Nov. 21st, 2016

fereldanwench: (Hawke - Rhiannon - Unamused)
This was prompted by [personal profile] sarasa_cat's question on Tumblr, but I figured it'd be easier to talk about here without character limits and losing conversation amidst reblogging.

I really don't know a whole lot about the overall world-building in the franchise, and how I've come to enjoy the game has minimized my exposure to a lot of it (which I'll elaborate on in a minute). [personal profile] theharlotofferelden brought up how a lot of the races are presented, and through my limited exposure in game and a little curious Googling, I picked up that for the available human races, it breaks down approximately like so:

  • The Imperials are sort of a nebulous Roman counterpart.
  • The Nords are like a (surprise, surprise) Nordic or Scandinavian people.
  • The Bretons are supposed to correspond with people in Celtic regions
  • The Redguards would be akin to a North African or Middle Eastern people.

    The CC will tell you a little about the defining physical characteristics of each race, like the Nords being fair-haired and the Redguards having dark complexions, but I don't think you're limited by any those, so you could feasibly make a black Nord or a pale Redguard. (I think--I have a mega CC overhaul installed, and I don't know if that changes anything.) I don't think the Breton or Imperial description mentions anything one way or another.

    The non-human races have some really overt coding, like the Khajiit (cat people) with the Romani. There are a few different variety of elves, and I read some speculation that they were supposed to be generically coded as east Asian, but I haven't encountered them enough to say for sure.

    I've only played as a Nord and an Imperial, so I don't know how much the player gets hit over the head with racism if they choose another race, but I would imagine it's pretty rough for any of the non-human races. I know dark elves in particular are treated like shit in Windhelm--They're basically sectioned off like in an alienage. But within the greater scope of Tamriel on the whole, I don't think they're subjugated all over in a similar way that elves are in DA? One of the most notable Imperial leaders is a dark elf, and when you get to Solitude, they're just as rich (and classist) as the human nobility. It seems like where ever there's a stronger Imperial influence over a Nord one, they aren't treated any differently.

    The Dragonborn storyline is intertwined with the Nords versus the Empire storyline, which essentially makes you pick a side (unless you get some mods to separate them or get rid of them entirely). It's a fucked decision either way. The Empire is basically coming in here with their soldiers and banning the Nords' religions and way of life, and I mean... It's an Empire. No good comes from that. But the leader of the Nords' rebellion, Ulfric, promotes that whole "keep Skyrim for the Nords thing" that is really blatantly racist but not really challenged. Did Bethesda even consider the implications of an Anglo group of people trying to "purify" their lands of outsider influences??? It doesn't seem like it.

    So... Yes. There is probably a lot about these dynamics that would make someone rage quit, especially if they go into it wanting to play the main storyline or if they want to play a PC who isn't an Imperial or Nord. The first Dragonborn I made did end up siding with the Stormcloaks, but I became very uncomfortable with that decision and ended up dropping her entirely after that point.

    But there are so many mods available that can drastically change the gameplay and the PC's storyline that I think it could still be very enjoyable depending on what you're looking for. There are mods that do away with the Dragonborn plot entirely and let you choose your own path completely--One of the PCs I have right now came from a group of bandits and is now weaseling her way into the Thieves Guild. The other one is desperately trying to get into the Mages College but doesn't have the skills yet. The thief might become an actual Dragonborn at some point, but right now I'm just having fun traveling the world. Neither will get involved in the war decision.

    With both I've gotten way more into the exploration of the world and the small, fetchy quests than the big, overarching plot. Mods like Campfire, iNeed, and Frostfall turn wandering Skyrim into something with purpose and consequence. Ingrid got hypothermia trying to camp in the middle of a blizzard, and her companion had to bring her to a nearby inn to recuperate--That was awesome. Having to make sure there's enough inventory space for food and drink, and making sure they get sleep once a day turns it more into a survival simulation in a fantasy setting than an open world RPG with a mediocre premise.

    And I think that approach has made it a lot more fun for me. There's definitely no way to avoid the off-handed comments from NPCs or separate the world entirely from the war that's embedded in it, but I think there are so many mods available that most people could probably find a way to tweak the game to make it more palatable to their entertainment desires.
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