Friday, 17 January 2014

The Important Pieces of Paper: Skyrim, Came back Swinging

Oh Skyrim, when will I ever stop replaying you and actually play some expansions, well the answer is fairly simple: the next time I play. You see after playing the game through again as a thief/assassin type character I couldn’t help going through the game again as a beefy warrior class again to get back to the old sword-swinging mayhem. I did briefly have a go at being a Magic-user as there was now cinematic kills with spells which looked pretty cool when searing or electrocuting someone alive, but the more I played the more pointless I found it really, the reason I played Skyrim was for the swinging of the swords, the ‘thunk’ sound of the arrows into a body and the grisly hacking pieces off someone’s body.

The new Kill Cams as per the 1.5 patch (I think we're up to 1.9)

The other thing was, there was no “tailoring” aspect to Skyrim so you couldn’t make your own armor, or “robes” I spose and taking away all the fun times of mining and collecting the different coloured ore to make you’re super cool armor, and speaking of armor wearing robes gave you crap all armor too. So needless to say after getting pounded by everything from axe-wielding maniacs to other magic users I decided I’d man back up and start smashing heads. I did have a go at the Mace-and-Shield (or sword) combination which had some awesomely painful looking kill animations but I just couldn’t resist the lure of slicing someone up or bashing their face in with the good old giant sword or warhammer, and no I’ve never used axes in case you’re wondering as I just don’t fancy them.

Can I axe you a question?
I had a few reasons for playing through the original Skyrim again, the most prominent being I wanted to run in and whack things again instead of being all stealthy but I also wanted to set another character up to play the Dragonborn expansion as I wasn’t quite happy with my first character being the one to do that expansion as I hadn’t done the console-commanding-skills-in-as-soon-as-I-can-get-them thing so he wasn’t quite as powerful as when I finish off my new character. When I was creating him I chose Nord as before as I intended to be on the Imperial side this time but be a Nord like Legate Rikke who gives some very convincing arguments when you talk to her as why Skyrim needs the Empire. I have always had the contested view with my brother that the Stormcloaks are the “good” guys fighting the oppression of the Empire similar to most games but even when finishing the Civil war questline on the Empire side I still didn’t really feel like I’d done the right thing but anyway I’ll get into that later. 

Legate Rikke and General Tullius in Castle Dour, and me, looking kinda of out of place.
 As he was going to be on the Empire side though not an Imperial I made him look like quite a nice Nord with a thin beard and slightly longer hair then I think I’ve ever given any character in a game but I reckon it looks quite good. Though technically the face of my Dragonborn didn’t really matter as I fully intended to make use of the Psychosteve's DragonPriest Masks mod again and get that faceless-killer look going. I named him “Brogan” after a customer at work was trying to remember my name in an email and said it was that, also because both of my former protagonists names started with a Z (Zairne and Zalunar)

Here he is, Brogan the Imperial siding Nord he looks kinda tired, that's probably be right as this was taken when I was almost finished everything.
Another reason was the fact that I wanted to try out playing with a companion as I didn’t the first time and it wouldn’t work with a stealthy character. I could think of no-one better then Lydia as the ‘trivia’ section of the Elderscrolls Wiki states she can be the deuteragonist of Skyrim as she has quite a bit of programmed personality and due to the fact that she is the first housecarl that the Dragonborn is offered she is probably the most used companion in the game. And also for the fact that she is female and is able to show off a female version of any amor you put on her. And the final reason I was playing again is the fact of humble abodes and you know how much I love them, I started with the quite humble Pinewood Cottage with its enclosed space and objects and amenities at arms reach was the ideal starting house. After that going on to the not-so-humble but magnificent Deus Mons, and finally finishing by building my own house with my own two hands getting hitched and adopting kids with the Hearthfire Mod so hey at least I’ve played one expansion.

A detailed walkthrough of the Pinewoods Cottage player-made home.

