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Shadows in the Swamp and ESO Writing

Supreme_Atromancer
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I want to start this off by saying that having reached act 2 of the main quest for Blackwood, the writing so far is MILES better than last year's. The plot is compelling and different, the pacing is great, and I'm being drawn in; like a good book, I'm having difficulty putting it down because I need to see what happens next. I don't know why the stories between last year and this year feel so different in quality, but its like night and day. I don't know how it ends yet, and I'm hoping the quality stays this good to the end, but at least til this point, the writers have done an amazing job!

But I want to talk about the quest, Shadows in the Swamp, which is the Hutan-Zel objective. Warning that this post contains some spoilers, so if you don't want the broader outcomes revealed, don't read any further!

I loved seeing Heem-Jas again - he's a quirky and fun character, and its hard not to hear his lines and not get a laugh. The voice acting is great, too. I also really loved the dramatic set-up for the story; the Imperials have approached the tribe in order to establish trade networks they believe will benefit the tribesfolk, but the Argonians recognise the pitfalls that come from bedding up with the Imperials - in many ways, the Imperial outlook is at odds with that of the Argonians because they tend to be ignorant or dismissive of cultural nuance and values, and their relationship with the world conflicts directly with that of the Argonians. When the Argonians refuse the Imperial overtures, instead of leaving, the Imperials set up camp right on the edge of Argonian territory, making the Argonians feel nervous, and ramping up tensions between the two people. This theme exploring Imperialism is one of the core, enduring threads often seen throughout TES series.

However, the way ESO handles these intriguing and compelling hooks is to once again wrap it all up very neat and tidy. By the end of the quest, everyone forgives everyone, absolutely everyone has seen the error of their ways and now everyone is happy happy best friends, the concerns that the Argonians had have been all but brushed under the carpet lest they get in the way of the happy friends disney ending that seems to need to happen at the cost of the possibility of anything remotely interesting or thought-provoking.

Its the same as the ending we see at the end of last year's story, where literal years of story-writing have set up this interesting tension and conflict between Eastern and Western Skyrim, hinting at this maybe ancient divide (the roots of which might even be a little bit of what drives the conflict we see in ES5), and even more so between the Reachmen and the Nords, its all sold down the river for an utterly groan-worthy happy happy everyone's friends again ending, don't worry, big daddy Jorunn is here to save the day!

I'm not saying that traditional Elder Scrolls writing is the most adult stuff you could ever find, but something I've always appreciated is that there's some complexity to the stories we encounter. The unreliable narrator has been awesome - its not just a device that allows a writer to escape from ever committing to anything ever, though. It shines when its used to be able to explore perspectives. All the titles have done great jobs of depicting opposing, but relatable viewpoints and the subsequently tragic conflicts they result in. Even Skyrim, for all the edgy complaints about its casualisation and shallow story has to be recognised for presenting a conflict people are still turning over and over 10 years later. These stories are compelling and challenging because if we explore an issue, we see that there's often more to a particular issue than what's on the surface, and while we tend to have these knee-jerk, snap judgements when presented some story, a little exploration shows there's usually no right or wrong. To get a bit philosophical, in a world where technology and information promise so much, but where people with agendas strive to control this information to ply propaganda and keep us less informed than ever before, this sort of story telling can serve a purpose in reminding us to not take things at face value, to be suspicious of black-and-white reporting, and to seek to understand all aspects of an issue.

But off my soapbox, I don't think that all writing in ESO needs to be revolutionary and life-changing - but having this incessant compulsion to always wrap up stories with a disney ending at the cost of not only major plot points, but also the character and spirit of elder scrolls story telling is really missing the mark, in my view.
  • Vevvev
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    Didn't really think of that at the end, but it's a good point to bring up. For a period in Tamriel's history where everything is plunged into darkness and war we have a lot of strange alliances and settling of differences. Some of it makes sense but others do indeed feel very forced or "Disney like" as you pointed out.
    PC NA - Ceyanna Ashton - Breton Vampire MagDK
  • Aristocles22
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    Barely competent writing only seems good when compared to the decidedly less-than-stellar material from (most of) last year.

