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Kicking Skyrim's Ass, Day 2: Too Early To Suck

Alduin has been given a little more time from being kicked in his dragonballs because I received the parts needed to do that RAID 10 upgrade I said I was going to do.  I ended up getting a couple of HGST Travelstar 7K1000 drives because Seagate doesn't sell 7200 RPM drives at 2.5" in 1TB size.  Performance is a little better, but not by as much as I was hoping: my Microsoft Experience Index for the storage went from 5.9 to 6.2.  Maybe I should have gone the hybrid SSD route after all.

That's done, so lets get back to beating Skyrim to a bloody pulp.
My attempts at long distance acupuncture have cured this bandit of her thieving ways.

At the point where I left off, I had killed my first dragon and the likable jarl of Whiterun rewarded me by naming me thane of Whiterun.  The title came with a housecarl, a domestic servant.  Enter nearly every Skyrim player's first and last NPC follower: Lydia.

Here's how Lydia looks like before you install
some mod that turns her into some kind of
unfeasibly-clad adolescent wet dream, you perv.
Lydia is a girl infamous for ironically saying, "I'm sworn to carry your burdens" so often that Bethesda actually patched the game to give her a few more lines along with making her a marriage candidate.  Is it any wonder that so many gamers wanted to get hitched to Lydia when she seems to understand marriage so well?

I will probably keep Lydia.  In addition to lugging around my junk, she can be the better half of a melee-focused juggernaut that this Dovahkiin was never meant to be.  That is, when she's not being a dumbass blocking my way in narrow corridors or an obstruction to every shot I line up.  These are all roles she savors with religious zeal.

My shiny new Dovahkiin has not even lost that designer layer of showroom grime yet, so Skyrim's end game imbalance will not be an issue for a few more levels.  Until then, there is a more manageable imbalance to worry about: I have to stop my combat skills from falling too far behind my non-combat skills, or I might find myself trying to fight off much tougher opponents than I can.  Come on Bethesda, would it have been that hard to calculate combat level based solely on combat skills?

Leaving Whiterun, I kept my desire to wander off the beaten path mostly in check.  The goal here is to beat the game, breaking the back of the destroyer of the world, before I completely bore of Skyrim again.  Thus, I went straight to the next leg of the quest, climbing the several thousand steps to the throat of the world, High Hrothgar.
Screenshots like this make it hard for me to remember how broken this game
is.  It looks a little worse when you're not using the realistic lighting mod.
Even without, this game has plenty of reviewer-hypnotizing views in it.

It rained.  It rained the whole way up the treacherous mountain.  It rained while the blustering winds blew clouds of snow off the crags at the highest altitude in the game.  Some would say that the weather engine was malfunctioning, but I think Skyrim was making fun of me.

The rain vanished when I finally entered the temple at the top of the mountain.  Here, once again, were the Greybeards teaching me The Way Of The Voice, forcing me to sit through monotonous dialogue I had heard 20 times before.

Are you the Dragonborn?  Prove it by pushing your Shout button.  Oh, so you are the Dragonborn, let me give you lots of exposition about that.  Okay, stand here and wait while we upgrade your Shout.  Good, now stand here while we make an excuse as to why you don't need to kill a dragon to unlock that upgrade.  Great, so now we're going to make you Shout three times at these decoys we're going to inexplicably summon.  You're doing fantastic, you casual idiot, now lets see if you can follow that slowly walking guy out the back door.  Now that we're in the courtyard, stand around while we painstakingly teach you a new Shout and unlock it for the second time in so many minutes.  Okay, this next part is the greatest challenge of all: you need to navigate our cumbersome menu system so you can switch from one Shout to another.  Got your new Shout equipped?  Super, now jump through the hoop, boy!  Aim for the gate and jump through the hoop!  Good boy!  Pat on the head, off you go to the next leg of the quest.
The Greybeards aren't exactly party animals.

