It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land.
So I'm finally getting to it and set out to Chorol, where I am to meet the leader of the Blades, an organization that is a weird mixture of knights, samurai, secret-police and swiss-guard answering only to the Emperor himself. He is supposed to know who the surviving heir to the throne is and where to find him. Did I mention that the religious-sanctioning of the monarchy goes as far as to claim that the world will end when there is no one of the imperial blood-line lighting some fire while wearing the amulet I have on me? The Empires propaganda apparatus is just that good but Martor believes in this sort of thing (like I said: he is a bit dim) and I leave the ruined fortress where it is and follow the road to Chorol, which is quite near. Now when I first came out of the sewers the game told me that I could use the map, which I have found out how to use by now* to fast-travel to places but I find that horribly out of place in a fantasy game. In a world where you don't get into a plane only to leave it six hours later on a different continent, traveling is supposed to be slow, dangerous and full of suspense and adventure. What lies by the wayside is the interesting part! So I walk, or rather, jog, I like it slow but not THAT slow.
*is there even a way to zoom out in this thing? I think not and that makes it somewhat hard to get a nice overview of the Empire (I assume all of it is part of the Empire as there are no borders visible on the map). It's a little bit like having GoogleMaps stuck in one of the deepest pits of zoomed-in level.
After about 150 meters of jogging there is a man on the road. I want to greet a fellow traveler but he draws an axe and comes at me. I *sigh* panic again and fail to block any of his first three blows. Then I go into counter-attack and kill him rather swiftly. I leave his naked body behind, having taken all of his possessions. So he wasn't a fellow traveler but rather some sort of lone bandit. Must have been quite the desperado to attack me, obviously better armed and armored than he had been.
The rest of the road is littered with wildlife, both peaceful, such as butterflies and deer, and dangerous, as in wolves. Not all that dangerous though, as wolves are pretty easy to block with my shield. I get near Chorol easily enough, lucky it's this close, and go to the ersatz-monastery (I don't quite get the religion in this world) where the guy I'm looking for is supposed to live. I find him and talk to him and he tells me that thanks, he'll keep the amulett for now and I'm to go down to Kvatch** and find a monk named Martin for he is the heir. Looking at the map I find this rather convenient as a bit to the West of Kvatch there are the ruins that the half-orc gladiator wanted me to check for proof of his heritage so I can swat two flies at once with this one. Thinking I need my equipment repaired and I also need a bed for the night I go into Chorol proper to find a blacksmith and an inn.
**Kvatch is a horrible name for any native German-speaker. Not only does it reek of Pratchetts Discworlds Klatch, the German word Quatsch describes something silly or bullshitty and is pronounced identically. It always takes me a bit out of the game.
The first place I see is an inn and I go in there. To my surprise there is another patron but he talks stuff to the keeper that sound suspiciously like a side-quest. Being the do-gooder I am, I speak to him. Turns out his two sons are out by the monastery, intending to go to the farm I had passed on my way here to kill some creatures that have kept attacking them and he is too scared and old to go help them. Okay, I'll go in your stead, I've seen you NPCs fight, there is no point. I go out and meet his two sons, both armed with swords and explain that their father has chickened and sent someone more competent for the job. We (slowly) walk to the farm. These walking bits in quests seem more and more like annoying time-filler to me, I must say. Nothing happens until we get there. Then the two of them lead me out onto the 'field' of maybe three dozen crops and tell me to be on guard. I am and when the goblins (of course it's goblins) show up, I run at them, knowing that the NPCs are crappy at fighting and take them on three at a time. After two or three waves it's over and the older one of the brothers lies dead on the field.
This makes me think. I don't believe I can change who dies or doesn't die in the main quest. Deus Ex, like I said, this ain't. But what about side-quests? Should I re-do this and try to save them both? No, I am a role-player, I don't play to completely win, I take my losses and make them part of my story. We (slowly) walk back to town and I'm tempted to just run ahead but then don't for some reason. Better like this, as we don't meet the father back at the inn but at some nondescript little house in another part of town. I wouldn't have ever found him to turn the quest in. He is a bit down because he didn't help with the fight and thus one of his sons died but does give me 150 gold for my troubles. I wouldn't have accepted the money if the game had given me the option to refuse. Which it didn't (okay, so not only Deus Ex this ain't but also Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic this ain't either).
I go find a blacksmith and have all my stuff repaired and sell some spare loot that has gathered along the way. I also make the mistake of selling all weapons besides my short-sword and my bow, a mistake I will regret much later. Then I sleep at the tavern I first met the father in. Tomorrow I'll go down to Kvatch (*snicker*) and see if I can find this Martin.