Skyrim is utterly staggering. There's just so much of it. So much to see. Some much to discover. So much stuff. Predictably, everyone on earth can't stop playing it, and all of society has ground to a screeching, swerving, slow-mo-exploding halt. And when people aren't playing it, they're gabbing on about it incessantly. “I did this, I did that, I kissed a dragon and I liked it.” I get it. You can do things. You want a cookie? I want a cookie. Cookies are pretty great. Where was I? Oh, right: I think it's time for a change of pace. So here are roughly a billion things I can't do in Skyrim.
I can't create spells – Previous Elder Scrolls games actually offered the option to whip up your own acts of absurdly powerful wizardry. In Oblivion, I once made a custom fire spell so powerful that I'm pretty sure it was eventually declared the canonical beginning of Fallout 3.
I can't spare my enemies – I love that enemies in Skyrim sometimes opt not to immediately charge in your direction, screaming wildly and nearly choking to death on their own disgusting mouth foam. It makes the world feel exponentially more authentic. And I also appreciate that enemies sometimes attempt to yield and hobble away on their broken kneecaps that I broke by breaking them. So of course, being an honorable guy, I attempt to let them off with a grievously gushing warning. But then – like clockwork – they say, “No... it can't end like this” and start tickling my vital organs with their pitiful feather strikes again. So I strike back.
I can't use my shouts when people are around – So there I was, watching the sun rise outside a small settlement, when a dragon flew overhead. “All right,” I figured. “I could use some light morning exercise.” The dragon landed for our little pistols/city-obliterating-flame-cannon at dawn duel, but suddenly, a crowd of guards (and a horse, for some reason) surrounded him as well. Oh well, though, the more the merrier, right? Overwhelmed, the dragon tried to take off. Reflexively, I unleashed a basic stun shout, dropped him like a sack of flame-spewing potatoes, and drove my blade through his face. Hooray, victor-- wait, what? I was still taking damage. I turned to see that the entire crowd was attempting to slice me into dragonborn sashimi. And also the horse, for some reason.
I can't stop using my imagination – Modern game design's become unrelentingly fixated on the idea that you can't leave a damn thing to the imagination. That's unfortunate, because imagination's a huge part of the reason I've become so invested in Skyrim's world. For every random bout of cave-spelunking or vampire slaying, I find myself dreaming up motivations and storylines for both my character and my enemies. Sometimes, I do it without even noticing. For instance – without spoiling too much – my character became a werewolf, and I found myself strongly identifying with his fatally feral alter ego. Whether it was the werewolf-hunting Silver Hand or a woman (who I initially rescued!) who professed to being part of an organization that dabbles in werewolf homicide, my character developed a no-mercy policy. “...vampires, werewolves – anything impure blah blah blah,” she concluded, listing off her faction's preferred targets. “Oh, well, isn't that just a shame,” I thought to myself. Then I tore out her throat.
I can't train a dragon – Which is lame, because I even watched this movie that showed me how!
I can't get Lydia to STOP LEAPING IN THE WAY OF MY FIRE AARGH DAMN IT – Skyrim's companion AI is bad. So, so, so bad. It's like some random troll is Lydia's secret lover, and she's diving in slow-motion to take a bullet for him. And. She. Won't. Stop. Ever. So yes, now I travel alone.
I can't stop despising the interface – “OK, so I just press Tab and then... wait, no, I meant Escape. Or maybe Q. And then I just click on... huh? Why'd the whole menu go away? And when did I pick up 47 mudcrab shells? And why am I carrying... Adolf Hitler himself?” Then it turns out that it's an episode of the Twilight Zone. Only it's not.
I can't kill children – It's Bethesda standard policy, after all. Oh, you already knew that? You tried? You monster.
I can't finish quests – Or, in short, “Hey, look! A random cave!”
I can't fight spiders – Because they're icky and disgusting and spindly and tangible evidence of a cruel, sadistic god who put each of us on this earth to watch us writhe in agony for roughly 80 years before mercifully pulling the plug. Thank goodness for bears.
I can't dual-wield shields – Someone, please make a mod to remedy this. The best offense is an incredibly impractical defense.
I can't break barrels – This really irks me. See, I'm a master magician and not too shabby with a giant freaking sword. I can drop dragons with the very sound of my voice. All cower before me. All – that is – except the lowly barrel. I can hack and sling and shout, but it doesn't even so much as budge. When everything else in a game world seems so authentic, the few things that aren't seem all the more out-of-place.
