Skyrim EP45: Professor Jenassa

By Shamus
on Jun 15, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Wow. Blackreach, right? We dump on this game a lot, but places like this really remind me why I keep coming back to Skyrim. Vibrant. Colorful. Fantastical. Surprising. Varied.

The inventory problems are baffling to me. The thing with non-stacking soul gems goes back to Morrowind at least. And here is where all the terrible design choices really find a lot of synergy, so that many minor issues can combine to form this inexhaustible fountain of maddening annoyances.

  1. They designed an interface that’s incredibly inefficient and eats a ton of screen real estate to show very little.
  2. And then they designed a game the encourages hoarding large numbers of disparate items.
  3. They created a loot system where just about every foe in the game drops something of value and also something heavy and worthless, thus creating numerous little caches of loot that need to be sorted. (As opposed to only having loot in chests that appear every five minutes, it appears also in foes which occur several times a minute.)
  4. They made this intensely binary encumbrance system that necessitates many trips to the inventory screen to prioritize and discard.
  5. They decided to hide the most important attribute – value per weight-unit – from the player so you’re constantly needing to do math in your head to figure out if this item is above or below the threshold of what you consider “valuable”.
  6. They made classes of items that are functionally identical but don’t stack, thus causing a massive inflation in the total number of items you have the scroll through.
  7. They put a limit on the amount of cash shopkeepers have, thus making it more difficult to unload valuable items, a problem that results in more travel through more loading screens and more sorting through massive lists of items.

Some of these flaws are just a natural part of the game. (Like item hoarding.) But others are trivial to fix and others could be mitigated with a bit of work. But instead we have this long list of questionable decisions that creates an inventory system that doubles as a torture device.

Still, Blackreach is amazing.

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From the Archives:

  1. Neko says:

    This is why I can’t play without SkyUI. Having a visible cost/weight ratio alone really helps curb my kleptomania.

    • ET says:

      That, plus the many other things it improves. I think I played the game vanilla for five minutes before deciding to spend two hours downloading the nexus program, and figuring out how to get registered and downloading mods. It probably saved me dozens of hours fighting Skyrim’s horrible UI. ^^;

      • Tizzy says:

        You have to wonder what is the point of having play testers. They are supposed to find bugs, true, but aren’t they the best placed to give feedback? like: this inventory system is really utter bullshit!

        Now, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with a game that would be so difficult to fix. Meh art direction, so-so combat, I imagine a tester could complain about this stuff and you wouldn’t really know where to start. But improving the inventory UI can’t be that hard, given how low the bar is.

        There is even a mod that keeps the inventory system as is, but renames the items. So that, you know, similar items are actually TOGETHER, rather than spread around thanks to the wonders of alphabetical order plus totally random names. The worst being the potion names, of course. (Why can I pick up potions and elixirs and philters, but everything that I make is a potion? Why is the naming scheme “potion/elixir of …”, except when it isn’t, e.g., “blacksmith’s draught”?)

        • Hitch says:

          The point of play testers is they are the ones to told Bethesda that a small font size UI with lost of useful information was too hard to read on a crappy TV when you were sitting across the room on your couch playing on a console. Also any UI function that required the convenience of a mouse didn’t work right with the analog sticks on the controller. And it’s just unreasonable that they would design two UIs, one for consoles, one for PCs.

          /PCMasterRace

          • Ciennas says:

            Oh, is that the theory? Well, then they bombed that too. Y’see, I played on a coaxial style hookup for most of Skyrim- the books were unreadable without a lot of tortuous eye squinting and staring into badly pixelated art.

            Swapping to HDMI made everything clearer, but the bad interface problems remained, and were never fixed.

            come to think of it, why didn’t they ever fix it or release options to do so? Low memory requirement, easy to implement, and it would have won them adulation from their fans.

            Are these games supposed to be a litmus test for modders?

          • Irridium says:

            I played Skyrim on the 360 first.

            Trust me, the menus are a nightmare with the controller as well. Having analog sticks doesn’t fix anything. It’s just a failure in so many ways.

        • hborrgg says:

          Item Sorting is the one I use. It’s such a simple design consideration and yet it solves almost all the problems I had with inventory management in this game.

          It also adds the word “Smeltable” in front of any dwarven objects which can be smelted into ingots, which is pretty neat.

        • syal says:

          “But improving the inventory UI can’t be that hard, given how low the bar is.”

          And that just reminds me that this could be the improvement, and the playtesters were so glad to have the biggest UI problems fixed they overlooked the remaining ones.

  2. God the fact that the Falmer are treated as “Lesser Souls” instead of needing Black Soul Gems bugs me soooo much. Like the Hagravens and Giants and Rieklings that also don’t need Black Soul Gems and it just feels… off to me so many sentient species is not counted as black soul gem worthy. Is there any explanation that does not have unfortunate implications?

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      In the case of the Falmer it bugs me but not in the out of game unfortunate implication sense you’re probably talking about. It bothers me in a way that I assume is intentional on the part of the design team where you wonder just what the Falmer did to themselves that resulted in them having lesser souls.

      The hagravens similarly I assume they must have done something to themselves. The giants and rieklings strike me as missing links. But it is unnerving that at least one Riekling is capable of speaking your language.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “so many sentient species is not counted as black soul gem worthy. Is there any explanation that does not have unfortunate implications?”

