Thief 4′. On the one hand – they have chosen – or been forced by Squeenix – to call it “Thi4f”, on the other hand – they actually have a pretty good resume for this kind of stuff now.

      • Hitch says:

        That don’t make no kind of sense. A four doesn’t look anything like an “e.” If I wasn’t used to stupid use of numbers as letters and familiar with the series, I’d be asking, “What in the world is THIAF supposed to mean?”

        • Dys says:

          Yeah, that name came along with a batch of others after some marketing bod had the brilliant idea that you could make sequels while hiding the fact your originality is now a dried up husk in the darkest corner of your brain by pretending the number was a letter.

          I have serious doubts that anyone can make a Thief worth playing, now. Much less one good enough to make up for the last one being such a travesty. Still, wait and see. Wait and see.

      • JPH says:

        Also, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.

    • Robyrt says:

      Both Deus Ex HR and Alpha Protocol supported and even encouraged sneaking. (Although frankly Alpha Protocol’s “sneaking” lets you level up so high that you are the Ninja God, so it may not give you that frisson of danger.)

    • tengokujin says:

      One of the hardest/easiest achievements for DX:HR?
      “The Foxiest of Hounds”
      If you never, ever raise an alarm via your presence.
      Hardest if you’re the type of person to knock out/kill everyone. Easiest if you love sneaking by everyone.

    • guy says:

      The Dark Brotherhood questline is pretty sneak-murdery. And you get to kill one of the questgivers!

  12. rofltehcat says:

    It is just one of Sheogorath’s plans! He is making all the people and even the other Daedra lords (Nocturne) insane and insanely stupid!

    TES VI: Elsweyr. Brown cover-based shooter. Shooting Khajiit’s to the knees (their knees always stick out of cover behind those chest-high ruin walls).

    • Simon Buchan says:

      Seeing as how Elsweyr is always described as various (presumably dilapidated, crumbling) cities dotted around the edges of an inhospitable desert, that would still be within lore :).

      More seriously, though, I really hope TES VI is Valenwood: A dense equatorial jungle-land that’s home to the awesome hedonistic, cannibalistic Bosmer, home of the Thalmor/Aldmeri Dominion, and where the cities are hundreds of feet up in GIANT MIGRATING TREES! And in theory we should finally get some beautiful beaches in an Elder Scrolls!

      • I’m personally hoping TES VI will be set on Somerset Isle based solely on the fact that it’d put my characters within punching distance of as many hoity toity Aldmeri arseholes Thalmor as possible. If Skyrim has left me with anything, it’s the elf-murder equivalent to blue-balls.

        Seriously though, I’d say a Valenwood/Elsweyr double bill would be the best bet for the next game’s setting, since setting a whole game in only a giant forest or giant desert would feel a bit too samey IMO. If I remember correctly, those two plus the sliver of Cyrodiil between them are about as big as Skyrim so it’s conceivable that Bethesda can pull off that sort of scale for the next game.

        • Destrustor says:

          Elsweyr is supposed to be half-jungle, half-desert, last I heard.
          And the summerset isles would suck as a location because I think only the high elves have ever set foot/are allowed to go there, so they’d have to cut 90% of the playable races.

          • Well I was mostly joking about Somerset isle (though if Bethesda hired some decent writers, they could probably produce a decent semi-linear expansion/dlc in which you infiltrate and take down the Thalmor on their home turf regardless of what race you are).

            As for Elsweyr, I’m really not intimately familiar with the lore (Skyrim’s my first Elder Scrolls game) so I just based my conceptions of the region on both a fairly shoddy map on the wiki (which depicted it as a dry-yellow splotch)and people’s complaints about Morrowind and Oblivion that they were a bit monotonously dedicated to wasteland and foresty environments respectively. If a modern take on Elsweyr can find the right balance between jungle-trudging and desert-trudging, it could work for a whole sequel’s setting. I still think that Skyrim proves they could fit Valenwood in as well without spreading themselves too thin though.

      • CTrees says:

        Morrowind had the cities built into giant mushrooms, so they know how to do this. It really would be awesome…

      • Jyusan says:

        http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/mods/9782

        A group of awesome people made a mod that puts Elsweyr into the game. It’s a pretty huge mod.

  13. AyeGill says:

    My boss fight must have bugged out(or something), because i swear when i fought mercer, Karliah just HAMMERED him with a torrent of arrows, so that i barely got a stab in there. Wierd.

  14. X2Eliah says:

    Btw. Both of the followers did manage to sneak pretty well when you don’t attack the falmer, but (you know, as a THIEF would do, not an assassin) just go around. It’s just when you do attack, their combat A.I. kicks in.

    So.. basically, in that sense, you’re not entirely right, they are pretty good sneaks, they just are rubbish at combat. Again, as THIEVES (and not assassins) would be.

  15. Yikes and double yikes at this whole rotten questline. Looking at your recap of everything, It seems Bethesda fell into the trap of that Mass Effect 2 thing where they come up with a bunch of cool and thematically linked elements (Political intrigue! Conspiracy! Betrayal! Priceless Treasures and Secret Societies!) before mashing them all together with the literary equivalent of chewing gum and desperately hoping we’re too BLOWN AWAY BY TEH COOLZNESS to notice.

    I must say though that I have trouble being as angry at Skyrim as I was at ME2 for its attempts to trick me into role-playing a moron-following sap. Mainly because the former crucially allows me to ‘complete’ the game (a VERY loose term with Skyrim, I know) while still being able to roleplay an intelligent and honorable rogue who, when asked to play errand boy by an impossibly obtuse ‘criminal mastermind’ that had just shot him in the face, can perform the very reasonable response of stabbing her in her immortal kidneys, ripping everything he possibly can from the pocket dimension in her pants, then casting a deadly ring of fire around her big dumb plot-armored ass before riding off to join the Dark Brotherhood so he and the Abyss can make doe-eyes at eachother until the nagging feeling that a demigod-dragon is devouring the world persuades him to stop spending his time jamming paralysis poisons into NPCs as they climb stairs.

    • CTrees says:

      “the pocket dimension in her pants”

      *childish snicker*

    • Gamer says:

      I kinda wish they went the Morrowind and New Vegas route of having every single character be killable. Exceptions can be made for gods or daedric princes.

      Just have them tell you when that fails a quest, just so the player knows to bide his time. (evil laughter)

      • Agreed. The thing is, there are really only two NPCs in the whole game (The nutty bloke who gives you the means to find the elder scroll and the dragon who takes you up to Alduin’s lair) that are absolutely essential to beating the main quest. I figure the consequence of missing out on content is pretty apparent to the player when he/she kills an NPC without loading afterwards, but Bethesda seems terrified that players will get bummed out when they willingly break the game. The thing is, if I’m trying to permanently off a questgiver, it’s because I hate them and want no part of their bullshit. If I want no part of their bullshit I’ll just not do that quest, but I see no value in making it so that I can’t choose to avoid a quest through any more satisfying means than glaring resentfully at my quest-log.

