Returning to Tamriel (or Skyrim: Five Years Later)

As mentioned before, 5.0 will become the longest-running expansion of SWtOR's history on the 24th of July. Thus, it's little surprise that a lot of people in my Guild, both veteran and relative newcomer, are starting to feel a little... burned out. Indeed, a fair few people have begun talking of finding other games to play together - not to replace SWtOR, but just to do alongside to help alleviate the boredom.

It isn't just people within my Guild who I've been around while other games are being talked about. On the final day of my first year at my new University while myself and several others were eating in the canteen before a Biology exam, talk turned to games; one chap was very much looking forward to getting home that evening as Jurassic World Evolution was to be released this very same day.

Of the four or so games that were discussed was the fifth and probably most well-known game from the Elder Scrolls series. Skyrim has crossed a lot of people's radars for some reason or another, myself included, to the extent that they've only just now announced Elder Scrolls VI seven years after Skyrim's release!

Anyway. It was about a week after this discussion that I decided that I should give Skyrim another run - it had been approximately five years since I had last touched it, after all.

So, if you'll permit me to indulge myself, this is a recording of my most recent dive into the land of Skyrim.


Back when I first played it, my laptop was only capable of really running Skyrim at its lowest settings. In 2016, however, I finally procured a computer which was powerful enough to run the game at its best.

This immediately proved to be an issue when I booted the game up two weeks ago. I normally run with vSync disabled for all games, and it turns out that Skyrim is one such game that really, really dislikes it when vSync is disabled. My character would find herself swimming on dry open land, often interfering with combat, and items would fling themselves into space whenever I entered a room.

I imagine a lot of people reading this will have seen videos of things breaking in Skyrim in a hilarious manner, and I must admit I was relatively disappointed by my first playthrough - lasting approximately 60 hours - because it didn't contain anything nearly so explosive. As mentioned I'd find things breaking around the world before I realised what was causing it, but none of these experiences were as... interesting... as actually trying to start the game.

SEVERE WARNING: Do not watch this video if you suffer from epilepsy.

I sadly wasn't able to capture footage of the very first attempt at restarting the game two weeks ago, but it was basically very similar to a combination of the first two tries seen in the footage above. The key difference being that the horse-and-cart actually did make it to Helgen - by apparently glitching out so badly that it was able to leapfrog ahead of everyone else and be stuck walking headlong into the city walls a good five minutes before General Tullius turned up.

This first attempt ended after the horse finally turned itself in such a way that it could progress back to the main path and turn around towards Helgen's gates... only to then have them literally slammed shut and locked in its face.

Such fun!

As mentioned eventually I did find out what the problem was so nothing quite as game-breaking has occurred since. Good thing, too; I was getting rather tired of sneaky arrow-kills being interrupted by the game detecting I was swimming on dry land and playing the according animation for a split second every few seconds.


Now being fully-functional in-game, I decided to indulge in something I only briefly experimented with before. Mods.

The modding community of any game is enough to extend its life if its substantial enough, whether it's by adding in new gamemodes or cosmetics or even changing the entire structure of a game's story content. Skyrim is absolutely no exception to this, with the modding community still going strong all these years later.

I did download some mods for my first playthrough, but they were mainly just ways for me to cheat the system. Full Daedric Armour set, Quest markers for the Stones of Berenziah, a 'measurement' scale for Lockpicking, you get the idea. Anything that I thought I could use to make my time easier.

I say this wincing at my determination to be able to Sneak effectively wearing only Heavy Armour. Make the game easier? Negate my stupidity, more like.

Come 2018, I've uninstalled all but one of the mods I used back in 2013; this surviving Mod being one which adds numerous weapons from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy into the game. Technically, one could make the very good argument that this is still making things easier than they should be, since the base-level stats of some of these weapons are almost at the Daedric weapons, and I have no effective counter-argument to that outside of the fact that I don't particularly like the look of the high-level 'proper' weapons in Skyrim, so this mod counters this directly.

Since this blog is a Star Wars-themed blog, I should of course acknowledge that it is possible to get Lightsabers as one of the mods. However, no.

Just no.

While I have also downloaded a mod for a new mid-tier armour set - again inspired by Lord of the Rings although I didn't register this while browsing for decent Light Armour sets on the workshop - the rest of my new 'acquisitions' are all cosmetic. Things like 'more-realistic' improved lighting, enhanced plant details, more sounds across the world to make it feel more alive, a general 'refit' of each of the towns, and slightly more options for character customisation.