      Of course there is.Only sapient species require black ones.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      What constitutes whether a soul can fit in a regular soul gem has always been very very strange. I mean, there’s plenty of weird crap that fits in regular soul gems: giants, hagravens, and Falmer, sure, but also the ghosts and spirits presumably of races that wouldn’t otherwise go in one, sapient beings taken by Corprus disease, Daedra like Golden Saints and Dremora that are at least as intelligent as men and mer (and often a lot more so), and even demigods like Vivec and Almalexia.

      It seems like the only reliable indicator of “Does this need a black soul gem?” is, “Is this a standard playable race?”

  3. 4th Dimension says:

    Maybe Jenesa has most dialogue in Dwemer ruins since she is a Dark Elf and they had most interactions with the Dwemer.

    • Tapkoh says:

      The thing is, she doesn’t. I don’t know if this is new or what, but I’ve taken Uthgerd, Marcurio, and Jenassa through dwemer ruins on the last games I played and they all had slightly different yet similar lines. I doubt they’re the only three, so I’m guessing most, if not all (considering there’s about 6 voice actors among them), followers say similar stuff.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Well, maybe if Jenassa is ooooooooooooooooooooold, but even then it’s not like the Dwemer and Chimer interacted much on a personal level any more than the Dwemer got along with any other race.

  4. General Karthos says:

    For those of you who have the PC version of this game, isn’t there a mod out there that gives shopkeepers infinite (or near infinite) gold to purchase your items with?

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Probably, but do we need that mod in the first place? You can not rob the shopkeeper’s gold of him, so why bother stating how much gold he has left. It’s not a new problem, Morrowind had it too.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yes.As well as a mod that lets you sell stolen stuff to everyone.In fact,Im quite certain there are several mods that do these two things.

    • ET says:

      There’s several which give them 10X the gold. Also one that makes them only talk to you with their short “take a look” dialog. I’m too sleep deprived to find the right links, but if you search around the Nexus, you should find what you’re looking for.

    • Attercap says:

      What modders have encountered is that once a shopkeeper has over 20k gold, users trying to sell will no longer actually receive the money for what they’re selling. When I ran into the bug for the first time, I wondered if the default low merchant cash was just Bethesda’s way of programming around the bug, rather than fixing it.

      Should have wiki’d it before I typed it: Rarely, when you sell items to a merchant, you do not receive any gold, only Speech experience. This glitch is more likely to trigger if you buy a lot of items from the merchant before selling your goods, mostly from the apparel tab. This occurs when the vendor’s gold goes above 32767 which is above the 2-byte limit.

  5. Re: Chris mentioning sci-fi concepts put into fantasy.

    I’d say that’s been happening for quite a long time, though now it’s gotten more prevalent. There are a lot of attempts to equate magic with the loosest and fuzziest concepts in quantum physics, or you get wizards using magic to achieve effects/create items that are magical analogues of theoretical concepts (nuclear bombs, time travel, warp drive, etc.).

    Terry Pratchett has been doing this for a long time, both for laughs and as a kind of semi-instructive for some aspects of science:

    “A Thaum is the basic unit of magical strength. It has been universally established as the amount of magic needed to create one small white pigeon or three normal-sized billiard balls.” – The Colour of Magic

    In a way, its an example of how sci-fi and other genre trope origins are starting to become the norm for just about every form of media. Look at any romance book section in a Barnes & Noble and you start to notice that amongst the bodice-rippers are vampires, time travel, aliens, witches, and other things that previously would’ve been relegated to that dusty corner of the store with the D&D books.

    • ET says:

      A lot of concepts which are today clearly “fantasy” or “sci-fi”, were a lot less clearly defined in the past. I can’t think of any specific book(s) off the top of my head, but if you read something from the ’40s-’70s, you’ll see that a lot of stuff is blurred between technology and magic, for its in-universe origin. As Arthur C. Clarke would say, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So, it really doesn’t matter if that fireball hurtling towards your face is magic or technological – you’re still going to be dead in a second. Which is actually one of the themes of Steven King’s Dark Tower series; Magic, technology – use whatever works. :)

      • Right, but back then they were kept the same dusty corner. If you tried to sell a romance with the phrase “warp drive” in it or reveal that your protagonist was a time-traveling Scottish lord, you would’ve been relegated to the circular filing system.

        And a MacGuffin is a MacGuffin, whether it be the One Ring or warp drive, but presentation and lampshading is important. I don’t think Roddenberry would’ve been able to sell Star Trek if the Enterprise were powered by some finger-bling with runic script on it.

        Edit: Funny you should mention Clarke. I’ve re-read a lot of his stuff, including his most recent collaborative works, and it’s getting harder to enjoy unless the main plot/big idea is going on. Not only because of his (and other authors from the same era) outdated character relationship concepts, but because his books often get how we’ve come to use technology almost completely wrong.

        I will note that Asimov himself pointed out predicting the future is a hopeless, thankless task, but as we’ve come into the age of the internet, video games, smartphones, etc., old sci-fi has these huge, almost alien gaps in futuristic societies that make them almost as hard to digest as old black-and-white science fiction movies.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      My gut tells me this comment is spam… but I can’t find any fastidious references to steam showers…

  6. Fizban says:

    I don’t know if anyone mentioned it last week, but Skyrim as animal crossing reminded me about why placing items in your house is so hard. I know there was talk about how piling items in a basket or even slightly jostling them makes the physics engine go nuts, but that still wouldn’t be so bad if you could actually place things. In Morrowind when you dropped an item it went straight to the surface your cursor was pointing at (as long as it was within arm’s reach), and you could eventually get the placement perfect by adjusting your position, facing, and cursor target naturally. In Skyrim (and also Oblivion? didn’t play it much), you can’t place objects. You can only throw them into the air, leaving them to land at your feet, and then slowly drag them with a one point nigh frictionless fingertip until you decide it’s not worth trying and go murder more dudes. If you could just place items properly then you could skip the physics engine crap, and since the items would start at rest instead of with a bunch of energy from being swung into position, it would fix some of the explosion problems.
    (Though my self-doubt is starting to kick in and make me wonder if I’m remembering wrong, cause I seem to remember getting a sweetroll on a plate once. But I know I couldn’t get the statue to land right. . . )

    • Raygereio says:

      If you could just place items properly then you could skip the physics engine crap, and since the items would start at rest instead of with a bunch of energy from being swung into position, it would fix some of the explosion problems.

