I Just Saved the World! (Now What?)

This is something that’s been on my mind for awhile, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided I should sit down and write about it in earnest.  See, I did something important a month ago or so.  I saved the world.  Twice, if you think about it.  And nothing happened.  Life went on.

Okay, so I didn’t save our world.  I saved Skyrim.  But I’m still rather perturbed about it, because it is the most anticlimactic thing I’ve ever experienced.  I spent hours scouring the countryside helping villagers on their quests.  I stole thousands of dollars of merchandise, picked dozens of pockets, altered hundreds of books, and picked a few hundred locks to restore the Thieves’ Guild to its former glory.  I overtook the Dark Brotherhood.  I killed a few dozen dragons, and then I killed the mightiest dragon of all: Alduin.  I sundered the space-time continuum to travel to Sovngarde and meet the beast on his plane of existence, and I killed him and restored peace.

At least I thought I did.  When I came back I was on the top of the mountain surrounded by Paarthurnax and his buddies, and they were like, “Good work.”  And that was it.  So I figured I should fix the whole Imperials vs. Stormcloaks thing, and maybe then I would feel better about saving the world.  And maybe other people would, too.  Because I didn’t get a single thank you from any villagers, even in dragon-ravaged towns, for killing Alduin.  If anything, I had to keep my head down because of all that Dark Brotherhood/Thieves’ Guild stuff.  Everywhere I went I heard, “Wait, I know you!” and I did wait, because I wanted to say, “Yes, yes you do; I’m the badass who killed Alduin and saved your world!”  But as it turned out they knew me because I was a wanted man and I had to bribe them, or else kill everyone in sight.

So I went off and spoke with Ulfric Stormcloak and made Windhelm my new home.  My affiliations with Whiterun were over, and I led the charge on that first fair city that had welcomed me in after I escaped from Helgen.  I betrayed the Jarl and oversaw the change of power there, and then helped Ulfric take Solitude.  I killed General Tullius and freed Skyrim from the clutches of the Empire.  I returned it to the true Sons of Skyrim!

And when I went to talk to Ulfric, he said it would take some time for him to become high king, but now that the Empire was gone his chances looked good.  He thanked me for my help, which was nice, but then… what?

I helped end the civil war tearing my country to bits.  And life went on in Skyrim, much as it had prior to the war and to Alduin.  In fact, I even got attacked by several dragons along the way.  I found myself wandering aimlessly through the land of Skyrim, lacking purpose and function.  Even when Dawnguard came out… wait.  Spoilers ahead.  You’ve been warned!

So when Dawnguard came out I decided to become a vampire, some of the sense of purpose was missing.  Sure it was cool to become a vampire lord and all, and sure, Serana was an alright companion, if a bit standoffish at times.  We traveled through new environments in a new story and found new things.  New weapons, new lore, new ideas.  And we became allies and friends, and then decided to take down her father together and end his ploy to stop the sun from shining ever again.  So yes, once again I saved Skyrim.  And… nothing.  Serana was happy her father was dead, at least.  But there was no fanfare, no trumpets, no scrolling credits.

Above all, there was no sense of resolution.  Yes, my objectives were complete, but there were always more: little things, seemingly insignificant tasks, guards to be bribed… I’d saved Skyrim three times from three different sources and still had no resolution.

The other day I took my frustration out on this by going crazy as a vampire in Whiterun.  A guard recognized me as a wanted man, so I said I’d rather die than bribe him.  It turned into a bloodbath.  I kept letting loose my vampire lord abilities, because, why not?  What was going to happen (or not happen)?  And even when I finally shut off the game I didn’t feel any better, or any more resolved.

By being an open world and geared for exploration, Skyrim is paradoxically enjoyable and boring.  There’s always something new to see and/or do, but even after doing the big things you’re left with no feeling of resolution.  You’re as accomplished delivering potatoes to Riften as you are killing Alduin or winning the country for the Stormcloaks.  The larger the world is the more there is to do, and the less I want to do any of it.  I know in real life, life does go on even after huge feats of greatness; and I’m sure those who accomplish them feel a bit of a downer as a result.  I imagine that once the thrill has worn off and they’ve gone home, these Olympic athletes will feel just a twinge of disappointment that it’s all done, even as they work toward their next accomplishment.  In real life the accomplishment isn’t the end; in many cases it’s just another step.

