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StevenC21

Which ES game is the best?

The Best ES.  

21 members have voted

  1. 1. Story

    • Arena
      1
    • Daggerfall
      1
    • Morrowind
      13
    • Oblivion
      4
    • Skyrim
      2
  2. 2. Gameplay

    • Arena
      1
    • Daggerfall
      1
    • Morrowind
      5
    • Oblivion
      2
    • Skyrim
      12
  3. 3. Level Design

    • Arena
      1
    • Daggerfall
      3
    • Morrowind
      11
    • Oblivion
      4
    • Skyrim
      2


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I was late to the Elder Scrolls party and I've only played Oblivion and Skyrim. I've had a lot of fun with both games, but neither of them would be on my "essentials" list, if I had such a thing. I guess I should check out the older games to see what all the fuss is about?

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I've only played Skyrim and the online one.  But I did really like Skyrim despite not being an RPG fan.

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Honestly I felt the role playing aspect was quite lacking in Skyrim compared to the other TES games in the gameplay and stats department.

Edited by Avoozl

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I'll always be a fan of Oblivion. Morrowind felt too obtuse, Skyrim felt too empty. But there's something about Oblivion's atmosphere that no other open-world game could replicate. 

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Story:

Arena is kinda cliché: gather the eight parts of the McGuffin and then fight the end boss. In each province of the empire, you'll have to find the king or queen who can help you find one of the pieces in a famous dungeon, and first make a favor for them by raiding another dungeon.

Daggerfall started to give us some depth. You need to embed yourself in the courts of three rival powers, currying favor from various nobles (or, sometimes, their servants), as well as a few powerful spellcasters in remote and dangerous dungeons.

Morrowind has the Empire attempting to use you to fulfill an old prophecy to get rid of a threat. You'll need to seek scholars, unite three rival factions and five nomadic tribes, obtain a cure to an incurable disease, and then defeat a god.

Oblivion gets you tasked by the emperor, shortly before his assassination, to find his heir to stop a demonic invasion. You'll also have to infiltrate a doomsday cult, responsible for causing said invasion to start, including a raid on their "paradise dimension". Mostly, you'll have to fight through a lot of hellish dungeons to close the oblivion gates. Eventually you help the emperor's heir accomplish his destiny by letting him sacrifice himself to stop the big bad.

Skyrim has you being Dragon Jesus who gets to triumph over Dragon Satan. It's honestly pretty disappointing. It's just a vehicle for a power fantasy, but it's not clever about it like Doom 2016. So what if you have to put an end to a civil war, seek knowledge from dead heroes in the local Valhalla, explore all over the countryside to find words of power, and so on, everything is just given to you in predigested bits. You don't get to earn any of your specialness.

 

Morrowind wins, followed by Daggerfall and Oblivion.

 

Gameplay:

Arena is very dated. It's one of these games where "mouse control" means you have to hold click on areas of the screen (the top to move forward, the bottom to move backward, the sides to turn). Game mechanics are very inspired by AD&D, including the weird "negative armor" thing where the lower your armor class, the better (because your armor is actually a modifier to your enemy's attack roll). The world gives a Wolfenstein++ level of details: it's made of cuboids, but there are textures for the floors and ceilings, there are skies, there are different height levels (including tunnels and bridges), sometimes you can find corner pieces that are used to fake 45° angles. You can swim and row a boat. The engine supports dynamic lights, so you can use spells to light up dark dungeons. It lacks depth and didn't age very well, but it's reasonably simple.

Daggerfall is also very dated. Daggerfall was over-ambitious add tried to add a lot of new gameplay elements, most of which were not fully implemented (if at all) and none of which were balanced or streamlined. There are lots of skills, but most of them are largely useless. It's more complex than Arena's but also less coherent. Still, it has a lot of nice features (only TES game that features climbing, for example), but you have to go through an archaic control scheme and a lot of bugs to use them.

Morrowind streamlined Daggerfall's mess considerably, getting rid of a lot of cruft. There still are a few aspects that aged poorly, like the combat system which still works through hit/miss rolls. Lots of players dislike being told by the game that they missed even though they saw their attack connect; that's one abstraction that doesn't translate well in a full 3D environment.

Oblivion continued to streamline. The series start to feel more like action/RPG than pure RPG from this point. Physics are now implemented. Combat fits modern expectation (no more click and drag!) and is reasonably fun as far as ES games go, but Oblivion's big flaw is that everything levels with you, which destroys any sense of character progression and punishes builds that are not optimized for combat. That makes looking into an overhaul mod a near necessity. Also you can no longer levitate or teleport because they wanted to be lazy about dungeon design and worldspace transitions.

