25 years ago, in a small forgotten town called “Bethesda, Maryland”, a miracle was born. A game series that would define generations, a franchise that would shape the RPG genre as we know it today.
This is The Elder Scrolls.
While the first two entries could only be described as “iffy at best”, there among the raw potential was a game so perfect in composition, it became known as the crown jewel of the medium as a whole.
Or at least, that’s what people would tell you. But they’re wrong. So wrong. Morrowind is an… alright game, I’ll give them that. I’ve had my false starts with it, but the story is pretty cool.
But no, the best game of them all is actually the fourth in the series, Oblivion. And here’s why:
1. Everyone is Having a Really Good Time
Ever play a game that felt like pure misery? Like the only interesting thing was a celebrity voice actor and they were clearly there just to get paid? Like the studio just churned out something just to say that they did it?
Oblivion is not that game.
The whole place just seems created with so much love and care, from the tiny flowers blooming in the wilds of the West Weald, to the gleaming heights of the White-Gold Tower.
All of the voice actors seem to be having a ball, too. Lynda Carter, in particular, seems to love hamming up her battle dialogue and everyone gave their all into each and every line that was handed to them. Which was a lot, because most of them voiced more than one race.
2. They Tried
Speaking of voices, there are two things anyone who’s ever played Oblivion for more than five minutes will tell you: A. That they saw a mudcrab the other day and B. They’re horrible creatures.
Oblivion was really ambitious, even by today’s standards. They managed to create a completely randomized conversation system for NPC chatter, an entire motivations protocol to direct how computer-generated characters worked and acted, and fought, and suite of actions and dialogues to go with them.
Compared to Skyrim, which is rife with just pre-scripted conversations that play almost every time you walk into the city like the Scandinavian equivalent of the squirrel at Splash Mountain, Oblivion is a masterwork of simulating civilization.
3. What a Wonderful World
Skyrim had the advantage of coming six years later with better technology and more stunning graphics. Far be it from me to say that Skyrim doesn’t have more well-crafted images than Oblivion’s potato-face people.
But Skyrim the country? Is ugly. Really ugly. When even the prettiest flowers one can find are scraggly little weeds that look like they’re only good for making really gross tea, you know your country is…. erm… “rugged”.
But when you come down the Colovian Highlands, among the huge stands of shady trees, down the Imperial Reserve and into the blooming fields of the West Weald, and towards the Abecean Sea where the grass grows golden in the glinting sunlight, it just takes your breath away.
4. It’s Actually an RPG and It Actually Works
Morrowind. We need to chat. Because I am hitting this baddie and I am very clearly smacking ‘im good, but you keep saying I’ve “missed” because I’m… unlucky? Sorry. Say that one more time? It’s not my fault that I woke up in the slimy bilgewater of some leaky boat and dumped unceremoniously onto the shores of a country with two polygons to call its name. Heck, I was woken up by St. Jiub before his most holy veneration, I should be considered luckier for that! Or at least gotten an autograph.
Skyrim has Perks, not stats. They’re cool, I guess, but not an RPG where I can break the fabric of the known universe by using sabermetrics. Thank you, next.
Need I say more?
Do you agree that Oblivion is the GOAT of TES? Are you going to track me down with a giant neon green claymore only to miss every time thanks to unfortunate numbers?
Let me know in the comments!
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