Kendis Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Kendis Fights Through Game Performance Problems to Defeat Miraak

Knocking out two sessions at once here, basically covering my hard push through Solstheim to try to get a sense of how much of it is, in fact, functional. And because I want to get Kendis’ playthrough over and done with.

Main action here is finishing off a bunch of the stuff I usually run on Solstheim, and also wrestling with the very buggy behavior when trying to make the weapon Trueflame.

Play by play

  • Play dates: 8/29-8/30/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 80-81

Tuesday the 29th

  • Picked up at Tel Mithryn
  • Ran Highpoint Tower successfully
  • Freed Niyya the prisoner, and took only one try to take out Ildari
  • Fast traveled back to Tel Mithryn to check in with Neloth, and I’m a member of House Telvanni, yay, I think? 😉
  • Boinged back to Raven Rock for inventory managing, and also to see if I could find Vendil Severin
  • Did a little smithing
  • Sold stuff to Glover, Fethis, and Milore
  • Confirmed that Vendil is in fact still wandering around undercover as Vendil Severin; found him in Severin Manor
  • Off to get stalhrim! Boinged to Water Stone, then hoofed it to Northshore Landing
  • Found three of the four sailors standing around where they usually do (not sure why the fourth one was absent, if he’d been killed by something or what)
  • Fought more rieklings and mudcrabs by the Deathbrand chest I’d already cleared
  • Made it to Northshore Landing
  • Heard the Frossel reaver muttering nearby about getting treasure, but didn’t see him
  • Pissed off a couple of horkers by going past them; Lydia killed them while the Thalmor made snarky commentary
  • Ancarion even summoned a storm atronach in response to the fight, but otherwise didn’t get involved, snerk
  • Talked him into getting the fuck off the island
  • Used Ahzidal’s Boots of Waterwalking to get over to the mini-island with the stalhrim fur armor and Skjol the Tongueless; took out Skjol and got the armor as well as the stalhrim battleaxe he had
  • Also mined the stalhrim there, and nabbed the Daedric battleaxe lying around
  • Overloaded so Arvak’d up to boing to the Skaal Village
  • Tried to drop a campsite but couldn’t find a good place to put it, so just waited for 7 hours till Baldor was awake again
  • Got him to teach me about forging stalhrim, and also sold him stuff
  • Got Tharstan’s quest to escort him to Vahlok’s Tomb
  • But for now, boinged back to Raven Rock, and sold a few more things
  • Then boinged to Fahlbtharz to try to make Trueflame–and wow, that was annoying, see below
  • Came back outside and killed a few rieklings en route to White Ridge Barrow; speed-ran the place, got in only for the word wall and the Black Book, because fuck these spiders
  • Read and ran the Black Book, and took Seeker of Sorcery power
  • Then ran the Stalhrim Source
  • Returned to Raven Rock to sell more things, only to realize I did not in fact have Ebony Smithing re-unlocked on this alt yet, so couldn’t make anything out of stalhrim, oh well
  • Ran off to run Kolbjorn Barrow round 3
  • Couldn’t get the puzzle with the pressure sensitive plates to work, so ctrl-alt-fuckit, got the ring via Telekinesis
  • Went back for the gauntlets since I missed those on the way in
  • Boinged back to Skaal Village to get within range of Gyldenhul Barrow to do the rest of the Deathbrand plot; cleared that successfully
  • Roinged back to Raven Rock to sell stuff, and got another Revered Dragon; helped the Redoran guard take it out
  • It crashed behind the town again, and I ran up there to take it out with storm atronachs and lightning, then looted it
  • Trudged back down into the town and waited a couple hours, then sold potions to Milore; Fethis and Glover hadn’t reset their inventories yet
  • Trudged up to Ashfall’s Tear to sell dragon bits and other things to the vendors inside the temple; that got me back under carry weight
  • Came back out again and headed to Vahlok’s Tomb
  • Killed en route: a couple of frost trolls, assorted ash hoppers, some nix-hounds, and a cave bear
  • Reached Vahlok’s Tomb and saved there for the night