Riverwood before (Source: ModDB) and after mods were applied
Well, I say they're cosmetic only, but the lighting mod makes a substantial difference to my gameplay in certain locations. Improved lighting it may be, but the attempt to make it more realistic has understandably rendered areas in certain dungeons incredibly dark - to the point where I managed to get myself 'stuck' in a tomb and trying all sorts of elaborate ways to progress onwards... simply because the lighting had completely obscured the webs I was supposed to cut through in darkness.

I have not darkened this image in any way; this is legitimately how dark unlit areas of caves can become
I've learned from that, so now I have a flaming torch as one of my eight keybound favourite items.

Incidentally, this has also made Frostbite Spiders an even more terrifying prospect for an arachnophobe such as myself. Nothing worse than continuing onward into a room and all of a sudden this giant arachnid just lunges at you from the gloom.

Annoying gameplay side-effects notwithstanding, the new environment mods have made Skyrim incredibly beautiful. It was already a gorgeous-looking game, in fairness, but the work some of these people have done to spruce up the villages, the plants, and even the wildlife are astounding.

I also mentioned in passing that I'd acquired some character customisation mods, which basically boil down to getting some additional hairstyles, and new eyeball graphics and colours (especially since elves are rather lacking in the latter department). There are so many mods out there which turn numerous characters into glamorous models, which of course sets up a massive divide between the style of the Mod and the artstyle of the rest of the world which the mod is often not coded to impact.

Selene Kate here is only one of several Followers made using a game-contrasting artstyle, and the less said about her outfits the better (Source: NexusMods)
Notably, while I've seen several dozen mods for "better females" I don't think I've seen more than a couple which attempt to do a similar thing for male characters outside of allocating some of them new hairstyles. So while the women can all look like they'll be vying for Miss Tamriel or whatever, the men will be left trying to avoid winning Mister Muscly Abomination.

I understand it comes with a lifetime supply of alcohol to help the winner forget all about their prize.

While a lot of the stuff that has been created for character customising truly is artistically beautiful, glamour and extreme elegance doesn't have much of a place in a war-torn land where the main character is on the front lines of battle more than once. This is a point I've made in the past regarding some of the looks and hairstyles available for female characters in SWtOR, but I somehow don't think I'll run out of 'fuel' for this topic anytime soon.

Since I've been discussing character customisation mods, it's time to show off what the Cal Feiya of Skyrim looks like, before and after new appearance options were acquired.

Oh, and then there's this guy.

Inigo - presumably named after Inigo Montoya? - is a fully-voiced Companion with conversations for seemingly every single quest and area, no matter how minor, and his own 'control setup' allowing you to customise how his AI works, and he's completely fan-made. I don't even want to think about how many hours it took the creator, SmartBlueCat, to craft this mod but the results are absolutely fantastic.

That said, Inigo's also the sort of character who - if ever released 'officially' - would probably be laughed at, and not in a good way, for the developers trying too hard to be funny due to the amount of things he comments on which border on breaking the fourth wall. He's essentially an extreme form of M'aiq the Liar, and much like his fellow Khajiit Inigo works perfectly as a non-essential 'easter egg' style character than an official and integral part of the in-game world. The sort of thing you can seek out if you really want, and nothing which is forced on you 100% of the time.

Before I go onto the next section, I'll round off with this image courtesy of one of my mods increasing the amount of time arrows are left in a character's body, a mod created in the name of realism.


Finally I get to talk about the actual game rather than mods and glitches.

I should start by prefacing how I play games such as this. I don't particularly like the concept of magic in a game, for reasons even I don't particularly understand, so I focus purely on becoming a one-person army with a trusty sword and a bow and quiver as my tools of the trade.

Just for context, my 2013 playthrough had resulted in the completion of all of the main questlines with the exception of collecting all of the Daedric Artifacts because a Dragon turned up in Falkreath and killed Lod, the questgiver for the Masque of Clavicus Vile. So the 2018 playthrough isn't an attempt to catch up on things I missed, but simply to experience the game again.

