Skyrim EP25: Catbert Gaiden

By Shamus
on Apr 16, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

So that was certainly twenty one and a half minutes of somebody playing Skyrim.

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2020202014There are now 94 comments. Almost a hundred!

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  1. MichaelGC says:

    Hats off to Catbert there! (I won’t spoil it ‘cos some might check the comments first.) I’d rated his chances as none-to-still-none-really.

    • hborrgg says:

      To be fair, I think those were still just the standard, level 1 dragons.

      • MichaelGC says:

        Aye, it was killing the Draugr Death Overlord with his own trap which momentarily left me staring literally slack-jawed at the screen. If that had been me, I’d have booked it like a coward! (And then heroically returned, of course … 20 levels later & cocooned in dragonplate.)

  2. Mr Compassionate says:

    The main problem with the dragon fights is that the combat mechanics in general are not capable of something so complex. Fights with enemies this large in Skyrim are only defined in difficulty by how much health the enemy has leading to a situation where climactic orchestral music is playing over a view of you flailing about taking nibbles off it’s health bar. The melee in Fallout 3 felt better than this and that game wasn’t even focused on close ranged combat in the same way as Skyrim.

    Even worse the Dragons are underwhelming in the extreme, lack diversity in that they all look the same and don’t even speak their own language. They are also pretty tiny, about Drake sized at best. I recommend you watch footage of the Grigori fight from Dragon’s Dogma because that s**t is scary.

    To be fair the way they swoop over at random and start a fight does add a much needed sense of unpredictability in a game that too often feels stagnant. The howl they make sounds enough like the wind to allow you a moment of ‘Was that a- or was it? No it cant be OH S**T IT IS! And the same goes for seeing the shadow of a winged creature pass over and freaking out over what turns out to be a little bird. Makes you feel like a silly Dovahkiin.

    • Jack Kucan says:

      “about Drake sized at best”

      I’m not sure what Drake is referring to in this context, but my brain naturally assumed Drake of Drake and Josh. :V

    • Kana says:

      That was the crux of my problem with dragon fights in Skyrim. Combat works really well on things waaaay weaker than dragons. It was brought up waaay back at the beginning of the season, but short quick fights are way more fun than slamming ‘attack’ and taking a potion IV until the target falls over.

      Plus, I never really found anything useful to fling back at the dragons. Even with a shout mod that amped power, nothing I found ever did much. The whole fight revolved around hiding under a rock to run out and beat it to death with a 2H sword. It felt really anti-climactic.

      It was great fighting random crap, through. Combination of shouts + heavy 2H hits made (most) dungeons a blast. I was running into caves all the time for some fun delves. Amped fire-shout in tiny corridors also made for a ton of fun. It just didn’t translate very well when something as visually imposing as a dragon came along, but the combat remained mostly the same as fighting undead doods. Also…

      “Even worse the Dragons are underwhelming in the extreme, lack diversity in that they all look the same and don’t even speak their own language”

      To this day, I remain disappointed there is no “Press X to Debate Dragon” minigame. Gather enough words and high enough speech and you too can verbally spank a dragon into leaving you alone. Or flirt with it, if you’re a lizard.

      • AdmiralCheez says:

        Well, it might not be a debate minigame, but there is this mod on the Nexus that adds magic duels for mages, and shouting duels with dragons. I haven’t tried it myself, but it theoretically looks kinda cool.

      • Mr Compassionate says:

        Yeah I meant that they should use dragon shouts in combat but your idea is way better XD

        Seriously though they spend all this time making up lore about Draconic language and then it turns out only the dragonbone can speak it.
        Why the smeg is there a shout that increases melee speed? What possible use did the dragons have for that? Also imagine how useful it would be for the dragons to use that “time slow” spell. Or the one that makes the caster invisible? Elder and ancient dragons should use them at least!

        Also doesn’t help that Alduin is a boring villain.
        Still gotta admit that the first few dragon fights were pretty hype.

        • Kana says:

          Possibly “melee speed” could just have been making them fly faster (gotta swing those arms). Though now that I say that, it would be be freakin’ hilarious to see a dragon use Whirlwind Sprint on the ground. I think it’s the result of the most recent problem: Skyrim is about killing. You killing everything that moves, or everything that moves trying to kill you. Become Ethereal, “Fly Fast”, or Marked for Death are all cool, but don’t really slot into “directly trying to kill you” like Fire or Ice Breath.

          Disclaimer: Unless somewhere later in the plot dragons do start using this. Cool, but that’s something that should show up waaaay sooner so the dragons do more than spam their breath attack.

          I honestly think the first dragon you fight at Whiterun skews the rest. There’s a lot of tension going up to it, since it’s the first dragon right after Alduin. You can stop and listen to Irileth give this speech to the guards. Then you get this big battle with lots of NPCs beside you on a ruined tower, with the ominous atmosphere and all.

