12.03.2011

Skyrim Diaries: A Land Embroiled

"Skyrim Diaries" is an admittedly self-serving, updated-when-I-feel-like-it (read: when I can pull myself away) chronicling of my own unique experiences within Bethesda's delectably open "Skyrim", beginning from just after midnight, 11.11.11.


Oh yeah, this game has story! Deeply complex and morally challenging story at that, considering all the warring factions. Along with highly enjoying all the side quest lines such as that of the respective holds, the Companions, the College of Winterhold, etcetera (most of which could justify their own separate games), I am rapt in a bitter war over what the land of Skyrim truly stands for. I took some time to select my side, and the side I've chosen certainly isn't honky-dory what with the White-Gold treaty involving the real universal enemy - the Thalmor - from the end of the Great War, but it sure is well-intentioned with what seems to be an open mind for the good of all, where Ulfric and his "Stormcloaks" - while honorable in many ways and initially tempting - are right racist bastards. When any "true Nords" go on about the rights of their heritage and their Talos delusions, I just want to come back with a question about the Falmer, who represent - like how the Dunmer and the plight of African Americans - the plight of the American Indian only at the hands of these Viking-esque "true Nords" as opposed to Euro-settlers. One could even go as far as to say, though it's touchy ground due to the vicious barbarity displayed by the tribes, that the Forsworn are mere victims of circumstance - circumstance brought on by selfish, narrow-minded Nord settlers. I'm certainly inclined to side with those true natives, anyway, after their jailbreak storyline provided me one of the most compelling chapters of the game yet. Of course this is all my interpretation - nothing is spelled out too clearly in this regard, so it's up to the player to choose sides, or decide if Talos is in fact a god, etcetera... even though adhering entirely to certain convictions will most definitely limit the base amount of opportunities available herein.

Along with my first battle - in the hold of Whiterun, which Ulfric was laying meager seige on - I noticed the first awkward glitch I've encountered. In a game this massive it's entirely forgivable for certain things to not quite click 100% of the time, and nothing I've run across yet has been "game breaking", but apparently for this Whiterun battle all the NPCs of the city are called back, whether they be dead or alive. For however many in-game days now, Uthgerd has been laying nude behind a rock in a field, her only memorial being her trusty greatsword's desperately ceremonious mounting on my Solitude manor's basement wall... yet now she is, still very unalterably nude, laying at the foot of the Drunken Huntsman's entrance stairway of all places. People constantly pass her by, commenting on her shameful death at what they believe are the hands of the rebels.

Along with certain reload oddities such as the tap-dancing skeletons of the dragons that attack me on the bridge to the Mage's College (some of whom didn't burn up or allow me to absorb their souls after the death), I've also noticed certain quests that refuse to go away. In one case, the four-pound item Finn's Lute will not leave my inventory upon quest completion, even though the quest giver at the Bard's College claims to be taking it and rewarding me with my every visit (though the actual reward was indeed a one-time thing). I've also recovered not one, not two, not three but four Helms of Winterhold from apparently randomly selected dungeons or chests around Skyrim. I get the impression that story-wise there's only supposed to be one, so the disgraced Jarl of Winterhold should probably hire a new housecarl or something, because the thing gets lost again just days after I've returned it. Then there's the Gaulder amulet quest, the climax of which kept irresolutely locking me in to a room only for me to discover after several reloads that the intended events lock up when you have a companion with you at that juncture. Plenty of other quests have seen glitches that result in my rewards not appearing, my objectives being given out of order or not showing as done upon completion, and in other cases not activating at all, hence why I have not been able - and without the proper patch, will not be able - to finish the Companions line. Very frustrating. And seriously, what happened to my Ghost Blade? Did a bandit sneak in to my manor and steal it? Maybe it was that guy from Windhelm who mispronounces "reagents".

Bethesda recently implemented a PS3 patch to fix things such as shy dragons and tap-dancing dragon skeletons (seriously, I'm constantly being attacked on the bridge to the College of Winterhold, so pre-patch the thing had basically become a graveyard of quivering bones) but I'm half-convinced they screwed up a hundred more things in the process. I don't like focusing on these glitches, but when I'm being prevented from continuing/completing quests or removing them from my journal once they are through, it just reveals all the more how redundant and tedius things can become if this game is played for very long. As illustrated in my initial "diary", I was in awe of the majesty of "Skyrim" and its seemingly infinite openness, though with persisting play it's become clear how formulaic a lot of it is, almost as if the developers either didn't have enough time to create unique experiences for each quest and location (which is not to say they spared any effort working on the intricate storylines) or didn't think players would want to experience various paths.