However, I did do some things differently with my new Wood Elf. Since I've learned the error of my Khajiit's ways, I no longer spec my character with Heavy Armour while simultaneously expecting to be an effective sneak; she wears purely Light Armour and doesn't have any points specced in Heavy Armour at all. I'm also now doing more things outside of the questing; I never really got into Smithing, Alchemy or Enchanting before, but I've dedicated a fair amount of time to all three activities this time around. It's proved quite beneficial due to the boosts to Light Armour and Bow Damage I've been able to find and apply to pieces of my gear.

Incidentally, since I know at least somebody will take issue with her having the Silver and Moonstone Circlet instead of a Helmet in one of the above images, the shoulder cloak is not attached to the chestpiece but is an independent piece of craftable Light Armour in its own right; both this and the Helmet count as the final piece to boost Armour Rating with appropriate the perk from the skill tree, so as having five armour pieces results in a significantly lesser rating than with four (logically...?) I decided to run with the cape and get a nice pretty Enchanted circlet to still get the additional Bow Damage Enchantment since the cape understandably can't be Enchanted.

Not that she'd be any better off in real life with the actual helmet that comes with that set, since it's an open-front helmet so she'd still run the risk of becoming a Harold II of England cosplayer.

In terms of story and quest differences, there aren't many. I was sorely tempted to see the Imperial questline as opposed to the Stormcloak version, but once again I've overseen the fall of the Empire. There are sadly so few optional paths in Skyrim beyond this, but since I found myself really disliking the Dark Brotherhood questline in 2013 I decided to pursue the alternative 'villainous' route this time instead and ended up destroying them.

I've since learned that Arcann's voice actor, Erik Todd Dellums, voiced one of the Dark Brotherhood, so I'm mildly disappointed to have missed out on hearing all he has to say now that I'm armed with this knowledge. As his character Nazir was the only one of the Brotherhood I actually liked from my first playthrough, this is the only regret I have for following the destroy choice.

A minor difference, but I've also gotten married within the game this time. I decided to make one of the Companions my faithful companion for life, and I settled on Vilkas. Even though his brother Farkas is the more friendly of the two, Vilkas is also - from what I understand - the better follower due to Farkas's abilities being really quite ill-fitting for what he can actually do (Light Armour being higher-levelled than Heavy, for example). I'm sure there are mods out there that fix that, but really I think I've got enough of those to be getting on with for now.

Vilkas has, meanwhile, been displaced from his spot as follower by Inigo and as such now permanently resides within our home in Solitude. Although he does now have the Housecarl for company, it's probably not the best idea to leave him alone with her 24/7. One minute it's all "it's good to see you, dear", the next he'll have cleared out and taken her for his wife instead.

I'm not the jealous type.

Speaking of the Companions, I didn't realise until this playthrough that there was a way to cure yourself from having the wolf-blood. Not being a fan of werewolves I of course had to take that option. Vilkas and Farkas are also cured since they can eventually request it and are the only Companions who can.

Rather amusingly, I haven't been spared from Dragons deciding that towns are a great place to fight. I already mentioned that in the 2013 playthrough a random Dragon decided to attack Falkreath, resulting in the death of a Daedric questgiver, but in this playthrough when I visited Rorikstead to continue the quest A Night to Remember, I was attacked immediately not by one Dragon but by two; one of them was Nahagliiv, whose burial mound is located near Rorikstead, but the other was just a random one who happened to be passing.

Thankfully nobody crucial died in this particular attack. Sure, a few guards and a potential follower, Erik, lost their lives, but they were the only casualties.

I have nothing else to say in this section so I'll conclude now.


Since I mentioned that one of the reasons I am playing Skyrim again was because there were things I missed out on the first time, it is worth pointing out that, rather aggravatingly, Achievements for accomplishing these certain things aren't popping up. I haven't got the Marriage Achievement nor the Daedric Artifact one, despite now having completed the collection and gotten married.

This is rather disappointing, but ultimately I have at least now done both of these things at long last, so yay.

As for whether or not I'll actually get the DLC this time around, I honestly don't know. Of the three available Dragonborn looks the most interesting due to it expanding the lore of the Dragonborn, Hearthfire looks decent if of course very small due to it only being a housing expansion, and Dawnguard doesn't interest me in the slightest. Vampires are just so... tedious and uninteresting, really, so I see little point in investing in a DLC which is all about them.

All in all, it's been great fun romping through Skyrim once more, glitches and all, and I look forward to seeing what Elder Scrolls VI will be like when it eventually comes out.

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