If you’ve read my blog post about Grand Theft Auto, you’ll know that I’m really not one for taking games too seriously, and I think that’s important to the enjoyment of any game. Open-world games make this all the easier because you’re not tied to a linear storyline, so if you want to run around for an afternoon just kicking grannies up the arse for jollies, you can.
‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’, released by Bethesda Softworks in 2011, is no exception. As a massive open-world game with glorious scenery, locations and people, it gives you plenty of room to dick about outside the main storyline and the side quests. And you totally should! There’s a lot more to this game than simply killing everything that moves, getting the best weapons and armour as quickly as possible, or picking up the sexiest follower and every available achievement.
It’s very easy to get lost in the addictive process of becoming a questing Dragonborn bad-ass, and it’s a noble goal, but in doing so you could be missing out on the laughs along the way.
So here are five things that you should totally do in Skyrim, just for the hell of it. There may be spoilers here, but seriously, the game has been out for over six years so if you’re still avoiding spoilers for it, just go and buy it already. It’s very good, trust me.
1. Name your weapon!
As the Dragonborn in Skyrim, you have the ability to enchant your weapons and armour to make them more powerful, and this skill increases as the game progresses. But there’s nothing to say that these names have to be serious if you don’t want them to be.
There’s something quite hilarious about encountering a deadly Giant Frostbite Spider and whipping out a fire-enchanted sword called ‘Disco Inferno’, or a lightning-enchanted one called ‘Shocker Khan’ because it just wants to rock you. Or how about pulling ‘Mick Dagger’ out of your trousers in order to assassinate an angry Troll?
And it works the other way around too, in that you can give serious monickers to ridiculous items. Only yesterday I enchanted a plain old knife and fork, naming them after legendary weapons from ‘Game of Thrones’.
The only limit here is your imagination, and the more you stretch it, the more fun you’ll have.
2. Set your own challenges!
My Nord Dragonborn, Sigurd, does enjoy pottering about the house in his robe and fur slippers, and he has an extensive kitchen that he uses to cook all manner of sweet and savoury treats. His health is pretty high now so munching on them during a battle doesn’t really do much, but there’s nothing quite like knocking up some fresh, steamed mudcrab legs, apple dumplings or fruit crostatas just for the fun of it.
The only drawback to this is that the recipes require butter, and bloody hell is it hard to find! There is actually a handy butter churn in his kitchen – however after getting one butter from it, it now appears to do fuck all, so it’s time to pop off to the shops on a butter quest!
This self-imposed quest usually involves a trip to all the pubs and markets in all seven Holds, and even that doesn’t guarantee a Dragonborn Nord loaded down with greasy goodness. It’s rarer than freakin’ gold.
There are a lot of options for personal quests if your sneak level is quite high too. Me, I have resolved to use this magnificent skill to steal every single sweet roll in Skyrim. Even the Hall of Valor in Sovngarde, where the heroic Nord dead go after proving themselves in battle, doesn’t have a single sweet roll left after my visit there.
3. Listen and observe!
Running around and killing everything is all well and good, but there are lots of little jokes and easter eggs to spot in Skyrim that you might miss if you’re just on a bloodthirsty rampage.
For example, sneaking around a fort could lead you to discover a latrine with two buckets and a Potion of True Shot on the shelf, while ‘Star Trek: TNG’ geeks will be delighted to know that you can encounter a lady in Ivarstead called Temba Wide-Arm. And then there’s this:
In a quest called ‘Darkness Returns’ there’s a lovely little nod to guitarist Anders Nystrom and his Swedish metal band Katatonia, by a developer who says that their music kept him going through the long, late working hours.
But by far my favourite joke in Skyrim has to be the bug jars. There are five to collect in total, each containing a different critter, and they seem to have no purpose other than for decoration. Now, unless you look at these properly you would miss their secret – each one has mirrored runes written on the underside of the stopper and, when turned the right way around, these reveal the plight of the poor insects trapped inside the jar.
Looking at the Luna Moth, the runes read ‘constrained movement’, and the Torchbug has it even worse – its runes read ‘Constrained Freedom, Feeling Confined, Defence’. The other bugs have runes that indicate being possessed by higher forces, boredom, confusion and going in circles, so it can only be concluded that these poor blighters wrote the runes themselves! That’s why the writing is on the inside of the stopper, right? Think about that the next time you catch a butterfly just so you can pull off its wings for your alchemy experimentation…
Finally, listening to some of the things that the people of Skyrim come out with can be a right laugh too. I keep running into guards who tell me:
“The Gods gave you two hands and you use both for your weapon. I respect that.”
Wait though, that might just be my dirty mind. Forget I said it.
4. Take the time to explore!
Skyrim is a massive game, but it’s probably a lot bigger than you realise because there are so many unmarked locations that can only be discovered by exploring off the beaten track. Fast-travelling is handy to get you from A to B in a hurry, but giving it a miss once in a while and taking the time to trot off into the wild blue yonder can be very rewarding too.
You’ll see things like the fecking giant mudcrab, a shack that’s been crushed by a fallen tree along with its resident, the ironically-named Lucky Lorenz, and the hunters’ jacuzzi camp, where you can throw off your armour and relax in the bubbling hot spa waters while the other spa-goers complain about your unmentionables being on show.
A lot of these unmarked places seem to suggest a backstory too – at a shrine to Talos up in the mountains, you’ll see a full set of Imperial armour laid out at the feet of the statue. This seems to suggest that, since the worship of the Nord God Talos is prohibited under Imperial law, the armour once belonged to a Nord who has deserted from the Imperial Army rather than forsake his God, no?
Exploring can be made even more worthwhile if, before paying a visit to Paathurnax just for the hell of it because he’s such a lovely dragon, you take the path and read all the engraved tablets on the way up to High Hrothgar. This will give you the effect called ‘Voice of the Sky’, meaning that animals will not attack or run from your character for 24 actual hours, not in-game ones.
Now you can explore the countryside AND take selfies with your new animal buddies.
5. Have a laugh!
There’s nothing to say that a hero with the body of a mortal and the soul of a dragon doesn’t like to go out and make a tit of themselves every now and then, just for the fun of it – hell, one of the quests even involves drinking far too much and then trying to fix all the stupid stuff you did the night before. I still feel sorry for Moira the Hagraven. But it’s actually a cool quest to complete because you then have the power to summon a Dremora to fight for you, a Dremora who hilariously sounds a lot like Bane from that one Batman movie. The good Batman movie, not that ‘Batman and Robin’ tosh.
But I digress. Don’t forget to be daft once in a while – it really is good for the soul!
My Nord character regularly engages in bouts of silliness. After enchanting his knife and fork yesterday, he stripped off, put on a Chef’s Hat and then ran around Solitude brandishing them at the locals.
And if you’ve made it this far, allow me to let you in on a little secret – these tips don’t just have to apply to the land of Skyrim, you can use them in real life too.
Listen and watch what’s going on around you, and take the slow route to places every now and then, because you might discover something wonderful along the way. Don’t rush through life. Go out into the countryside and explore the world around you. Don’t just be satisfied with the challenges set for you, make up your own! Above all, take the time to laugh and do things that make you happy. You can even name your weapon if you really want to.
Oh, and if you see butter, buy it immediately.