          Then after you get the whole Dovahkiin hype from the same/ninja NPCs and the Greybeards. It’s cool and a great set up, but it’s also really controlled.

          Outside of a dragon pestering you at a forge or shopping, I never noticed another fight where any of these came together. Usually just me and a follower (if she wasn’t dead yet) and a dragon in the middle of nowhere.

      • Hal says:

        The problem with a “dragon debate” would be that it would basically be another “press X not to die” sort of “paper-rock-scissors” minigame. The complaint would then be, “I spend all this time in the game leveling my skills and enchanting my gear and making myself into a supreme badass, and instead of fighting the dragons I just get quicktime events.”

        • Kana says:

          Oh no, I’m not saying it has to be the end all. It just goes back to the whole “Skyrim is only about murder” thing. Even if you learned every possible word and had a ton of speech or whatever, there isn’t much payoff for the dragons themselves.

          I wonder if this isn’t already a mod, or how difficult it would be to throw in there. Just have a word/speech check and a plot shout to open a dialog with a random dragon. “Look, I’m wearing your closest nine relatives and just want to make some iron daggers. Go away and I won’t end you.”

          Or ignore PlotShout and murder the lizard for it’s soul and parts.

    • I’m kind of glad they don’t speak. I think we’d just get something like the “Assuming Control” guy from ME2.

      They should have more spells, though. Forget shouts, just make them have magic, like in D&D. If they had a hold/slow spell, that would not only make them harder to kill, but it would give them a reason to land (they’ve limited your movement, so they drop to try and finish you off) where you could take a few swipes at them.

      Making it so dragons could be able to take on human form would be fun, too. For one, they could act like other NPCs, allowing them to be villains (or not) within the major game mechanics. It could also help with fights if you could strategically get them inside a building (they’d have to limit which ones, of course) to take them on. Forcing them to revert in a hall or large tomb would limit their flight, making fighting them there a “smart” way to kill them.

      Further, a human-form dragon is a classic D&D player trap. If you meet a little girl all alone in some dark and dangerous forest, it’s a freaking dragon. If you turn your back, it’ll transform into an evil chromatic horror and kill you. If you attack, it’ll transform into a Lawful Good dragon, you’ll likely have incurred an alignment penalty, and then it’ll kill you. :)

      • Flavius says:

        Having the lieutenants of the big bad speak was already done in the series, in (sigh) Morrowind, unfortunately, this was a feature that, due to the game’s construction, was easy to miss. Most of the “Ash Creatures” had a couple lines of text to read if you cast the Calm spell on them. However, for seven Ash Vampires, there was the possibility to have brief conversations with them, and each had a distinct personality. These ranged from, “I will enjoy killing you and wearing your entrails as a festive belt.” to “I am really sorry we have to fight…I would much rather go on a pub crawl with you! By the way, do you want a drink?” This could have been quite fun for the dragons, and certainly would have made each fight more memorable: talking to greedy dragons, angry dragons, riddle loving dragons…Maybe even a nervous dragon.

  3. Wulfgar says:

    You can slightly improve dragon fights in no time. Since most people agree the one of the problem is that dragons are behaving like they want to be killed why not remove their willingness to land? So how do we fight them now? Give player Dragon Shout that forces dragon to land (or stun them ect). It almost changes nothing in combat, but battle will feel logical at least.

    • TheHokeyPokey says:

      What, like Dragon Rend? The big important plot point shout that forces dragons to land?

      • Wulfgar says:

        yeah but i meant it like basic mechanic.

      • hborrgg says:

        Exactly my thoughts when I first got that shout. “Why the heck would I need a shout for that, the dragons just land on their own without it.”

      • Ledel says:

        A problem I encountered with Dragon Rend, is that it would not even work on regular dragons for me. The only time it would work was against Alduin. I would hit a dragon with the shout, the dragon would glow purple and fly around in circles, stop glowing while still flying, and I would shout and make it glow again.

        After a while, the dragon would leave to fight a bear or something 8 miles off and I would never see it again.

        This may have been patched in the year since I played Skyrim, but it turned the entire epic quest to get the elder scroll to get the shout into a search for a lame one-shot macguffin to learn another lame one-shot macguffin.

    • Jack Kucan says:

      That’s a good idea. I also think having them naturally swoop at you and you being able to dodge and get in a few hits at them would help.

    • Mr Compassionate says:

      The main logistical problem in bringing low a dragon would be bringing it down to our level from the sky and the Skyrim solution of making them voluntarily land feels contrived, the shout you earn is only given to you near the end of the game and is thus pointless for general purpose.

      A smart solution would be giving each form of combat, melee magic and archery, their own abilities designed to take out a dragon’s wings. For a sword guy it should be a high stamina swing that sends out a magical, high velocity sweep of energy that if timed correctly cuts a wing up sending the dragon barreling downward. Or perhaps throwing axes, that sounds sufficently Nordy and like it would mess up a dragon mid-flight. Magic had the lightning bolt attack already but that is combat magic only so perhaps one or two of the other magical disciplines should have their own things like illusionary Roc. To be fair conjuration had the Atronoch and that brings them down fast. Bows should have some special ammo or charge attack that stuns the dragons perhaps.

