When I was younger, my mother encouraged me to go into real estate (this was before the housing market cratered like a corrupt politician’s approval rating come election time). On the surface, it seemed like sound advice. After all, my cousin went into real estate and was making 4 to 5 grand a pop selling houses, while I was working odd jobs to pay my way through college. Trouble was, real estate didn’t interest me, and although the money was nice, I knew in my heart I’d never cut it and be a miserable failure. In fact, my sum knowledge of real estate could be boiled down to two axioms:
- Don’t land on Boardwalk or Park Place if the other guy has hotels,
- Location, location, location
After my first visit to Windhelm in the Skyrim video game, I couldn’t help but think of this second axiom. At first I was excited to experience Windhelm. Lydia and I had been hoofing it overland, doing a little soul-farming when the ancient city came into view. From the outside, things seemed impressive enough, but my opinion of the city changed fast once we went inside.
In my humble opinion, the place is a Skeever-hole. I don’t know who the Windhelm city planner was, but he was either high on Skooma or crazy (probably both). The entire city is a dirty, warren-like maze of oppressive walls and buildings. You know there’s something wrong if you have to cast a Clairvoyance spell just to find your way around the place. I don’t know how the locals stand it.
And speaking of locals, have you ever seen such an unfriendly bunch? Most of the NPCs I encountered did nothing more than brag about how great the Nords were. The ones that weren’t bragging were treating the Dark Elves who live in the city like dirt. As far as I know, Windhelm is the only city in Skyrim with its very own ghetto. The Gray Quarter slum is nothing short of depressing. Sadly enough, Ulfric Stormcloak — the city’s Jarl and leader of the Stormcloak Rebellion — does jack-squat about it. The Nords are oppressed by the Imperials after all, so you’d figure the guy would have a little sympathy towards the Dark Elves and their plight. Instead of being a champion for the under dog however, Stormcloak is deaf to the ill treatment and poverty of the Dark Elves. It’s like the guy who gets yelled at by his boss for screwing up some financial report who then goes home to kick his dog. Yeah, some leader.
Windhelm is dirty, xenophobic, depressing and half-crazy — and these are the city’s good points. For 12,000 gold the Steward of Windhelm will sell you a house and you can live in the city. Remember my second real estate axiom, however: location, location, location. I for one wouldn’t pay 100 gold to live in Windhelm, I couldn’t wait to leave through the front gate and wash the stink of the place off me.
So what do you think? Is Windhelm really all that bad? What are your impressions of the city?