      • CTrees says:

        I can’t believe there’s not a mod to make everyone killable, yet.

        • acronix says:

          There´s a console command. It requires knowledge of the their True Name, I mean, their ID, though.

        • Dys says:

          Almost certainly because npcs would drop like flies from all manner of incidental damage. Have you never stumbled across Aela the huntress out hunting mammoths with her companion buddies? It’s like a goddamn three stooges routine. If they weren’t flagged essential, the entire companions guild would be dead within an hour of you starting the game.

          • acronix says:

            That could be solved with better AI or better design of their schedule/way of hunting (for example: don´t let them hunt mammoth, but instead sabers, bears or less dangerous things). But an “invulnerable” tickbox is easier than AI or actual thinking.

            • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

              I watched a mudcrab kill a guard, a noble’s horse and the noble. It was pretty funny, though I felt bad for not helping… Anyway, I don’t think fighting a pack of bears would help them fare any better.

            • Dys says:

              Well the problem is that they didn’t not program better ai because they were too busy eating cake and playing pingpong. Things have to be prioritised, and making a game that size which didn’t self destruct was placed higher than spending several years attempting to solve one tricky and intricate problem.

              Perhaps the mod community can fix the ai to the point where the essential flag is no longer necessary, but I would not lay money on it.

          • Gamer says:

            They could fix that by only letting the player kill them. They already have flags for that.

  16. SKD says:

    To be honest the thieves guild would have worked much better if they instead called it the Tamriel Mafia and refined the writing. Most of what they do is more in the line of standard mafia operations than thief jobs.

    • SharpeRifle says:

      As a point Thieves Guilds are traditionally diversified criminal organisations like the Mafia as opposed to the fairy tale guild we had in Oblivion. Conmen,extortion, arsons, blackmail, smuggling, and drugs would all normally be something a “Thieves Guild” would participate in.

      In fact burglary would probably be the least common one since it takes a hell of a lot more skill than say a mugging or threatening a shopkeeper.

  17. Factoid says:

    I pretty much couldn’t agree more with your whole assessment of the Thieves’ Guild quests. They’re garbage.

    I will, however, offer a slight alternative explanation to your characterization of Nocturnal.

    You say she forms a secret society to prevent people from using the artifact she’d created. That’s not quite accurate. What she did was create an artifact that has more than one purpose. It can be used to open any lock, including those metaphysical locks “within one’s mind”…etc… But it’s primary purpose was to open a conduit between her realm and the world of mortals.

    If the lock is being used to open tombs and chests it can’t be used to give Nocturnal the foothold in the mortal world that she apparently desires. That’s why she has the Nightingales to protect it.

    Still. You’re dead on about the larger problems with the Plot. I hated all of the guild quest lines to varying degrees, but none more so than the Thieves Guild. The only part of the thieves guild that made me feel like a theif was the OPTIONAL part where you go on a stealing, pickpocketing, looting, lockpicking binge all across Skyrim. And those missions get really boring and repetitive after about 30 minutes. On the plus side the payout is really nice.

  18. MrCompassionate says:

    Even worse than all the plot holes is being forced into all this. I wanted to steal the Skeleton Key for myself because it would have been well in character, but it wouldn’t let me betray and kill dunce one and dunce two. Then I wanted to refuse to join the Nightingales because that would also have been in character (for anybody with a brain) but it wouldn’t let me do that either. It forces you far out of character and fails to provide options that most people would much rather take than all this foolishness.

    • Ira says:

      The thing is: Bethesda has never given role-playing options. TES games do not actually include player choice. Pick any quest you like: the only choice you get is whether to do it (and follow Bethesda’s railroad) or not do it. That is the same choice you get in any game, by any developer, ever. Play the game, or walk away. Character motivation never comes into it at all. The utterly paltry dialogue options in Skyrim show this. I’m surprised Shamus didn’t mention the utterly horrible selection of responses you can give when Mercer challenges you on why you want to stop him at all.

      In a better-written game, you would express character motivations through the quests you choose to do, and there would be some sensible options offered to decline. For instance, in Skyrim it’s great that you can just decline the entire Dark Brotherhood line of quests. You can just kill the recruiter, take a handy sidequest, and destroy the Dark Brotherhood. That is a real choice, and it involves some actual role-playing. Further, the quests would generally be well-written so that most of the time you wouldn’t want to rebel from them.

      Skyrim often falls short. Two of the daedric quests in Markarth come to mind. The obviously evil daedra worshippers ask you to do some randomly evil things. There are no options at all to decide not to, or even report the crimes. The only thing you can do is just walk off and ignore the quests. They’ll still be in your journal for the rest of eternity though. I am thinking of Molag Bal’s quest, and the cannibalism quest. For the former there was no option to tell the priest of Boethiah, “Yeah, so, the house over there is evil and wants me to kill you. You should do something about that.” There’s not even an option to tell the priests of the Nine or Eight or whatever, and go and get the Vigilants of Stendarr to exorcise it. You will do the bidding of the evil house, random and petty evil though it is; or you will do nothing. For the latter: so, I went and cleared out a cave so the cannibals could move out of the graveyard. Okay; and then the leader of the cannibals says, “Great, now if you’ll just go and murder this totally innocent priest and drag him here so we can eat him…” There is no option to say, “What? No! That’s sick.” You can’t warn the priest that there’s an evil cannibal cult out to eat him. You can just attack and kill the cannibal cultists, but there is no support for that option in-game beyond the failure to mark the cannibals as essential. All I really want here is to go back to the priest and have him say, “That’s awful! These daedra worshippers have desecrated the bodies of our ancestors! Please, destroy them.” Then I could kill them all and get a levelled amount of gold. There you go. Sucky reward compared to doing it the evil way, but at least there would be support for the PC not being evil and stupid. It’s not even a dramatically compelling sort of evil. I can see no reason why an amoral, rationally self-interested person would help the cannibals. The entire quest is just a failure of writing.

      • guy says:

        I just straight-up killed the cannibal lady for eating the flesh of men the moment I saw her

      • acronix says:

        The cannibalism quest does have an alternative option, but there´s no way of knowing about it and it still forces you to lure the priest to the shrine anyway. Then, when he is all set up to be eaten, you kill every cannibal on sight (a bunch of Markrath´s citizen appear on the cave after you convince the priest). The priest will get up, ask what happened, thank you and flee after giving you some gold. But as I said, there´s no indication of this choice anywhere.

      • Even says:

        Except killing the “recruiter” is the only exit strategy from the Dark Brotherhood questline and they don’t tell you this beforehand. Once you do the initiation thing, you’re in for life with your new “family” of murdering psychos who by the divine plot armor are all unkillable unless the holy railroadplot dictates otherwise in the future. I made the mistake of “joining” and then dismissing the whole thing for several playhours only to find out later I can’t get out of this stupid deal.

