Skyrim: The Zombie Torturer

By Alec Meer on October 17th, 2011 at 4:29 pm.

I wasn't allowed to resurrect this guy, actually. Dammit!

Last week, I played three hours of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, at my leisure and free to go and do whatever I could. I’m telling a series of anecdotes based on what I saw and did; here’s the first and below is the second. If you have a deep-seated fondness towards the undead, don’t read on.

Thwack!
Thud!
‘Heheheheheheheh.’
Swoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh.

Thwack!
Thud!
‘Heheheheheheheh.’
Swoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh.

Thwack!
Thud!
‘Hehehehe-‘

“Excuse me, has something gone wrong with the game?” said the nice man from Bethesda, probably trying to suppress a snigger about how pathetically I’d jumped when he’d tapped me on the shoulder.
“He- What? Oh, no, no, it’s all running fine. I was just, uh, torturing this zombie. Sorry.”
“Oh, I thought perhaps you’d encountered a bug.”
“No, just, uh, yeah.”
“Well, let me know if there’s any kind of problem.”
“I will, thanks!”

Swoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh.
Thwack!
Thud!

Heh. I have a favourite spell in Skyrim, and that is the raise zombie spell. Fell a foe (bosses apparently excluded) and you can spend a good chunk of your mana resurrecting it as a shambling slave who fights for you. I’d successfully experimented with wolves and bandits already, but while exploring a dungeon inhabited by the magically-animated spirits of long-dead Nord warriors (known officially as Draugr), I had an idea. What if I resurrected a zombie as a zombie? A meta-zombie, if you will.

I was slightly worried it would cause reality to fold in on itself, but in fact it worked out rather well. The Draugr were presenting me with rather a stiff challenge, as I’d poured most of my upgrade points into crafting and being able to run for longer, so being able to turn one of their number against the rest got me out of a lot of trouble. My own personal, unprotesting meatshield. I found a particularly hardy and well-armoured one that could also cast some sort of life-draining magic and kept it by my side (or, rather, at my front, taking all the blows meant for me), and dungeon life was good. I had a protector, doing all the hard work for me, and because he was technically already dead before I got to him, there was none of that icky morality stuff to worry about.

Then I walked into the trap. Thwack! The man-sized, spike-fitted gate slammed into me, leaving me barely clinging to life. Panicked, I ran forwards and away, retreating to a dark corner to cast a Heal spell and work out what I’d done wrong.

Aha – a subtle tile on the floor had activated it. Should have known better. I’ll definitely spot the next one. Time to move on – Thwack! Thud! Ah yes, my zombie. Well, my ex-zombie. Well, my re-ex-zombie. Swoooooooooooooosh, and he was resurrected anew. Come on then you, let’s get out of here. Thwack! Thud! Hmm. That’s the thing about zombies, isn’t it? Not big on the whole learning thing. How ever was I going to guide him around the side of that trigger tile? Let’s try this again, maybe he’ll work it out this time.

Swoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh.
Thwack!
Thud!

Aaargh! Still, this is pretty funny. Look at the way he slams a couple of metres backwards, falls over like a boneless puppet then gets up and immediately tries it again, the poor dear. He just doesn’t know any better. Here I am, Mr Zombie! Here I am! Just walk right over to me! It’ll be fine this time, just fine.

Thwack!
Thud!
‘Heheheheheheheh.’
Swoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh.

Ooh, and all that sustained Conjuration has made me level up too. What shall I spend my points and perks on? Well, magicka and conjuration, obviously. Cheaper zombies that last longer: that’s the stuff.

Thwack!
Thud!
‘Heh.’
Swoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh.

OK, I am becoming slightly annoyed now. You’re not going to make it past this, are you? I’m going to be all on my own in this deep, dark, dungeon because you’re too goddamned stupid to stand a foot to the left. Or a foot to the right. Really, either would do – just don’t walk down the bloody middle of the path because Thwack!.

Oh come on, it’s really not hard. What if I try and toast your left side with a fireball spell so you move over? Oh, no, great, you’re dead again. For heaven’s sakes. Zombies! Can’t live with ‘em, can only just about live thanks to stealth and cowardice without them. Onwards, I suppose. I’ll find another bloody zombie, then. Maybe this one will have more than half a braincell.

One more time for luck, though.
Thwack!
Thud!

Silence.

Aw. I miss him.

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79 Comments »

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  1. nimzy says:

    No respect for the dead these days, I tell ya.

  2. brawlidol says:

    Well, from that it seems my first character will be some sort of necromancer!

  3. Meat Circus says:

    Dark Souls for kindergarteners?

    • mwoody says:

      That first pic really does look like a Dark Knight.

      It’s a real shame in general that Dark Souls isn’t on PC. It has an aesthetic and gameplay philosophy that… well, it doesn’t feel like a PC RPG, but it makes me deeply respect what a console RPG can be.

