My unexpected leave from Skyrim has come to an end and I’ve just finished the main quest. I really want to talk (rave) about it. Note that this will most likely have major spoilers, so you have been warned.
Before the raving, I’ll talk about capturing Alduin’s (The dragon causing all the trouble) offsider: Odahviing. I’m not really sure how I feel about how you capture him within Dragonreach. According to lore, Dragonreach was designed for capturing a dragon. You bring the dragon down, somehow taunt it to make it waddle into the large opening in the building, then drop a large wooden ‘stock’ over its neck to trap it. I can’t help thinking that the dragon must be particularly stupid to be caught this way, and it’s only story necessity that lets Odahviing be caught.
Still, Odahviing is caught, and you can find out where Alduin is. The problem is, he’s in Sovngarde (afterlife for Heroes) feasting on the souls of the dead. There is only one way known to get there: a portal at an old temple in Skuldafn. Though only a Dovah (dragon) can get there, since flight is the only way in. A bit more talking and Odahviing agrees to take you there.
I rather liked this section, mainly because it didn’t seem you had many choices and yet there was still that nervousness of trusting a dragon. Especially one that might say anything to get out of his currently humiliating position. Still, it does turn out we can trust him, and he delivers us to Skuldafn as promised.
Skuldafn is much like many of the other ruins that you see in Skyrim. It’s fairly open, with lots of stairs, towers and more. It’s not exactly swarming with enemies, but with a few dragons and various Druagr around, it pays to be wary. The large tower, again populated with Druagr, leads to the top of the Temple.
Unfortunately, I hit a bug in the Temple. One of the pillars in the first “pillar puzzle” wouldn’t respond, leaving me no-where to go. In desperation I started to work backwards through my saves, once again working through to that puzzle. Finally I found a save (just outside the Temple) that allowed the puzzle to function again. The idea that I was this close to the end, and couldn’t proceed was … irritating.
Finally, I made it to the top of the Temple to meet with more Druagr, more dragons, a Dragon Priest and the portal to Sovngarde.
The battle on the top of the Temple can be as simple or as hard as you like, depending on how you play your character. For the most part, I was able to hide in the shadows and pick off the Druagr. Then I was able to pick off the dragons individually.
Both dragons were bugged however. I managed to urge one to my level, and took away its health. But it remained alive, if barely moving. It took a number of swings with a sword to kill it (with a finishing animation). The other, I left atop of its perch, and while it ran out of health, it still grunted and groaned with each arrow I sent up its rear (yes, I’m evil) and never died “enough”.
Then, with the defeat of the Dragon Priest, it was through the portal and onto Sovngarde.
Which they rendered beautifully. The sky is simply incredible, and the land, while covered in mist initially, is lit ethereally. That, with the choir rising in the background, makes it feel just like a land of dead heroes should.
I have to say, though, that the area just wasn’t big enough for the story. There are souls lost in the mist, standing beside a hill that takes you out of the mist to see your destination. I think they needed to make it a little less obvious how close your destination was. Perhaps the mist should have risen higher or the area could have been larger.
This is also the first time I’ve come across such obvious invisible walls, mostly around the Hall of Valor. I wanted to explore a bit more around the outside but walls in very obvious places stopped me. I’m not sure what the answer is here, but there were places I think the walls could have been less obvious.
After all this, the final battle with Alduin was a bit of an anticlimax. He was one of the easiest dragons to kill, especially with three Heroes helping, as they do. Having said that: his death was suitably climactic, and incredible to watch. In fact, I watched it twice. It really was a beautiful spectacle of special effects.
You’re allowed to hang around in the now not mist-covered Sovngarde for a little, though beyond admiring it (which I did) there’s not a lot else to do there, and not much to explore.
Then you’re returned to the world to find a convocation of Dragons atop the Throat of the World. The Dragons speak their mind on Alduin being defeated, and mostly depart to presumably cause trouble in the world below. You get a chance to wrap things up with Paarthurnax (assuming you didn’t kill him), and Odahviing . You can also talk to those in High Hrothgar to wrap things up a little more. Then the ending peters out.
Back in the world below, few know of what happened with Alduin. Most seem to only know you caught a dragon, then let it go again. Even Jarl Balguuf of Dragonsreach doesn’t ask what actually happened. The dragons still seem to be a pain in the behind. The war is still on. Nothing much has changed, really. I know this is a necessity to allow your story to continue, and to stop the designers having to redo half the conversations. It still seems a bit of a let-down however. Perhaps that’s just me.
Despite that, I really want to say how much I enjoyed the end story, and Sovngarde in particular. The flaws are minor compared to how this whole section made me feel. To step from a crumbling temple ruin into the land of the dead was incredible. To see the Hall of Valor, to cross the bridge (which you have to see!) to enter it was amazing. Seriously, you need to play this through to the end just for that feeling.