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7 Heart-wrenching ‘Skyrim’ Moments That Made Me Feel Like A Total Dick

Ah, the Dragonborn. He’s a swell guy (or gal, depending), isn’t he?. Playing Skryim lets you be a hero in a rich fantasy world; slay all the dragons, cleanse the land of banditry, end the war. Once the main quest is finished, they’re all singing songs about you and how good you are. If only they knew.

Even though my Dragonborn did all the good guy stuff, dark secrets (and Daedric pauldrons) weighed heavy on my shoulders. In an open world that prioritizes player freedom, I’d done a great deal of things I wasn’t proud of. And I’ll bet all my septims that you’ve done the same. Here are my personal Skyrim confessions about how much of a dick my Dragonborn was.

The Power of Friendship…to Enhance my Sword

Evil, but so damn stylish [Bethesda]

Like many gamers, I’m an obsessive collector of items and not too squeamish about how I get my hands on them. I’d sell my grandma for a shiny sword, if it had a better stat boost than the one I already use. So naturally, I had to get my hands on Skyrim‘s Daedric artifacts. Number one being that ultra-sweet looking Ebony Blade. You get this quest after talking to Nelkir, the moody, broody son of Balgruuf, Jarl of Whiterun. After little light thievery, you can find the blade, which is a low damage but ultra fast 2-handed katana. But if you want to wield it at its true power, you have to give it sacrifices. 10 kill does the job.

Sure, you kill things all the time. But the catch here is that every kill has to be a ‘friend’ in-game. An NPC that you’ve done favors for, and greets you with things like ‘It’s a fine day with you around’.

Let me tell you, some of the most heart-wrenching moments in my entire video game career has been ganking former followers and quest-givers in the back before they’ve even got a chance to finish the line ‘You’ve been a good friend to me, that means something.’ It meant something to me too, old friend, but apparently not as much as having unlimited 30 points absorb health on this cool sword.

Framing Poor Old Brand-Shei

It begins [Bethesda]

Hunting down the location of one of the last Blades in Riften, the Dragonborn meets sly merchant Brynjolf, who has some choice information and an ‘in’ to Skyrim’s thieves guild. To prove yourself, you’ve got to frame innocent merchant Brand-Shei for robbery by planting a stolen silver ring on him. As he’s hauled away by the guards he desperately yells out: “Who did this to me?”, “This city is corrupt! You’re all corrupt!” and “This is unfair! I’m innocent!”

The poor guy. But what am I supposed to do? There’s a whole thieves guild questline that unlocks after this. Achievements! Items! Two things make this quest even more of a kick in the feels. One is that even though you’re told Brand-Shei will only spend a few days in jail, a bug means that he’ll actually be locked up forever because you screwed him over. Secondly, it turns out that you can actually fail this quest and Brynjolf will still let you start the thieves guild quest anyway.

Brand-Shei behind bars [Bethesda]

Of course, I didn’t know this at the time, plus I’m no quest-failing chump. Thank Shor for the official Skyrim patch, which let Brand-Shei out of jail so that I could do as much business with and as many favors for him as possible, to ease my guilty conscience.

Finish The Civil War, You’re An Asshole Either Way

Let’s talk about this reasonably [Bethesda]

I’ve written before about how frustrating Skyrim‘s Civil War storyline can be. Aside from the differences between Imperial and Stormcloak ideology, the kicker here is that no matter which side you throw in with, the consequences are always something of a mixed bag for Skyrim’s citizens. Each faction has some noble goals and some unsavory characters backing them, and winning the war for one side will mean helping a few of them out.

Want to unite Skyrim under the Empire? You’ll end up installing despicable crime lord Maven Black-Briar as Jarl of Riften, and the greedy, corrupt Siddgeir as Jarl of Falkreath. What’s more, letting the Thalmor have free reign all over Skyrim. Liberate the land with the Stormcloaks? Be prepared to screw over Balgruuf, who’s never been anything but a cool dude to the Dragonborn, and slay Legate Rikke, one of the noblest characters in the game.

The Dragonborn can master any skill, lead any guild and crush any enemy in the land, but they can’t fix Skyrim’s broken politics.

Killing Narfi For The Dark Brotherhood

Poor Narfi [Bethesda]

Obviously, an organization called the Dark Brotherhood isn’t going to send you on a mission to rescue kittens. The original murder that starts you on the path to Sithis has you execute an old lady, but at least she was a terrible person and you’ve got a whole orphanage cheering you on.