So I started out in Helgen yet again following Hadvar this time which really felt weird as you were briefly in the company of Ralof and Ulfric Stormcloak and you really felt like you were on their side as the Imperials were about to cut your head off but anyway you go down and you say hello to the torturer and his assistant and they follow you out and then once you get out you find that Hadvar’s uncle is Alvor the blacksmith in Riverwood who by way of conversation is ideally on the Imperial side and you get free access to almost all the blacksmithing supplies they have which is nice. I searched around and found a patch of corundum ore and together with the iron ore from the always-fun-to-raid Embershard Mine I managed to make enough steel for a full set of steel armor though I didn’t end up making a steel weapon as I found a Honed Ancient Nord Greatsword which had a frost enchant.

Full steel armor
Doing the quests not really much happened in the way of Stormcloaks vs Imperials apart from the fact that I was nicer to Imperials and Imperial sympathisers which again made me feel kinda bad. Joining the Companions again was fun though their questline is quite short, I do like receiving a Skyforge Steel weapon though (yes I picked the greatsword again), I made sure though that I did the quests to lose  my Lycanthropy soon after I received it. I must have quickly upgraded my smithing skill as I remember as soon as I arrived in Riften I picked up the Grimsever's Return quest to travel to the Dwemer ruin Mzinchaleft where after finishing the quest I returned to quite a few times to get more Dwemer metal to smelt to Dwarven metal ingots which I got quite a lot of seeing as in some Dwemer ruins you can obtain almost 300 ingots in one visit by collecting and smelting Dwemer metal. After making the armor for myself and Lydia I used a lot of the leftover ingots up to raise my blacksmithing skill but unfortunately the armor and weapons also need steel and iron ingots to make so I couldn’t get that far. At some point during this time I acquired the Dragon priest mask: Rahgot which gives an extra 70 stamina points and with the masks mod overhaul looks pretty good with the Dwarven Armor despite being green in colour.

Dwarven armor looks pretty gold and tanky.
Lydia has a thoughtful pose here, I don't think she likes my mask, well I don't care if it doesn't match my armor (or doesn't give a set bonus) I ain't takin' it off.
For the sake of looking good I stuck to one set of armor for Lydia and I instead of mixing and matching the only difference being me wearing a Dragon priest mask and although I did lose the set bonus I still kept the original set helm and usually put an archery enchant on it and used it for taking screenshots. I found when playing with Lydia as my companion it was almost too easy. Because she was decked out in the same upgraded and enchanted armor as me (albeit slightly different enchants) we made short work of any and all monsters we came across. Basically the way I did it was that I ran in swinging with my 2-handed weapon while Lydia shot arrows at enemies from afar, because of this I gave her the best bows and arrows, as I only really used mine for Dragons and I gave her the best shield and either a 1h Sword or Mace as that was what she originally used. Because I was a warrior again and just running in, and also because I had a powerful companion with me, I completed dungeons much, much faster than the sneaking around during my last playthrough.

Lydia my faithful follower (and steward) in her bitchin' Dragone Armor
Playing with Lydia caused only a few problems, when you gave her anything better than her default armor and weapons, she would use those that were better which was all good, sometimes though she would not seem to wear or use the shield she was given, although it was much better in stats. Thankfully your follows can’t be intentionally killed by enemies and/or environmental hazards like fire or traps as when they lose almost all of their health they go down on one knee and are then ignored by enemies, the only person who can really kill your follower is you and I had to load a previous save sometimes as I accidentally hit her with a weapon or used a magical scroll. Speaking of scrolls and shouts, I couldn’t use most of the destructive ones as with spells like Scroll of Fire Storm you companion would be engulfed in the flames too killing them. Apart from that Lydia made things quite a bit easier with her shooting arrows and attacking small enemies and almost “tanking” dungeon bosses made it much easier for me to move around and finish off enemies without being challenged, I hardly even needed to use the Sanguine Rose (I had to get it just to do that questline again) and when I did we were practically unstoppable.

