Since its initial release in 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has become one of the most well-received and widely played video games of all time. If a gamer hasn't played Skyrim, it's because they have actively avoided it. Skyrim's almost omnipresent being available on nearly available platform including and most recently the Nintendo Switch.
The popularity and longevity of Skyrim is well-earned, as it's one of the most entertaining and immersive gaming experiences available. However, Skyrim lacks one essential quality of most modern RPGs. The choices the player makes in Skyrim have almost no impact on the game.
Skyrim is designed in such a way so that it's possible to experience everything the game has to offer (which is quite a lot) in on single playthrough. However, that results in many choices the player character, the Dragonborn, is offered having no real lasting outcome, or, even worse, virtually the same outcome.
Skyrim isn't exactly billed as an experience where the gamer crafts their own world or tale around themselves. Still, it's more than vaguely disappointing to be faced with a "huge decision" that ultimately doesn't matter while playing the game.
None of these "choices" make Skyrim feel like a cheaper experience overall or even turn it into a bad game. They do serve as (very slight) chinks in the armor of Skyrim's otherwise stellar reputation.
Without further ado, here are the 15 Choices In Skyrim That Made Absolutely NO Difference.
The Dark Brotherhood is one of the best and most interesting questlines in Skyrim. Becoming a member of this assassin guild slowly builds until eventually the Dragonborn is faced with the ultimate job-- killing the Emperor of Tamriel.
The Dragonborn doesn’t have much choice in killing the Emperor or not. The Emperor must die to complete the quest and the Emperor will even willingly go to his demise.
However, since a huge part of Skyrim concerns the civil war between the rebellious Stormcloaks and the Empire, the death of the leader of one side should have a huge impact. However, there’s no consequences to killing the Emperor.
The Stormcloak and Empire war plays out exactly the same no matter if the Emperor is dead or living. Weirdest of all though the Dragonborn can side with the Empire in the war, despite being the man / woman or cat person who killed the head of the state.
In "The Cursed Tribe" quest, the Dragonborn can uncover a stronghold of orcs who are being terrorized by a local giant clan. In addition, one of the tribe's legendary war hammers has been stolen. While there’s some daedric prince nonsense involved, the quest eventually boils down to eradicating the giants for the orcish tribe and retrieving the hammer.
Right before the Dragonborn fights the giant, a choice is offered. the Dragonborn has been accompanied by the orcish tribe’s chieftain. The chieftain will offer to pay the Dragonborn to fight the giant purely on his or her own, instead of the chieftain going to fight the giant.
If the Dragonborn takes the bribe, they have to kill the giant AND the chieftain. The chieftain doesn’t want anyone to know about his cowardice and will attack the Dragonborn after the giant battle, only to be killed quickly. If the Dragonborn refuses the bribe, the chieftain still dies fighting the giant, leaving The Dragonborn to do all the work anyway. The end result is always the same, the chieftain is dead and the Dragonborn, as always, solves everything.
The first major town that the Dragonborn is directed to in Skyrim is Whiterun. Almost immediately upon entering the town (and in the creepiest way possible) the player is asked if they side with the Gray-Manes or the Battle-Borns. These are two feuding families within Whiterun and it’s really the larger choice of Imperials or Stormcloaks on a much smaller scale.
Yet, unlike the Imperial or Stormcloak choice, picking Gray-Mane or Battle-Born has no effect on the gameplay. There’s only one major quest in the feud and to participate you have to side with the Gray-Manes because one of their sons is missing. Even if you complete the quest, though, the Battle-Borns never hold it against you.
In fact, if you happen to choose Battle-Born at the first encounter they still randomly give you gifts and praise. Despite the fact that you may have just slaughtered half of their cousins outside the town. Maybe this less an non-existent choice and more a commentary on the Battle-Born just being incredibly dense.
Skyrim doesn’t encourage mayhem, in the way that other open world game series, particularly Grand Theft Auto does, from the player. However, it’s still possible to go a complete criminal rampage in Skyrim and have virtually no consequences. If the Dragonborn is rich or charismatic enough, crime has no impact on the game or how the world views the Dragonborn.
The Dragonborn can enter any town in Skyrim, slaughter the entire population and never face any ill effects. If there’s no witness to the slaughter then they get off scot-free. However, even if there are witnesses all it takes is a relatively short time behind bars or a fee to just have everyone look the other way.
While this freedom might seem like one of the game’s best qualities it’s more bizarre given the larger narrative of the game. Even if the Dragonborn is the worst serial killer Tamriel has ever seen, within the story of the game they’ll still be lauded as the ultimate hero and savior.
