Skyrim: Godmode, leveling, and landscapes

Nils has a lot of posts up about Skyrim, and some good discussions are going around those posts.

One theme I’m seeing is the debate about what is OP, and how easy it is to min/max the game. I find this… odd. As Nil’s himself pointed out, you can turn godmode on if you want, and be as ‘maxed out’ as you can possibly get. Hearing that people are ‘exploiting’ the game by running into a wall for hours while hidden to max out stealth makes no sense to me. Why waste all that time, just go into the character file and put stealth to 100.

Far more importantly, why would anyone want the game to limit this behavior? If you want to ruin/alter the challenge for yourself, go for it. Me, I’m enjoying the fact that the character system is flexible enough to adjust, and that min/maxing is so de-emphasized that I can, wait for it, just play and enjoy the game while still making progress and feeling powerful-enough to care about the ding.

One issue I had with Oblivion was the leveling system, and how the world reacted to it. Oblivion to me almost required a certain level of min/maxing. I don’t get this feeling at all in Skyrim. My first playthrough ended at level 24, and at no point did I feel gimped or overwhelmed. I also never felt god-like. At all times things felt balanced. Some encounters were more difficult than others, but never one-shot hard/easy. Hats off to Bethesda on this, because I think it takes the good aspects of the world leveling with you, while removing or minimizing the bad.

Another aspect of Skyrim I’m enjoying is how interconnected things are. In Oblivion many (most?) of the quests where in their own vacuum, and once finished, that was it. At most the NPC in question would make a reference to your deeds, or random ‘rumors’ would mention you did X or Y. In Skyrim, even from the limited amount of content I’ve seen (as relates to the total volume of content), many quests lead in or relate to others. I don’t want to go into details to avoid spoilers, but I’ve been surprised more than once to find out that a character I helped earlier turns out to be involved in another quest, or that a decision I made during one quest now impacts another. This not only makes completing quests more interesting overall, but greatly enhances the feeling of immersion and continuity to the world. The locations in Skyrim truly do feel like places rather than ‘quest hubs’.

Finally, Dead End Thrills is one amazing blog for Skyrim screenshots. Be sure to check it out.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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17 Responses to Skyrim: Godmode, leveling, and landscapes

  1. Nils says:

    I agree that it is partly in the player’s responsibility to not optimize the fun out of his game. An example would be sneaking against a wall until you have maxed out stealth in Skyrim.

    On the other hand, I just uploaded a video to youtube that shows how I enchanted four items and now can cast destruction and restoration spells witout any mana cost. This is a game changer, as the mana constraint was important in the game – until then. Many of my perks in the talent trees are suddenly useless. The game becomes worse. Playing it is less fun if I can just spam a single spell without looking at mana.
    I optimized the fun out of Skyrim. Am I to blame?

    The problem is that I ended up enchanting my equipment this way not by sneaking against a wall. I simply skilled enchanting and then used reasonable enchantments on my equipment.

    My point is this: A game cannot use the cartot, that character power progression (CPP) is, to increase the player’s engagement with the game, and at the same time allow him to optimize the fun out by hunting the carrot in a reasonable way.

    This is one of the main reasons why many skill-based CPP systems in MMORPGs fail: CPP as a carrot in MMORPG is always immensely strong and makes players optimize the fun out of their game e.g. (extensive macroing). At this point it is irrelevant who is to blame: If a lot of players don’t have fun playing, because the carrot made them play in a way that is not fun, then this is a fact the developer has to deal with.

    • SynCaine says:

      “Am I to blame?”


      Luckily the solution is easy; remove one or more of the enchanted pieces, or up the difficulty, or RP a reason why you no longer require mana to cast spells.

      I’d rather you do that then Bethesda spend time hardcoding a solution over adding yet-another-quest, or whatever other content they could do in that time. Or have the hardcoded solution prevent me from play “how I want”.

      If this was an MMO, 100% valid point. If it was a multiplayer game like Dungeon Defenders, still 100% valid. An sRPG that is far more about the journey than the end-goal? Naw, non-issue IMO.

      • Nils says:

        I already play at master. It changes little. I need to cast more spells before the enemies die. They never hit me, because I am faster anyway. I don’t even fire ice spells to slow them. Enemy casters are countered with having a shield up 100% of the time (doesn’t cost mana now) and chain-casting lightning. A single one can be chain-stunned by dual-casting. Bosses need to be line-of-sighted or kited for 15 minutes until the enormous HP bar is empty.

        Skyrim excels at many things. It is the best RPG in a long, long time. I wrote this on my blog and got some flaming for it. But the gameplay is clearly lacking. If Bethesda doesn’t want me to build a strong char (as that makes the game less fun), then why do they have character power progression in the first place?
        Instead of removing the items I will start another char, I think. A rogue could be fun. I’ll stay clear from enchanting, though.

    • Torcano says:

      Obviously you are to blame if you can resist preventing your own fun.

