There is nothing about the Skyrim experience that you can describe as “small”. Everything from the size of the world, to the number of quests, to the number of ways to play that game are too large to quantify. Because of how much stuff there is to do in the game, I’m fairly certain that the majority of Skyrim players will never finish the main quest, let alone experience everything that game has to offer.
In spite of its girth, it amazes me how great Skyrim is on almost every front. With that said, could Skyrim have been an overall better game if it wasn’t so grand?
Hear me out on this one. As much as I love this game (review on the way), it’s not a perfect experience. I think you can point the source of its deficiencies to the same grandness that makes the game awesome. For one, it’s been widely reported that the game has a number of technical issues. Some of which are hilarious, such as backwards-flying dragons. My experience has been fairly smooth, though I’ve run into a weird minor bug where when I enter a menu, sometimes the game will lock up and take upwards of 20 seconds before the game will let me do anything. Other glitches are more serious. My brother so far has had the game crash on him twice. You’re one Google search away from finding a number of videos and anecdotal stories of the game being sketchy or broken.
Outside of the buggy stuff, there are other elements of that game that arguably suffer for the same reason. Melee combat, which was weak in Oblivion, still suffers from the primary issue of not having any weight behind hitting anything. Companion AI for whatever reason always seem to block a door you need to get through. NPCs all seem like they’re voiced by the same 5 people. Even the NPC models get heavily recycled. During the quest where you first learn the shouts, I was trained by four mages: Arngier, Einarth, Borri, Wolfgar. They all used the exact same character model and all had the same voice. For a game that does such a great job most of the time immersing me in this world, stuff like this really takes me out of the moment.
Had Bethesda chosen to shrink the scale of the game, would Skyrim ultimately be a better product? Could they have used the time spent on making everything about this game huge on something else, such as addressing everything above, to make it a smaller, yet tighter experience? If most people aren’t going to see most of what’s currently in Skyrim anyway, wouldn’t that ultimately be a better approach? Or is that scale necessary and the jank just comes with the territory?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!