Tag Archives: Skyrim

Unsure of where to call home in Fallout 4

where to call home Fallout 4

Fallout 4‘s tagline is “Welcome home,” but I’m not exactly sure where that is. At this stage, I’ve put in about 40 hours or so, and home, for most of that, was in Sanctuary, one of the earliest settlements you can come across and begin filling with people and reconstructing. However, I never felt one hundred percent certain that this is where I’d hang my proverbial hat–in reality, my Silver Shroud hat–and thus never stored anything anywhere there and only did the minimal amount of work to make it appear like I was one of the group. You know, built some turrets and a fancy chair for that drug-loving Mama Murphy.

In previous Bethesda open-world games, having a home was either something to figure out on your own or work towards via downloadable content as some non-essential side activity, though when I did the latter in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s Hearthfire DLC it was after I had finished the main plot missions and completed the majority of things a Dragonborn dreams of doing, thus feeling ultimately unrewarding; plus, it was beyond repetitive. I remember finding “unowned safe spots” in Fallout: New Vegas, like Victor’s shack in Goodsprings, to store some of my heavier gear without fear of losing it permanently. I was, more or less, squatting and creating my own set of secret caches for somebody else to find.

Naturally, most of this searching and scouring for safe containers to hold all your Nuka Quantum and Daedric artifacts would be unnecessary if it wasn’t for…encumbrance. The dictionary defines the term as “a burden or impediment,” but we all know it as that age-old Bethesda staple, an annoyance that caps the amount of crap you can carry while still functioning like a solid warrior in terms of running and fast-traveling. From a logical perspective, sure, it kind of makes sense, though when you begin to scroll through the lists and lists of items in your Pip-Boy in Fallout 4, reality starts to crack in at the edges. There are ways around encumbrance, but the easiest is building a place of residency so you can swing by between missions to dump gear–or, in my case, dozens of coffee mugs–and restock before heading out once more…for more.

As mentioned before, previous games from Bethesda lightly sprinkled in bits of housing, letting those playing on PCs add more options via mods. With Fallout 4, it’s a full downpour of potential abodes from the get-go, some of which are actual entire settlements, sizable areas comprised of multiple homes for refurbishing. This is where deciding becomes important, because all the potential areas require an investment, both in time and resources. I’ve already dumped a decent amount of stuff into Sanctuary, seeing as that’s where this all began, but have now decided that a full-blown settlement is too much for my little heart to nurture. Instead, I’ve taken up base at…Home Base, which is a small, three-floored house for 2,000 caps in Diamond City, where the first floor offers the most room to plop down furniture and get creative.

You can see a glimpse of what my Home Base looks like in the picture at the top of this post. The first thing I built was the Bobblehead stand, which, for me, really cements that this is where I want to put my feet up at and decorate with as many cat paintings as possible. I like the addition of magazine racks, though the ability to spin them in-game would go a long way to making me smile. Other than that, I’ve hung a few flags, created a nicer bed, and placed all my Nuka Cherry on a shelf because that’s what cool people do. Haven’t decided yet what to do with the rest of the living space, but it’ll surely get filled in over time.

Still, there are some problems. I can’t send any of my companions to Home Base to hang out when not traveling with me; they only like settlements, I guess. Second, unlike the early promotional art for Fallout 4, which showed your weapons hanging against the wall on some kind of pin board, that sort of shelf is not available to build. Or I’ve not found it yet. This means that if I want to display any cool weapons I find, like the Fat Man, I have to simply dump them on the ground and then try to maneuver them just so on top of a table or desk. It’d be easier asking a Deathclaw for five bucks. You can switch to “building mode” to pick up and move items around, but that can be just as problematic, with some clipping through walls or vanishing the moment you drop them. Also, I found a really nice vase with a flower in it while exploring the Commonwealth, brought it to Home Base, placed it on the table next to my bed, and discovered it missing the next time I returned. Boo.

This is my first playthrough of Fallout 4, and knowing what I know now, I don’t imagine myself placing a lot of effort on having a place to call home the second time around, when I play as an evil, red-headed woman who likes to punch people and animals into smithereens. Maybe I’ll just abuse my companions to the point of weighing them down entirely with my full stash of weapons, mods, medicine, and coffee mugs. Maybe I’ll never pick up another single thing again and have no need for a place to store stuff. Yeah, right.

Where do you call home, my fellow Vault dwellers?

