No elder scrolls game has ever made me sad, and it’s because I’ve never felt a real emotional attachment to the characters. Sure, I felt attached to Martin Septim, but I was more attached to Sean Bean than Martin himself. What I do care about is the world, because of how beautiful it looks, so I feel really engrossed in it. If characters had scripted cinematic moments, then I feel like I could get as engrossed in them as I can in the environment.
Imagine if at the end of the Skyrim Civil War questline, if you sided with the Empire, you burst into Ulfric’s throne room to see him fighting off imperial soldiers whilst protecting a little nord child, and you can see in his face how worried he is for this girl. Then he sees you, the Dragonborn of myth, and you can just see fear on his face. He tells the girl to run, but they don’t, instead calling Ulfric “dad”. Now you’re not just killing a racist murderer, the leader of the faction you’ve been fighting against for so long, you’re killing a father.
Suddenly, Galmar bursts out from behind a pillar, lunging at you, before Rikke stops him. They tussle for a bit before she draws a dagger and stabs him. Ulfric’s heir screams, mourning the death of who would have been like an uncle to them. Ulfric then grabs his daughter and runs through a back exit. You start to chase him before Galmar grabs Rikke (surprise, big man-bear survives a knife) and throws her across the room. A boss fight starts, you and Tullius against Galmar. So anyway, you win.
Tullius tells you to chase Ulfric, and you do, as he stays behind to look after Rikke. There’s a chase section now, as you run after Ulfric, with him using shouts to try and stop you. You exit out into a courtyard, and he tells his daughter to run, which she finally does. “Leave her out of this,” Ulfric says. He is now more angry than scared, drawing a sword and shield. Generic dialogue choice appears about you challenging him to a duel, honourable, boasting, or just straight up disrespectful. He says something cool that someone badass enough to learn the powers of the voice themselves just in order to try and save his country would. Boss fight time.
In the fight, he shouts at you, about how he is right in fighting the empire, and how without him the whole of Tamriel will become slaves to the Dominion. As you strike the last blow, Tullius appears into the courtyard. Ulfric beckons him over, and as a honourable soldier, he complies. Ulfric tells him to fight back against the Thalmor, and bring the Empire back to the glory it stood under Tiber Septim, the man that Ulfric lived and died for. Tullius is visibly perturbed by this. He also requests that his soldiers are treated with respect, and allowed to go free. “And Dragonborn”, Ulfric says, “Because of you, I go to Sovngarde. Thank you.”
So then you actually feel bad for Ulfric. You’ve seen him trying to protect his daughter and you’ve seen how much love he has for his cause, his people, and his country. And you’ve seen how honourable he was in death.
Anyway, that was pretty fun to think about. But with three cutscenes and a cinematic chase, it’s just so much better (imo). I really hope TES6 has more stuff like this, it really elevates emotions and the gives the gravity that a questline like this needs.
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