Skyrim: The Invincible Companion
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a very hostile and dangerous place. Dragons, Draugrs and Giants… oh my! Typically through most of your adventure, you’ll be facing these challenges alone, but there are times where you can find companions to accompany you with your journey, whether they are mercenaries for hire, one of your Housecarls (like Lydia from Whiterun), or just a random NPC who happens to be a part of a given quest.
The one common denominator among most all of the companions you can encounter is that they are just as vulnerable to damage and death as you are, and if you’re not careful, you can lose your companion in the heat of a battle and then that’s it… that companion is gone forever. But what can you do? Companions are great to have since they can help you defeat a powerful enemy by not only attacking them along your side, but helping to draw some of the damage from the enemy instead of you taking the brunt of the attack yourself. Not to mention, they become invaluable sources of extra inventory space if you happen to be carrying so much that you become dangerously close to being over-encumbered. And who hasn’t run into the situation where a companion gets in the middle of you attacking an enemy, not only taking the damage dealt by the enemy, but from yourself as well. And if you haven’t accidentally killed your companion, you’ve ended up pissing them off to the point where they’re no longer your friend, but wants to see you dead too!
After having restarted my game in Skyrim, I’ve played through a number of missions until I stumbled across this little unknown gem purely by accident; an invincible companion that will follow you anywhere, will attack any nearby enemy that threatens you, and can take seemingly endless amounts of damage without ever staggering, let alone dying. And you’ll never believe who that companion would turn out to be. It’s not a mercenary or a warrior for hire, nor is it a mage or some other wizard. I always thought the best companion you could ever pair up with in the game was Serana, the an ancient pure-blood vampire from the Dawnguard expansion. But despite her resilience in bouncing back after an intense battle, she is still after all susceptible to damage and staggering out of commission until she can regenerate enough health to continue. So who is this mysterious figure?
I present to you your invincible companion: a dog. Yes, you heard me right. Your mighty champion who can rival even the best Nords wielding a blade or take down even the strongest of Draugr Deathlords is a dog. Unless you are a frequent visitor to the Skyrim Wiki website and peruse their many articles, you’d probably never realize that you could fully take advantage of this unique “man’s best friend.” So far, I’ve used this pooch to help me take down Dragons, Bandit Chiefs, Draugr Deathlords, and just about anything else I’ve encountered with relative ease. Imagine my surprise when I found my enemy focused on attacking the dog, allowing me to stand behind them unchallenged to hack-and-slash away at my leisure.
So, who is this dog? And where you can you find him?
His name is Barbas and he’s not just any ordinary dog. Despite his scruffy appearance, Barbas is actually a supernatural being (and companion to Daedric Prince Clavicus Vile) who usually takes the form of a dog. You first encounter him on the road just outside of Falkreath where he talks to you (he’s the only dog in the game that talks) and starts the Quest: A Daedra’s Best Friend. To start, you must follow Barbas to Haemar’s Shame where you discover not only Barbas’ strained relationship with the Daedric Prince, but pickup the next quest to retrieve the Rueful Axe (the ONLY weapon in the game that can kill Barbas) for Clavicus Vile.
Barbas is completely impervious to any other weapons or forms of attack in the game. Slash him with your sword… Barbas shrugs it off. Hit him with your best spell… Barbas just looks at you like, “Huh? Did you just do something?” You can even inflict the Dragon Shout Marked for Death (that slowly drains the health of the target until they die) at him… Barbas continues to frolic around by your side just as happy and content. I personally stumbled on to this jewel of a tip/hint while on my way to the location where I was supposed to retrieve the Rueful Axe for Clavicus Vile. Along the way, I got sidetracked with another side mission and I noticed that after having beaten a group of bandits (where Barbas also helped), after the battle Barbas had no visible health meter like all other NPCs typically display. Then I began to experiment with various attacks and never once did I ever see a health meter for Barbas appear. Then it dawned on me… this mutt is invincible! And to verify my observations, I went to the Skyrim Wiki website, checked out the article on Barbas, and found that my suspicions were indeed validated.
However, with any great find… there’s always another side to the coin. Though Barbas is an invaluable traveling & combat companion, he does have his faults. Fortunately, you can chalk it up to nothing more than minor petty annoyances, though the annoyances can really get under your skin at times. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. For example, Barbas is constantly barking. Though the game developers claim his barks won’t alert nearby enemies to your presence, what I’ve seen so far in that regard makes me believe that claim to be arguable.
Other minor annoyances include how Barbas will constantly push and nudge you when you are standing still. This can be a rather bad thing when standing near the edge of a cliff or up on the upper level of an area. Barbas will indiscriminately push your over the side to your doom. But don’t take it personally… he’s just being friendly. Another annoyance I’ve encountered falls within the ability to sneak around stealthily, especially when it comes to stealing items. Under normal circumstances, when you sneak the “eye” on the screen is closed indicating you are “Hidden” from view. When the “eye” opens, it means you have been “Detected.” Anyone who plays Skyrim knows that unless you want to place a bounty on your head for stealing items, you want to remain hidden from view. That’s impossible with Barbas. As long as he is with you, no matter where you sneak, the “eye” will always be open indicating you are “Detected.” This makes it impossible to know whether someone off in the distance actually does see you or you truly are free and clear to loot at your hearts content. But probably the most annoying consequence of all having Barbas as a traveling companion is the fact he is ALWAYS getting in the way. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve had to run around or jump over Barbas to be able to continue down a corridor or get through a doorway to the next room, and it happens so frequently, you’ll be cursing his name just as Clavicus Vile does. No wonder he wants you to kill Barbas with the Rueful Axe.
The fortunate thing about having Barbas as a traveling companion is that you can keep him and use as much as you want in difficult enemy battles, as long as you don’t complete the Quest: A Daedra’s Best Friend and kill Barbas with the Rueful Axe. And since Skyrim is an open world game where you can explore and partake in quests at your leisure (and in no particular order), you can utilize his god-like invulnerability all the way through the game, truly making him one of the best (if not THE best) asset of the entire game, something game developers definitely under-played the importance of.
And in Barbas’ own words… woof!