There's totally a nonverbal conspiracy where we all post updates together or within a few days of each other! Haha... Nah, not at all.
There has been a lot of controversy regarding Master Neloth's reference to Indoril Nerevar's reincarnation being referred to as a "he". Even over a year later users are still complaining on UESP, on the various fora with a TES section (ours, BethSoft's, etc) that it was a bug or an oversight that Neloth assigned a gender to the Nerevarine, and it's gotten to where there have been many edits attempting to call it an error on UESP.
I certainly understand (and want to agree with the fans) the fans' frustrations at a definitive gender being assigned to the character, depriving the player the possibility of having a female character be Nerevarine. After all, there have been plenty of heroine's in the TES saga and in other sagas, and most of my own characters as of late have been female. There's just something so satisfying about the fairer sex rising up to become a grand saviour of the free world, I suppose.
However, we have to look at it this way: Regardless of whether or not the users agree, it's UESP's job to document the Elder Scrolls series as-is. It's not our place to pick and choose what's lore or not. Maybe it was an oversight, maybe it was deliberate. The point is, until Bethesda confirms the Nerevarine is male (which can make sense, seeing how Indoril Nerevar was a male), or until they confirm it's an oversight, we have official in-game content stating he's a male, and that's lore in my book. Look at the main character of Arena, for example. The in-game manuals, plus some out-of-game sources cite the character as being named "Talin". There is precedent to Bethesda suggesting certain qualities of a character are set, regardless of the playability of that game.
From the lore side of things, it also makes sense that a gender would be defined. After all, the authors of Tamriel are rather efficient and up-to-date about the happenings of their world, and in my own opinion, there has to be something definite about the characters, since it wouldn't make sense that such meaningful and important events are mysteriously glossed over when the game is so concise in any other way. In that aspect, there are some aspects and arguments that could be used to make it a necessity that there be some definition of who a character is, regardless of game mechanics.
It's a tough argument and controversy many Morrowind players are facing with Dragonborn, and we can argue in circles on both sides of the coin, but it's really all for naught. Whether we like or dislike, it's not our place to say, it's Bethesda's. And, until they confirm one way or the other, we have to accept it for what it is.
Morrowind, by far, has always been my favourite of the Elder Scrolls games. Many people complained about its combat system or about the graphics, but I don't think they truly grasped the beauty of the game. In the early 2000s, game maps were essentially funnels; you had to go here through this specific path, with occasional offshoots and secret areas for you to find. As is often the case, if you saw something in the distance, you couldn't get there directly. You had to go through some elaborate path in order to get there. Often these barriers were logical, as long as you didn't think too hard about them. Neverwinter Nights, for instance, you were often blocked by cliffs and mountains, and masses of trees. If you think too hard about this, however, you realize that all of the open areas are nearly perfect squares, and you realize how unnatural that is.
Morrowind was different. You were open, and free, and allowed to go anywhere you could see. There was never anything on the horizon that, once you got closer, you realized you couldn't actually reach. In some ways, it was even better at this than Oblivion or Skyrim because it was set on an island, Vvardenfell. There are places in Oblivion that you could see, but you couldn't actually reach due to the barriers involved, as was the case in Skyrim, but in Morrowind, the entire world was at your fingertips.
Morrowind also felt so much larger to me than Oblivion and Skyrim. I'm sure if you look at the actual area involved in the game, Oblivion and Skyrim will both be bigger, but the impression one got from playing the game just wasn't the same. Morrowind felt huge, massive even. After hundreds of hours of playing, if you started a new game, you could still find places that you have never been to before. A large part of this, I think, is due to the map and travel systems. In the later games, every location, once discovered, will appear on the map. Even before they appear they can be seen on the compass so that you know when there are locations nearby. Once you found those locations, you could essentially teleport between locations at will. Morrowind didn't have any of this. Sure you had a map with locations marked on it, but only the most major locations or the largest dungeons were displayed. If you zoomed in on your immediate area, you could see markers for the entrance to a location that you had been to before, but not ones you had never seen. There was no compass pointing you to the entrance, or a easy way to move between dungeons, you had to physically run there. This, more than anything, is what made Morrowind feel so large. The world just doesn't feel big when you can go from Bruma to Leyawiin at the click of a button. Even the travel options in Morrowind, silt striders, boats, guild guides and the stronghold teleportation system provided easy and logical limitations on your movement. You can't simply take the boat from Khuul and appear at Tel Mora, you had to boat hop from place to place, getting yourself closer to your destination, just as you can't take a plane from Seattle and fly directly to Moscow; you have to stop a few times along the way.
