Skyrim Is The Pinnacle Of Short Attention Span Gaming

I think that Skyrim might finally be the Bethesda game where I lose the thread. Or maybe I should say threads — this tapestry is so rich, and I have so many loose strings running through it, that I find myself letting go altogether and simply admiring the whole mess. The main quest seems great — and I'm sure it is! — but I've wandered so far from it that I don't know if I'll ever return.

I've heard many people say that they never finished the story for Fallout 3 or Oblivion, that they simply wandered the world and did sidequests and maybe started up a business somewhere. To them, the fate of Tamriel/Morrowind/The Capital Wastes may well remain a mystery.

But not me! I was a storyteller, man, I was a finisher. I plowed through the main story for Fallout 3, pausing some to take in the sights along the way but not really hitting most of the sidequests until my second playthrough. I rose up, lightning-hammer in hand, and defeated Dagoth Ur in Morrowind, too. I even finished Oblivion, which in retrospect may be the most thankless of Bethesda's story campaigns. These were games, and they had stories. It was my duty as a gamer to see those stories through.

But Skyrim has me stuck.

I played through the story missions up to Whiterun, I defeated the first named dragon outside the city, I absorbed my first dragon soul and was revealed as a Dragonborn. "Go see the Greybeards at the Throat of the World," they told me. And I tried, really I did! I went all the way to Ivarstead, I talked to some folks about the climb to High Hrothgar, and I got on my way up the mountain. Then I ran into an Ice Troll, who kicked my arse so hard that I turned right around and walked back down the mountain.

That was when I started walking.

I've played plenty of hours since then, but most of them haven't even been spent doing sidequests, they've been spent doing… well, not much of anything at all. I've joined the Thieves Guild, I've tracked down the Dark Brotherhood. I'm also a member of the Companions. I have some quests from each of those factions, though I don't feel particularly compelled to "do" them.

These days, I mostly just wander around. And it's great! This isn't a complaint. But I don't believe I've ever played a game where I would forsake the story that's been written for me, or even the sidequests that can help me level my character, in favour of aimlessly wandering around.

Skyrim drives me to distraction more perhaps than any other game I've ever played. I'm still getting my head around why this is, but the fact remains: the more I discover, the more I get distracted. I boot the game up with the intention of doing something — anything! — and find myself staring at the map for a good five minutes. I look at my frankly insane list of miscellaneous quests, blanch, and exit the quest-selection screen. I start walking again.

It would appear that for me, the nation of Skyrim is much more compelling than the game, Skyrim. Of course, that's not a criticism! For starters, I'm sure that the story is great. But more than that, it couldn't be a criticism even if I intended it as such — Skyrim the game is nothing if not a "place simulator," and it succeeds marvelously at this task. Skyrim, the place, is one of the most spectacular creations yet seen in gaming.

But it raises the question of what a game like this is supposed to be, if anything. Is it an epic tale of adventure? Is it a series of RPG sidequests, dungeons and castles built into a large overmap? Or is it something more than all of that, a collection of ideas and stories and locations and randomania that is so thorough, so exhaustively large, that it finally just becomes habitable? I fear for the people of Skyrim — the Gods have given them a saviour with kitty-cat memory, a guy who is just as likely to valiantly Climb the Mountain and Fight the Dragon as he is to forget why he came to this town and spend a few hours looking in storefronts.

I've never quite believed the people who said that they bought a house and lived a life within Fallout 3 or Oblivion, how they never gave a whit about the main questline. I took their boasts of non-completion with a grain of salt. But here, I can finally see it. Skyrim is the first game I've played that feels so exhaustively expansive, so deep and well-realized, that I can be satisfied doing nothing much at all.

I'm curious if it's just me. Do you find yourself getting more distracted in Skyrim than in past Bethesda games?


Comments

    No. By far the worst offender is Bethesda's Daggerfall in terms of getting lost amongst sidequests and the vastness of the the world. Skyrim is good, but it is a much easier game and a lot easier to get back on track when you finally decide to.

