Stormcloaks vs Imperials: Who Should You Side With?
Contains minor spoilers!*
Skyrim is riddled with choices. What makes it so fun is the fact you get to create your own way. Some choices are easy to make (helping Kodlak Whiteman with his last request), down to the hard ones (do I kill Paartnurnax? But that’s a discussion for another time). One of the choices I personally don’t like making is which side in the war are you going to choose? Are you going to side with the Legion? Honouring the empire? Or are you going to side with the rebellion, siding with Ulfric, the one who murdered Skyrim’s High King? It doesn’t matter which side you choose, there are of course downfalls and upside to each.
The very first time I played through I sided with the Imperials. Upon escaping, Hadvar from the Legion helped me find my way, so in a way I felt like I owed him. I travelled and made my way to Solitude at some point during my travels, and signed up to become part of the Legion, with Hadvar vouching for me. But was this the right decision? The first time around I didn’t think much of it. Even the second play through I chose Stormcloak, just to see it from both sides. Now, however, I think closely on who I want to side with. Perhaps I put more thought into it than needed, but alas, who is the right side of the war to join?
“Skyrim belongs to the Nords!”
The Stormcloak rebellion came to be because some of the Nords in Skyrim felt their way of life was at risk, and the Empire shouldn’t dictate how they live, nor should they have to follow their laws and customs. Ok, fair enough that you’d want to live life the way you see fit, but the racism towards others that aren’t Nords? Makes you think a little about how much you really ought to be following Ulfric. Yeah, yeah, but at least there’s religious freedom, right? The Empire outlawed the worship of Talos, so at least they’ll accept you if you do worship him. Religious freedom, versus racism… hmm…
When you first start your journey, Whiterun is the only safe Haven. It is the only hold that hasn’t picked a side; and they’ll be swayed just as you are. You’ll still get quips about stormcloaks and imperials, but it’s nowhere as near as bad as other holds. Windhelm is full of quips about Ulfric and the rebellion. Just talk to Hermir Strong-Arm, she loves Ulfric, and would probably do anything if it meant he would notice her.
“Death to the stormcloaks!”
The whole reason the rebellion came to be is the fault of the Thalmor. For the most part, anyway. Back when the White Gold Concordant was signed, it outlawed the worship of Talos. It was signed to end the Great War, but there were those who did not agree with the Emperor’s decision. For example the Redguards of Hammerfell refused the terms of the treaty signed, and opposed the Thalmor. In order to keep the peace, Hammerfell became its own independent state. The relationship between Hammerfell and the Empire remains strained because of this.
But let’s get back to the stormcloaks. So for the longest time, those in Skyrim could still worship Talos. I mean, it was illegal, but nobody really said anything. That was until the fateful day Ulfric and some of his men were arrested by the Thalmor in Markarth. Until that point, Ulfric was considered to be on good terms with the Thalmor; perhaps this could explain his hatred of elves, and the state of the Gray Quarter in the city of Windhelm.
Talos guide you
I guess the way I see it, there really is no “right” or “better” choice. That is, unless you have preference to what Jarls are put in charge. Should you choose one side, the Jarls of the other, and the people of the hold sometimes, will hold it against you, making snide remarks as you pass; especially in Solitude or Windhelm.
There really is no perk to choosing one or the other. Each has the benefit of having certain followers and friends in the game, but none provides a great advantage over the other.
Basically what it comes down to is this, and I think this is something we can all agree on: F*ck the Thalmor. I mean, it’s because of them were in this civil war, right? Technically yes, but it goes deeper than that.
Though I don’t agree with everything they do, I always choose sides with the empire. Because at the end of the day, all people should be welcomed to Skyrim with open arms, regardless if they’re a Nord or not.