The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was quite literally a game-changer for the world of video games. Its shadow falls over every major game release. Every open-world or fantasy game released since has been compared to Skyrim, and every game–from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has been impacted by it. It's doubtful there was ever a game in history that was released to as much fanfare as Skyrim. For months afterward, everyone dumped hundreds of hours into it, and PC gamers modded it until it crashed. Many people are still playing and still modding, not to mention it's the best-selling Elder Scrolls game to date.
Skyrim is probably the most influential game of the twenty-first century. People still talk about it almost six years after its release. While the story is not as good as its predecessors Oblivion or Morrowind, mechanically it's the best of the series. The story, controls, combat, setting, and aesthetic are all culturally ubiquitous at this point. While it had more than its fair share of bugs and crashes, the robust and sprawling modding community makes up for vanilla Skyrim's flaws.
Like with any popular game, Skyrim has received its fair share of criticism, particularly for its bugs, over-reliance on dungeons, the lackluster vanilla UI, and other things. But there are also misconceptions, rumors, speculation, and just plain faulty criticisms of the fifth Elder Scrolls game.
Here are 22 things everyone gets wrong about Skyrim.
22 This Meme Took An Arrow To The Knee
At this point, the most worn-out joke on the internet doesn't need any introduction. By now, everyone is familiar with Skyrim's most infamous bit of guard dialogue. Even memes and mockeries of it have been rendered cliché. "Arrow to the knee" is one of the game's most-repeated stock lines and one of the most over-saturated memes, right up there with Portal's "the cake is a lie." But a few years ago, one fan theory popped up that tried to explain the phrase was more complex than we thought.
Rumors abounded that "arrow to the knee" was actually an old Nordic slang for getting married. So the guards weren't talking about being put off adventuring by an injury, but rather settling down. It's a nice idea, but it isn't true. There's no evidence that "arrow to the knee" was Scandinavian slang (the theory seems to have originated on Tumblr), and the developers explicitly told the press that it was just a line they made up give the guards more personality.
21 No Sleeper Agent Here
The Thalmor Dossier on Ulfric Stormcloak is one of the most controversial documents in the game. Found inside the Thalmor Embassy in a chest in the interrogation room, the dossier's true meaning is debated among fans to this day. Some interpret the dossier to mean that Ulfric and his entire Stormcloak Rebellion are part of a plot by the Thalmor and that Ulfric was brainwashed to be their servant. The idea of Jarl Stormcloak as a puppet of the Aldmeri Dominion is encouraged by the fact they refer to him as "dormant asset."
Of course, reading carefully that's not what the document says at all. While it does say that the Thalmor wanted to prevent Ulfric's execution at Helgen, it also says "a Stormcloak victory is to be avoided" and that such a victory would harm their plans in Skyrim. In essence, they prefer the Stormcloak Rebellion to continue as a stalemate to destabilize Skyrim and the Empire, so they can gain control. It's a huge stretch to say that means that Ulfric is a Thalmor sleeper agent.
20 The GPS System Is Awesome And You Know It
Skyrim is often compared with Morrowind, considered by most fans to be the highlight of the Elder Scrolls series. There are many points of contention between the fans of the two games. One of these is the very different navigation systems. While Skyrim has quest markers that appear in-game and on your map that tell you precisely where to go to kill stuff, Morrowind gave you written directions in your journal that you had to find yourself to reach your destination. Fans argue Morrowind's system was superior, more immersive, and encouraged exploration.
Except, that's a load of rubbish. Before you jump down my throat, hear me out: Morrowind is one of the greatest games of all time, but the unorganized "journal" system was horrible. After a while, you had so much on your plate that it was difficult to find anything in the journal, and it was easy to spend hours getting lost, wandering until you lose the will to live. How long did you look for the Cavern of the Incarnate? Skyrim's GPS system can also be turned off if you want.