  19. rayen says:

    is this quest line the only things you do in the theives guild? if so thats is shameful. i don’t mind a weird or convoluted quest, and these are more plentiful in faction story quests. but usually they’re surrounded by quests that make sense, or at least are self contained. You know the leader says, “i need more time to figure out stuff from the last part of the story but in the meantime…”and then you do something that has nothing to do with the story or has a small self contained story for the mission. i can forgive alot in the main story if those are fun.

    FURTHERMORE, WTF BESTHESDA??!! this is a fighters quild questline if i ever saw one. again wtf? what happened to the morrowind guild stories? the fighters guild, comona tong and theives guild quests lines were intertwined and filled with conflicting loyalties and betrayals, greed and honour. i know you can do better. in fact what happened to the old theives guild standby of go to place, take the stuff, come back. tranlate text? why am i not stealing a codex or tranlation key? why am i going through an intiation right instead of stealing shit to take out mercer’s powerbase and wealth to corner him? why didn’t the god confer stat bonuses? every god did that at every chance in morrowind.

    and why twentyfive years? that makes this quest and the people involved seem stupid. How has karliah been hiding from people who specialize in hiding? why has mercer been hanging around where could be discovered at any moment? okay maybe it makes sense in the he has been taking small amounts for 25 years, but that is the only way it makes sense in.
    If had been like 1 or 2 years, there could still be divided loyalties within the guild, and thus would fix when they accept the translation without question. karliah hiding since gallus’ death would seem more reasonable. and mercer could still have stolen everything, it would have been a big reveal instead of another “how has this gone unchecked/unnoticed/asked about for twentyfive years?”

    I didn’t play oblivion and i haven’t played skyrim so maybe i’m missing things, maybe i’m holding it to standards that aren’t atainable anymore. maybe i’m just bitter. at first i thought this was funny, i’ve been bitter about not being able to play skyrim, but after reading all of this i’m truly angry at this. because i’ve seen them do better, and i’ve been stewing about not getting to play this?

    • Aitch says:

      If everyone jumped off a bridge for a nominal fee and shattered every bone in their bodies, you can be fairly certain that most if not all of them would try to convince you how amazing it all was when they paid someone to jump off the thing, told themselves that they were flying, and if you just look past the whole stuck in a full-body cast in unfathomable pain for months afterwards it was hands down the best game of 2011.

      Cause otherwise they might feel foolish for spending all those months stuck in a traction bed. Or maybe it really was a fantastic blast, though I’m sure I’ll never know.

      Wait, what?

    • guy says:

      Look, this is the anatomy of a Bethesda game by time commitment:

      2%: What? Why am I doing this it makes no sense
      6%: Eh, story is kind of boring but it’s not offensively stupid
      10%: This (side) quest is kind of fun and neat, I’ll go with it
      82%: I have a lot of quests in my log, I should proba- hey look, a map icon, I wonder what’s inside.

      • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

        This is my experience exactly.

        • Tizzy says:

          Indeed. I’ve had a great time interacting with the world of Skyrim, and I don’t regret any of the hours I spent there. But every time I have to nteract with its sentient inhabitants is a major headache. On the other hand, there is tons of great indirect storytelling, in books and journals (the frostflow lighthouse story being my favorite so far). But, so far, I’ve tried to stay away from the more story-based quest chains, because just on reaching the setup, I’m already sighing and rolling my eyes.

          • guy says:

            Ah, yes, Frostflow Lighthouse. I remember that well. It was actually my first encounter with the Falmer, and I initially assumed that the bugs were some sort of hive race.

            It was pretty cool, is what I’m saying. I was in the area for… some reason… and decided to check the place out, figuring it might hold random bandits or a minor sidequest, and BAM!, blood everywhere, mysterious apocolyptic log, key to the basement of horrors.

      • Rosseloh says:

        I would probably transfer 5% or 10% from the last one to “Hey, this scenery is really beautiful, I’ll walk from Riften to Solitude instead of using swift travel”. I don’t know how many hours I’ve eaten up that way, especially if I investigate every ruin I see (sort of like you mentioned).

      • Simulated Knave says:

        Personally, I’ve always found it more like:

        5% Geez, they let prisoners/Vault refugees get away with almost anything.
        10% What? Why am I doing this, it makes no sense?
        10% All this stealing feels wrong, but it’s so easy it’s hard not to.
        10% They know that caves all look the same in the dark, right?
        10% Do people actually enjoy just wandering around randomly killing stuff without any context?
        45% How can a group of people put so much effort into something and make it so bland?
        5% Oh, look, another way to break the game. What fun.
        5% Why am I playing this when I could be playing anything else?

  20. silver Harloe says:

    Am I the only one who had to follow the link to discover this new strange meaning of the word Reaver?

    When I first read the sentence, I thought, “Reavers are not particularly smug – they’re too batty for that. And, while they probably get into eye-rolling contests, it’s not going to be like you think (or particularly suited for anyone vaguely squeamish to watch. Then again, anyone near a Reaver is rather likely to the material component of said contest, hindering their ability to watch it)”

  21. guy says:

    Wait, in the Oblivion theives guild quest you steal an Elder Scroll?

    I have GOT to finish that questline now.

    • Hitch says:

      I don’t remember that. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, just that if I did it (and I’m pretty sure I did all of Oblivion’s thief guild quest line), it didn’t stick out as a major plot point.

    • Aulayan says:

      Yes. And it was an interesting questline, with a variety of dungeons, traps, etcetera. It felt like playing a Rogue in a solo game of D&D tailored to what Rogues do.

      Very very fun.

    • Gamer says:

      Yeah. It happened. It’s also incredible.

      Except for the fairly long dungeon crawl at the beginning, but you can sneak through that.

  22. Falcon says:

    This will provide a nice contrast.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/06/29/a-fool-in-morrowind-day-5-big-jobs/

    It’s the RPS write-up of the thieves guild line from Morrowwind. Reading that actually was interesting since the quests really were all about thieving it seemed (never played any Elder Scrolls game). The quest lines in that series all seemed to have some semblance of thematic unity.

    This just sounds like terrible plotting. All the talk of environmental narrative does nothing when I have to face such stupid writing.

    • JPH says:

      You never have to face such stupid writing, though. That’s the great thing about Bethesda games — everything is optional, aside from the opening. You can avoid the Thieves’ Guild questline altogether and just explore dungeons to your heart’s content.

  23. Aulayan says:

    Wait Wait Wait Wait Wait.

    Are you saying that the Thieves Guild questline ends with ghosts? That is 3 of the “Subplot” Questlines and the main questline that all end with ghosts.

    Some people got REALLY lazy over in Bethesda. Or this is setup for DLC. The Dragonborn in…Ghostbusters 3.

  24. Merle says:

    Can you…I don’t know…attack Nocturnal or something?

  25. Mailbox says:

    Nice opinion. It was fun to read. Sorry the experience wasn’t as enjoyable for you.