But in games we’re used to getting that sense of having done something.  We’ve worked at it, we’ve solved the puzzles, we’ve found the princess, we defeated the bad guy, end of story.  And it’s hard for me to set Skyrim aside knowing that it’s unresolved, but I have to remind myself that it will never be resolved, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I don’t feel like a replay with a different character and/or different choices would really matter much, or give me that feeling I’m looking for.  I certainly admire what a massive, beautifully done game it is, don’t get me wrong, but when all’s said and done I miss that feeling of being resolved.

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10 comments on “I Just Saved the World! (Now What?)

  1. I started playing Skyrim, but got sidetracked with Dark Souls. But in the 20% I did complete of the game, I too felt that lack of being resolved. I’m sorry to hear that the ending is anti-climatic, but I suppose I’ll continue on with the journey.

    • The hard thing is that yes, the things you do either to reclaim your country and to defeat the dragons are awesome. What makes the end feel anticlimactic is that the game just doesn’t end. No credits, just… walk off the mountain and go find a villager who needs help, I guess?

  2. It’s so nice to see someone put down this feeling in words, I’m very familiar with it myself. I rarely even make it to the end of the main quest before open-world games start to lose me… get a new game, play it almost nonstop for a few weeks, stop finding anything particularly new or exciting to keep me coming back to it every day. I love these games, but they can be so dissappointing after a while.

    • Yeah, I had a similar feeling with Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare. I finished the quest and then it sort of started over again and I was like, “what now? I thought I was done!” In a way I’m glad I had that feeling because I had serious considerations about getting the full Red Dead Redemption game, and the uncertainty I felt at the end (or the beginning? AH!) allayed that. I’m really a story person, so I suppose open world games aren’t really for me :/

  3. Ahhh the unsung hero! Such is life, the people who actually do save the day often go unheralded, while the incompetent shine under the weight of their own bloated, good for nothing egos.

    Maybe they need to put another class into future iterations of the game. I’m thinking politician. Then you could serve no one but yourself, do absolutely nothing for society, and people will still worship you.

    Personally, I’d rather be you than a stinking politician! You’re a much nicer person, even if you suck people’s blood at night. *-)

    • I think it’s open-world games in general for me. I really like story. A good story with good characters really draws me in and makes the game experience fun for me. Open-world games are about the exploration and doing as much in that world as you possibly can and less about characters engaged in a plot arc.

      Though I think you’re on to something with the politician idea… It could really make for some interesting things happening. And yes, I suck. Blood 😉 hehehe

  4. And this is quite possibly why I never did finish playing Skyrim. While the graphics were amazing, the music was beautiful, and you could magelight the shit outta dragon skeletons (sorry, the need to swear seemed appropriate there), I never felt like I had purpose. I was always just someone’s gofer. Of course, the stupid glitches I kept having (Hello? Can I PLEASE have my house carl fall back from the sky sometime??) didn’t help me want to finish either.

    I prefer to play a game that has a solid story that I can then build off of. I do too much meandering in my own real life =)

  5. Loved reading this. I am currently in the midst of playing Skyrim and have resolved to play until the impetus leaves me, for like you said, I see no real end in sight. Or maybe when I have finally collected enough loot.

    I’m not sure if you have played many MMORPGs but this is very much the feeling one gets in those games, but even more pronounced as most of ones actions dont even impact the world. But then the never endingness of it all is part of what keeps people playing and paying.

    Maybe my long addiction to WoW has eroded my need to seek acknowledgement, at least from the game. I certainly have found enough satisfaction in simply looting everything in sight, saving people, and becoming the most powerful badass in the world. =D

    Now I wonder if I should be expecting more adoration. Fealty maybe?

  6. Herein lies the trouble with every Elder Scrolls game I’ve played. Though it’s gotten better with each iteration (opinion), it’s still an empty and lifeless sandbox. Play the Witcher 1. Dark, political, real moral choices and satisfying conclusion. The Witcher 2 also has all except the last thing. I’d say play Dragon Age but we all know about you and that game… And though it’s a bit of a B-game, Divinity II: Ego Draconis is a neat concept that left it wide open for a third game, and it has an enhanced edition out there that’s supposed to rock. And if you want something that feels like D&D, I had a great time with Drakensang: The River of Time (downloadable only). Hmmm, what does it say that most of those games are not from this country? 🙂

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