Skyrim - beauty

AR Podcast #22: We Hate Skyrim

Dylan and Shaun have for some time felt that the critical consensus around The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is some distance from accurately representing the game. In other words, they think it’s a great big load of shite, and everyone else seems to think it’s more wonderful than penicillin, sandwiches and the welfare state combined (albeit perhaps not mixed).

In this podcast they explore just why they believe Skyrim is so overrated, and become steadily drunker and less coherent as they do so. It’s just like going down the pub with us.


  • 00:43 – an excellent start to the podcast as Shaun describes Skyrim as “The Elder Scrolls IV“. In fairness, he may have attempted to block Oblivion from his mind.
  • 05:10 – on the use of the word “masterpiece”.
  • 12:20 – spoiler warning: we’re not doing any spoiler warnings.
  • 12:50 – and the games begin, as we get into the why of hating Skyrim. We begin with storytelling and dialogue.
  • 16:00 – although we’ve got bigger criticisms to make than Skyrim’s inevitable bugs, sometimes they really have to be mentioned.
  • 18:50 – Skyrim’s context-free minor quests and wonky dialogue triggers.
  • 22:30 – confusing systems and confusing descriptions, supposedly contributing toward an engrossing experience.
  • 24:00 – Skyrim’s two-bit, wallpaper characters.
  • 25:40 – the player as the only significant character in the world.
  • 28:11 – point 1.2: “there is absolutely no conclusion to anything.”
  • 32:30 – the sheer laziness of neglecting to reflect any change in the world.
  • 35:05 – “Skyrim doesn’t care about people … character … culture … society … economies … anything.”
  • 39:00 – caring more about the wild fauna of Skyrim than its terrible characters.
  • 42:00 – in passing defence of cutscenes.
  • 46:14 – we take a break to top up on bile after ringing storytelling, worldbuilding, character and dialogue dry.
  • 46:47 – point 2, on Skyrim’s combat: slashing at people = not fun.
  • 52:30 – Alan Wake comes up in conversation thanks to its driving mechanics.
  • 58:50 – unbalancing the game with character progression mechanics (looking at you, sneaking).
  • 62:00 – Skyrim’s engine is not cut out for combat.
  • 63:00 – Shaun starts talking about Morrowind but is already drunk enough that he refers to it as “Oblivion” three times. (He played the actual Oblivion for about 140 hours from the day of release on. It’s definitely Morrowind that he struggled to get into.)
  • 67:00 – “…it’s not epic. It’s just longer.”
  • 72:45 – might the “something for everyone” approach of Skyrim result in the edges being sanded off every gameplay mechanic?
  • 74:50 – to wrap up combat, we deconstruct “I just want to switch my brain off and enjoy it.”
  • 78:00 – round three: everything else. We kick off with bugs.
  • 79:30 – bugs: “I think this is a PC and Xbox divide.”
  • 83:25 – from Skyrim’s menus to “there is a fucking item for everything.”
  • 86:00 – why can’t developers produce a good UI for cross-platform PC games when it takes a few weeks for modders to do so?
  • 90:10 – #1: “randomly generated puzzles” #2: “hahahaha”
  • 99:00 – Dylan invites Shaun to comment on imagination in fantasy design, which leads to a rantorrent. Oops.
  • 105:30 – things we like about Skyrim. Shaun likes spelunking!

Games mentioned

  • Well… Skyrim, mostly. Plus Oblivion, its predecessor, and the older Elder Scrolls games.
  • X-Treme Express
  • Final Fantasy X-2
  • Alan Wake
  • Dark Souls
  • Dragon’s Dogma
  • Fallout: New Vegas
  • Abyss Odyssey
  • Zeno Clash





10 responses to “AR Podcast #22: We Hate Skyrim”

  1. badgercommander Avatar

    Please note – Dylan and I are agreeing on something else. For once.

