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While exploring a random pocket of Skyrim, I noticed an unfamiliar icon in my navigation bar. I’m glad I decided to investigate, as it turned out to be one of my favorite moments in The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim so far.
A fellow green-skinned Orc greeted me as I approached the recently stumbled-upon stronghold and invited me inside without any hesitation. This NPC gave me special treatment based on the type of character I’d created.
As in other RPGs of its kind, the first major decision you make in Skyrim regards your ancestry. One could expect that the decision would have no effect on the protagonist’s place in the world and that NPCs wouldn’t give any thought to what you are, whether human, elf, or lizard-man.
Given the setting, a Nord would fit the bill. It even seemed like the default choice was the game’s way of saying, “Hey, you’ll be seeing these guys a lot around Skyrim."
"Maybe you should try to fit in a little.”
It would be fair of Bethesda to give additional attention to the Nords and maybe the Imperials, seeing as they both have a dominating presence over this particular part of Tamriel, just as the Dunmer were featured prominently in The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind.
Including exclusive quests or extra lines of dialogue for each of the title's 10 playable races would be quite an intimidating task. A difference in skills is enough for some, and the limelight you’re given for all the Dragonborn business makes you feel unique regardless of your character choices.
But I personally appreciated it when one of my own kind extended a warm welcome when others would have been met with caution and sent on a quest before gaining entry to the hold. The guard even commented on the fact that I’d been living in the city too long, away from the Orcs' culture. I was able to learn a lot about traditions and values from the people within.
Touches like this allow for a certain element to emerge that open-world RPGs sometimes forget about: role playing. I’m not just a blank, green-skinned avatar who just so happens to have an ability that modifies damage dealt and damage taken. My character is a city Orc who found himself in the land of Skyrim, which as it turns out, might be his true home. And his journey has gotten him in touch with the traditional Orcish values that he might have lost by being away from his people for so long.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim allows me to be that Orc. Having not played the other races, I can’t speak for them. But I hope that other players have had similar immersive experiences, even as small and seemingly insignificant as an NPC acknowledging their heritage.