Before I begin, I would like to clarify what I mean when I say 'overrated'. Overrated does not mean the game in question is bad or does not deserve to be played; all it means is that it has received an undeserved amount of praised or has some how eluded the clutches of criticism for thing that need to be criticized. In the Elder Scroll's case, the latter applies.
Recently, I had a sudden urge to download some mods and hop back into Skyrim. During my stay in Tamriel, it really hit me how many things that Bethesda did not do right with Skyrim and how -in so many cases- the series has regressed. That is not to say Skyrim does not do some things right, but the sheer amount of praise it receives with no mention of it's foibles baffles me. So I've assigned myself with the burden of knocking The Elder Scrolls down a few pegs and highlight some of the ways it has fallen in quality since it's predecessors.
Click mouse to kill enemy. Hold mouse to kill bigger enemy.
Hands down the worst aspect of Skyrim has been the overly simplistic gameplay. Block mechanic aside, the combat in Skyrim can be melted down to a series of mouse clicks with the odd power attack mashed in. To try and spice it up, Bethesda made some of the power attacks directional; unfortunately, there is no difference between a directional and direct power attack in Skyrim. The magic and archery system is not much better either, just click for basic attack and hold down for power attack
I always thought The Elder Scrolls could have learned from a game like Mount and Blade or War of The Roses, where all the attack are directional and the blocking mechanic is reactive. In Mount and Blade, you have to decide what direction to swing your weapon in based on what side the enemy has left exposed. The combat is fast, requires skill and amounts to more that just a rapid succession of clicks until the enemy falls over.
And the combat in The Elder Scrolls has only gotten worse. With the removal of things like spears, creating your own spells and classes, the game-play continues to nose dive in quality and unfortunately no amount of mods can fix these issues.
Put bluntly, I've never met a person who play Skyrim because of the awesome combat.
How many stories to you have about killing an enemy from stealth, and then when his friend comes to investigate, they see the body, look around for a few second and proclaim "I guess it was nothing" or better yet, shooting THAT NPC in the head and having him ignore the arrow sticking out of his face? How many times have you gotten stuck in a doorway because your follower is too dumb to move out of the way, and, my personal favorite, saving the entire world and still having the guards remark about your sweet roll.
Where, in any other game, is this kind of abysmal AI acceptable? I'm able to wear full Legion armor and walk freely around the Stormcloaks main city without being hassled. Why? Why hasn't Bethesda incorporated some more of the advanced AI systems like equipment effecting what NPCs say to you?
For a game that emphasizes roleplaying, I've found myself having to ignore the massive amount of dumb shit that NPCs do.
Expansive, but repetitive, world.
Skyrim's largest attraction is the exploration, but even then there are numerous issues, the largest of which is repeated art assets. After exploring countless caves, you start to notice that almost all of them look eerily similar. The same textures, the same architecture and, worse yet, the same enemies; how many draugr do you think you've killed in your explorations? And a lot of them aren't even well placed, why am I fighting draugr in the Dragonborn expansion if it takes place in Morrowind? It gets to the point where enemies start feeling like filler with the odd boss battle thrown in.
The quests are even worse when it comes to repetition. Ever since you had to close those 6 oblivion gates in a row during Elder Scrolls 4, Bethesda seems to be keen on keeping quests as straightforward and uninteresting as possible. The civil war quests are a prime example. Having to invade enemy forts over and over was infuriating and felt like a choir.
And, of course, if you get attacked by an assassin there is a 100% chance they will have a letter in their inventory telling you who they are, where they came from and who sent them. Every. Single. Time. For the love of god, Bethesda, at least make an effort.
Those are the big three issues that keep The Elder Scrolls from becoming great for me. With games like The Witcher 3 and Medal Gear: The Phantom Pain claiming their games will feature full open world exploration, Bethesda needs to step their game up in the combat and AI department if they want to remain the kind of exploration. For a very long time The Elder Scrolls have been the go-to place for open world games, but in today's world, where some game series are looking more into exploration, Bethesda won't be able to hold their crown for long if they don't fix these issues.
I mean for the love of god, Skyrim have raised over half a billion dollars alone. Bethesda needs to put forth some effort in addressing these problems.
So what make Skyrim good? We know what made Morrowind good, the huge amount of customization, open cities, exploration and tons of factions to join, but what about Skyrim?
Skyrim primarily does two thing right, a large amount of story lines and community content.
With a large array of story lines, you are able to play your character how you want their life to play out. Want to be a mage? You can join the college. Want to be a hunter? Just hang out in the woods, hunt deer and sell their hide so you can save up for a humble house in Whiterun. Skyrim lets you play your characters life how you want.
On the other side of the coin is community content. Skyrim is legendary for the sheer magnitude of modifications available, everything from player houses, dismemberment, graphical improvements, you name it. This is what keeps people playing the game, making a solid game to begin with is important enough, but giving players the ability to shape that game to how they want it is what keeps people hanging around for the next game. And to Bethesda's credit, they have continued to foster a developer/modder relationship that continues to grow stronger. With the release of the creation kit, Bethesda has told the community that they will continue to support user generated content far into the future.
All in all, I hope Bethesda looks at some of the community content and sees what direction players want the series to take rather than use it as a crutch, knowing that modders will fix their shortcomings.
The Elder Scrolls is still good, but every game it seems to slip further and further down from where games like Daggerfall and Morrowind started.