Skyrim is addictive.

I’ve had far less time to play it than I’d like, work being what it is, but even so I’m hooked like a trout on a humpy. (Yes, I went and looked up fish fly names. That is how much I care for you.)

It’s also made me realise that while I love love love the start of a game, I’m not so hot on the middle bits and I positively dread the end bits. Which presumably makes me something of a freak in MMOs, since these days it’s all about the end game and I’m all about the beginning game. The same seems to hold true in single-player RPGs too.

My first Skyrim character just… didn’t work out (long story), so I rerolled. The second character “fit” much better and I played her like a maniac at every opportunity (sleep is for the weak). She got to level 20 pretty fast, but I got all anxiety-ridden about having too many quests, being werewolfed before we’d even been properly introduced, having too many quests, being caught between the stick-up-their-asses Empire and the stick-up-everyone-else’s-asses Stormcloaks, and having too many quests.

The first time I had NO clue what I was doing and just got sucked up in the current (and gave up around level 3). The second time I thought I knew it all, but I still got sucked up in the current; somehow I ended up with several criminal bounties on my head when I really didn’t think I’d done anything that bad. Mostly I really didn’t think anyone had seen me killing those Thalmor bastards escorting their prisoner out in the wilds; turns out some city guards saw me, and before I knew it (whoops! my axe slipped!) I’d killed them too and only realised what I’d done when the game told me “All the witnesses have been killed.”

Ulp. I don’t think I’ve ever killed witnesses before. I thought they were bad guys, honest guv.

So I re-rerolled.

What’s interesting is that all three experiences have been quite different, at least as much as they can be in the framework of a single-player RPG. It was only with the third character that I noticed a choice in the very first scene, the tutorial scene that basically just lets you walk (which isn’t as easy as it may sound for an old bat used to her arrow keys and playing this on a console). You don’t HAVE to follow the Imperial guy – you can follow the Stormcloak guy! It makes little difference in the grand scheme of things, but it’s illustrative of how Skyrim is as a whole: there’s so much stuff in that game, you could play it a half dozen times and probably still find stuff you’d never noticed before.

The game is giganormous, and the quintillion quests are almost an imposition. If I had my druthers, I’d just wander around exploring stuff and clearing out bandits, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing. In the Elder Scrolls games you really can ignore the story line if you want to, and it seems most obvious of all in this chapter. I’m stuck trying to decide who I hate less, Empire or Stormcloaks, in order to decide whether I want to join one or the other; I could stay neutral, but I’d be missing out on a big plot arc, so sooner or later I’ll make a decision.

In the meantime, I have some ore to mine and some mountain flowers to pick. Also: elk are hard to stalk.

Also: – cue hyena laughter because it’s oh, so true.

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