    "The Imperials are doing something bad!"

    "Wait, it was an Argonian who did the bad thing!"

    "I only did the bad thing for a good reason!"

    "Imperials and Argonians need to work together to fix it!"

    "We fixed it! Working together is awesome!"

    Sounds like the plot of a Captain Planet episode. Ugh.
    Edited by Aristocles22 on June 12, 2021 12:33PM
  • Supreme_Atromancer
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    Tamriel is meant to be this gritty arena of war with grey morality taking equal stage space with the truly heroic. With competing, but equally relatable perspectives that serve to prompt you to explore and think, not this simplified "get the baddies!" crap. We're not an audience so fragile that any pretence of plot or theme needs to be sterilised or neutered in order to serve 'happily ever after". That audience has 100 years of Disney corporation to satisfy the need for simplified, black-and-white morality - we don't need King Daddy Jorunn to come in and slur some feel-good crap and suddenly the Reachmen and Nords are celebrating a new golden age where everyone has discovered the power of friendship, or Oh! the Imperial guy just wanted to be friends all along and now that the Argonians realise it, everyone's happy, even the murderer who is happily off to hunt a white frog for his transgressions.

    Not saying that everything needs to be dark and edgy for the sake of being dark and edgy (writing like that can feel forced) - more that where the story, plot or tone might offer opportunities for challenge, exploration or even just reflection you don't need to awkwardly butcher it all for the sake of sanitation. We know they are capable of it, and it must be recognised that there do exist some great examples of it in ESO already, but the balance is far too weighted towards the Disney extreme currently. Those moments of resolution or happy endings would actually feel good if there is real risk that it might not be the case.
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on June 15, 2021 7:52AM
  • guarstompemoji
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    I love Heem-Jas, and agree this is a problematic quest. It deals with the dangers of (haha) imperialism, which is great. In the end though, it ends ends up being dismissive of situations where outside forces end up forcing themselves onto native lands, and taking advantage of them. "It's out fault for being suspicious of the people who'd forced themselves into our lands, written contracts which they did not honor, and so on."

    The only reference to the Imperials having fault comes in an off-comment by Viria, if the PC takes the time to talk with him after the quest is completed.

    Loved the writing in Blackwood otherwise. It's been top-notch. Fantastic, even.
  • alberichtano
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    Am I the only one not being impressed with the quest writing in ESO?

    Don't get me wrong, it isn't all bad (or I would have left looong ago), but many quests, especially the main quests, leave sooo much to be desired.

    It is basically the same story over and over - old baddie wants to take over/end/ruin the world, you have to find books, kill some bosses, do a few delves (oh, and two dungeons as prequal and sequal respectively), you battle big bad, you win... and no consequences whatsoever.

    Of course, it is hard to make consequences in an MMO, but they could at least try.

    Or, for mara's sake, make a storyline about anything, literally anything else than "big bad wants to kill the world". I would take a year long quest to find Auntie Oldriels lost panties over another save-the-world questline.
  • colossalvoids
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    I would completely agree on the later part, same as others already have said it feels not like elder scrolls at all but a new Disney franchise most of the times, every new chapter is a same train of happy friendship and comradeship even if it kills some npcs unique characters in a process. We don't need it to be all lessons in 18+ game, we want to explore some new and different writing and elder scrolls feel for a change.

    Btw Gideon main city quest, am I the only one but it feels like I found the worst eso quest up to date, at least the most cringy one. And it actually features a choice, which is a good thing but context of elder scrolls and an actual choice you have feels... Like, I didn't even thought it was a serious question. I hope there will be some light shed on who wrote that and what purpose it served/what was explored in their mind.
    Edited by colossalvoids on June 22, 2021 6:55AM
  • Supreme_Atromancer
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    Btw Gideon main city quest, am I the only one but it feels like I found the worst eso quest up to date, at least the most cringy one. And it actually features a choice, which is a good thing but context of elder scrolls and an actual choice you have feels... Like, I didn't even thought it was a serious question. I hope there will be some light shed on who wrote that and what purpose it served/what was explored in their mind.

