Skyrim: Imperials or Stormcloaks. Who should you pick?

As if choosing your character’s Race wasn’t a tough task, ESV: Skyrim allows you to pick sides on one of the major factions trying to gain control of Skyrim.

Picking between two extremely interesting sides is not something new in the world of Skyrim. What other game gives you the option to choose between being a Vampire or Werewolf, in addition to being a dragon-slaying one-man army who picks fights with chickens and Daedras?

The world of Skyrim has a lot going on, and the choice of siding with either Imperials or Stormcloaks is one of the few ‘normal’ choices in the game (I’m not even exaggerating, this game makes you choose between becoming a cannibal or fight the cult of cannibals).

Before we jump into the best choice pick between Imperials and Stormcloaks, let’s check out who they are, what they are doing in Skyrim, and their quarrel with each other.

Once you understand what the motive for each faction is, only then can you select the best one. (Or opt for a third option? More on that below) 

So read on!

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Who Are Imperials In Skyrim, And Why Should You Side With Them?

Sworn enemies of the Stormcloaks, the Imperials are led by General Tullius and, in a constant effort to break Skyrim apart from the Third Empire.

The Imperial Legion has its headquarters of operations in the Solitude province and consists of local militia and legionnaires from the main Imperial force.

As the Dragonborn, you can aid the Imperial Legion in defeating the Stormcloaks. If you choose to side with the Imperials, you’ll be fighting alongside Bretons, Redguard legionnaires, Altmer, Dunmer, and Breton Legates, while Nord and Imperial legionnaires and Legates make up the vast majority of the Legion.

The Imperial Legion wants to make Skyrim a part of the Empire and implement the Imperial law and tradition in Skyrim.

While most citizens of the Empire oppose the White-Gold Concordat, they have conceded to its enforcement by the Thalmor Justiciars of the Aldemeri Dominion to maintain peace. The Aldemeri strictly prohibit praying to Talos and make it illegal. If any legionaries are followers of Talos, they keep their faith to themselves and pray to Talos privately.

Stormcloaks share a different idea of running things in Skyrim, which is why they’re fighting a rebellion against the Imperials.

Let’s check out what’s happening on the other side of the coin.

Who Are Stormcloaks In Skyrim, And Why Should You Side With Them?

Direct enemies of the Thalmor and the Imperial Legion, the Stormcloaks are led by Ulfric Stormcloak (Yep, the same guy you see tied and gagged at the beginning of the game), with their headquarters in Windhelm.

According to the Stormcloaks, the corrupt and waning Empire is reason enough for Skyrim to declare independence. This viewpoint developed after the Great War ended and the Aldmeri Dominion imposed the White-Gold Concordat.

Given that the Empire was defeated after the Great War and accepted the Dominion’s conditions of surrender, the Stormcloaks saw the Empire as nothing more than a puppet of the Thalmor.

Most Nords worship Talos, which is reason enough to oppose the Empire, which implements a law banning his worship.

The entrance of the Thalmor Justiciars, who the Empire has given the power to implement the White-Gold Concordat in Skyrim, has only further aggravated the locals’ already negative views of the Empire.

While siding with Stormcloaks screams more freedom, you should remember that Ulfric is a Nord-supremacist, and the Stormcloaks consider themselves (Nords) above other races.

“Skyrim belongs to the Nords” – I mean, Ulfric, bruh, it’s 4E201- be a little sympathetic towards other races. They’ve suffered enough!

Imperials Vs. Stormcloaks – Whom Should You Side With?

The Imperials are greater in number, more organized, and have a logical stance of seeing a united Tamriel.

While the Stormcloaks, on the other hand, are not wrong either in demanding the freedom of worship and opposing the devious Thalmars.

Choices, choices… so, which side deserves the aid of the Dragonborn? Since your participation in either faction will tip the odds of this war in their favor by a mile, it’s a big choice to make.

Check out the chart below for the advantages of siding on either side.

