I love the Elder Scrolls series; I really do. I've spent more time than is sensible hanging around Balmora in Morrowind, I've collected every book in Oblivion and painstakingly placed each one in my own personal library, which is an achievement in itself, and I have a house in Windhelm, the ultra-conservative settlement in Skyrim, thatís basically just filled with dragon bones and flawless rubies- itís not that I'm racist towards elves, I just like big houses. The fact that I've also completed pretty much every quest line there is in all three games goes without saying I guess. Yet, post Morrowind, I feel like the series has been consigned to a slow creative death. That isn't to say Oblivion and Skyrim are bad games- far from it- but neither of them really feel like a step forward from Morrowind.
Itís a step in some sort of direction, yes, but not necessarily the one that will really benefit the creators in the long term. Financially certainly, thereís no question of that, but as I hope this blog series will haphazardly come to demonstrate, money isn't always the best thing for a developer's continued existence in the current climate. So what though? This has all been said beforeÖthe topic has been done to death, yada yada yada. True. But this blog is really more of a personal attempt at grasping why, for me, the basic enjoyment that I used to find so effortlessly in Elder Scrolls games is slowly being eroded. If others agree, then great, but Iíd like to point out this isn't going to be one of those blogs where I ruthlessly examine each game and tell you why x game mechanic in Morrowind is better than y game mechanic in Skyrim. Like I say, itís more personal than that so here goes.
Morrowind gave you an entire world to explore and said Ďnow get the fuck off my boat- what? You want directions and a quest marker along with some God-given purpose? Piss off. Oh, and by the way, you see that weird looking bird dinosaur flying towards you? Yeah, have fun punching at it for three straight hours until it manages to whittle down that last bit of red bar and you die.í Point being: Life in Morrowind sucked from the get go. Nothing worked like it usually did in videogame land: you had no idea where to go, there were alien mushrooms on the horizon, everything (and I do mean everything) could kill you, and would, if you so much as looked at it weirdly (even the crabs; especially the crabs), decent money was near mythical and one spell cost about five missions worth of wages when you finally did get it. To tell the truth, it took my then twelve year old self (Iím twenty now you pervert!) nine straight hours 20:00- 5:00 to get from level one to level two and I also had to get over the shock of a wood elf with a suspiciously phallic looking hat falling on top of me at the same time! There was this weird, overbearing, religious vibe about everything too. Nothing made any sense and then, slowlyÖit did.
Turns out I was the Neravine, levels could be gained by paying for trainers and guards were a no-go until I was at least past level 25. Things began to slot into place and it was beautiful- every book read was a triumph, every quest complete was an engrossing, resonant, experience even if it was just stealing a diamond because everything had to be thought through and nothing was as simple as a few mouse clicks. It was truly a world because it mirrored certain aspects of our own reality so acutely- nothing makes sense initially in the real world, new experiences and places often seem alien and impossible, everything does have this weird pseudo-political religious vibe about it and you canít attack a police officer until you've reached level 20. As in the game, our only real tools are a combination of investigation and trial and error.
Above all else Morrowind left you with a feeling of vindication like no other.
Next week if I can be bothered and if this gets some vague form of attention: Part 2 (Oblivion): Your neck has gone wrong mate and why is that lizard allowed to wear trousers anyway?