I think The Elder Scrolls games are just horrible.
Morrowind, when I first played it, was kind of fun. Okay, so here I am, in this huge, open-ended world, with little holding me back from behaving like a total jackass--I mean, a responsible citizen, they really throw you into the world, and the storyline is alright if you follow it.
HOWEVER... While the world ITSELF was gorgeous, the character designs looked like ass and butt. They were just horrible. Godawful. Everyone's got this segmented stick-figure kind of thing going on, which is compounded by the shittiness of the textures ON the awful character models. I mean, I realize their game engine was already somewhat taxed by the open-ended world kind of dealie, but still. There's no excuse for making the game look so awesome but everyone in the game look so bad.
And the spells! Oh god, the spells. When I cast a fireball, I expect shit to die. Violently. Not stand there, take it like a man, and then resume charging wildly in my direction. When I try to MAKE a fireball spell that works like a fireball spell should, the game makes it cost a million gazillion magicka and require superhuman intelligence to cast even once. Terrible!
Finally, even as good as the world looked, it had no small amount of problems itself. The game crashed all the time. I mean constantly. Even after every patch was applied. Hell, I still managed to fall through the ground on a regular basis. And the AI was so shitty that you NEEDED add-ons in order to get things to behave like they were supposed to. 'Cause, you know, I love having giant angry pterodactyls come flying in from miles away because I'm the only roaming hero on the island and apparently my clothing and weapons are made of bait. Super.
Oblivion was more of the same. Sure, the world looks prettier, and it's got that lovely high dynamic range lighting that makes everything(and I mean everything) glow and the shadows look epic, but it's still the Elder Scrolls, and Bethesda does not learn from their mistakes. The character designs still look HORRIBLE, though now with the ability to make your own face you have the option to make your character not look like some kind of hydrocephallic/downs syndrome monstrosity, but the amount of effort this takes is directly inverse to the number of people who give a shit that you encounter in the game.
The magic still sucks. The world is less buggy, but still you get the feeling like they focused more on how awesome the environments looked than how much sense anything that made up the rest of the game made. I was not impressed.
Yet people fucking love these games. They eat this shit up! Why?!
I think I know why. I think the reason the Elder Scrolls games do so damn well is because no one else has done it better. No one has made a first-person RPG that allowed for such a grand scope of environment with the level of graphics that are featured in the series. Why should they? Oblivion was here first, and people bought it, and if you did the same game but fixed everything wrong with the games, people would just say you're copying Bethesda Softworks. It's the same reason the iPod is still the king of portable MP3 players: they did an awesome job of getting all over the place, and now no one cares for anything else. It sucks, but it's true.
I still hold out hope, though. I'd love to play a first-person computer RPG that let me feel like I was actually becoming epic, as opposed to becoming the hero. With character designs that don't make me want to vomit, a world that doesn't bug out all the time, and spells, items, and events that didn't feel tacked on at the last second.