When I first played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a few years ago I ended up burning out on it, not because it was a dull game or anything, rather because the sheer volume of things to do in the game overwhelmed me – alas I ended up selling it. However, a few weeks back I re-bought the game second hand as I knew I needed an offline ‘perpetual game’ to help me take my mind off of University and my two jobs. I haven’t been left wanting ever since.
The glorious thing about Skyrim is that not only does it have an absolutely absurd amount of content it is also very easy to pick-up-and-put-down, therefore it is still practically the best value-for-money game out there – especially for University students who need to make their gaming budgets go the distance while not hampering their real lives. Among the plethora of content I have decided to single out a few of the quest lines that I think stand out among the rest. Considering the epic scope of the game there is an exceedingly good chance that, if you are a Skyrim veteran, I have not experienced your own favorites so don’t be too surprised to not see yours here.
This will also be listed in no particular order.
The Main Quest
This was the first ‘major’ story line I saw to the end as it is the one that is with you right from the get-go. Dragons have returned to Skyrim and it is your quest to figure out why they have returned, why you possess their powers, and how your destiny ties in with them. Sounds very basic doesn’t it? Yeah, it does. However it’s executed rather nicely without throwing many if any narrative curve-balls at you. The final quests in the afterlife are quite interesting and particularly stand out.
This one is pretty hard to miss out on and I’d wager that many players went through this story line during their first play through. This story line has the player joining the Skyrim equivalent of Tamriel’s ‘Fighters Guild’ called ‘The Companions’ and embarking on the life of a sell-sword. However, as the rabbit hole deepens the player discovers that the inner circle of the group are not entirely what they appear to be; they all turn out to be Werewolves. Rather than being feral beasts however the Companions demonstrate an astonishing level of control over their supernatural powers, to the extent of them being able to invoke their bestial forms at will without the trigger of the full moon and even retaining their sanity after they transform. Gradually as the player earns the respect and trust of the inner circle they are invited to be ‘born into the pack’, accept the ‘blood of the beast’, and become a Werewolf by contracting Lycanthropy. My only problem with this story is the manner in which it ends. It’s not a poor ending but it could have been done slightly better. Ultimately it is down to the player whether or not they want to cure themselves of Lycanthropy at the tail-end of the story line, I personally didn’t as the benefits of Lycanthropy FAR outweigh the downsides. Keeping hold of your Lycanthropy also opens up a multitude of quests after your adventures with the Companions.
The Dark Brotherhood
This one really is a black-or-white deal. What I mean by that is that this story line can go one of two ways, both with wildly different outcomes. Anyone familiar with the Elder Scrolls lore knows that the Dark Brotherhood is a shady collective of assassins-for-hire who murder in the name of their lord Sithis at the behest of ‘The Night Mother’. The player is first approached by the Dark Brotherhood after they unwittingly ‘steal’ a contract from them: A child abuser terrorizing an orphanage. Shortly afterwards the player is abducted in their sleep from an inn and confronted by Astrid, the mistress of the Skyrim Brotherhood, who demands the life of another contract to settle the outstanding debt. From here the player can either comply and kill one of three hostages (only one has a contract out on their life so choose carefully) or the player can spectacularly turn the script on its head and take Astrid’s life to settle the debt. Choosing the former opens up a lengthy and blood-soaked story line which certainly pays well and choosing the latter opens a shortly but more action-packed story line where the player assaults the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary and brings the order to its knees.
I personally went with the first option and managed to pick the right hostage, who turned out to be the equivalent of a murderous drug dealer, and was inducted into the Dark Brotherhood. The story was certainly interesting, delving into the order restoring the ‘old ways’ of only killing people who ‘deserve’ to die (even then that’s a huge grey area) along with some neat curve-balls in the narrative. My major problem with it though is that you end up getting to know the back-stories of your fellow assassins only for them to die after a betrayal results in the sanctuary being burned to the ground, therefore the ending is rightfully bittersweet.
The Thieves Guild / The Nightingale Trinity
This one is, in the eyes of many players, the best story line in the game and having recently seen it through I must say that I agree. The Thieves Guild, as you can probably guess, is a collection of thieves who stand up for the underclasses of Skyrim’s cities and make a bit of coin on the side. What I like about the Thieves Guild is that when you joined you really felt as though you just joined Robin’s Hood band of Merry Men. Another great thing about the story line is that it addresses the burning question of if there is such a thing as an “Honorable Thief”. I liked how this question in particular was raised time and again during the various quests of the guild as they adopt a strictly pacifist approach in their work; they do not resort to murder to achieve their ends as doing so would make them no better than common bandits. This is also reflected in the structure of the missions the player undertakes for the guild as they are given explicit instructions to not murder anyone while partaking in any forms of larceny.
This story line is well worth doing as it not only provides a very nice break from wanton violence but also takes a very interesting turn before too long and ends up rewarding the player with a very neat special power and gives them what is undoubtedly the best looking armor set in the game: The Nightingale Armor.
And now for some honorable mentions.
A Night to Remember
This one can really catch people off guard and is frankly hilarious. The player ends up having a drinking contest with a stranger in a tavern only to wake up literally on the other side of Skyrim and having left a trail of drunken shenanigans in their wake – It really is the Norse answer to “Dude, Where’s my Car?”! As the player you embark on a quest to piece together what exactly happened and from there the story just snowballs to an absurd level before you discover who your drinking buddy actually was.
Laid to Rest
If you get to Morthal before you encounter any Vampires and are therefore unaccustomed to them this quest will probably make you jump. Suffice to say that contracting vampirism in Skyrim is not advisable as the benefits are overwhelmed by a social stigma that makes people attack you on sight, the severe weaknesses to sunlight and fire magic, the need to feed on innocent people to sustain yourself, and you being associated with Twilight. Okay, that last one is taking it a bit too far. This quest begins when the player notices a house that has been burned down and asks a guard about it. From here it becomes a “Who dunnit?” affair until a late-night investigation of the premises results in you getting ambushed by a Vampire. After slaying the unholy monstrosity you rile the townspeople, complete with torches and pitchforks, to march on the discovered lair of a Vampire coven and send them back to hell.
Ill Met by Moonlight
One of the quests that opens up if you become a Werewolf. Although short this quest has some nice rewards to it and deepens the back-story behind the supernatural condition. The player arrives in a town and hears about the savage murder of a young woman. When the player pays a visit to the town prison and speaks to the accused it becomes obvious very quickly that the young man is suffering from a bad strain of Lycanthropy. The prisoner requests the player’s help in tracking down the Daedric Lord Hircine, the patron of all beasts, and convincing him to put his transformations under control. When you find Hircine he bids you hunt down the stray Werewolf for slandering his name and kill him. When the player arrives at the hunting grounds a number of hunters arrive to collect the bounty placed on the young man’s head. Here the player has two choices; either continue with Hircine’s request and put the unfortunate Werewolf down or turn the hunt on itself by teaming up with the Werewolf and killing the hunters. No matter what you decide to do Hircine is pleased, even amused if you choose the latter course of action, and rewards you regardless.
Skyrim is a phenomenal game and even after it being out for well over three years I cannot recommend it enough. There’s enough fantasy-world adventures to be had here to last a very long time. I might end up adding a few more to this list as I experience more of the game.