Wednesday the 30th

  • Picked up at Vahlok’s Tomb, and ran the place successfully
  • Boinged back to Raven Rock and did a little smithing
  • Leveled up to 63; took Stamina bump, and took Orcish Smithing when I realized I was two hops away from ebony and stalhrim, not one ;P
  • Did some alchemy
  • Boinged to Hendraheim for loot dropoff; Revered Dragon I killed in the last session flopped around the house again
  • Grabbed elven armor off of mannequins to free them up
  • Left the Robe of the Lich, Dagoth Ur mask, Skaal gear, and stalhrim gear
  • Boinged to Whiterun to sell stuff
  • Boinged to Lakeview and dropped off a bunch more stuff
  • Boinged back to Raven Rock
  • Got courier with the last note from Ralis–and the game locked up 😛
  • Restarted, and thrown back to Lakeview which was my last autosave
  • Re-did boinging back to Solstheim
  • Sold stuff to Fethis and Milore; also sold Fethis another East Empire pendant
  • Headed off for last round of Kolbjorn Barrow
  • Collected Ralis’ five journals
  • Decided to switch to dragonscale and wield Hopesfire and Trueflame–worked my ass off for Trueflame, gonna damn well use it at least once ;P
  • Ran the place successfully, including getting the stalhrim veins and the remaining Ahzidal loot
  • Killed Ahzidal pretty quickly with me and two dremora lords and Lyds
  • Decided to take out Ralis this time, since I was feeling hostile ;P
  • Ran the Black Book and took Secret of Arcana power
  • Came back out and fast traveled to Benkongerike
  • Heard dragon action, Saering’s Watch dragon respawned, I think
  • But went on into Benkongerike to run the place
  • Speed ran it, looted nothing, tried not to kill every single riekling in the place but had to take out at least some of them
  • Got the final word for Cyclone off the Word Wall
  • Ran the Black Book and got the Black Market power for the dremora merchant
  • Came back out and dragon was still flying around, but not in the mood to fight it, so skipped it
  • Called the merchant up and sold him some stuff
  • Boinged to the Skaal Village
  • Hi Storn! Apologies in advance for how you are about to die
  • Cue Storn reading the book and getting tentacle-stabbed by Herma-Mora
  • Frea sent me off to kill Miraak
  • Made it to chapter 4 of the Black Book but got killed by the final Lurker Vindicator, AUGH
  • Thrown back to the Skaal Village
  • The game thought I was still in combat and would not let me read the book to get back in
  • So I had to roll back to my last autosave which put me back in chapter 4
  • Put the dragonscale armor back on to better protect myself ;P
  • Ran chapter 4 the second time through successfully, and finished out the rest of the run
  • Reached Sahrotaar and tamed him
  • Then reached Miraak and fought him
  • Only real odd bit of that was that I did not see a skeleton for Sahrotaar after the fight, just the other two dragons, but reached the end okay where Hermaeus Mora tentacle-stabbed Miraak
  • Got the Black Book reward
  • Yoinked all my skill points off of Smithing so I could slap ‘em down on Light Armor, thinking ahead to Skuldafn
  • Then got the hell out of Apocrypha
  • HI FREA, sorry about your dad, but if it helps I took out Miraak for you, are we cool now?
  • Thank you for your wisdom, if I get the chance I will totally chop Herma-Mora in half, I hear that Daedric Princes love that
  • Boinged back to Skyrim for major loot dropoff
  • Boinged to Hendraheim and saw Revered Dragon corpse flopping around outside again; dropped off a bunch of stuff there
  • Realized that the mannequins I’d taken the elven armor off of all reproduced the armor duplication bug, so I took all the other stuff off of them ;P
  • Boinged next to Myrwatch; left a bunch of stuff there including all the newer stuff I took off those three mannequins
  • Filled out a lot of the bookshelves with books I’d brought out of Apocrypha
  • Boinged to the College of Winterhold
  • Took five rounds of training in Illusion with Drevis, and then sold him a boatload of things
  • Sold stuff to Faralda as well
  • Picked up Yngvi because I missed him!
  • Went to Tundra Homestead next but realized that place didn’t have a spot for the amethyst claw
  • Left a few more things at Bloodchill Cavern, the amethyst claw halves as well as several weapons from Solstheim just to bring the carry weight down
  • Then finally boinged to Lakeview and dropped off a bunch more stuff to whittle down the inventory further, to stuff would be critical for Skuldafn
  • Game froze up again on me trying to get into the chest in the cellar 😛
  • But successfully dropped off a bunch of stuff, including the various magical clothing items I was wearing, and I put a bunch of jewelry items in the safe in the storage room
  • Took a sleep, then boinged to Whiterun
  • Game locked up again as I was trying to run from the stables up to the gate
  • Tried again and finally got safely into the city
  • Sold a bunch of things to assorted merchants, including a bunch of arrows
  • (Didn’t need to get rid of them for weight purposes but I was trying to see if i could get up to 400K ;D)
  • Also sold a bunch of duplicate copies of books to Farengar
  • Finally saved right in Dragonsreach, ready to talk to the jarl about trapping a dragon
  • Saved for the night