    @colossalvoids I hate being overly negative about stuff, but I absolutely hated that one, too. My partner, who *never* skips dialogue was literally skipping through to the end as fast as she could. We spent the whole quest cringing.

    I think that the writers have to write a broad array of stories, to appeal to as many people as possible, and to add variety. This one must have been an attempt to write some low-brow, chickflick "gurl, he a GHOST" kind of stuff.
  • colossalvoids
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    Btw Gideon main city quest, am I the only one but it feels like I found the worst eso quest up to date, at least the most cringy one. And it actually features a choice, which is a good thing but context of elder scrolls and an actual choice you have feels... Like, I didn't even thought it was a serious question. I hope there will be some light shed on who wrote that and what purpose it served/what was explored in their mind.

    @colossalvoids I hate being overly negative about stuff, but I absolutely hated that one, too. My partner, who *never* skips dialogue was literally skipping through to the end as fast as she could. We spent the whole quest cringing.

    I think that the writers have to write a broad array of stories, to appeal to as many people as possible, and to add variety. This one must have been an attempt to write some low-brow, chickflick "gurl, he a GHOST" kind of stuff.

    Seems like it. It actually reminded me of a small book I've read as a kid that friend of mine gave me, she liked spooky stuff for that age (5-6?) and it's basically the same exact short story, maybe even more mature funnily. And after that I've remembered the Witcher 3 ghost quest in an old tower on an island, which also used magical lantern... This is the difference between the quest made by an artist (and for adults for a change) and quests made just to take space and "be funny". I really want to like ESO's questing experience but lately it's getting harder.

    Wish they've guested some writers for that, there are a lot of talented writers out there, so one can hope.
  • alberichtano
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    Btw Gideon main city quest, am I the only one but it feels like I found the worst eso quest up to date, at least the most cringy one. And it actually features a choice, which is a good thing but context of elder scrolls and an actual choice you have feels... Like, I didn't even thought it was a serious question. I hope there will be some light shed on who wrote that and what purpose it served/what was explored in their mind.

    @colossalvoids I hate being overly negative about stuff, but I absolutely hated that one, too. My partner, who *never* skips dialogue was literally skipping through to the end as fast as she could. We spent the whole quest cringing.

    I think that the writers have to write a broad array of stories, to appeal to as many people as possible, and to add variety. This one must have been an attempt to write some low-brow, chickflick "gurl, he a GHOST" kind of stuff.

    Seems like it. It actually reminded me of a small book I've read as a kid that friend of mine gave me, she liked spooky stuff for that age (5-6?) and it's basically the same exact short story, maybe even more mature funnily. And after that I've remembered the Witcher 3 ghost quest in an old tower on an island, which also used magical lantern... This is the difference between the quest made by an artist (and for adults for a change) and quests made just to take space and "be funny". I really want to like ESO's questing experience but lately it's getting harder.

    Wish they've guested some writers for that, there are a lot of talented writers out there, so one can hope.

    Haven't played Witcher 3, but I have played the first game. Also played Vampire: Bloodlines and the Gothic games (loved the first two).

    Now, there you have good writing. Not saying that Gothic was a wonder of writing, the story is fairly cliché, but it is how it is executed that makes it stick out. The dialogues are simplistic, but manage to make characters just that, characters. I remember Diego strongly, because he has a personality.

    In ESO, NPCs are just... tropes. And fair enough, many of them are just oneliners, but when every wizard is either incredibly arrogant and snooty, or a clumsy mess that still manages to be brilliant, it just gets old. Real quick-like. Where is the social and caring wizard that asks how your day is, and hopes you didn't get hurt bringing him those daedric mushromms? The sorcerer who actually wants to share some of his ideas, not just for quest ("ah, you have solved the problem I have thought about for 300 years, here, have enough gold to buy two apples!"), but just for general chattiness. Of course, that would mean hiring more voice-acting, and that has a cost of course. :-(
  • VaranisArano
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    Vevvev wrote: »
    Didn't really think of that at the end, but it's a good point to bring up. For a period in Tamriel's history where everything is plunged into darkness and war we have a lot of strange alliances and settling of differences. Some of it makes sense but others do indeed feel very forced or "Disney like" as you pointed out.