Once you actually sign up with the Dark Brotherhood, shit starts to get real. One of your first contracts is to kill Narfi, a homeless, pathetic old beggar in Ivarstead. It’s such an easy and pointless kill that it makes you wonder if you’re assigned this just to see how much of a bastard you really are inside.

The kicker: Report back to your quest-giver, Nazir, for feedback and hear ‘Congratulations. You slaughtered an emaciated beggar in cold blood. You are truly an opponent to be feared.’

The kicker: Report back to your quest-giver, Nazir, for feedback and hear ‘Congratulations. You slaughtered an emaciated beggar in cold blood. You are truly an opponent to be feared.’

Elenwen And Ulfric In The Truce Negotiations

Tense negotiations [Bethesda]

No matter which side you take in Skyrim’s civil war, it’s generally agreed that the Thalmor are psuedo-Nazi assholes. In the quest ‘Season Unending’, the Dragonborn finally gets the warring factions to agree to meet and discuss a temporary truce so that you can deal with the whole dragon situation.

The catch is that Elenwen, the Thalmor ambassador, insists on attending too, which nearly causes the whole thing to fall through. If you’re allied with the Imperial Legion, however, and want to get the best result for your side, you have to let Elenwen stay, this forcing poor Ulfric to conduct the negotiation under the eyes of someone who tortured him in captivity.

Even though Ulfric was my enemy, I felt genuinely bad about that. Worse than when I ended up killing him in person at the end of the war.

Bretraying Erandur For The Skull of Corruption

In all fairness, the skull is pretty rad [Bethesda]

Similar to the Ebony Blade, this is another cool Daedric artifact that requires extreme dickishness to obtain. The ‘Waking Nightmare’ quest has you team up with a priest named Erandur to stop the plague of nightmares that torments the town of Dawnstar. Throughout the dungeon crawl, Erandur is a total bro and a useful companion and only he can destroy the evil artifact that causes these nightmares.

Of course, while he attempts to do this, the Daedric prince of said evil artifact tempts you to bash in his brains and claim the Skull of Corruption for yourself. Resist the temptation, and you and Erandur can be friends forever. He’ll follow you for free and be a loyal companion. On the other hand, that skull is pretty cool and is required for an achievement. I’m a monster.

The Suicide Of Tova Shatter-Shield

Her husband should really clean this up [Bethesda]

Probably the biggest gut-punch to the feels Skyrim‘s ever given me was when I found out just how devastating the consequences of my actions were to a certain Windhelm family. The Shatter-Shields recently lost their youngest daughter Friga to a serial killer. A client for the Dark Brotherhood wants the other daughter dead. I’ve come to terms with being a contract killer after Narfi. What’s one more, right? I take care of business.

But on future visits to Windhelm, I find out that it’s far from the end of the story. Rummaging through the Shatter-Shield home (don’t judge me, this is a safe place) some time after the hit, I discover Tova, the family matriarch, dead in her home, with a suicide note next to her. Apparently, losing her other daughter pushed her over the edge. My heart had long since hardened to killing in video games, but driving an NPC to broken-hearted suicide. Daaaaaamn. The worst feels.

It’s The Freedom That Made Me A Monster

Freedom? Or maybe the werewolf blood. [Bethesda]

In an open world game with so much to do, there’s a temptation for the obsessive gamer to do everything, consistent character role-playing be damned. There’s always a way to rationalize one evil deed for your hero. Then another. One more. You need that evil artifact to beat the final boss, it’s for the greater good. Before you know it, if you do save the world, you’ve got plenty of skeletons in your closet.

Some games are wising up to this and making sure the player can’t get away with this kind of hypocrisy. They’ll call out the temptation to do morally questionable things in game for the sake of seeing all the content. Mostly though, we’re free to indulge our dark instincts with barely a slap on the wrist. In Skyrim at least, it’s rare to find a player that hasn’t felt pretty bad about something they’ve done for their own personal gain.

Any times Skyrim really made you feel bad about what you did? Let us know in the comments!

This article originally appeared on video games magazine site NowLoading.co. The site is no longer online, but I’ve uploaded a few articles from my time as a staff writer there (2016-2017) here as portfolio samples.

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