Marriage is a fine institution, but not in Skyrim

skyrim_mara_wedding

Over the weekend, I got married. The day before I got married, I got engaged, and it was a sunny, clear day, with chickens skittering around on the ground and dragons roaring in the baby blue sky above. Couldn’t imagine it any differently. I didn’t really know the woman I just promised to share my life with too well, but she seemed more than eager, and in a realm like Skyrim you only live once. I immediately fast-traveled to the Temple of Mara to speak with the priest and prepare everything. There was little work for me to actually do. He said to get some rest and come back tomorrow. I took a thirteen hour nap in the temple’s basement. Upon coming upstairs, I was surprised to see the guests had all arrived–though none looked like any of my friends. Where was Hadvar? The Greybeards? Before a candlelit altar, the priest said some elegant words, and my bride-to-be and I shared our vows. When the ceremony ended, she turned, started to say something to me about a “happy life,” and exited the temple in mid-sentence. I rushed outside, deeply worried about my new wife and the possibility she might have a concussion, and discovered that she had vanished entirely from Riften. It truly was a Skyrim moment.

So, for those curious, I married Avrusa Sarethi. This piece of Dunmer flesh and mind:

Avrusa

Meooow. At first, I was just turning in a quest. See, she asked me long ago to find like twenty Jazbay Grapes, and after discovering that a merchant in my fully restored Thieves Guild hideout sold them, I just bought one or two each time I visited the place until I had enough to complete the miscellaneous task. Think she needed them for potions or Nirnroot stuff. However, before I gave her the grapes, I noticed a dialogue option that basically went, “Ya want dis?” Nice to know that she was interested in me long before I did the quest for her; otherwise, that’s just guilt driving her forward, which would never last.

Currently, Lohgahn is level 47, married, and totally alone. He adopted a kid some time back out of generosity for an Achievement, and I think that young boy resides in Breezehome–by himself–but it’s hard to remember as I have four houses currently, thanks to the Hearthfire DLC. Here’s hoping that my dear Avrusa disappeared to one of my many abodes, because having a spouse offers some gameplay bonuses, like free food and he or she will shop for you while you’re out slaying dragons and finding Word Walls. Not sure how much of that is useful at this point in the game when I have all the money in the world to buy food and ingredients, but it’s kind of neat if a bit old-fashioned. When I’m up to all the fast-traveling and loading screens, I’ll go around the realm and check all my houses to see where she ended up, if she is even alive. If not…well, that’s another blog post.

Regardless, with the words said and before my new wife could hightail it back to Sarethi Farm, this Achievement popped:

SR-achievement-Married
Married (10G): Get married

And truthfully, that’s what marrying in Skyrim is all about: showing off.

Restoring the Thieves Guild to its former glory one loading screen at a time

2024707-ratway_copy

To my surprise, I returned the Thieves Guild to its former glory last night, a task I assumed would take a lot longer, seeing as you have to first do a number of miscellaneous tasks for both Vex and Delvin before getting the chance to do a more important quest to gain the loyalty of someone who will then set up shop in the Ratway, thus making it a better base. It’s a lot of back and forth, and it seems like there’s randomness involved in that you have to do at least five tasks within a specific city to get the loyalty missions to trigger; I just did what I got assigned and soldiered on. Anyways, it is done; check it out in Achievement form:

skyrim one with the shadows ach
One with the Shadows (30G): Returned the Thieves Guild to its former glory

Right. Go me. Having just finished up the Dark Brotherhood questline, I can definitely say that the Thieves Guild offered the most quests to do, and you can take that as you will. Granted, in a game like Skyrim, you shouldn’t be lacking for things to do, but this guild questline did seem the most fleshed out and sporting a better base, one you personally invest in and see grow. As a reward for restoring the guild to its heyday reputation, I was made the Guild Master and given a pretty sweet set of armor.

This has been something I’ve been working on for over a year. Granted, not every day, but whenever I’d load up my save and begin running around the world, I’d always keep both Vex and Delvin’s quests in mind, trying to at least do both before returning to Riften to turn them in and pick up the next two. The main reason this task takes so long, at least for me on the ol’ Xbox 360, is due to load screens, which stretch the gap between the beginning of the universe and the end of everything. Vex says to go to Solitude and do this–loading screen. Delvin wants you tooling around over in Dawnstar–loading screen. Fast travel back to Riften to enter the Thieves Guild hideout–loading screen. Enter the actual hideout–loading screen. Enter the Ratway–loading screen. Pick up two more quests from Vex and Delvin, but sit through two more loading screens before you can even get outside to fast travel and experience yet another loading screen. Sure, the easy answers are “play on PC” or “don’t use fast travel” but those responses don’t really work for me. I play how I play, and it’s built around slowness.