19 Iron Daggers Become Double Useless
The iron dagger is one of the most common weapons in Skyrim, and one of the first weapons which the Dragonborn has access to. The player will likely craft at least one iron dagger during the initial tutorial for using a blacksmith's forge in Riverwood. The small daggers are pretty basic, having the lowest base damage of any weapon in the game (other than things like forks and wooden swords). However, conventional wisdom tells us you can level your Smithing skill in Skyrim by hoarding iron ingots and leather strips. Then you just craft hundreds of daggers, letting you level up your Smithing very quickly.
That is, until a recent patch. It used to take 400 iron daggers to reach Smithing level 100. Now it takes about 2400, and you can get even more experience and more money from forging iron arrows or Dwarven arrows instead. On the plus side, with Hearthfire, you can give iron daggers to your children to carry around, and that's pretty badass.
18 Streamlining Is "Dumbing Down"
While Morrowind is one of our favorite games, it's time to admit that not everything about it was sunshine and roses. Remember when you had to sleep to level up? Or haul around a whole chemistry set to make potions? Or when weapons and armor degraded, or when you started off walking really slow and swords missed Cliff Racers 99% of the time? Morrowind had a lot of stuff that could be improved. Among these is the convoluted player attribute system.
There were no less than 27 separate skills in Morrowind. There are seven for melee weapons alone: Short Blade, Long Blade, Axe, Blunt Weapon, Spear, Marksman, and Hand-to-Hand. All of them level completely separate from one another, meaning you can have level 100 Long Blade, pick up a shorter sword, and swing like a novice. In Skyrim, melee has been simplified into One-Handed, Two-Handed, and Archery, encompassing skills with more weapons at once. Morrowind also had skills like Mysticism which could (and were) easily combined with other skills.
Some have criticized Skyrim for "dumbing down" the game, when mostly it just streamlined it. The Perk system for leveling was also a stroke of genius.
17 Not The Symbol You Think
Even those not familiar with the Elder Scrolls Universe probably noticed the same majestic dragon symbol on the cover art for Skyrim, and an identical symbol on important in-game books (and even the Prima Official Strategy Guide). While many think it's the symbol of the Empire, the dragon symbol is the banner of the Imperial Legion. It was also seen hanging in Imperial buildings in Morrowind and Oblivion. But the Legion is just one faction in the world, and the player doesn't have to join it. So why is the Imperial Legion symbol the logo for the game Skyrim as a whole?
One overlooked fact is that the version of the dragon logo used in Skyrim's official materials and on the cover of The Book of the Dragonborn has a broken wing, which is different than the standard Legion symbol. The broken wing on the dragon symbolizes the Civil War and the crumbling Third Empire under the rule of the Mede Dynasty following the events of Oblivion.
16 Disenchanted With Disenchanting
Enchanting took on a new life when Skyrim came out. Mechanically, it was one of the more impressive achievements of the game and was a godsend for Mage characters and anyone who likes their weapons to also do fire, ice, or shock damage (i.e. everyone). To learn an enchantment, a magic item with that particular enchantment needs to be used at an arcane enchanter so that the Dragonborn can learn it in a process called "disenchanting." While disenchanting destroys the item, you gain the ability to enchant other items with the learned spell.
Logically, disenchanting a higher level item should give you a more powerful enchantment, right? Nope, not at all. Disenchantment works the same on a humble Iron Dagger or a mighty Daedric Sword, provided they have the same enchantment. The strength of the enchantment or value of the item doesn't affect the enchantment you learn, and also doesn't affect how powerful other items you enchant will be. It all depends on your skills and your perks, so save your high-level stuff and disenchant lower quality junk early on for the best result.
15 Divine NPC Protection
One of the most memorable mechanics from Morrowind is that if you were willing to accept the consequences for it, you could kill anyone at all, even NPCs you needed to complete the main quest. Killing one of them would cause a message from the game to pop up saying that "the thread of prophecy has been broken" and it tells you to reload a save or "continue in this doomed world."