More than that, though, the world itself felt more alive. You didn't go into a dungeon and kill some generic bandits who would respawn when you returned 10-30 days later. You killed real people, with names and uniqueness. When you went back to that dungeon ten, fifteen or even one-hundred days later, those people were still dead, and no one had taken their place. You could make a real impact on the world. You weren't limited in any way on what you could do, within reason or logic of course. If you wanted to kill Caius Cosades, the main quest giver for the main quest, you could. He wouldn't just be brought to his knees, only to get back up a few seconds later. He would be dead. Of course you have now ruined your game, but you were allowed to.
In all, Morrowind felt like the biggest, fullest, and most alive world that Bethesda has ever created, and better than any other game I have played to date. It might not have had the best combat systems or graphics, but who needs those in a role-playing game? All you need is a character, and the ability to affect any change you want upon the world.
I do not want to write this. As a rule, I hate touching on this topic more than it is absolutely necessary. But I already did the teaser in the last entry, so I guess it's unavoidable now.
The Champion of Cyrodiil, the player character from Oblivion, is absolutely the most problematic hero this series has ever created. Why, you might be asking? Because the developers had the neat idea to allow the player to become The Sovereign of The Shivering Isles, Lord of the Never-There, The Fourth Corner of the House of Troubles, the Gentleman with the Cane, the Prince of Madness, The Mad God. I am of course referring to the Champion of Cyrodiil taking up the mantle of Sheogorath during the events of the Shivering Isles expansion for Oblivion.
It should be obvious to anyone that having one of your gaming avatars become a bona fide god in the context of the setting would be problematic. But making him into one of the "eviler" gods? It's madness. Rather literally so in this case, actually. Unlike the Nerevarine, who basically just exited Tamriel stage right, Sheogorath is one of the most integral elements of the world, and is one of the few reoccurring figures in the games. So not only did Bethesda make it so that the Champion of Cyrodiil would remain relevant in the future (as he would surely already be), but they also put him in a position where it would be rather hard for them to exclude him from future games. The Nerevarine, even without that little detail of him leaving the continent entirely, didn't mean we would ever see him again. All they would have to do is not have us visit Morrowind, or if they did, not a part of it where he currently was. The Daedric Princes, on the other hand, can easily pop up anywhere.
Considering the fact that Sheogorath had appeared in all of the games in the main series since his introduction, there is no good way to write him out of newer games. While there was a small way for them to avoid the old hero, by having Jyggalag take his place in the cast of often seen Daedra, that even would not have avoided the events of the Shivering Isles entirely, since the return of Jyggalag is one of the biggest parts of that expansion.
To speak tangentially here, for just a moment, the absence of Jyggalag from Skyrim did surprise me. It's hard to just ignore godhood, that's the issue with making a character that we controlled into one, as Bethesda can't ignore Sheogorath as easily as some inexplicably anonymous hero. I had figured that he would have shown up, in some quest where you help him branch out into the mortal realm again. But that doesn't happen, in fact, no one even mentions him a single time in Skyrim. Here's hoping we'll see our new orderly Prince make his return in the next game that isn't an MMO.
Even before the release of Skyrim, the Champion of Cyrodiil was causing problems due to this weird situation. As becoming an insane Daedric Prince isn't the ideal end for a character that you made to most people, a lot of fans of the series argued over the canonicity of him being the Mad God. The policy on the UESP is that all quests that do not contradict are assumed to be completed, with conflicting paths being mentioned as being so. But most people didn't want to listen to that, so they argued over it every way possible. Everything from fan theories (including such cliches as it just being a dream, or your character went crazy in the Shivering Isles (which is basically the exact same scenario we currently have, only with Sheogorath still being the old Sheogorath)), to demands that we change the policy, were thrown at us so that this wasn't put on the wiki.
Once Skyrim hit store shelves, the issues with Sheogorath grew so much worse. Bethesda included some lines of dialogue that clearly suggest that he is or was the Champion of Cyrodiil: "You are far too hard on yourself, my dear, sweet, homicidally insane Pelagius. What would the people do without you? Dance? Sing? Smile? Grow old? You are the best Septim that's ever ruled. Well, except for that Martin fellow, but he turned into a dragon god, and that's hardly sporting... You know, I was there for that whole sordid affair. Marvelous time! Butterflies, blood, a Fox, a severed head... Oh, and the cheese! To die for." (note that it is hard to attribute what the butterflies, cheese, or blood may be referring to, as there are so many options for them. However, the original line of dialogue, "You know, I was there for that whole sordid affair. What a marvelous time! I remember blood, and cheese, and there was a severed head." is much less referential than the one that was used) And people went nutters over that, arguing over how we might be interpreting it wrong, or that they meant Sheogorath was there in spirit, or anything to get around saying that the CoC went crazy. But I won't linger on those arguments more than I have already, they were rather not fun, and I would hate to spark them again.
