Discovery Isn’t What it Used to Be

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been really digging-into The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I’ve had good time with it, and I’ve had some not so good time with it. I’ve got plenty to say about the former, but all I’ll say about the latter is that I now fully understand why everyone who’s ever played the game absolutely despises Cliff Racers (relentless flying vermin!!!). Anyway, the game is definitely dated even with mods installed, so it does take some getting used to. Once you do though, then the island of Vvardenfell is your oyster, and boy are there some crazy treasures to find!

I’ve talked previously about the lack of quest markers and a convenient fast travel system, and I think most of those comments still hold true even after putting a few dozen hours into Morrowind. I’ve made a lot of discoveries by just wandering here and there while looking for my next quest location. A lot of the time, it’s just your average cave or crypt system with a smattering of not so interesting enemies. Sometimes though, sometimes you run into something really cool that has no attached quest or anything. It’s a place that just happens to be on Vvardenfell.

Most recently, I entered what I thought was just a normal crypt, but this one was different. There was a level 80 locked door within, and I just so happened to have a high-level lockpick scroll. I opened the door and descended down 9 flights of steps only to be greeted by another high-level door lock. One scroll later I find myself standing above a massive underground labyrinth patrolled by high-level skeletons.

After fighting my way through that, there was one more locked door, stairs beyond that, and at the end there was a very curious sight: a boat floating in a little underground pond. This was apparently the resting place of a famous king of Skyrim! There were rare scrolls, potions and whatnot all ripe for the taking. I also happened to look up and noticed a faint glow coming from the upper area of the chamber. I levitated up and found a little opening into a cramped enclosure. Inside was a daedric warhammer, a unique helmet: “The Daedric Face of god,” and a chest with even more stuff! What a find! And it was all 100% miss-able (especially that last bit).

Another time, I was in Tel Fyr (you go there for story reasons). Everything in the tower is marked “owned;” everything save for one tiny little lockbox on a shelf next to the tower owner’s work station. It has a lock-level of 100, but is otherwise up for grabs since it’s not an “owned” thing. Well, I unlocked it and took out a curious-looking deadric pendant. I put it on and a box came up asking if I wanted to be transported somewhere.

I said “yes” and found myself in what looked like a deadric ruin. A completely enclosed room save for one very angry-looking dremora lord. I defeated him and immediately got sent back to Tel Fyr. A box popped-up saying “you have defeated [I forget his name]. His weapon is now yours” or something like that. I looked in my inventory and sure enough there was a unique weapon called the “Daedric Crescent”. It was an awesome sword too, great stats and the ability to both paralyze on hit and disintegrate armor. No quest attached to this one either. If I hadn’t been curious, I never would have found it!

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is filled with these sorts of finds apparently, and I have to wonder if we haven’t lost something as adventure RPGs continue to develop. Skyrim has some stuff that’s just sitting out there too, but nothing like this, and I can’t really think of any recent open-world adventure games that would dare risk anything cool being missed by its players. All the good stuff is attached to some sort of side-quest, and most of those are put right in the player’s path to ensure that they aren’t missed. I suppose it’s good that we get to see more cool stuff as we play, but I can’t help but feel like this is much more genuine. I feel like I’m really making my own adventure instead of just following one that’s already laid-out for me, and it’s fantastic! I’d really love to see more of this in the future!

How do you feel about modern or past adventure games? Have you had any experiences like these in other games?

image from The Elder Scrolls Onlline website