  26. Johan says:

    “none of my other quests ever had anything to do with stealing valuable items”
    I know this fails for the last quest, but when I had only finished about half of the thieves’ guild, I was actually really happy about this. Guilds of thieves really does seem like a contradiction and, more to the point, silly. Theft is usually a solitary venture, and joining other thieves just gives them a chance to steal from you, why (except for gameplay mechanics) would you ever join a guild?

    But running a protection racket is actually something that I can get behind. It’s a logical progression from thieves, it’s different from previous TES thieves’ guilds, and it’s much more of a joint type of venture.

    If the entire Thieves’ Guild questline had been building your protection racket until it encompassed most of Skyrim (knocking down caravans so they’d have to hire your guards, arsoning breweries so they’d have to pay you, stealing from jarls if they ever tried to stop you), I would have considered it a great improvement over any previous guild I’ve experienced.

    • Gamer says:

      But you’d expect at least SOME sort of stealing from a group who calls itself the Thieves’ Guild.

      And an organized guild could help with heists that take more planning and men. It could also help you move stolen property much more quickly and easily.

      • acronix says:

        They could also be an organization of spies, stealing documents, planting agents, gathering information and selling it to those interested. And with a civil war going on, I´m sure they could sell information both sides to optimize their profit.
        But instead we get Warriors´ Guild: Light Armor Edition. Oh well.

    • guy says:

      I personally figured that the thieves guild was a sort of support group. They handle fencing, they identify theft targets, and they make arrangements with guards to keep their members from imprisonment, etc. In exchange, they take a cut of the income from the fenced goods.

    • Dovius says:

      Hell, if they had, instead of the Thieves Guild, taken Maven Blackbriar and developped her mob-boss persona more, they could’ve taken that exact idea and just allowed you to join the Riften Mob/Mafia.
      Maybe even give multiple routes in the storyline:
      A) You attack caravans to make sure they hire protection, beat up people and threaten for money/favours, and then eventually reach the rank of a high-up enforcer.
      B) You sneak around, stealing stuff discretely and assassinating snitches/difficult targets and end up as a professional ‘Problem-solver’ for the Mob.
      C) You instead act as a sort of emisary with other factions and organizations, and help figure out ways to enhance methods of smuggling and fencing, eventually reaching a consigliere-esque position as Maven’s chief advisor.

  27. *shrugs*

    It’s just a videogame man.

    • Even says:

      When it’s a video game that you’ve invested your time and money on, it’s never “just a video game”. If you go watch a movie in the theater and turns out it sucks balls, you’re not going to shrug it off with “It’s just a movie”, now are you?

      • Dunno, haven’t seen a bad movie a long while to be honest. Personally I attribute that to knowing how to maintain a proper perspective.

        • Shamus says:

          *shrugs*

          It’s just a blog post, man.

          You’re sort of arguing against analysis and criticism. And when called on this, you give this passive-aggressive insult that the other person doesn’t have a proper sense of perspective.

          Movies, books, games, and plays and all “just entertainment”, but it’s still useful to look at them in detail and discuss why we liked them, what didn’t work, etc.

          • Well I AM trolling after all. U MAD yet? ;)

            Okay, only PARTLY trolling. I never did cotton to the idea that a videogame’s narrative was all that important in the grand scheme of things, so when detailed crits like this pop up a part of me can’t help but think, “Well yeah it’s poorly written…it’s a VIDEOGAME.” But still…mostly trolling.

            Not to say it aint entertaining as hell mind, so keep it up! :D

            • Shamus says:

              “Well I AM trolling after all. U MAD yet? ;)”

              As the guy who moderates discussions, I’m not really all that fond of trolling. Please don’t amuse yourself in mays that make more work for me, thanks.

              • Duude…buzzkill. But alright let’s get serious.

                As far as I’m concerned, it’s all a wash to begin with. You focus on plot here as if it’s the most important element in the story and this is a common mistake because the plot is a tangible thing that’s easy to analyze.

                But plot is one of the least important aspects of modern storytelling. Consistency and logic can take a holiday in any story and it’ll still be good if the characters are compelling. Secret of NIMH is one of the most critically acclaimed animated stories (and a personal fave of mine) and it has some of the biggest unexplained plot holes I’ve ever seen in any movie, but it didn’t matter because the focus of the illogical story was based on a compelling character. Character…THAT’S the key element to a good story. It’s the reason Bioware can get away with it’s ridiculous plot nonsense and still be a great yarn (within the context of a videogame mind).

                Skyrim…will NEVER be able to do that since there are no characters in the game. What it has – what EVERY Bethesda FPRPG has had – are golems wandering around mouthing dialogue when prompted.

                Now I said before plot is the easiest to mistake for being important due to it’s tangible nature which is in stark contrast to character, which isn’t so easy because it’s so dependent on multiple subjective elements such as performance, tone, delivery etc. all needing to work in tandem. All Skyrim provides is dialogue and that’s simply not enough. However far you want to stretch the subjectivity of character, Skyrim irrefutably is lacking.

                This cuts out the cornerstone of good storytelling and makes all quest lines equal because the game provides no characters to invest in. Plot logic becomes irrelevant because there’s no reason to care either way.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  How is it focusing on the plot if he has pointed out why every character in the questline is acting like an idiot?

                  • As I pointed out, there aren’t any characters, so there are no performances (i.e. acting). He’s projecting behavior onto these golems the same way you’re expected to for your own avatar in order to provide context for the poor plotting. As I said, the lack of any real characters makes it all irrelevant.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      No.The fact that people in skyrim are like that is not because it has no characters,but because it has bad characters.They arent empty vessels for dialogue to happen,they have their histories,stories,moods and such.And you know what,not all of them are bad.There are a few that are interesting.

                    • That’s plot, not character. I said as much already:

                      “All Skyrim provides is dialogue and that’s simply not enough.”

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      No its not the plot.When you have a person,who has his own personal history that adds nothing to any other story in the game,thats character.When you have a story about him that adds nothing to any other story in the game,thats character.

                      And before you say that,no Im not saying that you have to have a backstory completely divorced from the main story for someone to be a character,Im saying that when you do have that,it is not just the plot.

                    • When it’s completely divorced from your actions, it’s character, but regardless of semantics, it doesn’t change that fact that it’s simply not enough. The game provides all these detailed character models, but doesn’t imbue them with any of the life that level of detail – to say nothing of the plots themselves – demands and the schism created is simply too much for the suspension of disbelief to bear.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      For you.Suspension of disbelief is not a universal concept.And because of that,the lowest point is used,not the highest one.

                • acronix says:

                  This answer is much more interesting than “Dude, it´s a videogame” or “I know how to mantain a proper perspective”.

                  I agree in that good characters can save a bad story, but only as long as the reader/viewer/player doesn´t analyze it. As soon as he does the story dies. The character survives out of their own sheer awesomeness, of course, but we will remember the character first and the plot only by association to him/her.
                  And there´s also times in which the bad story just splats itself on the face of the player so hard it´s impossible to ignore, and then there´s no character awesome enough to save it. Sure, Mordin´s awesome, but he can´t make us ignore the main (or sub) plot(s) when the writer slaps us while yelling “Hey! Plot´s over there! Look what I did!”.

