maanantai 12. marraskuuta 2012

Confessions of a Skyrim Addict, or: Looking for love in several wrong places

Zamiilat, the leading lady of this story.
(All images are screencaptures from the game.)

"Wait here." "Ok, be careful now." I looked at him, nodded, and turned my back to him. I had spent close to four hundred hours in this world, had advanced to level 54 and was basically invincible - with my armour on, that is. Now I had left all my armour and weapons with a stranger and was going to leave the safety of the city behind me with nothing on but my party clothes. I was afraid. I felt naked.

I remember the time I first met Erik. He was just a young farmer at Rorikstead who dreamed of becoming an adventurer with no real assets to back up his big dream. I felt pity for him and bought him his very first armour. The next time we saw he was sitting in his home town pub begging me to take him along. I must admit, I didn't think he'd make it, but at least I might be able to take care of him since he was adamant at leaving his town whether I took him along or not. Besides, he was not bad looking and had a pleasant voice and that's important. You can always cover up the ugly parts under a layer of armour, but an annoying voice - you just can't escape it.

Erik the Slayer from Rorikstead.
Soon I grew accustomed to him and I noticed I enjoyed adventuring a lot more when he tagged along. He was great company, never complaining about the distance we traveled. Only when he entered caves he sometimes voiced out his worry for our safety, but with him by my side I knew nothing could harm me underground and together we ventured deeper within.

After some time adventuring together, I felt something more than just friendship for him. I put on my amulet of Mara, a sign that I was looking for marriage, but he just stared at me and stuck to his normal lines of friendship. He acted like he didn't even see it. But I didn't give in. I kept on wearing it, hoping he was just gathering his courage to ask me the words I so longed to hear. But nothing. I felt disappointed and puzzled. Had I done something wrong?

Not that much later I got involved with the Thieves Guild. The guys seemed shady at first, but quite soon I found my stomach tingling every time my contact person Brynjolf came to talk to me. I have always had a weak spot for bad guys and this shady guy in his black leather straps outfit, long auburn hair, and the square jaw of a true nord was definitely to my liking. Soon, though, he asked me to move towards the usual newcomers' routine and ask for missions from other guys at the guild. My stomach sunk, I didn't want to give him up. I don't know why, but I was almost daring myself as I put on my amulet of Mara defiantly and walked up to him - almost as if to show Erik I wasn't affected by his lack of interest towards me. I'd like to think he was at least a bit worried or maybe even jealous of me. Brynjolf looked at me and had a civilized yet quite neutral conversation with me and walked away. It started to look as if he was deliberately avoiding me. That bastard!

I walked out of the guild hall to sell some extra weapons to the blacksmith at Riften. We had already become sort of friends and he often waved me away telling me to come back as I was "quite welcome" there. I hadn't thought much of it. But this time, still deep in my thoughts of bitter rejection, I was almost struck speechless when the man, a human, started the usual conversations by pointing out my amulet of Mara I had forgot on. "Are you looking for a marriage?" he asked. "Yes?" I almost said it out loud until I understood what he meant! I had already been rejected twice with no explanation why, and now this man was giving me signals he was ready and willing to marry me. I had to think fast. I thought he was a very nice gentleman, but he was crudely built like all the smiths in Skyrim. Marrying him would mean cheap or maybe even free armour, but was it worth getting married to a person I had no feelings for? Erik was standing right behind me looking at me, all silent. He had rejected me. Brynjolf had just rejected me and started to avoid me. The blacksmith was waiting, looking straigth at me. I tried to think of a good answer, but the only things I could come up were "yes, I'll marry you" and "not a chance". I didn't want to hurt his feelings and I didn't want to be so blunt in rejecting him - God knows I knew how that felt. I decided to pretend I'd never heard his words, just walked away from the conversation pretending I was more surprised I had still that amulet of Mara on. "Oh silly me, I forgot that was on!" and put it in my pocket. He never mentioned it again, but I was still "a good friend" to him and "quite welcome" there so I think there were no hard feelings.

The legend of the Dragonborn.
Horny stewards and racist stereotypes

I must admit that the question of race did come up in my mind during this time. You see, I am a khajiit or a "cat" as some of the more racist soldiers like to point out. The racist stereotypes sit in hard in Tamriel - the land which Skyrim is a part of. Just because I'm a khajiit, many seem to think I'm automatically a "sneak thief". They are correct, of course, since I'm now the leader of the Thief's Guild, but I kept hearing that even before I had even joined the guild! But I did wonder if Erik and Brynjolf didn't want to marry me because of my race.