Oblivion changed this by introducing the concept of "essential" NPCs who can't be killed, but merely fall unconscious. This concept was carried over to Skyrim, where they just fall to the floor and after a while get back up with a full health bar. Some fans have complained this eliminates difficulty in the game. But really, why should a game be that easily breakable? Let's also remember if NPCs that you need to complete Skyrim could be killed by you Morrowind-style, they could also be killed by dragons, falling, drowning, or random encounters and events. If the Morrowind system was restored, your 200-hour Skyrim playthrough could be broken through no fault of your own.
14 Leave The Poor Children Alone
The concept of "essential" NPCs brings up another topic that needs to be addressed within the Elder Scrolls fandom. Go to a site with Skyrim mods like Nexus and search "children." What do you think you'll find? New mechanics? Alternate clothes or faces? Some of that, but about 98 percent of the search results you'll get on any page are "killable children" mods. This is because all children NPCs are essential in Skyrim.
Complaints about how unrealistic it is that children are immortal in Skyrim miss the point, not to mention its actually illegal to depict the player murdering children in video games in many countries of the world. This isn't an argument for censorship of violent video games (in fact I love them), but rather an acknowledgment that some subjects just shouldn't be portrayed. With all the wonderful destruction you can otherwise cause in Skyrim it's hard to understand the fascination with hurting kids.
13 More Scenery Than You Think
Skyrim's aesthetic has come under fire for basically just being endless snowy forest and mountains, a competent (if bland) European-style setting for the story. While the province of Skyrim is certainly not quite as alien and filled with a sense of wonder as that of Morrowind, let's remember that the world of Skyrim has a blend of influences from different cultures, including the Romans, Vikings, Middle Ages Europe, Scandinavia, and fictional cultures like Altmer. Yet it all feels like part of one world.
While a lot of Skyrim is covered in snow, both games have their dull settings and beautiful settings. Let's remember a lot of Vvardenfell was endless volcanic ash. There's also the startling difference between, say, the snowy wasteland of Winterhold and the lush, colorful trees of Falkreath. If you do get tired of Skyrim, there's also the Dragonborn DLC, which takes you back to Morrowind. While there aren't vastly different areas on the main map, there are different landscapes, weather, and creatures.
12 Iconic Doesn't Equal Useful
The Iron Helmet is the helmet used for the original Skyrim trailer. It's worn by the Dragonborn in all the pre-release trailers and artwork for the game, and the horned headgear has become something of an iconic association with Skyrim. It's so recognized that it makes cameo appearances in games like Team Fortress 2, the 2016 reboot of DOOM (found on a burnt body with an arrow to the knee), and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.
It's too bad that the Iron Helmet is utter trash. Seriously. You're going to wear this helmet for maybe twenty or thirty minutes of gameplay, tops, before you stumble upon something better. It's too bad given its special status, but the Imperial Officer's Helmet, the Dwarven Helmet, and pretty much any other piece of heavy armor you can find has better stats and looks ten times better than the game's most recognizable item.
11 Potions Brew And Sweetrolls Too!
Come on, the cooking and alchemy mechanics are great. Alchemy is useful for making money and saving it. Alchemy is cheaper in the long run because you can make your own healing, magicka, and stamina boosting potions, without needing to drop gold to the local merchants. Gathering ingredients is part of adventuring in Skyrim, and alchemy is a great source of income early in the game when you're saving, looting, and stealing everything that isn't nailed down (trying to buy that shiny new armor or spellbook). If you level your Alchemy stats you can make stronger potions than the ones you buy.
Cooking also lets you turn ingredients into something more useful, and it was one of the best decisions for immersion. Not only do cooked dishes provide more substantial nutrition than raw food, they offer good stat boosts as well, some just as effective as potions. Plus, you can bake pies, dumplings, garlic bread, and sweet rolls with Hearthfire, man. Your own homemade sweet rolls!
10 A Rewarding Decision
After nearly getting their head chopped off at Helgen, the Dragonborn is presented with an important choice as soon as the player takes control of them: run away with Ralof of the Stormcloaks, or Hadvar of the Empire. The general consensus is that this choice is purely for role-playing purposes and has no major effect on gameplay. But story factors aside, the initial choice does have a big effect on what equipment you start the game with, as well as the amenities you'll get in Riverwood.
