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While I have enjoyed every ES game I have played so far, I am going to go with Morrowind as my favorite.
It was the first major open world RPG that I played. When I started my first character, I was overwhelmed by the size of the world and all the quests I could do. Also, I liked its difficulty. Early on in the game I wondered into a cave with some high level NPC's, I got my ass kicked. I like when games let me know I am not ready for a certain area.
Moreover, the diverse landscape made the world feel even bigger. Although the world wasn't greatly populated with NPC's, each town felt unique, and I enjoyed running around and talking to the different characters. Then, there is the music. I love that intro song.
I would say Oblivion is a close second, though. I know Oblivion received some hate early on, but I thought it was a solid game as well.
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Morrowind will always be a favorite of mine, it was jaw dropping to see just how big and open it was. and i stumbled upon it by accident. my god the amount of hours i put in there. it was actually scary, after making a character your basically left to your own devices and could do anything. or nothing. i'll never forget the wood elf falling out of the sky! the setting was amazing as well
oblivion turned me off, it had voice acting, but it also had fast travel, maps, less skills, and just felt more casual. maybe it was because it just didn't make me feel like i was discovering anything.
skyrim i greatly enjoyed, finally felt like the ES were getting back to what i love about them. they could stand to bring back a few things still tho
- Member Since: February 14, 2014
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for vanilla, console tes games: morrowind, skyrim and then oblivion.
character customization, character development, character development impacted gameplay significantly, no handholding, no dumbing-down. more choices, great use of text, high failure rate, no gps, more lore, more uniqueness, more of everything.
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the appeal of the series has always been (to me anyway) just being plopped in this fantasy world and being allowed to go anywhere or do whatever. in that sense, skyrim took out a lot of the metagame previous entries in the series had that took away from being in the world. there was a lot less menu fiddling and limiting essential activities for the sake of making an efficient build to keep up with the level scaling. the promise in TES has always been to level how you play and skyrim comes closest to it.
to compliment that, the ambient activities saw big improvements. the selling point from bethesda seemed to be the dragons. they were definitely cool in that they could fly down at any moment and even interrupt scripted events. however, one my favorite activities in the game is just searching through the wilderness to find mines with ore i need for smithing. it's really satisfying to see materials eventually turn into weapons and armor (way more satisfying than just using a hammer to stop your gear from sucking).
plus the game world was a great fit. rural provinces make more sense in bethesda's engine since it can only fit so many npc's on screen. it's a great design in its own right too, seeing gaudy dwemer debate halls next to rustic nord huts and getting the dragon magic context that kind of binds it all together.
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It's a hard choice, because they each have their strengths and weaknesses. I am an exploring adventurer in these kinds of games, so I do tend to go absolutely everywhere out in the wilds to discover new things, so I can overlook some of the other failings in the most recent sequels.
If you are talking about the vanilla games (no mods), then I will probably have to say Skyrim, which managed to find a decent balance between levelling and difficulty. Although they watered down the stats and magic, I think they improved on the story-telling, the stealth gameplay, and I found both the ranged and melee combat enjoyable. The hand-crafted caves were much improved, and I particularly liked the Dwemer ruins. I also enjoyed all of the 'Guild' quest lines, which I can't say was true of the previous games, and the DLC was solid for the most part. I did miss some of the detail of the magic schools and stats, though. Overall I spent over a thousand hours playing the game, so it must have been doing something right.
Oblivion GOTY with Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul and a few other mods installed was very enjoyable for me. It sorted out the levelling issues, added more loot, tougher monsters, and made the gameplay more enjoyable. I never really like the Thieves Guild quest line that much, and didn't complete the Dark Brotherhood quest line. However, I did enjoy the other guild quest lines, and some of the standalone quests were quite creative. For me, having all characters voiced was more immersive (even if it did lead to some dumb and repetitive conversations), and I could have done without the 'simon says' mini-game to improve NPC's disposition towards you. I spent over a thousand hours playing this game as well.
Morrowind was perhaps closest to the more traditional kind of RPG with so many more stats and varieties of equipment, weapons and magic. However, the vanilla game always felt a bit clunky to me, especially the animations and combat, and although people have criticized the sequels for too many fetch quests, I can remember there were a large number of fetch quests in Morrowind as well. Of course, there was also the problem with cliff racers. So many cliff racers. I think the key strength of Morrowind was the rather unique setting and variety of creatures, some strong quest lines, and the still beating heart of a 'traditional' RPG.
I notice the first two TES games are not choices in the list. Maybe that is just as well. Arena now just seems very outdated, and Daggerfall - well, I spent hundreds of hours fighting not just in the game, but against the game itself, which had a lot of bugs when I played it. Falling through the world for no apparent reason was the most frequent and annoying. I had a love/hate relationship with that game.
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Skyrim since it's the only one I've played. I considered Oblivion but after checking out a few vids, the copy / paste dungeons, lackluster combat and backwards ass leveling system didn't do it for me.
Not saying Skyrim's combat and level system is that much better but at least it seems more fun. Oblivion does appear to have way more interesting quests like The Thieves Guild and The Dark Brotherhood which blow Skyrim's counterparts out the frame story wise.
I think the Morrowind craze is mostly due to nostalgia and the cult following. The only way, I'd even bother with Morrowind is using the Skywind mod or if Bethesda remade it which I doubt will ever happen.
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Gotta go with Oblivion. It just had such a charm to it. It was so upbeat yet immersive, colourful and magical. By comparison, Skyrim just felt so emotionless and unsatisfying, grey and foreboding. Oblivion had a great line of quests that really stood out yet I can't remember a single one from my Skyrim playthrough.
I remember sneaking through each castle just thieving everything I could while the King and/or Queen plus servants were sleeping, dodging the guards and pickpocketing everyone in their sleep only to go sell stuff off or hang it on the wall or place it in a case in my home. Such a great experience, sucks that Skyrim lacked these larger castles. I also enjoy having to repair my stuff in Oblivion. Kept looting interesting whereas Skyrim once I had a weapon I never needed to bother looting another again.
Skyrim is the better title though, but I prefer Oblivion.