Skyrim’s Civil War: Comparing Stormcloaks vs. Imperials

Starting The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim drops you straight to your character getting carried to their execution on a carriage.

You got caught by the Imperials illegally crossing the border, and sitting next to you is Jarl Ulfric, the leader of the Stormcloacks captured in the same ambush.

The Civil War faces the Imperials against Stormcloaks for a possible secession of Skyrim from the Empire.

The influence of this conflict throughout the game goes beyond the main quest line and has significant connotations for the control of each Hold.

So what side should you pick during the Civil War quest line in Skyrim, Stormcloaks, or Imperials?

The Stormcloacks offer better armor and weapons for a Light Armor character, whereas the Imperials are more suitable for Heavy Armor characters.

Both sides have almost identical quest end goals, so choosing a side in Skyrim’s Civil War will depend on what side you believe is right.

Skyrim Imperials Stormcloaks Battle
Skyrim Imperials Stormcloaks Battle

Who Should Win the Civil War in Skyrim?

When discussing who is right in Skyrim’s civil conflict, your opinion will highly depend on whether you find the Imperial Legion or Stormcloaks’ reasons to win more appealing.

The Empire wants to keep Skyrim as part of their domain to honor the White-Gold Concordat and avoid another war against the Aldmeri Dominion.

Stormcloaks reject the restrictions on worshipping Talos and believe they’re the true “sons and daughters of Skyrim,” so they want to kick out any external influence from their land.

Stormcloaks want to defend their customs, and a central part of their culture is accepting Talos as their god.

If you’re not playing as a Nord, the Stormcloaks wouldn’t be a good choice to support since they’re openly against anyone who isn’t a Nord.

If you’re playing as an Imperial or believe that Skyrim should adhere to the Empire’s customs and laws, join their side to defeat the rebellion attempts and maintain peace with the Thalmor.

Since the Aldmeri Dominion ultimately wanted to increase their power in Tamriel and benefit from destabilizing the Empire of Cyrodiil, you could join the Stormcloaks to weaken their forces with Skyrim’s independence and make them more vulnerable if another war arose.

Advantages of Joining Stormcloaks in Skyrim

Siding with the Stormcloaks implies that you believe Talos is a legitimate god and that Nord culture deserves respect and should get defended from foreign influence.

While there aren’t significant advantages gameplay-wise for siding with the Stormcloaks in Skyrim, you can still make an argument in favor of Jarl Ulfric’s cause.

  • Ulfric becomes High King of Skyrim. Falkreath, Hjaalmarch, and the Reach will get new Jarls loyal to Ulfric. However, Haafingar will still have Elisif the Fair, the widow to the late High King Toryyg, as Jarl after the war.
  • You get to attack Whiterun and Solitude as part of the Civil War quest line.
  • Joining the Stormcloaks will give you access to two variants of their uniform, both light armor.
  • You will also unlock a shrine to Talos in the Shrine of Divines located in Solitude once you finish the battle against the Imperials.

Advantages of Joining Imperials in Skyrim

Siding with the Imperial Legion in Skyrim will mean that you support the idea of keeping Skyrim and the Empire united to deter the Aldmeri Dominion from trying to go to war again.

While there aren’t significant advantages gameplay-wise for siding with the Imperials in Skyrim, you can still make an argument in favor of Commander Tullius’ orders.

  • You can obtain two types of Imperial armor, available in light armor or heavy armor. These armors have better defensive stats compared to the Stormcloaks’ gear.
  • You get to defend Whiterun and attack Windhelm as part of the Civil War quest line
  • Elisif the Fair gets crowned as the High Queen of Skyrim, and Thalmor presence remains intact.

Read more: Most Expensive Potions in Skyrim

Can I Switch Sides During the Civil War in Skyrim?

When escaping from your execution at the start of the game, you can choose to enter Helgen Keep with Hadvar, an Imperial soldier, or Ralof, one of the Stormcloacks in the caravan.

However, this choice only prompts a suggestion to join their side, adding it to your quest journal.

You can continue with other quests or go straight to Solitude or Windhelm to join a faction.

You can switch sides in the Civil War quest line after obtaining the Jagged Crown.

Once you have the item in your inventory, you can go to the other side’s commander to effectively change sides.

The player cannot remain in both factions at the same time.

Is There a Peaceful Way to End the Civil War in Skyrim?

In Skyrim, you must pick a side and fight the complete fort captures and Hold’s battles to continue the civil war story.

While you can remain neutral and complete other quests without affecting the war, this will paralyze its progress.

During the main quest line, you will negotiate a ceasefire during Season Unending, putting a hold on the Civil war quest line.

Once you’ve finalized the main quest, you can continue with the conflict.

Skyrim Civil War Cease Fire
Skyrim Civil War Cease Fire

What Civil War Faction Offers the Best Gear in Skyrim?

The Imperial Legion’s armor has better defensive stats than the Stormcloaks’ uniform.

You can also choose between light or heavy armor when siding with the Empire.

The Stormcloaks only offer light armor, but they will add a shrine to Talos in the Temple of Divines in Solitude once you take the city.

Each faction will allow you to wear custom armor from the other side.

If you pick the Stormcloaks, you can use General Tullius’ armor, and the Imperial Legion’s faction will give you Ulfric’s armor by the end.

Why Are the Stormcloaks Fighting the Imperials in Skyrim?

According to canon, the Skyrim Civil War starts with the High King Torygg’s assassination by the Jarl of Windhelm, Ulfric Stormcloack.

But the conflict began brewing during the Great War after the Adlmeri Dominion defeated the Empire and Emperor Titus Mede II signed the White-Gold Concordat.

The agreement, among other things, banned the worshiping of Talos.

After the treaty, the Markarth Incident had Ulfric Stormcloak fighting against the Forsworn to retake The Reach.

He agreed to return it to the Empire with the condition to reallow Talos worshipping in Skyrim.

While the Empire agreed to these terms, the Aldmeri Dominion arrested Ulfric and his militia and started to enforce the worshipping ban.

Ulfric was able to escape captivity after this.

Stormcloaks believe they’re the actual owners of Skyrim, and the Empire of Cyrodiil doesn’t have the right to rule their land.

In addition, they actively reject the Thalmor’s influence in the Empire after the White-Gold Concordat and want to expel them from Skyrim.

Civil War Leaders Skyrim
Civil War Leaders Skyrim

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