Anyone who’s played Skyrim will have found themselves embroiled in the nasty civil war that takes up a substantial amount of your questing time.
For the two of you who haven’t played The Elder Scrolls V, allow me to attempt to boil down a massively complicated and lore-fueled conflict to a mere handful of words.
Please bear in mind if I leave anything out, it’s only because I’m trying to make it as clear and concise as possible for gamers who aren’t intimately antiquated with the wonderful world of Elder Scrolls, hence, I’ll only really be addressing events from (and just leading up to ) Skyrim.
Okay, so when we begin Skyrim it transpires that we come to the Nord’s homeland in the midst of a fierce civil war between two factions – the Imperials and the Stormcloaks.
We’ve met the Imperials before, of course, they’re denizens of the once mighty Empire – an empire that ended up a shadow of its former self by the end of The Great War (which really, is a whole other thing that we won’t get into).
All you really need to know is that The Empire had little choice but to sign a peace treaty known as the White-Gold Concordat, and it’s this that brings the Stormcloaks into conflict.
See, the Stormcloaks are a made up of Nords, who are natives of Skyrim. They believe that the Empire betrayed their homeland by signing the White-Gold Concordat, which is bound by several demands from an Elven supremacist government known as the Thalmor.
Included within the concordat was an immediate and thorough banishing of the worship of Talos, the hero-God of Skyrim. This, along with the fact that many felt that Skyrim ‘belonged’ to the Nords and should remain independent and free of Imperial interference led to the rise of the Stormcloaks, and their leader Ulfric.
When Skyrim starts, you find yourself in a sticky situation, in that you’re about to have your head chopped off by the Imperials, along with a number of Stormcloack rebels and their leader, Ulfric.
Naturally, one’s immediate thoughts when asked to pick a side in the conflict later in the game would be to team up with the ones who weren’t trying to take off your head… but I don’t think it’s as clear cut as all that.
You’ll often hear the Stormcloaks banging on about how Skyrim is ‘for the Nords’, and there are several references to hate crimes and racial attacks on the Dark Elves who live in Windhelm, the Stormcloak stronghold.
Remember, the Thalmor are Dark Elves, leading Stormcloack-supporting Nords to basically assume that all Dark Elves must be corrupt. That, of course, is plain old racism, and the Stormcloaks do nothing to stop it.
As if that wasn’t dodgy enough, it’s also pretty common knowledge that the Thalmor fully intend to reignite the conflict with The Empire, despite the treaty that’s in place.
Rather than unify with the Imperials to prepare for further attacks against a common enemy, Ulfric and his men would rather drag out a needless conflict which is, in essence, fueled by xenophobia and paranoia.
I’m not saying the Imperials are blameless, but it seems to me that they did what they had to do to slam the brakes on a conflict that that already claimed many innocent lives. The way the Stormcloacks reacted is undeniably petulant, frankly.
What it really boils down to is that the Imperials seek to unify where the Stormcloaks only look to tear Tamriel further apart, so you need to ask yourself one very important question next time you join the Nords in Skyrim.
But hey, that’s just my opinion. That’s the brilliant thing about The Elder Scrolls offering such a richly detailed world to play in – there’s more than one way to look at everything.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.