The date is November 11th, 2011, and I anxiously await my entry into the much anticipated world of Skyrim. My eyes burn as I stare at my computer screen, rocking back and forth ever so slightly. Finally, the Steam downloader reaches 100%! I click the play button and my mouth starts to water as I begin my journey into the land of the Nords.
I was greeted with stunning visuals, as me and a few companions sat with our hands bound in the back of a moving cart, destination unknown. The man across from me began to speak, his voice just a whimper. I raised an eyebrow and cranked my computers volume all the way up just to make out what he was saying. "No big deal" I thought. I went to the settings menu and made sure all the volume sliders where adjusted properly, but still could not get the voices to get any louder. "Oh well, just a minor issue." I said to myself as I watched the speakers lips actually move in sync with the words, not just a fish-like lip puckering like so many other Bethesda games.
We arrived at a settlement, and a member of the caravan exclaimed that we where to be beheaded for crimes against the empire. But, before I was to be put to death, I needed to customize my character. I flipped through the various choices of race, impressed by the large step up in the quality of the character models. I still managed to find a way to make the most ridiculous looking Khajiit known to cat-kind, but who cares if I am ugly? They are never even going to see me coming, as I planned on sticking to the shadows the whole game.
I finish up my character, escape my fate as a dead man, and prepared to head out into the world seeking my two most enjoyable quest lines from the previous Elder Scrolls game: The Thieves Guild, and The Dark Brotherhood. The first thing I noticed, even with my mouse sensitivity settings all the way up, the look sensitivity was really slow, and the y and x axis where out of sync. I quickly exited the game and played with the .ini preferences (which in my opinion you should NEVER have to do, and all of these preferences should be available in an in game menu in the first place…) After I found an acceptable, yet imperfect setting, I began fumbling with the new, so called "improved" interface. I opened it up and began thumbing through each section. Every now and then when I would click a section, the whole menu would just close. (I found this happening on many shop-keepers later on in the game as well.) I finally figured out how to add weapons to my "Favorite" menu, which replaced the circular Oblivion list of spells and equipment which I had grown accustomed to. Then I discovered, to my dismay, that equipping a spell takes the place of a weapon slot, and switching between dual-wielding my daggers and casting Illusion and Destruction spells was rather slow and ineffective even after I figured out how to hotkey. It made my style of gameplay lose the fluidity it once had in Oblivion.
I put the weapon and spell interface concerns behind me, as I was confronted by a few thugs on the road. I slashed them down easily. I then let a few woodland critters taste my blade, followed by a pack of wolves. Then, I painfully relived a moment straight out of playing Ski Free on my windows 98 as a giant Yeti (snow troll) came out of nowhere and beat me to my death in a matter of seconds. These random encounters happened constantly in the future, causing me to spam my quick save button whenever I covered even a few yards of distance on the road. Then, the unthinkable happened. I heard the roar of some giant creature in the sky. I felt goose bumps begin to form on my arms and I spun around and around searching for the magnificent beast. A Dragon! I had faced one as part of an early quest chain, but this time I had the opportunity to slay one all on my own in a random encounter! I saw a faint outline of the creature, and readied my bow. Then, as it got closer, my heart sank. This dragon had no textures. It was a purple flying blob in the shape of a dragon. I killed it anyway, and pouted as I watched its purple, featureless corpse fade into dust and bones. Throughout the game, nearly 1/3 of all the dragons I encountered, where nothing more than descendants of Barney the Dinosaur.
After accepting the fact that Bethesda can never release a game without at least a dozen major bugs, and after a quick Google search, I discover the location of the Thieves Guild and proceed to initiate the quest line as a stranger in the town of Riften asks me to steal and plant some evidence on a rival street merchant. He congratulates me on my success, and asks me to join him in the Ragged Flagon, a tavern in the sewers. Although I decided against ordering any drinks from their vintage Sewer Reserve collection, I hastily made my way down to the indicated location. When entering the inner sanctum of the thieves guild, the same purple non-texture of the dragons spanned the length of the walls, and every step I took was like wading through molasses as my frame-rate dropped to 4 or 5. I restarted my client, and the problem stopped for now, but that was only the first of many random rooms where all of a sudden the game acted like I was trying to run the game on a Tracphone.
I swiftly finished up the thieves guild chain in a matter of a couple of hours. I was doing a repeatable side-quest where I had to rob 500 gold worth of goods from a town, when I came across a boy trying to summon the Dark Brotherhood. Pretending to be the assassin he seeked, I took his contract and murdered his old orphanage matron. Then a day later I received a mysterious letter from a courier bearing only a black hand print and the words "We Know." I knew immediately what to do. I found a bed to sleep in, giddy at the thought of the Dark Brotherhood coming to find me. I didn't care if all of them where purple like my dragons, I was still going to enjoy murdering in the name of Sithis and the Night Mother. When I awoke I was in a strange room, confronted by a member of the Brotherhood. She initiated me into the guild by having me slay the victim of my choice out of the three she had detained. But the second my knife drew blood, my game disappeared from my screen completely, starting the first of many "Crash to Desktop" errors that would plague the rest of my Skyrim experience to this day.
Now, I could deal with the missing textures, the laggy rooms, the glitchy interface. But soon the game crashes would force me to the point of insanity. Every ten minutes, after every obstacle I would over come, every enemy I would slay, every quest I would turn in, the game would just cease to exist. I scoured the forums and followed every solution I could find, but nothing could make Skyrim playable again.
The beautiful world of Skyrim, with its wonderful narrative, amazing creatures, captivating character development, and endless potential seems to be almost ruined by the fact that it is buggy nearly to the point of unplayability. I don't know why I expected more from Bethesda, as I remember too many Fallout bugs to describe, (such as every time I would open my inventory, all of my items would drop to the ground), as well as countless Oblivion bugs. Don't they hire people to test these problems to ensure that they release a functioning product? Maybe they where in a hurry to reach the catchy release date of 11-11-11, but was it really worth releasing an unfinished game?