In my eternal struggle to find games that grab me, I find myself playing Skyrim and wandering around in its frozen wastelands, large forests, mammoth-filled plains, more frozen wastelands and a few other nice territories scattered around the place. I’ve gone and talked about the hellhole that is Markarth, but I’ve never got around to really talking about the other major cities. So let’s do that!
We start off with Whiterun and its small village Riverwood. This is your first point of safety in the game after escaping Helgen and the scary black dragon. It’s a nice place mostly, with probably the best leadership, people who seem to actually care a little, and trying not to get everyone involved in a bloody war. Whiterun has everything one could need, all the food stores and vendors one could ask for, two nice inns, lots of nearby farms and things to do. The starter home, Breezehome, is perfectly acceptable and you can’t ask for much more. Whiterun also has a very handy vendor right as you enter the city, as well as a lovely blacksmith in Riverwood, so it covers most of your needs.
After Whiterun, we travel east, going around a giant mountain and through an aspen forest, all the way to Riften. While Riften itself is beautiful, a wooden city built over the waters of a lake, sadly half its inhabitants are crooked or have their own problems. No matter what you do, you can’t really purge the city of its crookedness, but you can at least help the local vigilante find her fancy sword. If money is what you want, the local Thieves Guild should be able to fill your purse with gold pretty easily. Honeyside is one of the best homes in the game, while it is rather small, it has direct access to both Riften and Skyrim proper, making it very convenient. The only downside to Riften is that there’s no smelter in the city – the closest one is at Shor’s Stone, which is bloody miles away but provides the whole of the Rift with materials.
Heading back north, we reach the Stormcloak city of Windhelm, a depressing, permanently frozen castle filled with murders. Again, the city itself is interesting, with nearby farms and a port for travel to Solstheim, but there’s corruption and distrust here. And murders. Yes, there’s someone going around murdering people. Oh and no one apart from Nords are welcome in the city. Fine. Moving on.
Travel back west along the coast and you come across the crippled city of Winterhold. This place used to be amazing but it’s all gone now. All that remains is the College of Winterhold. It’s a great place to learn magic or get frostbite, but there is nothing else to it. The barren city only has a handful of citizens, and most of them are pissed off and angry, and rightfully so.
Head even further west and you come across the fishing port of Dawnstar. While there is not much going on here, the fishing is pretty good, the mining is pretty good and there are some things to do. Just… don’t go to sleep. While you might not wake up working at a large, stone relic, you’ll have the daedric prince of nightmares feeding off your dreams. Also here is a very nice priest of Mara, who is totally worth talking to. Just… watch out for strange goings on around the cliffs – trolls and horkers are rampant, and there’s a creepy door nearby.
Following the coast takes you to the swamplands and river. The swamplands surround the small city of Morthal, which doesn’t have much going on, and is surrounded by giant spiders and other nasty things. Morthal is not a place for the lighthearted, with yet more strange goings on, involving the burning down of a home and a child dying. But if you have vampirism, Morthal is a pretty good place to be, whether it’s to get yourself cured or to raid the nearby vampire lairs for cattle.
Heading away from that scary place and heading back north takes us to the capital of Skyrim, Solitude. Located on a wonderful arch, this city has it all – safety, security, good inns, a lovely (but pricey) home, all the shopping one needs and a nice port on which you can watch the world go by. Solitude is also the Imperial base, so if you’re a Stormcloak, you’re not welcome. Everyone else is. Apart from Khajiit.
I’ve already mentioned Markarth before, but a tour around Skyrim isn’t complete without visiting the city built on a, uh, Dwemer city. Located to the far west of Skyrim, Markartch is literally just a Dwemer city sitting on a large silver mine. They just plainly took over the place when the Dwemer disappeared. Annoyingly, despite how amazing the architecture of the city is, everyone’s a bastard and you really should quicksave and kill them all.
And that concludes our tour of Skyrim.
Wait, shit! I forgot about Falkreath! No wonder, it’s just like Morthal, but much further south and honestly not really that interesting apart from the Daedric quests. The only good thing about Falkreath is that the best Hearthfire home is located there, Lakeside Manor.