    Yep. It does feel very... well... childish. For a game with an age-limit of 18+, it sure writes as a game for far younger audiences.

    I remember when they said that the Western Skyrim would be their darkest chapter yet. Still waiting for that dark part.

    I thought Markarth got pretty dark. Maybe not by the standards of other games, but certainly by ESO's standards. YMMV, of course.
    Without the final quest where you beat Rada al-Saran and fix everything after doing both Greymoor and Markarth, Markarth is a downer of a DLC.

    The Ghostsong clan is misled into killing themselves to power the Dark Heart, as well as some unwilling sacrifices. What elevates it over ESO's usual cultist fare is Arana, who's sister is leading the slaughter and who's friends are being killed. Unlike some of our other NPC friends like Eveli or Raz, Arana takes the whole incident very seriously since it's her family and she feels like she could've stopped it if she'd made different choices in life.

    Nobody's a cackling villain, with both Lady Belain and Rada al-Saran doing what they think is best for their family. Belain had to choose between dying with her clan or starving those she loved in hopes that she could save them in the future.

    Despite your best efforts, the Dark Heart is activated and lots of people in Markarth die before the vampires are stopped. The whole questline seems pretty futile, since most of the deaths would've been avoided if Ard Caddach would've listened to Arana in the first place. Oh, and Arana's dead, having sacrificed her chance to get to safety in order to provide tangible assistance in the final boss fight with Belain.

    When I finished Markarth, I didn't know about that final quest. As much as I respected the writers for ending on such a downer note, I remember being angry that they'd killed Arana, who I liked, over a plotline filled with futilely chasing the villains around, arriving a little too late to do anything, many failures, and that ultimately amounted to "Why did you ever think having vampires around was a good idea, anyway? Because it was a bad idea."

    Maybe "dark" isn't the right descriptor, but it sure wasn't a feel-good-about-saving-the-world adventure.
  • Aertew
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    Am I the only one not being impressed with the quest writing in ESO?

    Don't get me wrong, it isn't all bad (or I would have left looong ago), but many quests, especially the main quests, leave sooo much to be desired.

    It is basically the same story over and over - old baddie wants to take over/end/ruin the world, you have to find books, kill some bosses, do a few delves (oh, and two dungeons as prequal and sequal respectively), you battle big bad, you win... and no consequences whatsoever.

    Of course, it is hard to make consequences in an MMO, but they could at least try.

    Or, for mara's sake, make a storyline about anything, literally anything else than "big bad wants to kill the world". I would take a year long quest to find Auntie Oldriels lost panties over another save-the-world questline.

    I feel like a good idea is a bandit empire that the player has to fight to the leader. No big bad. No magic. Just good old RPG style enemies and writing.

    Sometimes simpler is better.
  • Supreme_Atromancer
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    I don't mind the big epic stories tbh, though I think that lower scale, but still high stakes can also be pretty damned good. Its something that ZOS have shown they actually can pull off -
    Wrothgar did a fantastic job of it.
    Vevvev wrote: »
    Didn't really think of that at the end, but it's a good point to bring up. For a period in Tamriel's history where everything is plunged into darkness and war we have a lot of strange alliances and settling of differences. Some of it makes sense but others do indeed feel very forced or "Disney like" as you pointed out.

    Yep. It does feel very... well... childish. For a game with an age-limit of 18+, it sure writes as a game for far younger audiences.

    I remember when they said that the Western Skyrim would be their darkest chapter yet. Still waiting for that dark part.

    I thought Markarth got pretty dark. Maybe not by the standards of other games, but certainly by ESO's standards. YMMV, of course.
    Without the final quest where you beat Rada al-Saran and fix everything after doing both Greymoor and Markarth, Markarth is a downer of a DLC.

    The Ghostsong clan is misled into killing themselves to power the Dark Heart, as well as some unwilling sacrifices. What elevates it over ESO's usual cultist fare is Arana, who's sister is leading the slaughter and who's friends are being killed. Unlike some of our other NPC friends like Eveli or Raz, Arana takes the whole incident very seriously since it's her family and she feels like she could've stopped it if she'd made different choices in life.

