Skyrim Mondays Part Four: Old Dudes on a Mountain and The Best Character
Considering that every arrow in the game is a physics object that can stick to stuff, it's kind of impressive this isn't happening every eight feet.
Last time I killed the dragon and sucked out its Highlander powers.
Shortly after that, you hear a weird shouty noise in the air. Balgruuf told me that it was the Greybeards, an ancient order of dudes who live on top of a mountain and guard something or other. Proventus, the Jarl's adviser, is skeptical of the whole thing. I agree with him
I think the Greybeards are kind of stupid.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love Max Von Sydow and I'm so happy that he's in this game playing their leader.
As a gameplay mechanic and as a story conceit, the Greybeards are a little contrived. Why has this order of wizard dudes been guarding this power for so many hundreds of years without a Dragonborn to train? Why don't they use those powers for good in the obviously-crumbling society that's in the land below their mountain? Why are they all old dudes?
Some of these questions are indeed explored throughout the course of the game. But the initial setup is a little random and awkward.
And as a progression concept...they kind of slow things down.
Basically, you'll be coming back to the mountain they live on to upgrade and improve your Shouts.This got a little tiresome for me the first time I was playing the game. I'd be really into whatever I was doing...and then in order to advance I had to go see the old mountain guys again.
By the end of the game, they have a cool role to play in the story...but I think their opening is weak.
Also, they're supposed to live at the top of 7000 steps...but it's more like 100.
I got ahead of myself with all that Greybeard criticism.
After killing the dragon, I returned to Whiterun to tell the Jarl what happened. These two jokers finally decided to show themselves. They're here to try and "find" this woman who works at one of the Inns.
I'll be dealing with them later.
I told the Jarl about how I'm a reborn Dragon person or whatever and learned about the mountain wizard dudes. Then he gave me the axe off his back.
I don't remember him having an axe before, so I'm pretty sure this spawns just so he can then give it to you.
In addition to the axe, he also gave me a weird promotion that I didn't ask for and an indentured companion.
This is Lydia. She's probably the best character in Skyrim.
Lydia is one of several companion characters who can possibly join you on your journey, and although she's the first one many people get, I actually skipped over picking up several others on the way here.
I skipped them because they weren't Lydia.
Lydia is built like a tank. She will engage in either ranged or melee combat at a moment's notice and she almost never goes down. It's nigh-impossible for her to die in most circumstances...so you know if she's having trouble in an area, you'd better run away.
She also kind of hates everything.
Oh sure, she's nice enough in her introduction. But she's just been forced into your service. Which is a little creepy.
Lydia is that person you know who is never impressed, even by really impressive things.
She runs around this fantasy world with you, fighting monsters, getting incredible things, and saving the day...and the best she can muster is a "yeah whatever."
She's the perfect counterpoint to the super serious fantasy tone of the game, and one of several well-executed humorous characters. She's pretty subtle compared to the average game character, but her constant passive aggression is one of my favorite parts of the game's writing and design.
Before we continue, I just want to say that I totally fried this mudcrab.
I decided that I didn't want to go see the old mountain men yet, so I decided to do some side quests and clear out a few dungeons.
I fought through a bandit camp that was riddled with Mammoth bits. I picked up several tusks and later gave one to Ysolda.
In exchange for this, she gave me some Speech experience points.
Every time you open your favorites menu or your full menu in Skyrim, time pauses in the game world. This is actually key to the combat mechanics. It's also enshrined into the in-world fiction in a way that's kind of silly...so let's ignore that for now.
During a bandit fight I got set on fire so I had to drink a bunch of health potions while time was magically frozen by my menu.
In another nice bit of environmental storytelling, I found this pit that had a high elf and a deer in it who were both unlucky enough to hit the spikes.
The deer had 8 gold pieces. I took them.
Now he'll never get to buy those books at the shops in town.
Not all of the environmental storytelling components are completely unique. Although Skyrim reuses design elements much less than either Oblivion or Skyrim, you'll still see familiar things pop up from time to time. And honestly, that's totally fine for a world of this size and scope. I don't expect absolutely everything to be completely unique. It would be absurd to expect every single inch of ground texture to be completely unique for example...so it's weird that we demand the same things out of dungeon design.
These games are not made by a super large team and are just as much passion projects for those folks as they are money-making products.
The second camp I cleared out had this chain and door from the first dungeon. I really like pushing switches to open doors so it was like seeing an old friend.
I really really love the map screen in Skyrim. It's a full 3D overhead view of the whole game world that you can pan around. It's wonderful. It gives you a perfect feeling of how big the world is and how it all fits together. I hadn't yet mentioned this, so I'm shoving it in here. I'll probably talk about it again in the future as I open up more locations.
The map in Fallout 4 pales in comparison, honestly. I was really bummed when it wasn't fully 3D. I know that the Pip Boy interface helps to sell the realistic nature of the world, and I appreciate that, but sometimes when I'm playing that game I really miss the more surreal concept of Skyrim's interface.
I turned in my bounty progress to Proventus, who was hanging out on this big porch at the back of Dragonsreach.
This porch is totally not an obviously important and big location that's used much later on in the game.
That's it for this week! Next week I'll finally be going to visit those pesky old men on the mountain so I can get on with the story.
Lydia won't be happy about it.