Like most gamers recently, I have been playing Skyrim. I have been enjoying Skyrim, in fact; Skyrim is great, I’m having a lot of fun with it. To me, it’s a wonderfully constructed sandbox game that has just enough detail in its world to alleviate the issues I usually have with sandbox games, namely that the game world itself lacks points of interactvity.

But on my last play session- half an hour ago at the time of writing- I came across the first segment of gameplay that I outright disliked. I might go so far as to say hated. I might (accurately) go further and say that I loathed it with an ardor that could kill me if I ever allowed myself to fully feel it.

Some of you may already have stumbled upon the quest called “Forbidden Legend.” For those who haven’t, it is a quest you can pick up from a certain book that sends you off after an old legend concerning a magical amulet. The quest itself is just a little bit boring, forcing you to wander around collecting the amulet in parts, with each one guarded by an undead boss. It is here that I began to feel that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

One of the bosses I fought was, in life, called Sigdis Gauldurson. When I first fought him, he was a Draugr that, it was immediately apparent, had taken a disliking to me. But, though frustrating, I was eventually able to slay him. I sighed, “Well, at least I won’t be seeing him again.”

Some of you might be predicting where this is going.

The final battle of this quest is against ghostly versions of each boss in sequence, with Sigdis taking up the middle slot in this carousel of torment. It is here that the true, dark design of this quest becomes apparent. It very nearly destroyed me. So, in the spirit of giving, I’ve compiled a little list for all of you who haven’t yet had the true, terrible misfortune of encountering this quest. It is simply entitled:

Tips for surviving your encounter with Sigdis Gauldurson.

Even when you turn the game off, he is still there. Waiting.

Number One: You cannot enjoy this fight. Do not try. Your struggles will only teach you the pointlessness of human endeavor.

Number Two: Learn to hate yourself. Do not consider Sigdis as simply an annoyingly bad piece of enemy design; think of him as an ironic punishment from the universe itself for some wrongdoing in your past. If at all possible, select a wrongdoing that is small and insignificant, to properly enforce this cosmic bitch slap as something petty and unfair. This will help prepare you for the ultimate truth that this level has been constructed to impart to you. You will need all the preparation you can get for this.

Number Three: Learn to hate Skyrim. In playing this level, I have become convinced that it, not the main questline, is the black and beating heart of Bethesda’s latest Elder Scrolls game. It is simply too finely honed, too perfect an engine of human misery, to have been a simple conflux of programmer’s accidents and inattention. In order to survive your final encounter with Sigdis, you must learn to consider the high quality of the rest of the game as one grand trick; a method by which Bethesda can pull the rug from beneath your feet when you are at your weakest, exposing you to the cold and yawning void below. Where you will be crushed.

Number Four: Learn to hate your weaponry. Because you will lose them. All of them. Permanently. If you hate them, at least you will not be disappointed when every armament you have is ripped away, leaving you defenseless and vulnerable. And I implore you not to realize what this act really is; an act of theft by the game itself, with you as its victim, and no benefactor of the theft, except whatever cosmic horror happens to be feeding from the misery and rage generated by the Forbidden Legend quest.

Number Five: Prepare yourself for the cold realities of combat. You see, in much of Skyrim’s combat, you are exposed to the myth that martial conflict is fair, or at least, that you will have a reasonable chance of meeting your enemies on a playing field that, while perhaps not level, at least presents you with a chance of coming out victorious, if you are skilled or cunning enough. Sigdis is the terrible, gleaming hook to this bait. He is not an opponent; the word opponent implies that one will be fighting. Sigdis has been endowed with a number of crippling, unfair powers and skills that you, as the player, may already have, but will be unable to retaliate with during this battle. You do not fight Sigdis, you are crushed by him, without any hope of an actual battle, or fairness of any kind. You are devoured.

Number Six: Know beforehand that Sigdis is actually an extended and horrifying metaphor for a gang rape. The first thing that he does, upon beginning the “fight,” with you, is to create three illusory copies of himself, each of which is armed with exactly the same skills and powers that the real one possesses, including a magically empowered bow, and two different Shouts. It is your task to find the real Sigdis, and attack him: you will recognize him by the horns on his helmet, which are curved, not vertical like the copies. Upon the creation of the copies, you will cast your eye around and find the real Sigdis quite quickly, upon which time you will rush him, running across the center of the room as fast as you can. The moment you reach him, the gang rape metaphor becomes apparent; from out of nowhere, you will be Shouted at. The most usual configuration of this is that you will first be hit by a Disarm Shout, robbing you of your weapon (See Number Four) and staggering you momentarily. Seconds later, you will be hit with one or more Force Shouts, hurling you away from your intended target, and sending your weapon spinning off into the void. Once the three false Sigdis’ have finished Shouting at you, all four will pelt you with arrows from their powerful, magically enhanced bows, while you struggle to your feet. Once you have regained your footing, Sigdis will teleport away, and the process will be repeated. This experience, of being disarmed and powerless, entirely at the mercy of multiple cruel and aggressive monsters, is easily what I imagine a violent assault would be like, and the utter humiliation one feels during the experience must certainly be a reference to violation. Why the developers would be this cruel remains to be seen.