      No, it wouldn’t. The main problem with the physics engine flinging placed items around are the hitboxes of meshes. A lot of them are larger then the mesh’ visible model and/or don’t follow the visible mesh’ shape.
      For example a bowl’s hitbox can also include the inside bit. So if you place an item in the bowl, the physics will freak out because it thinks the placed items and the bowl are clipping into eachother and need to be seperated.
      This is actually a common problem with meshes in Skyrim, Fallout 3, etc. For example if you’re behind a streetlight in FO3 and you’re trying to shoot around it, there’s this aura around the visible model where you will hit an invisible wall.

      That said, you’re also right in that it’s not really feasible to finetune an item’s position with the grab function. A big problem here is how the meshes are weighted and how certain nodes are placed, which causes items to float upside down and whatnot when you grab them.
      You can however use the GetPos, SetPos, GetAngle & SetAngle console commands for this. Naturally there are mods that tie those commands to buttons and simplify the process.
      As long as your placement doesn’t have the item floating or clipping into another model’s hitbox, it won’t fly around.
      Important thing to remember is that if you want to place an item, you need to drop the item on the ground, exit and re-enter the room and then start placing it. If you don’t do that, often the game will reset the item’s position to where it fell out of your inventory the next time room loads.

      • Ilseroth says:

        FYI: part of the reason for this is laziness on the devs part, sure, but also having that much clutter have mesh specific collision boxes can be add up to serious performance issues. Especially if the area is clutter heavy.

        Honestly, I’d care more about the decorating issues if the game had 2 player co-op, but no clearly we want an MMO *rants endlessly*

  7. Tapkoh says:

    Actually, there is a dragon in Blackreach. If you fus ro dah the “sun,” one appears.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Chris likes vanilla water and chocolate rain.

  9. hborrgg says:

    Favorite part of skyrim: I honestly just found all dungeon crawling and looting to be very relaxing. In spite of everything, the developers honestly did do an amazing job of making dungeons feel unique and rewarding exploration.

    • Tizzy says:

      Yes indeed! And there isn’t much to “do” in Blackreach, but it was extremely entertaining to explore nonetheless.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        To be fair, there is one side-quest you can do there. The alchemy place in the center belonged to the Alchemist from the Nirnroot quest in Oblivion. Reading his journal begins the quest to collect Crimson Nirnroots, which are only found in Blackreach.

        Beating it unlocks a perk which gives you a chance you make two potions with one alchemy attempt.

  10. Thearpox says:

    I actually find the kill animations IN ALL GAMES to be annoying and suspension-of-disbelief breaking. The exception would be when they are as short as a regular strike.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find it off-putting when I do a series of approximately one second (each) tactical strikes/dodges/whatever, after which the game decides to steal the glory by making me watch a five second cutscene. It’s basically a QTE event, but without pressing a button except to start it. Just… breaks the flow. And makes me feel disconnected from my character.

    My favorite is when I am playing a (insert name here) game, and I am outnumbered, meaning I have to watch closely where I step and when I strike. But then I stumble on a kill animation, and suddenly everyone’s position changes and I feel that my careful positioning was a waste of time. Awesome.

    I wish there was an option in games to disable them. (And I do think that it is an option in some games, but hardly all.)

    • drkeiscool says:

      I have the opposite problem in this game – I want all kills to have the animations, because killing things in this game just doesn’t have any oomph to it. In Oblivion, if I whacked a bandit with claymore, they went down like they had been whacked by a claymore. In Skyrim, if I hit a bandit with a claymore, they instantly stiffen up and flop over.

      I also like the stealth kill animations; I find them more satisfying than hitting someone with a dagger and having them instantly enter rigor mortis in midair.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        You arent really disagreeing with Thearpox because what he doesnt like are the kill cutscenes.You can have different kill/strike animations without taking control away from the player.Like they do in batman games.

        The problem in implementing such a system in skyrim is that not all enemies are humanoid.And,you cannot even do the fallout thing where every weapon has a different critical kill animation,because most of the weapons here are similar(well you can for spells,but most people dont use those much).

        • Ciennas says:

          Re: Spell murders.

          No, they don’t use them much. because they went out of their way to make people dislike magic in favor of sharpened metal bit stabbings.

          In the base game, they actively punish you for using magic. You can’t make it hurt as much as a physical weapon strike (Unless you summon a weapon of some sort, and even then those are capped because they’re unforgeable.)

          And when you do kill something with magic, the kill effects are just boring. In Fallout 3, you had like four different deaths depending on the weapon type involved in the death. Skyrim has only one for magic:

          The enemy just falls over suddenly. Boring. There’s no extra oomph: Fire doesn’t expand bigger, or frost get jaggedier or nothing.

