The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

August 14, 2009 by Aaron Green  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

Overview

Title: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Release Date: March 20, 2006 (US), April 30, 2006 (EU)
Developer/Publisher: Bethesda Game Studios
Genre: RPG
Platform[s]: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360,

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Storyline

What did you do today?  Because I woke up in prison where by chance the Emperor strolled in, apparently needing to use a secret exit conveniently located within my cell – what luck!  In the process of escaping I encountered some giant rats and restless undead before witnessing the murder of the man who’d effectively freed me.  After that though all was plain sailing; I escaped through the sewers (discovering who I am in the process) allowing me to finally stand amongst the lush fauna of Cyrodill… before being ambushed by five angry Mudcrabs!

 Here’s the deal, The Elder Scrolls IV is a free-roaming first person RPG set in the fictional province of Cyrodill and with the Emperor dead, Oblivion Gates have opened all over the region which of course is where the main plot lies (if by chance you haven’t played any of the previous TES games Oblivion is a dimension inhabited by an evil demon-like race called Daedra).  So the usual role playing format then?  Epic quest to save the world from a powerful impending doom!  Yes.  Though what sets Oblivion aside from the competition is the variety of side quests, sub-plots and the overall depth included within the world.  Guilds all have deep storylines (some with twists) and quests are mostly well written with a collection of unique characters to propel the forward.

Gameplay

With some RPG’s it’s the story that defines the experience not the gameplay but in Oblivion’s case this just isn’t true. 

 The game opens up with the character creation screen which successfully lets the player customize their in world avatar with a near limitless selection of facial features, hair colours, skin tones and eye hues.  Well, depending on race.  The truth is that the selection and personalisation is much more advanced for Human, Orc and Elf characters than it is for the Argonian and Khajiit which is ultimately a shame – both could potentially be very interesting visually and saying that it bothers me that female Khajiit have breasts – baring in mind that they’re felines, shouldn’t they have six?

 Character development soon extends from aesthetics to ability which is first evident in the sewer section of the opening.  The player has to make a few choices regarding attributes and skills which will then affect them permanently going forward.  Most people will have no issues but some will find that wrong decisions at this stage can ultimately level you up too fast and end up having you killed by a simple Mudcrab all because the enemies level with you, as do their skills.  None of this is helped by the fact that your character grows through using his/her skills, not through experience (e.g. let’s say you have the Heavy Armour skill – the more your heavy armour is hit, the more the skill raises therefore the more you level up).  It’s a good idea but it has its flaws.  My advice would be to seek out one of many guides on the internet which will help you best setup your character – it’s only done once after all.         

 Combat is clunky, there’s no realism and most of the time hitting an enemy with that great big bastard sword of yours will look no different visually to whacking them over the head with a stick.  So, don’t expect fantasy violence, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic this is not.  Still, the graphical effects seen in magic and indeed the customization of spells are absolutely fantastic presenting a few pretty ways to kill the ugly things hell-bent on pestering you.

 Exploration in TES IV is aided by a handy compass.  Want to set a waypoint?  Then go into the map or journal and set it!  There’s also a system of quick travel, some places you have to have visited first and some not but as with before just pop into the map screen.  It’s all very simple.  I don’t use the quick travel and very rarely do I resort to the waypointer because I like to ride my horse, stop and pick some ingredients (for my alchemy) and then explore the nearest dungeon – that’s not for everyone though particularly when you run the risk of being turned into a vampire.

 On a final note; the people of Cyrodill are what make the game an interesting place to be.  They all have routines, personalities and can be approached for information but some need persuading.  The player can then engage in a mini-game where they should: bribe, threaten, flatter and brag according to their character traits.   It’s hard not to rant on forever about the gameplay elements of Oblivion, the world is massive and all bar a few sections are open to the player from the moment they leave the sewers from then the options and endless: explore the world, break into houses, pickpocket nobles, fight in the Arena or help the poor – it’s your choice! 

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Graphics

Graphically Cyrodill is hardly flawless.  Sure, the scenery is fluid – grass blows, light shines, rain pours, day turns to night and mountains stand triumphantly in the distance.  So far so good right?  Well… some character models look shabby, somehow they’re beautifully designed yet hideously rendered.  Also objects in the background (such as mountains) are coated in low-res textures for both loading and hardware purposes which destroys the previously unhindered atmosphere of the wilderness.

Oblivion is very impressive graphically, particularly for the year it was developed in.  It’s just there are a few niggles most of which are down to hardware restrictions on the Xbox 360 itself not the game.  Though worth an honourable mention for scenery alone!

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Sound

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion features soundtracks, character voice-overs (featuring none other than the likes of Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean, Terence Stamp and Lynda Carter), all manner of ambiences and a range of sound effects for every occasion.  It’s top quality stuff and to be honest I’ve seen blockbuster films that have faired much worse in this department.   

Overall Score & Replayability

 There are hours upon hours of quests to indulge in.  So expect plenty of adventure and if you’re new to open-world games then don’t worry, Oblivion will guide you every step of the way!  Sure, hardcore role players may find this a little dumbed down but there’s a stash of secret dungeons, an effective difficulty slider and heaps of lore to explore.  In The Elder Scrolls IV there is something for everyone and the potential for at least two playthroughs in-fact the only things stopping scoring 10/10 are a few glitches and a couple of tiny imperfections in the way of character development.