General performance issues

Okay, so at this point I can say that most things I usually run on Solstheim appear to be functional in the AE build on the Switch–for values of “functional” meaning “I was able to derp through them despite increasing performance issues in this playthrough”.

Because here’s the thing: the longer I run this playthrough, the more it’s becoming obvious to me that the Switch is struggling very, very hard to maintain game performance, in ways that it did not do in the earlier stages of Kendis’ run. Or in my prior playthroughs which were done on the Special Edition on this device.

What causes this, I’m not sure. I do know from what I’ve picked up by osmosis from the Skyrim modding community that a Skyrim save file does get progressively larger as a playthrough continues. Backend things can wind up in wonky states that eventually impact game performance. But I can only theorize about this, given that the Switch does not have the console and so I can’t really peek under the hood on this run. I can only report on what I’m observing as I play.

And I saw multiple issues that fall into “general game performance problems” areas, in these two sessions:

  1. Repeated occurrences of the game just outright freezing. Now, I’ve had my share of crashes in Skyrim, sure. Even in the Special Edition on the Switch. But three times in one night’s play is a bit much, even compared to my prior experiences playing on this device.
  2. The background music repeatedly vanishing.
  3. Noticeable delay in these events:
    • When I discover a new location, and when I hear the corresponding “new location” sound play.
    • When I kill the boss in a dungeon, and when I hear the corresponding “you’ve cleared this location” sound.
    • When I kill a dragon, and when I get the corresponding notification that Miraak took the dragon soul.
    • Loading screens when I change zones. This isn’t a hundred percent of the time, but I know at several points in the latter stretch of this playthrough, I’ve seen it take a surprisingly long time just to transition between “inside of my house” and “outside of my house”.

The delay in the “new location discovered” sound happened for both Ashfallow Citadel and Vahlok’s Tomb. I didn’t get the noise off of either of those locations, until after I actually saved and exited back to desktop.

My takeaway from this: if you run the AE on the Switch, and if you’re inclined to longer playthroughs to hit as much content as you can, you are at eventual risk of your performance degrading hard. A shorter playthrough might mitigate this risk some. But that definitely seems like the less fun option to me.

Making Trueflame

And in addition to this, I ran into another thing that is outright frigging broken in the Solstheim content: namely, the quest to recreate the weapon called Trueflame.

How this is supposed to work: you discover the forge inside Fahlbtharz. You kill an opponent called Hand Kenro, and learn from a note he’s carrying on him that he’s trying to recreate Trueflame. He has an unenchanted weapon on him, and there’s something called pyroil tar in the room.

You are supposed to find four forge gems, which you can acquire during the course of running Ghosts of the Tribunal. You bring these back to the forge and use them to activate it. Then you put pyroil tar on the unenchanted weapon, stick it into the slot in the forge, and voila, you get Trueflame.

What happens if you do this on the Switch: the animation for putting the sword into the forge hard freezes, and locks up the game. You have no choice but to kill the game and restart.

There are apparently a number of workarounds you can try to get around this, according to both the wiki page for the quest and multiple Reddit threads on the issue. I tried a bunch of them, and couldn’t get any one specific step to work by itself, but I did eventually get the damn quest to finish.

