Oblivion is simply the greatest game I have ever played. It was my first foray into the Elder Scrolls and I was absolutely hooked. For years, I yearned for a game that provided me with a vast open world, begging for me to explore. I wanted the freedom to go wherever I wanted. And then, like lightning emblazoning the night sky, Oblivion appeared.
To this very day, I vividly remember the exact moment when I stepped out of the Imperial Sewers and gazed upon the gorgeous world before me. I was dumbstruck by its beauty. In the distance, I could see a mountain rising valiantly over the countryside. I remember thinking to myself, can I really walk all the way to that mountain? Is it even possible for me to get there? Or will I run into some invisible barrier that I had grown so accustomed to? Almost on cue, up popped a window in the game telling me I could go off wandering wherever I wanted. And that’s exactly what I did.
I love exploring. I love ignoring quests. I love meandering around the beautiful province of Cyrodiil. In fact, I prefer the gently rolling hills of endless green in Cyrodiil to the harsher rugged landscapes of Skyrim. And so, it is in that spirit that I wish to share with you the world of Cyrodiil. If you are a purist explorer like myself, or have never really explored but want to give it a try, allow me to walk you through the different regions of Cyrodiil.
Source: Elder Scrolls Wiki
This is an absolutely beautiful region of Cyrodiil. As you walk further north towards Bruma, the elevation rises, giving you truly stunning views of your landscape. Rife with dungeons, caves, Ayleid ruins and other amazing locations, The Heartlands is a fantastic region to explore. In its furthest northeast reaches lies a certain Temple of Ancestor Moths, a location absolutely dripping with lore. Take note, however, that in order to get there, you must go off the beaten path, for no paved road will lead you there. In fact, between Bruma and Cheydinhal lie several paths, each with amazing locations along the way. If you’re looking for a wooded, snowy walk, The Heartlands is a great place to start!
The Nibenay Basin
The Nibenay Basin lies between Cheydinhal and Bravil. Don’t be fooled by its relatively flat appearance. The basin is full of valleys, rivers, and truly amazing sunsets over the Imperial City. I admit, this is the one region I have explored least during my travels in Cyrodiil, but every time I come here, I am simply stunned by its scale and variety. To the east you have the Valus Mountains, rife with pathways and old ruins. As you get closer to the Niben River, you’ll find yourself lost in the undulating environment, surrounded by trees, forts, and a bandit camp or two. Like The Heartlands, the Nibenay Basin is full of amazing wonders for you to explore. If you want a more tempered environment and don’t mind an occasional rain shower, definitely check out the Nibenay Basin.
If you love rain, Blackwood is the place for you. Given its proximity to Black Marsh, it’s no wonder it rains as often as it does. In fact, I’m struggling to remember a time when it wasn’t raining here. There is a LOT of Nirnroot to be found here, as well as an amazing quest from Nocturnal. Some truly sinister looking forts and intimidating Ayleid ruins call this region home. Personally, this is my least favorite region of Cyrodiil, but it’s always worth exploring because of the dungeons. You will always find some awesome loot here.
The West Weald
The West Weald is a truly amazing place. Located between Bravil and Skingrad, there are some awesome vistas to be had here. My personal favorite is the view of the Imperial City from Hircine’s shrine. On top of that, the Dark Brotherhood questline actually starts in the West Weald. It’s a beautiful place rich with life. One of my favorite things to do in Cyrodiil is to walk from Bravil to Skingrad through the woods. There are so many amazing Ayleid ruins for those who like dungeon crawling. If you’re an alchemist, no worries. The variety of flora in this region is just awesome. I recommend wandering through the West Weald during the afternoon. Better yet, start your journey from Bravil to Skingrad at dawn. You’ll see why in the next section…
The Gold Coast
If you’ve time your trip from Bravil correctly, by the time you pass Kvatch and see Anvil in the distance, dusk would have set in. Be prepared for the most beautiful sunsets in Cyrodiil. Admittedly, there aren’t too many locations here, save for a few awesome Ayleid ruins, so don’t expect too much dungeon crawling. Actually, there aren’t too many trees here either. The Gold Coast is mostly a lazy rolling grassy plain. But, the sparseness of the Gold Coast is what makes this region amazing. Every time I walk to Anvil along the Gold Road, I get that feeling as if I’m exploring untamed lands. And the sunsets in Anvil. Did I mention those?
The Colovian Highlands
The Colovian Highlands sits between Chorrol in the north and Skingrad and Kvatch in the south. Now this region is truly wild. Expect a lot of bandits, forts, and mines when you travel these lands. Not too many Ayleid ruins are here. However, there is one ruin that lies at the southern edge of those hills called Varondo. From the steps of this once mighty Ayleid city, you can see three – yes, three - cities in the same view. Lying below you, the cities of Kvatch and Skingrad will fill your immediate view, but once you look to your left, the epic might of the White Gold Tower utterly dominates the landscape around it. Every time I visit Varondo, I am left breathless as I take in this majesty.
The Jerall Mountains
Remember that mountain I talked about in the beginning? It finds its home nestled in the Jerall Mountains, just east of Bruma. Given the fact that these are mountains, there’s going to be a lot of snowfall. No seriously, a LOT of snowfall. Hermaeus Mora finds his home here, between Chorrol and Bruma. However, like all great locations in Cyrodiil, you have to figure out how to get there. Trust me when I say this, his shrine is nowhere near any road marked on the map. Should you get there though, the view is spectacular. Having walked along one of the many mountain paths from Chorrol to Bruma just yesterday, I can attest to the many hazards along the way. Make sure you’re a decent level and have plenty of health potions before starting your trek. If all else fails, peace.
The Great Forest
Fifty percent of Cyrodiil is forested. Fifty percent. The vast majority of these trees reside in the Great Forest, a truly massive region completely enveloping the Imperial City, nestling it safely inside. There are so many different types of locations to be found here such as shrines, forts, Ayleid ruins, caves, flora, the list goes on and on. For that reason, I believe it to contain the greatest variety of all the regions of Cyrodiil. On top of that, it’s easily my favorite place to explore. I have spent dozens and dozens of hours exploring the forest, all the while wandering around its depths in open-mouthed amazement. Of all the places in Cyrodiil, the Great Forest is the one place that truly feels magical.
. . .
You are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t go out and explore the provinces of Elder Scrolls. They are wide open, just begging for you to get lost in their beauty. I have always said that the world is the most important character of this series. Bethesda Game Studios has painstakingly spent years creating the perfect environment for you to lose hundreds of hours in. The sheer joy I feel when exploring the wilderness is difficult to put into words so perhaps I will leave you with this. The greatest excitement I feel when playing Elder Scrolls is is the thrill of discovering something new. Even now, after over 1000 hours in these games, I still discover new places.
The world beckons.