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Archive for the tag “elder scrolls v: skyrim”

Why I always fight for the Imperials

Like most games, Skyrim is filled with choices. Do you follow Hadvar or Ralof when escaping Helgen during the quest Unbound? Do you follow Delphine’s instructions to kill Paarthurnax in order to join the Blades? Do you tell the Alik’r warriors where Saadia is, or go after Kematu in order to get to the bottom of the story in the quest In My Time of Need? There are, however, few opportunities to choose between two sides of a conflict or cause.

As I understand it, there are three such choices in the game: at the beginning of the Dark Brotherhood questline, during the Dawnguard questline, and before the Civil War questline. Granted, one choice that you can make about these factions is to ignore them all completely; you don’t have to visit Aventus Aretino in Windhelm; you don’t have to buy the Dawnguard DLC, or go to Fort Dawnguard at all even if you have the DLC; and you can go the entire game without joining either side of Skyrim’s civil war. Yet each of these factions have two sides that you can choose between if you choose to engage with them, and it would seem that none is more contentious in the community than the Civil War questline.

Do you fight for the Imperials, or the Stormcloaks?

There are many reasons to fight for either side. Some of them are more superficial than others; some involve going into the lore and deciding which side the player thinks is ‘right’. Others, like the author of the following Skyrim Confession, has a very subjective reason for choosing to fight for the Stormcloaks.

When I started my first playthrough of the game, I was convinced that I was going to fight for the Stormcloaks, for one reason and one reason only: viva la revolution! I ended up not doing the Civil War questline at all in that playthrough, but over the course of that playthrough I changed my mind, and in my second playthrough I fought for the Imperials.

I do, admittedly, have subjective reasons to fight for the Imperials. What first turned my opinion against the Stormcloaks was the first time I met Elisif, who captured my heart immediately. Her grief ran so true, and made me began to question Ulfric and his motivations. My desire to fight for the Stormcloaks dropped even further when I found out that, if Ulfric wins the civil war, Jarl Balgruuf is no longer the Jarl of Whiterun. I truly believe that Balgruuf is one of the best Jarls in the game, because he really seems to give a shit about his people. It’s a refreshing change from the trope in the fantasy genre of having tyrannical leaders who only care about their own power.

So with the superficial reasons out of the way, I will venture into the lore-based reasons. As the Senile Scribbles put it, the only true ideological differences which will make a difference to the day-to-day lives of the citizens of Skyrim between the two sides of the Civil War are that Stormcloaks are for religious freedom but not racial equality, the Imperials are for racial equality but not religious freedom, and both support same-sex marriage.(1)

I would argue, however, that the reality is more complicated. If you fight for the Imperials, you are not fighting against religious freedom; on the other hand, if you fight for the Stormcloaks, you are fighting against racial equality.

The Stormcloaks claim that the White-Gold Concordat has effectively made Skyrim’s most popular religion, Talos worship, illegal. I do not dispute that. Yet what the White-Gold Concordat dictated and the reality of its enforcement are different things.

If you follow Hadvar during Unbound, you have the opportunity to speak to his family in Riverwood, and Alvor has this nugget to tell you: “We didn’t pay much attention to it [the clause of the White-Gold Concordat which outlawed Talos worship] when I was a boy – everyone still had their little shrine to Talos. But then Ulfric and his ‘Sons of Skyrim’ started agitating about it“.(2)

You can see this in the world of Skyrim itself. Once you fight for the Imperials, the Talos priest in Whiterun, Heimskr, disappears (and in a mod he ends up in the Dragonsreach dungeon), but this is a superficial change. You can still find Amulets of Talos in the world, and the several Shrines of Talos that dot Skyrim’s landscape are not torn down.

Shrine of Talos.png

A Shrine of Talos near Whiterun; http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Elisif%27s_Tribute, accessed 05/05/17

Talos worship lives on, even after Ulfric dies.

On the other hand, when the Stormcloaks win, there is even more hostility against non-Nords in Skyrim.(3) What’s more, is Ulfric seems to be that which is far more common for a fantasy ruler to be: a tyrant.

As we have already seen, Ulfric has no need to fight for the right to worship Talos. What Ulfric wants, really, is to be High King.

Of course, another contentious issue is whether Ulfric was fair in his killing of High King Torygg. I personally agree with Roggvir on this one; Ulfric engaged Torygg in a duel which he won fairly, even if his method was gruesome and unnecessarily violent.