    • caprisundad says:

      Glad that other people at RPS are playing and thinking about Dark Souls. It feels weird being at my favorite gaming site and not being able to talk about the game that has colonized my every waking thought (and most of my dreams as well–pretty sure I dreamed all last night about the cursing frogs in the Depths.)

    • Nihil says:

      Those frogs. Those hateful, wretched frogs…Only in a game as astonishing as Dark Souls can a frog make you feel genuine fear.

      Yes you are very much not the only one.

    • mrbungle says:

      The basilisks aren’t so bad. But I doubt Skyrim will have anything as nerve racking or terribly powerful as the wheel skeletons. At least, I hope it doesn’t.

    • elr0y7 says:

      Man, wait till you get to the Giant Skeleton Dogs.

    • mrbungle says:

      The ones that freak out and drain your stamina in a single lunge? Yeah, they’re real fun.

  4. Premium User Badge

    JohnArr says:

    Good to hear the traps are relatively lethal, that’s one of the first mods I add to Oblivion.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It’s good to hear there are traps at all. I used to have fun finding and disarming (or avoiding) traps in earlier D&D-based games, but there were barely any traps at all in the Dragon Age or Witcher games’ dungeons. What’s a dungeon without traps? Just a bunch of basement corridors with monsters. Add some varied, lethal traps and you’ve got a proper dungeon.

    • Hendar23 says:

      Having just completed Durlag’s Tower in BG1 (Only took 12 years, eh?) I can safely say -fuck- traps.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Fiyenyaa says:

    Weren’t you some kind of crusader for the rights of non-sapient creatures before?
    I don’t understand vegetarians at all…

  6. smi1ey says:

    I love that I can read Skyrim write-ups on different sites, and get totally different stories and experiences. So awesome.

    • Ataraktika says:

      Would you care to point me in the direction of these other write-ups you speak of? I very much enjoy this tale-telling of sorts, especially when it’s from an upcoming Elder Scrolls game.

    • Berzee says:

      Seconded.

    • mike2R says:

      Search for Skyrim on Google News; looks like a load of 3 hours with Skyrim stories got published on Monday.

  7. jti says:

    The thought suddenly creeped on me: Is this advertising?

    • Alec Meer says:

      Unlike other sites, we do not do sponsored or otherwise paid for posts. I just don’t understand why or how anyone could have gotten the impression we do.

      Did someone pay you to post that? Someone who’s releasing a different RPG? IT’S THE ONLY POSSIBLE EXPLANATION.

    • nimzy says:

      WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER.

    • mwoody says:

      This is that new kind of advertising that spends all its time talking about a minor, forgettable failure of the game engine.

    • Berzee says:

      I would post that facepalm picture but I don’t want to advertise Star Trek.

    • jti says:

      I better get my paycheck later…

    • Wizardry says:

      Did RPS ever cover Frayed Knights?

    • Drake Sigar says:

      *Cough* conspiracy *cough*

    • Unaco says:

      @Wizardry

      I don’t think they have. I don’t remember any articles about it, there’s nothing from searching the site, or a google search… except for threads on the forums.

      Why?

    • Alec Meer says:

      We have not, in the same way we haven’t covered about eight million games because ohgodtimesotiredhelpsomany games. But I shall take a note, and hopefully a look, cos that looks interesting.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wizardry

      Have you come around to it, or are you just academically curious?

    • Wizardry says:

      @Alec Meer: I know you guys can’t cover every single game out there. However, it seems to be one of those rare turn-based RPGs in the style of the old greats. In the great gaming landscape it stands out more than yet-another-indie-platformer-with-a-gimmick.

      @Vinraith: Haven’t played it yet. Don’t have the time. I’m more academically curious than anything, though.

    • dontnormally says:

      I can’t believe they used Papyrus.
      http://www.papyruswatch.com/

    • Shooop says:

      The closet thing to advertising I’ve seen on this site in their own content are the BF3 previews which are strangely little more than praise over how amazing the graphics are. But to be fair they are…

      Nah, this is just a man telling us how he’s having way too much fun. And it works at making me want this game more than any ad ever could.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Frayed Knights is a fun little game. Definitely heavily Wizardry-inspired. You won’t like the fact that there’s a pregen party, though.

      There’s at least a reason for it: they’re fairly chatty. I found myself actually reading the dialogue, which is quite unusual. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but amusing and not overdone. It’s a little bit Pratchett-esque in style and tone.

  8. Berzee says:

    reply fail, woo!

  9. mwoody says:

    I’m curious: does the Z key work? I.e. can you drag objects around in Skyrim? I wonder if you could just manhandle the corpse past the trap, then re-rez it.

