I stepped outside into the bitter cold. It was dusk in Dawnstar, and the warmth of the Windspeak Inn at my back already felt like a distant memory in this bitter snowscape. I take a quick stock of my surroundings – a couple of guards patrol the streets to my right, for all the good that does; these guards haven’t slept in weeks, as the priest Erandur had explained it to me. The good townsfolk of this backwater town are somehow suffering from the same nightmares, and the believes he knows how to save them from their suffering. This screams Daedra to me, which is unsettling considering how the priest won’t say how he plans to cure them of them – just that I should trust him as a Priest of Mara. I don’t trust him as far as I can Fus him…
I step off the porch into the swirling snow and head left to the end of the street, and start up the steep white hill. If everything in Skyrim is this cold, I can see why nobody bothers coming out at night – and that’s completely ignoring the plague of dragons which I am singlehandedly supposed to kill. Even if I can breathe fire, that’s a tall order by any stretch of imagination.
I find myself on a flat once more and look up at the entrance of the Nightcaller Temple where I am due to meet the sketchy priest; the Temple is a large imposing tower which can’t possibly give anyone good omens. My Dragonborn senses are tingling… At the base of the Tower, two Snow Bears look up from their meal – another mercenary sent to kill me, now dinner for the local wildlife. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad. I don’t break eye contact with the bears as I raise my hand to the handle of my axe, its fiery enchantments glowing red against my Daedric Armor. The bear on the left roars as it breaks rank. I roar back, the fiery words Yol Toor Shul escaping from my lips and leaving the bear a smoldering carcass as his companion charges me, spitting blood. I twirl the blade in my hands and fell the Bear with a single swing. Take that, Paddington. It falls to the floor as I step into the Nightcaller Temple.
It’s gloomy in here – pretty much as I expected: dark, dank and moss-covered. Nothing about this place feels right. Erandur is already at the far end of the small chamber, conjuring a fireball which he throws at the masonry behind the altar, before disappearing through solid stone. Alright, I’m intrigued, Priest; I’ll bite. I approach the stone and Shout at it. The word Yol licks the mossy wall, but the stone is simply hot and hard – I’m not walking through that. Perplexed, I grab my fiery axe and swing it at the stone. All I do is blunt my weapon.
I press my ear against the wall: I can hear Erandur battling on the other side – he clearly needs my help. I search the entire Temple for a switch: every brick, every pew, every candle for a trick I missed. I’ve got nothing.
Frustrated, in the real world I put down my controller and push my chair back over to my PC and ask YouTube how to do this bloody quest. The response? It seems that the game has bugged out on me again. I swear profusely. I nudge the power button on my 360 with my toe, giving it 10 seconds to power down before turning it back on going to make a cup of coffee while I wait for the game to boot up again. After what feels like an age, I step out of Windspeak Inn for a second time, preparing myself for a repeat of what I was just forced to endure.
Thank God for Tetley’s.
That was the end of the story, and despite numerous further attempts over the years, to this day I have not got my character through that bloody wall on the 360. I tried everything I could find in my trawling across every Skyrim forum. Delete this save file, leave that save file; don’t accept the mission until you’ve done these missions; don’t attack the Snow Bears outside the Temple. I tried everything and all my blood, sweat and tears lead me to the ultimate bug fix – give up and buy the damn PC version. The only solace I can take in my woe is that I hadn’t been subjected to the borderline-unplayable PS3 version of the game.
This is what Bethesda is famous for, I learned that day: releasing amazing open world games which will last for hundreds of hours – but those hours are as long as they are buggy. The PC versions are always cheaper and only slightly less buggy; the real difference is that the PC gamer community actually do Bethesda’s work pro bono. Pro tip: if your game is broken, release it on the PC and if your game is good enough, someone else will patch it for you. I eventually finished the level, but no thanks go to Bethesda there – I downloaded several bug patches which covered thousands of bugs across the entire game.
While I only paid £10 for Skyrim the second time, it really infuriates me that I had to pay for Skyrim a second time to finish the game properly.
The other thing that bugs the hell out of me, pardon the pun, is that somehow a large portion of the community think that it’s OK to release such a buggy game. Yes, Skyrim is an amazing game, but it was so poorly coded that the PS3 version couldn’t even run its own DLC for a year after the game was released. How can anyone justify selling this as a complete product? I would have rather waited 6 months longer for a better iteration of the product, than have the game release in an unfit state and suffer months of problems and frustrations.
Imagine you went to a bar and ordered a pint of Guinness. I hand you 3/4s of a pint from behind the bar and pump air into the beer to fill the drink to the rim. Well, it looks like a pint now, so it’s ready to drink, right? No! If you did anything less than demand a replacement from me, you’d be a bloody idiot, and I’d be saving 1/4 of a pint on every pint sold. Imagine you went to McDonald’s and ordered a cheeseburger meal. You open the bun to see that instead of cheese (or what the hell it is that the company calls cheese) there’s simply a promise written on a piece of paper that McDonald’s will get around to putting it in once they finish making it. If you did anything less than demand a replacement, my friend, you’re a bloody idiot.
Games, drinks, burgers – the point is the same. If you spend your hard-earned cash on something, don’t settle for anything less than what you paid for. We will keep getting half-arsed, half-finished products for as long as the publisher thinks they can get away with it. Leaving a game broken in the expectation that the community will fix it is unacceptable. Releasing a broken game because you so very badly want to release two games on the same date is fucking unacceptable. Yes I’m pointing at you, Ubisoft. At least with the colossal failure that Assassin’s Creed: Unity was, Ubisoft won’t be trying that stunt again any time soon.
This is the lasting impression that Skyrim has had on me: a pretty, but utterly broken game. Considering how good the game is when it works, that’s a real shame.
It’s not self-entitlement if you demand what you paid for. Don’t settle for anything less; don’t mug yourself.