The lights are on
The guild system in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion feels unreal. You can be the leader of the Fighters Guild, a protective organization for good, and a vile, high-ranking Dark Brotherhood assassin at the same time. Two morally opposed groups, headed by the same person. For a while, Oblivion lets you have your cake and eat it too.
Oblivion’s world, Cyrodiil, receives most of the credit for making players feel like part of a living, breathing place. The bustling imperial city looked alive and welcoming, for example. For me, feeling like I belonged had little to do with the world itself and more to do with the members of the Dark Brotherhood – the only people who were like me.
When I first joined the guild of murderers, I operated out of an abandoned house near the eastern gate of Cheydinhal. I was immediately welcomed and given an assignment: Kill an old man as he sleeps. My fellow assassins weren’t like the other chatty, soft citizens of Cyrodiil. Everyone's there to do bad things, and nobody in the Dark Brotherhood pretends otherwise, even though my name was also on the door of the noble Arch-Mage’s office.
Even my guild mates’ idle conversations were genuine. They talked about past contracts and the best ways to murder people, which I was clearly interested in doing or I wouldn’t have been initiated into the Dark Brotherhood in the first place. One exception is M’raaj-Dar, a Khajiit merchant who aggressively insulted me over and over again.
As I graduated through the ranks of the Dark Brotherhood, I began taking contracts from Lucien Lachance, the Speaker of the Black Hand and the man who recruited me. He told me there was a spy in the Cheydinhal sanctuary, and that a purge was necessary. I had to kill everyone.
When it was done, I felt like I’d betrayed the only people who wanted anything to do with me. M’raaj-Dar apologized for his rude behavior only seconds before he was cut down. The orc who always spoke of his comically bad stealth skills died when I sunk a dagger into his back. Even the vampire, whose abilities I’d always been jealous of, and whose powers I’d been offered, had to die. I slipped garlic into his pocket and killed him while he was weak.
On my way out, the only other thing still moving was the skeleton guardian. I was promoted to “Silencer” and given a magical steed named Shadowmere. Walking through that empty sanctuary was a punishment that outweighed any gifts Lachance showered over me. At that moment, I knew I was only at ease when surrounded by killers.
In all of Cyrodiil, there was only one group of people as dishonest and miserable as me. Once it was too late to go back to them, I knew that misery really did love company.