          What irks me is that they already demonstrated that they could have done something- Fallout 3 proves it. Hell, I would have ultimately been satisfied by them utilizing what they already made for F3. But… we get less than that.

          They needed some kind of ‘Spell altar’ that let you refine your magic the same way you could forge a new sword. That would have made my mage playthrough happy.

          EDIT:And the non combat magic is also not as fun- if they’re so terrified of the Chameleon Suit, why didn’t they just cap the effect at around fifty percent? Or wherever the game is balanced to make it a less effective ‘invisible’?

          And it would have been cool if they did more with spells affecting the environment: Fire can burn through a door, or lightning power a machine, or frost… ruin someone’s breakfast (Suggestions welcome)

          • Thearpox says:

            I get your guys points about killing things being boring without any effects. The thing is, for me personally, the reward for killing something doesn’t come from its death.

            It comes from the knowledge that I came prepared for the encounter, didn’t aggro too much, didn’t run out of potions, didn’t fall of the cliff, and so on. The kill animation is just an unnecessary confirmation of something that I already know by that point, that I did the engagement well. I can appreciate the kill animation from “oh hey, that’s cool mo-cap.” but even when it’s done well, it is just that for me.

            And I don’t even notice the “boring stiffening” that you are talking about, simply because I am not focusing on that. It would have to be hilariously bad to be a problem for me.

            • Ciennas says:

              And I don’t even notice the “boring stiffening” that you are talking about, simply because I am not focusing on that

              I didn’t say that. I say they just fell over. Kill a guy with a sword in a death move, and you get something spectacular- an impalement, or a decapitation, if it’s a dragon you get a brief impersonation of Slim Pickens riding the bomb.

              Magic a guy to death, and it’s exactly what you were doing before, just no longer under your control.

              In Fallout 3, you got some spectacular results if you were lucky- guys turned to piles of ash, or puddles of glowing green goop, or into a cloud of giblets, or with their limbs flying off in random directions.

              Skyrim only kept the last one, and only with bladed weapon attacks.

              (Yes, lightning attacks do the ash pile thing with a perk, but that’s still shy of all the possibilities, and hidden behind a terribly high level wall.)

              Since the ‘kill-cam’ is all about making a show of the finisher, it seems odd that magic gets the shaft and becomes one of the least spectacular methods available.

              And it still doesn’t have anything to do with the base problem- using magic is the suckers route, because the sword+face method is superior by efficiency. Lackluster finishing moves is more tolerable when a mage is at least comparable to a sword slinger, but it’s not even a contest.

              • Destrustor says:

                “just no longer under your control.”

                This is actually something that seriously frustrated me a couple of times: sometimes, usually with magic, the kill animations make you miss your shot!
                Maybe the game compensates for enemy movement in the KAs to make sure they hit, but it seems to aim for center mass instead of wherever you were manually aiming your spell. This has often caused enemies to become nearly unkillable because they were partially behind cover; I aimed for their heads, the game calculated it would kill them and started the killcam, but the spell shot straight into the rock between me and their chests, saving their life. Then I’d try again, and the game did the exact same thing again, and again, and again, forcing me to give up trying to use my spell to finish the fight.
                I had to change my strategy because the game was trying so hard to make me feel cool with my magic that I couldn’t accomplish anything with it.

    • Abnaxis says:

      I didn’t have a problem with them…until I got Dawnguard and wanted to use a crossbow. The friggin’ slow motion continues while you are reloading, and a few seconds after even that. During which time, every other enemy still alive is beating on you without any chance of recourse.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I dont get the way looting progressed in rpgs.First,you had every loot chest and enemy separate,and you had this inventory box where every item took one square and everything had weight.Then they gave you companions that all had these small inventory boxes.Then they introduced multiple pages in your inventory and loot bags,so that you could carry a brazillian scrolls and similar small items.Then,finally in kotor,they integrated everything into this one huge party inventory,and every time someone died you automatically got their loot,and they removed all the unnecessary weight limits(though there was still a top cap on the number of items,I think).

    But then,instead of refining this very user friendly system,they started going back.First by making you have to fish through every slain enemy manually,then by having to talk to your companions every time you wanted to sort something,then by having lists,and finally this thing in skyrim thats just an abomination.

    Its really weird.While other mechanics(such as auto casting in rts games)are constantly being copied left and right from developer to developer to constantly improve the overall feel,looting is becoming worse and worse.Its almost as bad as the awesome button.

    • ET says:

      Wasteland 2 is actually pretty good with its loot mechanics. You’ve got limited weight, so the lack of auto-loot makes sense, and it has a big radius, where if you start looting one corpse, you can loot all the others easily.

  12. Henson says:

    Chris: “I love the sense of place Skyrim has, the sense that it’s a real, living place…”

    Josh: * BASH BASH BASH *

  13. bucaneer says:

    So the game has more lootable items than any player character can reasonably hope to carry (thus requiring many back-and-forth trips to do so), the shopkeepers don’t have nearly enough money to buy all that loot (unless you dedicate a lot of playtime to visiting multiple merchants, waiting for their money to replenish or straight up using a savegame exploit), and, ultimately, there’s very little that a player may actually want to buy (leading to large piles of unused/unusable money). How do you draw the conclusion that the game encourages you to do this?

    • ET says:

      Early and mid-game, you actually have to spend a good deal of your money just buying healing potions, and new gear. Later on, sure, you don’t need anything the merchants have, because you can find or craft something better. But until then, you’re constantly short on gold, and needing to harvest everything from the dungeons.

