Why skyrim should be more like nethack

Nehtack has been around since 1987, so bethesda have no reason not to blatantly plagiarise it. Here are some things from nethack which would have made Skyrim better.

nethack versus skyrim

1: Interesting enemy attacks

In Skyrim, enemies hit you until you die. Your job is to hit them until they die. You can hit each other with spells, swords and arrows, but it’s always the same, you chip away at their HP while they chip away at yours. You use the same strategy for every enemy, even ones you have never encountered before.

In nethack, enemies will mess with you in all kinds of ways. Nymphs will steal some of your items and then teleport a short distance away. Puddings will divide in two if you hit them with an iron weapon. Krakens will try to drown you. Succubi / incubi will attempt to seduce you and take off your clothes, leaving you naked and armor less until you put them back on. If you hit a rust monster with an iron weapon, it will corrode. Ravens will peck at your eyes, blinding you. Some monsters have passive attacks and can only harm you if you choose to hit them.

All this means each fight must be approached differently. This is especially the case when dealing with many enemies at once. Do I blindfold myself to negate the umber hulk’s stunning gaze attack, or do I deal with the nymph first (after all, she could steal my blindfold)? Do I take off all my armor and sheath my weapon so that the nurse’s attacks will increase my maximum HP instead of hurting me, or will a team of soldier ants show up and catch me with my pants down?

It would also make other aspects of Skyrim more interesting. What’s the point of stealth? All it gets you is a damage bonus to your first attack. If each enemy needed to be handled differently however, getting the skinny on enemy types before the biffo starts would make a huge difference. Also spell effects like “detect life” would be much more useful if you were temporarily blinded, using it you could still locate and attack the enemy.

2: Religion

There are gods in Tamriel. If you stop at their shrines you get a blessing. Some of your stats go up temporarily.

In nethack, you can make sacrifices to your god, who might give you pressies like really good swords and armor in return. If things are going badly and it looks like you are going to die, you can pray and they will help you out. Conversely, if you do something to anger your god (like killing one of their priests so you can take his loot), they will send minions and/or lightning bolts from the heavens after you. Nethack is full of these risk/reward choices that make things interesting. The only interesting choices in Skyrim are whether to go for spells or swords.

3: More ways to die

In Skyrim you die when your HP reaches zero. In nethack you can be killed from food poisoning, disease, starvation, sexual overexertion, being petrified (turned to stone), being drowned by a sea monster, having your brain sucked, or from accidentally magically genociding all creatures of your own race.

4: More enemies at once

In Skyrim you might face 10 enemies at once, a few times in the game. In nethack you can be facing fifty. Sure that would be hard to do in Skyrim without grinding your PC/console to a halt, but perhaps a swarm of small enemies (e.g. low polygon rats) wouldn’t look too bad, and could change things up.

5: The dev team thinks of everything
In Skyrim, you can turn into a vampire or a werewolf. In nethack, you can polymorph into any enemy in the game. If you turn into a Dragon and your character is female, you can lay eggs that will hatch into baby dragons who will fight with you. They will eventually “level up” into adult dragons. If your character is male, don’t worry, magical sex changes are also possible.

In skyrim, you can wield swords, maces, bows and spells. In nethack you can bash enemies with a dead cockatrice, which will turn them into stone. Just be careful you don’t fall down the stairs while carrying one, else you will touch it and be petrified yourself.


12 thoughts on “Why skyrim should be more like nethack

  1. I think Left 4 Dead is a good comparison … they should have enemies like the witch, where you have to either avoid her or kill her quick or you’re dead … and enemies like the charger smoker etc that can push and pull you around, rather than just doing damage to you.

    Biggest problem I have with the game is the dragons. Once I kill a dragon it’s a pretty hard sell trying to get me to imagine having problems with a person or a bear – but bears are actually stronger than dragons in this game. There should be one dragon harassing you occasionally the entire game, and you should have no choice but to bloody run for your life. Instead I stopped caring after murdering like 5 of them.

  2. Ryan – I agree. And while they are at it, put co-op in too!

    Franzy – or you could have both!

    bob – nethack is not a flash game, stop talking out of your arse and go play it

  3. “Shitty flash game”… Ah, the kids today… Skyrim’s great but come on, Nethack is _the_ shit. Period.

  4. Within the world of Tamriel, there aren’t any mythical creatures until dragons reappeared. It’s basic medieval fantasy, not crazy shit like in nethack. People fight with swords and bows. If they can, they chuck fire and lightning at you. I agree about needing more diversity, but I also don’t want all kinds of ridiculous enemy types like cockatrices and incubi and such.

  5. Skyrim was fun for a while. The graphics are quite amazing, combat is kind of fun, and there’s lots to do.

    But after about 30 hours of playing, spread out over two weeks, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I was doing the same thing, over, and over, and over. Monster -> attack them -> they die -> loot -> sell/finish quest. Nearly every quest follows this pattern. It didn’t take long to get the most powerful items for my class, so there was little incentive to keep playing except to finish the main quest..which was kind of weak.

    Nethack does not have this problem. I can play Nethack with just as much anticipation today as I played it years ago. The graphics are simple, but the depth of the gameplay compensates by far.
    However, this is partly because it’s really hard. As the article says, there are many ways to die. You could be painfully close to finishing, only to step on a sleep trap then have a mind flayer come along to eat your brains. Hours of playing, gone.

    This kind of game doesn’t sit well with many gamers these days. The game isn’t played as a mental challenge, but as an escape. That’s why Skyrim is so popular – you don’t need to think to have a good time playing it.

  6. I’d say that Skyrim is just more of a D&D type game put into fps. I’m a big fan of both games, and while sky rim is A LOT easier I play sky rim for the story. Nethack? not much story to it. I’ve been playing as a monk for a few months now and I’ve never ascended. In my best game I just got past the rogue level on lvl 19 with 127000 points. I quit for a while because I kept on getting deaths by boredom from rapidly trying to get to level 12 (doesn’t work. Surprise!) The thing is though that to compare them isn’t really fair they are both very fun and different types of gameplay.

    • I agree, to me elder scrolls games are about role playing, while nethack is not. I (author) wasn’t trying to compare them apples to oranges, I’m just suggesting that they steal some ideas from games like nethack to make the minute to minute gameplay more interesting.

      Putting permadeath in Skyrim would be stupid, but putting in sea monsters who try to drag you in and drown you if you go near the waters edge would be awesome. At the most basic level, as a player when I see a new type of enemy I want to think “oh, shit, I wonder what they’re going to do”, not “I’ve never seen one of those before, oh well let’s just shoot it with arrows until it falls over”. This can be as simple as bandit thugs who just try to chop you to pieces versus bandit thieves who attack in groups, try to hit and run, sneak attack and ambush you.

    • @Daniel
      TES is horrible for roleplaying. Roleplaying is for Table top rpgs/MMOs

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