Five Disappointing Things About Skyrim

Five Disappointing Things About Skyrim

You’ve heard the buzz, read the reviews, and consulted the stars; all signs point to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim being the second coming of Oblivion, only bigger, better and bolder than its beloved predecessor. And for the most part it is, but there are some definite flaws on this shiny dragon-clutched diamond.

Now keep in mind I’m not trying to rain on Bethesda’s parade or minimise the accomplishment of Skyrim in any way. It’s a game deserving of praise (which I’ll get to eventually), and these five flaws, while annoying, for the most part don’t affect the overall experience. This is just a small selection of agonizing issues that I need to get off my chest before I get back to my Dragonborn.

The Animation

One of the most criticised elements of the previous two entries in The Elder Scrolls series, Bethesda has certainly improved character animation a great deal for Skyrim, to the point where third-person play is a viable option, as long as you don’t make any sudden moves or attempt to climb down the side of a mountain. In fact, unless you’re running in a straight line or fighting (meaning too busy to notice), that old familiar jerkiness rears its ugly head. And forget about climbing; there are no animations for such actions, and simply walking down the side of a mountain half sunk into the rock doesn’t do a lot for immersion.

Possible solution: Let’s motion capture some people! Call up Rockstar, see if they know anybody.

The Hair

My least favourite part of playing any open-world Bethesda game is selecting my hair. As demonstrated in my character creation video for Skyrim, this is not an area that Bethesda has shown gobs of improvement in with this latest title. It’s getting better, and the higher-quality faces certainly help, but faced with the decision of wearing the hideous polygon hair and a skullcap textured to look like hair, the skullcap wins every time.

Of course you wind up with a helmet before too long. In fact, the Dovahkiin image that’s been circulating since the early announcement days encourages players to wear a helmet, so Bethesda is likely aware of the issue.

Possible solution: Lose the hair selector and just have everyone select a helmet (or barrel) at character creation, or require all prisoners’ heads be shaved before transport and incarceration. Yes, even the kitty people.

Loading And Streaming Delays

One day there will be an Elder Scrolls game in which I don’t have to sit through a loading screen every time I enter a building; I recognise that this is a matter of time and computing power and if I just wait for it it will eventually arrive. It always flummoxes me when I’m exploring a vast open world that stretches for kilometres in every direction, every centimetre explorable, yet to enter a thatched roof cottage we’ve got to kick things into high gear. More of an expectation than a real disappointment, at least Bethesda made some excellent interactive loading screens to help pass the time.

Streaming delays, on the other hand, could probably be avoided. Playing through the Xbox 360 version my travels have been intermittently interrupted by brief pauses, during which I assume the next part of the world is trying to load behind-the-scenes, but fails. A brief pause now and then while travelling isn’t incredibly bothersome, but coupled with the delays I’ve been experiencing opening up the game’s nifty new cross menu — enough to make me worry the game might have locked up on me — then yes, I’m somewhat disappointed. The problem doesn’t happen all the time — I suspect it’s tied to caching — but it’s there.

Possible solution: The magical consoles of the future, pixel grease.

The Combat

Here lies my biggest Skyrim disappointment. I’m given a vast, gorgeous realm to explore, decked out in realistically-designed armour and weapons and pitted against lifelike creatures from mundane to horrific. What happens next should be the ringing of steel, the crumpling of armour under powerful blows; a deadly dance performed by the deadliest of foes. What actually happens is a great deal of flailing. One button controls the item or spell in your left hand, another handles the right. This works fine for spell casters, but for melee players? Not so much.

As advanced and gorgeous as Bethesda’s game engine is, it’s not a miracle worker. Building a truly satisfying first-person melee and magic battle system is a monumental task. If the game were purely a PC monster it would be one thing; a mouse does wonders for directional sword strikes.

Then again, both consoles playing host to Skyrim have devices capable of adding extra depth to combat. I can’t fault Bethesda for not supporting technology that wasn’t around when they started developing the game, but maybe next time?

Possible solution: Skyrim Special Kinect Edition; Dragonborn Heroes on the Move

The Dragons

Massive. Threatening. The darkness spreading across Skyrim is the shadows cast by dragon wings. These vile creatures are at the very heart of the game’s conflict, and provide the greatest challenge ever faced in the history of The Elder Scrolls.