Even taking that into account, however, we see that Ulfric had one motive and one motive only: he wanted to become High King. His reason for the uprising was to take power for himself, not to reinstate Talos worship (which hadn’t even disappeared anyway). While a Stormcloak victory gains Skyrim its independence from the Empire, this is barely mentioned,(4) and therefore it has no real consequences on the running of the country.

What Ulfric is really doing, then, is telling Nords that they are being persecuted when they aren’t, and drawing them in to fight and die for the sake of raising his own station.

Yes, there are subjective reasons for my fighting for the Imperials, but the way I see it, they have done nothing wrong – unlike Ulfric. I have nothing against Stormcloak soldiers other than their racism, because they have been played like pawns in Ulfric’s bigger game. Yet, on the whole, the Imperials seem to me to be the better side to choose.


Notes:

(1) https://youtu.be/mv3ScKLD1Vc?t=3m11s (Accessed 20/05/17).

(2) Quote is an edited transcript from http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Alvor (Accessed 20/05/17).

(3) One example of this can be seen in the treatment of Imperial Adrianne Avenicci after a Stormcloak victory during the Battle of Whiterun: “If the Stormcloaks win the Battle for Whiterun, Adrianne … notes that if it weren’t for her Nord husband, the Stormcloaks would have stopped purchasing from her altogether, due to her Imperial background.” Quote is taken from the trivia section of the page http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Adrianne_Avenicci (Accessed 20/05/17).

(4) http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Stormcloaks (Accessed 20/05/17).

 

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Level 1 or backstory

I’ve been thinking a lot about RPGs lately, mainly because I recently got back into Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, which I used to play as a kid. Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks are basically text-based RPGs, which involve making choices and going through a quest by turning to different paragraphs as you make different decisions.

At the beginning of the quest, you create your character, which involves the rolling of dice to determine your stats: skill, stamina, and luck. These stats will affect how you fare throughout the game. Yet while the books give instructions on how to create your own character, it is not the case that you have to create your own character. In Eye of the Dragon, there are three characters given – complete with backstories and pre-prepared stats – from which you can choose if you don’t want to create your own character. In a fan-made Fighting Fantasy novella, Roar of the Dragon (which can be found to play on the Fighting Fantasy amateur adventures webpage), you cannot play as an original character: your character is given to you at the beginning of the quest, along with your initial stats.

This is how most video game RPGs begin. Before I begin talking about specific RPGS, I would like to say that I haven’t played these games myself. My knowledge is based on information from playthroughs, my friends, and other Internet sources. I will be speaking specifically about Skyrim and Xenoblade Chronicles.

In these games, you start off as Level 1 characters, with weak stats which you are supposed to raise throughout the game. The presence of side quests in such games exist for the sole purpose of leveling up your character so that they can become stronger and fight the bigger bosses as the game progresses. Granted, Skyrim is a little different in that the side-quests and leveling up your character aren’t that important when it comes to completing the main quest, but the general point still stands. At the beginning of most RPGs, you are Level 1: weak, and in need of strengthening.

This, I think, disregards your character’s backstory. In Skyrim, you create your character at the beginning of the game. You choose which race your character will be, what sex, and even what they look like. But you cannot choose to have a character higher than a Level 1. Even in Xenoblade, where your character is created for you, you still have to level up your character in order to be strong enough to complete the game.

Shulk in Xenoblade is already a weapons expert, and so should have reached a level higher than Level 1 by the beginning of the main storyline. Similarly, your character in Skyrim has not just appeared on the way to be executed. These characters have lived, and if merely living levels up characters, as seems to be the case with NPCs (non-player characters), then surely these characters should be higher than Level 1 at the start of the game.

Fighting Fantasy takes into account your character’s backstory, even if you haven’t bothered to give them one. Your stats are determined by a roll of the dice, and you can work out why your character is so strong (or so weak) from there.

I understand that the need to level up characters makes the games more interesting, and gives players the opportunity to explore the often open worlds of RPGs such as Skyrim and Xenoblade Chronicles and complete the side quests which are hidden away in them. But that your character begins at Level 1 at just the point in their lives when the story begins is unrealistic. In fact, it could even be more enjoyable to have a similar stat allocation system to that of Fighting Fantasy: your level and strength at the start of the game is determined by some random factor, like a dice roll. That way, everyone has a unique experience of the story, because everyone has to level their characters up in different ways and at different times.

And yes, I understand the irony of saying that Skyrim needs to make the experience of playing it more unique for each player.

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