Skyrim EP4: Camilla Baba Jaga

By Shamus
on Feb 12, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Chris hit on a really good point in this episode, which is that Elder Scrolls AI goes along with zombiekind much better than with sapients. The mindless bloodlust, the lack of idiotic and repetitive combat taunts, the sometimes janky pathing, the inept “search for the player” stealth mechanics… it all fits mindless beasts, and comes off as unintentional comedy when used by gangs of bandits.

I also enjoy the scenery of Draugr ruins more than the somewhat bland caves used by bandits. I think Draugr ruins are more interesting places to explore, their inhabitants make more sense, their loot is more varied, their atmosphere is more tense, and the traps are more clever. But the fact that they’re so good is probably why they’re featured in the core game so often, which is why people get sick of them.

I suppose that having just a couple of different “spook” foes would help alleviate this. As the game stands now, caves are filled with one of the following: Draugr, Falmer, Forsworn, Necromancers, Vampires, Dwemer Automatons, or Bandits. (There are many factions of “bandits”, but they all play pretty much the same.) There are also a few wildlife foes scattered around: Bears, saber cats, skeevers, spriggans, wolves, and giant spiders. While these wildlife foes don’t have their own dungeons, they appear in little pockets to break up the monotony.

That’s not bad in terms of foe variety. But this game is so huge and the dungeons so numerous that it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll start to feel like it’s getting repetitious, particularly if you wander off to do some unstructured dungeon diving.

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  1. curiouserandcuriouser says:

    I’ve been wondering for a few seasons, actually, but who comes up with/decides on the text that goes with people’s names in the credits? Josh during the editing process? Josh, but he’s open to suggestions from the crew?

  2. Twisted_Ellipses says:

    I think it might have been misinterpreted why Catbert was able to take stuff, rather than have it classed as stealing. If you do jobs or purchase enough things from shop-keepers, they’ll let you take cheaper items from their homes and businesses.

    The enemies you encounter can be interesting, but too often are bland or frustrating. In the last camp are hard-hitting stealth animals, as well as poison & disease carrying creatures. However, the major one I would single out as plain annoying is the vampire. Vampirism is the new trendy disease, you can’t help but catch if they even so much as sneeze on your character. Chances are, you probably won’t notice your character even has it, until cure disease no longer works. If you don’t plan on getting the dawnguard expansion or getting a Brave Companion questline reward, then you’re left with three options. 1.Embark on a lengthy, boring quest that you can’t complete until you reach full vampire hunger 2.Don’t go out in sunlight or into towns (since vampire lose health in sunlight and at higher levels of hunger are treated as immediate enemies) 3.Stop every few hours to feed off someone sleeping (If your sneak is high enough).

    • Hitchmeister says:

      Without Dawnguard vampires are a lot less common in Skyrim than Oblivion. (I don’t have Dawnguard, so I’m not sure how much they’ve changed or how common they are.) In Oblivion, after messing with vampirism once, I decided I never wanted to do that again, so I make it a point to always visit a shire after fighting vampires, even if I don’t think I got bit. I also never sleep without visiting a shire first unless I can clearly remember that I have not been near any vampires since my last “cleansing.” Vampirism is curable by any altar or shrine as long as you haven’t slept. It seems a tad paranoid, but I imagine smart citizens of that world do much the same.

    • Nonesuch says:

      This (and the nifty bonuses from Dawnguard) are about 90% of the reason I do the companions quests early. (And vampire lord looks really dumb, and is slow) That and when you murder things as a werewolf you aren’t levelling, so you can do a quest or two and not have to worry about accidentally starting the next tier of APPROPRIATELY LEVEL ENEMIES.

    • Ateius says:

      It’s not just shopkeepers, though it is usually easiest to get this with them. It’s a function of the new “behind the scenes” disposition system. If an NPC likes you enough, they’ll let you take some of their items gratis. This is typically accomplished through doing their quests or patronizing their business.

