There’s usually a tradeoff in player agency. The more freedom you have, the less detailed the story. Minecraft offers freedom to go anywhere, kill anything, build whatever you want, but has no story”Maybe go kill the Ender Dragon if you want” does NOT count as a story in this discussion.. Tomb Raider has lots of story, characters, and dialog, but almost no freedom. Quests like the Bard’s College or the Mage’s College have this strange thing where you kind of have the worst of both worlds. The story is mostly generic “go to X, and kill Y or retrieve Z”. But then the mechanics are set up to keep you from breaking these boring and uninteresting quests. A majority of the NPC’s are invulnerable, the dialog is perfunctory, the story is bare-bones, and there’s usually no overarching theme or idea. It’s just a series of stuff to do.
If the quests are going to be this railroad-y, then we ought to get some rich characterization or thematic depthThis is not to suggest I’d actually trust Bethesda with a job like that.. Or if the story is going to be this barebones, then we should let the player break it. Heck, make the quests procedural. I understand that Bethesda wants to keep players from breaking quests by killing annoying / important people, but this is a sledgehammer approach. A better solution would be to only give plot armor to people involved with the two main quests. (The war and the dragons.) Who cares if the player breaks the questline for the Mages College? They’re certainly not at risk for missing out on anything particularly riveting.
And maybe – hear me out here – maybe the player wouldn’t be so keen to murder NPCs if the game didn’t go out of its way to make them so intolerable. Maven Blackbriar’s dialog can only be explained by saying that she knows she’s invincibleAnd enjoys being stabbed anyway..
Can you actually rescue Uncle Rogvir? Based on Josh’s shenanigans, it sort of looks possible. Although, maybe if you saved him the townspeople would still talk about the event as if he died.
 ”Maybe go kill the Ender Dragon if you want” does NOT count as a story in this discussion.
 This is not to suggest I’d actually trust Bethesda with a job like that.
 And enjoys being stabbed anyway.
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