The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – what a fantastic game. Like many games, especially RPGs, you are tasked with carrying out an epic quest. Should you fail, grave consequences will follow – perhaps the end of the world. But, despite owning this massive responsibility, you are not the true hero. You don’t save the world. This crucial development choice has always intrigued me, so please, allow me to explain.
I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, so I apologize if something slips through the cracks. You first start Oblivion, like any Elder Scrolls game, in a prison. You don’t know why you are there, nor how long you’ve been there for. And so, your mind starts racing. Did I steal something? Did I kill someone? What did I do to deserve imprisonment?
From this moment on, the game owns you. Not just in the “OMG I don’t want to put this game down” sense. But by allowing you fabricate your own backstory the instant you turn on the game, the game has wrapped its arms around you and brought you in.
Soon after creating your character (my female Khajiit thief named Evarwyn), you meet Emperor Uriel Septim VII as he and his personal guard, the Blades, walk through your prison cell to escape the Imperial City. Without spoiling anything, stuff happens and he gives you the Amulet of Kings (there is some seriously sick lore associated to this amulet, but, I digress). He tells you to find a priest named Jauffre in Weynon Priory at Chorrol. And so, duty bound by your Emperor, a descendent of Tiber Septim himself, you trudge off to Chorrol.
Once you arrive and find Jauffre, he instructs you to find the Emperor’s only living heir, Martin Septim (voiced by the badass Eddard Stark). Soon after you find Martin, you bring him back to Weynon Priory. Spoilers aside, you quickly realize that Martin is the key to stopping the Daedric assault on Cyrodiil.
Right then, in that instant, you know what is about the transpire. In that moment, you realize that you, the player, are NOT the hero of this game. Um, what? So you’re telling me you’ve given me this massive world, all the quest options available to me, complete freedom, only to tell me that I’m not the hero? Really? Really?
Yes. Really. And you want to know something else? It works.
Look back to what I said above. Emperor Uriel Septim and his son Martin are descendants of Tiber Septim. Who is Tiber Septim? Well, in Skyrim, you probably know him best by his Nordic name, Talos.
Yeah, that Talos. You know, the Dragonborn? The guy who single-handedly unified the provinces of Tamriel creating an empire in the Third Age? The man whose accomplishments in life impressed the Aedra so much that in death, he ascended to take a place amongst them? Yeah, him.
“So what, Shank?”, you may be asking. ”What does this have to do with being a hero?” Well, dear readers, I only ask that you look at your own character in Oblivion. Who is he? Is he the descendant of a god? Is he royalty? Does he have any powers to speak of? No. You are just some lowly prisoner who helps the real hero, Martin, on his path to save Nirn.
By being a loyal squire, you bear witness as the Heir of Talos slowly accepts his role as a leader. You watch a man go through a journey of acceptance and see him struggle with the difficult moral and tactical decisions any leader faces. And because of this, you feel for the man. You want to tell him, “Listen Phillip G, I got your back yo.”
However, that is not to diminish the tasks that you, the player, has left to do. Even though you’re not the hero, it actually works in your favor. You must support your leader. The fate of the world isn’t on your shoulders, but then again, on some level, it really is. And because of this, you want to do everything in your power to help your Emperor succeed.
This is precisely why playing the non-hero works in Oblivion. You feel a sense of enormous weight upon your shoulders, knowing that what Martin must be going through is much, much more difficult. You believe in him. You want your leader, your Emperor, to defeat the evil that is knocking on your doorstep.
So, you may not actually end up saving the world, but think about this. Without you, the world didn’t have a chance of being saved. That’s not so bad, is it?
Shadow hide you.