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've written a lot of Skyrim previews over the last year, however, so for this one I'm going to present it as a series of anecdotes across the day. Here's the first.
(Disclaimer: I played this on an Xbox 360, as PC code was not available on the day and I am fearful will not be so before the game's release. So, only chance and all that. Damned shame, but there you go.)
I was barely out of character creation (I was playing a female Khajiit, partially because I find the see in the dark racial ability incredibly useful but mostly because I own a female cat) when I saw him. Well, I heard his dog first and thought 'oh, a dog! How cute!' Then I saw the dog's owner, a poacher. I saw his bow raised aloft. I saw the hand released. I saw the arrow fly. I saw the arrow thwack into the side of an already-fleeing fox. And I saw myself, before I entirely knew what I was doing, plunge a knife into Poacher's back.
Why did I do that, I asked myself, already knowing the answer. I did it because I am a lily-livered, animal rights-supporting vegetarian, and my first experience of this wonderful world being someone being a bit of a dick to an animal was rather distressing. On the other hand, I was impressed that the game featured NPC poachers and animals who were frightened of NPC poachers. Still, this was going to be my world, and I wasn't go to stand for that kind of thing. It was in my power to make it a better place, and so I would. Take that, poacher. No more poaching for you, poacher. Yes, I was aware of the irony of being a murderer in order to prevent murder. But this appeared to be the only way I could stop him. So, I felt bad about my dark deed, but good that the world was down one rotter.
Worse irony was to come. As I rummaged through the poacher's pockets, there was a jolt, and the telltale redness of vision that meant I was being attacked. What by? I could have sworn the coast was clear.
Oh, of course. The poacher's dog. The poacher's faithful, loving, loyal dog. And, apparently, avenger.
I tried to get away, really I did. But it followed. I even climbed halfway up a mountain and it somehow scrambled after me. I sighed. I unleashed a stream of flame from my hand. The beast whimpered and fell, its body sliding and bouncing off several rocks before finally coming to a standstill. I felt incredibly bad. This was my first mark on the world: to murder a man for doing his job, then roast his pet dog afterwards. I looked around. No witnesses, at least. So I looted the dog and took its hide - that'd come in useful later.
I didn't bother any more poachers after that. Although I did steal one's horse while she was busy hunting a rabbit. She didn't see me so no bounty was placed on my head, but the horse did run away from me as soon as I got off it. Sigh. Skyrim will let me be a lot of things, but not a vegetarian vigilante.