When we last left off our valiant, noble and extremely competent hero Shush’Ogar had just reached the city of Kvatch. It was currently a maelstrom of fire and ash. A bloodstained hellscape whose bleached land was barren of all life and hope. A hideous vortex of thrashing teeth, dismembered bodies and howling demons from which nothing could escape.
Shush may have had something to do with this.
So Shush realized when Savvy-lion said de name Martin dat he had done a mistake. Shush were s’posed to find dat Martin guy cause he was de son of de fancy king man or sometin. Shush got all distracted by ghosties an magey people an women wot didn’t wear many clothes for some reason. Prob’bly no one could blame Shush on account of how much cool stuff Shush did, but Shush still felt a little sorry bout de whole demon city ting. On de gud side, de Savvy-lion guy said dat Martin was still dere in de city, so Shush could go get im.
“Okey Mr. Guard guy,” said Shush, “Shush gotsa get Martin for somethin important, so he are gonna go into de city now an-“
“Stop!” said Savvy-lion. “Haven’t you been listening? The town’s walled in by a horde of bloodthirsty daedra! You can’t even get inside the gates without passing through their demonic portal!”
Shush looked back at de entrance and de big glowy red gate in front of it.
Shush were forgettin about dat one.
Shush finked for a bit about de problem. “Well, if Shush can’t get past de glowy gate ting, how does Shush turn it off?”
Shush musta reminded Savvy-lion of a joke, cause he laughed at dat. “Aha! Turn it of? Ha! I mean if it were only that simple...wait, you’re serious, aren’t you?”
“No, de name is Shush, but dats an easy mistake ta make, ‘serious’ starts wit de same snakey symbol.”
“I meant that...listen, we don’t know how to disable the gate, but it has to be something on the other side. I’ve already sent a couple men in but they...haven’t come back. I can’t spare any more if I’m to hold this blockade.”
“So Shush just has ta go in dere an smash some stuff until de gate stops workin? Dats usually how it works.”
“Well hold on a second, I don’t think you fully under- Wait! We don’t even know if you can get back after you-“
Shush didn’t hear dat last part on account of him walkin into de glowy gate an it goin all “FWOOSH”.
Well dat looks nice.
When Shush got to de other side of de gate, Shush were suddenly in a place dat was somewhere else. It was some kinda islandy place, cept instead of water dere was all dis glowy red lava all around it. Dere were some real big glowy towers in de center of de island, an dose seemed pretty important. Closer to where Shush came in was a bridge wit a big closed gate onnit. In front of de gate was a buncha dead people, which was prob’bly not a gud ting. But dere were also lotsa pretty plants n stuff dat Shush hadn’t seen before, so dat was neat.
Oh, and dere were angry, ugly little people wit tails shootin fireballs. Shush forgot to mention dat part.
No those aren’t Imps, they’re Scamps, it’s totally different.
De ugly nekkid guys weren’t shootin de fireballs at Shush doe, which was a great change of pace. Shush decided dat some smashin might be in order, so he followed to where de little people were sendin de fire. Dere was a guy dressed like de guard people, prob’bly on account of bein a guard or somethin. He was gettin attacked by de little people, so Shush decided to help him. De nekkid guys wit tails were ugly, so dat meant dey were de bad guys. Shush could tell he was a gud guy cause of his super pretty orange skin an big healthy tusks.
Anyway, Shush bashed de ugly tings a bunch until all dat was left was some stuff Shush scraped offa de end of his hammer. De guard guy seemed real happy about not bein on fire anymore.
“Thank the Nine! I never thought I’d see another friendly face...”
“Yeh dey didn’t seem real friendly lookin.” Shush bended over to look at dem. “It kinda hard to tell wit de faces bobbin in de lava doe.”
“Yes you were very...efficient in dealing with them. I’m Ilend Vonius by the way, Captain Matius sent us here to close the gate, but the others...no, I can’t think of them as gone. Some of them have to still be alive. But they were taken to the tower.”
“So Shush needs to go to dat big tower in de center of de island?”
