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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an odd game. The gameplay's frankly pretty shit, the story of the game is boring as hell, the narrative lacks any depth, and your decisions throughout the game barely decide anything more than what quest item you receive at the end of a quest and if the guardsmen in a town pick up a new line to hiss at you.
Despite all that, however, it's one of the most beloved games of recent years, with millions of people playing and owning the game, and large numbers of people having hundreds of hours logged into the game.
Why, you say? Well, Skyrim is an extremely open-ended game. It's got a huge world, which can take you many dozens of hours to fully explore, and there are many secrets to uncover. It's got a pretty great backstory and setting, which is relayed to you primarily through books and NPC's, which present biased views of events, present a very vague version of history that may or may not be true, and is full of metaphysical instances that only make sense when you realize that Skyrim is explicitly a video game, and the setting is influenced by people actually playing the game.
Anyway! Enough with the chatter. We'll see enough of this as time goes on.
The game opens up with you being escorted in a cart.
Ralof of Riverwood:
The game establishes the sequence of events; you were trying to cross the border, and you walked right into an Imperial ambush and were captured, along with Lokir and the Stormcloaks you are in a cart with.
The truth soon comes out as the cart continues forward. The man bound and gagged next to you is Ulfric Stormcloak, the leader of the Stormcloaks, and the true High King of Skyrim, according to Ralof.
Lokir soon realizes the implications of this. If the Imperials have captured the leader of the rebellion against the Empire- then where are they taking you?
The answer is soon revealed; you are being taken to Helgen, a town under Imperial control. When your cart enters the town, you see General Tullius talking to a Thalmor elf.
Eventually, the carts trundle to a stop. Lokir begins to have a panic attack- this is the end of the line.
The prisoners are called over to an Imperial Captain, one by one. Ralof and Ulfric are called up first, followed by Lokir. Unfortunately, Lokir panics and runs, and is shot down.
We are called over next. Hadvar notes that we aren't on the list, and asks who we are.
And we are... a female Orsimer, known as Croa!
After this, we are lined up for execution.
At this point, it's becoming pretty obvious that we're in a situation that's way over our heads. Stormcloaks? Imperials? Voice? Murder of the High King? Thalmor? General Tullius? Ulfric Stormcloak? What's going on?
The lowdown on the situation is, Skyrim is currently in the midst of a civil war.
About thirty years ago, there was a war in Cyrodiil (the land of the Imperials), known as the Great War. The Thalmor, leading an army of Altmer (the High Elves) invaded both Hammerfell and Cyrodiil. There was a long and bloody war, lasting about four years, that resulted in the deaths of many Imperial citizens and the sacking of most of the major towns in Cyrodiil. In the end, the Imperials agreed to sign the White-Gold Concordat, a peace treaty that specified that the Empire had to give Hammerfell to the Thalmor and outlaw the worship of Talos (I'll get to all this in more detail much later during the liveblog).
Earlier this year, Ulfric Stormcloak raised a stink about this, and raised a rebellion to kick the Thalmor and the Imperials out of Skyrim, urging everyone to exercise their right to worship whoever they will. The Empire, needing stability to rebuild their forces for the inevitable re-emergence of the war with the Thalmor, sent the Fourth Legion to Skyrim to quell the Civil War.
Back to the game!
As Tullius continues to give his speech to Ulfric, we hear a strange keening sound. Nobody can pinpoint the source.
A Priestess of Arkay, the God of the Cycle of Birth and Death, is interrupted by a Stormcloak, who walks up to the chopping block and demands to get it over and done with.
... And, in one of the bloodier moments of the game, you get to see his head chopped off, blood spurting out of his neck as his body slumps to the side.
We continue to hear the strange cry as we are called to the chopping block, but nobody can pinpoint the source of the sound, so it is ignored.
We are treated to a lovely view of the Stormcloak's decapitated head, before we are lain on the chopping block.
The headsman raises his axe, and...
It's difficult to convey the sheer 'HOLY SHIT' this opening conveys upon you. You open to find yourself being carted off to your execution alongside the leader of a rebellion, meeting many of the most important people in Skyrim along the way, until suddenly, your execution is interrupted by the arrival of a Dragon.
Needless to say, there's a sense of magnitude to the event, but without prior context, it's hard to say exactly what's going on. Still, that's why we'll continue to play through!
Up next: Gameplay begins, and we run the fuck away from this dragon!