Then again, I'll rather have them think of me as a friend than have the reaction of some other people. You see, I'm also a Thane, a high and respected title given to those well accomplished people of Skyrim, in almost all the provinces of Skyrim. I do have a lot of money (and not all of it is stolen). With the title of Thane I have also received Housecarls, stewards, to take care of my belongings while I'm away from the many houses I own in almost all the capitals of Skyrim. And out of those Housecarls every singe one has sent some amorous vibes towards me. Since I don't even spend that much time in my homes I can't help but think they want to marry me only because I'm rich and a Thane rather than for me. I have started to avoid the housecarls all together and even when I sleep in my bed I keep Erik by my side.

Oh, one more slap to my face from Erik! You see, I have a double bed in all my houses and I do feel quite funny sleeping in it while Erik stays awake, standing in guard. I know he must be so tired and I thought, without any dubious scheming from my part, that he could just as well sleep in my bed. At first he seems so eager to comply, almost running towards that bed, but as soon as I even take one step towards the same bed - I promise, hands strictly to myself! - he turns back and takes his usual position far away from my bed. Ok, OK! So he finds even the thought of sleeping in the same bed with me, a CAT, too disgusting! Fine! Be that way! Stand there and stay awake while I SLEEP!

Zamiilat going after a dragon.
Skyrim: at the brink of a civil war, devastated by dragons

As I said, I'm Thane in the many provinces of Skyrim and I have taken the business of helping out people in wherever I go, trying to make Skyrim a safer place to live. But dark times are upon us. We are at the brink of a civil war between the occupying Imperials and the native Stormcloaks led by the famous Ulfrick himself. The problem is, even though I have tried to stay neutral I fear I have to make the choice sooner or later. Should I side with the Imperials or the Stormcloacks? Both sides have their own downside. I wish they could somehow make peace and side together against the Thalmor, high elves who have outlawed the worship of Talos, the dragon killer. And what's up with the dragons? Lately we have had dragon attacks all over Skyrim even though they were suppose to be extinct. Why have they returned and why has the Dragonborn, me, emerged right now? And to be honest, I don't even remember how I got to that carriage in the first place with the captured Ulfrick. I'm starting to wonder if I'm even a real person or maybe something Ulfrick just conjured up.

Thalmor, ready to attack, when I discovered they had murdered their prisoner.
"For what is crazier than a cat on skooma?"

Having spent so many hours in Skyrim I have started to notice the lines between the real world and the game disappearing. Not that I would mistake this real world with the video game or somehow lose myself in the game, but I notice that when characters in Skyrim talk to me I have to answer them in the real world. "It's a fine day with you around." "God day to you, too, lovely." "_Do_ come back." "Freak," I murmur under my breath. Belathor of Whiterun is always trying to be so suave. Nasty little man. And I also have that special bond with Erik. Sometimes he gets lost and I go on searching him, calling his name, and cursing that man out loud. Why does he always have to get lost! He can't jump. He doesn't understand the concept of sneaking and sniping enemies from the safety of shadows. He's so hotheaded. Once the battle begins he just has to go running there waving his dragonbone club - I made that for him. <3 That man has no brains sometimes! That's when I have to start shooting the bad guys before they get to him. Even with his dragonbone armour he's no match for a large group of bandits. Or maybe he is, but I can't bear to think something bad would happen to him. I'm responsible for his safety. Sometimes, when I know I'm going to attack a fortress full of people, I leave him a bit further away and tell him to wait for me. He looks at me and I can see the hurt in his eyes that I do not allow him to join me in the battle, but I know it's for the best.

Shrine of Talos.
The biggest flaw in the game

Even though I love Skyrim, this place still has its weird failings, like the economics. In the beginning I was, of course, really poor and had a hard time getting enough money to buy better armour. But quite soon, I learned to make better armour and potions myself than what I can get from anywhere else so I don't really need that money for anything anymore. And once I learned to make armour, I could make more armour to sell and soon I learned to put small enchantments on them, which make them even more valuable. I just keep on getting money and quite soon I noticed the storekeepers don't even have enough money to buy all the stuff I bring to them, because the items are so ridiculously expensive. I think it was in Morrowind where you had to keep repairing your armour and weapons or they'd break down for good, but in Skyrim once you make them they keep in perfect shape forever, which means once you buy an item it's yours forever.