                  Lastly, we could argue Shamus focuses on the plot because the only thing left to save the story is the plot itself, since the characters are crap (as Daemian pointed out above).

                  • “Sure, Mordin´s awesome, but he can´t make us ignore the main (or sub) plot(s) when the writer slaps us while yelling “Hey! Plot´s over there! Look what I did!”.”

                    This actually kinda points to my original…uh point. Not only is narrative unnecessary, it can actually be quite detrimental when it tries to stress its importance. To me, this lends credence to the idea that on a fundamental level, it really has no business being in videogames.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Mordin is awesome because of the narrative.There are a few stories in that game,not just one.Mordins story is good.In fact,plenty of side stories are good,its just the main one that sucks.

                    • “Mordin is awesome because of the narrative.”

                      1) This makes no sense. This claims Mordin could be a box in the corner and still be awesome because…he’s in the story?

                      2) Whatever you feel makes Mordin ‘awesome’ (however nonsensical the reasoning) isn’t relevant to the point. Railroading through a good narrative is still railroading. Hell, removing player choice is half the meat in all of Shamus’ rants against poor videogame plotting. There’s a reason for that. The strength of videogames are in their interactive and free-roaming nature. For proof, look no further than Minecraft, which provides no narrative context of ANY kind.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      1)Weighted companion cube.Its still awesome despite it being just that:A box in the corner.Why?Because glados is talking about it in such manner,telling you a story about it in such a manner.What makes weighted companion cube as a better character than,for example,karliah is that the narrative surrounding weighted companion cube is much more compelling.Also,I never said that mordin was great because he was in a story,that would be stupid.I said he was in a good story(the story of his life,which is separate from the main story of mass effect 2),which is a huge difference.

                      2)Not true.The easiest example:Original mario.Its as linear as hell,but its still a fun game.Why?Because it has good gameplay.Railroading is not always the same.When done well(half life,portal),players will hardly notice it,because they will focus on other stuff.When done poorly,like in the example in this article,people will hate it.

                      Also,minecraft doesnt appeal to everyone.I,personally,am not a big fan of full free roaming sandboxes,but prefer games with objectives and goals(set by the game,not by me)that I can accomplish.I can take sandbox in small chunks,like in skyrim and saints row,but there I always have the option to go on a mission when free roaming gets boring.

                    • bit says:

                      Do you understand how narrative works, out of curiosity? PLOT is NOT unimportant, and character is NOT everything; The two are supplemental. The character drives us through the plot (Which can be plenty interesting on its own) While the plot develops the character to make them interesting. This applies to ALL narrative art forms, by the by; Implying that this relationship is fundamentally altered because this is a videogame is honestly rather silly.

                    • 1) The weighted companion cube is literally a parody of avatar projection I was talking about earlier. The only reason it’s awesome in any fashion is for exactly the reason you noted: because GLADOS is hyping it up. It’s through her character that it’s given any value at all. That’s the joke.

                      2) Mario’s linearity is a product of its game design, not its narrative. It doesn’t apply to the discussion. As for minecraft, if your saying it doesn’t matter because it’s not adored by 100% of the population…that’s a pretty silly counter argument to make. It sold in the millions purely on word of mouth. You know of any other game that’s pulled that off?

                      As for Bit:

                      Explaining the mechanics of a narrative doesn’t really disprove my point that plot is not as important as character, ESPECIALLY in an audio/visual medium. To say that seeing and hearing a character doesn’t alter the relationship…THAT is silly.

                  • Destrustor says:

                    Dear Neil Polenske: a flurry of examples, with the only context of endlessly repeating things one has already said, does not constitute a proper debate. Furthermore, dismissing without fail any and all couter-arguments as irrelevant and off-topic does not constitute an acceptable rebuttal.
                    Is the topic of this thread of comments “Neil is always right all the time and f*** those who say otherwise” ?
                    Because if not, the other commenters are completely in their right to disagree with you, and I find their comments to be acceptably on-topic. Please stop blowing them off like a deaf parrot.

                    • “Dear Neil Polenske: a flurry of examples, with the only context of endlessly repeating things one has already said, does not constitute a proper debate.”

                      How so? I only have…well two points to make in this case, and if people keep missing them I have to keep repeating them.

                      “Furthermore, dismissing without fail any and all couter-arguments as irrelevant and off-topic does not constitute an acceptable rebuttal.”

                      Yes it is, as long as I provide reasons for dismissal, which I have.

                • Even says:

                  So instead we should all be playing and watching soap operas, because it’s all about the characters, right? I heard reality-tv is especially compelling too. Because who wants to watch FAKE characters when you can watch real ones?

                  • LOL WUT?

                    Kidding aside, I honestly don’t have a clue what your trying to say. Were you responding to someone else perhaps?

                    • Even says:

                      I’m pointing out types of sub-par entertainment where the plot matters the least in an effort to discredit your argument with mockery. You could also call it an attempt at sarcasm given the state of the discussion so far.

                      IE: I disagree and I think you’re being silly. What you’re trying to sell here is just impossible to fit into “entertainment” as a whole which I take it you’re actually proposing here. I’m not sure if it’s just hilariously preposterous or the other way around. I can agree that plot is not necessary to every single thing ever, but you can’t expect to ride on that horse everywhere either. You don’t care about plot, but other people do or want to care and you keep giving off the air like there’s something wrong about it. I just don’t see how the standards you describe would fit with what a fairly big part of the audience may actually want to experience. Characters can save bad plots, but I have a hard time imagining where EVERYTHING is built around the standards you describe to actually work for OTHER people than you. Calling it “modern storytelling” sort of defies logic anyway but I’m willing to swipe that under the “LOL I WAS JUST TROLLING”-carpet.

                    • “I’m pointing out types of sub-par entertainment where the plot matters the least in an effort to discredit your argument with mockery. You could also call it an attempt at sarcasm given the state of the discussion so far.”

                      How does it discredit my argument? Your examples were to each, one of the most popular tv genres today and one of the oldest.

                    • Even says:

                      Since you apparently can’t read into irony or comprehend the term sarcasm then I apologize for trying to be clever since it obviously missed its target. If you actually like them, then make that a double apology. Here’s an idea: I think they’re garbage that only merit to melting people’s brains. Now please let’s continue.

                    • Well since you apparently don’t understand how irony or sarcasm works, you weren’t being clever either.

                      Okay, so you don’t like soaps or reality tv…so what? Doesn’t change the fact that they’re popular, which means they resonate with a lot of people, reenforcing my point. So yeah, how you feel about them doesn’t matter in the slightest.

                      And for the record, I don’t watch tv. I haven’t in years.

                    • Even says:

                      Well I said I’m sorry, OK? Can we move on, finally? Please?

