Friday, August 17, 2012

The Quest For Completion - A Skyrim Tale


The Story of Villanos-Anora and The Legendary Dragon:

The legendary dragon is dead.



Our hardened warrior Villanos-Anora, descendant of the Vilnor line, stands atop Ancient's Ascent, the dragon hovel alongside Skyrim's southeastern border, victorious.  After many, many months of arduous toil and suffering, honing his craft in all areas of necromancy, alchemy, and barbarism, forgoing his own simplistic moral code for the sake of a higher purpose, he has at last vanquished his final foe, a legendary dragon of old.  

Rain and lightning melted and cracked the earth under his black boots.  The very sky seemed to rip open from the mighty roars of the dragon.  The bout was not long, for Villanos-Anora was too strong, even for this ancient beast.  But the dragon fought well and with honor, courageously hurtling toward Villanos-Anora in the final moments, barreling into the earth and leaving a lengthy crator in his wake, a final proclamation of his strength and tenacity.  It was here that Villanos-Anora decided to end it, once and for all, drawing his faithful Ebony Axe in one hand, and the famed Nightingale Blade in the other, and in one mighty flurry of swipes, the beast bellowed its last and collapsed before the Dragonborn's feet.


The Story of Tim and The Pain of Achievement Hunting:

Following the defeat of this legendary dragon came the oh-so-pleasurable "boop-boop" sound of an achievement being unlocked - my final Skyrim achievement; Defeat A Legendary Dragon.  I cannot adequately describe to you what this sound, what this "achievement" means to me.  I am as ashamed as I am proud, for I have toiled and suffered since November 11th, 2011 to earn every single Skyrim achievement. "Suffering" isn't really a word anyone should use when describing a game-playing experience, of course, but anyone who has actually managed to get all 15 Daedric Artifacts or has slain a legendary dragon after leveling to 78, probably wants to use the word "suffer" to describe their experience.

I spent all of June & July playing Skyrim.  And by all of June & July I mean ALL of June & July.  I made my way through the guilds (the Thieves Guild was the most difficult because of the inordinate number of fetch quests and the double-door-loading-screens-of-doom), got all of the easier quest-related achievements and the little straggler-ones like "Get Married" (Ysolda and I are so happy in Markarth), and then focused on some of the more difficult or obscure or unclear ones, like Collect 15 Deadric Artifacts or Defeat A Legendary Dragon.  These two, as well as, surprisingly enough, Have 100,000 Gold, were fairly excruciating for me.
Perhaps I'm a dunce and liked going about things the hard way, but in order to achieve a level like 78 (a prerequisite for legendary dragons spawning in the world) you have to repeat, almost endlessly, the same inane tasks over and over and over until the skill you are leveling finally advances.  And even then, increasing the level of, for example, alchemy, only increases your overall level by a mere fraction of what you actually need, and the higher you make the skill the harder it becomes to achieve the next level.

The two most frustrating and difficult skills for me were Alchemy and Blacksmith.  I ignored these during my initial 150 hours of gameplay in favor of destruction spells and one-armed attacks.  Something very interesting, perhaps even problematic about Skyrim, but wonderfully indicative of reality, is that once you increase a skill like "one-armed" to 100 %, using it is virtually pointless if you want to increase your overall level.  You gain nothing by using what you know, essentially, so you are forced into learning new skills you may have ignored, like Heavy Armor or Enchanting, so as to reach those higher, seemingly impossible levels.

I developed a pattern over the past two days, focused on leveling blacksmith, alchemy, and speech simultaneously.  Once identifying all of the blacksmiths I enjoyed interacting with (most of the people in Skyrim are jerks) I would go from town to town buying up as much Iron Ingots and Leather and Leather Strips as I could and just tap away at the forge, pumping out piece of armor after piece of armor and then sell those pieces back to the blacksmiths.  If I managed to find anyone to train me, I would make sure I had enough money to get the training, but oftentimes, because I was already such a high level in that particular skill, they refused to help...the bastards.

Whilst doing this, I would focus on whatever schools of magic I had ignored like Alteration.  Getting something like Alteration to 100 requires an even more repetitive, inane task so as to level it faster.  Skyrim often requires a particular set of circumstances, such as the player in the midst of combat, for certain spells to actually "count" towards your leveling.  Others, like "Rally" and "Telekinesis" require no prerequisite scenario, however.  This means a lot of spamming these two spells again and again and again, searching for large groups of people to hit with the Rally Spell, picking up the same pot or book or ale with telekinesis and chucking it across the room, waiting for the magic to regenerate and then doing it all over again.