    Nobody's a cackling villain, with both Lady Belain and Rada al-Saran doing what they think is best for their family. Belain had to choose between dying with her clan or starving those she loved in hopes that she could save them in the future.

    Despite your best efforts, the Dark Heart is activated and lots of people in Markarth die before the vampires are stopped. The whole questline seems pretty futile, since most of the deaths would've been avoided if Ard Caddach would've listened to Arana in the first place. Oh, and Arana's dead, having sacrificed her chance to get to safety in order to provide tangible assistance in the final boss fight with Belain.

    When I finished Markarth, I didn't know about that final quest. As much as I respected the writers for ending on such a downer note, I remember being angry that they'd killed Arana, who I liked, over a plotline filled with futilely chasing the villains around, arriving a little too late to do anything, many failures, and that ultimately amounted to "Why did you ever think having vampires around was a good idea, anyway? Because it was a bad idea."

    Maybe "dark" isn't the right descriptor, but it sure wasn't a feel-good-about-saving-the-world adventure.

    @VaranisArano
    Yeah and the point there is that all those hard-hitting things got completely undone for the sake of the happy friends ending. The pattern teaches us that there was never any urgency really - it was fake, because the Disney universe makes everything all right and good at the end of the day. So why should I care?

    The enemy duo you mentioned weren't any more relatable than a pack of predatory monsters that we tend to just cleave through - they're preying on us. Any exploration of the issue you DO get to explore (through our ally) just serves to reinforce that they have no desire to compromise their perceived superiority, even when clearly shown there are other alternatives. There's not a lot of relatability with that. The writers really might have taken it in different directions, and the villains may have been relatable or more interesting for it. But they're once again just straight-up bad guys to cleave down with little thought.

    To be clear, I'm not looking for a "downer" of a story, nor do I believe that's the recipe for amazing stories. The problem lies where they are bending the plot literally 180 degrees on top of itself to remove consequence, and neutralise any emotional stakes anyone might have. And the natural consequence for Elder Scrolls story writing is that the interesting dynamics the series has set up, the things that give us something to explore, are done away with because someone believes we wont be able to sleep at night if there's no happily-ever-after.

    This year's story (so far) has been good. Stakes have been set, and dice lain where they've fallen. There's reasons to care if they don't take it all back again.

    But there's been missed opportunities, too. Good hooks that get neutered and become meaningless within the context of the Elder Scrolls stories. And thus utterly forgettable. No real chance to explore the issues. No need to anyway, because it will all be happy in the end. The character of the different cultures has no narrative value because all races agree on one common good and will see the error of their ways. Why do the Imperials think its OK to aggressively colonise? What is the Imperial Captain's point of view and moral compass? What world views make him believe he's acting right? Oh, it doesn't matter because the Argonians realised they were wrong all along.

    And there's no agency. You get told what faction you will be supporting and you sit on the rails until the very end. You HAVE to kill Urfon Iceheart regardless of what allegiences you think your character would take because zos decides ultimately how your character acts. Can I tackle the Iron Wheel without becoming a thief? Can I destroy the Dark Brotherhood? No. You either get on those damned rails and ride it out and get told what your character would do, and accept that you have no opportunity to shape your character's choices, or you just don't get to play the DLC. The 3 examples above demonstrate fantastic sandboxes - both the Orcs and the Winterborn are relatable, interesting factions, while TG and DB offer amazing opportunities for YOU to get to choose whether to be a grim hero rooting evil from the shadows or a morally compromised agent of darkness - THE VERY ESSENCE OF ELDER SCROLLS WRITING.