Number Seven: Know that Sigdis is a coward. Much like the rapists he is surely constructed to represent, Sigdis is an awful and base aggressor; a terrible excuse for something that was once human, deserving of all the punishment that can be meted out by man and god (See my final point). This is a creature that delights in the suffering of his victim, while ensuring that the odds of him actually coming into a position where he himself might be harmed are low, if not outright zero. This is a lesson about the true nature of man. Learn it well.

Number Eight: The game has allied itself with Sigdis. You will be the victim of multiple, terrible glitches. This is representative of the world itself turning against you. From the moment the fight starts, you are being taught that the universe desires only your slow destruction through inevitability. If the repeated, multiple Force Shouts hurl your helpless form into an awkward part of the level’s geometry- and they will- you will find yourself sinking through the level into a white void that the game treats as being underwater. This experience, of drowning in sheer, existential nothingness, is an apt comparison for the universe in which you live. You will then be forced to repeat the battle from the beginning. Furthermore, often- by which I mean, every time I played it- the defeat of the real Sigdis will not result in the disappearance of his duplicates, as it should as reported by other players. While you are forced to engage the third and final boss for this quest, you will be assailed continuously by the arrows and Shouts of three unerring, unwavering copies of the monster that has given you such trouble. This experience, wherein victory gives you no satisfaction, or even a cessation of suffering, is another lesson about the cruel pointlessness of human endeavor.

Number Nine: Know that this will ruin your ability to enjoy Skyrim. For every quest you undertake from this point on, every location you scout, every enemy you fight, will have that terrible question hanging overhead: Is there another Sigdis nearby? Never again will you feel safe. Never again will you feel joy, in Tamriel. You are no longer the Dragonborn. You are merely a man, as vulnerable and weak as any other.

Number Ten: The Truth. It is here that we come to the final piece of advice that I can give you: the true, dark purpose that Forbidden Legend harbors. This quest, in its entirety, is designed to pull back the comfortable curtain that most people live in front of, and to reveal the cold, black sky beyond. It revels in the pointlessness of life, the existential torment in which we truly live, and when you are done, you will never be the same. Though you may walk about as a free man, know that you will be a prisoner of this knowledge, unable to see the world as anything more than the sharp-toothed maw of the creature known as Death. For the duration of Forbidden Legend, you are jerked around through a series of meaningless and extended fetch tasks, dangling some small and petty bauble in front of you at the end of each in order to distract you from what you are actually doing. Then, the true horror of Sigdis comes crashing down upon you and, once you finally defeat him, what is your reward for this torturous experience? Only an amulet, another pretty but ultimately dispensable bauble, in exchange for the loss of your capacity to feel joy. You will ask yourself if it was worth it, and you will not like the answer.

Carry this around your neck; the noose of your disappointment.

Now that your battle with Sigdis is over, you may be asking yourself: how can I recover from the raw, soul-shredding experience I have just put myself through? In truth, there is no way to fully heal the scars that Sigdis has carved deep into your mind, but through some quick, emergency steps right now, you can at least chisel your grim visage into something approaching human facial features again, if walking unnoticed and unshunned through the world of men is your goal. Go to your loved ones, resist the urge to kill them and mercifully spare them from the truth you have endured, and sit with them. Remember what made you love them, back when you still had a heart with which to feel love. Look at old photographs of yourself, back when you were unaware of the universe’s cold grip, and try to replicate the smile you will never again feel. Listen to music that you could once enjoy, in the hopes of blocking out the shrieks of reality as it slowly kills everyone you were once able to care about. It won’t help, but the illusion may provide momentary, cold comfort.

The life you once enjoyed is over, this is true. But that doesn’t mean you can’t paint the lifeless doll that is your body with the disguise of happiness, so that you don’t offend the sensibilities of those with the blessed gift of ignorance. Remember: What Bethesda has done to you is a crime against your mortal essence, and whether it was human evil, or something far older and far more sinister at fault, you still do not have the right to do this to others, as tempting as it may be to envelop others in your misery, and earn yourself the empty comfort of no longer being alone. Best of luck to you.

Kurokami, signing off.