Unless you hide behind a rock. They hate that. It confuses them so much that once they’re done breathing fire they’ll sit, bewildered, giving you the opening you need to attack.

Now I’ve only fought a handful of dragons in the game so far, but those I have faced were only impressive graphically. I should have been terrified for my life. I should have gotten the impression that I was facing insurmountable odds, but I do not. It’s the nature of the beast, you see. Thanks to the combat system (see above) there really isn’t any way to make a fight with a dragon as dynamic and entertaining as it should be. It reduces what could have been some truly epic encounters into rounds of “Can I thwack it yet? OK, I thwack it now.” Attacking the flying dragon with magic and arrows makes me feel as if I were fighting more dynamically, but really I’m just speeding up the process a little.

My lovely domestic partner put the whole dragon thing into perspective after watching me play for several hours. She observed that while fighting a dragon, I was calm and reserved. When facing off against the Snowy Saber Cat in the clip here, I screamed, ran and nearly peed myself.

Possible solution: The Elder Scrolls VI: Snowy Saber Catborn

Now before we start with the “Hey, he’s hating on Skyrim! Burn him!”, this isn’t about hate. It’s just a means of pointing out that as good as this game is, the next one could be even better. Can you imagine?


  • Off with his head!

    Unfortunetly, agree on every single damnable point you make. I kid you not, I squealed when confronted by the saber cat the first time. NB: it was a manly squeal.

  • Animation is fine. I don’t care about the hair. Streaming is an occasional problem. AI in general sometimes struggles with the world they have created. Combat is the true “wish it were better” though only really on the close range stuff, ranged is fine…but for the love of god, no Kinect. You think Kinect will reduce the flailing?

  • Sad to hear that the third-person view still isn’t great. I suppose it would be difficult to make an animation for climbing down a cliff though. I’m guessing the ‘ice-skating’ walk animation from Oblivion is fixed?

    I’ll still give third-person a go once I get around to this game, anyway.

  • Loading could be a little faster, ps3 loading seems a tad too long, might be patched?

    the character models (including hair) are amazing, and don’t touch my Khajit!

    dragons i think are ok, nothing special, better than popping into oblivion though.

    combat, still feels clunky, only with one one-handed weapon though, dual wielding or the big two handers feel rather good.

    Lastly, animation, i don’t know what you are talking about? I’ve yet to see any jerkiness in 3rd or 1st person from my character or others. Then again I’ve not wanted to attempt to walk straight up a mountain.

  • I completely agree with your points but I think we need more powerful consoles before these can be done.

    Alas, you still must be burnt.

  • On PC, effectively no loading time….installed on SSD…I cant even read the first word of the tip and the game has began…after that everything is seamless

  • I agree I was disappointed with dragon fights. I just hide and pop out to shoot an occasional arrow,, trying to melee was very awkward.

  • In all honesty, it’s all the same and I don’t mind, we didn’t come into this expecting GOW for archery, Street Fighter for Combat and Magika for magic, but it’s an Elder Scrolls game and it feels lke an Elder Scrolls game should. Having had a fair bit of experience with Gamebryo (the engine Bethesda uses) what they’ve done is nothing short of a miricale!! Animation blending in that toolset is a pain in the ass to get working smoothly and I can tell you now that unless you want it to take 3 seconds to change the animation you’re on, there’s not much you can do about it. As for the streaming and loading, without having intentional loading screens or having the entire game loaded into memory, there’s not much you can do, Especially on 360s where they have limited resources. I’m not sure why you’d review this game on 360 to be honest, when it was made for pc and ported after.
    Hope this clears a few things up

  • I have Skyrim on the PS3 and I’ve only encountered tiny lighting problems and and sometimes having to wait as long as 15 secs for the game to autosave. When it first autosaved it froze for about 15 seconds. I honestly thought my game had crashed or locked up.

    As for loading screens for when I enter a building, I don’t see how you can’t expect that. Did the editor of this article even play Oblivion? You had to sit through a loading screen for a few secs every time you entered a building.