    There's limitations due to the format of the medium, but there aren't good reasons we can't choose to follow the thrust of the stories they create through the lens of alternate factions. Allowance for story writing just needs to be given stronger priority than it has, and for that, zos would need to appreciate the importance of good elder scrolls story telling. This is why the writing gets panned.
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on June 28, 2021 6:21AM
  • Nomadic_Atmoran
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    Honestly I think ZOS is absolutely afraid to write anything that might actually have an edge to it thats sharper than a plastic spork. There's hints through out the zones that the writing team is more than capable of quality writing. But ZOS has been trying to avoid anything that can be misinterpreted as endorsing XYZ that they've gone back and changed dialog in older content. I like to always point people at the town of Senie in Stonefalls. Originally theres this tension building up between Dunmer and Argonians through out the first half of the zone. And in Senie this was on full display as the Dunmer were being their racist selves. Only for them to respond in a shocked manner when you healed them using Soft Scales poultices. But years later if you run a new character through that quest the Dunmer will simply thank you and disappear. No shock, no undertone of disgust.
    Penniless Sellsword Company
    Captain Paramount Jorrhaq Vhent
    Korith Eaglecry - Laerinel Rhaev - Enrerion - Caius Berilius - Seylina Ithvala - Signa Squallrider - H'Vak the Grimjawl
    Yynril Rothvani - Tenarei Rhaev - Bathes-In-Coin - Dazsh Ro Khar - Aredyhel - Reads-To-Frogs - Azjani Ma'Les
    Kheshna gra-Gharbuk - Gallisten Bondurant - Aban Shahid Bakr - Etain Maquier - Atsu Kalame - Faulpia Severinus
  • Iccotak
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    Honestly I think ZOS is absolutely afraid to write anything that might actually have an edge to it thats sharper than a plastic spork. There's hints through out the zones that the writing team is more than capable of quality writing. But ZOS has been trying to avoid anything that can be misinterpreted as endorsing XYZ that they've gone back and changed dialog in older content. I like to always point people at the town of Senie in Stonefalls. Originally theres this tension building up between Dunmer and Argonians through out the first half of the zone. And in Senie this was on full display as the Dunmer were being their racist selves. Only for them to respond in a shocked manner when you healed them using Soft Scales poultices. But years later if you run a new character through that quest the Dunmer will simply thank you and disappear. No shock, no undertone of disgust.

    That’s unfortunate, hurts the quality of the quest.
  • Iccotak
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    They forced player characters that are DB Silencers to snitch on the Dark Brotherhood in order for them to continue the main questline in Blackwood. Not just telling someone "I am a member of the Dark Brotherhood", but knowingly handing a complete stranger a document containing the most damaging secrets concerning the Brotherhood's activities in Blackwood.

    They shoehorned returning characters into the main quest and into nearly every side quest. The whole thing feels like a travelling circus. Story quests that are actually about Blackwood are pushed to the periphery.

    This tells me everything I need to know about the qualities of ESO's story writing in 2021.

    Well also, I think it is fair to point out that the Q4 DLCs are often a step up in zone design and writing quality.
    At least that has been the case for the past two years of year-long-stories.
  • Iccotak
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    Aliyavana wrote: »
    I want to start this off by saying that having reached act 2 of the main quest for Blackwood, the writing so far is MILES better than last year's. The plot is compelling and different, the pacing is great, and I'm being drawn in; like a good book, I'm having difficulty putting it down because I need to see what happens next. I don't know why the stories between last year and this year feel so different in quality, but its like night and day. I don't know how it ends yet, and I'm hoping the quality stays this good to the end, but at least til this point, the writers have done an amazing job!

    But I want to talk about the quest, Shadows in the Swamp, which is the Hutan-Zel objective. Warning that this post contains some spoilers, so if you don't want the broader outcomes revealed, don't read any further!

    I loved seeing Heem-Jas again - he's a quirky and fun character, and its hard not to hear his lines and not get a laugh. The voice acting is great, too. I also really loved the dramatic set-up for the story; the Imperials have approached the tribe in order to establish trade networks they believe will benefit the tribesfolk, but the Argonians recognise the pitfalls that come from bedding up with the Imperials - in many ways, the Imperial outlook is at odds with that of the Argonians because they tend to be ignorant or dismissive of cultural nuance and values, and their relationship with the world conflicts directly with that of the Argonians. When the Argonians refuse the Imperial overtures, instead of leaving, the Imperials set up camp right on the edge of Argonian territory, making the Argonians feel nervous, and ramping up tensions between the two people. This theme exploring Imperialism is one of the core, enduring threads often seen throughout TES series.