There are many sell-swords in Skyrim that can be used as companions.
I was living in Pinewood Cottage at this point and while it was nice and cosy it got annoying with Lydia following me around and blocking the stairs, so I used the very useful Ultimate Follower Overhaul (UFO)mod to set to ambient where she will walk around the location using various objects that are available (chairs, beds, alchemy tables etc) until I tell her to follow again. Pinewood Cottage as you can see is quite quaint, nestled in to a small area by a creek which ended up being quite close to the Lakeview Manor homestead. Around this time I also tried out Horseriding as I put in the baseID and the console command code from the Elder scrolls wiki page to place a horse near me, which always seemed to be the Palomino with no saddle, but I just took it anyway as I didn’t want to buy or steal any horses for the fear of losing them. I don’t know whether it was the follower mod that I had or just the system but if you travelled to a stable and some inns your companion would have a horse waiting as well so you could both saddle up which was fun though once you quick travelled somewhere their horse disappeared and Lydia unfortunately had to run along after me, heavy armour didn’t seem to stop her though heh. Also as of Patch 1.6 mounted combat was now available so you could swing away with your weapons and also shoot arrows at those pesky wolves.

Giddy up!
After finishing most of the companions questline and getting on with the quests through the world I was hungering for change, and change happened. Having upgraded Lydia and mine’s weapons from Dwarven to Glass (I had used a greatsword both times) I decided when I made our Ebony armor I wanted to use a Daedric artifact and had originally intended to use the Ebony Blade but like most Daedric artifacts acquiring it meant killing someone else and looking at the harrowing way that the blade works I decided against it. Instead I chose Volendrung which was a massive hammer of Dwemer origin, currently in the hands of the Daedric Lord Malacath who is worshipped by most Orcs as their Idol. I chose this as it was a warhammer and has a very interesting enchant that absorbs 50 points of stamina per hit effectively making it a stamina battery as you use a lot of stamina when power attacking with warhammers. So I completed the quite entertaining Cursed Tribe questline which didn’t involve any evil at all really to get the hammer and went on my merry way.

The Daedric Artifact Volendrung gifted by malacath after you have finished the Cursed Tribe quest
 At this point I was pining for a new house as I had an absolutely huge amount of items inc. armour, weapons, dragon bones, personal items and a crapload of books which I love collecting so much so without further ado I returned to Ivarstead to climb partway up those seven thousand steps to where the magnificent Deus Mons was located. You may have heard me talk about it before it’s one of the most magnificent play-made homes I’ve ever seen, a huge castle on the southern side of the Throat of the World which doesn’t exactly give it quite the best outdoor garden and facilities perched up on a windy snow covered cliff but technically it’s more of a Dragonborn’s private castle then a place where you’d bring a wife and kids. The interior of this place is amazing it’s no wonder why it’s arguably the most endorsed player-made house on the Skyrim Mod Nexus, it’s got everything you need and more, it is a bit large though, the Alchemy and Enchanting table are through two loading doors , and Lydia got a bit stuck and I ended up losing her a few times. But goddamn did I manage to pimp that place out with armour, weapons and book towards the end it’s got more storage space than I could use up at that time and a heap of places to store individual items, I especially liked the stack of six safes. To get in there though you needed to defeat a fairly powerful dragon but no dragon’s a match for us (macho pose).

Deus Mons (post dragon) it's quite misty up ere.