      In any case the current “landing” system feels like the dragon isn’t even trying but I guess looking for an alternative would take time they wanted to spend on… trees or something.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I confess -the game had me pretty well fooled until around dragon 11.

      Dragons would swoop overhead, we would shoot them with arrows. After a while, the dragon would land, all covered in blood and I would think “ah, I’ve done enough damage to force it land and now I can do some serious damage with my sword!”

      It even looked like some of them would retreat if damaged hard enough.

      Around Dragon 11 I noticed that dragons sometimes landed before we laid a good hit on them, and those retreats were really just landing in a nearby, but inconvenient location.

    • Humanoid says:

      They should change the first shout in the game that you learn from Fus Roh Dah to Tee Cee El.

  4. Greg says:

    You stumbled onto one of my favorite areas in the game here.

    I don’t know why. I’d been playing for tens of hours and seen pretty much every draugr and dragon imaginable, had all the words I needed and was rocking high-end ebony gear (this was my first playthrough before I decided to cheat to get daedra hearts). So this place gave me nothing new.

    But it felt the most uniquely, well, Skyrim, of any place before or since. You ascend to this mountaintop, fighting your way past bears and sabercats hunting the mountain passes, and stumble onto ruins that you’ve seen a thousand times before … but then you go past and discover a valley at the mountaintop, a coffin out in the open, and steps leading towards and away from it. Out of the coffin pops a certified badass draugr, who must’ve been a king or a mighty hero of his time, and he salutes you with his blade before running in for the kill … while behind him, lurking in the darkness atop the word wall, a dragon eyes your epic battle with what seems like amusement (it was probably some quirk of the AI that he didn’t get aggro’d there). And then after defeating your worthy opponent, you ascend the steps, finally having proven yourself worthy to face him, and then the dragon battle begins at the top of the world.

    Maybe it was just a perfect confluence of bugs and environment (it was a dark and stormy night in my playthrough), but it felt like the epic end to a quest, and what’s more, a self-made quest, which was simply to attain the mountaintop. Probably why it seemed so awesome at the time, and why Skyrim still holds my interest, because every so often, I can attain those same chills of awesome.

    • Microwaviblerabbit says:

      The area is strangely well designed for interesting combat, especially since the draugr and dragon are not allies, and the draugr can (and will) shout you off the cliff. It is so huge, and has multiple areas, I wonder if it was at one point a more important location.

      The first time I found it, I was cliff climbing using a horse, ran into the high level enemies, and thought I had accidentally entered special quest zone, similar to Skuldafn.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I… ran into the first dragon entirely on accident. I took a wrong turn on the way down from High Hrothgar. And I missed this entire area. I shall have to go hunt for it some time.

  5. GM says:

    That was an exciting and the Trap was hilarious.
    I kept wondering if you would die and as you hadn´t saved…

    • Imagine how much that would tick you off.

      You’ve given yourself over to a kind of crapsack immortality, but you’ve got butt-kicking combat abilities. Your only goal in un-life is to use your Draugr doom-powers to kill as many mortals as would dare violate your tomb.

      And what ends your existence? Something you likely ordered from Tomb Depot and had installed yourself.

  6. McNutcase says:

    As so often happens, physics object damage is insanely high. That trap was the equivalent of a radiator in Half-Life 2. I find myself wondering if they intended the player to kite Deathy McKillsyou into the trap.

  7. The Ground Aviator says:

    I should have realized this when the season started, and I feel stupid for not noticing it until now. This season is going to take a LONG time, were already 24 episodes in and all Josh has accomplished is escaping his own chaotic insanity multiple times, only then stopping and waiting it to catch up to him. Though I’m not saying Josh should stop this, I actually really enjoy it.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Totally agree that this is likely to be a long season (yay), but whilst I haven’t really been keeping track, it feels like Josh has done vastly more of the civil war questline than I’ve personally ever managed in 400 hours or so.

    • Ledel says:

      Let’s look at it in a different light. Josh is 24 episodes in, and his craziness has not really felt repetitive or old. Compared to other seasons of the show where when the cast reached this far into a game the typical response was along the lines of, “Haha, yes, broken AI. Let’s move forward to the next plot point.”

      It’s a testament to the game, that, even as buggy as it is, it is still filled with fun and interesting things to do.

  8. hborrgg says:

    Maybe the dragons just land because they get tired sometimes? It’s not as if anything else in this game has the sense to run away or fight tactically once they realize that they don’t stand a chance against you.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Given their size, those wings are miniscule(they’d barely be enough to keep a human-sized body aloft), so it definitely makes sense that they’d get tired. Actually, with those wings it’d make more sense for them keep them in a fixed position and repeatedly use Whirlwind Sprint as a magic jet engine or some other flight shout that wears off after a while and them landing is just them waiting out the cooldown.

