The problem with me and Bethesda games is that they are too awesome. Awesome, not in the sense of being really good, although they often are, but rather in the older definition of the word: denoting magnitude. There’s so much to do in the games that they are no longer simple Role Playing Games (RPGs: those games in which one chooses one’s character and uses it as a guide to react to the environment given to them) but rather sandbox games. This is evidenced by the loose main quest of their last major game Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, as they instead chose to spend energy fleshing out side quests and other aspects of the game. Which is fine, I thoroughly enjoy the game, but as I’ve previously mentioned, this fleshing out causes games such as Fallout 3, New Vegas (not made by Bethesda but it is in the style of F3), and all of the Elder Scrolls games to lose their sense of RP-ness and instead cause me to play as a new character. One not based of personality but rather based on the meta-perspective of me wanting to experience the most game I possibly can.
For instance, when I began playing Fallout New Vegas I modeled my first character after the Joker and began playing in a highly destructive style with all the explosions, mass murder, and betrayal that comes with the territory. However, as the game progressed, and my desire for awesome weaponry and to experience the most exciting quests lead me to look at the Wikia site for instructions as to where to go, and I found myself doing quests to help people that my assumed character normally wouldn’t. Furthermore, in order to use them later as the game progressed, I reigned in my character’s chaotic tendencies to strategically keep people alive that Mr. J normally wouldn’t.
This play style resurfaced when I played Skyrim. My Dark Elf began life as a Wizard-y archetype, roaming the land doing do good Gandalf-y stuff and pretending I was a firebender all over Draugrs’ faces. I soon became the Arch-Mage at the WinterholdCollege, yet I was unsatisfied since 1) I was getting roflstomped by high level dragons because mage characters were totally nerfed when they took out the Make-Your-Own-Spell aspect of the Elder Scrolls game. B.S. And 2) I was missing out on some of the most fun quests and quest lines by keeping my character away from the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood. (Who doesn’t have fond memories of dropping the elk’s head on that old dude in Oblivion. Awesome stuff.)
As I began stretching outside of my assumed character, rationalizing it by whatever means I needed (“my dude’s got a darkside w/e”), I began further removing myself from my character as I began strategizing how I would assign Perk points in the future. Eventually I settled on being a heavy-armor wearing ninja, because that’s totally viable if I keep in mind I can invest points later to make my armor weightless. However, this thought process doesn’t seem how a/my Dragonborn would think. (Although with the point-y fingers of the Daedric gauntlets I totally look the Witchking or Sauron. Bitchin’.)
Time passes and I become head of both the stealthy guilds, but I grow weary of weak side quests and wish to again immerse myself in the world of Skyrim, and decide to become head of the Companions guild. At least now I can justify the heavy armor.
And now I’m playing as a vampire in the Dawnguard DLC, even though (SPOILERS in the next independent clause!) blocking out the sun is a terrible idea, just so I can play around with the vampire powers for a while. There’s no longer a common thread to my character’s actions of motivations. I can’t even reasonably explain my character’s choices by saying he seeks to gain more and more power since I can already one-shot a freakin’ dragon with a dagger.
The avid RPer will respond to my issue by saying I could just play multiple characters with differing personalities. If they were smart they’d even point out that the in-game world around me only becomes more unrealistic (“Like the guy in the 7,000 gold coin suit is gunna get arrested for pick pocketing. COME ON!”) as I myself make it unrealistic by playing outside of a reasonable character, and that I as a player worsen the rift by removing myself from the world by gaining extra-universe meta-knowledge of the game as a game by going on the Wiki site for information.
My response the first point is two-fold 1) I don’t necessarily want to take the time to create a new character and do all the intro quests and main quest over again just so I can use a bow instead of magic 2) the game isn’t really set up for multiple characters. The save system and the fact there’s no character select screen on the menu screen suggests to me that the devs didn’t really have that in mind.
My response to the second counterpoint is to say, “Shut your face hole.” (Yes my philosophy degree is going well, why do you ask?)
Another counter-point to my gripe would be to point out that after playing 4 different Bethesda games, I should know what to expect when I begin playing a new game, and that my presupposition that Bethesda games are RPGs is one of ignorance. My response to this is to point out that the studio advertises every new game as an RPG, with taglines such as “immerse yourself in a rich world,” and “choose your character/weapon.” F- that! I just spent 60 bucks on a game (sans DLC) and real life is boring. I choose ALL the weapons, and if I have to choose between my character and the whole world, I will choose the whole world.