As I did for Alarrah, so too will I do here for Merawen: a roundup post of final thoughts on how her run went overall, what I liked about it, and what I didn’t.
This will be long, so I’ll have a More tag on this just on that general principle. (And also to acknowledge that while Skyrim is a ten-year-old game at this point, there are still people like me discovering it and playing it for the first time, so I do want to have at least a little bit of spoiler protection here!)
This time through, I was still very, very fond of Serana while running Dawnguard.
But I gotta go with Jenassa as favorite follower (and eventual spouse) this time. She came very highly recommended as a follower (thank you, friends who recommended her to me), and she grew on me really fast. I loved her various bits of commentary on the world at large, and how certain lines she has really synced up well with how I was roleplaying Merawen in my head.
“We’re one and the same kind, you and I. I’m glad to have met you.”
Me too, Jenassa. <3
I think I actually have to go with Raven Rock this time. It did grow on me even as I did Alarrah’s run. And this time through, with it being an actual Dunmer colony, I feel like that gave it a lot more dramatic interest to me.
I mean, Solitude’s nice and all and there are reasons that I had Merawen finally settle there… but it’s still also Nord territory. And there’s a big difference between a large, safe Nord city where nobody’s being blatantly bitchy at the Dunmer who are around… and an actual Dunmer colony.
Favorite Daedric Quest
The wiki appears to consider getting the Thieves Guild quests Trinity Restored, Blindsighted, and Darkness Returns all part of the Daedric quest for Nocturnal, because the Skeleton Key is involved.
And on that grounds I kinda gotta go with this as favorite Daedric quest for this run, just because I really liked all the stuff involved with the Nightingales. But at the same time I feel like that’s cheating a little for this question, because it does overlap with the Thieves Guild stuff.
I did these Daedric quests this time through that I hadn’t done before as Alarrah:
- The Cursed Tribe (for Volendrung, given by Malacath)
- Pieces of the Past (for Mehrunes’ Razor, given by Mehrunes Dragon)
- The Only Cure (for Spellbreaker, given by Peryite)
- A Night to Remember (for the Sanguine Rose, given by Sanguine)
Of these, honestly, I gotta go with A Night to Remember. Because it’s super frivolous and that’s kind of a nice change of pace against Skyrim mostly being so very, very serious!
Favorite Non-Daedric Main Game Plot
The entire Thieves Guild plotline is awesome. So going with that, hands down.
On the other hand, the mage college plotline is still a strong favorite. And I liked the final Ritual quests you get to do if you get your magic up high enough, too.
I spent a whole helluva lot of time in both the Nightingale Armor when going in Light Armor mode, and in the Blades armor when going in Heavy. So it’s a strong tie between the two. And the Heavy edition of the stalhrim armor coming in third.
I certainly still love the dragonscale, but really, Blades and Nightingale were both a lot more my speed this time through.
I had quite a few weapons I was fond of this time through. Dragonbane and my arsenal of dragonbone and stalhrim weapons were all strong contenders. So was Chillrend, once I got it out of Mercer “Murderous Lying Bastard” Frey’s house.
But I kept finding myself carrying the Nightingale weaponry. And using it more than you might think even though the dragonscale weapons were more powerful. It felt highly appropriate, after Merawen committed herself to being a Nightingale!
Honorable mention, I feel, must also go to the fancy final version of the crossbow I picked up during Dawnguard. I actually used it several times even after the main Dawnguard action was done, since the thing was my most powerful ranged weapon and therefore very useful against the higher-tier dragons.
Favorite Named Dragon
Still very partial to Paarthurnax but I think I’m going with Durnehviir this time! Just because even though “undead necromancer dragon” is a pretty terrifying concept, Durnehviir as a character is not all that bad really. And he’s just so damned happy when you summon him back to Tamriel and he just gets to fly around in open sky for a little while. <3
Things I Actively Disliked
Some parts of dealing with the Thieves Guild
While I adore the main plotline for the Thieves Guild, the grind you have to go through to get to the point of actually being able to finish that plot is wearisome. And there are certain aspects of joining the Thieves Guild that I don’t like at all, namely:
- Having to play the heavy and go intimidate Riften vendors into paying their debts to the Guild.
- The Guild not being quite so “only rob from the rich” as it claims it is, just because some of the quests that require you to steal from allegedly wealthy homes can send you to homes where the characters are specifically not rich, like Addvar’s family in Solitude.
- All of these interesting named NPCs in the Guild who never frigging leave the Ragged Flagon; you never see any other named thieves out in the world actually stealing stuff, and you only see Brynjolf out in Riften up to the point where you join the Guild yourself, and he does quest activity only up until you become Guild Master.
- I found it slightly irritating that when you do all the side jobs for the Thieves Guild, none of what you do ever has any impact on anybody.
For example, if you do one of the Frame Jobs, the person you’re ordered to frame never has any actual impact from that. If you break into a shop to forge data in their books, they never suffer any consequences. And if you take a job that requires you to steal a special item from a house, it’s always something generated specifically for the quest. It’s not a thing that house already had. And the owners of the house never show any sign of being aware of the thing’s loss. All of which adds up to these quests being mostly pointless, aside from the goal of reestablishing the reputation of the Guild in the various major cities.
How, exactly, are you reestablishing the Guild’s rep by doing jobs that never have any actual consequences to any of the people you’re targeting?
The answer to this is of course that that would have been more complicated to implement in game mechanics, I expect. But it falls a little flat for me nonetheless, from a gameplay and narrative perspective.
The Hide and Seek quest in Dawnguard
Complained about this already repeatedly in earlier posts, but just to note for the record again here, I did not like the Hide and Seek quest at all. Just because it seemed really difficult to me to do this quest without taking out the vampire being counted as a murder in game stats. And in some cases, also getting a bounty slapped on you for assault.