                      “you don’t like soaps or reality tv”

                      And you don’t like plot. Why should anyone care about your opinion either? Why should the audience who actually likes plot get ignored? There is still entertainment produced that tries to cater to that crowd so obviously there’s audience for it as well.

                      And I never denied they’re popular. That still doesn’t change the fact that they’re almost without exception just plain lazy entertainment. I’m not saying it’s all necessarily bad, (because who doesn’t want sometimes to reset their brains), but I do believe it’s a bad universal standard to build upon. I still don’t see what’s so wrong about wanting a video game that insists on splashing the story to your face (whether the player cares or not) to at least keep it coherent and somewhat sensical.

                    • “And you don’t like plot. Why should anyone care about your opinion either?”

                      Because I back up what I say with tangible evidence rather than hyperbole and false presumption?

                      Look, if you were saying you didn’t agree and that’s all, then I’d be fine with that, but you’re not. You are saying I’m wrong but you got nothing to back it up. So far all this back ‘n forth between us has been me pointing that out to you. For instance:

                      “Why should the audience who actually likes plot get ignored? There is still entertainment produced that tries to cater to that crowd so obviously there’s audience for it as well.”

                      You provided no example to prove this, so I have no reason to believe you.

                    • Even says:

                      Addressing some specific hyperbole or false assumption would help a lot instead of handwaving it. Now you actually did it. Great. I don’t mind being proved wrong, I just don’t see a convincing argument here.

                      “But plot is one of the least important aspects of modern storytelling.”

                      That’s a sweeping statement which just doesn’t work with common sense, when all you provide is only some vague examples in animation. You completely fail to describe how this works for modern books, comics, film, theatre and everything else that involves storytelling. If there was any part where I feel you’re wrong, it’s this. It was also the main source of my hyperbole. Unless you have something more to say or can point me into the direction of a credible study on the state of modern writing in general, I may have to remain unconvinced.

                      “Consistency and logic can take a holiday in any story and it’ll still be good if the characters are compelling.”

                      This is the first point where I simply just disagree, coming simply from personal experience. The animation you talk about is strange to me, but I’ve found out that characters to me, in most entertainment, usually only feel really compelling if their backstory is well defined and their actions in relation to the plot make sense. Maybe it’s just different standards, but what you describe just sounds awful to me on paper and not all that different what the generic soap operas or reality tv offer.

                      “So far all this back ‘n forth between us has been me pointing that out to you. For instance:”

                      Well I’m sorry, I thought we were just dicking around. With all that trolling and all.

                      “You provided no example to prove this, so I have no reason to believe you.”

                      Okay. I’d just think this article is proof enough that there exists people who like to pay attention to the plot and who can appreciate a good plot when one comes up. I’m not sure what else to say. I too care about plot to some extent (as long as it’s not force-fed horsecrap). Do I need to go out and fill a survey? Because I don’t think I have the time and interest in this discussion to go that far. If we’re really going to get nitpicky and official like that, maybe I should demand to see some more tangible proof about your own claims since can I really trust just your word on it?

                      Anyhow, you wanted proof: Here’s a link to an interview with Mister Chris Avellone, who, as much as I’ve read, clearly loves writing stories, even for video games. Note that he also likes writing characters who support the story. (I’m linking to the wiki since some weeks back when I tried to link to the article itself, my post got autonuked by the system, go figure.)

                      http://community.falloutwiki.com/news/2-fallout-new-vegas-post-mortem-interview-at-gamebanshee-part-1/

                      Just so we don’t forget, he’s one of the co-founders of Obsidian Entertainment. He worked as Senior Designer for New Vegas and Project Director for the DLC. Both which the game and the DLC were all very heavily story driven albeit with strong supporting characters. Strong because they played active part in the plot and had history to tie in with the plot. Without the plot, the characters would have suffered for it and a lot of the premise for the DLCs especially would have been ruined right there. And why? Because the plot is what connects all the dots together, what makes the characters more than just a talking head with random opinions. Suddenly their disposition starts to make sense when you learn more about them. While may far it be from a perfect game or perfect DLCs, the writing is still miles ahead compared to that of Skyrim. But I digress.

                      Moving on, here’s another fellow called Tim Cain:

                      http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/WillOoi/20111026/8734/Unmasking_the_Gamers_Tim_Cain__Industry_Veteran_Programmer_and_Original_Creator_of_Fallout.php

                      Here’s a man, a respected writer in his own right, who’s been involved in a number of other games heavy with plot, like Vampire: The Bloodlines which again was a great combination of both plot AND characters. He, as a man actually working in the field, also dares to argue this in the interview: “Roger Ebert is wrong. Games are art, and the games of today can compete with movies, books and any other form of entertainment available to consumers.” That’s at the least something to think about.

                      Again, moving on, here we come down again to the part where you say you don’t think that a “videogame’s narrative was all that important in the grand scheme of things”. I still don’t fully understand what your deal here with this is. You come here, by your own admittance, to “troll” because apparently video games are somehow unworthy and waste of space to include a good story. Do you have somesort of contempt for people who’d prefer having good stories in video games? What is this all about?

                    • “You completely fail to describe how this works for modern books, comics, film, theatre and everything else that involves storytelling.”

                      And I’m not going to because I already provided an example and if you want to dismiss it, go right ahead. It’s still a lauded piece of storytelling with a broken plot and again, your personal opinion doesn’t change any of that.

                      As for your examples, you provide an author who wrote for a game that suffered that exact kind of character dissonance I’m talking about here and an author who you yourself claimed writes great characters, which hardly disproves my point that you don’t need a great plot if you have great characters.

                      And the videogame narrative issue is easy. You play videogames. You can’t play narratives.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Reality shows have real characters?

                    Joking aside,Neil Polenske is somewhat right,plot is not important.They way it is told is important.

                  • Even says:

                    “And I’m not going to because I already provided an example and if you want to dismiss it, go right ahead. It’s still a lauded piece of storytelling with a broken plot and again, your personal opinion doesn’t change any of that.”

                    Not all narrative entertainment works with the same standards nor share the shame audiences, which is why you would need more examples. I was here trying to invite you to explain what your show was exactly is about and how your example works in reality instead as a vague concept I have a hard time putting my mind around for reasons I already explained. All you’ve been doing in this message chain is dodging issues from the start. First under the guise of trolling, now just because you apparently take offence for me founding your argument wanting with a good reason. Did I disrespect you somehow? Because I thought that one was thrown out of the window a good while back.

                    “that suffered that exact kind of character dissonance I’m talking about here”

                    That’s again just your opinion and I disagree. I thought most of the major characters worked well and I found them to be compelling characters. Or are you somekind of voice of truth about these things?

                    “my point that you don’t need a great plot if you have great characters.”

                    Let me rephrase my argument since it somehow went over your head: They would be awful characters without the plot backing them up. In other words, they are good characters BECAUSE of the plot. They wouldn’t work the way they do if not for the plot.

                    Bad or minimal plot = very little room foor good character development.

