This post will come from the point of view of pure destruction mage (no melee combat talents, whatsoever, so keep that in mind). I’m level 48, here is a link to my current build. Yes, I have unused talents for some reason. I’m near indestructible. I’ve turned combat to master to try and make it interesting again, but don’t really notice much change; except a few deaths from an ice spike to the face.
Is this the best game ever made? Probably. Does that mean it doesn’t have some serious problems? No.
I’ll avoid the topic of cute bugs, because it’s an open world game. Millions of people experiencing the game in a million different ways. You simply cannot account for it all. Who expects people to try and put a bucket on someone’s head?
Very long post, so most is after the cut:
- Blacksmithing: It’s actually possible to raise this from 20 to 100 by making approximately 600 iron daggers (1 iron, 1 leather – it’s the cheapest item to make). How do I know? Well, I did it. It got me from level 41 to 45 in like 45 minutes one night when I was worried I’d never gain another level in my life. So I went from town to town, buying iron ingots and leather and making daggers. I’m sure that isn’t the intent of leveling blacksmithing, but it works. Probably, it would be better to let a given item only raise your skill XX times before it stops improving it. Still make it possible to get to 100 without getting talents, just not as easy.
- Enchanting: So I enchanted those 600 daggers (not really, more like 70 of them) with “banish” with petty soul gems and made very good coin on that. Banish seems to have the highest profit ratio. A 9 gold dagger sells for about 1048 gold when banish is applied. Fear, for example, doesn’t up it nearly as far. Banish is your enchant to make money very very quickly. Leveling enchanting is nearly as easy as blacksmithing – just the materials are more expensive. Use petty gems, you’ll get the same level impact as grand gems and they are easier/cheaper to acquire. Once you get enchanting to 100 and you can dual enchant items, you’ll never need to pray for a good drop again. Dual enchanted items are better than the dragon masks (really?!?!). As a destruction mage, lower the cost of spells is far more effective than mana regen. My destruction spells, down the line, have a 0 cost (yes, they cost no magicka) because I put a 28% lower cost of destruction spells on 3 items, plus my destruction chest piece (expert robes of destruction, I believe. I’d use the archmage robe from Winterhold, but for some reason it acts as a headpiece for certain items as well) gives me an over 100% cost reduction. Once mana has not become an issue, the game has lost all challenge (scarcity of your prime resource is the source of challenge in most games, once that’s gone, the challenge is gone). Incinerate everything till dead (2 shots on most trash, about 10 on a dragon – but we’ll get to this later).
- Alchemy: This is so hard to level, it’s unreal. I’m at like 78 now and I’m having immense problems with it. I don’t need the mana potions anymore (the reason I took it up) but I need the health potions. I have a 20% alchemy head (dragon mask), 25% necklace, 25% ring and 25% gloves along with my talents. I’ve started making random potions with items I do not know all their abilities – discovering those extra abilities seems to improve the alchemy skill more than making, you know, potions. I estimate it’ll take me about 2,000 potions to max out alchemy from 78 to 100. Just a guess. It’d take me about a week to vendor all that with the circle I have to make. For the love of god, can someone tell me why only Whiterun’s house has an alchemy lab with a satchel? It’s stupid. Every alchemy lab in your house should have a satchel attached to it.
So, I love the dragons in the game. They are awesome looking (even if they fly oddly on occasion – aerial pathfinding problems?). But here’s the problem with them. They are too damn easy, especially at higher levels. The blood dragons (they seem to pop up between levels 20 and 30), in particular, have a massive ADHD problem. You’ll fight one and they’ll fly away to go kill a goat. I’ve actually had a horse land the killing blow on a dragon. Took the dragon down from like 15% to 0 after it’s rider died. Pretty funny.
When you fight them in a town and they fly from rooftop to rooftop – that’s sweet. The way they are perched over some of the dragon stones. That’s awesome. Seeing them in a distance, fighting a giant or two – that’s bad ass.
Dragon scales/Dragon bones: These things weigh too damn much. I’ve gotten to the point where I hate dragons, because I have to (yes, I have to! I’m a hoarder, what can I say) loot it and immediately fast travel back to a town to sell them.
As you can see from my build, I’ve been leveling speech – simply to make it easier to vendor stuff. I have a 20% head piece (dragon mask, also helps carry weight) and a 24% necklace (I could enchant a better one, but why?). I have 250,000 gold on me right now. I make a circle (whiterun -> riften -> solitude) where I have invested with vendors to sell items. I only invested at places where there were 4-5 vendors within easy reach of one another or it’s just a waste of time. Thus, no to Markarth, Falkreath, Riverwood, etc.