Okay, my new Skyrim to-do list, which is mostly based on as-yet-unlocked Achievements, and all of this will hopefully be crossed off before I dig into Dawnguard or Dragonborn:

  • Get married
  • Hit level 50 (I’m halfway to 48 currently, have to really work on magic and one-handed combat, maybe even more smithing)
  • Collect 15 Daedric artifacts (feel like I’ve gotten four or five so far)
  • Learn 20 shouts
  • Do more quests than acquire more quests

I don’t know if it is possible for me to get a bounty of 1,000 gold in each hold with my current character as he’s too nice of a fellow, despite his deep association with the shadier guilds. Chances are high I’ll never make a second character or play differently, but maybe after I’ve done every single thing I ever want to do and know that Fallout 4 is coming out soon I’ll just go apeshit and put each hold to the torch–figuratively, that is. More or less, Lohgahn will fill every civilian and solider with arrows. Maybe even summon a dragon. But only then, at the end, when I will play no more. Because that’s a one-way street.

Until then.

The Night Mother thanks you for saving the Dark Brotherhood

skyrim dark brotherhood quests overall

Well, with LEGO Lord of the Rings now completed to 100% and Borderlands 2 a real grind unless playing online with friends and farming for sweet loot, I’m digging back into Skyrim. Even without the Dawnguard and Dragonborn DLC packs–which I will get eventually–there’s still plenty for me to do despite having now logged over 110 hours on my single character of Lohgahn, the stealthy Imperial that shoots from afar with an enchanted bow first and asks questions later. Such as finally finishing up the last of the faction questlines after having become the Arch-Mage, the master of the Thieves Guild, the leader of the Companions, and general greatest hero ever to set foot in the snowy, Norse-themed realm.

I am to believe that the Dark Brotherhood quests were the most enjoyable experiences in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I remember starting that questline and eventually joining the shady circle of assassins and shifty souls, but never really getting any further than that, so I can’t say for sure. What I can say confidently is that the Dark Brotherhood quests in Skyrim have elements of fun and the potential to be darkly delightful–but are not. They play out just like every other quest in the game, and everything is over sooner than you’d expect. Yeah, you get some cool loot along the way–and a horse!–but I wasn’t in it for the loot this time. I wanted to be dark and cruel and set up these crazy puzzle-like scenarios for someone to accidentally die from. That didn’t happen. Let me present an example.

[Spoilers for the quest “To Kill an Empire” to follow…]

Posing as a famous chef known only as the Gourmet, you gain access to Castle Dour in Solitude in hopes of poisoning the Emperor. That sounds really great. You meet with another cook called Gianna, who will help you prepare a special meal for the Emperor and his friends upstairs. This is all done via dialogue options. You are making some French-named potato stew, and Gianna asks you what goes in it, ingredient by ingredient. At the end, you tell her there is one more ingredient, the Jarrin root, and in it goes. Then you follow her upstairs, watch the Emperor eat, slump over dead, and then escape the tower. Your involvement in the quest is disappointingly minimal. It could have been so much more, with you having to drop in the poison root while distracting Gianna…or something like that. Make it more puzzle-based or use a skill like persuasion. As the Dark Brotherhood member fulfilling the contract, let me fulfill the contract. That Emperor turned out to be a fake, and killing the real one is even less imaginative.

That said, the story has some nice twists to it and fantastic dialogue from creepy characters like the Night Mother, Babette, Cicero, and Astrid, but other than that–it’s a big letdown. You assassinate contracts. Sometimes you talk to them before you do that, but the end result is always the same. Overall, I guess the Thieves Guild is the most fun questline Skyrim has to offer, with a range of mission types and a really useful base full of useful merchants.

So yeah, that was that. I am somewhat interested in sprucing up the Dawnguard Sanctuary with some new furniture and features, but with a house in Whiterun and those three houses I built from the Hearthfire DLC, I don’t really need another place to stash my stuff. Just curious to see what it looks like and then move on elsewhere.

Okay, new goals for continuing through Skyrim include getting married, finding more Shout walls, and finishing up the quests I’ve acquired before picking up new ones. Yeah, I know; that last one is just wishful thinking. So wish me luck.

Master Architect says a house is a machine for living in

Actually, Le Corbusier said that, but what does he know–he didn’t spend countless hours fast-traveling and staring at the same ol’ loading screens in Skyrim‘s Hearthfire DLC to gather the numerous and welcome-to-encumbrance building materials, such as clay, quarried stone, and iron ingots, to build three houses that are void of character and personality and truly, without a doubt, not worth all the effort. Really–don’t bother building your own house, especially if you’re already pretty far into the game, wherein you likely already own a home in one of the many cities, such as Breezehome in Whiterun or Honeyside in Riften. Those cost the same base price as your own plot of land, but require a whole lot less work, giving you more time to kill that bandit leader in Cave X or find your twentieth Jazbay Grapes.

