I know you're all looking forward to me moving on from Skyrim and getting back to my regular blogging, and I promise it's coming up soon. I'll win this game this weekend, and then the X-box goes to the nearest yard sale. In the meantime, I thought I'd commiserate with you on my biggest pet peeve of the game.
I'm walking outside of some place like Solitude, enjoying the sunshine, the birds flying overhead, the architecture, and the conversations between NPCs working the farm. I'm dangerously close to lollygagging.
I come upon a Khajiit sitting cross-legged on the ground. "Huh!" I say. "I don't think I've spoken to him before. Let's see what he has to say."
KHAJIIT: "Be wary, my friend, for you greet S'am the Murderer!"
ME: "Wait. What? I don't want another quest."
KHAJIIT: "S'am the Murderer is tired of murder today, though. Perhaps you can fulfill my latest contract for me? I'll teach you everything I know about stealth."
ME: "No! I don't want to help you murder people! Get off my quest board!"
KHAJIIT: "How...unfortunate. I'll remain here until you decide to be reasonable."
ME: "I'm not going to 'be reasonable'! I'm going to turn you in to the nearest guard!"
KHAJIIT: "Ha! As if you have any dialogue options when talking with guards. No, I'm just going to hang out here. You'll come back eventually."
ME: [ends conversation]. "Well, maybe it won't be so bad. Maybe he wants me to kill some Thalmor or something. Let's check..." [opens quest log].
|Yeah, I don't have Photoshop, all right? I did this in PowerPoint.|
ME: "The hell with that! I'm not murdering young lovers! My character is supposed to be good!
A peal of thunder ripples across the sky as every Daedra lord in the game simultaneously chuckles.
I run up to the nearest guard. "Hey!"
GUARD: "...I'm not kidding you. Not for one second. Curved. Swords. I mean, how the #&*# do you forge a..."
I run back to the Khajiit, whip out my Blade of Woe, coat it with poison of lingering damage, sneak up behind S'am, and score a 15x damage hit.
S'am falls to his knees and catches his breath. Again and again I strike him, to no avail.
KHAJIIT: "Have you changed your mind about the contract?"
GUARD: "Stop right there, criminal scum!"
I go charging off into the distance. Pausing the game, I grab my notebook from my desk and vow to write down my own quests from now on and never look at the quest log again.
Three hours later, after all my quests are completed except one.
ME: "You know, I never really did like Mjoll the Lioness. She's probably secretly working with the Thieves' Guild..."
Now, I made this one up, of course, but there are plenty of quests that you literally cannot avoid, and the only way to get them off your list is to do something horrible. [Spoilers follow.] Perhaps the worst is in Solitude, where you almost immediately get a miscellaneous quest to "Talk to Jaree-Ra about possible employment." Say three words to him, and you're locked into a quest to put out the fire in a lighthouse, run a ship full of innocent people aground, and loot the wreckage. Even though a nearby guard talks about wanting to arrest Jaree-Ra, you can't talk to him about it. You can't kill Jaree-Ra. There's no way out of it except to ignore the quest in your quest list, which is really hard. I'm not the only one who has that problem, right? Right?
|I don't think I'm racist, but if I was, it would be towards Argonians. Just...look at them.|
It gets even better. Read a freaking book and you get tagged with "Boethiah's Calling," which ultimately requires you to sacrifice a follower on Boethiah's altar. I couldn't get it off my list even when I massacred all of her followers in front of her shrine--she apparently enjoys that. Want to avoid joining the Thieves' Guild? Ha! Not if you want to solve the Stones of Barenziah quest. Not to mention that you get roped into the Thieves' Guild the moment you have to talk to one of its members during the main quest. Oh, and if a noble-looking knight asks for your help clearing evil from an abandoned house in Markarth, don't do it; you'll end up having to kill not only him, but an innocent priest. Have a problem murdering old ladies? Don't talk to Aventus Aretino in Windhelm. Don't even go near his house.
The problem is so prevalent that when I did find a way out of two quests--joining the Dark Brotherhood and eating dead people--by turning my sword on the quest-givers, I was astonished that it worked. I've never played a game that simultaneously amazed me with the scope and variety of its quests and infuriated me with the inescapability of them. What makes it worse are the quest items that you can't get out of your damned inventory. I'm carrying six or seven things that, because of bugs or some non-traditional approach that I took, I can neither use nor drop.
The kind of hand-holding evidenced by un-killable NPCs and un-droppable items drives me mad. Morrowind had neither of these "features" and did fine. If you killed someone that broke the main quest, you got a warning, but otherwise you could backstab anyone that offended your sense of morality. Even Oblivion, though it had a few un-killable NPCs, just told you that the quest was over because some key person had died. It didn't try to protect everyone in the game who might some day give you 150 gold pieces. (My favorite approach was in Baldur's Gate, where if you killed a crucial NPC, he'd be replaced in all his future scenes by "Biff the Understudy.") On my current Skyrim playthrough, I got so mad at the citizens of Markarth that I decided to kill every one of them (I partly justified it because I was a vampire at the time) and found that half of them just wouldn't perish, no matter how long I stood over them, swinging my blade, screaming "Why...won't...you...die?!"
Okay, calm down, Chester. It's just a game. And it's a good game. I'm going to give you a mock GIMLET on in when I finish, and I'm sure it'll rank high. But damn, it's got some annoying quirks and bugs. With the effort that they put into all other aspects of the game, I don't understand why they couldn't have put just a little more into the quest options and given me the opportunity to FUS-RO-DAH Jaree-Ra off the castle ramparts.