Of all the add-ons that recently came to the PS3, the one for which I was most hyped was probably Hearthfire. This was probably because I'm the sort of fellow who really enjoys roleplaying in roleplaying games (isn't that an odd concept). I wanted to really explore my character and flesh him out. I wanted to give him and his wife a home that would suit his character. At first, I really enjoyed my options. It's pretty much what I asked for, so did I find any fault with it? Well, let's find out.
I appreciated the addition of marriage in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but I felt underwhelmed by how little interaction there was with my wife. Does Hearthfire do anything to rectify this?
Not really. There's some additional dialogue with your spouse, but not a whole lot. Some additional children were added, but they don't look any different from the other Nord kids running around Skyrim. In fact, the only way I could tell my two adopted girls apart was by making sure they were different colour clothing. They look the same, sound the same, have largely the same dialogue all around, and have zero impact on the story. I guess they don't care that they're daddy goes off to slay dragons on a daily basis, and is gone for months on end.
Thus far, my wife doesn't have anything to say beyond "what were you thinking, sending us out here!". It's nice to know that, after building her a large mansion three times the size of our old home in the peaceful wilderness, all she can do is nag. Then again, if my (theoretical) spouse were to buy a homestead, build a mansion, and adopt two orphans, all without my consent, I'd probably be bitter too.
I guess what I had hoped for is more intimacy. When compared to say, Dragon Age: Orgins or The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, the love interests (see: roommates) in this game fall flat. There's no romance, no point to building a home and raising a family if they're merely decorations. Sure, there are some radiant events in which to partake, but what do you get out of it? There's no point to doing it. You just do it, just because.
In addition to more options developing each individual house, I was hoping for more variety in the way of different homes. Think back to Oblivion. In that game, we got a grotto with a ship in it, an evil vampiric lair in a dark cave, a magical tower on top of a mountain, and an entire castle. Each one had a different theme for different kinds of characters, allowing you to roleplay. Were you a villainous vampire, a dashing rogue, a noble warrior, or an arcane expert? These kinds of options facilitated roleplay, which is something we should see more of in in this game.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, we get three plots of land. The homes you build are largely the same. They range from quaint cottage to decked-out mansion. They're just regular houses. There's nothing special about them. I wanted something a bit more unconventional. I wanted a wider variety of living arrangement options. Here are some examples:
- A camp. Instead of building up a homestead, how cool would it be to have a big campsite like Fisherman's Rock? Here, the player could form their own base camp complete with followers for easy access. This could be as small as one tent, or several with a large bonfire. Don't forget the smores!
- A small community like Rorikstead. This is essentially an expansion of the above point.
- A fort. Like the homesteads, but with things like defences, traps, soldiers, and the like. Let us raise our own small army, and possibly even create a dungeon.
- A cave. I think it would be cool to live in a small cave. For more down-to-earth characters.
- A boat home. I don't care where, or how, I just want to live on a boat. Is that so much to ask for?
Thought it'd be worth mentioning that I've encountered a couple of odd glitches. First of all, I can't make Erik the Slayer my steward. This is very jarring for me, because he's my favourite follower, and I'd like to have him somewhere where it's convenient for me. I don't want to make Gregor my steward, because he's already on my property. This is the worst kind of glitch there is; it's the kind where you don't know if it's working at all, because nothing is happening.
Well, I tried fixing this by decapitating Gregor. Worth a shot, right? Well, this pissed off my wife, Uthgerd (which isn't hard to do). So she started attacking me. This was made worse when my kids started screaming "Why are they hurting each other?". I tried surrendering, but my dog killed her. It was worth a good laugh, at least.
Also, I walked outside and Gregor was somehow on my roof. I don't know how, and I don't know why, but he doesn't seem to mind that I shouted him down.
A Diversion Devoid of Depth
Okay, so a pedantic roleplayer such as myself can't be satisfied by character interactions and such. How's the building? Is it deep and involving? Well, if you read the heading, you'd know already.
Going in, I didn't expect anything as complex as The Sims, but I was hoping for something a little more open-ended, that offered more freedom and variety. Unfortunately, what we're given is essentially more of what we already have in the game. Just like in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and the base game, furnishing your home isn't so much a matter of "what do you want to create" and more about "how far do you want to take it". Building your home is, for the most part, completely linear. The only difference between your home and someone else's is how complete or incomplete it is.
Instead of having branching paths, you have a list of things you can put in each room. You don't decide how many, or where they go. It's only a matter of completion. There aren't any different combinations, and you cannot create anything truly unique. When my friends and I all got together to play Skyrim for the first time, we each had fun calling dibs on different races and creating our characters. Each one we created was different, and after the tutorial, we set off on different paths, exploring different places. One of us went the straight path, and ended up with a follower/slave. Another friend ended up going down a much darker path, raising dead chickens to do their bidding. Another trekked to the far reaches of Skyrim, fighting Horkers and mining on an icy wasteland. I ended up murdering puppies with my battleaxe.
My point is, what make The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim so fun for my friends and I is seeing how we each took different paths through the game. Even now, it's fun to watch my friend play, to see what he has discovered that I haven't, and see how he developed his character. With Hearthfire, I don't really get that sense of divulgence. Our homes are more-or-less going to end up looking the same, and with only three plots to choose from, there aren't a whole bunch of variables. In the end, our options essentially boil down to "make a big house" or "make a little one". I wanted more options than that. Much in the same way I wouldn't have minded a smaller albeit more refined Skyrim, I would have preferred a deeper add-on, even if it were to cost more money.
Want to read my most recent posts? Check them out! If you do, I'll be your best friend.
- "Projecting Unto Protagonists: Characters in Video Games" -- My take on characters in video games. Hope you don't like Gordon Freeman!