    Though, I think it was a mod that made corpses light enough to move in Oblivion, now that I think about it…

    • woodsey says:

      Nope, they could be dragged in vanilla Oblivion. Difficult to actually lift up though, but you could drag.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      This was my first thought as well, drag the corpse past the trap then reanimate. I was a big fan of the Z key in Oblivion/Morrowind because I’d always drag stuff home to decorate with.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    Not to spoil the funny, but couldn’t you just pick up/drag the body around the trap and then zombiefy?

  11. brulleks says:

    Wait – isn’t that first screenshot the cover of FIFA 3012?

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I was watching my flatmates play FIFA 10 on the console toy the other day, and it turns out that a badly modelled Wayne Roony, looks more like a real person than the real thing does.

  12. Ergates_Antius says:

    a minor, forgettable failure of the game engine
    I don’t see how a zombie being stupid is a failure of the game engine. It’s a zombie – they’re meant to be stupid.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, the post was totally supposed to be ‘zombies are stupid like zombies should be’, not ‘game has bad AI.’ The internet!

    • mwoody says:

      I phrased that poorly in my attempt to respond to an accusation of advertisement, I fear. I didn’t mean that the engine was failing or flawed, just that it was a story about trying to accomplish something within a game and the virtual world refusing to allow it (to comedic effect). That’s not, I didn’t mean to imply, equivalent to the engine being poorly coded, but it would be a really weird thing to focus on in an actual ad.

  13. Ic4ruz says:

    Draugr ? That is almost like “Draugur” in my language that means Ghost. It would be brilliant to have Icelandic translation for Skyrim :)

  14. greenbananas says:

    Knowing what’s in store (or at least thinking I know; thanks, underwhelming bethesda “RPGs” of the past), I’d rather have more of these than the game itself. Fine work, comrade Meer.

    • Unaco says:

      And yet, without the game, these articles wouldn’t be possible.

    • greenbananas says:

      True, but then, many an awful game have inspired awesome articles.

      And yet, I’m (still) reluctant to play the awful but yearn to read more of the awesome.

  15. guipit says:

    I would’ve carried the zombie corpse around the trap then resurrected it

  16. Urthman says:

    I played Oblivion with a mod that let you summon more than one creature for every level of Conjuration mastery (up to four). And then there was also a huge quest in the OOO mod that ended with the reward of allowing you to summon a whole bunch of different wild animals (mostly wolves and great cats), and it turned out you could summon one of each all at once!

    So at the end of the Mage Guild Quest when I’m about to confront the King of Worms and he’s just standing by his throne completely invulnerable to anything you do until you walk up and talk to him (which is, of course, a trap).

    So I said, OK, game if you’re gonna cheat, so am I. So I conjured a Golden Saint, a Dark Seducer, a Silver Atronach, a Skeleton Champion, a wolf, a tiger, a leopard, a panther, another kind of wolf, and another great cat. We all walked up to him and had a little conversation. As soon as he was done twirling his mustache and sprang his “trap,” I calmly stepped aside and watched the mob drag him to the ground as he vainly tried to summon a single zombie.

  17. Dozer says:

    –Reply fail–

    edit: or, the post I was replying to got itself deletified.

  18. Sigh says:

    Did anyone mention carrying the zombie corpse around the trap and then resurrecting it?

    • Dozer says:

      yes. There was a very long thread just above yours discussing this.

  19. Urthman says:

    The thing I loved about Oblivion was the lack of specialization. By the middle of the game, you could have a character that was pretty good at just about anything. The game was so huge you could say, “This dungeon, I’m gonna sneak around and kill everyone by surprise with bows. The next dungeon I’m going to fry everything with magic. The next dungeon I’ll wear my best armor and fight with my best sword. The next dungeon I’m going to summon stuff to do all the fighting for me. The next dungeon I’ll take some companions. Then maybe I’ll go back to sneaking and surprise people with deadly touch spells.”

    I can’t imagine playing through that enormous game doing nothing but melee or a single kind of spellcasting.

    Oblivion Pro Tip: Once you can create spells, add 1 second of paralysis to all your destruction attacks, so they knock enemies down as well as hurting them.

    • mwoody says:

      Hunh, and meanwhile, I’d label the lack of specialization as the biggest failure of the Elder Scrolls games. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

    • Wizardry says:

      The lack of specialization is basically anti-RPG.

    • Dozer says:

      If I remember right, you don’t get to create your own spells until you’ve completed all the Mage’s Guild sub-quests, which takes a really long time.

      Actually things like the spell creation kind of irked me. You’re living in a fairly static world – from decade to decade, technology and techniques aren’t changing very much, it seems. Very unlike the real world, where change is very rapid. Everyone in the world is using spells from the same small catalogue. Yet the player character, uniquely among all the individuals in the Skyrim world, has the insight to build custom spells like the flame/paralysis combo that do damage in a completely unique way. You’re Newton, Einstein, Sun Tzu and Steve Jobs combined into one person.