Going with Ralof will get you access to Heavy Armor and One-Handed Weapons earlier in the game, while going with Hadvar will allow you to level Smithing and use a Two-Handed Weapon. You can also name-drop them to their respective commanders later, and during the Jagged Crown quest whichever one you went with will respond to you more positively. You still shouldn't lose sleep over the decision, but it does change things.
9 Not A Very Durable Argument
Durability mechanics are a controversial topic. On the one hand, its fans argue it creates more immersion, depth, and realism. Its critics say it's almost always poorly executed and harms enjoyment of the final game. This has come to the front of popular video game discourse especially thanks to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it's been an enduring debate. Like many other video game series to make use of the mechanic, durability has been controversial in Elder Scrolls as well.
In both Morrowind and Oblivion, weapon and armor condition degrades as the items are used, and when they reach 0 the item is broken and cannot be used anymore. In Skyrim, armor and weapons don't degrade but can be improved if you've got the Smithing skill. Here's the thing: the older games weren't as unforgiving as Breath of the Wild, but Elder Scrolls should take a page out of Fallout's book when it comes to durability mechanics. The main reason Bethesda got rid of it is probably because in many games, it's a reason not to use powerful weapons for fear of them breaking.
8 In The Shadows
Stealth in Morrowind wasn't just un-ideal; it was straight-up broken. It didn't work and it's time we admitted that. Invisibility wore off by interacting with any objects or NPCs or if you cast a spell, which really sucks all the fun out of invisibility in the first place and limits its uses to "run away quickly." Then there's Chameleon. It's more useful than invisibility, especially since you can interact with things and not turn instantly visible for no reason. It also goes well with a ranged bow and you get damage bonuses for not being detected. But Chameleon is listed as a percentage and it absolutely does not work as such.
This isn't to say stealth is completely unviable in Morrowind. But your Sneak does need to be very high (about 60-70) to get any use out of it. Characters can also see you through walls and other obstacles even outside their cone of vision. NPCs don't have a daily routine AI in Morrowind and never sleep unlike in Oblivion or Skyrim, and light level doesn't affect your detection possibility, so sneaking around at night doesn't do you any good either.
7 Too Much Fast Travel
This has to be one of the most bizarre complaints about Skyrim that everyone gets wrong. Fundamentally, what is the difference between Skyrim's system of point-and-click fast travel where you can instantly teleport to anywhere you've visited before, and Morrowind's Silt Strider system, which does the exact same thing except you've got to pay a rather paltry sum of gold for it and talk to an NPC? Other than the immersion of you using a giant flea as a taxi cab, you still instantly teleport to any of the major cities you've visited before. Skyrim kept this around in the form of the carriages for hire. The only difference is that Skyrim includes many major dungeons as well.
Fast Travel is also not unique to Skyrim. It's been around since The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, where you didn't even have to discover a place to teleport there.
6 Dwarves Are More Mesopotamian Than Tolkien
This next misconception is common not only to the real world where we live but in the world of the Elder Scrolls Universe itself. So much so that the author of the in-game book Dwarves: The Lost Race of Tamriel wrote in the first volume: "Let me begin by correcting a common misconception. The proper term to use when referencing the ancient lost race of Tamriel is 'Dwemer.'" People who have explored Dwemer ruins, worn their armor and seen their ghosts know that the so-called "Dwarves" are the size of humans. Dwemer armor fits other races with no problem.
So why are the Dwemer called "dwarves" at all? There are multiple theories: one says the Giants gave them that name because they were short compared to them. Another suggests the Earthbones did something similar for the same reason, while another says it's a mistranslation of the word "Dwemer." On a meta level, they may be called "dwarves" to reference the classic fantasy idea of deep-dwelling, engineering Dwarven races.
