Skyrim is a study in procrastination. I stopped playing it after 93 hours, after which I still didn't feel like I was close to completing it. My in-game todo list just kept getting bigger - there were always new side quests, or dragons to fight, or interesting caves to explore.
In the end, I stopped playing simply because there was too much to do. But I didn't like to leave it unfinished. It's been a while, but I think it's time I completed Skyrim.
Incidentally, I'm not going to attempt to complete all of the game. That would probably take another 93 hours, and that would be crazy. I'm just going to try to finish the main quest, and not get distracted by any of the side quests again. That should be possible, right? Oh, and spoilers, obviously.
As far as I remember, I was getting pretty close. I'd climbed the big snowy mountain, met the talking dragon, and found the magic scroll. I think all I had to do next was jump through a hole in time and kill some dragon in the past before it could bring other dragons back to life in the future. That sounds like it shouldn't take very long. Let's go!
Ugh. Now I remember why I stopped playing Skyrim. I'd become embroiled in a prolonged underground sneak/battle as part of the Thieves Guild side quests, failed to save frequently enough, and kept dying and having to replay my steps. Deeply annoying.
Well, not this time. This time I'm not going to sneak around in the shadows wasting time with sniping enemies at long distance with my bow and arrow. This time I'm going to carve a bloody path through this cave in double quick time. No more distractions!
I just ran through the same door and got killed by the same monster twice. Apparently sneaking is necessary sometimes. Fine. I'll crawl slowly through this cave on my knees again.
Finally, I'm done. The bad guy is beaten, the special thing he had is retrieved, I'm done. Wait, I'm not. Another quest has started. I have to go do something else now. Sure, I'll definitely get right on that. How do I get outside?
I'm out. Back into the icy outdoors. It feels so freeing! Finally I can get on with the main quest again.
I'm immediately attacked by a dragon. Stupid dragon! Stop attacking me and then flying a mile away to attack a rabbit.
Eventually I am victorious, after a harrowing moment where I tried to run across a river but fell through some ice in my haste and nearly drowned. It's becoming clearer to me that a high speed approach to this game may not always prove effective.
Right, back to my quest. I can't remember which one it is, so I have to read through all of the quests in my list to figure out which one it is. Then it's a quick fast travel to the top of a mountain and there's a wibbly thing there.
What do I do now? Stand in the wibbly thing? Interact with the wibbly thing? Eventually I realise I'm supposed to use the magic scroll. Suddenly it gets all 2001 and I'm back in time, where everything is red and some people are fighting a dragon. I think it's the same one I'm trying to kill. They succeed, but only in banishing it to the future for someone else to deal with (i.e. me). Is this a metaphor for the ecological damage we're doing to our planet? Probably not.
I've learned some new anti-dragon shout and I'm back on the snowy mountain. Conveniently, the dragon I'm supposed to be killing suddenly arrives, and it's fight time.
I'm aided by the old dragon I'd met previously. I say aided, he mostly just flies around shouting obvious advice peppered with bewildering dragon language and getting in the way. At several points I mistake him for the bad dragon - they look identical, how am I supposed to tell the difference? Maybe some of the dragon language is him swearing at me for shooting at him.
It's not easy. It is fairly dramatic though, with burning rocks falling out of the sky and bouncing down the mountain. Eventually I figure out how to use the shout to bring the dragon down and then inelegantly hack at him a lot with a sword. But then he doesn't die, he just flies away. Hey, you had no health! Get back here and die like you're supposed to.
Time for some more character exposition and yet more contrived plot related stuff designed to string the whole thing out some more. Honestly, I thought having found the magic scroll, travelled back in time and fought the dragon I'd be pretty close to finishing this thing by now, but apparently not.
So it's off to some town to talk to the local mayor about capturing a dragon. And yes, predictably, before I can do that he wants me to do something for him. I'm beginning to feel like this whole thing is just designed to eat up my time.
So now off again to some distant mountain to talk to some... you know what, I'm going to skip ahead here. This is getting tedious.