  9. I think if Catbert were to become a member of PETA, he’d have to show himself capable of the ethical treatment of any life form in the first place.

  10. hborrgg says:

    Thinking about the dragon fights trying to use melee adds a lot of tedium as you wait for the dragon to land, and even then it feels sort of contrived. Plinking away with your bow and arrow is even more tedious (not to mention that it means you’re wasting tons and tons of arrows on an enemy that’s just going to respawn again 200 yards down the road).

    It actually might have a good idea if the way you got a dragon to land was just to wound it with a few arrows. Then you would get a period of time to bob and weave in, hacking with your sword before it recovered and started flying again.

    • krellen says:

      Was the dragons crashing to earth when too damaged something added in a later patch so early adopters of the game didn’t have the same experience I did? Because my experience was wait for the dragon to hover a moment to breathe and fire as many arrows as quickly as possible in to it, because if I got it under half health while it was still airborne, it would crash in a rather spectacular and satisfying animation.

      • hborrgg says:

        huh, I don’t remember anything like that. My experience with dragons was that if you dropped their health down to zero in mid-air they would continue to circle around for a bit, then land, then fall over dead.

        • MichaelGC says:

          I think it’s that the dragons will only crashland if the fight happens to be near a nice big open area which will allow for it: otherwise they’ll just land normally at half-health and go into ‘come & finish me off, then’ mode.

          I have all the programming expertise of a Luddite wombat, so this might be cobblers, but I gather there’s a codethingy (technical term) called DragonMarkerCrashStrip applied to certain open spaces. So I guess you need to be fighting near one of these to see the crashlanding animation. (Also known as the ‘glitch halfway into solid rock’ animation.)

      • Tapkoh says:

        The crashing has to have been a patch/DLC thing. I played the game at launch a lot, before many patches or any DLC was released, and it wasn’t in then.

        I started playing it again about 2-3 months ago so I could check playing the DLC off my to do list and I noticed that dragons behaved much differently. They circle more, do more flybys, swoop down at me/npcs, like to kill wild animals instead of humanoids that are shooting them, random ones don’t magically detect me immediately and engage me in combat anymore, and then there is the crashing animation.

        My guess is that most/all of this came at the same time as Dragonborn.

        • Raygereio says:

          The crash-landings and the behaviour you mentioned were in at launch. Patches did add some improvements to dragons (improved pathfinding in patch 1.8 for example), but they didn’t add anything new to dragons.

          • Tapkoh says:

            Then it is very odd that none of that occurred at all in the first 400 hours I put into the game at launch. Dragon fights for me were shooting arrows at them while they hovered and breathed fire/ice at me. They’d disengage, come back 10 seconds later, and repeat. If I was lucky, they might actually land, but not one ever crash landed, causing that trail of upturned earth. I saw that (and the other stuff I mentioned) for the first time only recently.

            I assumed the wrong thing. If that stuff always happened, then my game was broken and at some point became unbroken…at least in this regard.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          This may be a little off the wall, but I just finished re-playing Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. The final boss the Chiroptorin Beast will fly down to the streets and pick up bystanders and eventually even cars and then drop them in your direction as he flies by.

          All I could think is how awesome it would be if the dragons did this as well. You think you’ve got a handle on the battle then he swoops down and throws a horse at you.

          Even better, what if the Dragons were like the Gargoyles in Metro: Last Light and they actually picked you up and dropped you like a hundred feet away. In an open world like Skyrim the emergent game play that could result from landing in different places would be amazing.

          It would even give a legitimate way for melee characters to do damage as they wail on the dragon till it drops them.

          TL:DR: It would be cool If dragons picked up and dropped stuff, including you.

    • Humanoid says:

      Would it actually be too much of a stretch for a fantasy setting to design dragons that don’t have a ranged attack? I’d have thought having dragons that behave more like birds of prey than helicopter gunships would be perfectly fine in terms of visual design and menace while presenting fewer balance issues.

      • guy says:

        Afraid not. A breath weapon is on the very short list of things what make dragons dragons. It’s actually less negotiable than wings.

        • Veloxyll says:

          You could always have it so they have to rear up to do the fire breath. Telegraphing it more would make it feel less contrived. And/Or make dragons shout when they take off. So you can go “Oh, dragons have to be landed to shout. And can’t get airborn while they’re landed and making fire happen. Rather than how it is now where Dragons do hover attacks and just land to give you a pity kill.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        Absolutely. Many dragons of myth and legend don’t have a breath weapon. The various lindworms/linnorm of Germanic/Nordic mythology, including Fafnir and Nidhogg don’t, the Tarasque doesn’t, East Asian dragons don’t. A lot of these dragons were poisonous, though.

