Like many of you out there, I disappeared down the hole of Skyrim for the past couple of weeks. It’s a pretty good game, so far vastly superior to its predecessor Oblivion, mainly because it does not involve closing fixteen hojillion Oblivion gates over and over and over again (worst plot requirement EVER.) However, being an open world game, it does involve a fair amount of walking around. Which, in general, is cool. There’s stuff to see, bandits and wild animals to kill, forts and caves to stumble across and explore, all sorts of fun stuff. I often enjoy just walking around, exploring.
What I do not so much enjoy are freaking escort quests. I’ve run across several of them in Skyrim so far, and I’ve come to dread the words “follow me.” There’s nothing worse than following a stupid NPC who is slowly… wandering… aimlessly… towards… something…. Worse yet, NPCs in Skyrim often appear to be programmed to stop and turn towards you if you get too close to them. So if you’re not careful, you’ll stop your NPC companion cold, forcing you to stop, step away, and wait for him to reset and continue walking. And no matter what he says, where he’s leading you to is never nearby. Oh, it might just be “over there,” but you see, NPCs only walk at once pace: glacial. So even if you could get there in twenty seconds running or even faster riding a horse, it’ll take you more like five minutes to follow the NPC there.
Seriously game designers, don’t do this. If you want me to be somewhere, either just warp me to that place immediately after I accept the quest, or tell me where the place is and let me go there at my own pace. To be fair, at least one escort quest I came across in Skyrim was of this last variety–I was told “you can either follow me or just meet me there.” That’s a step better, but there’s still an issue with that. At least in Oblivion, it was sometimes possible for NPCs who were out wandering the world to die if they got into a particularly nasty encounter with an animal or a group of bandits. You’d think this wouldn’t be possible, that somebody would have thought of this and made sure it couldn’t happen, but no, it happened. There was one particular shop keeper in Oblivion who, as part of her back story and part of a quest line you could optionally follow, would take a stroll over to another town once a week or so. One day when I was out walking, I randomly came across this poor lady, dead in the forest. She’d apparently wandered into a nasty random encounter with some wild animal and gotten herself killed. This not only made it impossible to do her quests, it made it so her shop was never open anymore! I don’t know if this situation can occur in Skyrim, but I know I’m generally not eager to find out, so when an NPC says “follow me” I groan and curse at the game but do what I’m told.