Vendors -really- need to carry a little more coin. I get why they don’t. And I know there are talents to get it higher. I get it. I know. I understand. But still. It’s incredibly frustrating to have to leave one vendor to get to another to sell an item. Yes, I realize it’s a problem I’ve brought on myself and I do not actually need the coin anymore – but still, it’s a real problem.
I buy all the mats at the herbalists, all the grand gems (filled) at the other vendors just to try and sell my random weapon that sells for 2600 gold. It’s those items that are the real pain in the ass to sell. The 2600 gold weapons. Mama mia. Took me 3 hours to sell my 600 enchanted daggers; though to be honest, I really only enchanted about 70 of them, the others are sitting in a barrel in my house in whiterun as a project to come back to later.
I admit defeat. I’ve finally found a game that has too much content. It’s overwhelming. Most of my quests are currently around Markarth, but I get sidetracked all the time with random locations to explore (we’ll come to this in a minute). I do have some quests that cannot be completed (or have been completed but haven’t been removed from the quest log) – and thus I’ll never fulfill my dreams of completion. I’ll provide a list when I get back on the Xbox and maybe these problems are being solved in a future patch. A few of the quests (let the family of XX – forget his name – know he is dead) I have no idea where to complete them.
Most of the quests are very well done. I thought the “Eye of Magnus” line in Winterhold was a bit hokey but it was still very fun and had the second best dungeon of the game involved (will come back to that in a minute) so that made it a lot better. But the thing just vanishes and the line is, apparently, complete? Weird. Um, okay?
The most fun thing to do in this game is just to find new locations and explore them. I love that some places you go are epic and challenging, others are just a simple cave with a bear. It’s nice that there is a mix – it never lets you think, “man I really don’t want to do another 3 hour dungeon”. That some of the ones you enter have a little mini-quest inside is very cool. And some you enter have bandits or whatever in there “in progress” and they die, only to let you continue. Stuff like that is just awesome as hell.
That said. The Falmer dungeons are just death. They are always long; they usually go to that underground world with the crimson ninroots and never seem to have a point to them. Maybe this is explained in the main quest later on; but these things are so weird. I really have a problem with the falmer. Not a tactical problem or a “I can’t kill them” problem. I’m just not sure why they exist or what is their point. Same with the Dwemer robot things. Why? I’m kinda tired of robots in my “medieval” fantasy games, anyways. But it is what it is.
The Foresworn have a similar issue to the Falmer. If you are just exploring out west, you get a change from random bandits to foresworn. The change is abrupt and odd. At first you are like “what are these guys” then you see them sacrificing people on altars and you are like, oh just another wasteland apocalypse cult. Their outfits look kind of like spriggans but aren’t. And they don’t appear to have any connection (yet). I think that was a missed opportunity – if the connection is never made. But by the time you are tossed in jail in Markarth, you are like – I really don’t want to help this guy escape – foresworn are assholes. But you do anyways. Ended up killing all the escapees anyways as they fought the city guards. So oh well. But, it might have made more sense to keep the “foresworn” instances as bandits, until you do that quest line. The Foresworn grievance doesn’t make a lot of sense anyways. Anarchists, I guess, sums them up – they hate the nords, but they also hate the legion and the elves. Um, okay. Bandits with cool outfits. Got it.
Dragon Priests (the one with masks):
So, these guys are like your bosses, right? Why are they staggered with a dual cast destruction spell, then? It makes them easier than the “Draegr Deathlords” actually. Keep em staggered and they never get in an attack. Free mask. I mean; there isn’t a whole lot more to say there other than that they are disappointing foes. Their appearance into the fight is awesome – how they pop out of the coffin, but after that. Boooring. Disappointing.
The Fallout problem:
This game suffers, what I call, the Fallout problem. I first noticed it in Fallout 3. It did not exist in Oblivion.
After you reach a given level (it was around 25 in this game), you are near unkillable. The game, essentially, loses all of its challenge. This happened in Fallout once you maxed your gun skill to 100. In these games, everyone plays within the same rules. They can stagger you, you can stagger them. They need to reload, you need to reload. They take a second to draw back a bow and aim. So do you. Etc etc etc. While this is nice for “trash” – this rule fails dramatically on bosses.
Trash can be difficult in packs – it’s hard to stagger 6 guys coming at you. Or they come from awkward angles. Some pulls can be a little rough, etc. So them being on the same playing field is helpful to you while making it fun at the same time.
But, in general, bosses are alone. Occasionally, they will have adds. But when they are alone, and are easy to stagger – they are not a problem at all. A Dragon Priest pops up from his coffin. I already have my incinerate casted, waiting for him to land. 7 or 8 casts later and he’s dead. Did he have a special power? Who knows. He’s dead. Free loot.