    • Hal says:

      Partly because the only reasonable way to level the Persuade skill is to sell crap. And you have to sell a lot of it to reach the skill cap.

      In previous editions of the game, there was a separate skill just for buying and selling stuff (Mercantile). It existed solely to give you a better value for buying and selling stuff. Rolling that together with Speechcraft into one skill was a tremendously good decision.

  14. Humanoid says:

    Huh, not dissimilarly to Ruts I don’t remember that open area of Blackreach at all. I remember the little engagement with the named adventurers just prior, and the dropping floor/steps that surprised Josh, but my memory is a total blank afterwards. But I’m also reasonably confident I didn’t just end my game mid-dungeon when I quit Skyrim for good. I’m kind of weirded out now. Pretty sure I never met Herman Moran either so maybe I wasn’t even doing the quest? Blah, this is going to bother me now.

  15. Nidokoenig says:

    About bunnyhopping, one of the bits of advice I found for playing HtH characters in Fallout 3 before I started it, was to always sneak everywhere, since it gives you a headstart in closing distance on enemies, and that’s basically how I’ve played all Elder Scrolls games that I’ve played since. Which is basically Morrowind because the computer that could play Fallout 3 blew up. It makes things pretty atmospheric, though of course once combat becomes trivial and/or I put an increased spawn mod on I drop that habit in favour of chugging all the drugs and beating the hordes down with my fists.

    There should be solutions to the shopkeeper thing. Like, you being able to open your own shop and staff it with a companion or do timeskips and do it yourself, after chugging all the barter potions ever. Or have any excess value totaled up and mailed to you in installments, something like that. Now I’m imagining an Recettear-style minigame, where every so often I go in the back and pick a couple more Dwemer swords out of Nads Tharen’s bloated corpse.

  16. guy says:

    Ah, Blackreach. The place cool enough I stuck around in it long enough to get thirty Crimson Nirnroot for no valid reason. I wasn’t even doing alchemy on that character. I’m glad it’s on the main quest, because otherwise I might never have gone there.

    Azura’s Star getting filled with a small soul isn’t a problem because you can just charge something at random.

    Valley Girl Chris is uncanny.

    That horse is like a vortex of uncanny bugs.

  17. Endymion says:

    It took however many episodes but it finally happened: “Why can’t I shout?”

    Muffle’s massive downside is that it disables your ability to shout. While this makes perfect sense if you think about it, the game really did a bad job communicating this feature to the player.

  18. Bruno M. Torres says:

    My only complain about this episode:

    You guys didn’t look at the Elder Scroll!

  19. Hal says:

    A few thoughts on Blackreach:

    1. One of the things I love and hate about the place is the darkness. It’s huge, but the lack of ambient light gives it a very suffocating feeling. It increases the mysterious ambiance, but makes it a royal pain to navigate. There was a bug (might have been patched by now) where you could get normal sunlight into the place. Much more convenient for hunting Nirnroots, but it does negate the atmosphere.

    2. The Nirnroot quest is interesting. Sinderion (the dead researcher you find in the building) was a character from Oblivion, so presumably he must have lived a significantly long time. Skyrim takes place 200 years after Oblivion, but the person to whom you return the Nirnroots knew him. Either high elves are very long-lived, or someone on the writing staff forgot about the passage of time and just wanted to reference someone from Oblivion players would remember.

    3. The reward for finishing that quest (25% chance of creating two potions when brewing) is really, really good, but I’ve never completed it at a point where it would be at all useful. (That is, I’ve always maxed out my alchemy by the time I get around to it.

    4. The red-glowing Centurion Dynamo Cores are my favorite trinkets in the game. I leave those things lying around my homes; they’re the perfect item to put in those stationary basin things.

    • Tizzy says:

      All elves are long-lived, it’s an important part of the lore. E.g., Mankar Camoran, Oblivion’s main antagonist, was born in 3E267 and died in 3E433, and not of old age.

      http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Mankar_Camoran

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Heck Divayth Fyr from Morrowind was 4000 years old when I killed him.

        And when you get to Solstheim, you’ll encounter other Dunmer who were around for Morrowind (Master Neloth at least. He was a cranky middle aged elf in Morrowind and in Skyrim 200 years later he’s still up for exploring a Dwemer ruin.)

        • The Rocketeer says:

          NEEEEELOOOOOTH!

          Neloth was pretty old as of 3E 427, what with being a Telvanni master at the time, so to find him kicking around Solstheim is a neat touch, if only because I get to reignite that old feud with him.

          Also, the son of Lady Morvayn being in charge of the Redoran is a great thing.

      • *Looks at link page*

        *Sees animated GIF at the bottom*

        “Oblivion Mobile?” Uh-oh. Unless he’s planned ahead, Rutskarn’s “complete” review of the Elder Scrolls is going to have a little Java-based hole in its lore! :)

    • Jakale says:

      Agreed on the lighting. I like the darkness and all the color options it provides (sucker for glowy things), plus I was a sneaky archer and going around exploring a big mostly-forgotten Journey to the Center of the Earth area like this tickled my Thief memories, but after my first big exploration turned up lots of neat things to look at, but not really anything to do, my enthusiasm fell sharply and that coupled with the lighting beginning to hurt my eyes and generally feeling exhausting and making me long for light from a sky, again. When I went back for the nirnroot quest I coudln’t really stand it that much past 10 – 15 minutes or so and I’ve spent 2 – 3 hours in real life going from cave’s mouth to man’s elevator in the Carlsbad Caverns.
      The Dwemer ruins, in general, wore out my interest. I had no issue with the other dungeons, but I just stopped wanting to check out Dwemer zones.

