Before I get flamed, let me first say this: I really like Skyrim. I feel that it’s one of the greatest technical achievements in video gaming in the last 5-10 years.  It just has a few issues that are really starting get to me.

Skyrim is extremely engrossing and accomplishes something that many modern games fail to these days – it actually lets you craft your own story. It also offers a different experience to every single person that plays it. Perhaps one gamer decides they’re down with Bethesda’s epic main story quest, or maybe another gamer decides to join the companion’s guild and focus on that story thread. Then there are the people who just want aimlessly stroll the wilds of Skyrim, seeking out random adventure and fortune. Two people’s trek through Skyrim’s vibrant landscape and story are never identical and that is a truly beautiful thing.

So, now it’s time for the bad stuff. Maybe I’m so disappointed with certain aspects of the Skyrim because I really didn’t read any news or information about the game leading up to its release. I actively avoided reading anything about the game prior to release, an effort to ensure I would be surprised by what I experienced the first time I played Skyrim. In many ways I accomplished this, but that’s not what this story is about (I may write about what I love about Skyrim soon). This column focuses strictly on what I see as the negative aspects of Bethesda’s latest open world title, elements I hate about the game and things I feel should have been improved from Oblivion.

1. Character Animations

Wench, you look impressive but you're still a mechanical robot.

So where are those awesome character animations we were promised? I remember hearing thatBethesda were supposedly going to be substantially upgraded from what was present in Oblivion (I think I probably got this info from IGN’s Daily Fix). So I expected realistic, fluid NPC (non-player character) and avatar animations. From what I’ve played so far (probably about 20 hours or so), character animations seem to have been upgraded slightly, but they’re still pretty lack luster.

I feel that in some ways they actually look almost identical to Oblivion’s character animations, resulting in an overall feel that isn’t exactly as ‘next generation’ as I expected. This makes Skyrim’s battle system – a system that has undergone a substantial overhaul when compared to anything Bethesda has ever created before (I’m not denying that) – still feel occasionally awkward and robotic. Sure, NPCs can hold items now in a more realistic manner and walk around slightly more fluidly than they have in past Bethesda titles. But they’re still choppy and mechanical, resulting in me often being completely pulled out of the game’s experience, snapping me abruptly back into the dreary world of reality.

My own character’s animations only make matters worse, thus I don’t even consider changing the game to third person mode. In one instance, I was climbing down the side of a gigantic snowy mountain.  Instead of making contact with the ground beneath me, my character’s feet just slide across the surface as if it were ice and I was skating across a massive vertical rink. I think the main problem with Skyrim’s animations is the fact that they don’t seem to have any realistic weight to them; characters float and slide across the surface of objects all the time.

 2. Load Screens

Be prepared to look at this screen a lot.

Skyrim is beautiful, I’d say it might even be one of the best looking games of this generation. But its load times? I really just can’t stand them. Staring at a beautiful 3D model of one of the game’s colourful characters or items can only hold my short attention span for so long. Completing simple quests in a town become a chore because of the game’s load times. Need to get into the Companion’s guild in Skyrim? Be prepared to wait 20 seconds. Need to buy some new armour? Get ready for another few seconds of wait time. Loading up your saved file? Be prepared to wait about a minute or so. The load times got me so annoyed that at one point I actually started playing Super Mario 3D Land in between loading screen, just to ease the pain of waiting.

I understand that Skyrim is a graphical powerhouse and that’s probably why load times are so excruciatingly long, but come on, it’s 2011. Should I really have to wait this long for a game to load? Maybe I just have a short attention span or something, but my adventures in Skyrim would be way more fun if I didn’t have to sit twiddling my thumbs so often and for such long periods of time.

I’m playing the Xbox 360 version of Skyrim, but Kory Baldwin’s experience with load times on PS3 has apparently been comparably bad.  Apparently only higher-end PC’s are experiencing reasonable load rates.

3. Horses Aren’t Fun

This screenshot may might make it look like riding a horse is fun, but trust me – It isn't.

Riding your horse sucks. It’s not fun, looks awkward and is down right annoying. Purchasing a horse in Skyrim is the worst thing I could have done with my hard earned (stolen) 1,000 septims. You’d think Bethesda could have managed to make riding a horse entertaining. I mean, I’ve never actually rode a horse in real life, but I imagine it’s probably a reasonable amount of fun. In Skyrim, however, your horse  glides and hovers over the land, much like your character often does. Also, why does my horse seem to want to get involved in every single battle I fight? I understand it’s just trying to lend a helping hand, but the creature is expensive; I don’t want it to perish in the heat of battle. Also, why can’t I fight while on horse back? The game doesn’t even let you to shoot your bow while galloping across the country side; a feature The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time accomplished over twelve years ago. I just feel that if more time had been put into Skyrim’s horses, they could have been much more fun than what the game was released with. And where is my horse armor (that I hopefully won’t get later as a severely overpriced DLC ala Oblivion)?

So honestly, there really isn’t a lot wrong with Skyrim – for the most part it’s quite amazing. These are the few major gripes I have with the game. They obviously don’t affect the experience that much (after all I am playing Skyrim while writing this story), but they are still incredibly annoying none the less. Skyrim is a big picture game, you can’t let little issues like I’ve mentioned above get to you. You have to look at what Bethesda has accomplished as a whole with the title in order to enjoy it. Also, you have to completely ignore the game’s incredibly brain dead AI (I didn’t include this in my list of problems because I felt it was a little to obvious).

Maybe I  just expected too much out of Skyrim, but I really wanted to see a significant improvement when it came to character animations because robotic movement has been plaguing Bethesda titles for years. Oh well, maybe when the next Elder Scrolls comes out in another five years they can finally get it right.