I've had a lot of talks with a lot of people that culminated in all of them having a meeting. You know you've become embroiled in a game when it can make you attend a meeting and you think it's still fun. Meetings are what I do at work. Pass.
Anyway, I might have just traded away half the continent but the plot is moving again. I run back to a castle to trap a dragon in order to ask it where the other dragon went. Why can't I just trap the dragon I want? No one seems to be concerned about that.
There's a big quest marker on the floor of the castle courtyard showing where I'm supposed to stand but no matter what I do I can't get the dragon to appear. Also the special dragon shout takes a week to recharge so I've spent the last ten minutes reloading the game and trying the shout in slightly different places. This doesn't feel right.
Apparently I have to wait until the Jarl gets home before I can start this bit of the quest. But he doesn't fast travel! Forgetting that the game has a 'wait' option, I go off and finish a quick side quest. Just the one. I can handle it.
Well that all turned out to be pretty straightforward in the end. The dragon pretty much walked straight into the trap. Unexpectedly though, after revealing key information, he's offered to fly me somewhere! That's exciting. Let's go!
I am so disappointed. The game showed me climbing onto the dragon's back, it flew off into the sky, next thing we've arrived. What a wasted opportunity. Presumably by this point the developers were as fed up as I am and just wanted to finish this thing. Can't blame them.
But I'm here at last. The final showdown? Who can say. Another creepy ruin filled with zombies. Classic Skyrim. There's so many monster-haunted ruins around, the populace must never venture out of their towns for fear of being instantly killed.
A lot of sneaking, some mild door puzzles, frequent moments where I found was carrying too much, and I'm out on the roof of the castle. This looks like the big showdown - there's a guy operating a huge portal-y thing (think pillar of lightning) and a couple of dragons overseeing it all from their perches. Pretty dramatic.
The dragons didn't do anything, so I've gone through the portal and yes, yet another area to explore. Apparently I'm in the afterlife now? Does that mean my character is dead? This is all very confusing.
The afterlife is, fair to say, extremely pretty. It's very foggy too. I run into some guy who tells me the mist will be my doom. It's certainly his, as the dragon swoops down moments later and offs him, but I manage to walk through unharmed.
After the mist comes a dramatic great hall with an impressive whale skeleton bridge entrance. How did a whale skeleton get into the afterlife? Presumably it's not also the whale afterlife, but even if it was you couldn't kill a whale to get its skeleton, because it'd already be dead. It seems unlikely that someone would be carrying a complete whale skeleton at the moment of their death, even if it was possible to bring something with you when you die. But then, everyone's got clothes and weapons. Maybe several people happened to be carrying some whale bones when they died and eventually they thought they could make a bridge out of them and got the word out somehow?
I have similar questions about the materials needed to build the great hall. But I digress.
We seem to have passed the need for long winded exposition (thankfully) as the moment I get into the hall three warriors team up with me to go fight the dragon. There's quite a dramatic moment where we use our magic shouts to clear the mist (until I realise we're just four people yelling at fog) and then it's on with the final fight.
As climactic fight scenes go, it was fairly good. I'm not sure it was better than the mountain top fight from earlier, but fighting in a team was fun. However, ultimately the winning tactic was the same - get the dragon on the ground then hit it as much as possible.
And then it's dead. And I'm done.
I probably should have explored the afterlife a bit, given the chance, but I decided to leave. Ended up back on the mountain top again, which was covered in dragons. They seemed to be mourning the one I just killed, but fortunately didn't seem to want to blame me for that. They each shouted something in their dragon language and then took off into the snow storm. It was vaguely poetic.
Then there's just time for the dragon who'd helped me earlier to turn up and offer me his allegiance, although his did try to land on my head first, and I'm finally done. Is that really it? Despite all the drama, I expected something to round off the whole thing, but no, I'm just alone on the mountain top in a blizzard, with my pockets still full of random junk and a list of side quests to do a mile long.
Maybe I'll come back to them again one day, but for now, I have finished Skyrim.