      Seriously, any single player game can be god moded if you want. If you just want to be powerful use console and save time…

      I don’t understand what the point is though. If you find being super powerful fun then do it. If you find a bit of a challenge more fun then challenge yourself.

      Its simple…you have a personal sandbox to play in. If you purposefully play in a way you don’t find fun, of course that’s your fault.

    • Raelyf says:

      Considering you almost certainly ‘ground’ enchanting up to 100 – since it’s incredibly unlikely to get there through regular play – yes, you are to blame.

      It’s the equivalent to grinding exp in unscaled games (FFVII, anyone?) until you’re so high level nothing can touch you. What did you really expect?

      It’s not a weakness in the game. With regularly play you end up at a reasonable challenge level. If you’re willing to min-max and grind, you’re going to break the difficulty curve.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I’m a hardcore RPer in these games. I’ve actually got a post going up at my site come Monday talking about my first Skyrim character, but seeing as how it’s relevant to this I’d share some of the same insights.

    My first character was a sneaky sniper. At the end of the main story, I 5 shotted the boss. Before heading off to that place, I was one shotting giants even out of stealth, all from maximum arrow distance.

    I did feel like a god.

    I beat that main story boss. I took my cohort Lydia to the SPOILER TEMPLE OF SPOILERY THINGS and turned her over to the SPOILER GROUP, allowing her freedom from her housecarl duties as she had earned them by being my faithful and skilled companion for so long.

    That character was done. I could not bring myself to play it anymore.

    So I rerolled. A mage. I started with a completely different mindset.

    Did my first character do everything? Absolutely not. Do I care? Absolutely not.

    That was one of the joys of fallout 3 and every other Bethesda game: making another character a week, a month, a year, a decade later, and then finding that the game still feels new. Because you know what? It still is.

  3. Drew says:

    “Hearing that people are ‘exploiting’ the game by running into a wall for hours while hidden to max out stealth makes no sense to me.”

    Exactly. I mean, nothing stopped you from leveling characters to 99 back in the day for FF games but it wasn’t fun. Why do that? You’re not competing with anyone in a sRPG or even coordinating with them? Why not just enjoy the game for what it is?

    • Coeur-de-fer says:

      Oh yes, I remember relentlessly slaughtering Tyrannosaurs and Brachosaurs in that forest north of the Veldt to reach level 99 with the entire party (all wearing Exp. Eggs, of course). Nothing like maxed out party, with more Economizers and Ribbons than any party should ever have, to completely trivialize a game that wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of challenge in the first place. I’m actually glad I didn’t know all of the intricacies of stat minmaxing back then, lest I waste more time tweaking the numbers unnecessarily.

      On the other hand, I also did a separate play through, only acquiring those characters necessary to reach the ending. Storming the final tower with 3 parties of 1 definitely introduced a new dynamic. I’ve also considered going back to the game, years later, and doing a low level run, just to see how far I can push it. Same with FFV (though the job system offers enough overpowered combinations that this sort of level handicap is more easily overcome. The real challenge is earning JP and gold without also earning XP).

      That’s one of the things I always liked about these sorts of single player games – the different variations, handicaps, and crutches you can supply yourself.

      • Coeur-de-fer says:

        It would seem I didn’t specify, for those interested and unaware, that my first example detailed above was FFVI. Consider yourselves duly informed.

  4. This reminds me of my Diablo II days. At one point, one of our regular group found a utility that would let you edit your character. So we all did, made ourselves uber, slew all that opposed us, quickly got bored, ditched the utility, and started again with fresh characters. It was fun for less than an hour.

    That sort of thing just spoils the game eventually. And who are you cheating? Oh, yourself!

  5. Azuriel says:

    To NOT blame the game designers seems a bizarrely apologist reaction. A simple solution to Nils’ enchanting problem would be to simply not allow more than 2-3 of the same enchanting property to exist in a given set of gear. Bam, done, that’ll be $40,000.

    Are designers free from having to actually balance their games? Is pacing of content the responsibility of the player?

    How many times have you talked about the shortcomings of WoW, when there has ALWAYS been a possible player-solution? Leveling too fast? Turn XP off. Enemies die too quick? Only auto-attack. Game too easy? Play with a gamepad, play with click-to-move turned on, play with Resurrection Sickness.

    It’s asinine. There is a difference between entering console commands and using the tools inherent in the game. It is the same difference between getting rich by robbing a bank, and getting rich by lowering your company’s tax burden by attributing all your profits to Irish subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, e.g. Google having a 2.4% tax rate instead of 35%. Morally, there may not be a difference… but no rules were broken, which indicates the rules themselves are broken. And that is the rules-maker’s fault.

    • SynCaine says:

      What if those 2-3 enchants are weaker (because, you know, I’ve not sat in one spot to grind enchanting up high enough to get such powerful versions), you still want to block me from decreasing mana costs by 50%? What about invis effects? What if I want to stack those so I can still wear heavy armor and sneak around? -40k for limiting gameplay in a sandbox.