  20. krellen says:

    My favourite part of Skyrim is also my favourite part of Mass Effect: the sky. Skyrim’s night-time sky can be really beautiful, just like the skies on certain planets in Mass Effect.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      To add something I feel is related. The camp in Dragon Age Origins. The music and the cozy nighttime atmosphere was enchanting and helps you recover from the grimness of other parts of the game just as your party is recovering and resting.

      For me, Skyrim only achieves this coziness with the help of Frostfall and Realistic Needs. Stopping in the tavern in Whiterun and sitting down to warm up around the fire while the waitress comes up to offer me something is nice after a hard day on the road.

  21. Octapode says:

    Why don’t more games do the WoW thing of aggregating all nearby loot so you can loot it all from one enemy’s corpse?

  22. Abnaxis says:

    True Story: I am thiiiiiis close to uninstalling the Requiem mod, because for whatever incomprehensible reason, the authors made jumping take up stamina, and I. CAN’T. QUIT. BUNNY-HOPPING. with fast-travel turned off.

    I really wish they had an option to flip for that.

  23. James says:

    That soul thing always got to me. Look up Smart souls http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/14559/? saves you alot of headaches. (note I know you don’t use mods just recommending for everyone else)

  24. C0Mmander says:

    Wait I think Josh recovered stamina faster when he was sitting. If that’s the case, that is an amazing attention to detail.

  25. Lavitt says:

    Hey guys! It’s the Falmayor! Get it? HA!
    Now let’s just see if I can format text.

  26. Greg says:

    So I’m legitimately curious: what about Frostfall makes it so fun as to actually be, according to Shamus, the best part about Skyrim?

    I have Frostfall installed and it’s an interesting little side system, to be sure, but all it does is add another few meters to keep track of, and limit your character options (since in order to travel in the colder regions you pretty much have to wear a cloak and a full set of fur). Overland travel in Skyrim is not especially interesting, and once I got past the novelty factor, Frostfall really only added extra minor annoyances, and the “realism” added (which can still easily be gamed with instantly swapping armor and the like) doesn’t, in my view, make up for making an essential part of the game play be just waiting around (drying out, warming up, etc. pretty much requires you to simply stand around and do nothing for a while, since browsing menus freezes the game and almost no conversations are long or varied enough to be interesting while you’re taking care of one of those meters).

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just not for me?

    • Hal says:

      A lot of it depends on what you want out of the game. For some people, the power fantasy of it all is ruined when you’re too powerful, especially if it means ignoring plausible risks (such as hypothermia or starvation.)

      It’s the same reason why realistic need mods that add in hunger, thirst, and sleep deprivation are popular. Yes, it’s just another thing to tick off, but that’s enough to make the various considerations interesting for a lot of people.

      • syal says:

        It’s back to Skyrim being one of the best Wanderlust games out there; those mods add to the simulation of exploring. Suddenly getting to the far corner of the map takes preparation as well as time, and now getting there alive is an accomplishment.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Not only that. Finding a tavern becomes a reward itself. I can feel it myself when my character gets to stop in front of the warm glow of a fire and take in the surroundings. It made me appreciate features that had previously been ignored (like just how many fires there really are.)

          I think it works best for people who want to enjoy the experience of just being in Skyrim. And people who have enhanced graphics mods.

          • Humanoid says:

            I thought the various bars and indicators were confusing as hell though. This orange bar, do I want it to be full or empty? How about this blue bar? Should I be panicking right now, or am I totally good? And sure, I figured it out back when I tried it, but I’ve forgotten again and would have to rediscover it if I play again, just felt so unintuitive.

            P.S. Spent ages not knowing how to get started with the survival aspect due to having a clue where to get my first Woodcutter’s axe, since you have to have one to make one.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              I agree. I was most confused by the little temperature bar in the center. The “How cold you are” meter and the “how wet you are” meter made sense quicker.

              And I like that the mod can make you dripping wet or covered in frost. I thought that was a nice touch.

  27. SyrusRayne says:

    The Blackreach cave aesthetic is one of my favourites. I don’t always love exploring caves in RPGs, but if you hit me with a massive underground vista like in Blackreach, or some of the smaller bug still a bit open dungeon-cave areas, I am in love.

    Related to that, one of my favourite RPG settings is Spiderweb Software’s Exile/Avernum series. It’s not quite as fantastic or vibrant as Blackreach (and is also top-down or isometric, depending on game), but it hits similar notes for me.

    It has a sense of majesty and massiveness, but a strange cloying feeling of claustrophobia despite how open it is. Combined with the glowy mushrooms and fungi – and in Blackreach, the dwemer ruins and automata – it has a wonderfully alien feeling that no other part of Skyrim really pulls off. I love Morrowind for many of the same reasons, but it loses something for me due to its open skies.

    When they feel like it Bethesda can really rock the environments.

  28. JackTheStripper says:

    I played 150 hours of Skyrim according to Steam. I leveled a character to 100 everything. I had never seen Blackreach until now.

  29. Wide And Nerdy says:

    People have been complaining about the lack of interesting powers in Skyrim vs Morrowind. I went a long with this because I’ve been playing other games lately but actually, theres some cool stuff. Game changing stuff even. Let me list.

