I meant to write this yesterday, but I got caught up in something. In fact, it was one of two points I want to make about the Elder Scrolls games.

Most CRPGs tend to be linear. Even with side quests present, the games have a pretty straightforward path. It’s difficult, sometimes impossible, to step off the road to victory, or play in an unconventional manner and still win.

The Elder Scrolls games changed that. In no other game I can think of, do you have as much freedom as in a Morrowind or Oblivion.

Just recently, lokivt posted a comment with this url:http://www.nomorefaith.co.uk/oblivion/cowards.html which goes to a page where a player finished Oblivion without killing anything at all. Zero kills. In a combat-oriented game, that is an astonishing accomplishment. His method is not for everyone, but shows what can be done outside traditional play.

Similarly, a player of Morrowind ignored everything. He didn’t follow the main line. He didn’t do any side quests. He just went fishing. I kid you not. You can read about it (and some other oddballs) here: Ironworks Forum Thread: Whacky Characters

This is where I got caught myself. Having played Oblivion mostly through the main line, then again for all the guild and side quests previously skipped, I started someone new. My Khajiit Mwerin, the sneaky kitty scavenger. He pads quietly through the wild places, searching out ruins, abandoned mines, crumbling forts, mysterious caves.

He slips through the shadows, grabbing what he can, and deals death from a distance to any denizens he finds there. Since only wolves, rats, necromancers, bandits, and monsters inhabit such places, he isn’t worried about any murder or theft charges. He isn’t even worried about saving the world. He just wants goodies.

Which brings me to my second point: the freedom of choice you have in building a character. Not only are there 21 possible pre-made classes – seven each for combat, magic, and stealth – you can create your own custom profession.

That is a rarity in CRPGs. Usually, you just choose an off-the-rack class, and maybe do some minor tweaking. Here, with the various racial advantages, birth signs, class perks, and skill decisions, you can have exactly the character you want. And that’s whether you take a pre-created class or make your own.

As a corollary to the above, Bethesda did something very smart by splitting humans out into multiple races. All too often, Human is the dull race in a CRPG. They have few or no advantages, and aren’t much fun to play. These games even things out.

The Elder Scrolls games have their flaws, like any others. But in the matter of player choice, no other product comes close. I am all in favor of choice, and I’d like to see more of it in games from other companies, too. The more freedom we have, the more interesting, and replayable, the adventures can be. It’s something to think about. In the meantime, my kitty has some ruins to explore…miniscorp

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