      The thing is, unless you do stuff like grind up enchanting, and then min/max the enchants to ‘break’ casting, the game’s balance is perfectly fine. It’s not faceroll easy if you just “play as intended”, unlike a certain MMO. Can it get faceroll if you min/max enough? Yup. But doing that in a game like Skyrim to me is similar to turning on godmode, with the key difference being that godmode requires less grind.

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  7. mbp says:

    Although I have not yet had an opportunity to play Skyrim I chuckle at the complaints about lack of balance.

    None of the Elder scrolls games has ever been properly balanced it is just something that Bethseda don’t do. The main quest in Oblivion could be completed at level 2 and don’t forget those videos of someone completing the main quest of Morrowind in 15 minutes thanks to an ever so slightly unbalanced use of potions.

    I reckon that every time the question of spending a few weeks balancing items and skills comes up the Bethseda Devs say “Screw it. Lets spend those few weeks adding in more side quests instead”. Personally I think it is a good decision.

    If you really can’t put up with it then just wait till the modding community come up with fixes.

  8. thade says:

    They’ll probably retune stuff like this in a month or three, but the whole “walking into a wall for 100 hrs thing” is just one example of how meta’ing a game can spoil the fun for you. I found I was having an easy time and so I changed things up; rerolled and decided “not gonna use magic or shields” and suddenly the difficult is ramped way up.

    The game is massive and – for what it is – it is very well done. They might have had a beta team numbering a thousand or more…but raw law of averages tells us that the “millions of paying beta testers” (or, as we call them, people who buy the game at its release) are bound to find things they missed.

    Enjoy the game for what it is. If you enjoy enumerating and commenting on what shortcomings it has…I’m confounded. I am. :)

    (I’m guessing you all are enjoying it. Despite these levied criticisms, you all do seem to still be playing. <3 )

  9. theJexster says:

    Normally when I play single player games these days I just wanna be leveled and destroy stuff. I even find it annoying that I have to level in a game like Assassins Creed. I think to myself “I’m playing this to kill people not invest my time”. Leveling often feels like a chore.

    In MMOs I want to level as fast as I can so I’m not at a disadvantage when it comes to battle. In Darkfall not keeping up with the leveling curve could be extremely bad for your health. In other MMOs you get left behind because or archaic level based content systems.

    Skyrim is so enjoyable that I don’t even think about leveling. If anything thing I consider it the bonus I get for playing through the game content. I have 0 desire to grind to the top and make the game overly easy. The journey is so good and so well balanced that I want to prolong it as much as I can. Pulling this off is Skyrim’s greatest achievement.

    In short, can I easily power level, yes, but with a game this good, why would I?

  10. Derrick says:

    As others have said, the real joy of Skyrim is that you don’t really need to think about stats at all. There’s no need to grind /anything/. I’d never thought I’d say something like this, but I love it.

    Skyrim’s levelling system and opponent balancing system is so well made and smoothly integrated that there’s a very consistent difficulty curve overall, and while I’ve noticed power increases as I level (and that my perk choices have had a significant impact on the game) I’ve never felt boned by “wasting” a perk point or that I need to grind some because I’m just too weak.

    Thus, I can fill 100% of my time with fun stuff.

    It’s a huge improvement over Oblivion. In Oblivion, you could completely screw yourself by accidentally levelling up too fast if you, say, took Acrobatics and Athletics as major skills. Your character could easily get extremely under- or over-powered for your level, causing the balancing system to utterly fail.

    There are only a couple ways this can fail in Skyrim.

    1) Deliberately game the system, and grind up Alchemy, Enchanting, and Smithing. Make Fortify Enchanting and Fortify Smithing pots, drink the enchanting pots, making fortify smithing gear, wear the gear and drink fortify Smithing pots, then upgrade the gear. This requires a significant amount of grinding, and doesn’t happen accidentally. It is, therefore, a pretty edge case overall.

    2) The destruction perk Impact. It’s overpowered, as it allows you to stunlock pretty much everything 100% of the time /while/ nuking it. It needs to be like the Archery version, where it has a chance of failure.

    3) Following #1, the effective 0-magika cost enchant setup. It’s an easier setup overall, but still sort of cheap.

    Regardless, though, it’s a single player game. While I’d like to see some balancing (removal of Fortify Enchanting, Fortify Smithing, and Fortify Alchemy effects from Alchemy/Enchanting/Smithing, as they don’t really offer anything. Move all % enchants to being multiplicative rather than additive, so stacking them up is ever less effective. Impact needs fixing to not be so ridiculously good, but after that? Any solution that impedes characters played normally is *bad*. Exercise some self control, and don’t break your own game.

    Mods will come soon enough increasing the difficulty and tweaking the crafting somewhat, I imagine.

    But, all else said and done – Skyrim is surprisingly well balanced for a TES game.

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