    1) Change into a Werewolf (Especially useful in the Markart quest)
    2) Change into a Vampire Lord
    3) Make everybody fight each other.
    4) Make everybody stop fighting
    5) Rain down sunbeams of destruction
    6) Blot out the sun.
    7) Summon storms.
    8) Dismiss storms.
    9) Slow down time.
    10) Raise the dead as your thralls
    11) Call down the heroes of Sovengard
    12) Summon an undead horse.
    13) Call two different dragons to your aid. One living, one undead.
    14) Kill someone by tearing the soul out of his body.
    15) Knock people back dozens of feet by shouting.
    16) Bend people to your will. Bend dragons to your will and ride them to rain fire upon your enemies.
    17) Run on water. (Vampire Lord or Boots of Azhkidal).
    18) Find a blade that fires energy blasts when you power attack.
    19) Be at peace with nature (the calm animals shout)
    20) Turn your self into a human blender (Elemental Fury).
    21) Summon a tornado to cast your enemies about.
    22) Lift your enemy into the air telekinetically just by stretching out your hand and watch him flail helplessly before flinging him with your mind.
    23) Force dragons down from the sky with your voice. Best their thuum with your own in the process (you can cancel their breath weapon with your dragonrend).
    24) Encase your enemies in ice.
    25) Manifest a cool draconic aspect that augments your abilities.
    26) Get the Wabbajack which can cause random transformations and other effects.
    27)Wreathe yourself in an aura of shadow (muffles movement, poisons enemies, looks badass).

    Maybe not all of these are your cup of tea, and you could certainly argue that some of them aren’t quite as practical as they sound. But Skyrim has its share of cool and unique powers. I wouldn’t give them up for levitate, jumping or the mark/recall spells.

    • Kana says:

      Yeah, but the problem is all of the shouts (as far as I’ve ever seen) are mutually exclusive and subject to wildly varying cooldowns. If you shout clear skies, you’re good to go in like, 10 seconds. If you shout to call a storm, you can’t do anything for like 5 minutes. So they exist, yeah, but they just lock you out of useful things like Fus Ro Dah or Elemental Fury.

      I’d also argue something like Elemental Fury is useful but not entirely cool. It puts a swirl on your sword and makes you swing faster. It’s not really as impressive as, say, breathing fire (which is cool, but useless) or on the extreme end summoning a dragon.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        The Storm Call is not practical I agree. It targets indiscriminately and has a long cooldown. But every now and then I still use it just for effect.

        As a tabletop roleplayer, I started as a Munchkin (sadly) evolved into a Loonie and then The Roleplayer. But it wasn’t till Skyrim that I started seeing the appeal of what TV Tropes calls the “Real Man” style (doing badass things whether they’re practical or not.) And you can combine the shouts with some of the non shout stuff. Clear the sky, blot out the sun before turning into a Vampire Lord and going on a killing spree. Its all about effect. I have a lot of fun with that.

        While I felt kind of powerful in Morrowind I never felt especially badass and its because the effects were woefully limited compared to later games.

        If you get a mod that reduces or eliminates the shout cooldowns you can have a lot of fun doing super badass stuff. I remember coming to the thin walkway connecting two towers high above the river. Bandits started coming at me. I switched to walk, slowed time and started Fus Ro Dahing dudes casually walking past as they flew in slow motion in all directions. Third person cam.

        Another time with the low cooldown times, I used slow time and unrelenting force to keep the Ebony Warrior in the air. Managed to shout him almost to Kynesgrove before he died. I just wanted the story of his defeat to be a little more epic than the default fight.

        During the Civil War arc, I like to show up both at invasions and back at camp on dragon back to one up the scrubs.

        • IFS says:

          The thing is, for me at least, that almost all of those cool actions in Skyrim are focused on combat and the combat just isn’t very good. THe teleporting, flight, and jump spells in Morrowind could help with fighting (being able to fly and chase down annoying cliff racers for instance) but beyond that they were just useful. I often find myself feeling like magic in games just ends up as another variant of ‘hit guy for damage’ and sometimes it is a cooler damage but it feels lacking to me. Utilitarian uses not only give magic more usefulness but also make it more interesting and worth investing in imo, and I don’t know if Skyrim’s various powers quite match (for me at least) the point in Morrowind where my axe wielding orc suddenly became able to fly over the mountains that normally needed to be walked around, or when he jumped halfway across the map in a single bound.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            I’d probably feel that way if flying wasn’t just walking but off the ground. Leaping and teleporting are kind of neat though, but I can do all three of the Morrowind things with console commands (and I do) in Skyrim.

            It is sad that they didn’t though. There are a number of mods that prove they could have done really cool flying, teleporting and leaping.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              “but I can do all three of the Morrowind things with console commands (and I do) in Skyrim”

              Console commands should never be compared to actual gameplay though.

  30. MadTinkerer says:

    By the way, I’m pretty sure that the way the soul gems fill is:

    1) If you have a soul gem large enough for the creature, it will fill.

    2) If all of the soul gems just large enough for the soul are filled and you have a gem of the next size up, one of the next size up will be filled.

    3) If a gem is empty, it will be filled.

    4) If a filled gem has a soul of smaller size and you kill a creature with a bigger soul, the soul gem will then be filled with / “overwritten” with the larger soul.

    SO:

    If you have 1 Greater soul gem and you kill a creature with a Petty soul, the gem will have a Petty soul in it. If you then kill a creature with a Lesser soul, the gem will have a Lesser soul in it. If you then kill a creature with a Common soul, the gem will have a Common soul in it. If you then kill a creature with a Greater soul, the gem will have a Greater soul in it. If you kill a creature with a Grand soul, the gem will not fill because the soul is too “large”.