Housing in Bethesda’s games has always been a pesky business. For Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, you had a few options to call home, but they were not very exciting. In the former game, I shacked up in Megaton, covering my bed in teddy bears and the shelves with rare trinkets–if I could figure out how to properly move and place an item via an Xb0x 360 controller. Your only other choice was staying in Tenpenny Tower, which came with some neat themes, but required going through a lot of load screens to simply access. Too much waiting, not enough storing of loot, if you asked me. For New Vegas, pickings got even slimmer. Some hotels offered a permanent room, and if you felt like going through a lot more loading screens, you could keep your prizes in the Lucky 38 presidential suite. Strangely, your best place to call home is at The Sink, a futuristic homebase brimming with goodies. Oblivion had a few homes that you could earn through quest completion as well, but I never really used them as once you joined a guild, that became my place to store stuff and rest comfortably.

You could always find places to…let’s call it…squat. Abandoned houses or shacks that seemed ready to be yours, but at an invisible risk. See, while they might have containers or places to store you treasured treasure, there was no was to know if that container was safe or would respawn its contents in a few day, thus erasing yours completely. Unless you used the Internet, of course, but that’s never fun. I’d rather sell off items than lose them to a coding abyss.

So, unfortunately, while the three houses in Hearthfire look pretty cool once totally complete–that’s Lakeview Manor, Windstad Manor, and Heljarchen Hall–they are not fun to build and require, at least for me, a ton of back and forth, as I’m not the sort of character who just carries around 100 iron ingots at a time. You spend a lot of time looking at menus or watching your character mine for quarried stone, which is as exciting as it sounds. And after all that, you really have little input over how your house turns out. Sure, you can place tables and chairs and barrels and weapon racks, but they go where the game designer decided they should go. All you are doing to spending your materials to place it there. Your house is not your vision. And that’s a big bummer. I was hoping to be able to have a trophy room that was filled with my kind of trophies, like a thousand scattered troll skulls, presented in my way. Instead, no. It is a model home, and nothing more. Again, you might as well purchase a house in one of the cities, which is a model house too, but cheaper and easier to fill in.

You can also hire a bard for your house, as well as make any follower a steward. The steward helps a lot in ordering building materials for you which go directly to the chest by the workbench, but only to that chest. If you need that clay for your other house, you best make room in your inventory. The steward can also bring in animals or furnish your rooms completely for a small fee. It’s okay, but came across as very robotic, especially when one is ordering piles of wood after piles of wood after piles of wood.

In short, I wasn’t expecting Minecraft, but definitely some more flexibility for creativity. I mean, I couldn’t even pick the place to build my house, ruining my dream of shacking up right next to the Thieves Guild.

But yeah. This is one Achievement definitely earned with stubbornness and patience, backed by a numbing soundtrack of clinking hammers and thumping hammers:


Master Architect (10G): Build three houses

Here’s hoping that player housing changes quite dramatically in Fallout 4 and whatever the next Elder Scrolls ends up being. Here’s hoping…

Searching for the Dark Brotherhood in a realm of distractions

I’m back into Skyrim for a bit, and my landlord is to blame. See, during Hurricane Sandy, we spent some time at his place since he and his wife had a generator, which meant heat and lights and entertainment to distract us all from the unknown. While we lingered away the night, he pulled up his level 75 character and floored me with just how much he’s seen and done in the game. I also think he slew a Frost Dragon in like…three sword swipes. My level 45 Lohgahn paled in comparison. The only thing I could hold above it all was that he was playing on the PS3, and I’m on the Xbox 360, and I think we all know which of those two consoles at least has working DLC for it. So, uh, yeah–take that.

But yeah. I did a wee bit of smithing–I still find that process really, really dull, no matter the rewards in the end–shot a fleeing deer in the butt with a sick killcam to boot, sold some skill books I already read, took one look at the house I bought at Lakeview Manor and realized I didn’t want to build a house, and then did some creeping through some caves.

