100%’ ing an Elder Scrolls game was a tightrope walk through hell. And I loved it.
Last September, after a long summer ended and the seasons finally changed, I found myself craving one of my favourite RPGs: Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It seems every year, I pour at least a dozen hours into this game, replaying the first few quest lines and creating an embarrassing amount of characters. Who could blame me, though? Not only does the nostalgia pull me back in, but Oblivion remains a touchstone in fantasy worldbuilding and high-content, open-world games.
However, this time around, I was tired of replaying the same quests. So, I decided to finish it—and I don’t mean that I wanted to defeat Mehrunes Dagon and complete the main story—I wanted to accomplish everything that Oblivion had to offer. I wanted to push myself, so I tackled everything that the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages (UESP) told me was necessary for the 100% completion of Oblivion. This included everything from finishing all 203 quests to purchasing a furnished house in every city for a grand total of 168,000 gold.
Now, here was my first mistake. Even though I’ve played Oblivion a thousand times, I still start every file like I know nothing about video games. I pick whatever race looks cool and pour skill points into a class that sounds fun. By the time I completed the tutorial, I was using what my brother called “the worst build he’d ever seen.” Meet Thanos, my Orcish necromancer with the Atronach birth sign, meaning I was unable to regenerate magicka. Cool choice, Ross. Thankfully, my brother took pity on me and my lofty quest for completion, and joined for the ride.
We took turns knocking out quests, biting away at the game one chunk at a time. Things began normally. We defeated early quests such as the arena, mages guild, and some of the storyline. We collected loot and grinded fun skills like alchemy and conjuration. It was the best of times, but it quickly became the worst of times as well.
One issue was the number of skills we’d need to max, which led to us exploiting an XP farming glitch at Peryite’s shrine in which you can hack ’n’ slash unconscious cultists for unlimited combat skill points (not very sportsmanlike, I know). We also found ourselves tying rubber bands to the triggers to practice sneaking, button-mashing the disposition mini-game in order to max our speech skill, and selling hundreds of arrows one at a time to raise mercantilism.
Speaking of money, accumulating enough to purchase every property was a problem we solved by crafting and selling thousands of potions. When we realized that we’d have to collect 100 Nirnroot—the games rarest ingredient—we created a set of insane speed-enhancing armour and spells that turned us into Sonic the Hedgehog. This allowed us to move much more quickly, but we, unfortunately, did not accomplish this until the end of our game. While this new element of problem-solving was challenging, the constant grind made the game feel like a job. And yet, it gained a new, zen-like quality. Whenever I wanted to turn off my brain, I would simply turn the game on and find something to complete.
One night, after a particularly long session, my roommate came home to find me slogging through some radial quest while mindlessly flipping through the Elder Scrolls wiki on my phone. “Are you even having fun?” He asked.
I honest to God had no idea.
The process of completing everything this massive game had to offer was so much greater than I anticipated that I lost any concept of what the game meant to me. I wasn’t seeing the game, I was seeing code. Todd Howard put me in gaming jail. Still, the only way out was by moving forward. So, my brother and I kept playing. However, at this point, the game was fighting back.
Due to the sheer volume of quests we were triggering, some events were happening that shouldn’t. Essential NPCs were dying before we could complete their quests, and levelled enemies were getting so powerful, it took up to 10 minutes to kill normal enemies, which is way longer than Bethesda intended. Some favourable bugs appeared as well, such as the occasional over-stacked loot drop.
We wanted to complete the game, but to maintain our sanity, we made compromises. For one, we decided we only needed to hold ourselves to the logged quests, not the unmarked ones that didn’t appear in our journal. We accepted that scripting bugs were out of our control and that four or five quests simply couldn’t be finished. We revoked our difficulty rule, which was never to move the slider lower than the default level. Finally, we decided that amassing small collectables, such as skill books, were not essential to experience the entirety of the game. While my brother and I didn’t meet every goal we originally set out to, we were extraordinarily proud of our Orcish champion. After we completed the last quest listed on the UESP, we launched our character off Dive Rock, the highest peak in the Jeral Mountains, to free him from his gauntlet. He was so overpowered, he didn’t even die.
As far as tips for anyone trying to 100% a massive game like this, I would recommend doing things that make gameplay pass quickly early on in your run, such as enchanting armour to raise speed, or recruiting allies to distract enemies while you rush through objectives. Don’t stop to search every container or body, as there will be plenty of loot to go around. More than anything, find someone to hang out with while you grind out those quests. This will protect you from going nuts, and they might even offer to help lighten the load.
So, what did I learn from this experience? Apparently nothing, since I plan to do this next year with Fallout 3. But, I do know one thing. Open world games with this much content aren’t meant to be finished—sometimes they can’t be—but the process of attempting to do so is one I won’t soon forget. My brother and I took a game we cherished as kids, and said, “let’s do everything we can in this world.” It turns out, all we could do was try. But that was enough.
Want to get in on the action grab your copy on Steam for PC here or on your prefered digital store.
If you enjoy games and gaming and want more NEWS from the Gaming World Click Here