    However, the way ESO handles these intriguing and compelling hooks is to once again wrap it all up very neat and tidy. By the end of the quest, everyone forgives everyone, absolutely everyone has seen the error of their ways and now everyone is happy happy best friends, the concerns that the Argonians had have been all but brushed under the carpet lest they get in the way of the happy friends disney ending that seems to need to happen at the cost of the possibility of anything remotely interesting or thought-provoking.

    Its the same as the ending we see at the end of last year's story, where literal years of story-writing have set up this interesting tension and conflict between Eastern and Western Skyrim, hinting at this maybe ancient divide (the roots of which might even be a little bit of what drives the conflict we see in ES5), and even more so between the Reachmen and the Nords, its all sold down the river for an utterly groan-worthy happy happy everyone's friends again ending, don't worry, big daddy Jorunn is here to save the day!

    I'm not saying that traditional Elder Scrolls writing is the most adult stuff you could ever find, but something I've always appreciated is that there's some complexity to the stories we encounter. The unreliable narrator has been awesome - its not just a device that allows a writer to escape from ever committing to anything ever, though. It shines when its used to be able to explore perspectives. All the titles have done great jobs of depicting opposing, but relatable viewpoints and the subsequently tragic conflicts they result in. Even Skyrim, for all the edgy complaints about its casualisation and shallow story has to be recognised for presenting a conflict people are still turning over and over 10 years later. These stories are compelling and challenging because if we explore an issue, we see that there's often more to a particular issue than what's on the surface, and while we tend to have these knee-jerk, snap judgements when presented some story, a little exploration shows there's usually no right or wrong. To get a bit philosophical, in a world where technology and information promise so much, but where people with agendas strive to control this information to ply propaganda and keep us less informed than ever before, this sort of story telling can serve a purpose in reminding us to not take things at face value, to be suspicious of black-and-white reporting, and to seek to understand all aspects of an issue.

    But off my soapbox, I don't think that all writing in ESO needs to be revolutionary and life-changing - but having this incessant compulsion to always wrap up stories with a disney ending at the cost of not only major plot points, but also the character and spirit of elder scrolls story telling is really missing the mark, in my view.

    Greymoor really rubbed me the wrong way. Western Nords bad! The leader turned into a meme with "DA GRAY HOST IS MA TRU ALLY!"

    Yeah they couldn’t have done anything interesting, like from his perspective he was making some grand sacrifice for his people? Instead they turned him into a typical power-hungry vampire?
  • ealdwin
    ealdwin
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    They really did the more cosmopolitan and open-minded Western Nords dirty in Greymoor. But hey, when the Nords of the Old Holds are turned into drunken bafoons, all that stoic, isolationist, traditionalism has to go somewhere, right?
  • Supreme_Atromancer
    Supreme_Atromancer
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    ealdwin wrote: »
    They really did the more cosmopolitan and open-minded Western Nords dirty in Greymoor. But hey, when the Nords of the Old Holds are turned into drunken bafoons, all that stoic, isolationist, traditionalism has to go somewhere, right?

    Yeah, this touches on one of the reasons I think they could do better with writing.

    If Important aspects of the lore need to be ignored because they don't fit into the story you want to tell, if the tone and nuance of Elder Scrolls story telling aren't important, what actually makes this an Elder Scrolls story?
  • Iccotak
    Iccotak
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    Aliyavana wrote: »
    I want to start this off by saying that having reached act 2 of the main quest for Blackwood, the writing so far is MILES better than last year's. The plot is compelling and different, the pacing is great, and I'm being drawn in; like a good book, I'm having difficulty putting it down because I need to see what happens next. I don't know why the stories between last year and this year feel so different in quality, but its like night and day. I don't know how it ends yet, and I'm hoping the quality stays this good to the end, but at least til this point, the writers have done an amazing job!

    But I want to talk about the quest, Shadows in the Swamp, which is the Hutan-Zel objective. Warning that this post contains some spoilers, so if you don't want the broader outcomes revealed, don't read any further!