The process was stupidly complicated. Now, I don’t know which of these were specifically required and which weren’t. But what state I was in, and what steps I did, were as follows:

  • Used all the pyroil tar in the room on the blade (there were five pyroil tars)
  • Stripped myself of all gear
  • Crouched in front of the weapon slot in Sneak mode
  • As soon as I put in the weapon, hit B to bring up the inventory/map/magic/skills menu
  • Hit + to bring up the save menu
  • Did a quicksave
  • Backed out of that menu and hit B a couple more times to turn off the map menu and turn it back on again
  • This let me actually see the quest messages proceeding, and I waited until they all scrolled off the screen
  • Did another quicksave
  • Dismissed all menus
  • I was locked up again at this point, because the animation did freeze again
  • But now I had a quicksave after the weapon was actually made–so closing and restarting the game brought me back in at a point where Trueflame was finally ready for me to grab

All of this work for a weapon that is only “kinda neat”, and certainly not as powerful as other weapons you can get in the game. Or hell, other weapons that you can craft. Trueflame was not able to do the same level of damage that the amber sword I was carrying around did. Granted, this was because I couldn’t improve it very well; I didn’t have Ebony unlocked on my Smithing menu, so what improvements I could give it weren’t on par with what my amber sword had.

If I’d been able to immediately improve it up to Legendary status, it might have been a more competitive weapon. But as it stands, I mostly bothered to do this just to a) report on the problem, and b) try to get the damn quest out of my journal. Since I am that kind of completist, and it does bug me to have unfinishable quests in my journal. Especially if I don’t have the console and can’t mark them as completed anyway.

Plus, when it comes to the weapons added in by Ghosts of the Tribunal, I like Hopesfire’s design better anyway. I don’t like the hard angle at the end of Trueflame’s blade. And I used the generic ebony scimitar I got off of Kenro a bit more often than I did either Hopesfire or Trueflame, for that matter.

Takeaway here: if you do want Trueflame in an AE run on the Switch, be prepared for it to lock up. And to have to spend extra time trying workarounds to see what flavor of the stupidly complicated progress I went through will work for you. I’d advise against it, because holy crap that was annoying.

So what does still actually work?

I hit most of my favorite things to do on Solstheim in these two sessions. I speed-ran a lot of it, just because the ongoing performance issues are making it a huge drag to try to get even basic questing done. But I can at least confirm general functionality seems fine for the following things:

  • Running Highpoint Tower and taking out Ildari, including ripping the heartstone out of her as per Neloth’s directive
  • Persuading the Thalmor leader Ancarion to get the fuck off of Solstheim, because Baldor’s not going to talk and he’s wasting his time
  • Getting the stalhrim fur armor off the little island near Northshore Landing, and taking out Skjol the Tongueless
  • Ahzidal’s Boots of Waterwalking do their job
  • Mining the stalhrim source
  • Running Gyldenhul Barrow, getting the Deathbrand hoard, killing all the ghosts in there, and getting Bloodscythe and Soulrender
  • All the Black Books (minus the one in Tel Mithryn, which I did not try to run in the interests of time)
  • Running Kolbjorn Barrow and killing Ahzidal
  • And if you’re inclined to kill Ralis at the end of the Kolbjorn Barrow plot, I can confirm I was able to get Hoarfrost off of him
  • Running Vahlok’s Tomb, and most significantly, the magical bridges in that dungeon
  • At least two of the Black Book powers you can get I can confirm are working: Companion’s Insight and Black Market

Some additional notes

The bug with Ildari’s Telvanni robes rendering differently on a female Dragonborn than they do on a male Dragonborn, with the heartstone harness and bloodstains being present if you’re a woman, repros in the AE on the Switch. But this bug existed in the Special Edition as well, so this at least isn’t the AE port’s fault.

It occurred to me to doublecheck the status of Vendil Severin, who later renames to Vendil Ulen as you run the Served Cold quest, to verify that he hadn’t somehow been parked in Ashfallow Citadel. I can confirm I found him still in Raven Rock and still named Vendil Severin. So even if you try to run Ashfallow Citadel, that’s not going to get you a backdoor into finishing Served Cold.

(I happened to find him in Severin Manor, in fact. Which was not locked, and I was able to freely enter it. Snerk.)

I also reproed the known issue of the four sailors you free from the Water Stone still hanging around onshore even after you successfully clear the stone. Again, this one is not the AE port on the Switch’s fault.

I had issues trying to figure out where I could put a campsite near the Skaal Village. I had remembered doing so just down the hill from that location, but this time when I tried it, I kept getting errors about not being able to place a campsite inside a city. I do not know if this was an issue with the area considered to be “Skaal Village” being improperly calculated in this port, or an issue with my misremembering where I put the campsite I used during Shenner’s run. Either could be a viable possibility here.

