I played this game almost 100 hours trying to figure out what all the hype is about, I even restarted few times to try different "builds" and finished the game once. After that, I simply lost all interest. Before anyone starts blaming rose-tinted nostalogy goggles, I'll go ahead and say this was first TES game I've ever played.
So why am I not blown away by this game? Where to start:
Story: - Main story is bland as it gets. "You're the Chosen One!" -plot has been done million times by now. Only way the story could have been even more clichêd was if they added "Gather 4 crystals that represent elements of the Earth and save the world from ancient evil!" -plot in it... although they kinda do that Dragon Shouts being crystals and Alduin being the ancient evil. So... nevermind that, story is unoriginal and bland as it gets.
Gameplay & combat: - Gameplay is largely the same as in Fallout 3/New Vegas, no surprise there, which also means melee is just as messy. And I don't mean "messy" as in gory, I guess the proper word here is "sloppy". You choose a weapon, go next to enemy and left-click (occasionally block with right-click) until enemy drops dead. How intuitive! Spells aren't that different either, except that Destruction -spells have fixed damage no matter how high Destruction Magic -skill you've got. Sure, there's perks to increase damage by xx% amount, but even then you weapons outperform spells by miles (no thanks to horridly broken crafting/enchanting mechanics).
I admit, I kinda liked the sneaking + archery, leading your aim just the right amount to land your arrows from 100 meters away is satisfying, but after a while it felt like abusing terrible AI to no extent: You can turn anyone into pin cushion WITHOUT alerting anyone long as you're Sneaking. Enemies don't run to get reinforcements, they don't take cover nor do they (or ask nearby mage to) heal themselves. And the best part? Nobody notices if their comrade dies to Sneak Attack arrow, but if you miss, THEN your arrow makes noise. How does that work?
All in all, Skyrim/FO3 game engine feels better suited for ranged combat. I can't really blame Skyrim itself for this flaw, I blame it on game engine.
AI: - "Radiant AI" my ♥♥♥, that's how I'd sum it up.
I know I brought up AI few paragraphs ago, but I'll go into more detail here. Bad AI isn't limited to just combat behavior, I've seen NPCs doing and saying incredibly stupid things.
Apparently everybody in Skyrim is suffering from short-term memory loss. Facepalm moment 1: After I exited a cavern, ten seconds later my companion points out "Hey a cavern! Maybe we should check it out?" Facepalm moment 2: After fighting a dragon in Riverwood, townsfolks gathered around the dragon remains and gasping in awe "I've never seen such thing!" (after what must have been 20th dragon near Riverwood), one town guard strolls by me and starts complaining "My cousin is out there fighting dragons and what do I get? Guard duty"... do I even need to explain why I wanted to facepalm?
Great job with the immersion there Bethesda.
Exploration & sidequests: - I don't remember a single instance where sidequesting turned out to be worthwhile. The game gives you the most useful Dragon Shout within first hour (and the upgrades in main storyline quests), the equipment you find in depth of caverns is inferior to stuff you can buy from vendors or craft yourself and I'm not even gonna mention all the EXP/Skill power-farming abuses this game has. Suffice to say, sidequests are just busywork that don't serve to strenghten your character at all (this is kinda what sidequests are supposed to be, optional but beneficial).
Biggest letdown was the Imperial vs Stormcloaks rebellion plotline, game makes a huge deal out of it in first hour or two and after that it doesn't really matter anymore. One town has Stormcloak guards, other town has Imperial guards, that's the only difference I noticed. I was curious if it leads anywhere, so I completed the quest on both sides to see if anything changes. If you help Stormcloaks, Stormcloaks occupy Whiterun & Solitude. If you help Imperials, Imperials occupy Windhelm. That's literally the ONLY change I noticed.
Want more examples? My character knew only one spell by the time he entered College of Mages, two days later he was the Archmage of College. He didn't learn a single spell through the entire questline. Guess mages are easily impressed? Few weeks later I went to Riften to join Thieves Guild. Nobody had any issues with my heavy-armor 2-handed Warrior entering the Guild and becoming guild master within a week after joining.
NPCs: - Well-written NPCs are bread and butter in any RPG. Every game company knows this, except Bethesda.
Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating here, Cicero is kinda interesting character. Mostly because he's apparently the ONLY character Bethesda invested on. He's got distinct personality, he's memorable and he has interesting stories to tell. He's literally the ONLY NPC who I remember being remotely interesting. Considering there's, what, 300+ NPCs in the game, that's kinda sad.
Can you name any other NPC who stuck in your mind as a storyteller or due to having any personality? What about the fan favorite Lydia? She's one of the first followers you'll encounter and... that's it, I got nothing else. Why is she so popular again?
Dragons: - Everybody likes dragons, dragons are cool! And in this game, incredibly wimpy.
First few encounters are kinda exciting, but soon afterwards dragon fights get tedious and boring. Most dragon fights usually go like this: A) *Fanfares & chorus for 16th time in past 2 hours* dragon shows up B) take cover behind a rock to dodge fire breath C) wait a while until dragon lands, run up to it and whack it with your sword D) after a while dragon takes flight, circles in air for minute or so and lands again E) Rinse and repeat steps B - D few times F) Collect your loot and Dragon Soul.
Whenever that epic battle theme kicks in I found myself thinking "Goddammit, not again! I just wanna sell my ♥♥♥♥ to these merchants, now I gotta kill that dragon so I can talk with NPCs". After 5-10 tedious minutes, the dragon lies dead (along maybe one city guard) and I can FINALLY sell my stuff. I shouldn't feel bored when a dragon pops up, I should feel pumped and maybe tad scared. But definitely not bored.
User Interface: - This is without exaggerating THE WORST UI I've seen in any game so far. Who thought clunky scrolldown menus are good idea? I've seen better inventories & menus in late 80's video games. There's absolutely no excuse for this abomination. I heard Oblivion has moderately usable UI, why didn't they just copy that?
"Hurr durr but mods!!": - I'm sick of hearing this apologist excuse. "You can use mods to fix issues that SHOULDN'T HAVE EXISTED IN THE FIRST PLACE". I shouldn't have to install a mod to fix BROKEN UI. I shouldn't have to install a mod to fix BAD DESIGN CHOICES. And I sure as hell don't feel like troubleshooting mod incompatibilities if the game nearly demands me to install 200+ different mods to make the game playable. If the game is barely playable without heavy modding, I'm not interested in playing the game.
I know there's dozens of things I haven't brought up yet, but you'll probably get the idea by now. So I'll ask you guys, what is so great about this game? What is so "original and revolutional" that makes people go ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ over this game? Where's the bloody ROLE PLAYING in this "Best 2011 RPG" game? Why do I get the feeling this game is even more overrated than Final Fantasy 7 ever was?
All I see is average fantasy world, bad writing and overblown hype.