Walk into your nearest game store and grab the first half dozen titles off the shelf, and we’ll bet that Skyrim has more content then the lot of them combined. Hell, grab a whole row, and there’s still a good chance that Skyrim will beat whatever it’s put up against because just about the only thing not in this game is the kitchen sink.
Already, a fair few features across the web have cropped up highlighting Skyrim’s various, and hilarious glitches, so at Piki Geek we’ve decided to go a different path and showcase some of Skyrim’s best Easter eggs instead. Here are ten of our favorites. Be warned, though, minor spoilers abound throughout.
10. M’aiq the Liar
If you’ve played any of the Elder Scrolls series since Morrowind than chances are you already know who we’re talking about. For the uninitiated M’aiq is Khajiit who likes to run around Tamriel spouting weird nonsensical comments, generally while referring to himself in the third person. Specifically though, they’re comments that reference the development cycle of the game, all told completely in character.
For example, when you hear him say “M’aiq carries two weapons, to be safe. What if one breaks? Where could they have gone?” He’s talking about Skyrim introducing dual-wielding and removing the ability for weapons to degrade over time.
Rather than completely breaking through, M’aiq instead straddles the fourth wall, offering the player a chance to peek behind the scenes without intruding on the game’s immersion.
Although it can be quite hard to track him down – at least until enough man hours are put into the game to work out his pattern – if you happen to run into M’aiq enough times you’ll learn a lot of interesting trivia about Skyrim, including that at one time Bethesda were considering adding werebears to the game.
Seriously, Bethesda, why the hell would you take out werebears?
9. The Sweet Roll Joke
The humble sweet roll must have some important significance in the Bethesda offices, as Skyrim marks the third time the confectionery sweet has been used in a Bethesda release, making pretty much the same joke every time.
In Morrowind, it was part of the personality test you take at the character creation screen, asking what you would do if someone stole your sweet roll. Then during Fallout 3’s introduction, someone actually goes ahead and steals one from you during your childhood birthday party. Now, in Skyrim, guards will occasionally ask if someone stole your sweet roll in a mocking tone.
And what if they did, asshole? You’d be pissed as well.
8. Historical References
It hardly takes a college education to see the similarities between the Imperial Legion and its historical counterpart, the Roman Legion. They share similar uniforms, similar ranks, even the same stubby short swords favored by Legionnaires. Allusions to the Roman Empire continue in the identity of the man who leads the Imperial Legion in Skyrim, General Tulius, whose round, wrinkly, and balding head bears a striking resemblance to the real life Marcus Tulius Cicero, the famous Roman orator and statesman better known simply as Cicero.
Almost as important as the Romans are to the make up of Tamriel’s Imperials is the British Empire. It’s fitting, since both empires shared a number of similarities. If you think of the Romans as providing the aesthetics for the Imperials, then their actions come from the British – and not simply in the fact that a majority of Tamriel’s population speak in various English accents.
Head to the city of Solitude in the far north you’ll come across across the East Empire Company, both an obvious reference to the East India Company that operated during the height of the British Empire and an indicator as to the Imperials’ methods of power, namely control of trade and the sea.
7. The Legend of King Arthur
Continuing the theme of English influence, elements of the legend of King Arthur play a part in the land of Skyrim, albeit in a minor way.
Head west of Whiterun to come across a misty lake from in which you’ll see a sword held aloft by a skeletal hand. Doesn’t take much to pick out a reference to the Lady in the Lake, though evidently devoid of her legendary beauty.
Next, if you drawn a line between Karhwasten (near Markarth) and Rorikstead (due west from Whiterun) and head to the point roughly in between, you’ll come across Devil’s Cairn, a cave in front of which rests a pile of rocks and a sword perched point first at the top. If you think you’re the chosen one then go ahead and grab that sword in the stone.
High Hrothgar, temple home of the Grey Beards, takes it name from the 6th century Danish King immortalized in the anonymous work, Beowulf. Your average English schoolboy should spot that one.
Meanwhile the popular American folktale of the headless horseman rears its… um, that won’t work, the headless horseman gallops headlong… err… the Headless Horseman appears in Skyrim. There, whatever.
A third tale, familiar to children on both sides of the pond, is that of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, who escaped the feasting intentions of a hungry troll with wit, guile, and just a wee bit of cruelty. A stone bridge on the way towards Markarth features the dead troll beneath, and on either end three goats wait to run off in unison.
