• Dark Brotherhood and Dawnguard are top-tier questlines in Skyrim, offering engaging stories and gameplay.
  • Thieves Guild provides player freedom and benefits, while the main questline leads to epic battles.
  • College of Winterhold and Civil War questlines are considered lackluster, failing to live up to potential.

Like many RPG titles, the narrative experience of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is so much more than its main quest. The title has remained so consistently relevant over the past decade thanks to the scale of its exploration and worldbuilding, with there being a wide range of different factions that feature their own compelling stories.

Faction questlines are a longstanding staple of The Elder Scrolls and other Bethesda franchises like Fallout, and Skyrim did not disappoint with how impactful some of its secondary questlines are. Of course, the many major questlines in Skyrim can vary quite significantly in terms of how engaging they are, with some questlines standing a clear head and shoulders above the rest.


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S-Tier: Dark Brotherhood, Dawnguard

The Dark Brotherhood questline is considered as one of the best Skyrim has to offer by many fans, allowing players to commit to the more sinister aspects of RPG gameplay. Through a lengthy overall narrative, players are tasked with assassinations as they climb the ranks of the ancient order, with the stakes and freedom of approach within these missions making the Dark Brotherhood questline one of Skyrim‘s most iconic.

The Dawnguard questline was Skyrim‘s first major add-on, thrusting the Dragonborn among ancient rituals and a legion of plotting vampires. As an official expansion for Skyrim, Dawnguard involves a respectable 22 quests, with the player choosing between two warring factions that each offer fantastic rewards. This, combined with the introduction of dragonborne weapons and dedicated vampire and werewolf skill trees, easily places Dawnguard among the best questlines in Skyrim.

A-Tier: Thieves Guild, Main Questline

Like the Dark Brotherhood questline, Skyrim‘s Thieves Guild narrative allows the player a lot of freedom when it comes to handling its many quests, with the two factions also relying on each other for support. Rising through the ranks of the Thieves Guild and helping rebuild the organization can provide huge benefits to the player, increasing the number of merchants in Skyrim’s major cities and making the sale of stolen items to fences a much easier and more profitable task. The Thieves Guild is one of the most complex questlines and factions in Skyrim, and while it lacks the style of Dawguard and the Dark Brotherhood, it is still a highly-rated experience.

Of course, the main questline of Skyrim is also worthy of praise, driving the main purpose of the Dragonborn and introducing players to some of the game’s most memorable mechanics and sequences. With the player eventually fighting Alduin, the Nordic God of Destruction in dragon form, the stakes of Skyrim‘s main quest are undoubtedly high, but the player will usually find themselves turning to other faction questlines instead of focusing on the main threat to Tamriel.


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B-Tier: Dragonborn, Companions

The Dragonborn questline was introduced in Skyrim as its third and last official add-on, seeing the player fight against Miraak, a dragon priest who possesses Dragonborn abilities that rival those of Skyrim‘s main character. Dragonborn introduced things like new dragon shouts, armor and weapon types, and even the ability to tame and ride dragons, and while these are fantastic additions to Skyrim, the main story of the DLC is ultimately too short to see it rival others.

The Companions faction acts as Skyrim‘s version of the Fighters Guild that often appears in other The Elder Scrolls entries. The questline for The Companions is short but sweet, with the main figures of the faction actually being werewolves. The questline sees the Dragonborn become infected with lycanthropy and also become a werewolf, and while this can be cured and turned into a useful ability, the size of The Companions’ questline is ultimately too brief to compare to major add-ons or more fleshed-out faction experiences.

C-Tier: College of Winterhold, Civil War

The College of Winterhold is another major faction in the base-game experience of Skyrim, being entirely dedicated to the use of magic. The focus on magic puts a lot of pressure on the College of Winterhold questline to deliver to players using magic builds, but the involved quests for the faction ultimately feel repetitive and lacking in any real pay off. The quick rise from student to leader of the College of Winterfell ultimately feels unearned and out of place, with this particular faction not really living up to the potential of what it could have been.

Despite being one of the most narratively important questlines in the entire game, the Civil War quests for Skyrim are considered the worst of them all by some fans of the title. The Civil War in Skyrim is the culmination of centuries of subjugation and internal political strife, with the traditionalist Stormcloaks battling against the Empire’s army. The death and destruction stemming from this conflict is one of the main contributors to Alduin’s appearance in Skyrim, yet the game does very little to convey the seriousness or consequences of the players’ decision on which faction they decide to help. The quests of the Civil War experience can be boiled down to repetitive assaults of different locations, with the lack of real rewards from the questline making the lack of impact that it has on Skyrim‘s world all the more disappointing.


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