I was all prepared to share with you an epic review of all things Dragonborn. I installed the downloadable content for Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim the minute I got home from work on Tuesday, and spent a hefty chunk of time the first couple days doing nothing but playing it. On that first night everything was great and I thought I had a good thing going.
But I soon realized something was wrong. Very wrong.
Since this isn’t an official review, I’ll keep spoilers out of this article, but I wanted to cover a very important topic, and one that Xbox and PS3 players don’t have to deal with: mods. Now I’ll admit, I love that as a PC player I can download from thousands of different game mods. Whether it’s character enhancing mods, quest additions, new weapons, new user interfaces, or any number of others, there’s an amazing amount of variety out there to spice up your game. But what they don’t tell you on the front page of the Steam Workshop is that these mods may also screw up your game.
I would hope that it’s common knowledge for most people that installing some aftermarket add-ons to your game runs the risk of corrupting your saves files, making certain quests impossible to complete, or downright breaking your game. But I’m sure there’s a small population that just doesn’t realize this, so hopefully this article reaches at least one of you.
Before I go any further, truly, my situation was not as devastating as it could have been. I’ve heard of people completely losing their characters, or arriving to the end of a major quest and a certain item or character isn’t there. That would frustrate me to no end. But while my issue wasn’t as serious as that, it was game-breaking in its own way.
So let’s go back to the beginning of my Dragonborn play.
I decided I would start a new character, and for a couple reasons really. First of all, my level 47 Nord was getting a little stale and I needed to spice things up, and secondly, I just thought trying out someone new with some brand new content would make it feel like a completely different game. So I rolled a Wood Elf and immediately headed to Solstheim. I detailed a little bit of this last week, but basically, I spent my time in those first couple days just exploring the island and seeing all there was to see. But what I didn’t realize is that because my character hadn’t reached a certain point in the main storyline yet, I was unable to access the main storyline of Dragonborn.
Once I learned this, I went back to the mainland and started working my way through the beginning quests. I cleared out Bleak Falls Barrow, reported back to the Jarl of Whiterun, and merrily agreed to help him take down a dragon – the first one this character had encountered.
Everything went pretty smoothly. I was able to destroy the dragon quickly, and I ran over to him, excited to collect my first dragon soul. But as I approached the dragon, I noticed something was off. He didn’t burn and fade away like they normally do. I was able to loot his body, but he didn’t become a skeleton. This didn’t seem right. So I decided to talk to Irileth, who had been helping me fight, to see if maybe she needed to advance the quest for me by talking. I found her wandering aimlessly around the area, babbling about how tough that dragon was, and maybe I should stop bothering her. Strange talk directed at a Dragonborn…
So after several reloads, including rolling almost all the way back to the very beginning, I realized something was seriously wrong, and it was nothing that reloading and trying a million times was going to fix. My game was broken.
I decided I was going to just have to start unloading mods one at a time until I figured out which one was causing this headache, but I soon realized it was going to take forever. It was at this time that I sought help on Twitter. Oh Twitter, how I love you. It really is better than Google sometimes! A quick shout out to one of our listeners, John (find him on Twitter at JSupa508), he identified that it might be one specific mod that was causing my issue - the “Unofficial Skyrim Patch.” It may sound like a shady mod, but trust me, up until this point it worked beautifully. But it didn’t stop there, I also had to install the “Unofficial Dragonborn patch.” For whatever reason, Dragonborn doesn’t like my copy of Skyrim, and it needed a little help to work right.
I’m happy to report that on Sunday, I was finally able to kill that first dragon, collect his soul, and advance onward to the Dragonborn storyline. I’ll save my thoughts on the actual expansion for another time, but the moral of the story here is to be careful what you wish for. Console players may feel like they’re missing out by not getting access to all this extra content, and to an extent you are. But sometimes the headache and hassle of trying to figure out what the heck you did to break your game isn’t worth it. The game is so massive anyway, I refuse to believe there’s anyone out there who’s done it all. Don’t we all have a “Miscellaneous” quest log of about 100 unfinished quests?
So my message comes with a little caveat. While I am trying to help console players feel like they’re not missing out on much because mods can break your game if you’re not careful (close to a week later, I’m basically back at where I started), it’s also true that mods saved my game. I tried playing without the Unofficial Dragonborn patch, but I had just as much luck as I did before. I actually need it installed in order to play. But rest easy console fans, not every patch of grass is greener on the PC side of the fence. At least by the end of February we’ll all be on equal ground concerning official Bethesda DLC. With Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn all coming out this month for PS3, everyone will now have the opportunity to experience Skyrim the way it was meant to be played, and I hope you all enjoy.
And to all you PC players out there, be careful with those mods.