  • This is an amazing game thus far and I’m having an absolute hoot. I do however agree with the melee combat and dragon points.

    Melee combat is a matter of hit, run backwards/block, hit, run backwards/block, rinse, repeat. Same as Oblivion. I was hoping they’d found some way to make it feel more technical/fluid and less clunky. Not enough to upset me though, the rest of the game more than makes up for it.

    I’ve only encountered one dragon thus far. The Jarl at …. Whiteborn? I forget the name, I could be wrong – tells me I have to go with his dark elf lieutenant-lady and go kill the dragon. Panic set in. Already? Surely not! So I followed them out to the west guard tower to encounter said dragon, heart pounding. The dragon arrives, much yelling and fire-breathing ensues. I peek my head out of the tower and see the dragon getting about and it looks amazing, and absolutely terrifying.

    Then I went out with my bow and sat behind some cover and shot it what felt like 15-20 times while it sat in one spot on the ground – breathing fire at someone else, and then it was dead. That was it. Massively underwhelmed. Maybe because it’s only the first one, but it was beyong easy, it was almost comical. I hope later dragons are much more difficult and challening.

    But don’t get me wrong, I’m not picking on it – I f***ing love it. Really only the dragons have been the most disappointing part thus far.

    Probably going to spend the rest of today sitting on my butt playing Skyrim. =)

    • I’ve only fought the one Dragon too, at the same spot outside Whiterun.

      I have to say though, it was a different experience for me. It has leapt into my Top 5 video gaming experiences ever.

      It was night when we faced the Drgaon. To see it fly over heard, roaring, then all the guards clambering to get close to it whilst others shoot it with arrows.

      When it first landed, I went into Skyrim combat mode and ran towards it, sword drawn. It then promptly spewed raging fire onto one of the nearby guards. The light of it filled my screen. Me eyes bulged out of my head as the dragons fire lit up the surrounding area and tower walls.

      It really intimidated me. When it turned and hit me with fire next. I absolutely retreated. it then took to the skies once more and landed on the other side of the tower to attack more guards. I made my way to the dragon, using some rocks as cover, listening to the roar and only able to see the bright light illuminating the area.

      I managed to get behind it, and started chopping away. It took less blows than I’d have liked to kill the huge dragon. But my heart was still pounding from the loud roar and far reach of the Dragon’s fire. It really caught me off guard. I had to pause it for a moment afterwards to get my bearings.

  • Fuck man really? I’m not even going to read this because I don’t want it to spoil the fun I’m having.


  • These are some good points. I’m having a whale of a time, but i’ll concede most of these. Still, compare these issues to what we had to deal with in Oblivion? I’m still in a good mood.

    Screw Saber Cats, i piss myself every time i SEE a Falmer, let alone have to fight one. Creepy little bastards!

  • 6: The interface. I sighed big time when I realised it was easier to navigate menus using my keypad than it was my mouse. I really hate to cry ‘consolification’ but this is just horrible. Oblivion’s menu was so much more intuative

  • I’ve encountered the odd glitch here and there on the ps3 version. Floating horses, floating notes both inside and outside houses. Graphical slowdown. It’s not perfect but damn it’s good fun!

  • I feel like I’m the only one who thinks this is a major console port. My mouse just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the menu interfaces, and using a keyboard is easier, but feels really awkward

  • 1st: Really, you play in 3rd person? Noob
    2nd: Loading screens are because you are playing on Xbox (Blame microsoft for that problem) or your computer is shit. Or you’re playing on a Mac (lol) I have no loading screen unless it’s for a serious dungeon, and you know what they at least make them interesting with Lore and character models.
    3rd: Combat, is brilliant compared to Oblivion which is what they were going for. If you feel it’s bad, you might just be the common denominator.
    4th: The hair is as good as it needs to be for this game, you try to make a game this size and scale it down to console restrictions, hair isn’t the highest priority. On a good computer, the hair is fine.
    5th: dragons…really, you don’t like dragons, there must be something wrong with you, we’re going to have to send the ninjas out.

    You have taken enough time away from my Skyrim marathon.