Boss fights should be barriers to progress in the game. They should pose a slight challenge to keep things interesting. A Dragon Priest shouldn’t be easier to take down than 5 bandit outlaws coming at you at once. Making them impossible to stagger might have been a good idea. Maybe that’d make it too hard? I really don’t know. But in their current form, they are simply too easy to kill. Awesome power for the ages – dead in 8 seconds.
Yes, it’s nice that everyone places by same rules. But, really? Staggering a dragon? He never gets a breath attack off? It’s hard to swallow.
Scarcity of your Resources:
I mentioned this earlier. Allow me to elaborate. I’m a destruction mage. Without mana, I’m a dead man. My first Dragon Priest dungeon was in Forelhost (southeast of Riften) at level 18. This place was immensely challenging because the fights were very difficult at the level and I’d run out of mana during the fights – forcing me to kite enemies around and use the environment against them (oil on the ground, etc). When I ran out of mana potions about half way thru, I was screwed. I spent a ton of time there (4 hours first run through) just to finish that place. And the final Dragon Priest was insane because of that same reason. No mana. Took me about 20 tries to kill that guy.
I used to play World of Warcraft, right? What’s the challenge in most raids? I was a healer, so it was managing your mana pool while keeping people alive. Take away that and the game is simply too easy. Imagine being in Arcane Mage in that game and always having 100% mana. Or a hunter and always having 100% focus. Or a rogue. Or any class, for that matter. The scarcity of your resource – and managing it – is the reason the game is a challenge. Remove that, and you lose challenge and thus, the fun.
So anyways,: my strategy in the end was: Enter the room. Bring all the adds out and kill them in the hallway before him. Kiting them around till they died. Save the game. Then approach the boss. He was still very hard because he had a lot of health and my firebolt just wasn’t taking him down very quickly. He’d use his damn staff and it blew me up so many times, I couldn’t even begin to tell you. But I eventually killed him. Thus, this instance was my favorite of the game. Getting him dead was awesome. Even though his mask only had an 80 stamina buff on it (dumb!), man I felt so proud of myself after that. 5 or 6 Dragon Priests later, 0 mana issues and it’s not nearly as exciting. Now, every Dragon Priest I fight, is incinerate till dead.
So, now, all my destruction spells have a 0 mana cost. The only spells that I use that take mana are my magelight, summon flame/frost atronach and healing. And none of these dramatically affect my mana pool.
The Two Best Dungeons:
Aside from the previously mentioned Forelhost, the second best is easily Labyrinthian. During the Winterhold quest line, you are treated to a look back in time when the current arch mage went there. As he progressed, his buddies would die off slowly.
As you enter the place, the very first fight is an undead dragon and like 10-20 skeletons. First off, the dragon coming at me about made me crap my pants. I was not expecting that fight. Then you progress to the next room and you see that one of his buddies died there and they had no choice but to leave him. Wow.
This continued to the end; with only 3 mages left. 1 made it out (the current arch mage). That whole story there was really quite impressive and interesting. Kudos for that script. It was a thing of beauty.
Destruction Mage Talents:
If you look at my talent build again, you’ll see my destruction tree. 2 points in flames. 0 in ice or lightning. Everything, except flame atronachs are susceptible to fire, so why waste the points? I can use a weak ice spike against them. No biggie.
The top level flame talent causes targets to flee if their health is low. Um, why would I take that talent? If their health is low, I want to kill them not make them be more annoying. I can imagine a draegar deathlord fleeing, only to kill me later after he re-enters combat unexpectedly. I would have preferred something similar to the lightning talent – make them explode or something. That’d be sweet.
Never used a flame rune in the game. This isn’t a game of battlefield management, so I haven’t found a real need to lay down traps for people. Very few instances have things that come at you from behind, anyways. So not really sure what their point is.
The cooldown meter on the compass would be more useful if it showed the cooldown on your currently active ability. It only shows the cooldown on your shouts. If I switch to, say, Highborn, it’d be nice for it to show if that’s available or not. Or Beast Form, or whatever. That it only shows the cooldown on shouts is a bit silly and limiting, IMHO.
Mercer (Thieves’ Guild Quest):
So the quest to find Mercer takes you to a Dwemer/Falmer area (see above). Getting there as a mage is a real pain in the butt on master. I was repeatedly getting one-shotted by sniper Falmers in each room. Crazy. The two companions that come with you almost always got in the way of my spells, making this place a lot harder than it needed to be. Several really big pulls these (6-7 falmer each). But then you get to Mercer, right? 5 shots with incinerate and he was dead. Wow. Quite the let down. This is the problem with these fights, as I said before. Trash is almost always harder than the final “boss” – because he’s playing within the same rule set, and therefore at a severe disadvantage. No fun thief mechanics to deal with, just a blow him up fight. I was surprised, to be perfectly honest.