        We’re accustomed to dragons with breath weapons in modern Western fantasy fiction mostly because of Dungeons & Dragons, where they’re obviously inspired by Tolkien, who in turn was drawing from notable fire-breathing dragons of legend like the one in Beowulf or the Wawel Dragon. But I don’t think it’s strictly a necessity.

        • Mike S. says:

          Even in Tolkien’s mythology, firedrakes were preceded by cold drakes sans breath weapon. I’d guess that’s because his Silmarillion story of Turin Turambar included a Fafnir-like dragon with no flame breath, Glaurung, and Tolkien didn’t feel the need to retcon in fire breathers till he decided The Hobbit’s Smaug was part of the same world.

  11. CamScottBryce says:

    These dragon fights were always a pain for me. I never really spent that much time caring about the main quest, but the dragon fights always felt way too drawn out and not necessarily difficult, just tedious. I spent about 15 hours leveling a stealth archer type character, and, when facing the first dragon of the game, I spent a lot of time sitting in a corner, wasting arrows, not doing much to this dragon’s health bar. I’m fairly certain a Whiterun soldier delivered the final blow, actually. Watching Josh do this makes me wonder if bows are just awful for dealing with dragons (or perhaps at lower levels?).

    I think the worst problem has to do with what Chris was saying all along: the game is pretty much ONLY about your choice of combat. You don’t have a lot of role-playing to do otherwise, so, unless I’m garbage or leveling wrong, the game appears to be telling me that leveling a bow-only character is a bad idea. If I’m going to be doing the single-player campaign, should I be focusing on other skills? I’m not sure.

    Again, this could all be me being a terrible player or misunderstanding skills, but I dreaded these fights, and the game seemed to think they were a selling point.

    • Kana says:

      I don’t think so. Stealth + Bow can be super powerful on regular mooks. Plus stealth can lead to hilarious situations with the AI thinking a hailstorm of arrows is a stiff breeze before keeling over.

      Dragons just have a huge hit pool and, to me, combat never scaled up particularly well. I had a 2H plate armor nord gal who wrecked faces, and dragons got really tedious really fast. As long as you don’t find the rest of the game scaled beyond your ability, your build is probably fine. Getting a companion armed and armored up might help you out a decent amount, if you didn’t have one before.

    • guy says:

      I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Dragons are very tough and surprisingly hard to hit with arrows, and near-impossible to hide from. The bow is a perfectly servicable weapon against ordinary enemies. Also, the Dawnguard DLC has crossbows, which do a shockingly high amount of damage and are incredibly accurate, can have bolts with elemental riders, and have versions that ignore 50% of the target’s armor. You point them at problems and you stop having problems.

    • MichaelGC says:

      This won’t help right at the start, but if you can get hold of the Marked for Death shout – Josh found one of the sites in this episode – you’ll have all the dragons saying “by the Divines, this stealth archer dude is OP!”

      It damages armour over time, so you can tag them early whilst hovering, and then after a short while it’s like each of your arrows are slamming into Smaug’s weakspot. (I’m sure it’s just as effective for a mêlée character – not sure about magic – but I wouldn’t know as I’ve never actually mêléed one! Archery FTW.)

    • My current (and first) character is an artisan/merchant who improved sneak and archery purely as a side effect of raiding tombs for smithing components, foraging the wild for alchemy ingredients, and trapping the souls of fluffy woodland creatures in soul gems. Used together, these non-combat skills broke the combat system pretty quickly.

      Smithing means stronger bows and arrows. Enchanting allows for archery and armor buffs. Alchemy can simultaneously boost damage (Fortify Marksman potion) and damage-over-time (Lingering Damage Health poison) for tough fights. The gold earned from selling your improved and enchanted vendor trash can go to training in archery and armor as well. Dragons quickly became more of a nuisance to my daily routine than an actual threat.

      Of course, improving all these skills — plus speech from all those transactions — means that you will level your character much faster than intended.

    • Henson says:

      I once one-shotted a dragon with a sneak attack ranged shot. Poisoned arrow and frost-enchanted bow. It was beautiful.

    • Ledel says:

      To me, it always felt like melee was way more powerful than magic or arrows. I built a stealth archer character just like you and maxed out the stats while still needing 2-3 sneak attacks to take out many of the level scaled foes. Then, when I switched to a 2H hammer (skill level around 25 and no points in the tree) just running in I would kill almost everything in a matter of seconds.

      I also tried starting a new character and making him a magic user, and it just felt like it took an entire bar and a half of mana to kill a single enemy. So every combat turned into “Cast burning hands, run away for a while, cast burning hands some more and hope they don’t catch up to you and melee you to death.”

  12. Jacob Albano says:

    What was it that Chris and Rutskarn were talking about? Something you have to wish dead? I can’t figure out how to spell it for google.