      The family of whichever Nord you follow out of Helgen gets set to max disposition once you’re introduced to them, which makes most of their stuff free for the taking. Returning the Golden Claw to the Riverwood Trader gives them a huge disposition boost, which is why most of their stuff became ‘free’. You can see it happen elsewhere as well, but those two are the easiest to get.

      NPCs giving you random (usually worthless) items is also a function of the disposition system. However, given the reputaton Reginald usually has, we might not see that during this playthrough.

  3. Thomas says:

    I can’t decide whether I’d like this game or not. That quiet moment in the woods with the moon and soft music was stunningly beautiful but I don’t know if I could take a game so directionless and so deliberately passive as to have most quests ending in dungeon crawl item hunts

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Youll be able to decide fairly quickly once Josh starts fighting the fun enemies(giants and dragons).If you dont like those,than you should probably stay away from the game.

  4. Zukhramm says:

    Is it just me or is this first dungeon terrible? It’s long, boring, long, linear and boring. It’s a terrible introduction if the other dungeons are unlike it. If not, I’m glad that’s where I quit.

    • Humanoid says:

      It gets more complex in that they might start putting the solution to the animal picture matching puzzles in adjacent rooms instead of the same room. And if they’re feeling particularly cruel, they might put four pictures to match instead of three. Once in a while there’ll be a short detour containing some random loot.

      If there are non-linear dungeons it’s because the floorplans for them are just one giant room with a few small rooms branching off it. Sometimes the floor is water and you walk on wooden platforms. Sometimes there’s non-interactive mechanical contraptions as props behind metal grates. Those levels tend to be yellow instead of grey. But it’s all functionally the same.

      So yeah, none of the actual dungeony dungeons I tackled before getting bored of the game in general were memorable in any way, and I certainly can’t name any of them. Preferred the rare occasions where they at least put a veneer over it, such as infiltrating the Thalmor embassy, but such moments are few and far between. There’s one where you go off into some sort of dreamland, but that’s basically just a smaller (and therefore superior) version of The Fade.

      • Yeah, they pretty much all follow the same design of point A to point B. I was surprised, but honestly it didn’t bother me as much I’d figured. What I did find odd about that particular dungeon was that the exit into Skyrim lead you to that cliff with no real way down. There’s no path to follow, so basically everyone has to do what Josh did and just hop off the ledge. Struck me as pretty strange design considering how early in the game this is meant to be tackled. I can’t remember any other dungeons that did that.

        • Humanoid says:

          Not sure about that, might be the case most people just fast travelled back to Riverwood. I certainly did the two times I got through here, and so have never seen that witch/vampire/overly aggressive peasant.

          • What I meant is that this dungeon in particular is rather heavily directed compared to the rest of the game, so it’s odd they didn’t give you a more obvious in-game path to civilization.

            I’ve played this game four times over so far and I’ve never used the FT, to the point where I tend to forget it exists…

      • Alex says:

        Yeah, the dungeon design is one of the things about Skyrim that I’d call genuinely bad. I want a real dungeon, not a haunted house ride.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        I’l admit it’s been a while since I played Skyrim but I think the dungeons of any interesting scale and/or content are few, far between and, I think, mostly major quest related.

        I still remember getting hopelessly lost and confused in Daggerfall dungeons… good/frustrating times (depending on a given day).

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Ack, made atypo in my email!

        • Bubble181 says:

          Then again, Daggerfall had that lovely incredibly counterintuitive way of 3D-mapping the dungeons. You could get stuck in quite afew of them, too – places only reachable with levitation, or withn o way out except death/levitation/wall crawling,…

          The upside was that, quite often, you’d have no clue at what level you were, with sometimes staircases, sometimes sloping hallways, sometimes sudden drops…

          Man, I loved the Daggerfall dungeons. But sometiems the algorythm to checkthey were “solvable” seems to have failed :p

          • Humanoid says:

            So *that’s* what the New Vegas level designers were trying to replicate. Figures.

