There's a strong divide between hardcore fans of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Despite their fundamental similarities, both titles offered an entirely different experience. Morrowind forced you to explore the expansive and peculiar island of Vvardenfell, traveling to ghostly caverns and bandit campsites by foot. You were only afforded fast travel options between a few major cities and it cost in-game currency.
Oblivion abandoned that by implementing a fast-travel system, letting you instantly return to previously visited locations by clicking on map plots. Travel mechanics aside, Oblivion's story and quests mostly took place in cities and encouraged less exploration. In an interview with OXM, Bethesda's Todd Howard acknowledged that Oblivion sacrificed some of Morrowind's allure in the interest of creating a more "refined and welcoming" world.
"With Oblivion, we're dealing with the capital province, and we wanted to get back to the more classic Arena and Daggerfall feel," said Howard. "But in that, we sacrificed some of what made Morrowind special: the wonder of discovery," he admitted. "It should feel alien, kind of 'stranger in a strange' land, with familiar looking elements only rooting you early in the game. The whole tone ends up being one of 'I'm an outsider, I'm uncomfortable'."
Recognizing the pros and cons of both approaches, Bethesda is aiming for a middle ground in its fifth Elder Scrolls entry, Skyrim. "With Skyrim, we're trying to bring some of that back and walk the line between Morrowind and Oblivion. Where it's at first familiar looking, but has its own unique culture and spin on it." Howard describes Skyrim as "epic reality" -- mystical yet grounded. If you've played TES III and IV, which do you prefer and why?