      If I were making an Oblivion-esque game (which is something I always like to imagine doing) I’d re-release it six months after launch, with the NPCs using all the same in-world advanced techniques discovered by the players.

    • Shadram says:

      I’m with Urthman. To hell with conforming to rote RPG traditionalism, if I want to role-play an all-powerful spell-slinging, sneaky, heavy-armour-wearing, super-strong lizard man, I can, and it’s an awful lot of fun. But if I do want to specialise and play a classic rogue, I can do that too. Just because you can powergame it doesn’t mean you have to. That’s why I love The Elder Scrolls games.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Dozer: In Daggerfall you have access to spell creation from the moment you enter your first mage’s guild. There are so many ready made spells in the game that it makes sense to let you make new ones. You can’t exactly list infinite spells in spell shops. Spell creation is basically just a way of customising the spells you want to use rather than scrolling down an infinitely long list and buying the spells you want.

    • Dozer says:

      @Wizardry I admit it’s been ages since I’ve played Oblivion, but I think most of the magic-using NPCs were using fairly simple fireball, frost, summon etc spells, instead of more elaborate, complicated and powerful spells the player could potentially create. More generally, NPCs in games use very basic techniques, while the player characters (aided by forums, guides, or just long hours of exploration) find ways to be as effective as possible within the game world.

      What I’d like would be for NPCs to be periodically updated by the game devs to use the same advanced techniques that players will discover and use. Such as fielding an army entirely of Swadian Knights in Mount & Blade. Or using combined fire+paralysis spells in Oblivion.

    • MultiVaC says:

      I think it’s just that they didn’t give NPCs the ability to use spells like that for whatever reason. I seem to remember some of the characters who teach you spells offering some complex spells from time to time. I know at least once someone in the Shivering Isles gave me a spell that restored both health and fatigue, which made me wonder why I hadn’t thought to make one like that, and sent me running back to the Mage’s Academy to make a better version.

    • greenbananas says:

      @Shadram

      That’s just a way of ruining the point of having different classes, which should be to promote several (inately different) playthroughs.

      Besides, how powerful do you really feel if all the enemies scale according to your level?

    • TheEndlessGrey says:

      @greenbananas

      The point of having different classes, as I see it, is to encourage group play, not replay. Particularly when the key feature of a role playing game is the story, I personally gain very little from replaying that story when the only difference is whether I stab things in the front or in the back. To me, it’s like reading the same book again, but this time I do it listening to a different album and wearing tinted glasses.

      In games where you are expected to play with a party of several characters, online players or NPC’s, you tend to have class-based character development. In games where you are completely on your own as the player character, you are typically not confined to a particular predefined set of skills.

      Edit: There are a number of excellent games in each category, just pointing out where it seems the distinction is made.

    • greenbananas says:

      @TheEndlessGrey

      Yeah, “classes” was certainly not the best choice of a word, as it harkens back to party-based RPGs.

      I do think the point still stands that having all the skills available to all the starting player characters only damages this particular game’s replayability, which should be its strong suit. You would replay it if different skillsets implied differents playing styles, if it opened doors that were previously closed, if it provided a drastically different experience, would you not? Don’t forget we’re talking about a first person action game with level ups, rather than a proper RPG.

    • Wizardry says:

      Particularly when the key feature of a role playing game is the story,

      No it’s not.

    • Urthman says:

      I’ve got over 200 hours on my single playthrough of Oblivion. I really, really don’t need to replay the the game with a different class. Basically, the lack of specialization meant I could get the same pleasure you get from replaying a game with a different character–except with much more freedom and much less repetition–all on one play through the game.

      Everyone in the world is using spells from the same small catalogue. Yet the player character, uniquely among all the individuals in the Skyrim world, has the insight to build custom spells like the flame/paralysis combo that do damage in a completely unique way.

      Ah. You didn’t play with the right mods. This is why I’m waiting at least a year before I play Skyrim. I never played Vanilla Oblivion, but from the sound of it, Oblivion with FCOM and other mods is at least ten times better. Maybe twenty. Definitely worth waiting for.

  20. Shadram says:

    You should have picked up the corpse and dragged it past the trap.
    /bandwagon

  21. kikito says:

    So, is the author of VVVVVV still going to press charges for the use of the world “V” on this game, or what?

  22. 0over0 says:

    That was hilarious–I can’t wait to have the same experiences!

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    Jackablade says:

    I wonder if you’ll still be able to use the raised dead to confuse the AI and make NPCs fight eachother as you could in Oblivion. Say what you wil about the Radian AI. It did lead to some amusing situations

  24. Infinite Monkeys says:

    This is completely made up, when a zombie dies it turns into mush. I wish it was true and I bought the zombie spell just for this kind of thing, but NOPE. You lied to me, RPS :(