          • HeroOfHyla says:

            I remember playing Daggerfall and getting a quest to locate a wizard in a dungeon at one point. This dungeon felt approximately the size of all of Skyrim combined. I worked my way through it hugging the right wall until I finally found the wizard after what felt like half an hour. He was underwater in a tunnel so long that I could only get about half way back to the surface without drowning.

            That’s when I stopped playing Daggerfall.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      It’s a good intro into the mechanics of the Draugr dungeons. Since it’s not very dangerous, you are able to fiddle around for a bit until you figure out how everything works. (This is especially important for the Golden Claw puzzle, so you learn to rotate the object.

      Some players aren’t terribly great at critical thinking, so this intro is very important to them. Things that are obvious to us aren’t as obvious to some people. Skyrim was made so that many different people could enjoy it just as much, so it’s designed to fit that.

      • Zukhramm says:

        I am unwilling to accept that teaching players also has to be boring.

        • swenson says:

          YMMV of course, but I didn’t find this dungeon boring when I played through it. But then again I am exactly the kind of person they make these games for, the obsessive hoarder who happily goes through yet another dungeon for the sake of just a little bit more shiny loot that’s not even as good as the shiny loot I already have.

  5. Warrax says:

    Back when Skyrim first came out, way back when I did this puzzle door for the first time, I didn’t know that the combination was on the back of the claw. I probably spent 30 minutes or so going over the engravings on the walls, looking for clues as to what the combination might be. (Of course now I’m like Shamus, I knew off the top of my head that you just hit each one twice.)

    Strangely, I did eventually get it. There’s an archaeologist-type NPC in Dragonborn that tells you that the carvings are supposed to be related to the combination. I don’t know if that was something that they’d intended to do from the beginning and didn’t follow through with, or if it was retconned because of people like me.

    • Humanoid says:

      I wonder what proportion of players just brute forced it, at least to begin with. I know I did for this one, though I can’t quite remember the moment in which I realised the ‘proper’ solution. (For those unfamiliar, the exact same puzzle reoccurs throughout the game, just with different coloured claws)

      • Hitchmeister says:

        I wonder how many people failed to read Arvel’s journal*, or if they did, failed to figure out the clue in it? “When you have the golden claw, the solution is in the palm of your hands.”

        * Arvel is the elf in the web that you get the claw from. He also has a journal with the clue on him.

    • czhah says:

      I failed to notice that as well and ended up “deducing” the correct sequence from the decorations in the room, using some bizarre not-grounded-on-reality logic to get the door open. Luckily I discovered the markings on the claw before next dungeon.

    • ET says:

      Kinda makes me wonder if in ten years, all 3D games with inventory or otherwise interactive objects, will have some kind of standardized “rotate object” button or interface.
      Being the first game (or one of the first games sometimes) to include a new mechanic, you have to assume that a big-enough-to-matter portion of your audience just won’t figure out the puzzles, or at least take long enough that they quit in frustration before figuring it out.
      Not because the puzzle itself is particularly hard, mind you, but because they didn’t know what button on their 3D-world-simulating lumps-of-plastic, would be used to do the appropriate action.

      • Ateius says:

        That’s probably why every single sub-faction has a quest that introduces the Draugr dungeons and beats you over the head with how to solve the door.

        I particularly liked the one for the Imperial Legion, where if you take too long the legate just starts shouting “HEY I BET THERE’S SOMETHING ON THAT CLAW YOU GUYS” over and over.

    • AdmiralCheez says:

      I only knew how to solve that puzzle because I had watched a developer video before release where the designer was giving a tour of the dungeon, and gave away the solution as one of their “new” innovations.