All of this drudgery and mind-numbing repetition was to get to one, single battle with the legendary dragon.  Having endured re-loading old saves so as to get all of the vampire perks (essentially erasing an hundred hours worth of gameplay), replaying every Deadric Quest simply because I'd messed up the Ring of Namira-quest by killing someone after completing it, spamming spells, watching hours upon hours worth of load-screens, I finally did it.  I slew the dragon, and now stand over his bones having gotten everything I could out of this game.  While I'm sad that it's over (and sad that I didn't spend these 250 plus hours appreciating reality), I can't help but feel a small sense of vindication and simple pleasure, as though I've come to the last sentence of a very long novel.
One might think: why are you doing this if it's so frustrating?

This question simply doesn't matter to a human playing this kind of game for this long.  Logic vanishes.  All that matters is getting to the end.  For some people completing the main quest is the end, and I envy them.  For others it's just playing a wide variety of quests, maybe getting some achievements, maybe not, and then turning it off once it's overstayed it's welcome.  For some it means acquiring every achievement and completing every main quest and as many sidequests as possible, which is my idea of completion.  For others, and I feel sorry for these sad souls, it means checking every chest, barrel, and drawer, exploring every cave and completing every possible quest.

It is immensely satisfying, and slightly melancholy, to know that my time in Skyrim is at an end, at least until an expansion is released.  I have been playing it off and on since its release date, and it is truly one of the greatest, most arduous, grueling, and fantastic gaming experiences I've ever had.

For those who have journeyed the lengths of this land, from Riften to Whiterun to Solitude and back, I share with you my stats, for only you can fully appreciate and comprehend their meaning (I'm leaving out some of the less important ones.  Also, keep in mind that I had to re-load a save at around 150 hours, and play a 30-hour stretch of gameplay that is not represented in these stats, where I'd completed even more quests and such).

Elder Scrolls stats to an Elder Scrolls fan are akin to the box-score for baseball fanatics.  Where others see only numbers, the fan sees a story.  And this is my story:


STATS 

- GENERAL - 

Days as a Werewolf - 225, Locations Discovered - 355, Dungeons Cleared 230, Days Passed - 408, Standing Stones Found - 21, Gold Found - 676224, Most Gold Carried - 105255, Chests Looted - 1327, Skill Increases - 1415, Stores Invested In - 12, Barters - 4936, Persuasions - 27, Bribes - 8, Intimidations - 11, Diseases Contracted - 63,  Achievements Unlocked - 60 of 60.

- QUEST - 

Dawnguard Quests Completed - 9 (Not accurate as I'd accomplished the whole thing in a different save file), Quests Completed - 143, Misc Objectives Completed - 210, Main Quests Completed - 17, Side Quests completed - 26, Every Guild (including The College,  Cival War, Nightingale etc) Questline and Every Deadric Questline - Completed.

- COMBAT -

People Killed - 2169, Animals Killed - 1390, Creatures Killed - 503, Undead Killed - 1067, Daedra Killed - 56, Automatons Killed - 143, Favorite Weapon - Bound Bow (Not Accurate, simply what I used a lot toward the end to increase Conjuration.  Actual favorite weapons were an Ebony Axe and the Nightingale Blade), Critical Strikes - 1588, Sneak Attacks - 579, Backstabs - 97, Weapons Disarmed - 1, Brawls Won - 9, Bunnies Slaughtered - 0.
- MAGIC -

Spells learned - 55, Favorite Spell - Close Wounds, Favorite School - Restoration, Dragon Souls Collected - 75, Words of Power Learned - 62, Words of Power Unlocked - 65, Shouts Mastered - 19, Times Shouted - 1340, Favorite Shout - Marked for Death.

- CRAFTING -

Soul Gems Used - 107, Souls Trapped - 108, Magic Items Made - 185, Weapons Improved - 17, Weapons Made - 124, Armor Improved - 28, Armor Made - 569, Potions Mixed - 804, Potions Used - 1154, Poison Mixed - 636, Poisons Used - 0, Ingredients Harvested - 1776, Ingredients Eaten - 92, Nirnroots Found - 117, Wings Plucked - 114.

- CRIME -

Whitrun Bounty - 41, Falkreath Bounty - 10160, Total Lifetime Bounty - 58602, Largest Bounty - 14230, Locks Picked - 358, Pockets Picked - 230, Items Pickpocketed - 2983, Times Jailed - 4, Days Jailed - 7, Fines Paid - 10797, Jail Escapes - 1, Items Stolen - 3407, Assaults - 276, Murders - 72, Horses Stolen - 2, Trespasses - 32.

- TIME -

Hours Played (Rounding Up) - 258.23.30 + 30 = 290 hours

Legendary Dragons Defeated - 1


Long live the Dragonborn!  Hazzah!

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