  13. IFS says:

    Personally I think the best Dragon fight I’ve ever had in a game would be Kalameet from the Dark Souls DLC. The fight actually does a lot of the things that the cast was saying they wanted in a dragon fight too, there is build up as you see Kalameet several times before actually fighting him and people talk him up as exceedingly dangerous, you have to seek the aid of a legendary archer/dragonslayer to ground Kalameet before you can effectively fight him (otherwise he just keeps sweeping the area with fire and never lands, though it is possible if extremely difficult to kill him with a bow without first grounding him, and the aforementioned legendary archer recognizes your prowess should you manage this), and it is easily one of the hardest bosses in the entire game. Its also a completely optional fight, though its a ton of fun and the feeling of satisfaction for bringing Kalameet down is immense (even moreso if you cut off his tail and get the sword from it). The fight is very intense as well, Kalameet is fast and powerful, so if you don’t manage to block or dodge his attacks you can quickly be in trouble (they’re all well telegraphed though, so you only have yourself to blame if you do get hit), he moves all over the arena, has a lot of attacks that pretty much take advantage of any possible way a dragon might be able to attack you, and all in all is easily one of my favorite boss fights from any game ever. The arena for him is also very close to a bonfire (checkpoint) so dying to him only merits a short run back to the arena to try again.

    Demon’s Souls also had an interesting dragon fight with the Dragon God, who was trapped in a specially made prison. He was so huge and powerful that you had to sneak around him and activate the built in traps in the prison to pin him down so you could finish him off. Not the most climactic fight in the game but certainly enjoyable.

    Finally I’ve heard that Dragon’s Dogma has some awesome dragon fights, though I never got to any of them. I played about an hour or two of the game and gave up out of boredom.

    I’m curious to hear what the best dragon fights other people have had in games though, and what made them so awesome.

    • Spammy says:

      For me, the gold standard of Dragon Fights is going to be the Monster Hunter series. I really wish the games wouldn’t rely so much on laborious grinding for drops, because I loved battling the monsters. While I didn’t see all the dragons in 3, I don’t think any tried to strafe or fireball you from high altitudes, so landing makes a little more sense. And the battle of attrition is also very enjoyable because the monsters have depleting resources and varying states. If you deal too much damage too quickly they get enraged and all their attacks and speed are souped up. If you make them fight for a long time they get hungry and have to go eat from a bone pile or hunt an herbivore. And when they get low on health they slink off to their nest and try to rest and recover. So even though it’s a game of boss fights, it feels less like you’re fighting bags of HP and more like fighting a creature with the same mechanics as yourself.

  14. Paul Spooner says:

    With all the talk of the horse being named Horace, and then him burrowing into the ground, I was really hoping for a comment that you needed some sort of device for locating him… a Horace-scope perhaps?
    I don’t know… maybe the fruit was too low hanging in this instance.

  15. Radio Silence says:

    There really is no single defining problem with the dragon fights. It’s a combination of their need to ensure that anyone can, on some level, deal with them irrespective of build, the static nature of the game environment (dragons can’t destroy terrain/structures except where it is explicitly set up for them to do so), and their conflicting need to make dragon shouts kind of cool but not so cool you don’t do anything else.

    With regards to dragons handing the player a ‘gimmie’, that’s actually almost exactly what’s happening. Dragons are rigged to lose the ability to fly at around half health. If they’re on the ground already, since they’re also required to land and stomp around periodically as long as they can find valid terrain to land /on/, this isn’t obvious.

    If you catch them in the air, one of two things can happen: they’ll land as normal and just never take off again (common) or they’ll seek out a patch of landscape they can dramatically skid across in a crash landing that looks cool if you don’t examine it too closely. The latter is more common during straight up kills, but is always dependent on their ability to find a place they can do it as defined by the map. This seems to have been implemented in an attempt to prevent them from landing and then dieing kind of ridiculously unceremoniously if the player manages to kill them outright while airborne.

    What’s really tragic is being in a position where the AI is forced to land, but can’t find anywhere /to/ land. I once had a ‘dead’ dragon circle me for several minutes before we were in range of somewhere it could die.

    This is especially ridiculous at any time the player manages to one-hit knock-out a dragon that is still sleeping or perching somewhere and hasn’t noticed them yet.

    As to them not staying challenging through the endgame, it’s not for lack of trying. But there’s a combination of bugs that make older/meaner dragons harder to spawn if you’ve already encountered a dragon at a given location, and the problem of the Player/Developer arms race which is something Bethesda should’ve known they were going to lose.

    If I were to posit a way dragons could be fixed? I’d make them more responsive to shouts to begin with. Don’t take away their ability to fly, but make all shouts more impactful against dragons than conventional weaponry. Or/and, shouts could function as low grade versions of Dragonrend, making the dragon more likely to come down and get in your face every time you talk smack to it and more likely to shut up with it’s own shouts for a bit because it’s decided to bite your disrespectful face off. Later, Dragonrend could render them more vulnerable to conventional weapons, allowing companions and guards to contribute more to particularly nasty specimens. Or, y’know, something.

