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Bethesda games, sadly, have been going downhill with respect to playing past the ending quest:

  • In Oblivion, you could play past the game's ending and even got a special piece of armor from it.
  • In Fallout 3, you couldn't play past the ending without buying the Broken Steel DLC.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, you couldn't play past the ending. Period.

How does Skyrim handle the ending mission in this respect?

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To be fair, Bethesda didn't develop New Vegas. Also, I love your avatar. – user9983 Nov 11 '11 at 20:12
I stumbled across an interview saying that you can progress past the ending without buying DLC. If I can find it again, I'll post it as an answer. – Arkive Nov 11 '11 at 20:19
@OrigamiRobot To be absolutely fair, yes, that should be noted. Also, thank you :) – Aeo Nov 12 '11 at 14:41
up vote 35 down vote accepted

Quoting developer Todd Howard:

"When you finish the main quest you’ll be able to continue playing.”

And in reponse to if Skyrim's ending will be like Fallout 3, where you had to buy DLC:

"No, that was a mistake."

Relevent Text
Full video

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Excellent! Let's hope they do this with all future games, eh? :D – Aeo Nov 12 '11 at 14:40

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