      Agreed. Arena was even worse. I mean, how many pubs did each randomly generated town have? I think i managed to get the first piece of the staff but after that i just wandered until i got bored.

      im sure the experience was like that back then, but now going back to that it would be horribly boring and hard to appreciate, the randomly generated quests would be totally obvious and lackluster, Skyrim is a new age game, its something we arent quite familiar with yet which is why it has such pull.

      IMO.

    Yes. Yes I do. I'm actually avoiding certain areas and cities on purpose on my first playthrough so I have places left to explore on my second playthrough.

    My first playthrough, I am a Nord warrior, a staunch support of Ulfric Stormcloak, who favours a sword and a shield. There's nothing thief-like or mage-like about him. He's a Nord, and like most Nords, he likes to hit things.

    My second playthrough is going to be a thief-y, mage-y type who is alligned with the Imperials.

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    Last edited 18/06/15 12:52 pm

      Unfortunately if you are a werewolf, you cannot become a vampire. Being a werewolf gives you 100% immunity to disease, and vampirisim is a disease in Skyrim terms.

      However, you can cure yourself of being a werewolf, then become a vampire, but you cannot go back to being a werewolf again afterwards if you've already done the companion quests.

      When you get to the stage where you can be cured, it is a choice. You don't have to be cured if you don't want to be. But do you really want to spend eternity hunting with Hircine when you could be drinking with Kodlak in Sovngarde?

        I've been to Sovngarde. Its... its not all that its cracked up to be.

        Plus, I'd end up running into all those people I killed. Can you think of anything worse then getting stuck with a bunch of people telling you that "They where this close to beating you" for the rest of eternity.

        I can't.

        you can also get a ring that lets you turn into a werewolf at your choice... you can then wear this as a vampire and huzzarh! werewolf/vampire hybrid :D

          The ring you speak of doesn't allow you to turn into a werewolf at will.
          You can do that anyway.

          The ring (of Hircine) allows you an extra transformation per day.

    The ice troll kicked my ass at first too, so I just snuck around the side of the mountain, which took me all of 2 minutes. Then after I got a few more levels and came back and killed that s.o.b.

    I thought I had a short attention span, but you haven't even begun the story yet. Wandering and exploring is fun, but gets tiresome after a while, and the story is great.

      Ben White, our designer, and I had this discussion today. I manned up and killed it. He just ran past it straight to the door!

      I just doused that bastard in fire. Also -- I had Lydia with me. Sweet Lydia.

    This kind of article scares the crap out of me.

    If the true joy of Skyrim is just to wander around and look at landscapes, then the world truly has become a Leunig cartoon.

    http://tt4me.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/leunig-sunset.jpg

      excuse me but name one real life place where we can wander around forests and kill dragons and ice troll and wolves and not have to worry about, you know, DYING, or catching a plane home? get over it people like to immerse themselves in alternate imagined worlds. I for one would much rather play Skyrim than walk to the park. why? because ive been to the park 4000 times, and if i want sun i can just go into my backyard -.-

    tl;dr

      Just kidding Captain Kirk. Keep up the good articles. Refreshing rather than just here's screenshots of MW[insert number].
      Have to admit that I don't have the patience for Bethesda games. Tried Fallout 3 but after an hour or so gave up and haven't gone back. Meh, only cost me $16 imported.

        I would say Skyrim is most definately not the pinnacle of short attention span gaming and this comment pretty much proves it.

          No kidding... Quitting after half an hour? I wonder if he even got out of the 'growing up tutorial' section...
          I imagine it going something like... "This game sucks, where's the fun at? Why am I at a little kid's birthday party? What's that killer robot doing that to the cake for? This is stupid...*quits*"

            Although, now that I compare it in my mind to the opening portions of Oblivion and Skyrim... a birthday part and a personality test *are* pretty dull ;-P

            But seriously, once you're out of the vault that game gets pretty sweet pretty fast.