                    “And the videogame narrative issue is easy. You play videogames. You can’t play narratives.”

                    What is that even supposed to mean? How does that support your “argument” about it? Is it somehow criminal to you to be able to enjoy a narrative while playing a game?

                    I don’t really see worth arguing with you any further when all you do is dodge the issue and do your darndest to actually avoid explaining yourself when called out. But I suppose it’d be a travesty to treat this pissing contest as a proper discussion anyway.

                    I bid you adieu, my friend.

                    • Even says:

                      Well I’ll be damned, tripped by the chain system. Anyhow, in response to my friend, Neil Polenske, above.

                • Simulated Knave says:

                  Except a good plot with mediocre or even terrible characters can still be interesting in and of itself. Having completely uninteresting characters will definitely hamper things, but you can still drag interest along based simply on “but what happens next?” The Da Vinci Code has mouthpieces for exposition, not characters, but that doesn’t stop it being interesting to people.

                  Furthermore, a sufficiently bad plot can ruin even the most interesting of characters. First season TNG springs to mind, among others (the characters aren’t THAT interesting, but they were a hell of a lot more interesting than the plots).

                  • “Except a good plot with mediocre or even terrible characters can still be interesting in and of itself.”

                    True, but this is far more the exception rather than the rule. The mouthpieces in the DVC film still had more character than anything in Skyrim. They were underwhelming only when compared to the other forms of the medium, again proving the importance of character. If you’re referring to the book, it’s not an audio/visual medium, so it doesn’t apply to this discussion.

                    The TNG example also doesn’t bear you out since simple logic says that if poor plots had affected the quality of the characters, the show wouldn’t have been carried over for additional seasons.

                    As for Klay…he doesn’t deserve a separate reply:

                    “Do you really not understand the purposes of storytelling beyond entertainment?”

                    Yeah, but since this is about a videogame made purely for the purposes of entertainment, it’d be irrelevant to talk about it. If you’re using the game for something more…that kinda goes back to my comment about a lack of perspective.

                • Klay F. says:

                  Um, are you some sort of alien? Do you really not understand the purposes of storytelling beyond entertainment?

                  Some of us like stories that have actual meaning other than “well that was fun”. Except the Thieves Guild questline can’t even do that. It fails in every way it is possible to fail.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Thats a poor excuse.Just because its a video game,doesnt mean it cannot have a good story.Whats more important,Shamus isnt saying that the story isnt good,but that it isnt even passable and internally consistent.It doesnt even get the basics of story telling right.Also,its not a rule that games have to have stories,but if you are going to put a story in your game,at least make it passable.Thats not much to ask.

        • Dys says:

          If you haven’t seen a bad movie in a long time, you either have impeccable taste or none at all.

          • guy says:

            You would be amazed how much fun it is to have no taste. I can watch anything and be entertained!

          • The only bad movies I can remember seeing in any recent memory was Meet the Spartans, which my friends wanted to see (though I had to purchase the tickets…I could have saved us all…) and The Last Airbender, which I wanted to see out of a mix of brand loyalty (I’m a BIG fan of the show), curiosity (I’d seen the reviews prior of course) and revenge (I brought my friends along). MtS was a tough one to sit through I won’t lie, but I still found a way to be entertained through TLA. It was downright fascinating to watch it all trainwreck right before my eyes and unintentional hilarity is STILL hilarity.

    • Alex the Too Old says:

      Holy shit, look at this thread. As a troll, you have succeeded.

      [Edited for having been successfully goaded into an emotional outburst that I myself do not approve of. Trolls make the world a worse place, that much is surely inarguable.]

  28. Ezio says:

    Being forced into Nocturnal’s service was the worst part of the questline. A thief is typically selfish and wants to live a comfortable, independent life. That’s the opposite of the kind of person who’d want to pledge their service in life and thereafter to a deity who doesn’t offer anything in return but nebulous “fortune,” which doesn’t actually effect anything in-game whatsoever.

    Maybe it’s meant to be a lesson about how thievery doesn’t pay, and Karliah’s enthusiasm about picking pockets at the end is meant to ring hollow. But as heavy-handed and stultifying as that is, it’s still beyond Bethesda’s storytelling abilities. They think they just made a cool complex questline with awesome kickass armor you get from being a shadowy occultist.

    • Gamer says:

      Another thing that gets me is that Karliah herself admits that neither she nor anyone else have a clue what exactly Nocturnal gets out of these deals nor her motivations to do anything. No thief would ever make a deal without knowing its exact terms before agreeing to them. Hell, no person would.

    • Kira says:

      She also offers you one of three near-useless once a day powers too… Which is a bit more than “fortune”, but not much so.

  29. Zanfib says:

    I didn’t have a problem with the AI. As long as you don’t actually attack anything they won’t give you away.

  30. Adam P says:

    What rubbed me the wrong way was the value of the eyes, supposedly worth a small forture 2500 gold per eye? By the time you get to that point in the questline, you will have made 5000 gold on your own, just from vendoring all of the gear and loot you come across in the quest chain. If you don’t have anything to improve prices, the eyes will vendor for 1500 gold.

    What’s stupid about this is that the home in Whiterun costs 5000 gold, and it’s the cheapest home available in the game. So I guess everyone in the guild is telling me, “those eyes are worth a small home.”

    If 5000 is a small fortune to the Thieve’s Guild, then I have to question just how much was in the vault. I’m mostly curious because when the vault was opened, I’m pretty sure I had more gold on my character than that vault held at any one time.

    • Gamer says:

      When I played through, I just saw that as Gameplay and Story Segregation. I didn’t think they would give you items that cost a small fortune.

      Then again, they easily could, since the player can’t get more money than the vendor they sell to.

      • Adam P says:

        Part of the problem is that the player can be rewarded with leveled gold. Not only that, but some items (like the sword and bow Karliah gives the player) also scale with level, both in stats and value. Not to mention that higher level items (like ebony or glass) start appearing more as the player’s level increases, and those kinds of items are worth more. So the economy is basically designed to break as the player goes up in level.

        The point I’m trying to get around to making is that the eyes should be one of those kinds of leveled items, so that rich, high level players like myself can actually grab the items and think, “wow, these are worth 12,500 gold each? No wonder Gallus and Mercer wanted to steal them!”

    • Shamus says:

      Yeah. I don’t see why the eyes couldn’t have been worth more. You get $10k or $20k for completing the AG quests. You would THINK that the Thieves Guild would pay at least that much.

  31. RCN says:

    the The worst part is that 70% of those problems could easily be solved by swapping “25 years ago” business with “last year” or “few months ago”, then at least Karliah would seem like a desperate woman doing everything she can think off in a short period to make things right.

    Then again, there really is a whole lot this doesn’t even begin to explain…

  32. Gamer says:

    My initial impression of the theft of all that money is that Mercer was siphoning a little bit of money off at a time. When he realized that my player and Karliah were getting close to catching him, he then decided to just run off with all the marbles.