    Don’t shit on brilliant games for money, I denounce you as a gamer. You are a suit, and I bet you wear a tie because you think it looks cool. *insert obsceinities here*

  • wow kotaku you are fucking morons , actually play the game first you pricks im 25 hours in and it is the best game I have ever played, you are a bunch of whiney moronic overpaid pricks

  • Wow. Did any of you actually READ the article, or did you all just skip to the comments to complain.

    Mike makes it very clear that he’s enjoying the game and these are just minor gripes which he hopes will be improved upon in later editions.

  • the painted hair on a lego head look was more acceptable in earlier titles where the graphics were more cartoony. i can’t get over it right now though, so hopefully there will be mods that do … something with the hair.

    also the shadows look strange to me often.

  • Its so much easier to find negatives than it is finding positives.
    Disappointing that it was suitable for an article to be made being negative so soon after the release, give it some time first I think.

    • False. People are struggling to find negatives about this game. Most complaints people have had are minor gripes.

  • The only thing that’s disappointed me so far is the awful, horrendous PC UI porting. It’s all fine and dandy if you use the control scheme they pick for you by default but as soon as you rebind your keys, it is suddenly horribly difficult to do anything in a menu. They didn’t even make the key prompts dynamic so I’m forever trying to figure out what key the on screen guide actually means for me to press. Other than that, it’s exactly what I expect out of an Elder scrolls game, combat and all, and I’m loving it immensely.

  • Coming from Oblivion, I feel literally no disappointment with Skyrim. It’s not a world changer, but it’s the solidist game I’ve played in years.

  • Having played a few days now I’d say many of your issues are valid but explainable. I think the problem is that they have gone as far as they can reasonably go with current gen console technology. Most of the features your asking for woud need lots of extra storage space or proce3ssing power to implement.

    To me it seems Skyrim is seeing how much more they could wring out of the 360 and PS3.

    I’m playing on the PS3 because the Collectors edition was sold out on every other platform. I plan to grab the PC version in a year or two when it’s price is down and the modders have had some time.

  • Any merit your write-up might of had was lost when you mentioned kinetic … you sir are CRAZY 😛

    FYI Im on a PC but to say consoles cant handle direction combat is absurd you do realise they have analogue sticks right there not just limited to d-pad these days lol.

  • I’d also add immovable followers/summons to the list. Each time I look inside a small room or tent for loot when I go to leave one or the other are just standing in the middle of the doorway leading to much jumping around trying to squeeze my way out.
    Other than that it’s a great game though.

  • There are several things I could say I was ‘dissappointed’ with, but none of them are on this list. This list reads more like a list of ‘arbitrary complaints’ that was compiled by someone who would prefer to be playing any number of other games. 😛

    My own personal dissappointments in regards to Skyrim:
    – less variety in weapons and armor (so far as I’ve seen)… there are no more ‘short’ or ‘long’ swords, some swords are only long, and some are only short. And the merging of the curiass and the greaves into ‘armor’ didn’t feel good to me, but then I also didn’t like it when they lost the pauldrons in Oblivion and I eventually got over it.

    – One jump fits all… I actually like the way they tweaked and optimized a lot of the skills, merging some and getting rid of others altogether. I think it made the game a lot less needlessly complex, however I do miss the ‘atheletics’ skill and the effects it had on player movement. A single across-the-board jump height for every character makes a lot of sense from a game design standpoint, and admittedly allows for better level designs, but as a player I liked the sense of progression that finally being able to jump onto a ledge I couldn’t reach before afforded me.

    – You need a table for everything now… I can understand needing a table for enchanting and crafting and armor/weapon improvements… but Alchemy? Where’s my mortar and pestle? I miss being able to mix/match ingredients on the fly… though a semi-related praise is the lack of equipment ‘damage’ that needs to be repaired. Initially I thought that would be a terrible decision, but I must admit I really enjoy not having to worry about how many repair hammers I’ve got with me.

  • i guess u forgot about glitches and bugs that destroyed the game..need to reload save points and lose levels for that.. ><

  • Oh the combat sucks huh? it looked like you got your ass kicked by a saber cat and ran like a baby. Get good you plebian

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