Elder Scrolls
Morrowind and Oblivion
Bethesda Softworks

I’ve been a fan of the Elder Scrolls computer game series since the days of Daggarfall. I love the single-player role playing game because it seems like in multiplayer games, you’re limited to games like Diablo, which to me seem nothing but hack and slash.

My husband and I both loved Morrowind and we both bought a copy. When I heard that Oblivion came out, I bought a copy only to find that my graphics card lacked the horsepower to run it. So I set it aside. A few weeks ago, we bought my husband a new laptop computer, so of course I installed Oblivion, inserted a mouse, and gave it a try.

When I play games of this nature, I don’t hope to ever reach the end. I don’t have that kind of time. What I’m looking for is open-ended gameplay that gives me smaller goals than the overarching quest. That’s why games like Ultima (not the online version, and I dearly wish they still issued single-player games), Fallout, Arcanum, and the Elder Scrolls appeal to me. I can keep them installed on my hard drive for years, playing every once in a while, and not feeling too pressured to get to the end.

These days, when I buy a game, I also buy the strategy guide. I buy these not to cheat, but to figure out the storylines that I would enjoy the most. With Morrowind, I have a cornucopia of storylines to choose from. I can play a pilgrim picking mushrooms off the road and thus advance through the temple ranks. I can play a knight rising through the ranks of the Imperial Legion. I can play a fighter, a mage, or a thief and rise through the guild ranks. There are no fewer than ten factions to choose from, and you’re not limited to one faction. With my favorite character, I was mainly interested in rising through the Imperial Legion quests and House Redoran. With a House quest, you can eventually win yourself a dwelling. But my character was also a member of the Fighters and Mages guilds.

I find Oblivion much more limited when it comes to factions. We have the Fighters, Mages and Thieves guilds, and the Dark Brotherhood. None of these can be said to be true “good guys”, which I want to play. (I want to be the hero in the novel, you see.) Then there’s the Daedric quests, which is basically serving demons. Um, no. We have Master Training quests, which are again, neutral-type quests. There are quests that you can get when you make offerings at the shrines of the gods. And then there’s “freeform” and “miscellaenous” quests.

None of these appeal.

Of course, I could go for the main quest, but once you start the main storyline, certain things get set into motion, which at this point, when I’m still learning the game, I’d rather not trigger. So I’m feeling kind of bored by these quests.

That’s not my only beef with Oblivion. What in the heck did they do with the persuasion system? In Morrowind, I had a great time getting my speechcraft skill up and using persuasion on everyone I came across. Sometimes I’d admire, other times a bit of intimidation worked better. With Oblivion, you appear to be locked in a cycle of admiring, coercing, joking and taunting. Huh? Why would I coerce someone I was trying to impress? And why would I admire someone I was trying to intimidate? It makes no sense to me and it took a fun part of the game and made it thoroughly annoying. Ditto for bartering, which they made unnecessarily cumbersome.

On the other hand, they improved the heck out of making potions with Alchemy. Alchemy is my favorite skill. I don’t think I’ve ever cast a spell in any of these games. Instead, I hack-n-slash, and quaff a handy potion when necessary. In Oblivion, you can make potions to poison your weapon, which is a very cool skill.

I still have not gotten the hang of combat in Oblivion. You use your right mouse button to block and your left mouse button to click. It seems more difficult than it was in Morrowind, which would have you block automatically when you made the necessary roll. However, it is kind of cool to stand there and block a bunch of thrusts while you wait for a good opening. So I’m still playing around with that.

The theft warning system in Oblivion seems to be buggy. You’re supposed to get a white icon when you can take an item and a red icon when it would be considered stealing. This is handy, but I also seem to see a lot of white icons. Can I really wander around an inn and take all the food off the tables (which all make great potion reagents) without paying for them? And why is nothing in the lighthouse of the Imperial City considered stealing?

And I really must gripe about the whole concept of starter dungeon, which Oblivion re-introduces. I’d rather not learn a tricky new game interface by hack-n-slash, thank you very much. Morrowind’s introduction was perfect. When I was ready, I went to the dungeon, and not before. Why they had to go back to starter dungeons in Oblivion is beyond me.

Overall, I still like Morrowind better. I wish I had the alchemy system from Oblivion, but I prefer it’s combat system, the way you can overlay the map and other windows over the scenery, and most of the dialog boxes. I doubt I’m finished playing with Oblivion, but right now, I think I’ll play me some Morrowind.

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A cool aside — you can now download both Arena and Daggerfall — the first two titles in the series — along with the dosbox emulator and play the original games! I loved raiding crypts in Daggerfall. I think that’s all I did! Plus, maybe I can use that dosbox emulator to play some Ultima 5 (which, in my opinion, was the best Ultima ever).