Skyrim continued to streamline again, and got rid of two things that had been staples of ES games since Arena: attributes and custom spells. You get some added depth back by the addition of perk trees, though. Starting from Skyrim, you can no longer fight underwater, too, something that you had been able to do (and sometimes, required to do) since Daggerfall.

 

Overall, Skyrim wins because it fits better with modern gameplay sensibilities, followed by Oblivion, and then Morrowind.

 

Level design:

Arena's dungeons are basically Wolfenstein in their design. There are 18 main quest dungeons that were hand-designed and all others are randomly generated. Houses, castles, guilds, taverns and shops are also randomly generated.

Daggerfall's dungeons are huge, complex, and largely absurd. They were procedurally generated and main quest dungeons were then hand-tweaked or, for some of the more outlandish ones, completely hand-made, but you'll only get to them in the late game. If you like mindless dungeon crawling you'll like Daggerfall; but most people find them very hard to navigate and far too large. Royal castles are also dungeons, which is really, really weird when you remember how they're supposed to look from the outside.

Morrowind's dungeons are 100% handmade, are much more manageable in size, and contrarily to Daggerfall's they mostly make sense as far as dungeons go. You've got some nice variety with five different dungeon tilesets and four types of dungeon denizens. (Plus more with the extensions.) Some of the dungeons feature very cool sceneries. Cities, shops, guilds and houses are now properly designed, too, and they generally look nice. There was a lot of attention to details to avoid making two houses seem identical.

Oblivion's dungeons are also handmade, but a bit larger than Morrowind's and much more linear generally. The repeated use of rather specific-looking setpieces in some types of dungeons make them feel like procedural dungeons. Personally I've been kinda infuriated by how most dungeons (outside of daedra dimensions) are basically built like a loop, with the boss room being just above the entrance, so you can drop down and get out quickly after beating the boss. It's convenient but to me it's always a big reminder that the game doesn't feature climbing, levitation, or teleport like previous titles. There is some noticeable copy-paste in city buildings, like seeing the same shelf with the same books in the same order in different houses and shops.

Skyrim's dungeons have a bit of the same flaws as Oblivion's, but to a lesser extent. They're also IMO often the coolest-looking dungeons in the series. There was a good effort at making each city very distinctive in its architecture and layout. Pretty good all around, though not flawless.

 

Winner: Skyrim, followed by Morrowind and Oblivion.

 

And now I'll add another category: side quest designs.

Arena's side quests are simple: ask people for rumor to get a tavern name, go to the tavern and talk to the innkeeper to get a clue about a random dungeon, explore said dungeon to find an artifact.

Daggerfall's side quests are much more varied, and yet very repetitive. You can join a large number of factions (four guilds, one temple, and one kingdom's knightly order), and each faction requires you doing a lot of random quests to progress through the ranks. Each faction has its own set of random quests, and in addition you have also the possibility of doing quests for random people outside of joinable factions, if so you wish.

Morrowind's side quests are non-random. Some are good, some are funny, some are mostly boring fetch quests or even more boring escort quests. Overall, though, pretty nice, and I do like that the order in which you go through faction questlines can have an impact on which questlines are open to you. (No bad surprise there, though. If you go through the Fighters' Guild questline to exterminate the Thieves Guild, do not complain that you can't do the Thieves Guild questline afterwards.)

Oblivion's side quests might have been the best in the series so far. While the main quest was kind of ho-hum, the guild questlines are great (except for the Mages Guild's). Miscellaneous quests are fun. What other game lets you trigger a rain of burning dogs?

Skyrim's side quests are largely annoying. First they've got this "radiant quest" system that's basically just a return of Daggerfall's random quests. But it works less well than Daggerfall since the NPC pool is so much smaller, and the game world is so much more detailed. The faction quests are full of plot holes and railroading (the Thieves Guild being the worst in that respect). Some of the misc. quests are also aggravating for the same reasons. Overall, the quest writing is really weak in Skyrim.

 

Winner: Oblivion, followed by Morrowind and Daggerfall.

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I agree a great deal with you on story, and I think Daggerfall and Morrowind had the most original stories in the series.

Edited by Avoozl

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I've played since Morrowind. I remember how awful my first experience was with Morrowind. Getting beat to death by a slug, so I ran until I found a town and the guards killed it for me. Getting stuck for real life human days getting pecked to death by the pterodactyls, because I saved just before one hit me and it wasn't just 1, it was like 4 stuck in 1, because I was oblivious to them. I was trapped somewhere in a cave where the only way out was to jump out or slide into lava and die. I didn't have the jump skill... so I continued jumping for hours in real life time to get the acrobatics to jump back to the platform I had fallen off of. Oh and the flying boots broke the game.