    I'm enjoying the world so much - I find it much more immersive to just turn off all of the quest markers. I'll read a quest description about where to look and then walk that way and inevitably get sidetracked.
    The only fast travel I'm allowing myself is the carriage between main cities and I've still yet to visit most of those...

      i dont quite play like this but i respect that you do, i also do things the long way around, just because the game is so good i don't feel like im wasting time. soak up every image, every tree rock and goat leg

    I did the Go See the Greybeards quest. Those steps were a killer and I seriously struggled with the Ice Wolf, until I decided to fuck with the system and crawl along a cliff, knowing full well that the Ice Wolf would get stuck somewhere. When I got further up and saw the dragon, I decided to just run. I ran into the Ice troll, whom I backed off from and the dragon then occupied – whilst those two fought it out I kept running till I got to the Greybeards.

    I’d be curious if anyone has just tried to do the main quest without doing any sidequests. I don’t think the main quest is possible to do by itself and that seems to be encouraging people to stay away from it. Not to mention the main storyline is usually weaker than most guild quests, plus up to this point there doesn’t seem to be much of a threat on Skyrim – some dragons dropping in once in a while doesn’t really feel like a big deal anymore.

      *Spoilers*

      There is a part of the main quest where it forces you to resolve the civil war. You must then do the Join the Rebellion/Join the Empire quests that have been in your quest log since Helgen.

        Did we play the same main quest?

        Because, I had a pow-wow with both sides and nothing was solved, bar a momentary truce.

          Admittedly, this is where I got sidetracked, so I've not got that far yet. But I won't let the Empire get away with a truce. They will fall to the blades of the rebellion!

          It's not part of the main quest but it is a pretty big part of the game.

    I went around the Ice Troll and then killed it on the way down. Added a little paralysis poison to an arrow and when the bastard got close enough I took it down and then burnt the crap out of it.

    I get a quest to go somewhere and do something but either whilst I'm there or before I arrive, something else happens and sends me somewhere else and then the same thing happens again. And again. I've been all over the place and I have about 50 quests. I have only completed about 10.

    It's the first of them where the world itself just has me as a complete place. Oblivion just felt disconnected to me, but this one, I'm lost in it, totally.

    It's the first of them where the world itself just has me as a complete place. Oblivion just felt disconnected to me, but this one, I'm lost in it, totally.

    I am the same with skyrim, although maybe for a different reason. 45 hours and counting so far, and I still feel like an empty shell of a character. I am definitely more invested in the world, as naturally I enjoy exploring in games. In Fallout 3, you were an actual character. You started as a child, met your father and had a meaningful role, which I enjoyed. Skyrim I feel like adventured 101. So for me, the story has become second fiddle to the world.

    BTW I galloped straight past the wolf and troll on a horse I stole.

    Was I the only who bought a horse and rode up the Mountain instead of walking?

    My guide for an interesting adventure is to pick a area on the map that looks cool, walk/ride to that area, viste every town on the way there, collect any interesting side quests and do them until the interest warns out and move on. Stuck on areas, The Reach, located at the south west on the northern face of the river (the cliff area) is a neat area to explore, the south east around the lake is another cool area.

      I had a horse but I got the impression it wasn't a horse friendly climb so left him at the bottom.

        dont underestimate the power of the horse, those things can climb mountains, cross fast moving rivers, kill bears, kill humans, and even kill Dragons as well.

        Super Horse I say, Super horse.

      horses are the only thing i hate in this game. the animations look horrible. not the walking animations, but going up and down slopes is jerky and shitty, even in first person, and the speed increase isnt even that much, i just sprint, the quick move shout thing, and run in beast mode, gets me where im going, and i look like a fucking badass doing it too

        Nah, the horse is sweet! I also didn't like the look of the climb and left him at the bottom - I felt bad to take him on such an adventurous trek at the time.. After that however.. well, that guys been everywhere.. up cliffs, off cliffs, you name it, he's done it. Also he's made that painful noise way too many times to be healthy..

        But I actually kinda like the whole "you can't gallop for long" mechanic.. it's more realistic, you can't gallop a horse for ages; especially not a fairly fat draught horse like mine appears to be..

        I end up just trotting around looking at the sweet world around me for far too long!

