(This blog does contain spoilers to a game that was released a long time ago. If you still haven't played it and don't wish to know what happens, avoid this post.)
The other day, I decided to take a gander at The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as a trip down memory lane. I looked at my save and laughed at the hour count I had put in: 475. I played through all the guilds and daedric quests and was almost done with the story. I figured "What the hell. Let's put a bow on this."
I kinda wished I hadn't.
See, despite all the praise that the game has, there is a problem that most people didn't even realize. Your character isn't the "main character". No matter what you tell yourself or what anyone tells you, the game doesn't hinge singularly on you. The game hinges on Martin Septim.
Martin Septim, for those who are clueless, is the bastard son of Uriel Septim VII, Emperor of Tamriel. One night, a cult called the Mythic Dawn murders him and his sons in order to bring the Daedric Prince of Destruction, Mehrunes Dagon, into the world. You'd think that it would be up to you to stop it....you'd be wrong. It's up to Martin. Being the bastard son, Martin is the "ace-in-the-hole" that the Blades, errant knights that protect the fabled bloodline, used in case of such an event. Your job as the main character is not to protect Martin, is not to defeat Mehrunes Dagon and is not to lead the charge into battle against the forces of Oblivion. Your job is to be the gopher for Martin as he sits back and formulates a plan to ultimately save the world.
The game starts you out in the Imperial Prison. It's not really known why you're there, but after a few moments, you meet the Emperor, who is feeling with his life with a few Blades. He sees you and says that you were part of his dreams. Time passes and the Emperor gets shanked by a Mythic Dawn member, causing you to pick up a special amulet to give to a man named Jauffre. You then run your head off, avoiding mudcrabs, thieves, goblins and a few rats to find an old man that tells you...to go get Martin. This is the start of a long chain of quests that basically has you doing all of the heavy lifting for the "real hero" of the game. You go out and find the Daedric items, close Oblivion gates for cities, and kill an entire cult in their false Paradise. What happens in return? Martin becomes a giant dragon and kicks the hell out of Mehrunes Dagon, sending him back to his own plane. You, on the other hand, watch it all happen and get a suit of "meh" armor at the end of it all.
If I were a guy who just spent the better part of a year, running around avoiding undead, making deals with insane deities and spat in the face of danger more than once, I'd want to get a bit more than just armor. The other problem is that it doesn't stop there. In Skyrim, there really isn't a mention of the "Champion of Cyrodiil" or the "Hero of Kvatch". except in passing. Why? It turns out that the "Champion of Cyrodiil" is just an order of knights that did really awesome things to protect the province. This can range from guards to random felons who were lucky enough to escape prison and get tangled into something. It's more of a title that gets you a free ale at a tavern and possible a night of fun with an Argonian maid.
But there is a fun little catch that makes it all worth it.
In the expansion, The Shivering Isles, the player helps the Mad God, Sheogorath, free himself from an eternity of destroying and rebuilding. This is really interesting because as you progress in the quest, you become more and more like Sheogorath. As his power wanes, your power grows. The game starts to center more around "you", which is how all the other Elder Scrolls games played. At the end of it all, "you" become the Mad God and the Mad God becomes a different God. It's certainly a better trophy than "meh" armor.
How I like to imagine the entire Oblivion Crisis is thus: Sheogorath knew that his time was coming to an end. He came up with a plan that would have him find a champion. He couldn't break the rules and just take a mortal, so he convinced Mehrunes Dagon to invade the mortal plane (since he's the God of War and Destruction). Sheogorath is no stranger to the Imperial Throne (see Pelagius II in Skyrim), so he plants a few dreams in the Emperor's head to give him a "prophecy". Sheogorath wanted to find someone crazy enough to tag along on a world-ending quest and be satisfied with little to no reward. Not only did he find someone, he found someone crazy enough to voluntarily enter his world and actively engage in becoming his heir. The Oblivion Crisis was actually a giant ruse played out by Sheogorath just so he wouldn't have to subject himself through the agony of the Greymarch for the billionth time.
Now who's got the upper hand, Martin Septim?!