  6. hborrgg says:

    Of all the melee weapons I sort of found 2-handers to have the most interesting mechanics. Not only does the combination of long range and slow, heavy hitting attacks put a bit more emphasis on kiting and timing, but once you get the perks you get to start thinking about “Oh, do I want to do a charge attack here and hope I don’t miss? Should I stand perfectly still to try and take advantage of the standing power attack bonus? Do I want to do a sideswipe to hit every enemy in front of me at once?” That sort of thing, it was pretty good.

    Also don’t forget that you can actually shield bash with two-handed weapons. It’s extremely useful, especially once you reach the point where you can 1-shot weaker enemies like wolves with it.

    The other thing I noticed about this game is that it really doesn’t make much sense to try and play a pure melee or pure ranged person (This is a good thing IM0). Even as a heavy warrior my main method of attack was generally to sneak as far as I could, alpha strike with the bow, and then finish off whoever got close.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Since I always play Sneak, I usually go Duel-Wielding when I get into close quarters combat.

      I prefer One-Handed because it feels like it’s more versatile. I can either equip another Sword for extra damage or a Shield for defense as needed. With Smithing and Enchanting, you can even make some really powerful dual-wield combinations of weaponry.

      • Humanoid says:

        My first attempt at the game was a typical sword and shield fighter, and I tired of that quickly. My second was your typical dagger-wielding assassin and that worked pretty well, and I enjoyed it. In both cases I reserved the use of the bow to occasions where there was literally nothing else do to, like when fighting airborne enemies. Not that I didn’t try the standard sneak-shoot-hide-reset archery strategy, but it felt so silly and unwieldy that I didn’t persist for long.

        If I go again, I’ll begin like many others inspired by the antics of Reginald Catbert and try unarmed combat. But if it doesn’t work out, my fallback plan will be two-handed hammers. Only hammers – in the tradition of Fallout I guess. I’ve never tried any two-handed weapon, maybe because of the recent (at the time) experience of it in Mount and Blade (I will forever suck at directional blocking). I probably won’t be able to resist levelling sneak, so I guess it’ll be stealthy sledgehammer sneak attack time, no matter how ineffectual.

  7. Rutskarn says:

    This week’s TES Riddle:

    What’s David Grohl’s favorite race?

  8. hborrgg says:

    Once you become someone’s friend in Skyrim they’ll let you take any items from their home which are worth under a certain amount. This of course includes gold coins, but whatever.

    Also, smithing question. Are iron daggers really the best way to level up smithing? Wouldn’t it be better to transmute all your jron into gold and then just make jewelry?

    Jewelry did seem to give me a ton of XP whenever I made it. If I remember a diamond necklace is enough to bump up your smithing a couple levels at once.

    • Alex says:

      My previous post was eaten by the system, so to repeat it:

      If you have the spell to transmute ore, jewelery is the best use of iron ore for leveling and sale (since it’s so light for its value). But apart from that, it’s bows and helmets that are the best way to level, not daggers.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I don’t know if they changed it too much since (I know they patched Smithing at some point), but forging Iron Daggers was easily the cheapest, and fastest way to boost Smithing. If you couple that with an Enchanter and the Banish enchantment, you can even turn it into a get rich quick scheme.

    • Raygereio says:

      Also, smithing question. Are iron daggers really the best way to level up smithing? Wouldn’t it be better to transmute all your jron into gold and then just make jewelry?
      Iron daggers used to be the best power-levelling method for smithing since the ingredients are cheap and easy to get. Before 1.5 you could reach 100 smithing by creating just 500 (I think?) iron daggers. Patch 1.5 changed the formula for smithing XP and now it factors in the created item’s value and reaching 100 smithing will take about 2500 daggers now.
      I believe dwemer bows are the new favorite power leveling method. But jewelry will also be pretty effective.

      It’s probably worth noting that the skill formula is XP = 3*(item value^0.65)+25.
      That +25 at the end means that it’s usually still better to create multiple items of lower value, then one item of higher value.

      • Alex says:

        “I believe dwemer bows are the new favorite power leveling method.”

