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Weekender: Arrow's Path

Are map markers and location hints counterintuitive to the core concept of the open world game? Bengt investigates the problem as the rest of the team discuss their weekend gaming plans.

  • Text: GR-UK Staff

"As the end approaches in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim there are a few things that have got us thinking hard about where the genre is heading. The dilemma of magical arrows or the golden breadcrumb trail of the Fable series is that it allows the player to complete quests without actually listening to dialogue, read books or paying attention to why they are doing something, and thus robbing the player of the full experience.

It's safe to assume that a lot of focus group testing has gone into the design of Skyrim's quest arrows and quest design. The problem is that what's easy and accessible isn't always a benefit to the player. The need to ask around and gather clues is for the most part done away with in Skyrim. You activate a quest, head towards the arrow, talk to whoever it points to or pick up whatever item the arrow points to, and then head back to whoever gave you the quest. It's an efficient way of completing a quest as once you've explored the map you can fast travel back and forth and complete objectives very quickly.

Paying attention to dialogue or just follow the arrow. The choice is yours in Skyrim.

Another issue with the quest design in Skyrim is the way your journal is crowded with quests that are activated by simply hearing something or accidentally asking about something. I think there is room to improve how this works without always giving things away. The quest you're given to evaluate a mysterious gem that leads you into the Thieves Guild is a perfect example of where the designers wanted to give players a surprising twist, but it turns out to be a little bit annoying. Why can't I find out what this gem is without helping some guy pin a crime on someone else? If you just follow the arrows, you may not care, but it's an interesting dilemma.

Much of my experience in Skyrim has been that of an adventurer without a plan. Looking for dungeons, places of interest, and possible quests outside of the cities. And the world on offer here is tremendous. And perhaps the cure for the almighty magical arrow is to sometimes just roam freely in Skyrim and stumble upon adventures that way. Mixing both playstyles will allow you to write your own adventure, and I also suggest stopping for a second or two to read notes and diaries left by fellow adventurers or foes when you're out and about. These stories really help the somewhat short and to the point storytelling, and expands the experience in a more pleasing direction.

The direct opposite of this is naturally Dark Souls, and perhaps that's not the solution for a game like Skyrim, and I don't think we want to ask around for information like we did in Shenmue ("I see"), but surely players who set out to play Skyrim for a hundred hours or so could be tasked with doing some digging around for information themselves.

And to those who think we've gone mad. We still enjoy Skyrim. Very much so, but there are issues with how quests are being handled and how accessibility may have been given too much priority."