Also, I decided that I had better just take the plunge and try and find the Dark Brotherhood with my “good” character, as I’m most likely never going to reroll a new one. And so, not knowing exactly how to do that–and I didn’t want to just start randomly assassinating nice people–I looked up a wiki to get me started. Boo, hiss–I know. However, without it, I’d have gone on another 100 hours without ever finding this one character to get the blood-covered boulder rolling. I’m thankful that the first person to be assassinated for the Dark Brotherhood is a mean, old bat. Makes the whole thing that much more easy to swallow. After that business, I got a mysterious note from a courier, and now I’m not sure what’s to happen next. Still haven’t found the Dark Brotherhood to be exact…

Oh, and I think I glitched this Achievement into popping:


Standing Stones (30G): Find 13 Standing Stones

See, I was looking for something to complete from my long list of quests, and picked one at a place I had not yet discovered. At this point, I don’t remember exactly which one it was–they all blur together in the end–but it had something to do with a wolf or wolf ghost wind thing. Mmmhmm. I’m really good with the fact. Anyways, the closest marker was a Standing Stone I’d already found, and so I figured I’d go there and take a walk. Upon fast traveling there, I unlocked this Achievement, which I don’t believe to be right, as I can surely say I found maybe six or seven at most. Oh well.

I wonder how long this spurt of playing will last, especially now that we know when the next bit of DLC will hit: Dragonborn, on December 4. And this one looks more up my alley than Dawnguard did, with strange, exotic locations that evoke the weirdness that is Morrowind. I’d still really love to see Lohgahn cross that level 50 mark, but it is just harder and harder to level up, especially now that all his main skills are capped. Regardless, stay tuned to find out if I’m worthy of being a dark assassin.

Five things I still need to do in Skyrim

At the same time that I splurged on Mark of the Ninja–more on that fantastic stealth-stabby game later, I promise–I also picked up the second DLC item for the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s called Hearthfire, not Heathfire or Healthfire as I’ve been constantly seeing it misspelled across the Internet in the days since its birth, and it only costs 400 Microsoft Points. The low cost is low because there isn’t actually a whole lot of content in the pack; it basically gives you three spots to build a house of your own, and then you have to grind for materials like iron ingots and nails and chopped wood to actually build it and fill it with items. I’ve only just begun filling my Lakeview Manor with storage barrels and shelves to place my filled grand soul gems. Nothing terribly amazing, and it seems like this kind of Minecraft-esque stuff is better suited for somebody just starting out on their adventure to rid the realm of evil dragons than me currently who already owns a house in two different holds.

But at least I’m back in the game for the time being. Finishing up a few quests while selling some items and emptying my digital backpack of potions I’ll never use–like anything related to breathing under water for X seconds. And so, I got to thinking, and here are five things I’ve yet to do in Skyrim after playing the game as one single character for upwards of 95 hours.

Ride a horse

Look, if you could hop on a horse and ride it in first-person perspective all while still wielding a bow and arrow or sword and magic spell…then yeah, I’d be all for that. I play these Bethesda games in this perspective and this perspective only; moving out of it breaks immersion and really comes across as just goofy and dangerous to one’s safety. But no, if you get on horseback, you must ride in third person, and that’s not for me.

Get married

Haven’t really given it much thought, to be honest. From what I can tell, being married in Skyrim is a bit…old-fashioned. You gain a spouse who makes you food and takes care of your home. Great. Not really. I’m curious to see if I can adopt a child without being married after I finish building my house; if not, I guess I’ll go hunting for a favorable partner. Vex sounds ideal /sarcasm.

Find the Dark Brotherhood

Please note there that I said find, not join. I haven’t even been contacted by them yet, and I guess for that to happen I’d have to openly murder somebody who didn’t deserve it. Like, not a bandit cave leader or blood dragon. Hmm. That’s not really how I play, so it is unlikely this will every happen on my first character. Maybe if I ever roll a new dude, but that might not happen for a long time–if ever. I know, call me crazy. Except you should know I never did many Dark Brotherhood quests in Oblivion either. So there, fantasy murderers.

Learn any spell above the novice level

I’m no Harry Potter, y’all. When I need healing, I use a potion or eat some cheese. When I need to weaken a foe, I poison my arrows and loose them from afar. I’ve done the occasional spell to clear webs or gain entrance into the School of Magic, but that’s been it. Not my style of combat.

Kill a giant

Everybody did it at the beginning of the game. You see some mammoths and head over to check them out. Then a giant comes stomping at you, swings violently with his club, and sends you flying into the sky with one hit. Instant death. Lesson learned. Since then, the only times I’ve come across giants has been in groups of three or four, and I’m scared to take on one for fear of three more seeking revenge. Plus the mammoths, too. So, yeah. All those giant’s toes in my bag? I stole them.

So, those are my things still to do/things to never do in Skyrim. What about you? What have you not done yet in a world that seems to never run out of quests or ways to occupy your time? Catch a butterfly?