5 Leveling System Is Better Than Oblivion
You can level your One-Handed skill by using a sword, and then if you want, give your Perk point to Destruction magic and give your stat boost to Magicka. While some may ask why, it's all in the name of versatility and giving the player the most open choices available. Skyrim is the first game in the Elder Scrolls series to be so open. Though it still has racial bonuses, it did away with Birthsigns and other things that seem to lock you on a path and cannot be changed.
In Oblivion, you had to improve a combination of major skills by 10 points to level up, and you had to sleep in a bed to do it. Minor skills do not affect leveling. In Skyrim, you automatically gain experience in skills, and increasing your skills is the only way to level up. Once you do you can boost Health, Stamina, and Magicka 10 points for each level. The Skyrim system is a way to make all skills count toward advancement and streamline your character level.
4 Racism In The World Of Skyrim
Racism has always been a problem between the ten races of Tamriel. With the crumbling of the Empire, this has only gotten worse, especially with the rise of the Third Aldmeri Dominion, who put Elven supremacy into the popular discourse. Nationalism has also become a problem in lands like Black Marsh, which separated itself from the Empire. Players of Skyrim have noted the racism shown toward the Dunmer of Windhelm by the citizens and relatives of prominent Stormcloaks, leading some to conclude that the Stormcloaks (and Nords in general) are racist.
But let's remember Morrowind once again, in which nearly every NPC would casually talk about genocide when you asked them their opinion on any other race. Also, while the Dunmer are ill-treated in Skyrim, let's be fair and remember the Dunmer enslaved pretty much everyone, including Argonians, Khajiit, and human races like the Nords. It's clear that this was brewing for a long time and isn't limited to Skyrim, and pre-Red Year Morrowind is the most likely candidate for the most racist part of Tamriel.
3 A Rather Civil Civil War
Aside from the main quest to defeat Alduin and save the world, the most well-known quest in Skyrim is the Civil War questline where you can choose to pick a side between the Mede Empire or the Stormcloak rebels. While some criticize the Civil War for being too linear and dependent on the Dragonborn, dialogue, markers, and quest updates left in the game indicate that it was originally meant to be more complex.
Hold capturing was supposed to be dynamic, with the opposite side actively attacking and the player fighting both offensive and defensive battles. Either side could lose and gain holds, even the capitals Windhelm and Solitude, enabling the final battle to take place elsewhere. Taking a hold also would have involved a full siege like the Battle of Whiterun, instead of just capturing forts. The Dragonborn could also encounter full-fledged battles between the two sides out in the wild. Sadly, technical limitations forced Bethesda to tone down the content of the Civil War, leading to the quest we all know.
2 Don't Call Them Dragons!
Every contrarian in the gaming world has probably said this at some time or another. The argument goes that in mythology dragons have four legs and wings, while wyverns have two legs and two wings that act as their front legs or "arms." The dragons in Skyrim have wings and two legs, so they should be properly called wyverns and not dragons.
The fact is, there is no established biology or single look for dragons. Dragons can be depicted as serpentine, reptilian, or even bird-like. Chinese dragons are shown as snake-like with four legs and no wings at all. Even in English depictions, creatures with two legs and two wings are also called "dragons" and not wyverns. It seems to defeat the purpose to not allow for different fantasy worlds to have different visions.
1 The World Eater
Here we are at perhaps the biggest misconception about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: the idea that Alduin is the weakest dragon in fiction. Now to be clear, the boss battle with him is pretty easy (some would say anti-climactic), especially if you fight the monstrous black dragon with a high-level character. Lore-wise, Alduin is one of the most powerful beings in Elder Scrolls. Let's remember Alduin regains his strength by devouring the souls of mortals in the realm of Sovngarde, where the Dragonborn and other legendary heroes fight him while he is severely weakened. He's invincible until the very end when you learn the Dragonrend shout.
As the Nordic God of Destruction, he seeks to restore dragon rule of the world through reviving his long-dead brethren to conquer Tamriel and end the world. He actually used to rule the world and was only defeated by an Elder Scroll sending him forward in time. Even after his defeat, dialogue with the Greybeards implies that Alduin is not truly defeated, and will one return to fulfill his destiny as World-Eater.