        That’s correct. They have the third-lowest skill requirement after iron and steel weapons, and they require only two extremely common materials – iron ingots (available in large quantities from every blacksmith) and dwarven metal ingots (available in massive quantities from every Dwemer ruin).

  9. Krlnkir says:

    The list of cave-fillers is missing Dwemer Automatons. Which, ironically, are one of the smarter AIs. Or so it seems to me, anyway. Are there even different AI types? Maybe it’s just that the robots are all so fast, and Dwemer ruins tend to have less narrow corridors in which to exploit sneaking.

    • Raygereio says:

      Are there even different AI types?
      Kinda. There are some differences in the so-called Combat Style of various NPCs and creatures. The Combat Style effects an actor AI’s approach to combat: wether they prefer melee or ranged, how likely they are to block vs attack, how likely they are to attack the player while they’re staggered, etc, etc.
      Dwemer Automatons don’t have a smarter AI, but their Combat Styles are set to make them feel more agressive then a lot of other actors.

    • hborrgg says:

      I think there are a couple more unique enemy types scattered around (like the dungeon of plague victims that try to vomit on you). And even when enemy types repeated it felt as though many dungeons still managed to feel like they were switching (Fighting bandits in a long, linear dungeon vs raiding a bandit castle, for example).

      My main problem with Draugr I think just comes down to the fact that a lot of the main quest bottlenecks force you to fight the exact same draugr in the exact same super-long dungeons every time you play, causing them to feel old much faster than optional dungeons you can just ignore.

      Oh, and that’s the other thing. Dungeons like the ancient tombs and Dwemer ruins tend to be extremely long. And I start to get annoyed whenever my inventory gets full and I have to keep dropping valuable items I might need later.

      • guy says:

        I’m pretty okay with Draugr, but I can see where people are coming from. They’re all pretty much the same and you have to fight them a lot both on quests and while gathering Shouts. It doesn’t help that they have terrible loot.

  10. Thor says:

    Skyrim Spoiler Warning?! I never thought I would see it! I’ve been away from this site for a while so last I heard Josh didn’t want to play it, or something. I’m going back to start at episode 1. I love Bethesda game Spoiler Warnings!

  11. TMTVL says:

    Josh, you didn’t have to jump down from there, it’s not like jumping is a skill that you can train, I mean what would you call it? Acrobatics?

    …I miss being able to jump from the street to the roof of a building.

  12. Raygereio says:

    Re: AI & light
    The AI doesn’t care about ambient lighting and other image space effects. But ingame light sources (both the ones you carry like torches and placed ones like sconces and whatnot) do effect AI detection.

    Speaking of image space: Something that really annoyed me in vanilla Skyrim is that eye adaptation effect where you’re blinded for a few moments whenever your view changes brightness levels. I guess it’s supposed to be “realistic”, but the vanilla effect is just to exaggerated and I found it incredibly obnoxious.

    • AJax says:

      The first game that I remember doing that effect was one of the Half-Life 2 Episodes and I think they added it to the original HL2 release later. Really liked its effect in certain areas especially Highway 17.

      In Skyrim I agree, it’s absolutely obnoxious on how they implemented it. Exploring caves and dungeons are irritating in Vanilla Skyrim due to this effect.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So thats why we didnt notice Mumbles,she was super sneaksy.

  14. Destrustor says:

    Wait, what happened to the comments in which me and another commenter discussed the use of explosive rune spells to kill/trick draugr into rising from their coffins earlier than their triggers would normally make them?
    Did we say something wrong?

  15. Corpital says:

    Woo, we finally got to the substance abuse. Bear claws. Delicious! And another reason why the UI is horrible.

    On the topic of enemies: I seem to remember caves often being filled with your usual mooks and one stupidly powerful enemy. Normal bandits that go down without scratching you and then an orc commander in heavy armor with a twohanded axe that kills you in two hits.
    Or the first draugr deathlord I ever met. It was like running face first into a brick wall with the ability to summon tactical missile strikes.

