Fus Ro Dah: The Invisible Civil War
There is a war out there in Skyrim. A Civil War, but does it really matter? .
Once you depart the wagon, the imperials call out names for NPCs to be beheaded. Despite your name not being on the list, you are still going to be beheaded. Whether this is a way to try and make you have some hate towards the Imperials and divide your allegiance between them and the Stormcloaks or whether it’s just a way of making you feel the tense divide between who has the control in Skyrim. NEITHER one does itself any justice. You should feel like you are thrown into thick of it, the blood, grit and gore should enable emotions that make you choose one side or another.
A choice that makes you feel like you’re a part of history in this huge densely populated virtual world. It should make you feel like you matter in the game, that your choices depict how the rule of Skyrim plays out. Will you have the strict iron fist of the militarised Imperials? Or will you have the freedom adjoined by underlying racism that the Stormcloaks hold so dear to their heart? Well. Neither. They don’t matter.
You can play the whole game and not worry about them. Seriously try it. Okay albeit you might come across Imperials transporting a prisoner, Jarl’s and NPC’s will probably mention it a few times, bar that. Nothing. And it makes me question, really question, what the thought process was at Bethesda when they wanted the, what I like to call, ‘The invisible civil war’ to be an introduction to a game, let alone be in the game. It was poorly executed. I have no emotional connection to either faction. Isn’t that the whole point of a faction? To make you either like or dislike them.
I don’t care which side I join, because it doesn’t matter. Having the Imperials and Stormcloaks in the game is practically pointless. You can play the whole game and forget they even existed. Except they were forced down your throat at the beginning of the game. It’s as if the developers started an idea for the civil war to be a prominent structure through the game and then decided they couldn’t be asked.
When you visit a hold or anywhere for the matter, nowhere feels like it’s under rule. The Imperials are destined to be militarised and struck down on anyone who opposes them with an Iron fist. The Stormcloaks are intended for revolution. They are set out to be the V for Vendetta of Skyrim. Okay abide the underlying racism, that’s how they should be pictured. Yet the way they are portrayed within the game, is like they aren’t even there.
Bethesda’s decision in this regard is strange. Why use two factions that aren’t even interesting to introduce your game? The storyline just seems so, confusing. If you as a game developer introduce me to two very prominent characters, one with one faction and the other with another faction, by default I’m going to know that these are pivotal characters who I will meet time and time again in the story.
Let’s look at it from a different point of view, if the introduction scene was a third through the game, it may have made more sense. There would be more backstory to why you are captured, and it would have given you more of an inclination into what faction you’d like to side with. Starting the game with it though? This is one, of many, ultimate flaws in Skyrim. Bethesda really could have put emphasis on the civil war, it could have been a main focal point. A main story behind a main story. They lucked out. They really did.
I know Bethesda worked hard on this game and don’t get me wrong, the level of detail of the world-building is something you can’t fault, however, what’s a beautiful world if there’s no story to tie it too? I’ve spoken to my friend a lot on this subject and we both agreed upon one. The civil war could have been another path for Bethesda to pursue as a main story. The dragons are good but not excellent. When I reached the end game, I just felt meh. I didn’t change anything in the world around me. Nothing developed. There was no reason for me to go back around and see the world I have sculpted because I’m the “Dragonborn”.
If the Civil War was a more prominent quest can you imagine the outcome? Side with the imperials and an iron fist rules the land. People live by the law and anyone who is above the law will be punished. Most of the young’ uns will go into the military as that’s the stigma. Or you side with the Stormcloaks. The people are free to do as they please, but you encounter other problems, where’s the security? Where’s the guarantee of food and drink?
You have to make a decision and that’s what games are about. Decisions. We make them in everyday life and each day turns out different. So why in an ever-expanding world of Elder Scrolls does it still feel so bottlenecked and that the game and story could literally survive without the player? Do you ever have a moral dilemma within the game?
I know for a fact I didn’t. It’s a shame. The game had so much potential. I guess we can thank modders for keeping it so alive. Without them it would be stale bread.