It’s a little-known fact but you can actually start a family within Skyrim. After the quest "Innocence Lost" is completed (where the Dragonborn kills an evil orphanage owner) and the Dragonborn has purchased a house, the player can adopt an orphan.
It sounds like a cute little game mechanic that allows the virtual life of Skyrim to feel that much more real. However, adopting a kid and which kid that is adopted doesn't matter in the Dragonborn’s life or the story of the game.
Although there are a variety of options available for children, all of them have virtually the same personality and (while we’re at it) the same face. There’s no real “reward” to adopting a child in Skyrim, nor does it add any sense of responsibility.
In fact, the Dragonborn can just send their adopted child to their home and have them live there all alone. Really the only thing that adopting a child adds to Skyrim is having the Dragonborn put “neglectful parent” on their fantasy resume.
It’s not the first choice that players can make in the game but it's very close to it. During the prologue of Skyrim, the Dragonborn has to make a decision about whom they’ll escape with when a dragon attacks a public execution. The Dragonborn can choose to run away with Hadvar, an Imperial soldier, or Ralof, a Stormcloak grunt.
It seems like a monumental decision and one that’s made even more dramatic by the fact that there seems to be a time crunch on it as a literal dragon is flying over ahead. Realistically though choosing Hadvar and Ralof will not impact the player’s Skyrim experience at all.
Choosing Hadvar and Ralof does direct the course of the rest of the prologue and determines who the Dragonborn can get help from in the first village of Riverwood, but that’s all. Even though it’s a choice between Imperial and Stormcloak, the Dragonborn can always choose the other side later in the story. Outside of the first few hours, Ralof and Hadvar barely factor into the game.
Like many modern RPGs, Skyrim offers players a chance for in-game romance by having certain characters available to be romance. Unlike many modern RPGs, the romantic companions in Skyrim add next to nothing to the actual game.
No matter which spouse the Dragonborn chooses, the wooing follows the exact same pattern. The Dragonborn performs some simple fetch quest for the object of their affection, they wear a necklace signifying their interest and then a wedding occurs. It’s rushed, weird, and completely unsatisfying.
The husband and wife of the Dragonborn has the same few lines of dialogue and there’s real conversation to be had with them outside of initial contact. Being married is something that can certainly happen in Skyrim but it doesn’t make any difference if it occurs, let alone who is the actual spouse.
This quest may not come with its own name but early on in Skyrim, the Dragonborn can decide a love triangle for the residents of Riverwood. When taking to Riverwood's Faendal or Sven, they will both bring up that they have designs on marrying Camilla Valerius.
The Dragonborn can help the suitors by agreeing to deliver a fake nasty letter to Camilla that’s supposedly their competition but really is written by themselves. This will, inevitably, cause Camilla to stick with the remaining suitor and ignore the other.
It’s weird little sidequest and not just because there’s no option to help Camilla choose neither Sven or Faendal. (Although Camilla can be married by the Dragonborn.)
The choice between Sven and Faendal, though, has no impact as far as the game is concerned. Even if the Dragonborn helps Sven land the girl, Faendal will still be available to teach archery to him. There’s not even any (seen) interaction with Camilla and either suitor.
Around the second time that the Dragonborn enters the town of Whiterun, they’re thrust almost immediately into a side quest. A group of redguard soliders will tell the Dragonborn that they’re looking for a mysterious woman. It doesn’t take long to figure out that woman is Saadia, who works in the town’s tavern.
Once the Dragonborn finds and confronts Saadia, they’re given the option to help her escape the soliders or just betray her, turning her into her captors. Skyrim offers very little help on how to make the decision too as the story of Saadia is almost completely a "she-said, they-said" situation, with no clear facts.
All that being said, no matter what the Dragonborn does with Saadia there’s no blowback either way. Either Saadia is captured and never heard of ever again or she’s allowed to escape and she never really acknowledges your help ever again.
Like most Bethesda games, Skyrim allows the player to have (at least) one follower accompany them on their journeys. The follower can help in combat, can carry some of the Dragonborn's items, and, in the case of one quest, even be used as a sacrifice.
Anyone who has played Skyrim for an extended period of time has a “favorite” follower and one that they’ve deemed the best. However, like most of Skyrim, the stories that the player develops with their followers are ones of their own making or in their own head because the followers have virtually no personality.
Unlike Fallout 4, where the companions had their own dialogue trees and side quests, in Skyrim the followers have a handful of lines and abilities but nothing else to add. They never react or comment on any of the actions of the Dragonborn. They’re stoic lumps with interchangable faces, voices, and races.
