Unless you haven’t been doing your reading lately, or you have a Perception stat roughly equal to that of the Fallout 3 character I made where I put all the points from his Perception skill into his Luck (which is to say, a low one), you should have noticed two distinct trends emerging in the broader gaming column writing community (we really need a snappier way of saying that) since November the 11th. The first one (that of not publishing columns or missing deadlines) we aren’t going to look at in too much depth seeing as my columns have been, as always, on time (with some time to spare, I might add), as I’m sure Cavie (when under duress) will attest to. The second tendency is the one which is going to be of interest to us today, and that is the tendency of columnists to write columns about Skyrim. Rock, Paper, Shotgun did it, we over at eGamer have done it (read: Adam has done it. Twice), and even good old Miklos from NAG wrote one in their January edition. Now, it’s completely understandable why one would write columns about Skyrim — I mean, it’s awesome — but until recently I thought I would be one of the few who stood aloof of the trend, writing about things far higher and mightier than Skyrim while my fellow, once virtuous, columnists fell by the wayside. That changed today, however, when two things happened:
1) I bought a NAG and read Miklos Szecsei’s (screw trying to say that 3 times fast; try saying it at all!) column about Lydia (the housecarl / all around servant type person assigned to the player after they save a town by killing some dragons and stuff) and how he liked her and stuff.
2) I wanted to play Skyrim. This didn’t technically ‘happen’, seeing as it’s pretty much a constant in any good nerd’s life — what really ‘happened’ is this: while playing Skyrim, I realised that I had a column to write.
Now, the topic of Lydia is one which has been the source of quite some debate amongst pretty much everyone who’s played Skyrim, and one which I happened to have rather strong feelings about. In a rare moment of open-mindedness I decided to, instead of simply ranting about how much Lydia sucked right off the bat, accept the fact that there are those out there with opinions other than the ones I hold, and thus decided give them at least a bit of weight. Naturally, the only way to do that would be to play a few hours of Skyrim with Lydia as my follower and my mind devoid of preconceived notions of her aptitude or worth as a virtual human, ready to reassess her having given her a clean slate. Thus, it was with great solemnity that I fired up Skyrim, trying my best to bear the weight of the burden I had taken upon myself in order to fulfill my responsibility to you, the reader. It was my duty and my responsibility to hit that ‘Load Game’ button and be absorbed once again into the oh-so-dreary world of Skyrim. *Cough*. *Cough cough cough*.
A few hours later (them ores don’t mine themselves!) I decided to swing past my crib in Whiterun, where Lydia had taken up residence (this was on the account I hadn’t killed her with yet). I entered my bedroom to find my wife (Aela the Huntress, of course) asleep on the bed and Lydia sitting in a chair staring at her (whether she was watching over her in my absence or plotting her demise out of jealousy I’m not sure — probably the latter, though. My character is quite the stud). I first told Lydia to follow me, and then turned to chat to Aela for a bit. Once we were finished with our little domestic discussion, I turned around once again, inspired by my open-mindedness and ready to take the world by storm with Lydia at my right hand, only to find that she had positioned herself squarely in the middle of the doorway, preventing me from exiting the room. After balleting (the verb form of ‘ballet’) around the room in a performance that would have put even the Russians to shame, I managed to entice her follower AI far enough out of the doorway that I was able to pass.
Not the best start, then, but overcome by my relentless positivity I decided to sally onwards regardless.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t get much better.
After about half an hour, things were going pretty well. Lydia and I were killing Draugr, like we do, and she was actually starting to grow on me — I suppose enduring that sort of life-threatening peril together forms a pretty good basis for a sort of bond to develop. Then, while I was volleying Firebolts at a bunch of bandits, she happened to run in front of me. She had already taken a few hits, and the Firebolt struck her squarely in the head. Her limp body flailed across the room with a dizzying inertia and I paused momentarily, realising that I may have just lost the catalyst of the subject matter for my column. I stood there, trying to decide whether to load an earlier save or not, when a great, hulking brute of a Bandit Marauder happened to make my decision for me. This decision came in the form of applying his two-handed battleaxe to the frail figure of my 110HP mage.
I respawned at my last save, Lydia once again in tow, and we began fighting our way through the dungeon for a second time. We got a lot further than we had previously, managing to reach the ‘final room’ of the dungeon. With the boss fight upon us, I could feel that ‘bond’ once again forming between me and Lydia and, admittedly, I was on the verge of changing my mind. Then it happened. Lydia was off to the side, volleying arrows into the necromancer like a good little follower as I bombarded him with Firebolts, when OUT OF NOWHERE (where nowhere = off to the side) Lydia charged heroically at our foe, making sure to beeline so that she was directly between me and the necromancer first — or, more accurately, between my Firebolt and the necromancer. I’m sure you know what happened next.
Without the late Lydia to get in the way of my spells I managed to finish off the necromancer with relative ease. I pillaged everything of value which I had entrusted her with from her dead body, exited the dungeon and returned to my house in Whiterun to fetch Aela.
I must say that I feel an awful lot better having gone through all of the trouble of challenging my views, all tolled. Not only is Lydia now dead on both of my accounts (meaning that there is no one to run in front of my spells, or stare creepily at my wife while she sleeps), but I’ve been able to ascertain pretty conclusively that Lydia in her entirety does, in fact, suck.
Damn, there’s nothing like proving yourself right.