    Conversely, they REALLY needed the dragons to have a wider variety of things they could do with shouting, as well as rigging up shouts to not be so vulnerable to anti-magic effects. But really, just giving dragons in general more to do than vomit fireballs and try to eat you would’ve been swell. The fight with Durnehviir in Dawnguard is a kind of blunt example, but it worked.

    We just never see a Dragon use Whirlwind Sprint to dodge around the sky or try to fake you out by throwing their voice after breaking Line of Sight, or use Aura Sight to find you when you go invisible, or /anything useful/ with /their own language/ that exists almost solely for the player’s benefit as an awkward magic substitute. They needed to be doing more.

    Of course, requiring the player to have at least /one/ shout as a basic prereq for fighting dragons /at all/ wouldn’t help during the fight before you get your first shout, so it might’ve required a serious overhaul of the whole dragon/shout system or sections of plot.

    How cool would it have been to have the city come under direct attack by Mirmulnir instead of a distant watchtower getting picked at by arrows, driving the Jarl to bring the Player down to help him convince an imprisoned Dragon in Dragonsreach to give them some hint as to how to stop it, only to have it use the Dragonborn as a way out of it’s shackles through death? Or something, lots of ways that conversation could’ve gone while making the whole first dragon siege far more tense and interesting and a better prelude for Whiterun’s function as a swing territory in the civil war.

    • IFS says:

      I know I would have loved to see the dragons use more shouts, whirlwind sprint to try and charge at you or flit about the sky, marked for death to weaken the player, storm call against mobs of soldiers, that sort of thing. Of course some of those could be really unfun for the player to run up against, such as elemental fury (superspeed dragon bites? no thank you), and become ethereal could be annoying as it’d just make the dragon invincible but ineffective for a bit, but lots of others could be really cool. Its just a shame that only the player gets to use their language to its full effect, it would have been really awesome to effectively have a shouting duel with one, like how the lore talks about arguments between dragons going.

    • abs1nth says:

      I like the idea of shouts being more powerful against dragons. The idea that someone else mentioned to have to damage dragons to get them to land I think is a good idea. As it stands being melee fighter just feels like a disadvantage against dragons you are really forced to use archery at least while he’s doing his circles. Fus Ro Dah could have been the melee’s way to find an easy way to get him to come down. I also think it would be interesting to have him when he’s landed force melee onto the player similarly to how he’s forcing ranged combat while in the air to have the combat dynamic change and for their to be a reason to be a melee fighter in a dragon fight because only doing ranged damage is totally possible right now even when they are on the ground you are really only endangering yourself if you get close to attack. I don’t think it would be a problem with the first fight as you have a bunch npcs on your side.

    • guy says:

      I think that you could make them much less tedious just by having the dragon swoop down to attack immediately if you get shelter from their Shouts. Nothing more annoying than hunkering down under an overhang for a few minutes while waiting for them to land.

    • Here’s a simpler concept that would make killing them “harder,” at least to your benefit. What if you had to absorb their souls via a shout that rooted you in the spot, and you have to use it while they were still alive? You’d have to whittle down their health, but not to the very end if you wanted that dragon soul. You’d also have to make yourself vulnerable while you pulled their soul out of their body while they could still bite and breathe fire.

      • Lachlan the Mad says:

        Or perhaps you could throw some kind of ball at them when their health was very low, and it would wobble about on the ground a bit, and you’d stare at the wobbling ball hoping like heck it would stop wobbling and capture the dragon, and all sorts of schoolyard rumours would pop up about which buttons to press to make the ball more likely to stop wobbling and catch the dragon…

  16. That pass in particular seems designed to fuck your shit up.

  17. Raygereio says:

    @Josh
    Note about archery: When firing a bow, you need to hold the attack button for a moment until the bow has been fully drawn back. If you try to spam arrows, the arrows will just fall on the ground in front of you.

    As for dragon fights:
    My problem with them is actually my problem with Skyrim’s combat in general and it’s that it doesn’t change as you progress through the game. A fighter at level one swinging his iron sword feels the exact same as a level 50 fighter swinging his daedric sword of doom. All that’s different is that the numbers are biggers.
    You can have some fun with ragdolling enemies with Unrelenting Force, but beyond that you don’t get new abilities. All you get are bigger numbers.

    Also another problem with the dragon fights is the dragons’ ADD. Having to chase the damn things halfway across the continent because it spotted a mudcrab behind a mountain and decided to roast it instead of continuing to fight you becomes tedious fast.

    • Kavonde says:

      Yeah, I was on the verge of shouting at my monitor every time Reginald loosed an arrow that flew about two feet before sinking into the ground. You need to get yourself a crossbow, Josh.

  18. Mersadeon says:

    That god damn dragon ALWAYS does this to me. Just flies off in the middle of the fight to eat bears or something. It’s especially annoying because that dragon has a semi-unique animation of flying into the tower at low health, deforming the terrain.

  19. Someone says:

    Josh, can you please stop suddenly screeching into the mic? Or at least even it out in editing or something. I don’t even try to watch SW with headphones on anymore.