Since I speed-ran White Ridge Barrow, I cannot confirm whether the functionality of making your own spider scrolls is working. If you’re a player more interested in that functionality than I am, you’ll have to doublecheck this on your own. But I can at least confirm that the Word Wall and the Black Book in there are working.

Kolbjorn Barrow was functional, pretty much. The only question mark I had doing that was that I had trouble with the pressure plates puzzle. It is not clear to me whether this was because it was actually broken, or whether I was just having my usual trouble running the thing, because I do have a history of having issues with that puzzle. I got around this problem by just using the Telekinesis spell to get the ring without having to actually unlock the gate.

I’d legit kind of forgotten about the bug with mannequins duplicating armor if you take it off of them again later. Can confirm that this still happens in the AE build on the Switch. But this is not AE specific on this device, I saw this a bunch in the Special Edition too.

And, heh. Of course as I write this post, it occurs to me to wonder whether you can trigger a second instance of the armor duplication bug off the same mannequin in the same playthrough. Because I took the second sets of gear off the affected mannequins, and moved all of that gear to Myrwatch. So does that mean that if I went back to the mannequins in Hendraheim, they’d have two sets of duplicated gear?

I may have to doublecheck this in Kendis’ final session.

I also speed-ran Benkongerike. I almost didn’t bother until I remembered that I needed to go in there for the final word of the Cyclone Shout. And at this stage of the game, given that I’m about to close down this playthrough anyway, the dremora merchant is of limited use. I mostly wanted to get that power to verify that it worked.

When I was killed during my first run through the Waking Dreams Black Book and thrown back out to the Skaal Village, and then unable to re-enter the Book because it thought I was still in combat, I wasn’t sure whether that was a new bug or not. Off the top of my head I want to say I may have seen this before in prior Switch playthroughs. So I’m noting this as a probable “not the fault of the AE on the Switch specifically, just Skyrim being its buggy self” issue.

Not seeing a skeleton for Sahrotaar at the end of the battle struck me as a new bug, though. I do not remember seeing that happen before. But I wasn’t in Apocrypha long enough to determine whether this was another thing that fell into the category of weirdly delayed stuff I described above, or if Sahrotaar’s dropping of a skeleton when Miraak kills him is just flat out broken in this AE port.

Oh, and one more thing I’d like to note that I don’t think I ever actually realized before: the Word Wall in Apocrypha, where you get the last word of the Dragon Aspect Shout, does not look like a standard word wall. It’s got a bunch of other writing on it, that moves. Which is a neat touch. So I’m glad I noticed at least something new and neat in an otherwise hasty, buggy session.

Side thoughts about which houses to use for storage

I need to remember that Myrwatch does have a lot of armor mannequins, weapons racks, and bookshelves. And can serve as a useful storage location.

Also, has nobody told Herma-Mora he’s stocking his Daedric realm with shit I can buy from any bookseller in Skyrim? Sheesh. And he’s supposed to be the Daedric Prince of forbidden knowledge? Got news, Hermie. Everybody in Tamriel’s already read the Lusty Argonian Maid.

Ahem. Anyway, I think I need to come up with a rough plan for which house gets to store which stuff. Most of the AE houses have special display spots for most of the artifacts you can get out of the DLCs as well as the main game. (Though oddly, only Bloodchill Cavern seems to have a spot for the two halves of the Amethyst Claw.) So far in every game I’ve run with the AE content, I’ve wound up having artifacts like the dragon claws and the dragon priest masks scattered across different houses, which just vexes me from a “keeping track of where all my loot is” standpoint.


You’ll note there’s not much of Kendis’ narrative in this post, just a lot of commentary about which buggy behaviors I found in the game. This is because I got into a mode of “let’s just get through this as quickly as possible”, and didn’t actually think much about what this meant for Kendis’ personal story. I’ll have more commentary about this in her Final Thoughts post.

Next time

One more Kendis session to go before I close her out, and this’ll be trapping Odahviing in Whiterun, flying to Skuldafn, and then taking Alduin out in Sovngarde.

Let’s see how many times the game locks up on me doing this. Place yer bets!


Editing to add

  • 11/25/2023: Restoring missing gallery.

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.