5. Fantasy Novels
Bethesda slipped a few cursory nods to some of the books that have likely influenced the Elder Scroll series over the years. From Robert Jordan’s sadly unfinished Wheel of Time series – also about a powerful man fighting dragons – comes “Mount Althor”, so named after the books protagonist, Rand Al’thor.
From the currently hip Song of Fire and Ice series – upon which the HBO series Game of Thrones is based – we have Dawnstar resident Horik Halfhand, a nod to the character Qhorin Halfhand, and the city of Winterhold, likely a reference to Winterfell from the novels/show, both of which reside in the frozen north and both headed by a Lord/Jarl who is largely ignored by the rest of kingdom.
4. Movie References
Always a popular subject for Easter eggs, Skyrim slips an obligatory Star Wars reference in- upon meeting a mysterious character during the main quest line you’re given the option to say, “I was expecting someone taller”, in reference to the moment Luke and Leia meet on the Death Star.
It would be remiss not to mention that a Star Trek reference, though from the show and not the movies, pops up as well in the town of Iverstead. There you’ll find an NPC called Temba Wide-Arm, named for the popular Trekkie quote, “Temba, his arms wide” from an episode of The Next Generation.
Less obvious is Bethesda’s brief re-enactment from the cult classic Army of Darkness, a film about skeletal zombies and medieval knights starring the stupendously awesome Bruce Campbell. It takes place right at the beginning of the game, and even fans of the movie might miss it if you’re not paying attention. Watch for the fatally unlucky horse thief who cries out in Helgen, “No, I’m not a rebel, you can’t do this,” before promptly trying to run away only to be brought down by an arrow in the back. It’s a moment which mirrors a similar one in the movie.
3. The Notched Pickaxe
No doubt the most well known of Skyrim’s Easter eggs at this point, a charming nod to Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson appears atop the throat of the world (the big mountain next to Whiterun) in the form of the “Notched Pickaxe”.
Now, if your only joining us on the Internet for the first time this year, there’s a chance you won’t get this joke. To get you up to speed, there are only two things you really need to know. The first is that Minecraft is very popular game of which the pickaxe is (arguably) your main tool. The other is Bethesda’s ill-thought-out plan to take Notch and his company Mojang to court over the use of the word “Scrolls” in the companies next game.
It’s nice to see a little levity over a fairly embarrassing moment for Bethesda. That or someone’s about to get fired.
2. Returning characters from Oblivion
There are actually a crapload of Oblivion references sprinkled throughout Skyrim, including a knowing wink to fan favorite book The Lusty Argonian Maid. The best of them, though, are when important characters from Oblivion pop up in some unexpected places.
The most popular of these floating around the internet right now is Cicero, better known as the Adoring Fan the player picks up after completion of the Arena quest line, who it turns out was an assassin with a habit for killing Grand Champions. Initially, it was presumed that the Grand Champion Cicero confesses to have killed was none other than Oblivion’s player character, but after someone pointed out that the dates don’t add up, that theory was quickly shelved. Besides, as we’ll see in the next entry there’s possibly a better explanation for what happened to the main character in Oblivion after the curtains fell.
Before that, though, it’s back to the Dark Brotherhood. If you progress far enough through the quest line you’ll run into old friend Lucien Lachance, now a ghost in servitude of the Brotherhood, and his steed Shadowmere (who, suffice to say, is not a regular, run of the mill horse). Afterward, if you break into the barricaded house in Riften there’s a bust of the Grey Fox, anonymous star of Oblivion’s popular Thieves Guild quest line.
1.Sheogoraths Mad Tea Party
If you purchased the Oblivion expansion pack Shivering Isles, then you will have already met Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. If you made it to the end, you’ll also be aware that it is possible to assume the role of Sheogorath. If, for the sake of argument, we consider that the canon ending was to take over the role of Sheogorath then this would mean that it’s possible for you (the Dovakhiin in Skyrim) to meet the previous you of Oblivion.
How? Well you’ll need to wait for that one, as to say anything really would constitute a pretty major spoiler, but when you do come across the mad Prince it is during his “vacation” which he has chosen to spend holding a tea party for one deep in the woods, similar to another infamously insane literary character. Near to him, you’ll a see a plate with a Mammoths snout on top, a reference to the collectibles in American McGee’s pair of Alice games.