 

I spent days taking mods and integrating them into my game in better ways and sometimes the mods caused big issues that I'd need to program out.

 

In short, Morrowind was a horrible experience for the thousands of hours I poured into it making it a better experience.

 

Oblivion was the only game I beat and I wasn't even trying. I played it for hundreds of hours and moved on. Then I returned years later... played it and just stumbled into the final mission. Well that was odd.

 

For me, Skyrim wasn't a good game, because it wasn't fresh. I had played thousands of hours of Morrowind, hundreds in Oblivion, so Skyrim was more of the same. Five years later, due to nostalgia I picked up Skyrim and enjoyed it.

 

... that reminds me Fallout 4 is free this weekend.

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56 minutes ago, geo said:

... that reminds me Fallout 4 is free this weekend.

What really?

 

It only seems to be half-off for me.

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1 hour ago, Gez said:

What really?

 

It only seems to be half-off for me.

Free weekend, but half off if you want to pay to play it longer. I'm weird where I can plow through a free weekend game in 2 free weekends and never buy the game.

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I was very late to the party, starting with Skyrim, so naturally I'd have to choose it as I am yet to play the others. Despite this, I don't think I'll be able to ever get in Oblivion, the character models are absolute atrocities in my eyes.

 

I'm pretty sure gameplay wise Skyrim is probably the best even though it feels a bit too basic, perhaps even oversimplified in some aspects, but Morrowind apparently has a stupid combat mechanic which will probably ruin the experience at lower levels or without mods, the only problem I have with it.

 

Level design and story wise however, I would not be so sure. And as atmospheric as Skyrim might be there's just something about Morrowind I can't put my finger on that stirs up more interest and fascination from me, and the creatures of Morrowind were more interesting as a whole. I most certainly like how everything looks in Dragonborn and I daresay I prefer Solstheim over Skyrim. Skyrim feels too much like the typical medieval fantasy in comparison. As about the story, well, I think Skyrim's would probably be the worst for being too cliche at the core. Good thing it was later expanded with DLCs since it was the weakest point.

 

7 hours ago, geo said:

it wasn't fresh.

This is something I've come to realize with time as well. It's great for me however, but it lacks the uniqueness of Morrowind. As I've mentioned above, it's probably no wonder I've come to appreciate the land of Solstheim more than Skyrim.

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Story wise, Arena and Morrowind bore me to death, Daggerfall was uninteresting, same for Skyrim, except it obviously had better presentation, Oblivion's story was the only one that interested me out of all, made me feel like a true Knight of fantasy.

 

Gameplay wise, I feel like it needs to be broken down to specifics, for example, while Morrowind's NPC conversations often offer the most depth, big brown boxes with long text are really boring to read so I skip most of it, while Oblivion and Skyrim offer interactions that feel just so much better with voice acting and explain more in less words, but not as in-depth as Morrowind, in contrast, combat in Morrowind is pretty much that of a very old rpg or a turn based rpg, a lot of things are dictated by a roll like on a tabletop, which isn't fun in the context of a first person 3d game, I think there's ways to create a good balance between RPG stat building and proper action combat, and I feel Skyrim would be very close to that if it wasn't so streamlined (and it had actual stat building).

 

Another aspect I like to consider that falls in both gameplay and presentation is the swordplay itself, since I'm a big fan of action games I'll obviously be biased to Oblivion and Skyrim, where using your weapons actually feels proper and good, the animation work in Morrowind isn't good, it's not horrible either, but I sure as hell don't enjoy big battleaxes moving like an old man waving a stick.

 

Level Design is Morrowind's strong point, I'm sure most would agree there, at least when it comes to the dungeons, followed by Skyrim and then Oblivion, you may have noticed I haven't written anything about Arena or Daggerfall, much like Morrowind's placement in Level Design, I'm sure most can agree that those 2 are sub par in many departments.

 

Lastly, World setting, I'm sure there's a lot of people who'd vouch for the weird world of Vvanderfell, but I can't for the life of me bring myself to love it as much, I find it has too much browns and grays and does not feature much of interesting locales since most of them can be described as dirty/ashen wastes with different sets of details, Skyrim's world, while better presented, falls short just as much, it's a giant ass tundra, snow wherever you go, nordic wood and stone houses wherever you go, the overworld simply isn't as interesting as its dungeons, Oblivion on the other hand has a lot of different locales around the overworld, it feels vast.

 

All in all, I'd say Oblivion is my favorite with Skyrim being a close second, I want to like Morrowind, perhaps OpenMW can help me do that some day.

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Edit: My apologies but I realize I should retract this post.

Edited by Avoozl

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