“Yes, though you’ll have to take the long way with the bridge closed. I don’t know what brought you here stranger, but if you’re going that way I’ll come with. I can’t leave my companions to die and I will fight to my very last-“
“Shush don’t need no help to do de smashin. Shush are real gud at dat.”
“Er, so I’ve noticed. But please, I can’t just leave while my companions are captive! What else could I do?”
“Well Shush will get dem on his way out or somethin. Just go help de Savvy-lion.”
“The captain is still holding the barricade? Huh. Not to be rude but I thought they’d be ash in the breeze by now. Well maybe you’re right, I could help more on the outside. I still don’t really know you stranger, but thanks. And good luck in this hell. You’ll need it.”
“Ha,” said Shush as de Ill-end guy walked back into de gate, “wots de worst dat could happen.”
It turns out de worst dat could happen is a lotta tings try an hurt Shush real bad.
It wasn’t so hard at first. Shush started walkin up de island an it was mostly just dose fire shootin uglies. De fire was kinda uncomfortable, but Shush was fine wit it. But den closer to de tower Shush started seein dese little lizard guys dat ran at Shush as soon as dey saw him. Shush smashed dem up but first dey charged into him an dere heads were REAL hard. Dey were even harder den Shush’s uncle Bro-Borgesh’s, an he won de city face-smashin competition back home in Orsinium.
Also, dey have heads wot look like bananers.
Shush didn’t like de little tough lizards. Dey hit Shush so hard he started gettin dents in his clanky clothes an needed to use his healin magic stuff. But dey weren’t gonna stop Shush none! Shush were gonna be de greatest sneaker smasher spellguy in all de places dere were, an dat included dis glowy red place. So Shush kept goin up de island. Dere were some fallin rocks an pits wit hot lava dat Shush had to walk round. But it wasn’t all bad tings. Dere were lotsa new plants for Shush to grab so he could get better at de potion makin later. Some of em smelled pretty bad, but Shush was sure dat just meaned dey were more alchemicalal. One a de plants tried to smack Shush as he got close, so Shush smashed it right back until it stopped movin.
That’s an exaggeration of course. Hitting them does nothing to stop their violence.
Den Shush finally made it to de entrance to de tower. Shush were about to go in when he heard a person yell to him in a funny, gurgly voice.
Shush turned to see a guy wit a crinkly blue face an a lotta pointy bits on his clanky clothes. Shush waved to him.
“Actually, Shush are an orc, not a dog. Ow!”
Dat ow was a ting Shush said because de blue man hit him in de face wit a heavy stick n spikes. Dat wasn’t very nice of him, so Shush decided to do de same ting but wit his own hammer. Shush’s hammer was a lot more biggerer den his, so he got smashed real quick.
The one place in the game where the ugly deformed faces work in its favor.
So den finally Shush got inside de tower, but dere was even more lizard tings and blue-faced pointy men innit. Shush smashed dem up but he were gettin tired of dis. Not de smashin, Shush was real keen on dat one. But Shush was runnin outta space to carry his loot.
Goin up de tower wasn’t so different from de outside. Dere were lotsa guys in a gray-an-red place tryin to bash Shush wit tings, so Shush bashed em first. Dere was also a big beam of shinyness in de center of de tower, so dat was new. After walkin upstairs for a bit, Shush found some doors he couldn’t get frew. Shush tried smashin em up, but dey were real big an thick. So insted Shush taked de only door he could open, which went back outside but real high up. On de other side of a pointy bridge Shush walked to another tower, like de first one only more smaller. When Shush got inside, a guy wit no shirt started screamin at him.
“Over here! Quickly!”
“Hey dere guy, wot do you want wit Shush? An why is you inna big rusty cage?”
Seems like a silly place to hang out.
“I was captured, it’s not important, just listen! The sigil stone, that’s what keeps the Oblivion gate open! You need to get to the top of the tower and remove it! You’ll need the key to get there. The Keeper has the key!”
