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Skyrim’s Intro and Introducing Players to New Worlds

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English 102 (1)

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May 12, 2020

One of the most memorable scenes from any game is its introduction. These introductions can take many forms, from a simple tutorial level to a cutscene to just placing the player character in the game and hoping they don’t instantly die. One of the most iconic video game intros is the opening cutscene for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In it, the player is introduced to the central story elements of the game - the civil war and the return of dragons. The civil war is an event that the player gets roped into if they want to or not (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Season Unending, Joining the Stormcloaks, Joining the Imperials), while the return of the dragons is the main plot of the story.

Skyrim’s civil war is a conflict with two sides -  the Stormcloaks and Imperials. As soon as the game starts, a Stormcloak soldier explains to the player how the player character got here, an Imperial soldier telling the people in the player’s wagon to shut up, and the Stormcloak’s leader tied up next to the player character. As soon as the wagon enters the city, the player will see stone walls and houses with thatched roofs, alongside citizens wearing clothes commonly seen at renaissance festivals. This displays what the province of Skyrim should resemble to the player, a place reminiscent of northern Europe in the middle ages. Soon after the player’s wagon enters the city, the game forces the player to talk with an Imperial soldier to determine the player character’s race and physical characteristics, and then the player character goes to the town square to be executed. The player character the second one up, but as soon as the player character is about to die, a dragon appears, setting the city on fire and starting the first quest in the game.

It’s easy to identify the values of the Stormcloaks and Imperials by their clothing. Stormcloak armor resembles the guard armor the player sees in cities later in the game (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Before the Storm). With fur boots, fur gloves, and a quilted tunic, one can easily see why the Stormcloaks adopted this armor due to its assumed tolerance to the cold and local history. This armor only comes as light armor, with no heavy armor equivalent. It can be assumed that they adopted this style of armor because of their fighting style and need for at least some stealth and surprise. These soldiers need lighter armor so they can sneak around Imperial camps and make a quick escape that heavy armor wouldn’t allow. Alternatively, the Imperial armor states clearly that the soldier’s loyalty is to the Emperor and the Empire, not to their province or their race. This can be seen in both the armor itself being ill-equipped for Skyrim’s cold with its lack of sleeves and quilting, and by the Imperial dragons emblazoned on the heavy variant.

The final visual cue the intro gives the player that everything in this world is hostile. Everything from the scenery to the characters cements this. The player quickly learns in the intro that the Empire has captured one of their own vassals and quickly sees that they have bound him so he cannot use his weapons or shout orders to his soldiers. The player sees at the end of the intro and at the start of the Unbound quest that a dragon accidentally saves them from death as he burns down a city.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim does an excellent job explaining to the player what they need to know in the intro alone. Every aspect of this one cutscene introduces the player to the three things they need to worry about - the civil war, the hostile environment, and the dragon. It explains these concepts by drawing on the audience's knowledge of the Roman Empire and Europe in the middle ages, and allows even newcomers to the series to understand everything going on around them.

Works Cited

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, XBOX 360 version, Bethesda Softworks, 2011