The reason I latched on to Uthgerd so much was because she was my first real follower (that Sven guy doesn't really count... he was a test run). As previously covered, I met her in a fist-fight and she had my back through thick and thin before being cut down before her time (I'm thoroughly bummed that she, and to a lesser extent another orc woman I freed from her spirit-limiting commitment to her chief only to get her killed in a skirmish between a band of her own kind and some Forsworn ambushers, cannot now join the reformed Blades - in her stead I've outfitted Mjoll the Lioness alongside a male orc in similar confinement to the female and a bubbly chick from the mage's college)... and at that time it was all new. Now, the process of garnering a follower is practically rote. This whole notion could open a massive can of worms that I don't intend to open... in this entry, anyway... I'm planning to work on one about the philosophy of the position such a definitively open game as this puts a player in.

Those battles I mentioned for your side of the war are a definite highlight, though. I've now participated in three, and few things have thrilled in this game as much as holding back a throng of Stormcloaks with a positioned, occasionally bashing shield and precisely selected sword slashes before blazing them all down with a mighty fire-breath thu'um (essentially a magical "shout" in dragon tongue) to see the encounter's enemy percentage drop by ten or so. By the by, along with having power-leveled pickpocketing to 100 (and wasting a perk in the skill's tree in the process) I am indeed using a sword and shield in certain scenarios now, simply in the interest of continuing to level up since I've maxed out my archery. I also keep a lightweight Drainblood Axe (two-handed) around, and may even attempt to level my heavy armor... still all in the interest of leveling, though it is fun to try out the different play styles. I am mostly restricted from anything beyond casual magic use, though, because my build has focused on health with a side of stamina so my magicka pool is so weak I'd need the best gear in the game and all the perks to stand a chance against, say, an ancient dragon.

Other quests I've found myself on have involved crime scene investigation in various holds, subscribing to various Daedra (demons) and carrying out their devious deeds - including the sacrifice of a hapless Nord sellsword in an eerie cult ritual, doing the same to a preist before... eating him... and traveling to an alternate dimension - to receive their typically generous rewards, and in the lines of the aforementioned establishments, basically becoming the leader of everything. From playing Final Fantasy XI for so long I am very familiar with the idea, but it never seemed too odd that I was a hero in three main cities, savior of the land thrice or more over, etcetera, etcetera... it was always on the player's own agenda and although I always tried to focus more on reveling in the game's beautiful communal environment and the thrill of exploring together and making unique friends, as in any MMO it always comes down to how you stack up to the dude standing next to you - have you finished more quests? Do you have better gear? Access to the latest endgame content? In "Skyrim" it feels kind of odd to be annointed the thane of just about every hold I visit, become the arch-mage of a college I have hardly studied in, be on my way to becoming the harbinger of the Companions and, probably, the new leader of the thieves' guild (once I figure out what the heck it is I need to copy the Markarth court mage's falmer inscriptions). Before long I'll be the master of everything. I won't be surprised if once the inevitable moot is held, I'm elected high king. In your typical MMO, these positions are restricted to NPCs only. I'll expand on this, in a sense, in the aforementiond forthcoming entry.

But still with the self-centered stuff... Riften! Markarth! I had been holding off exploring them (as I had Dawnstar and Morthal before almost having to trapse through their respectively quaint districts recently... and I still haven't been to Falkreath, only everywhere around it...) until at certain points all my quest lines seemed to be convening in them. Riften... it represents the dark underbelly of humanity. As a themed location in a video game (with its thieves, brewery scandal, Dark Brotherhood catalyst...), it allows the player to more freely break the law in a land of legal and moral consequence. I'm attempting the thieves' guild line simply for the sake of completism, but many of its tasks leave me feeling disgusted with myself - I'm helping innocents be imprisoned, I'm stealing from my chums over in Whiterun... and even though I'm careful to never get caught, the guards are starting to hate me. I try to think of myself as an Imperial spy in a den of rats - like DiCaprio in "The Departed". As soon as I finish the line, I'll try to take out the other higher-ups of the guild (while attempting to spare the ones whose sob stories have won me over). And this is coming from the person who has pledged devotion to multiple daedra through human sacrifice, betrayal and cannibalism. Well, it's a paradox! I'm not about to say "Nah, I'm not going to press the R1 button and make this gathering of shaded pixels fall over so I can receive your exclusive enhanced armor," am I? I'll just blame it on the voices in my head.

Anyway. Do keep an eye out for that entry I've brought up. I thought of deleting what I had written here and just diving in to it in full, but... well, y'know. And really, no promises about that "upcoming" entry... I'll make my notes about it, but it's up to the time I leave between family, movies and "Skyrim" whether I actually formulate a proper chunk of articulation on the matters. If anything, just know that  what I have in mind to say is incredibly mind-blowing. Like, totally.

2 comments:

  1. nice diary. would love to hear about that can of worms ;)
    anyway have fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much :) :)

      Yeah, I've been dragging my feet on that can. Have taken a bit of a break from the game, too... maybe when I leap back in I'll be re-inspired to attack that subject matter at length!

      Delete

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