  2. badgercommander Avatar

    I am, however, disappointed that Dylan and I never did a Dead Rising podcast. Where he says it is rubbish and I say it is amazing.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      Hey, nothing's stopping you! ;)

  3. Jonathan McCalmont Avatar
    Jonathan McCalmont

    I think this needs a part two.

    So much more needs to be said about why this game is not a masterpiece!

    Why is the game written in a pseudo-medieval register when the game mechanics are all about picking through garbage and hauling everything back to the local flea market? It's like a cross between Shakespeare and Bargain Hunt!

    Given that the game is so horrifically materialistic, why even bother having quests when all the quests ever do is provide you with yet more clutter? Did we really need to sit through a speech in order to go and kill a load more goblins and acquire another magical set of armour?

    Given that magical equipment is so easy to find and easy to produce, why isn't magic a more commonplace part of the world? Why is the setting so mundane?

    I've sunk quite a few hours into it but it strikes me that Skyrim is less a narrative experience than it is an enormous time sponge. It's more like Minecraft than a conventional RPG.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      I'd say that comparison does a disservice to Minecraft, which allows for far more creativity than Skyrim (which lets you, er, rename weapons you enchant, and choose which clothes to wear that you will never see).

      There is indeed an awful lot more to be said about Skyrim's problems, including everything you've covered above! We thought that at almost two hours we'd already gone on for too long – we had originally anticipated an hour. But perhaps we misjudged that…

      Also, thanks for listening!

    2. Simon_Walker Avatar

      I've sunk quite a few hours into it but it strikes me that Skyrim is less a narrative experience than it is an enormous time sponge. It's more like Minecraft than a conventional RPG

      It seems to me you have successfully identified the main selling point of the Elder Scrolls games.

      Of course, it also seems to me that giving you a fictional world to adventure in is somewhat conventional fare for RPGs.

  4. blind_boy_grunt Avatar

    what i think Dylan meant when he said that Skyrim isn't a game for switching your brain off or that there are better games for that, is that it's ok to make a "dumb" game but that doesn't mean you should turn your brain off when making the game too. Making a good dumb game still takes skill (or movie, like indiana jones vs. transformers). At least that is what i would have meant if i had used his words.
    And listening to this podcast it sounds a bit like the developers kind of did turn their brains off. I wouldn't know because i never played another of those games after Oblivion (or even earlier incarnation), where i had planned to join the thieves guild and somewhere down the line i realized even becoming head of the guild would change nothing. For some reason that completely killed it for me. I don't like people who complain about how something is immersion breaking (like they don't want to play thirdperson because first person is much more immersive). But i think the problem here is they gave me this bunch of cardboard cutouts and pretended it's a real world. You know the saying "there is a difference between being lonely and being alone", in Oblivion et al. i feel lonely. I don't know how to put it into words, and why there is such a difference between a final fantasy (or whatever) world being shallow and an elder scrolls world being shallow.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      "there is a difference between being lonely and being alone"

      Yeah, I think that is pretty true of the majority of the Elder Scrolls experience.

      I also sympathise with your frustration at discovering that becoming the head of a guild changes nothing, bar some canned dialogue, some unique items you'll probably rarely use and a room / house that's functionally more or less the same as any other player-owned room / house. The worldbuilding in Skyrim feels made of tissue paper that could be broken by a gentle push or a wet thumb.

      1. Simon_Walker Avatar

        The single greatest flaw of the Elder Scrolls series is that you are the only person in the world. They're pretty good at giving you that world; I just wish that they'd move on to the challenge of populating it.

        They have graduated from Morrowind's cardboard cutouts to the animatronics puppets of Skyrim, but they don't seem to be even interested in presenting you with an illusion of meaningful interaction. Shame.

        And yeah, it would be great if the scope of your activities changed with your station in life.

        1. ShaunCG Avatar

          That lack of meaningful progression within the design decisions inherent to the Elder Scrolls series is probably part of the reason why my fatigue with the game flipped my opinion on it so quickly (see podcast & Travelling South for Winter).