Skyrim’s Whiterun Holds A Special Place In My Heart Even After All These Years

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Some gaming memories form a ‘core’ of your experience with the medium. If anyone ever asked why you’re passionate about video games, you’d probably regale them with these anecdotes. Those times when a game made you feel something. I have experienced many such times, with one being the first time I stepped into the city of Whiterun in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.




I initially hesitated on Skyrim, I loved Oblivion but I’m arachnophobic and seeing the giant frostbite spiders in the introductory area gave me pause (I was also 12, to be fair). Switching to third-person mode whenever I encountered my arachnid friends made the experience bearable, and so, on I went.

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The ‘intended’ route of going to Riverwood and on to Whiterun is designed to show the best of Skyrim’s landscapes, and every time I walk it I get hit with a pang of nostalgia. I’ve written before how Skyrim just ‘works’, it has a fun factor that’s not always easy to quantify because, by today’s standards, none of the individual pieces of Skyrim’s formula are executed exceptionally well.


The Heart Of Skyrim


Arriving outside Whiterun and seeing the various farms instilled in my younger self a sense of how intricate the world of Skyrim is. It makes sense that a city would need a breadbasket to supply its people with food. The Hold itself is a pleasure to explore, certainly one of the more picturesque areas of the map.

Ascending the ramp up to Whiterun before entering the Plains District is memorable because this is often the first city a player enters. You’re immediately accosted by Idolaf Battle-Born (‘Grey-Mane or Battle-Born?), who quizzes you on a conflict you’re not even educated on yet. I will choose a side, Idolaf, just give me a couple of hours.

Entering the Wind District will see you interact with the now-infamous Nazeem. Despite his insistence that you never get to the Cloud District, Nazeem is never found in Dragonsreach, and I’m on my way there right now. The marketplace is perhaps one of the more memorable parts of Whiterun, because of the sort of communal feeling about the place. I feel the same way about Riften’s marketplace even though only ne’er-do-wells hang out there.


WhiterunMarket

Skyrim has few iconic characters, but one is certainly Jarl Balgruuf the Greater. The Jarl takes the threat of the dragons very seriously and is immediately helpful. Whiterun is where Skyrim’s main quest truly begins. Fighting the game’s first dragon Mirmulnir with the guards at the Western Watchtower is a momentous occasion, and one I still remember vividly.

You can tell that Whiterun held a special significance for Bethesda. The city is full of little bits of environmental storytelling and has a bunch of interesting side quests. You just don’t get that in the other holds, even in the province’s capital Solitude. I feel only Markarth comes close to having the level of personality and identity that Whiterun has.


Year after year, I start a new Skyrim save. I escape Alduin, I defeat the giant spiders (I can do it in first-person now). I thank Ralof for the help, and despite all of the game knowledge I’ve accumulated over the past decade and a bit, despite the myriad of options available to me, I walk straight down that road, through Riverwood and towards my beloved Whiterun.

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