I love Skyrim. I love questing. I love enjoying the scenery as I ride my beloved horse Queen Allie. I love curling up near a nice fire after a long day of smashing in Draugr heads with my axe. Honestly, I would rather spend most days there than living my actual life. Naturally, when I heard about the Hearthfire expansion I was incredibly excited to build my manor (and of course, have my very own yak and chicken.) As a huge fan of creation games like The Sims and Minecraft, the thought of adding some of these elements to Skyrim seemed like a great idea, and for the most part it was. After hours of acquiring stone, iron, and whatever other random goat related items you need to build your home, there stood my lovely manor in all of its glory, equipped with my very own housecarl and animals to boot. However, after a long stretch of questing, I came home to the unwanted surprise of bandits attacking everything I held dear and had spent a lot of time painstakingly putting together. As I watched said bandits kill my beloved horse and chase away my beautiful new yak, I found myself reloading my last save. After my 6th attempt to prevent this disaster from happening without accidentally setting my animals on fire, I found myself no longer wanting to spend the rest of my day in Skyrim and wishing I hadn’t shoved out the money for the expansion at all. When I finally killed the bandits, I thought my home would be safe, but the exact same painful ordeal happened the next time I came home and I got to wondering if this was a glitch or something actually programmed into the game.
After doing some research online, it seems that this is something Bethesda actually thought would be a good idea. Thankfully, I hadn’t yet married in the game or adopted any kids because other players reported coming home to find everyone in their home dead and had no way of fixing it. Although I can understand how some players find the possibility of finding their families murdered each time they come home a desirable feature, it would seem to me that any sane player who took the time to build a nice home for themselves would prefer it stay relatively intact. An occasional challenge is one thing, but the constant attacks almost every time you return home from a quest is unwanted, unnecessary, and does not encourage me to work hard on my home or even go back to it.
Adding this new layer of customization to a game already so rich in possibilities to mend many different types of players was a good idea in theory. However, the addition of these attacks is completely counter-productive to what seemed to be the expansion promised. Adding aspects of popular creation games like The Sims, Harvest Moon, or even something like Farmville is potentially a good way to persuade more casual gamers to try something like Skyrim, but it is important to remember why casual gamers enjoy these games. Generally, when you spend time building something, you want to see it prosper and enjoy the task of building it, therefore seeing it destroyed over and over again defeats the pleasure that creation games give to players. So if you are like me, and have a silly attachment to your companions, animals, and possessions in the world of Skyrim, stick with a house in the town and forego buying Hearthfire until they add in the option to build a fence or something.
Heather Hale is a guest blogger at Girl Gamer Vogue. Check out her website at VideoGameGirlFriend.com