A fairly details move of the Deus Mons interior

After I had moved my quite hefty amount of personal items from one house to another I had levelled my blacksmithing up to Ebony so now it was time to make some. I quickly found that due to the amount of resources that were required to create and upgrade full sets of armour and weapon for both Lydia and I, I did not have enough Ebony ore I was not really going to wait around an in-game week for the ore to respawn in the mine I had just mined out so unfortunately I had to console it in but anyway, I got the armour made. I also had to select which Dragonpriest mask I was going to use, the main two I was interested in were Ved and Ikendov because (the masks) were all black and looked pretty cool, unfortunately I had to go with the classic style as with the way the mod author had attached the new masks to the new hoods I still had some minor issues with my face protruding from the mask similar to last time with my wood elf character. So I chose the classic hooded version of Ikendov and despite the hood being a dark brown looked pretty badass with my ebony armor and Volendrung. It did not however, look very badass while riding a palomino horse. So after some searching I found by going to the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages (UESP) wiki page on Skyrim horses that they had the baseID codes of all the horses you could get at the stables so I decided to get the black horse from Whiterun to match my current armour set and was happy to find out it had a saddle, this looked much better with my new armor.

The Ikendov mask works quite well with Ebony armor
You may have noticed in the screenshots that I am carrying a Daedric Warhammer with my ebony armor, this is because Volendrung even though it is a Daedric artefact unfortunately does not benefit from the Daedric smithing perk and thus the Daedric Warhammer had a higher damage ratio so I decided to make Daedric weapons for Lydia and I, but not Daedric armor as I had used that for my previous warrior and I had previously decided that the Dragonbone set would be my final this time. I finally reached level 100 in Blacksmithing which was a hell of a bitch I can tell you, I really needed to use some Fortify Smithing enchants but got there in the end by paying for levels from trainers but man it’s expensive. So it was time to make the Dragonbone armor and weapons and boy did I sure have enough materials for that by killing all those pesky dragons. I most definitely knew what Dragon Priest Mask I would be using this time and that would be Konahrik as the mod version of the mask looks freaking awesome. To get this mask you have to acquire all of the other Dragon Priest masks two unfortunately involve things I wasn’t willing to do like complete the College of Winterhold Mage questline and complete the last quest of the main storyline and I wasn’t about to became a Mage or finish off the story at this point so console commands it was. So I did that and went to the Labyrinthian and put all the masks there and I got it, and it’s as awesome as it looks, albeit some odd enchants.

My Dragonebone armor set with Konahrik
The entire set of masks with the dragon mouth open and revealing Konahrik
I’m skimming here but a bunch of stuff happened after that, I progressed through my world questing and further into the main questline, I also started the Civil war questline but remembered to not go too far into it in order to do the Season Unending quest which happens if you do the main storyline up to the point where you need to trap a dragon inside Whiterun. But this cannot be done as the Jarl of Whiterun says that he cannot divert attention away from his defences while the civil war is going on and thus you and the Greybeards have to organise peace talks with the two sides which I found to be quite fun.

The High Hrothgar meeting as part of the Season Unending quest.

After that I finished off all of the main world quests that I could then headed off to Dragonsreach to defeat and trap Odahviing, hitch a ride on him to Skuldafn then enter Sovnguarde and you all know what happens after that and if you don’t well go play the damn game. So after that was finished it was time to continue the war so Lydia and I, decked out in our upgraded and enchanted Dragonbone armor and weapons, defended Whiterun from the stormcloaks then progressively took back every territory until the Battle for Windhelm where we kicked so much ass it was ridiculous, I suppose with this quest being the last battle I’d ever do I was pretty powered up. So anyway we stormed Windhelm and defeated Ulfric and the Stormcloaks and then I was finally free to start up a new life for myself with...

 The Battle for (or against really) Windhelm
Fall of Ulfric and Galmor, this made me feel kind of sad, what's worse is their bodies stay laying on the floor even after the quest which is pretty gruesome.
Hearthfire oh yes indeed I am playing an expansion (or add on) for Skyrim and it was quite fun too. I first had to go to Falkreath and  made sure I’d done all the quests to become the Thane in which the Jarl allowed me to purchase the Lakeview Manor homestead where I could start buildin’ that shit. I must admit it was fairly easy building the house, you build it up in stages  so you start off with a small cottage that you can expand into a pretty fine looking house by Skyrim standards, it’s still nothing compared to some of the player made houses though but that’s a given it’s supposed to be a normal house not some giant and crazily extravagant castle. The materials you need are right by your plot of land Quarried Stone, Clay and Sawn Logs can be “acquired” indefinitely which is nice and I had built my house in no time.