“RAAAAUUUUuurgggLAAAARRR!!!” said de blue guy Shush pointed at.
“Yes” said de cage man. “That guy.”
Dis blue guy was better at hittin things den de other ones, but Shush was de smashin masta. After Shush made his head go squish he gotted a key offa him. De cage guy winced when Shush pulled out his hammer.
“Alright, you have the key, now go remove the sigil stone!”
“Shouldn’t Shush rescue you or somethin? Shush could prob’bly bash up dat cagey ting or...”
“There’s no time! You need to hurry, get to the top of the tower! Don’t worry about me!”
“Um...well, on second thought I may have been a little overdrama-“
An den Shush went back across de bridge an up to de top of de big tower. Dere was a big room made of all shiny red glass up dere. Shush could see dat in de center of de room dere was a glowy rock inside de beam of shinyness. Dat was prob’bly de seagull stone dat Shush were supposed to get. A couple of blue guys yelled at Shush but Shush were getting real gud at stoppin em by now. (De important part were doin de smashin on dem.) So den Shush walked up to de glowy stone.
Looks pretty safe.
De guy said dat Shush had to take de seagull stone an den de gate would close, an dat was wot Shush wanted. So Shush reached out an grabbed it. Den everything started explodin all over. It was at dis point dat Shush-
Now seems like a good time for me to talk about the problems with the Oblivion gates, yeah? Sure, this seems like a good spot.
Given the amount of complaining I do (43.5% of posts by volume) you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m just a cranky old curmudgeon, shaking his fist from atop his tall tower. Or at least, atop his tiny swivel chair. However, the bile I spit has often been spat many a time before, and one topic that’s had its share of spit is the Oblivion gates in...well, Oblivion. They’re one of the more commonly derided parts of the game (along with its horrendous leveling system), and I’m no exception. So why do they bother people?
Well, the first reason that comes to mind is that they are looooong. There are four classifications I’d give to dungeons in this game. Small (5-10 minutes), medium (20-30 minutes), large (40-50 minutes) and Oblivion gate (every other size combined plus change). Sure you can shave off some minutes by making a beeline for the end and not exploring side areas for loot. But that’s pretty counter to how we’re conditioned to play these games, and it still winds up longer than it needs to be. This game wasn’t made for delving so deep into dungeon-crawling. You have a set inventory size and the combat gets repetitive before long, especially fighting the same few enemies.
The second issue is that these gates are very repetitive visually. You can tell that just from the screenshots I’ve used. There are only three colors on display here: varying shades of gray, red and orange. Admittedly that’s an exaggeration, they don’t use much orange. In terms of architecture or biology there isn’t much variety either. The outside is a big rocky mass surrounded by lava, the buildings are all towers that look the same and everything is covered in unnecessary, unconvincingly blood-splattered spikes. The interiors are even more repetitive than the outside.
This brings me to the final problem: The Oblivion gates completely uninteresting to play. Every single one is an island with some towers, and you get to the top of the central tower to complete it. The towers are some of the worst examples of copy-paste in the game, and are empty and bland but for a few instances of the same 3 traps. Outside the towers there seems like less exact copying, but it doesn’t matter because everything’s an uninteresting mass of stone regardless. It all feels hollow and lifeless, and not in a good, atomspheric way. Here’s a question for you: What do the dremora actually do when we’re not here?
“SHATTER, WEAKLING! SHATTER YOUR PERCEPTIONS OF INTERIOR DECORATING! THE FENG SHUI WOULD BE FAR BETTER WITH A BLOOD FOUNTAIN IN THE BREAKFAST NOOK!”
That caption isn’t making things up, by the way. There are literal blood fountains, one of the only decorations you can find in their extremely empty halls. Even those only exist as a way to restore health. I mean, really? This is Doom era level design. They could at least put down some chairs, some weapon racks, and some military style cots. Of course they could also use food, storage containers, books, different sized rooms, differing light sources, animal pens and more, but I’m not asking for the world here. The lack of any sort of clutter or variety doesn’t just make the place empty in a visual sense, but in story and gameplay as well.
