Patrick Hope: In a Snowbound land
Games are often this weird medium where you take the experience of a game and base it on some holistic merit. But at the same time, there are all of these individual parts that need to come together. It's not exactly an uncommon experience for an...
Games are often this weird medium where you take the experience of a game and base it on some holistic merit.
But at the same time, there are all of these individual parts that need to come together. It’s not exactly an uncommon experience for an otherwise great game to fall short of achieving something special because of one aspect or you’ll hear “(insert game title here) was awful, but that it sure had great music!”
Of course, this can be amplified if a great game has one particularly awesome section, which is what we’re here to look at today. Well, we’ll be doing it for all of November. And we’re starting with an appropriately wintry area as we start the descent into the colder part of the year - “Skyrim’s” Winterhold.
The province of Skyrim is absolutely massive and after you complete the first few missions, namely getting out of Helgen, you’re free to do just about anything you want. And because of how the levels were scaled in “Skyrim,” you really could do just about anything without worrying about getting to an area where all the enemies clearly outclassed you and would wreck you on sight. This opens up so many possibilities to explore the world.
When you start off, all of the cities on the map seem like exotic, far-off places. And there is no place that sounds more exotic or looks farther off the beaten path than Winterhold.
Winterhold is more or less about as far away from your starting location as you can get. You start off in the actually pretty green Southwest of Skyrim and Winterhold is all the way in the Northeast. The only thing you really know about it is that it’s where the College of Winterhold, which is pretty much Skyrim Hogwarts, is located.
There’s something magical about a location you only see on a map where there’s a secluded college. So when I first played “Skyrim,” I decided to go check out Winterhold.
It took me more than two hours to get there.
Skyrim is very, very large. And when you haven’t been to a location yet, even if it’s one of the holds, you only have a general idea of where it’s located, so you’ll have to get there the old-fashioned way-by following signposts.
A large part of the Winterhold experience is the journey to get there. The terrain slowly becomes more mountainous. The snow starts to become more prominent. The sky becomes gray and then the blizzards start. And you finally get there.
And Winterhold is more or less a tiny village. The college is secluded and cut off from the rest of the town. There was a cataclysm that caused most of the town to fall into the ocean. It’s pretty much a dreary snowbound town in the middle of the mountains. And that’s what makes Winterhold special.
It’s very easy to romanticize faraway places, even in video games, like Winterhold. You think reaching them will be some major milestone and you’ll be greeted with this shining metropolis.
But there’s really nothing special about the four or five buildings and the college. But counterintuitively, because Winterhold is so unremarkable, it’s memorable. It’s all about the journey and that “Wow, this is it?” feeling.
It’s the rare area in a game where the destination just doesn’t matter that much. It’s just a place on a map.
Hope is a local attorney and video game enthusiast. The really sad part is that the College of Winterhold quests are really pretty boring.