(I get that from a narrative perspective, this just emphasizes the gray area in which the Dawnguard operates–and that their dedication to taking down vampires in their opinion even should supersede what laws the Jarls have set, when appropriate. But for me as a player, having to kill vampires while specifically also circumventing local law was not an enjoyable playing experience. And I say that fully cognizant, as well, of how I was also playing a thief! But there’s a difference between Hold guards smacking you with a bounty for theft–and attacking you on sight because you’re wanted for murder.)
Also, I found having to grind through the various types of Dawnguard side quests a little tedious, because I kept having to cycle through the various quest types that I was less interested in in order to get to the ones I wanted to do. Namely, the ones from Florentius to get the relics.
How easy it is to lose NPCs
This manifested first, of course, when I discovered I had completely lost Wujeeta as well as From-Deepest-Fathoms, which screwed me out of becoming thane in Riften and doing the quest to go to Avanchnzel.
But it also came into play during Dawnguard, whenever I entered a city and the Traveler became active. Which was responsible for me losing Ghorza the smith in Markarth.
And then there was also Lami, as I discovered in my second-to-last Merawen session.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that I’m kind of horrified about how easy it is for the orc stronghold Largashbur to lose its few named NPCs. Even after you complete the quest there, apparently they can still get attacked by giants. I lost four different named NPCs there, including the new chief, even after I finished the quest for Volendrung. Which just seems like a horrible fate to leave them to. Malacath curses this group because they’re led by a weak chief, but even after that chief is replaced, the giants keep coming and orcs in the stronghold keep dying. So apparently the player quested for nothing?
This is another one of those “they probably didn’t smooth all this out in the code properly before the game shipped” things, probably. But at least as a play experience, it feels sad that the stronghold seems to have no apparent change in its fortunes after you try to help them. And in fact, can even lose almost all of their remaining people. Paul’s told me he’s had that happen to him on his playthroughs!
All in all I feel like on the one hand, the ease with which named NPCs can be killed helps add to the realism of this being a dangerous world. There should be risk of injury or death. But it’s particularly frustrating when you find out that an NPC has died more or less off-camera to you, and you only find out several sessions after the fact that that character has died.
At least with Ghorza, I actually saw the situation play out that killed her!
Things I Wish I’d Done Differently
I kept bouncing around in this run between doing main quest stuff, Mage College stuff, Bards Colleges stuff, Thieves Guild stuff, and Dawnguard stuff. And then later, Dragonborn stuff, until I finally returned to the main quest.
And honestly, I feel like that made the game feel a little too scattershot for me. I think I actually liked Alarrah’s somewhat more linear flow of doing main quest stuff first, then Dawnguard, then Dragonborn.
I still kind of liked my idea of doing Dawnguard, Dragonborn, and then final main quest stuff in that order. I still feel like that lays out appropriately escalating stakes amongst the big bads of all three plotlines. But when I also toss in the Thieves Guild plotline as well as the Mage College plotline, running back and forth between all of that felt like a bit much to keep up with.
So right now I’m feeling like playthrough number three is going to maybe need to be a happy medium between Alarrah’s run and Merawen’s, in terms of how fast I jump back and forth between plotlines. I think I’ll need to take a little more time to focus on individual quests and getting them finished up before running off to do another one.
I wish I’d come up with a better way to handle the Hide and Seek plots, to make it easier to take out the target vampires without it being classed as a murder. All the best ways to do this appear to involve sneaking, though–and since my next character is probably going to be a tank type, sneaking will probably not be on her agenda. 😉
And Now, Some Stats
- As of the last save I did for Merawen’s game today, she had over 160,000 gold–not her max by any means, as I wound up dropping a lot of gold on higher-tier training
- She was thane of the following places: Whiterun, Hjaalmarch (centered in Morthal), Haafingar (centered in Solitude), Falkreath, the Pale (centered in Dawnstar), the Reach (centered in Markarth), and Winterhold
- She had the following properties: Breezehome in Whiterun, Proudspire Manor in Solitude, Honeyside in Riften, Vlindrel Hall in Markarth, Lakeside Manor in Falkreath, Windstad Manor in Hjaalmarch, Heljarchen Hall in the Pale, and Severin Manor in Raven Rock on Solstheim
- She was a member of the Bard’s College in Solitude
- She was Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold
- She was Guild Master of the Thieves Guild
- She was a Nightingale of Nocturnal
- She did not choose a side in the war
Last but not least, here are a couple of short videos I recorded from my Switch. This first one is a sweep through Merawen’s Skills trees, and you’ll see here that she wound up a pretty well-rounded character. Heavy emphasis on magic as well as Lockpicking, Sneak and Archery, as benefitting a thief and a Nightingale. Less Pickpocket than you might expect, but that’s just because I didn’t actually use that skill much, and it got as high as it did mostly because I threw money at trainers for it.
I also got into a groove of alternating between Light Armor and Heavy Armor skills, so that I could take turns setting them Legendary and not leave myself utterly defenseless.
And this one is a sweep through Merawen’s final stats.
One of the first things that stands out for me here is that while I played Merawen for about the same length of time that I played Alarrah, about three months, the number of days that passed in game time was higher. This is doubtless because I did a lot more fast traveling as this character, particularly during the Thieves Guild side jobs. So plenty more opportunities to burn through in-game time.
I’m also a bit surprised to discover that Merawen’s total bounties actually came in less than Alarrah’s. Even though Merawen was the thief, and had more murders on her stats as well!
Onward to playthrough number three! And remember, all of Merawen’s adventures and screenshots are documented on her playthrough page!
Editing to add 12/10/2021
Corrected spelling of “Hjaalsmarch” to “Hjaalmarch”.