The insane idea that the fans are not only the starring role, but also get a say in how the story goes is the unique problem to the RPG genre. There really is not a good way to handle these "used" characters. You can't write them out of the story, just say they went away, or have them remain in the story without some problems arising. After all, the player is not controlling a character, the player is the character. Yet, all the while the player is dictating the shape of the leading role, the development team clearly had some ideas on who that character is supposed to be. They usually express this through later decisions on which one of several possible actions occurred, or just disallowing certain behaviors. For example, the main character in the recent games did not kill children, for any reason (note that I say recent games, the Agent from Daggerfall cannot say the same). Still, while you don't want your fans to have too much input onto the role, by putting them in charge of it, you're going to step on some toes when you say they didn't remove the liver of every grandmother in the world, or even make it so they can't. That is the disconnect between what the player can do with a character, and who that character is. I could go around slaughtering every single nice person in the world as publicly as I want to, but that doesn't mean we have to say that the game character spent the next millennium in a prison cell for the murder of every citizen in the entire country. That wouldn't make any sense.
The historical protagonist just has to ignore all that messing about in between the quests, for the most part. It's hard to have the player's character from another game show up in another one if you do anything else, and you don't intend to piss people off. While some people may not like it, there really isn't a cleaner way to run things available. The only real issue with this approach is what happens when the story has split paths for you to take, which is coincidentally the number one issue facing the Dovahkiin, and is the next topic I am going to discuss.
As I have previously written, we don't get to see or hear about our hero very often after we controlled them. While I briefly touched on the issue with talking about what happened to the old heroes, I'm going to go into that a little more now, as promised.
As we know, the misuse of a single pronoun to describe the Nerevarine (the hero from Morrowind) in Skyrim caused quite a bit of controversy. But that wouldn't even be the first time that one of the sequels caused an issue with the Nerevarine, Oblivion also got in on that action. During some routine wandering around the breathtakingly beautiful province of Cyrodiil, you will eventually run into two NPCs having a conversation in which the following line of dialogue will be uttered: "Rumor has it the Nerevarine has left Morrowind on an expedition to Akavir, and has not been heard from since." And that single bit of text ignores the single most important duty of the Nerevarine, to be the Protector of Morrowind.
At the end of Morrowind's main quest, you have successfully defeated Dagoth Ur (which always came off as somewhat tragic to me, but that's not the topic for today) and stopped The Blight from ravaging Morrowind. For your amazing accomplishments, Vivec (if you didn't kill him already) will give you the title of "Protector of Morrowind": "The blight is gone, and we have survived. Now we must dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the Temple. And you must dedicate yourself to your responsibilities as Protector of Morrowind. There is much to do. You still have Kagrenac's Tools, potent weapons, and the wit and experience of a proven hero. The Tribunal and the Temple are happy to yield to you the duties of fighting the enemies of Morrowind."
So to summarize, the Nerevarine was entrusted with the safety of all of Morrowind, and then promptly left Morrowind for good. A measly six years later, the Oblivion Crisis happens and decimates Morrowind. Good job, oh mighty Protector of Morrowind! I hope Akavir was nice. But after such tragedies, surely the Nerevarine would return to his (look at me, abusing pronouns just like Bethesda!) people, right? 4E 5 would once again continue the nasty string of bad luck for the Dunmer with the Red Year, and the Nerevar Reborn seemingly out of the picture for good. For someone who was supposedly the reincarnation of one the greatest Dunmer leaders ever, the Nerevarine left them in a really, really bad way.
I personally believed that the departure of the Nerevarine had more to do with getting him out of the way for the Champion of Cyrodiil, but considering the countless anguishes that were tossed at the Dunmer people immediately afterwords, it just feels like the Nerevarine was more a part of the problem for the Dark Elves than any kind of savior.
While I find that in light of the future of his people, the disappearance of the Nerevarine seems to be too poorly thought out, I can't help but wonder if we wouldn't be more upset if we did not get an explanation for why he wasn't there. If the Nerevarine was just ignored for the sequels, wouldn't there be more of an uproar? Let's think of how that series of events goes, without that single line of dialogue explaining what happened to your old character. We hear nothing about the Nerevarine, and Vivec disappears alongside him. So the Oblivion Crisis happens, cities like Ald'ruhn are destroyed by Daedra, and apparently the Nerevarine just doesn't do anything. The Ingenium is created, and the people of Morrowind are actively sacrificed to this dark machine, while the Nerevarine remains aloof to their fate. Argonians invade Morrowind, but the Nerevarine doesn't take on his role of old and lead the defense. A mass exodus from Morrowind occurs, while the Nerevarine does not help manage the relief efforts. By not explaining why the Nerevarine wasn't there, one of the fan favorite heroes becomes one of the most despicable figures in ES history through simple inaction.
