You’ll have to forgive the lack of screenshots in the first few entries here; I still haven’t gotten used to hitting the capture button at important moments–I usually get too wrapped up in the game. I’ve gotten better as I’ve gone along though, so you’ll get more pictures as this progresses
Ah, the Skyrim theme. It’s not Morrowind, but damn it’s beautiful. The male choir is gorgeous, and sets the Viking-like tone very well indeed. And so does the scenery as the game opens–trees, mountains, snow…in fact I feel quite at home. I spent four years at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and loved it, -60F temperatures and all. I immediately feel that familiar chill as the opening scene fades in.
Of course, as is Elder Scrolls tradition, my character is a prisoner. I hadn’t specifically known this ahead of time, but it’s hardly a surprise. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of this convention–it rather limits the hypothetical background you can give your character–but it is an easy way to get you into (and out of) a tutorial and character creation quickly. As an Elder Scrolls veteran, I already know what race I want to play–a Wood Elf. They’ve always been my favorite. And although I usually play a male (purely because the female versions of armor–especially the light armor I favor–is insultingly skimpy) I think I will try a female this time. The screenshots I’ve seen have shown at least some suits of reasonable armor for female Dovakhiin, so that will be nice.
My fellow prisoners–none, sadly as endearing as my good friend Jiub (whatever happened to him, anyhow? I hope he got released as well)–talk for a bit, and don’t tell me much of anything I don’t already know from Skyrim‘s marketing department. There’s a civil war, and it seems that a small band of Nord freedom fighters and/or terrorists are attempting to force Skyrim to cede from the Empire. As much as I know the writers probably want me to sympathize with the rebels, nothing Ulfric Stormcloak says here convinces me OR my character that he’s playing with a full deck. Maybe this is residual Imperial sympathy from the last two games, but much of his ‘inspirational speech’ sounds like militant Texans demanding their own country. (And yes I AM allowed to make fun of Texas–I was born there.) While I understand his position, I–the player–have far too much love for the Empire after the events of Morrowind and Oblivion to immediately get on the rebel bandwagon.
But does my character? That’s the question. Granted I haven’t been through character creation yet, but I already know who she is/will be shortly. A female Wood Elf named Accipiter Dulintaure. Great with a bow, fair with a sword, and able to disappear into the shadows at will. (I’ve played a variation on this same character since Arena.) She’s a bit of an oddball–a ranged fighter who wears light armor and sneaks like a thief, but has virtually no lockpicking or pickpocket ability. She’s a ranger, not a thief. And although almost all of her skills revolve around agility (including her crafting–no self respecting ranger wouldn’t be able to create a healing salve using alchemy after all), her main crafting skill is smithing. In fact, on the rare occasions she stays in town (and away from hunting) for an extended period, smithing is how she makes her coin. How does someone like that end up in Skyrim with an Imperial death sentence? Well the first part is fairly easy, I suppose–the hunting in Skyrim must be some of the best in all of Tamriel. Although conditions are harsh, there would be no better place for my little Wood Elf to ply her trade. Skins and furs must be in high demand here as well, and fetch a fair price.
The second part is trickier. The best I can do on short notice as the execution cart makes its way towards its destination is to decide that poor (Acci)Piter was acting as a guide to these rebels. She’s a ranger, she lives in the woods–what does she care for sides in a civil war in a country that’s not her own? Had the Imperials asked her, she would have led them to their destination just as gladly, for the same price. But as it happened, she was acting as a guide for rebels when they were ambushed. Guilt by association. And since the leader of the band she was guiding just happened to be the leader of all the rebels…she was sentenced to share their fate. One imagines that the Imperials, flush from the triumph of capturing the rebel leader, would hardly have time for the protestations of one Wood Elf. Kill ’em all, and let the Nine sort them out.
And so my character is created, just in time to meet the headsman. While the Imperials are rough with us I–the player–can’t really blame them. From where they sit, they just caught an Al Quadea leader, and are about to put him and his closest allies down. Piter, as the one about to be wrongfully killed because the stupid Imperials won’t stop and listen for a quarter of a second, is less sympathetic. And even *I* become a little less sympathetic when the writers straight-up force me to watch a guy lose his head. I’ve seen some brutal stuff in the Elder Scrolls universe, but nothing caught me off guard quite like this. I’m not sure why–I guess I just assumed SOMETHING would happen before any of us were killed. That, and the very matter of fact way it just HAPPENED–no heroic music, nothing special, just CHOP–lent in an air of authenticity that was quite surprisingly disturbing.
Then, of course, a giant dragon attacks, and everything goes all to hell.
I run like hell, genuinely frightened I might die and loose the half hour I put into character creation (it doesn’t seem to let me quicksave yet.) Eventually I make my way through town and find myself at a crossroads–one of the rebels is shouting at me to follow, and an Imperial is shouting the same. It doesn’t take me long to figure out what Piter would do, In spite of my own love for the Empire, there’s no WAY she’s following the uniform of the man who just tried to have her killed. So we follow the rebel through the tutorial dungeon, and are finally cut loose in the world of Skyrim. Before he suggests we part ways, the rebel does tell me where to go if I want to join his group (called the Stormcloaks, after Ulfric–further proof that guy might be a little unhinged.) I’m certainly not ready to make that commitment, and neither is Piter following several near death experiences in a row. She wants to get the hell away from this town and everyone in it, and I want to find my way to the main quest and start kicking some dragon scale before I get bogged down in the politics of the region. Besides, Piter might be pissed at the soldiers that tried to kill her, but the Empire is what helps keep order in Tamriel, and their laws help create peaceful trade and commerce (not to mention the ability to travel freely and relatively safely) between regions. If not for them, her life would be far poorer. There’s no way she’s ready to sign up with folks attempting to drive away the Empire because of a few idiot soldiers, and the fact that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
That’s where we’ll end the first installment for now. I leave you with a picture (taken a bit after this, when I actually remembered to start capturing screenshots) of Piter in the first (big) town I ended up exploring.