I ponder If I'm going to need a change of clothes while my horse butts in
Now that's cozy!
The completed house exterior
What did take forever though was furnishing the place, I had to run all over the world getting all the materials not to mention the huge amount of iron that was need for all the nails and struts and fittings etc and I ended up getting sick of it and just console commanded some things in, I said it before and I’ll say it again I swear I could not play this game on a console. Though annoyingly once I had made all that crap I found that some items weren’t in a  place you’d call aesthetically correct especially the display cases in the greenhouse (yes greenhouse) which were standing on the mushrooms and what made matters worse was every single one of the display cases did not work (i.e. you couldn’t place weapons) even things that did work like the weapon and shield racks still had glitches where the weapons would appear in the floor and ceiling etc and of course there’s always that problem with the mannequins moving around and removing their own armor as if they didn’t like it.

This is another thing I didn't understand, when you make the initial cottage the furniture stays there so you have a bedroom practically in your doorway.
The dining hall.
The greenhouse
Needless to say I was not amused, these issues happen in the player-made homes so the reason I wanted to try Hearthfire is that I thought with an official add-on that these issues wouldn’t happen unless it’s the mods I have running that are causing the problem, though I suppose it’s partly my fault for just building everything all at once and not taking enough looks inside but I mean STILL.

Basement with shrine stand.
Full smithy
But anyway at least the weapon and shield racks kind of worked and the house ended up looking pretty good. I nominated Lydia as my steward and got myself a very shaggy looking cow, a chicken a beehive and a horse of which I now have two, which is good because my current one thinks it has been stolen as it walks away whenever I dismount but re-appears when I quick travel somewhere so the only way of getting rid of it is killing it really but I don’t want to intentionally do that. 

Main bedroom with the non-working display case.
Exterior view of the house
The back of the house leads to this old Nordic grave, hope it wasn't an evil person.
After I’d made the house and everything I had to decide who to marry (like it’s a hard decision really) and picked Ysolda, as I’ve always kind of liked her and she doesn’t really have a stance on the war, so after finishing off the Book of Love questline and got married though I’m a bit concerned as although I told my newly wed wife I have a nice house in Falkreath though she still hasn’t shown up and I can’t seem to find her in Whiterun or Riften or anywhere. So instead of thinking about a certain Richard Gere film I decided to just go and adopt some children anyway in which I already had Lucia in mind cause she so sweet and pathetic you can’t help it and also Hroar for a few reasons, he’s a Nord, he has a cool name and I want to go through the adoption dialogue with Constance Michel and tell her I’m the motherfackin’ Dragonborn and see what she thinks of that.

My marriage, I don't really know those people, and don't know how they relate to Ysolda and I
My adopted daugher recently brought a friend into the house and asked if she could keep him, I was like "a fox?" which funnily enough was the dialogue said. It also made me think of this.
So that’s it really, been through Skyrim for a third time, been through a few new quests big and small, fought with a companion, lived in a cottage and a grand castle, wore Konahrik and the Dragonbone armor, had a high powered business meeting, won the war on the Imperial side and then settled in with my wife and kids in a home I built with my own two hands (and console commands) so I think it’s a job well done. After all that sword swinging and danger I’m itching to go back to my stealthy one-man-plan and shoot some vampires crossbow style in Dawnguard cause I ain’t no Vampire yo. And then back to my new warrior for Dragonborn which I’m quite looking forward to exploring my old friend Hermaeus Mora’s realm of Apocrypha  and hopefully I’ll be able to do all this before the next Elder scrolls game comes out.


Off into the wild wilderness we go!

Occupation: Dragonborn

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