    It doesn’t explain the Eyes of the Falmer set-piece, and a few other things are left unexplained (Why did Brynjolf think Mercer never used his house, he quite clearly did?, etc.) but it seems more plausible to me.

  33. Alex says:

    “Pain is just comedy leaving the body.”

    Is that an original? Is that quoting something? Either way, I really like that.

    And hey, I think it’s a legitimate series of quests for the Thieves Guild. Look at all of the free time it stole from you! :D

  34. Skalpadda says:

    While I agree that the Thieves Guild quest line (and many others in Skyrim) is mostly nonsensical poppycock, you seem to have gone about writing this with a bullheaded determination to ignore any logical answer to the questions you pose and (deliberately?) misunderstand the motivations of the characters involved.

    It’s a shame as it turns something that could be an entertaining and insightful criticism into silly comedy bashing, but maybe I misunderstood the original intention of these posts.

  35. (LK) says:

    I have missed these posts from you, and the lack of them actually caused me to take a prolonged break from reading your blog. If you’re entertaining a return to analyzing game writing as a prominent feature I anticipate a return to reading regularly.

    The let’s play videos have been entertaining but such things are all over youtube, for every game imaginable, and most of those don’t have Josh in them being annoying (sorry Josh). Interesting deconstructions of a game’s plot and writing are a rarer thing to find and tend to leave me wanting to read more.

  36. Trevel says:

    I feel the need to point out:

    My beef with the Thiefy plotline has little to do with the actual content of it, and more to do with the form of it: It is, of the plotlines I’ve done, the only one that doesn’t believe in letting the character be the player.

    Think through the game; any Elder Scrolls, even. You start off in your characters head. You move, you jump, you do whatever you want/can. If you can’t do it, it’s generally because of an in-game reason — your hands are bound, you’re locked in prison, et cetera.

    You might only have a few options of things to say when talking to people, but they’re YOUR choices.

    Then comes the Thieves; the first thing they steal is your identity. Nearly every conversation with them is a forced back-and-forth, leaving you with no choice but to participate or walk away. You can’t even say no to giving up your soul; you can abort the conversation, but that’s it. The rails are in place, and your every interaction forces them.

    Then it starts showing cut scenes, where you have to be paralyzed or otherwise restrained…

    I don’t mind that the plot is so poorly designed. I do mind that it was written for a different sort of game.

  37. ZZZZZZ says:

    I just finished the Thieves Guild quest line, and all I have to say is wow.
    I apparently sold my soul to Nocturnal for nothing (other than some armor which is inferior to what I can make myself), in order to kill a guy whom I’ve already KOed several times by accident (sorry Mercer), to save the business of a bunch of morons to whom I have no emotional attachment because they’re so unrealistically dumb and have done nothing in the entire quest line–which consisted of about five missions–only one of which actually required me to steal something.

    Oh, and I’m now the guild master too. Makes sense, since the Dragonborn is clearly an idiot himself, what with his only choices of response to everything being:

    Dumb question
    Dumb irrelevant question
    Arrogant comment
    “Yes master.”

    I’m going to wipe this lot out when I get back to Riften. The Gray Fox is turning in his grave.

  38. Ateius says:

    It’s actually possible to tell the two NPCs to sit down and shut up and go stealthily take out the enemies yourself. It’s a little tricky because if you’re too close they’ll twig to the combat and if you’re too far away they’ll get separation anxiety and come looking for you, but it’s possible.

    Speaking of combat, how about that boss fight? I had just about a pure stealth build going on (with just a dash of magic for buffs) and Mercer absolutely destroyed me. Didn’t help that he could magically detect me in the shadows, with 100 sneak and all perks, using Muffle.

    • Phantos says:

      I just got to the top of the statue and Fus-Ro-Dah’d him to his death. Utilizing absolutely none of the skills I should have learned from a Thieves Guild. I think at that point, I knew better than to expect consistency or reason.

      What gave me trouble was figuring out where I was supposed to go when the room flooded. I didn’t know there was an opening in the ceiling, so I ended up swimming around uselessly humping the walls looking for an exit. Good thing I was playing an Argonian, or I probably would have drowned or something.

  39. Grivessillus says:

    The thieves guild quests are the worst quests I ever saw, in any game, ever.
    It’s like they got the most useless things no one would ever use, ever, put them in a blender, then threw them randomly at the game.

    And the writings so smug! They clearly think it’s so great all the time. They’re patting themselves on the back constantly about how great it is.

    The worst part is they try to force the TG on you constantly, in places it has no part in! They go as far as to deliberately hide the none TG options in the lame and stupid main quest, even as and after after you’ve done dragging a obnoxious man through a stinking sewer!
    They try to force the TG on you the moment you enter rifton with unaccepabley agressive NPCs. The moment you go to the market.
    Brynjolfs a freaking parasite, he locks on you the moment you come within feet of him.
    And if you don’t want to do it? It leaves it in your quest journal.
    Because the idiots who wrote it, thought you would’nt want to miss out on the pain.

    So the only way to avoid getting it stinking up your quest journal? Sneak round rifton to avoid the stupid moron Brynjolf and don’t go through the front gate path till you complete the imperials win civil war quest.

    Something you should know, talking to Maramel as the idiot comes at you blocks Brynjolfs putrid whining, and stops it forcing the quest on you.

  40. Frank says:

    This was a great series of articles. Really hilarious and pointed out a lot of stuff I didn’t quite put together. While reading this I realized that I kind of turned off my mind during the TG quests, because it got so nonsensical and hard to follow that I rarely understood what was happening or why I was doing something.

  41. Phantos says:

    I recently finished this one on the Xbox, just for the achievements.

    It’s not that I didn’t believe you, Shamus. It’s just… Oh God… I didn’t WANT to believe you! It was like if a Fighter’s Guild quest was all about making potions, and solving our problems through meaningful dialogue.

    That was NOT worth twenty gamerscore! D:

  42. Justin says:

    I realize this is old, but I think this is a well written article. Everything about the main Thieves Guild Questline is just odd. Even felt that way the first time but I couldn’t put my mind on it. Curse this, curse that. Etc.

    Thing is though, if I could make one change that would have made it far better, it would have been this. I would have made the special jobs a requirement. I know they are a requirement, but they don’t have to be done first. Had they welcomed you into the guild, then Mercer could have been like, “alright newbie, you take your orders from Vex go do some jobs for her” and like some of those jobs involve locking down two holds, then it would have been better. After that, you get a rank up and take orders from Delvin for the other two holds (where you get fences or special items etc). And then after that, you take some orders from Brynjolf for some quests in the Questline, like Goldenglow etc. Even in the Oblivion version (where the story is far superior), you have to prove yourself by stealing things before you get the special jobs (where you can literally do whatever you want). That I think would have made it fit with the story a heck of a lot better.

    Because in all honesty, you can ignore the main questline, do all the special jobs and have the the Flagon all busy with people, while the main npcs go on about a “curse.”

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