The Companions are arguably one of the weaker guilds in Skyrim when it comes to storylines. They’re little more than mercenaries, and if the Dragonborn joins them, they’ll be treated to quests that consist mainly of, “Go here and kill that thing.” However, if the Dragonborn progresses long enough in the guild, they will be given the option to become a werewolf.
The inner circle of The Companions, the creatively bankrupt named The Circle, are a society of werewolves and they will welcome the Dragonborn into their ranks if they like them enough.
The transformation into a werewolf does have some in-game benefits too as werewolves are resistant to disease. There was even a skill tree added to the werewolf transformation with the Dawnguard DLC.
Yet, when it comes specifically to the Companions questline the choice to transform makes no difference. To compete the quest, the Dragonborn must become a werewolf but in a few quests time the option is given to reverse the condition. The werewolves are the most interesting elements of the Companions and in the end they matter less than the warpaint on Aela the Huntress' face.
The character of Cicero and the coffin he oversees becomes an incredibly important of the Dark Brotherhood questline. If the Dragonborn joins the order of the assassins, they will discover that Cicero is the keeper of the mythical Night Mother and her corpse. It’s possible, though, to encounter Cicerco and the Night Mother’s coffin before getting involved with the Dark Brotherhood.
In the quest "Delayed Burial," the Dragonborn comes across Cicero on the road and he needs help repairing his wagon which contains the Night Mother’s coffin. Cicero is every type of annoying and creepy, though, so a nearby farmer, Vantus Loreius, is highly suspicious of Cicero.
The farmer wants the creepy jester off his property so the Dragonborn can either help Cicero by repairing the wagon or report Cicero to the guards, having him arrested.
It’s a move that should have huge implications, especially if the Dragonborn later joins the Dark Brotherhood and meets with Cicero again but it doesn’t. Cicero is over getting arrested almost immediately and there’s never any ill-effects for locking up the Night Mother’s protector.
If (and when) the Dragonborn enters the city of Markarth, they can engage in one of the better sidequests of the game, "The Forsworn Conspiracy." During the quest the Dragonborn investigates a group called the Forsworn that has seemingly infiltrated the entire town.
It’s a layered and atmospheric quest that always ends with the same result-- the Dragonborn being imprisoned in the mines. It’s when in these mines that a choice is offered. The Dragonborn can either side with the Forsworn, escaping the mines with their leader or they can kill the Forsworn leader and use his secret escape route alone.
It seems like a choice that will have far-reaching consequences, but it doesn’t matter. While siding with the Forsworn earns the Dragonborn some armor and killing the Forsworn earns a smithing ring as reward, that’s all that counts as fallout for the choice.
Forsworn will still be hostile enemies if encountered outside Markarth and hardly anyone ever mentions the whole conspiracy after it’s concluded.
In the base game of Skyrim, there are four major factions or guilds that can be joined: the Companions, the College of Winterhold, the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. Each has their own individual questlines to follow and they host some of Skyrim’s best and most lovable characters.
The name of each guild suggests that they’re limitations to the type of player or Dragonborn that can join them, but that isn’t the case. Joining one guild has no impact or bearing on joining the other. In fact, the Dragonborn can be the head of all four guilds no matter how, seemingly, illogical that is for the world.
The Dragonborn doesn’t even have to use magic to be a part of the magic group, the College of Winterhold. It’s possible for an axe-wielding maniac of a Dragonborn to complete the entire questline and be named the Archmage. Having no limitations on the guild is good for being able to accomplish everything but it does make each guild feel a lot less special if literally anyone can join it.
The very first choice(s) of Skyrim set the tone for all the decisions to follow. When the game first switches from non-interactive cutscene to gameplay, the player is asked to create their custom character. There are a bevy of options on display, including race, gender, hair color, and even nose size. However, none of these will effect the game that follows.
Character customization is the cornerstone of most RPGs and allows players to feel ownership over their Dragonborn. However, it really doesn’t matter what race you choose or how you look in Skyrim because you’ll never really see your character.
There’s an option to play Skyrim in third-person but the game is meant to be played in first person. All you really see of your character is your hands and even those aren’t unique if armor is equipped.
There are some initial racial bonuses but with time they become so minor that they’re basically insignificant. Outside of a couple lines in thousands, no character really comments on your race or gender either. Your Dragonborn can be the most catlike Khajit but they’ll be treated just like any other Nord.
What choices in Skyrim do you think matter the least? What was your favorite (and least favorite) choice in the game? Sound off in the comments!