"The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" (2011): Why Aela Will Always Be My Favorite Skyrim Wife
A lot of gamers have been known to jokingly mock Skyrim's romance system -- or its lack thereof -- but I actually enjoy it the way it is. Bethesda games are about the world building and lore -- not the characters -- so having all the marriageable characters be playersexual is perfect for the setting.
This wouldn't bode well in a Bioware game where realistic and well-developed characters are paramount. But in a Bethesda game? It works just fine.
I'm aware that Bethesda recently stepped up their romances with Fallout 4 (after doing a test run with Serena from Skyrim's Dawnguard). I'm just saying: I was fine with the vanilla system that shipped with the original Skyrim in 2011.
I don't need my robotic pixel wife to love me or dote on me or talk to me. I need her to give me experience bonuses and buy crap from me so that I can continue mindlessly killing and looting. If my wife actually has a personality, an interesting backstory, and sweet combat abilities of her own, that's a bonus.
Aela is the perfect wife in this regard.
I know a while ago I wrote an entire article about why Mjoll was actually the best wife in Skyrim. If I'm honest with myself, though, Aela has always been and will always be my favorite Skyrim wife.
With Aela, you actually get what is known as a "cute meet" in romantic comedies. In other words, you meet her in a cute way.
On my first playthrough as a khajiit warrior, I didn't reach the giant in time (I didn't have the unofficial patches to fix that glitch because they didn't exist yet) and Aela berated me as a milk drinker.
Aela was so initially sneering and dismissive, it's no small wonder I ran to sweet, friendly Ysolda instead. When you later learn that she's actually a werewolf, it will dawn on you that Bethesda made her a literal bitch that becomes a howling beast with the changing of the moons as a sort of (sexist) PMS joke.
Not cool, Bethesda.
For some reason, however, I kind of liked the fact that Aela was willing to tell it how it is, rather than dote blindly on me. She didn't think much of me -- I mean, the Dovahkiin -- when we first met, but I was able to earn her respect by finishing the Companion's questline, which is pretty awesome.
I guess that's why I also like Sten from Dragon Age: Origins. He likewise doesn't think much of the Warden and the Warden has to earn his respect.Watching the relationship evolve is pretty interesting. It's a shame they didn't put more into that regarding Aela, but Bethesda has always been about world first, characters second.
Not complaining. Just stating facts.
To be perfectly clear, Aela was actually the second woman I married in Skyrim, not the first. On my first real playthrough (meaning I didn't quit and start over as a different race), I played a khajiit warrior who joined the Companions just because she wanted to stop being homeless. I didn't know about the house in Whiterun yet and even ignored the main quest for a while -- as most people do who play Bethesda games.
My khajiit married Ysolda just because she was the first Nord in Skyrim who didn't trash khajiit. If anything, Ysolda makes for the perfect wife if you're going to play a khajiit thief character, as she is a cut-throat business woman. Much like Aela, she has a secret dark side.
I guess I just like red-headed archers with secret dark sides to them.
As these things tend to go, I wound up falling in love with Aela's character after playing the Companion's questline while married to someone else. I liked her enough that I started over and married her instead.
Here are the benefits to marrying Aela:
- Because I was playing a tank build at the time, Aela seemed perfect for me. She was one of the best archers in the game, which allowed her to provide great support. And if she was surrounded, she was pretty good with a shield and dagger.
- Aela can teach you archery for free if you marry her. She is also one of the best archery trainers in the game.
- Aela is marked Essential. Like Mjoll, she can't die.
- Aela will open a store, allowing you to sell stuff to her while in the middle of a dungeon.
- You actually have to do something impressive to earn Aela's respect and love, rather than just putting on a necklace and asking for her hand. This is probably what makes "romancing" her and Mjoll so much better than the other Skyrim wives.
- Unlike Mjoll, Aela is quiet, mysterious, and doesn't talk all the damn time. You can ask her about her background anytime you please, rather than having her repeat it over and over non-stop.
- Aela's A.I. is set to Brave (or Foolhardy), meaning she won't abandon you when the going gets tough (coughTovarcough).
- Also, she's a werewolf. How awesome is that?
Another cool thing about Aela is that she doesn't sit around waiting for the Dragonborn to come home. Instead, she goes on adventures with the Companions, and you might run into her fighting a bear out in the wilds. You'll help her, kiss her, and then each of you go your separate ways. Awesome.
Of course, if you marry her, Aela stops this cool behavior and becomes a boring housewife. This is one reason why it used to break my heart to marry her. She starts out this hard, strong, independent woman -- which was the reason I loved her in the first place -- only to become my doting domestic servant?
Thankfully, the Amorous Adventures mod (the clean version) makes married life to Aela less disappointing. I love romancing her with this mod because it does a nice job of playing up the physical, mental, and emotional connection the Dragonborn feels to Aela due to their shared wolf blood. Instead of being a brainless devoted house slave, Aela retains some of her fire, aggressively asking for sex from the Dragonborn (which is utterly hilarious) and calling the Dragonborn her "love."
A lot of the romances in AA are a little cheesy, problematic, and cringeworthy (my opinion, what ya gonna do?), but the one with Aela (and argumentatively Farkas) is pretty awesome.
Because I love playing a shield maiden (a sword and board warrior) probably more than any other build -- even assassin or mage -- Aela is easily my favorite follower and wife. Her fighting style compliments the Dragonborn perfectly, her dialogue is amusing, and . . .
She's just wonderful to look at.
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