Having dealt to the esteemed members of the overzealous tutorial council, I head back down to the village at the summit to claim a nice 500 gold reward for running some supplies up to them... you know, that's the tenth of the money needed to buy a house in Whiterun, this guy must really hate walking up those steps.  Then I ransacked the undead-infested barrow that the town was foolhardily built around.  There's some other quests here, one involving informing the village idiot that his sister had died, and another involving lugging ten extremely heavy bear pelts to a mean-tempered woman who was getting back at nature... screw that noise, I had dragons to slay.
No, I'm not going to find out what happened to your sister.
What do you want from me?  I got a world to save.

The next major milestone was to get the horn of Jurgen Windcaller.   I took the slow overland route, maybe enjoying Skyrim's environment despite my resentment about the game balance, but found I had landed immediately in a side quest at Hilgrund's Tomb.  Damn, this game is good at distracting me from the task at hand.

Alright, so this dude named Golldir apparently sent his aunt in alone to deal with a necromancer defiling his ancestors' remains, and wanted help killing the necromancer.  Sure thing, buddy.  Naturally, I busied myself looting everything I could get my grubby hands on in that crypt and the developers even thought to give the dude a line where he notices this but reluctantly gives me permission.  I liked this side quest more than most because the draugr were satisfyingly thick; usually, draugr are too sparse to be anything but an annoyance.

Necromancer dealt with, me and Lydia were now burdened with some quality loot, and so I stopped by Windhelm to unload it.  Waiting at the entrance of Windhelm was a scripted exchange demonstrating the rebels were xenophobic morons.  I ignored that, and head to the various merchants to unload my junk.

I traveled on foot northwest of Windhelm in the direction of Jurgen Windcaller's tomb, avoiding any lengthy side quests this time.  A dragon ambushed me before I reached Fort Dunstead, but it was the weakest kind there was and we made quick work of it.  A bandit from the nearby fort got involved in the fight.  Before I knew it, I had sacked the whole fort, its somewhat-broken pathing making the bandits easy pickings.   I avoided getting entangled in Dawnstar politics, but passed through both an imperial and a rebel camp before I made it to the tomb. 

Along the way, I had abused the fast travel system to unload my loot at Whiterun and Windhelm, and a significant amount of gold ended up in the pocket of a Speech trainer because I wanted to get that perk that allows me to unload any kind of junk to any merchant.  I managed to do that, and there's one significant part of Skyrim's ass kicked right there.

I also completed the "blood on the ice" sidequest while I was in Windhelm because it started during one of my loot unloading visits, I knew how to complete it, and the Necromancer's amulet is rather nice to have when you're running the Aertyr's Artifact Balance Overhaul plugin.   If it weren't for all that, I'd have blown it off as another distraction between me and beating this game.
Though the Tomb of Jurgen Windcaller twists around more erratically than most holes in the ground in Skyrim, this would be the 5th or 6th time I cleared it, so I did not get lost... much.  Admittedly, having the clairvoyance spell helped to show me where to go after I uncovered the word for the incorporeal Shout.  Other than that, it was a walk in the park... an underground park lousy with draugr, skeletons, and giant spiders.  At the end was the same old note sending me back to Riverwood.

A Blade In The Dark turned out to be hilarious.  At the part where Alduin resurrected his dragon buddy Sahloknir to fight us, Sahloknir immediately flew off to pick a fight with a giant and his two mammoths.  The dragon essentially committed suicide, a victim of Bethesda never getting around to making dragons more powerful than giants.  Then Delphine got lost as she took the long route down the hill to try to find Sahloknir's corpse so she could declare the quest done.  Radiant AI, do your stuff.

I made a quick stop off at Riverwood so Delphine knew to expect to see me at Solitude eventually.  Then I head up to visit the Greybeards, horn of Jurgen Windcaller in hand.  They declared the tutorial finished in the most exposition-heavy way possible, and I am now set with Fus Ra Doh fully unlocked.

At this point in the main quest line, Skyrim has completely opened up, and I could do pretty much do anything I want.  In that case, I think it's time I go enact vengeance for Twilight happening by brutalizing some vampires while simultaneously completing one of these expansions I bought but never bothered to play before.

Dawnguard, here I come.

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