The "ignored" Nerevarine, despite having the same list of crimes as the one we have, is just simply so much more unlikable as his lack of action would go unexplained. That is to not say I agree that the Nerevarine should have just disappeared, I would have preferred him to remain involved in events, even if we don't get to see him again, but the Akavir explanation is better than none at all. Barely, but it is still preferable to me.
Any issue with the hero from Morrowind still has nothing on the sheer chaos brought on by the Champion of Cyrodiil's fate, however. And that's the topic of the next entry in this look at the fates of our heroes, after we control them. As a little note, I'm sure you noticed I skipped over the Agent from Daggerfall. That's because his or her fate is more clear cut, on account of his or her death at the end of his or her adventure. Bit tragic, but at least it doesn't leave room for a few hundred words worth of ranting about what he or she should be doing.
I’ve finally figured out why Fallout 3 always fell short for me, despite having such an interesting story and world. Referring back to AKB’s post, titled “What Happened to the Heroes?”, he explored the connection a player has with their characters in a game series like The Elder Scrolls. The problem, for me at least, is that I never am able to feel like the character is my own story and story-telling.
The premise of Fallout 3, for those of you who have somehow managed to not play it yet, is centred around the son of a scientist named James (voiced by the amazing actor Liam Neeson, though that’s not at all relevant, and I am just a Liam fan). James and his scientist wife Catherine were working on a project that would be able to purify all the water of the wastes when she dies giving birth to the player, who in typical BethSoft fashion can be male or female and either white, black, asian, or hispanic, with James’ race changing accordingly. With Mom’s death, James takes his child and petitions to Vault 101 to let them inside in exchange for his services as a doctor.
Seventeen years later, James breaks out of the vault, knowing his child (now an adult) will be safe in the vault and that he was raised well. The player breaks out of the vault as well, and pursues his father, who left to gather his team and pick up again on purifying the waters of the wastes, now that his job of raising a successful, well taken care of adult child has been finished. That’s the basic overview of the story without spoiling precisely what happens. It’s a good story, and I like it for what it is, though at the same time, I hate it.
For me, one of the bigger and more enjoyable aspects of roleplaying games is the length of time before even starting the game where I create my character’s backstory. That’s the best part of the experience for me, and it helps me to attach to the story and feel more involved with the character. In Fallout 3, the player has a story spoon fed to you. You’re of a specific parentage who have a specific career, and you’re story is tied directly into their life in a rather specific way, and that’s the way it is. There is no possibility of being creative with the story for roleplaying purposes, unlike with Fallout: New Vegas, or the Elder Scrolls games.
Take a look at Fallout: New Vegas for a second: No reference to your life, aside from your initial career as a courier, which gets shot to hell (rather literally). In Morrowind, all that’s known to the people in-the-know about the Nerevarine is that your parentage is unknown. In Oblivion and Skyrim, it’s not mentioned at all. You’re just an unnamed prisoner who through sheer dumb luck escapes the justice system. These are the stories I like, because it gives the player all the freedom in who their character is and why they are motivated to act like they do in the world.
If I want to say that my character in Fallout: New Vegas was raised to a junkie father who abandoned him as a youth, leaving his son/daughter doing whatever odd-jobs it took to stay fed and on Jet as he grew up, that’s my choice. As a role-player, I get to say “Okay, he’s a junkie, and he found out that (Insert random F:NV junkie NPC) is his father, and he is at (location). When I am in the area, how would he respond and interact with this NPC, who left him to pursue his own drug addiction while leaving his child to suffer as a youth?”
If I want to say my Skyrim character was an Imperial born into a family of Legionnaires, and that the near execution of the PC and Hadvar’s arguments that the Legion felt nothing for the citizens of the Empire, leading to the PC’s changing his outlook on the Civil War, that’s my prerogative.
The point is, it’s easier for me (and maybe for all role-players, though I have not performed any research on the matter) to feel attached to my character and have a more enjoyable experience if I can nitpick over little things like this, and that is where the story to Fallout 3 fell short to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great story, and I love the story itself. I just feel that, given how the characters respond to you and given the fact that it’s centred around following Dad’s footsteps to heal the wasteland by giving it clean water, you are pigeonholed into the role of an altruistic scientist who purifies the entire wasteland’s water supply. The open-ended aspect of the game means there are darker paths to take, but they don’t feel so natural to play, given the player’s upbringing and morality that’s etched in by Dad’s talk of helping others.
So, that’s my little string of thoughts for the day: Fallout 3’s strict view of who the character is takes away from the experience of roleplaying the game.