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Great moments in PC gaming: Stealing an Elder Scroll in The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.    

The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Year: 2006

Oblivion was my first Elder Scrolls game (I'd briefly tried to play Morrowind on the Xbox but it just didn't take), and I didn't know much of anything about the series before I started playing. Most importantly, it never occurred to me that the Elder Scrolls were actually a thing. It just seemed like a good name for a fantasy game. Elder gods, old paper, yada yada. I get it. So there I was, deeply absorbed in Oblivion and taking orders directly from the Gray Fox, the mysterious leader of the Thieves Guild, when I'm told I need to steal a damn Elder Scroll. From the Imperial Palace. It's that moment when a character in a movie says the title, except instead of groaning (The World is Not Enough) I was full-on, hell yeah into it (Snakes on a Plane). It's really all in the execution. 

It felt like I was about to steal the original Ten Commandments tablets or something, a holy object I had previously assumed was pure allegory. The timing was also perfect. This was my first guild, I was still fairly low-level, and the stakes of this mission conveyed that anything-is-possible sensation we're always chasing in new, still-mysterious game worlds when we haven't found the edges of what you can do. And it was intense as hell, because the Imperial guards could still absolutely wreck me if I got caught.

The thing that really cemented it for me was that I did get caught—or, rather, spotted, which meant I was running in terror from a small army of Imperial guards, the most treasured relic of the Empire tucked away in my inventory. I couldn't stop moving or I was dead. Somehow I made it to the secret chute in the fireplace and survived the massive fall with the special boots I was given for just this occasion. I made it!

There are many ways that mission can go, and it won't impress as much if you can sneak past the guards with ease or survive a huge fall with a shrug. But if you do it early in the game, by the skin of your teeth, it's a thrilling heist and one of Oblivion's most memorable moments.

Wes Fenlon

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games. When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old RPG or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).