    It makes kind of sense to put the mightiest and most revered dead deep into the dungeon, where they are less likely to be disturbed and the strongest bandit will probably lead his group, but the difference in power is sometimes absolutely jarring.

    On dungeons: I like the old nord ruins, even though I have a hard time believing some of them were actual cities once, and killing undead is one of my favorite pastimes. They also never felt that samey to me, after the first few rooms of a dungeon there’s usually a ‘Oh, it’s that one! I remember.’-moment. Also, Blackreach. The is no word strong enough to describe how much I love that region.

  16. Melfina the Blue says:

    Okay, I’ve considered the kids clothes thing. It’s not creepy for a trader because well, they sell/buy stuff. Married people, not creepy because they might a) have friends with kids or b) be planning ahead. People who still live in the house they grew up in (me) not creepy because they could just be lazy. Women in general, less creepy because well, I have no idea, just seems less creepy.
    It also depends on size of clothes. Baby clothes are less creepy than those intended for a 10 year old, mostly because well, babies are messy as heck and 10 year olds are really unlikely to carry around changes of clothing. Which pieces of clothing are also important to consider. Random piece of outerwear, no creep factor. Random underpants, maximum creep factor.

    I think Pax may have driven me stir-crazy, I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this. Send salt trucks and a snow plow, please!

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, or they could be just sitting around to use as dish towels or rags. In a modern society where we can afford dedicated single-purpose cloth I guess it could be strange, though you make some good justifications, but for someone who owns very little it wouldn’t be weird at all. Cloth is still useful for a variety of reasons, no matter what the original form was.

    • Isy says:

      Maybe they were going to a baby shower later, or some kid’s birthday party.

  17. Cybron says:

    Rutskarn: I generally refer to it by it’s accepted scholarly title, the-

    Josh: BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF THE ELK

    Rutskarn: — phenomenon.

    Is talking over each other still part of the drinking game? Can’t make out what Ruts is saying for the life of me.

  18. Abnaxis says:

    Oh man, my first Skyrim character was an Orc two-hander. It made me feel like Legolas from DMotR, “I smash another one in the face! And another one! I break that’s one’s legs, THEN smash him in the face…”

    Meanwhile my brother-in-law, who played the game for a full week before me, is staring incredulously as I one shot all the draugr like so much warm butter. As I approach the first dragon fight, my brother gets a smug look on his face–THIS time I won’t bypass the boss so easily!

    Then I popped berserker rage and caved in its skull with a single overhead hammer-smash.

  19. Ledel says:

    I did not find out about that trick of seeing the dragon tomb door code on the claw until the last two dragon dungeons of the game when I got stuck and looked at a wiki for how to open the door.

    I had thought the door code was on the wall carvings they had next to the door, because in the first dungeon the carvings match up to the code. I just assumed the other dungeons were bullsh*t because the carvings were lying to me and had to brute force my way through the doors.

  20. RTBones says:

    A couple quick notes –

    Lucan – I noticed that after I turned the claw in, I could go upstairs and pick locks that had previously been red (as in, marked to steal.) I pilfered prolifically, with the only instance of anything awry being when Lucan came upstairs and verbally “warned” me he was watching me. There was no need to kill Camilla (I didn’t), it just happened.

    The witch’s hut – for me, I went downstairs and read the note without stealing anything. Went upstairs, defeated the witch, and everything was STILL labeled as if I was robbing her.

  21. Jsor says:

    Seamus, and I only say all this because you do graphics/game programming and will understand this, I think the lighting and graphics overhaul mods are generally .dll files that intercept the DirectX calls the game makes, so the lighting changes are ultimately only visible to the shaders. So that’s probably why the AI can’t react to it. If you could somehow alter the ambient lighting variables themselves rather than intercepting the calls, they may well react correctly (though that’s obviously speculation).

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