(“Late Game Review” because I’m trying to play through games on my ridiculously old backlog, so these games are pretty old)
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim came out on 11/11/2011. I remember I bought the game for Steam on launch day. I finally “finished” it after 350 hours of gameplay and seven years real-time. “Finished” in this case means “achievement complete”, not just “main quest complete”, because as any Bethesda gamer knows, that’s not how their RPGs roll.
I had been looking forward to this game because I had previously enjoyed both ES4: Oblivion and Fallout 3 on PS3 and had also just finished Fallout: New Vegas on Steam and was open to more open-world exploration. I remember being tempted by the badass collector’s edition Alduin statue too but opted out due to price and the fact that it was huge.
My first character was a male Nord named Hunter. I actually managed to finish the main quest a bit more than a month after getting the game (fairly fast!). I used that first character to complete all the guild quests – Companions, Mage’s Guild, Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood. Afterwards I immersed myself with the open world and toyed around with mods for a bit. I played it on and off again for a few years, and buying the DLC expansions (Hearthfire, Dawnguard and Dragonborn) eventually when they were on sale. I started a few other runs but never got far.
In 2016, I started my final run – the character that I would be able to bring to “achievement completion” including all DLCs. This final character was Arche, an Imperial (named after the Tales of Phantasia character).
Anyway, I greatly enjoyed this game obviously. It’s been available for a while and been ported to every platform imaginable (it even got a new console release this year!), so there’s not much point talking about the features and whatnot. There are some other things I’d like to cover though:
Levelling Up and Legendary Dragons
The last achievement I got was the one for killing a legendary dragon, which took me forever. The first issue was that legendary dragon’s don’t spawn unless you’re already level 78. In my 2nd run, I finished the Dawnguard and Dragonborn content and all other achievements by around level 50, and it was a grind to get to level 78 througn conventional means. I didn’t want to do any console cheats to get to 78, so I tried to look for faster ways to level up. There’s a bunch of suggestions on the internet, but here are the best ones:
- Telekinesis – with enchantments to reduce MP cost, you can use Telekinesis to quickly level up Alteration, simply by levitating an object in front of you until you run out of magic, then you just rest and repeat. This method was still fairly slow for me though and more importantly it was really boring. I read some posts saying you could speed up this process by levitating an object then doing fast travel to a far location so that the game thinks you were using Telekinesis during the entire trip, but I could never get this to work and that feels a bit too exploit-y for me.
- Giant blocking – basically go find a camp with high level giants, then keep blocking their attacks with your shield, healing when necessary. The advantage of this is that it increases multiple skills – Block, Restoration and Light/Heavy Armor (depending on what you’re wearing). However, it wasn’t much faster than the Telekinesis method and it was also quite tedious and if you weren’t careful, you could die.
- Finally, I came upon, in my opinion, the single fastest way to level up in Skyrim: the Illusion mastery spell Harmony. You can use Muffle to level up your Illusion until you learn Harmony, but once you have Harmony, things go into overdrive. You simply go into the middle of Whiterun (near the plaza is fine, or that big tree in the middle section) and cast Harmony. The spell has a very, very wide AOE so it affects almost all citizens, gaining you ridiculous amounts of Illusions skill levels. A single casting can earn you as much as 50+ Illusion levels. This method is quick, safe, easy, and I wish I had discovered it earlier. As it is, it took me from 68 to 81 in around an hour.
After getting to Level 81, the next problem was actually finding a Legendary Dragon to fight. Supposedly there was one that always spawns at Arcwind Point, but I never got one to spawn there, even after clearing my mods. I tried fast-travelling across dragon burial grounds for a while with no luck. Eventually I managed to randomly find a Legendary Dragon while wandering near Dragon Bridge (that’s where my last save is!)
I had a *lot* of mods installed, mostly additional gameplay/quests, additional items added to the game world, convenience mods (adding map markers etc), or stuff to improve the ambience. I’m not much for stuff like graphics improvements or silly mods that add Thomas the Tank Engine or Macho Man dragons. I did have this mod that added Star Wars lightsabers to the game that I wanted to get rid of but I had so many mods installed I always gave up trying to find it on the list. The best mods I used throughout my 350 hours were:
- Forgotten City – this mods add a self-contained quest that involves time travel, groundhog day-style time loops, multiple paths to resolution and investigating a mystery. It was so good it got turned into its own standalone game.
- Stan Bush combat music – basically replaces Skyrim’s combat music Stan Bush’s songs “The Touch” and “Dare” from Transformers The Movie, giving you a quick adrenaline boost when combat starts. I didn’t actually notice that Skyrim had separate combat music before I installed this mod!
- That’s it, out of literally two hundred mods only two stood out for me lol.
Wishlist for Elder Scrolls 6 (or things I wish they had done in Skyrim)
- Make the shovel useful – it’s weird that there’s a shovel object in the game but it’s not really used for anything, not even as a weapon (I’m sure there’s mods that do that), but I was thinking stuff like buried treasure quests could require you to have a shovel to dig up chests or maybe you can randomly dig in the dirt and hope for goodies (one of the Zelda games did this AFAICR)
- Mountain climbing – okay, this wish is straight from Breath of the Wild. One of the best things about BOTW was the ability to climb anywhere, a refreshing addition to an open world overworld after Skyrim’s “How the heck do I get to the top of this mountain” challenge.
- More immersion in the Hearthfire DLC – don’t get me wrong, I liked the Hearthfire DLC, it added a nice opportunity for role-playing with the chance to get married and adopt kids, makes for some nice stories and fun moments like this. After a while everything falls into a rut though, it would have been nice if they had expanded the Hearthfire content with some additional radiant quests. Some random ideas: Your wife or one of your kids goes missing, you have to find her; bandits threaten your house and you and your family have to defend it; you gave one of your kids two many daggers and now he accidentally stabbed one of his friends; your entire house has vanished along with your family! It has been teleported somewhere!
- Actually just more radiant quests in general would have been nice for a bit more variance (I’m not sure if I will ever be satisfied). I think there’s already mods that do this, but I never tried them out.
- The ability to take over a fort after you clear it. Skyrim has a lot of small forts or buildings held by bandits or whatever, it would have been a nice alternative to buying a house, after you clear a bandit the Jarl of the containing hold offers you a chance to buy/earn the title for the hold. Once you own a hold, whenever you recruit new followers you can choose to send them to the hold instead of following you around, and same as the house you could build improvements like a smith, stables, etc, and earn money from shops maybe?
I also have the Legendary Edition on Steam (free upgrade since I had the DLCs), but I don’t think I have the patience to go through the entire game again. The size of the game and the excellent mod community mean one could very well play Skyrim forever, especially since Bethesda tells us The Elder Scrolls 6 is still a ways away. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of other games to play, and now I’m finally able to uninstall Skyrim.
Attached to this post are a dump of my Steam screenshots folder. (These used to be embedded via an Imgur album, but I edited the post on 2020-Sep to embed them here instead, for reasons.)