    I'm loving the fact that the main quest can be completely ignored and just lighting out to explore the world on my own, plundering bandit camps for loot to offload for cash, doing the occassional bounty hunt, helping the companions out or just mining iron viens where I can find them. Skyrim is great in that it doesn't shoe horn you into the main quest and you have freedom to do anything you want. *places basket on NPCs head* now back to Skyrim!

    press ` the type tgm...that is all

    Some people are going to call me a heretic, but I think I preferred Oblivions system. Sure, you never really got stronger, which was lame, but at the moment, I keep getting forced off quest chains by difficulty spikes. In Morrowind and Oblivion, I almost treated each faction as its own game of quests, completing one after the other. It was the only way I could keep track of what was going on.

    Still, loving the hell ouf of this game.

    Complete opposite, I finished the main story of Skyrim (killing alduin) but got completely lost years ago when I tried to play oblivion.

    Yes, I've idling in game hours wondering where to live because it'll take hours to fairy the 1000+ weight of gear I accumulated in my adventuring left at winterhold college.

    Yeah, I don't go to sleep any more. I just go to Skyrim. Work feels like a dream, and I'm pretty sure my wife has become my conscience. I get off the train from work and head toward the quest markers...

    I'm fine, though. Promise ;)

    I bought Fallout 3, got up to D.C, got lost trying to find dad, and by that point i had about 25 hours played, got totally and utterly bored and never played it again. The landscape looks like shit (its a wasteland), i got sick of searching 200 file cabinets for the off chance that i would find something useful. Oblivion was better, but the main quest was boring as shit, dungeons all looked the same, and i similarly quit after about 40 hours (maybe more but mods extended that game a lot). Skyrim though... is a whole different beast. I trust this game enough to let it show me what it has, without having to try find it. Its because of this that i havent delved too far into the main story, i know that the side quests are just as good. And really for me, Skyrim is all about my character being who i want him to be, so leveling up in any way makes me happy.

    I got sidetracked at "Meet the greybeards" atIivarstead after mysteriously getting roofied by someone in the inn there and ending up in Marcarth.

    After getting caught up in a political conspiracy, recovering/rediscovering no less than a dozen lost artefacts/locations, playing pawn to half the population of oblivion, breaking out of prison, breaking in to prison, and generally no going anywhere near the throat of the world, i decided to go and visit them greybeards at level 32.

    That poor ice troll had no chance ^_^

    I found myself in the same issue, but i had gone to the grave beard and returned to white run, and i just find my self stealing items getting caught then breaking out of prison repeatedly i do not know why but the game itself with no point is so fun.

    I got the Ps3 version on launch day, and several days afterwards recieved the PC version as a gift, so I've got two playthroughs going concurrently and they're both about even when it comes to the main quest. I made it to the Greybeards and then they told me to go somewhere else further North(I think?) to get something of theirs.

    On Ps3 I ran past the Ice Troll after having it toss me off the mountain :-P On PC I dual-casted Flames down his throat until he stopped moving... then I peacefully strolled up to the front door of High Hrothgar without a care in the world. :)

    As far as wandering goes I've certainly done my fair share, but the best story so far to come of it was on Ps3 probably the second day I played the game. I was walking through a field somewhere outside of Whiterun minding my own business, looking for game to hunt perhaps, and suddenly I heard a growl. Then out of nowhere I see a giant cat leap out from behind some boulders and come bounding at me. My first reaction was the natural one: "By the Nine! It's a Sabertooth Tiger!" *turns and runs away*... BUT as I turn to run away, I see a Dunmer wearing Leather Armor and carrying an Iron Dagger stand up in some bushes back to my right side and he says "Well, this just isn't worth it anymore." or something to that effect, as he also turns to run from the giant cat-beast. Then just as I'm realizing what I'm seeing the Tiger lands on him and kills him instantly. After killing the Tiger-thing I go to loot the Dunmer's body and find that it's labeled as "Thief"... :-P So some random Tiger apparently saved me from being pickpocketed/backstabbed out in a random field??

    Has anybody else had something like that happen? It was totally wild and I did not expect that such random encounters (Thief stealthily ambushing you in the wilderness) existed in the game.

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