Also the skill system has similar problems. In the beginning each and every skill perk you get is critical to your survival. And of course you have your eyes on that jewel of a perk you can get only if you have the required skill a full 100. But by the time you get that skill you don't really need the perk anymore. My first skill of hundred was sneaking (what can I say, I _am_ a coward) but I find most of the sneaking perks unnecessary with my high sneaking skill. The only 100 skill perk I need all the time is smithing, because then you can make dragonbone armour and weapons and you can't buy those from stores. But other than that I can't figure out what to do with the new top perks.

But thankfully those are not things that would ruin the game. It just means that once you are hooked you can put all your energy into exploring the world and finding all the stories hidden in there.

Just one strange bug from the game: Louis Letrush times five.

Loving the Skyrim

I have spent over 400 hours in Skyrim since January 2012 and have finished almost all of the quests - the game generates a never ending supply of smaller quests, and I have finished quite a load of those, too. During the stressed out spring semester in the university I used to practice "dragon killing therapy". I would spent the days reading and late in the evening I would reward myself with one hour play time during which I tried to clear out either one dungeon or kill at least one dragon before going to bed. Still after 400 hours the game keeps having its hold on me. There are still vast areas I haven't explored. I still keep finding new caves and small points of interest from places I thought I had explored thoroughly.

The reason I love Skyrim is that you can see the creators have put their heart into the game. The caves are not just caves. They have stories of their own. You might find a camp inside with a diary telling of an unfortunate adventurer, who just happened to pick the wrong cave and writes how he keeps hearing strange noices. Deeper in the cave you find his dead body having been imprisoned by the blind Falmer.

I think the best part of Skyrim is that it seems like a real world. I love the fact that I can climb on top of a mountain and far, far away I can see other mountains, cities beneath them and old ruins drawn against the evening sky. I can see deer graze on the fields below and see them hunted down by a wolf pack. I can be walking on a road and see a path marked with cairns. Do I want to follow the path or continue on the main road? I might meet bards on the road in search for new songs, or a mysterious khajiit called M'aiq the Liar. Or I can follow Thalmor guards, who have imprisoned a Stormcloak rebel and find the hidden Thalmor Headquarters. Skyrim is such a rich world it seems real. And the world changes. I once emptied a fortress taken over by bandits, and the next time I came by there were fewer bandits there, but the third time I passed it the place had been taken over by Stormcloaks.

Skyrim. In front: Dragon Bridge and the village.
Far back: Solitude, capital and the seat of the High King.

But now I hear Erik calling me. He has just got a letter from his dad in Rorikstead. They said they saw a dragon near the village invoke another dragon to life. Sorry, gotta run!

Mia Meri does not recommend Skyrim for anyone, because it's too addictive and can cause an emotional hangover if consumed in excessive portions. But if you want to experience something similar, try spanking yourself while eating your favourite ice cream on a rollercoaster ride until you throw up, at the same time feeling sick and laughing uncontrollably at the vomit's funny trajectory.

3 kommenttia:

  1. Good that you brought up the breaking armour of Morrowind, it's been a while since I played so I didn't remember that. I reckon quite a few of Morrowind's skills have gone into Skyrim's perk system, as I recall that in addition to armour repair being necessary and having existing tools for it, alchemy required that you carry at least a mortar and pestle to make potions. (I haven't played Oblivion so I can't say if the changes were already made in that one).

    Great post! It's a relief to know I'm not the only one practicing "dragon killing therapy" when Uni gets stressful. :D

    1. Hi ishamaeli!

      It's been a while since I played those games. I seem to remember the breaking armour was still a problem in Oblivion and you needed to have both the mortar and the pestle with you. I hated how heavy they were, but I have some faint memory of finding a mortar and pestle from somewhere which together weighted less than the individual items. I think I stole it from some mage as soon as I laid my eyes on it. ;D

      Thanks for your feedback and may the thu'um be with you in your studies.

  2. I've had a break from Skyrim some time now (since I heard the dlc's won't be relesed on ps3), but this post inspired me to start playing it again! I've played Skyrim ~200h, but haven't really cleared that many quests, at least not the bigger ones. I've spent my hours running on the fields, exploring caves, picking plants, improving my alchemy skills, trying to reach perks... Even got married. Maybe now would be good time continue with the quest :).


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