Perks Of Joining The StormcloaksPerks Of Joining The Imperial Legion
Ulfric will rule Skyrim as High King. He will assign new Jarls in Falkreath, Hjaalmarch, and the Reach. But after the conflict, Haafingar will still have Elisif the Fair as Jarl. After siding with General Tullius, you will kill Ulfric towards the war’s end. This will make Windhelm lose its Jarl. Brunwulf Free-Winter will be assigned as a new Jarl, and he will allow a person of every Race to feel welcome in Windhelm (as opposed to Ulfric, who only catered to Nords)
As part of the Civil War quest chain, you’ll have the chance to launch attacks on Whiterun and Solitude. In the Civil War quest line, you’ll have the opportunity to defend Whiterun and assault Windhelm, Elisif the Fair will be proclaimed High Queen of Skyrim, and the Thalmor will maintain their stronghold in the region. 
When you join the Stormcloaks, you’ll get two sets of armors – both of which are light armors. The Imperial Guard has both light and heavy armor options. Compared to the Stormcloaks’ armor, these items are more effective in blocking attacks. 
When you defeat the Imperials, a shrine dedicated to Talos will become available at the Shrine of Divines in Solitude. Talos worship will be banned, and all shrines of Talos will be removed. The annoying priest in Whiterun – Heimskr will be jailed (Thank Talos! Oh wait…)

Here are some major advantages of siding with either faction. You can note there isn’t much difference between the two factions, you will see different people on the Jarl thrones, but almost everything will go back to normal after the end of the ‘Civil War’ quest.

While siding with Stormcloaks makes the most sense since they were you since the start of the game, and if you aren’t an Empire-loving dweeb, you must have sided with Ralof when the game started.

But before you choose to side with the Stormcloaks, you should know that Ulfric Stormcloak has a dark secret. Read on to find out!

What is Ulfric’s Dark Secret?

The Thalmor Embassy.

The Aldmeri Dominion outlawed Talos worship throughout Imperial territory, including Skyrim, when the Empire signed the White-Gold Concordat.

As a result of this (and other atrocities during the Great War), Ulfric launched a resistance movement known as the Stormcloaks to break away from the Empire and fight for the rights of the Nordic people.

Ulfric may think he is helping to establish an independent and free Skyrim, but in reality, he is advancing the Dominion’s agenda in Tamriel.

A dossier about the Blades faction is acquired by sneaking into the Thalmor Embassy during the Diplomatic Immunity main quest. A copy of the Thalmor Dossier on Ulfric Stormcloak can be obtained from this location, allowing players to form their own opinions on the man’s true war aims.

It seems that the Jarl of Windhelm, Ulfric Stormcloak, was previously eager to work with the Thalmor but rapidly abandoned allegiance, according to the information included in the Thalmor Dossier on Ulfric Stormcloak.

Ulfric Stormcloak was instead manipulated and brainwashed into becoming the Thalmor’s unknowing attack dog. No matter who wins the civil war in Skyrim, the Aldmeri Dominion will benefit either way!

Who would want to benefit from those snakes?! Not me! This is why I have a third option as well.

How To Not Side With Either The Stormcloaks or Imperials? – Third Option

Given that players are encouraged to choose their own paths, it is possible to complete Skyrim without ever siding with either the Stormcloaks or Imperials.

The ‘Civil War’ quest is optional and doesn’t interfere with your main quest of defeating Alduin.

Until the player reaches the negotiating table part of the main mission, the world will continue to behave as though the war is still going on, and neither side will make any progress on the other.

This is a great way of finishing the game without giving the Thalmars satisfaction that they’ve won.

Yelp! The deadliest opponent of the Dragonborn arrives in the Update – Check out Goldfish Guide Skyrim

What will your next RPG be?

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Nick Sinclair

Nick Sinclair, a gaming aficionado since the Commodore 64 era, studied Creative Computer Games Design in university before founding his own gaming company. Discovering a passion for content creation, Nick now helps gamers squeeze every drop of fun out of their favorite gaming hardware

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