    If you have 1 Greater soul gem with a Petty soul in it and an empty Common soul gem and you kill a creature with a Common soul, the Common soul gem will be filled. If you then kill another creature with a Common soul, both gems will have Common souls in them. If you then kill a creature with a Greater soul, the Greater soul gem will have a Greater soul in it.

    I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. Even if I’m not 100% correct about how things get sorted, I do know for a fact that if you leave soul gems that have non-ideal souls in them on a companion who is using soul trap weapons all the time, that those soul gems will eventually fill to their ideal limits. No gem is “wasted” as long as you let your companions keep killing things along the way.

    EDIT: typed “soul” too many times. Now the word looks “wrong” when I read it.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Thats interesting, I’ll have to test that. I’m sure you’re right about most of it but the one I wonder about is the “bigger soul overwriting the smaller soul” thing. I mean it makes sense, if you’re out of empty gems and one of your gems could hold a bigger soul than it has, that would be neat. If its not that way, somebody should make a mod.

    • Microwaviblerabbit says:

      I do not think that soul gems will overwrite. However, if you drop a soul gem on the ground(not just place it in a container) it will empty. It is still frustrating because you have to drop all the unstacked gems separately, but it does make soul trapping a bit better.

  31. MadTinkerer says:

    ALSO STOP LEAVING THE DWARVEN CENTURION CORES BEHIND THEY ARE THE #1 MOST IMPORTANT NONRENEWABLE CRAFTING INGREDIENT. Some may argue that Black Soul Gems are, but you can actually buy them and the ingredients needed to make them if you know where to go (not spoiling it for those who don’t know, but you should be able to figure it out with a bit of exploration without looking up a FAQ if you don’t already know). Dwarven Centurion Cores are only found on Dwarven Centurions and sometimes near Dwarven Centurions, and they are finite, and they are required for the best Atronach Forge recipes.

    So if you are going to stop and loot things in Blackreach, drop the Chaurus Chitin and grab the cores!

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Because thats what everyone wants,to watch Josh level up smithing for a few hours.

      Wait…He will read this….Shit!

      • Abnaxis says:

        Naw, he’s talking about the Atronach Forge, which is the Horadric Cube/Mystic Forge/Easy-Bake Oven in the basement of the College in Winterhold. It doesn’t require any blacksmithing skill, although one of the items you need for the cores to be useful requires you to have at least 90 in Conjuration, so it still probably isn’t a good idea for Josh to go for it…

  32. Favorite part of Skyrim by far is wandering around outside doing jack all. It’s one of the most incredible games to play as long as you aren’t…y’know, playing it. :P

  33. Lachlan the Mad says:

    As a mad fan of Myst, I’m offended at your suggestion that the puzzle in the Dwarven ruins is “Myst-like”. I’ll admit that it resembles a Myst puzzle in its aesthetic, with the giant ancient spinny machinery, but Myst puzzles generally (a) have a logical (if difficult) solution and (b) can’t be solved by random button-stabbing (since they’re usually randomised and have thousands of possible permutations).

    • evileeyore says:

      Original Myst puzzles weren’t random at all.

      • Lachlan the Mad says:

        If by “random” you mean “randomised”, no, they weren’t. I don’t actually know when the first randomised Myst puzzle in the series shows up, but thinking through them, I have actually realised that most of the “core” puzzles aren’t randomised at all. They’re still almost impossible to solve with random button-stabbing though. Try getting the astronomy puzzle in Myst I right without knowing the right settings :)

        This is why I really want a boxed Myst I-V remake, keeping the original puzzles but with more randomness.

  34. Wem says:

    UNRELENTING HORSE.

  35. Izicata says:

    The puzzle at the end of Blackreach, the one at 16:00? It isn’t actually a puzzle at all. All you have to do is press the buttons until the next button unlocks, starting on the right and proceeding to the left. It’s just a waste of your time.

  36. Oleyo says:

    I am absolutely and completely unable to play this game without SkyUI.

  37. RCN says:

    The shopkeepers I can forgive due to the simulation side of Elder Scrolls. But it could ALSO be fixed with simulation. If you keep coming back to the same shopkeeper to unload your stuff, it can be presumed he is also finding people to buy it, and thus prospering. In turn, this means the next time you meet the same shop-keeper your previously did business with (be it selling a lot of stuff to him or buying from him, both can be turned into profit) he’s got a larger wealth to buy your stuff.

    This way you don’t have static shopkeepers and you partially solve the wealth cap problem. But no, let’s just bury this convenience deep (DEEEEEEP) into the Speechcraft tree that no-one ever delves into.

  38. Dork Angel says:

    When I started playing Skyrim, I really enjoyed making weapons and items with cool names. Problem was that when I went into my massive inventory to find my Necklace of True Lock-picking, Gloves of Deft Manipulation, Thieves Cap and Magnifying Ring every time I came across a chest they were a pain to find and put on. Especially when I did the same for Smithing, Enchanting, Alchemy and Pickpocketing. In the end I scrapped them all and started again with and much simpler Blacksmith’s Master Gloves, Blacksmith’s Master Necklace, etc just so they all stayed together in the inventory. Still got to have fun with the weapons and armour though. :)

  39. David F says:

    I’ve always had plenty of time to look at Blackreach (which I usually just refer to as “Skyrim Underdark” because I keep forgetting the real name) because I always follow the main path to the tower with the elder scroll while crouching the whole time. This generally gives me at least 2 or 3 levels of sneak, and gives me more looking at cool glowy mushroom trees and less fighting Falmer.

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