Every day this week, we'll be visiting a version of Skyrim unlike any you've ever seen before – a world thrown into anarchy and chaos by Sheogorath, God of Madness, and the assistance of over 200 blindly-installed mods. In our fourth part, it's time to put aside the altered and search for the new. What unseen wonders does Skyrim now hide for our brave
heroes adventurers to discover?
At least, that was the plan - and the number of new points of interest both on the Skyrim map, and hinted at in the Whiterun area suggested that it wasn't going to be too tricky to find cool new places to check out. Unfortunately, and not to take anything away from the modders' no doubt hard work, struggling through the dinosaurs and lions and constant wandering enemies to check them out usually ended up less a thrilling new adventure as something a bit more disappointingly like this.
Destination 1: Tristram
AKA That Town From Diablo Where Nothing Good Ever Seems To Happen...
Destination 2: The Shire
Where hobbits live, or are supposed to at least...
Destination 3: Neiheleim
The land of floating islands, like in that Avatar film - the boring one with the blue people, not the horrific one based on the amazing cartoon. You know, that was such a disappointment - M. Night Shyamalan utterly missed the point, butchered the chara- sorry, I'm drifting.
It is, in short, quite a disappointing day for finding new things in Skyrim - save for two discoveries. First, that someone out there, at some point, looked at a mudcrab and thought "You know what would make this perfect? Lips, googly eyes, and both a bikini and something to fill it..."
Shudder. And second, the single greatest moment in the history of Skyrim modding...
So, what to do? For want of inspiration, and to see if it would continue the trend of most stuff around happening near Whiterun, I finally take the Jarl up on his offer to buy Breezehome. I have the cash. Unfortunately, I can't actually get to the door because Whiterun is still an insane waterpark. To avoid any bugs and potential map trouble there, I leave Lydia somewhere safe and warp across.
Arriving in Breezehome, it's dark and crappy, and impossible to see anything even at mid-day. Truly, the Jarl was generous when he let me buy what I believe estate agents refer to as a blower-upper property in his town. I quickly realise though that I'm not alone. Worse, the stranger is...
Leaving the smouldering carcass where it fell, it's time to head upstairs to bed. About ten hours sleep should suffice, after which it'll be a new day, and a new opportunity to find adventure.
Yes, in an amazing stroke of luck, I accidentally wander into an interesting, fully voiced quest called Descent Into Madness - one which starts by transporting you from your bed in Breezehome to the split realm of Madness and Dementia. Both sides have their own little village - Madness a mess of crystals, while Dementia keeps things low key with an icy lake area - and have started fighting after lots of essentially getting on fine. Both decide that you've been sent by Sheogorath to help break the stalemate, and waste no time trying to recruit the Dovahkiin. But who are these crazy characters?
It's a fun quest, with heavy amounts of scripting (voice and otherwise). On the Madness side, you start by travelling to the village through caves and a couple of Dementia ambushes, with Madness using robot spiders as troops and Dementia favouring zombies. Once there, an epic battle breaks out amongst big swirling shields, and the Jarl - busy painting - decides the only rational solution is to discuss peace. But given where this is, an assassination mission is chosen instead - quite possibly because the Jarl of Dementia has a seriously awful voice actress and such things must be Punished with Fire.
To get to Dementia though, you have to complete three trials. In the first, only the penitent adventurer may pass through a tunnel, meaning you have to keep your... head... down. Hmm. In the second, you have to bravely put your trust in something greater and take a leap of... faith...
Actually, that doesn't work - not really. The platforms only spring into existence when you jump down, which is better than the movie's rather weird version. Still, we're two familiar traps down out of three. What are the odds the third is going to be anything with a little novelty to it?
If it's not obvious from the video, the way this works is that the ghosts are incredibly tough and the apples are instant-kill death. You have to wait until the path is clear first, or you die. There's also a chest which you can't get to, unless you cheat. It contains such incredible wonders, spoiling them would simply be rude. Anyway, after this section, there's only one more challenge to go.
As for Dementia itself, there's not a lot to it beyond killing its leader, Jarl Danni. Yes, Danni. Not too tough, and there's nothing wacky in the fight. The only question left to ponder is whether or not it's appropriate for a hero to take sides in this kind of conflict without knowing the stakes, the players, or what the long-term implications of allowing a hero of prophecy to take direct action will-
Never mind then.
Finally then, the reward for all this madness - loot! Most of the time, Skyrim quests are fairly poor when it comes to rewards. Either it won't be useful, or it won't be much better than you've already got, or it'll be a handful of gold for your trouble. This was quite a long quest, but was it worth the effort?
Every. Bit. Of. Enchanted. Armour. In. The. Game. All in a box, and nobody to tell you that you can only take one thing, like some kind of game-balance Nazi. Having gathered your fill, a door then leads back to Breezehome - and it's even a two-way one in case you want to check back on Madness any time in the future. For now though, the path lies elsewhere. Possibly even to glory...
Tomorrow! The epic finale! Compass and Lydia go to war! Bandits face their ultimate challenge! Dragons! Bards! How could anything possibly go wrong?
Skyrim: Week Of Madness
The insanity continues... come along for the ride...
Day 4: Yet There Is Method In It, And Also Cheese