    I loved seeing Heem-Jas again - he's a quirky and fun character, and its hard not to hear his lines and not get a laugh. The voice acting is great, too. I also really loved the dramatic set-up for the story; the Imperials have approached the tribe in order to establish trade networks they believe will benefit the tribesfolk, but the Argonians recognise the pitfalls that come from bedding up with the Imperials - in many ways, the Imperial outlook is at odds with that of the Argonians because they tend to be ignorant or dismissive of cultural nuance and values, and their relationship with the world conflicts directly with that of the Argonians. When the Argonians refuse the Imperial overtures, instead of leaving, the Imperials set up camp right on the edge of Argonian territory, making the Argonians feel nervous, and ramping up tensions between the two people. This theme exploring Imperialism is one of the core, enduring threads often seen throughout TES series.

    However, the way ESO handles these intriguing and compelling hooks is to once again wrap it all up very neat and tidy. By the end of the quest, everyone forgives everyone, absolutely everyone has seen the error of their ways and now everyone is happy happy best friends, the concerns that the Argonians had have been all but brushed under the carpet lest they get in the way of the happy friends disney ending that seems to need to happen at the cost of the possibility of anything remotely interesting or thought-provoking.

    Its the same as the ending we see at the end of last year's story, where literal years of story-writing have set up this interesting tension and conflict between Eastern and Western Skyrim, hinting at this maybe ancient divide (the roots of which might even be a little bit of what drives the conflict we see in ES5), and even more so between the Reachmen and the Nords, its all sold down the river for an utterly groan-worthy happy happy everyone's friends again ending, don't worry, big daddy Jorunn is here to save the day!

    I'm not saying that traditional Elder Scrolls writing is the most adult stuff you could ever find, but something I've always appreciated is that there's some complexity to the stories we encounter. The unreliable narrator has been awesome - its not just a device that allows a writer to escape from ever committing to anything ever, though. It shines when its used to be able to explore perspectives. All the titles have done great jobs of depicting opposing, but relatable viewpoints and the subsequently tragic conflicts they result in. Even Skyrim, for all the edgy complaints about its casualisation and shallow story has to be recognised for presenting a conflict people are still turning over and over 10 years later. These stories are compelling and challenging because if we explore an issue, we see that there's often more to a particular issue than what's on the surface, and while we tend to have these knee-jerk, snap judgements when presented some story, a little exploration shows there's usually no right or wrong. To get a bit philosophical, in a world where technology and information promise so much, but where people with agendas strive to control this information to ply propaganda and keep us less informed than ever before, this sort of story telling can serve a purpose in reminding us to not take things at face value, to be suspicious of black-and-white reporting, and to seek to understand all aspects of an issue.

    But off my soapbox, I don't think that all writing in ESO needs to be revolutionary and life-changing - but having this incessant compulsion to always wrap up stories with a disney ending at the cost of not only major plot points, but also the character and spirit of elder scrolls story telling is really missing the mark, in my view.

    Greymoor really rubbed me the wrong way. Western Nords bad! The leader turned into a meme with "DA GRAY HOST IS MA TRU ALLY!"

    Yeah they couldn’t have done anything interesting, like from his perspective he was making some grand sacrifice for his people? Instead they turned him into a typical power-hungry vampire?
  • SirAxen
    SirAxen
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    I would definitely like to see them lean into the M rating just a little more at times. It doesn't have to be anything ridiculous, but just go the extra mile when trying to make an intense moment more impactful. The audience (players) can tell when you aren't being genuine, and if you dance around topics without actually showing the ugly underbelly of it, it comes off as pandering instead of cautionary.
  • francesinhalover
    francesinhalover
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    Vevvev wrote: »
    Didn't really think of that at the end, but it's a good point to bring up. For a period in Tamriel's history where everything is plunged into darkness and war we have a lot of strange alliances and settling of differences. Some of it makes sense but others do indeed feel very forced or "Disney like" as you pointed out.

    You mean the game that has elfs and other races on dc and eb? When theres war and racism all over the place at that time?
    Eso has always been the disney/pixar of es games.
    And i do like it for it.
    I am @fluffypallascat pc eu if someone wants to play together
    Shadow strike is the best cp passive ever!
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