Skyrim’s civil war questline was disappointing for a lot of reasons. The players were forced to choose between two equally bad choices.
On one side, you have extremists pushing for isolationist policy, and they are willing to burn down the province they claim they love so much to achieve that. On another side, you have a broken empire that sold its principles for a moment of peace, with only seconds separating them from another massive war. Whether you choose between Imperial Legion or Stormcloak rebellion, the only true winner of the conflict is the Thalmor. It would be great if the players could choose something more satisfying and meaningful. Let’s see if there is a third option to choose in Skyrim’s civil war.
There is no third option in Skyrim’s civil war. You can only choose between Imperial Legion and Stormcloak rebellion. No matter what side you choose from, you will have an equal number of quests and achievements, and finishing the storyline will lead to the cessation of all conflict. You cannot join Thalmor, but you can ignore the storyline completely. You can finish the main story; however, you will forfeit certain achievements.
Now that we’ve covered that there is no third option in the civil war, you need to make peace with two (bad) choices. It’s time to analyze the issue in more detail. If you want to know whether changing sides mid-conflict is possible and can the conflict in Skyrim be resolved peacefully, stay with us and keep reading!
Is it better to Join Imperials or Stormcloaks?
Joining Imperials or Stormcloaks depends on your preferred ideology and your perceived position of Skyrim in the Empire. There is no “better side.” No matter which side you choose, the same outcome happens. All conflict in Skyrim ceases, and each hold is left with the government made out of the winning faction.
Former exiled Jarls can be found either in Blue Palace or Palace of the Kings, depending on which side you choose.
Both Imperials and Stormcloaks have good arguments. On one side, Skyrim shouldn’t be forced to abandon its religion and costumes just because Thalmor, which has 0 effects on people’s lives, demands it.
And on the other side, Stormcloaks choose probably the worst moment in history to fight for independence, considering the giant threat from both Thalmor and the Dragons. The Empire is at its absolute lowest in terms of power, and things can get only worse for everyone.
There were no right or wrong sides in the Civil War. That’s why Bethesda left the ending open-ended and up to the player to choose.
Is it possible to switch sides in Skyrim’s civil war?
You will get three opportunities to choose which side you want to choose in the civil war, so yes, switching sides in the civil war is possible. The game gives you enough time to assess which side seems more logical and suits your philosophy. The first opportunity to choose is right at the beginning of the game, during Alduin’s attack on Helgen.
Hadvar (Imperial Legion) and Ralof (Stormcloaks) will invite you to escape the destruction with them. Hadvar and Ralof will subsequently recommend that you join their sides, and the quest marker will appear as well as a journal entry to join the Imperial Legion or Stormcloak rebellion. This does not mean that your choice is cemented.
To join the respective sides, you must plead your case in the Imperial Legion base (Solitude) and talk to General Tullius or at the Stormcloak Rebellion base (Windhelm) with Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak.
The second opportunity to change sides comes from wandering soldiers from both sides you will encounter as you travel. Both sides will offer you to change sides as long as the quest The Jagged Crown is not completed.
The third opportunity, and the last one, to change sides comes after the quest, “The Jagged Crown,” during which you are sent to retrieve the crown that belonged to the ancient High King Harald and serves as a symbol of office for Skyrim’s High King. The Jagged Crown quest is the second quest in the storyline, and it takes place after you have formally joined the Imperials or Stormcloaks. However, when you retrieve the crown, you can deliver it to the opposing side. This is the last opportunity to change sides the game will give you, use it well.
What happens if you finish the civil war storyline before the quest “Season Unending”?
Because finishing the civil war storyline means that the war is over, and Season Unending is the quest to negotiate the truce between both sides, nothing will happen, and you will never get the quest. You can proceed with the quest “The Fallen” right after Alduin’s Bane quest.
Which side wins the civil war in Skyrim’s canon?
Skyrim canon never specified the winner of the civil war conflict. Likely, the conclusion of the civil war storyline won’t play any significant role in the upcoming game, and the ending was left open-ended on purpose. Bethesda has a long tradition of avoiding “endings set in stone.” The prime example of this is the ending of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, during which the player had a choice of siding with seven factions, and Bethesda figured out a way to make all endings canon.
However, the player’s choice was ultimately erased from the lore with the event known in the canon as “The Warp in the West” or “Miracle of Peace.” According to the canon, no matter with whom the players decided to side with during the events of the game, somehow, all sides managed to gain access to the Totem of Tiber Septim, which led to distortion in the timeline itself and after the events that took place that fateful day, all sides emerged from the conflict victorious, miraculously ceasing all conflict in the region.
As you can see, no matter what you choose during the civil war storyline, Bethesda will likely find a way to work around it and make all endings canon or none at all.