Colin Le Sueur

Colin Le Sueur
Colin Le Sueur

Skyrim – Building Character in Tamriel

In some of my previous videos I’ve talked about how I love creating characters in adventure or role-playing games and how those characters influence my gameplay. I thought I’d expand on that idea and look at one of my favourite games of the last five years: Skyrim.

Skyrim is the fifth game in the successful and well-established Elder Scrolls franchise. Set in a cold and unforgiving northern region, Skyrim is an open-world adventure RPG. The character you create is a blank slate, a prisoner set to be executed by Imperial forces before a dragon appears and changes everything. You can choose from a number of different races that determine starting skills. From there your character is shaped by your actions in the game and this allows you to customise your character as you play.

When you perform actions in combat, like killing an enemy with a sword or burning them down with magic flames, you gain experience and level up that particular skill (One-Handed Weapons and Destruction Magic, respectively). Gather enough experience and you’ll level up, giving you a point to assign to a number of skill trees. You can choose from a number of different trees, whether a new one-handed weapon skill or improving your mana usage in a school of magic. You’re not locked into any one class, and I see this as both a positive and negative. I like having the freedom to shape your character in any way you want but sometimes I wanted a bit narrower focus on skills.

When I create a character in Skyrim, I like to restrict him to a fairly narrow path. I say him because I predominantly play male characters. Going in, I’ve got a rough idea in my head of how my character will act and what his personality will be. I don’t go as far as creating a backstory or history for him, but I’ll have a clear understanding of what he will and will not do. I’ll choose a class framework to work with and focus all of my gameplay on realising that class.

I’ll occasionally play magic-users or thieves but my favourite character archetype is warrior. The question then becomes what type of warrior will I be? Will I be a stealthy archer, sniping enemies from a distance? Or will I be an enraged berserker, smashing monsters with a massive two-handed hammer? Sometimes I’ll try a hybrid archer/thief, combining long-range sniping with up close silent takedowns. No matter what type of class I choose, I always try to stay within my character expectations.

The world of Skyrim is so huge and the choices are so varied that you can play basically however you like, within reason. I’ll use Ragnar, my first character, as an example of how I build my characters. Ragnar is a pure warrior, with a one-handed axe and a light shield. He wears light armour, primarily made of leather or natural materials. He shuns everything magic-related, even refusing to enchant his weapons and armour. He tries to stay neutral in all political matters and didn’t join the Stormcloaks or Imperials. He’s a proud leader of the Companions but cleansed Hircine’s tainted curse as soon as he could. He’s a good man but avoids populated areas, feeling more at home in the wilderness.

I always found it more interesting to play this way, limiting my character’s interaction with the world and choosing my quests and skills carefully. As a game, Skyrim’s designed to be able to do almost everything with one character. However, I much prefer having multiple playthroughs with different characters. Sure, this means I have to play some of the main quests more than once but I feel more engagement with the game and with my characters.

Exploring the world and developing my character is my favourite part of Skyrim. I love the process of leveling up skills and customising my playstyle according to my characters. I prefer this passive style of role-playing, using the restrictions of the game to enhance my engagement. Using one character to do everything ruins the fun for me and makes for a bloated character with too many skills and not enough personality.

The beauty and genius of Skyrim is the fact you can play the game how you want to play it. By limiting my gameplay to stay within self-imposed character guidelines, I’ve gotten countless hours of enjoyment and a different experience every playthrough.

Colin Le Sueur
Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
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So, what do you think ?