I can't read – No, no, I'm not illiterate. At least, I'm pretty sure I'm not. But every time I pick up a book in Skyrim, I end up going stir crazy after roughly 3.2 seconds and casting it aside in favor of more adventure. I'll turn the place into an episode of Reading Rainbow after I've explored everything. So, you know, in about three lifetimes.
I can't stop feeling like a total badass – Moreso than perhaps any other game, Skyrim makes me feel like a tiny, insanely musclebound god among men. A lot of games, of course, try to achieve the same effect through highly focused scripting and linearity. Skyrim, however, makes those games look silly precisely because it's so open. I mean, one moment, I can be buying vegetables from some local merchant, and then – out of nowhere – dragon battle. I go from being this mundane nobody to Dragonborn, owner of the world's most epic theme song, in mere seconds. And then, after I've turned the sky lizard's rugged visage into delicious brain kebabs, everyone gathers around to gawk at my handiwork. It's that dichotomy – the fact that both mundane and epic constantly exist side-by-side – that really drives the point home. Other games (MMOs, especially) toss you into gigantic worlds and leave you feeling tiny and insignificant. In Skyrim, though, you're David, and you're... living on Goliath's face? OK, that metaphor's going nowhere good. But you get the idea.
I can't tell how old anyone is – I can't be the only one who has this problem. Sure, from far away, Skyrim's denizens seem to run the gamut from tyke to nearly dead to undead, but once you're face-to-face, things get dicey. Extreme detail's a double-edged sword, and many faces have enough thought lines and furrows to power an entire first-time viewing of Memento. To me, at least, it results in some characters sounding much, much younger than they look. It's a bit... disorienting.
I can't buy horse armor – Hey, I never said all of these were bad things.
I can't leave a lock unpicked – This is a personal problem. If I see that something's locked, it's not staying that way for long. Early on in my playthrough, I broke no less than 30 picks on one such infernal contraption. The struggle only lasted a matter of minutes, but I emerged clad in white robes and surrounded by hobbits for some reason.
I can't play with other people – And I don't want to. Skyrim's proof positive that games don't need some tacked on multiplayer component. Please, developers: Do what fits your game – not what the marketing survey tells you.
I can't electrocute water – Skyrim's spellcasting pretty obviously takes a lot of inspiration from BioShock, so I occasionally forget what game I'm playing and hurl a bolt of lightning – with my Nord's mighty Zeus arms – right into a small body of water. My foes, however, come away singe-free. Then they murder me, and I am sad.
I can't stop laughing at the voice acting – Don't get me wrong: Skyrim's voice-acting is still leaps and bounds beyond Oblivion's. But I've discovered no less than eight characters played by the same dude. Yeah, he's got a neat voice, but it does get a bit weird after a while. Also, how come lizard people and elves are American?
I can't discount the idea that the guards are probably psychic – I've just trekked half-way across the world. Where am I? What's this place's story? Who knows? I'm a stranger in a strange lan-- “Hey, you're that new member of the Companions,” exclaims a random guard. He may as well add “How are the wife and kids? I heard Timmy recently spoke his first word at precisely 8:42 PM on a Wednesday.” But hey, maybe word just travels fast in Skyrim, right? Nope. Later, I spelunk deep into an underground prison and steal something right out from beneath the nose of the only friendly NPC there – and thousands of feet beneath any sort of guard. Much later, I finally see the surface for the first time in what feels like ages. My eyes are nearly pierced by bright shafts of sunlight. And then they are pierced by an unending hail of arrows. Yep: guards. Somehow, they know. Why? Because they're psychic.
I can't get some random little girl in Whiterun to stop accosting me – Yes, little girl, I know you do chores for your mother. Yes, I know it's fun, but it can be hard work. I know because you've said it roughly 1200 times, and you won't stop going out of your way to tell me. I know this is a giant world, but maybe we could have a little more NPC dialog variation?
I can't carry everything – I know, I know, inventories need limits lest they become more over-stuffed than a Double-Stuffed Oreo that's been stuffed with double its normal amount of stuff, but still. Inventory management is a pain in the ass. At the very least, could I ask for some sort of system that auto-deposits items I pick up at my home when I'm over-encumbered? I would like that very much.
I can't stop being reminded of Game of Thrones – Giant political conflict? Check. Statement about how said political conflict ultimately ignores a greater threat on the horizon? Check. Winter? Check. Dragons? Check. Which is all my way of saying PLEASE BETHESDA, MAKE THAT GAME OF THRONES TITLE YOU PASSED UP.
I can't stop laughing at this video – KETTLE BONUS.
I can't stop playing – Speaking of... er, yeah. You can away now.