We usually forgive some amount of these combat oriented box spaces in games. But the Elder Scrolls is a series that is usually better about this. Remember the first dungeon we went through? There were bandits, undead and a necromancer all hanging out in the same abandoned ruin. Different sections had appropriate decorations, supplies and traps, and they had little scraps of writing explaining what each group was doing there. There are certainly areas of the game that don’t receive that level of backstory. Yet here we have this vast, alien realm we can visit through dozens of different gates and none of them have absolutely anything beyond dull copied corridors of combat. This gate is actually the most engaging, because at least it has two whole characters giving perfunctory exposition in it.
It’s not like the daedric lords and their realms are hard to make interesting. There’s a side quest for each of the 16 daedric lords in this game (and every Elder Scrolls game), and they’re all fairly interesting. In one of the expansions to Oblivion we see another daedric plane, the Shivering Isles, and it’s much more varied. It features actual people, personality, and things you can interact with beyond hitting them. In Skyrim we see yet another plane, Apocrypha, and it...okay, well that one is also a big dungeon. But it’s a more varied dungeon visually and in gameplay, despite the fact that you’re inside for a fraction of the time you spend in these gates.
So that’s why this plane of Oblivion is a big dull slog people don’t really care for. With a little extra effort in the right places, they could’ve created a much more interesting experience. They could’ve even made the dremora an interesting race with a culture and worthwhile views to consider. Instead, they made them video game monsters in all the dullest ways possible.
Anyway, where were we?
Shush decided to step back from all de explodin stuff dat was happenin where he took de stone from. Dat was a hard ting ta do on account of de explodin spreadin outward an fillin de whole room. Everyting was gettin real bright an loud but just as Shush was wonderin wot he should do wit de magic rock he started seein white all over.
A minute passed. Den dere was a rushin sound in Shush’s ear an he started to see tings again. Shush saw de gate fade in just in time for it ta go all “ppppPPPPPPSSSSSSSSH-BOOOM!” Den Shush heard some cheerin behind him.
“You did it!” said Savvy-lion, running up to Shush wit de other guards. “I can’t believe it. You actually closed the Gate! This is our chance! We could still launch a counterattack and save some people inside! Listen, can you come with us? You’ve got far more combat experience than these men.”
“You said dat de Martin guy was inside de town, yeah?”
“That’s right, assuming he’s still alive he’ll be holed up in the chapel with the rest.”
Shush grinned an pulled out his hammer. Savvy-lion nodded at him.
“Alright men, this is it. These demons took our home from us, and now it’s time to take something back! We destroyed their damn gate, and now the fate of those still alive rests with us. Our enemies are powerful and vicious on the battlefield, but I have faith in every single one of you! We cannot let their crimes stand! We fight for the home so cruelly taken for us! We fight for the lives of those we love, both departed and left alive! We fight to rid our world of these monstrous invaders once and for all! Now who’s with me?!
Dere was a buncha cheerin from de rest of de guards.
“Right then! On my mark, we open the gate and make our charge! Ready?!”
A couple guards ran up an grabbed de big door handles.
De rest of de guards drew dere swords an raised dere shields.
It were 37 seconds later, an all de demons on dis side of de city was dead.
Savvy-lion walked up to Shush slowly, wit his eyes all big.
“Uh, you...you’re quite good with that hammer.”
“Well it were only like half a dozen of de demon guys at once. Not much worser den wot Shush was fightin inside de gate, no big deal.”
“Right...no big deal.” Savvy-lion was lookin down at de ground sayin dat, an seemed kinda disappointed. He was prob’bly sad dat he didn’t get to join in de fun before Shush smashed all de guys.
“Is dat de church where de peoples are?”
“Yes” said Savvy-lion, lookin up again. “That’s the chapel. Anyone who’s left alive will be in there. Let’s go.”
An so Shush an Savvy-lion walked up to de big church doors, pushed em open, an inside...
...there was a cliffhanger.
Tune in next time!