  20. djshire says:

    New drinking game rule (that should be added): Every time someone says something like “I wanted to say this, but wasn’t here last week”, take a shot

  21. Andy says:

    Storm atronach? What storm atronach? That was clearly just static electricity from Catbert’s furry nethers. Have you ever petted a cat during the winter?

  22. TMTVL says:

    I still think Horace should have been named Mr. Ed.

  23. When Chris mentioned Tarasque I thought he was talking abut Anarchy Online heh.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTX37J-LvfU

    That is a Tarasque raid in AO, the video title say 100 players are in the raid, although many seem to be just standing (could be support/healers though).

    The dragon goes down pretty quickly, but hen again, so many people in the same zone was never originally intended (people will lag out, or end up with 1 FPS etc.) No idea how many players died in the fight either (I’m assuming a few).

    But yeah. you need a large squad of high levels or a small army.

    Take the 2nd Hobbit movie, the Dragon there is tough as hell, a tad on the dumb side but tough. You either need some really clever plans, luck or a small army to take on a Boss like that.

    Which is something that is interesting with Skyrim, you got the Dragons, you got the Giants, and your Draugr Lords and so on, there are a lot of boss npcs in Skyrim, more so than other games, that does lend itself to the feeling of “shit, there’s a lot of tough stuff out there” giving a big world feel to it.

    The dragon fights in Skyrim should ave had more urgency in my opinion.
    For example, once you hear that roar ad you see a shadow in the sky/on the ground that look like a Dragon, your instinct should be to think “Oh shit, that’s not a Dragon is it?”

    You get that feeling the first time or so. But once the dragon AI gets weird (like flying away and messing about over the mountain instead of going after Josh) it looses so,e of it’s magic. Seeing a dragon and a horse duke it out just looks weird too. So there are some AI issues.

    Also, the number of Dragon encounters should be scaled more, that first dragon fight is fine, but they should otherwise be more rare but become more frequent (more dragons are being sent after you to kill you).

    And while it would suck, but would give more urgency is if a dragon attack near a city/while in a city could permanently (or until they rebuild it) damage the city. If you know that a dragon attack in/near a city could cause the tavern to get devastated for several in-game days or weeks, or if side-quest npcs may end up permanently dead locking you out of quests (although after several in-game days a alternative way to start those quests should maybe be presented).

    This would make dragons scare you, you know that if you don’t end up dead then the town might get damage, or that farm might end up burned, you might loose quest npcs, or a opposing faction might take advantage of the aftermath of the fight and push out the enemy. (so a dragon attack could cause a government change in a area).

    All this would mean much more and better interacting scripts, and higher likelihood of stuff breaking if not careful. But it would be awesome I think, I wonder if something like this could be modded?

  24. The way that Josh killed the Draugr Death Overlord (!) using the trap, I suspect that was designed like that.

    I.e: You as a fumbling adventurer walk up there, either you avoid/spot the trap like Josh did or you get a facefull of log and get hammered in that it is there.

    What I don’t know is if you need to widdle down some of the health and then lure it after you, or if that trap can take out the full health of that Draugr or not. If I where to design that spot I probably would set the trap to deal damage equivalent to 90% of that Draugrs health. (which surely would cream any low level player healthbar)

    But my hats off to Josh there, from “Oh my god what have I done!?” comic relief character to “Ahahahahah!” evil overlord villain laugh did bring a smile to my face.

    The vanishing horse bug, the follower NPC not being there for the fight, scaling insane mountains walls, all very Skyrim indeed.

    This episode felt well rounded in Joshing around and with a nice mix of game and non-game related talk too, despite Shamus being back. (just kidding Shamus :P )

  25. Bloodsquirrel says:

    OMG guys, that’s so racist against the khajiit!

    Khajiit aren’t “cat people”, you guys are ape-khajiits.

  26. RTBones says:

    On dragon fights, I think one of the problems is that they get almost predictable the higher level you are. As an old school D&D player (1st and 2nd ed – get that CR12 stuff out of here… :) ), dragons were tough and generally intelligent, and requiring team effort from the party to bring down, and some times large portions of a campaign were dedicated to one dragon. The problem in Skyrim is that the dragon fights never really change. You get the same reactions from dragons early (when they are difficult to fight) that you do as you approach endgame.

    As an example – I am currently ‘playing along at home’ with this season. I am also multiple levels higher than Josh is right now. I was recently hiking towards a quest marker, came across a town, and was attacked by two dragons at once. It wasn’t scary – it was just a nuisance. One of the dragons fought and was taken down relatively quickly. The other did what the first dragon Josh fought here did, making me chase it down, kill it, and resume my quest. Now, had the dragons fought cooperatively together, the entire battle and my reaction to it would have played out much differently.

  27. Grudgeal says:

    A Last Days of FOXHOUND reference? Never thought I’d see the day.

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