Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Review

Bethesda has always been able to make the Elder Scrolls series of games a truly ambitious and overwhelming experience with a huge, open-ended world and excellent RPG elements. Morrowind was the last entry into this series, and as good and endless as it was, it still fell short in several key areas. Bethesda has now set out to make the necessary changes in their latest title, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Although the game has been in development since Morrowind first shipped to stores, it was just officially announced in 2004. Since then, Oblivion has gathered up a huge amount of hype and anticipation. Of course, the problem with any game that receives too much hype is that it usually doesn,t meet our elevated standard of expectations. So does Oblivion actually live up to its hype?

Oblivion goes far beyond what we could have expected from a newer RPG, and it,s definitely not just another sequel in the Elder Scrolls series. It,s very different from Morrowind and also much more fine-tuned, overall. In fact, just about everything in the game has been improved upon or completely redone in one way or another. While Oblivion may be an entirely new experience with a whole range of new features that have never made it into an Elder Scrolls game before, it still does an excellent job at keeping to the same feeling and excitement of all the other games in this series.

Oblivion features one of the most robust character creation systems ever seen in any RPG game. There are three steps to creating your own character starting first with the appearance and race. There are ten races in all to choose from including Imperial, Khajiit, Nord, Orc, Redguard, Wood Elf, Argonian, Breton, Dark Elf, and High Elf. Each race has its own benefits that can be used to suit your particular play style. Such as choosing to be an Imperial gives you an extra strength and endurance point which is excellent if you want to play the game as a warrior. Also NPCs generally have different responses toward you depending upon which race you chose and whether your character is male or female.

Once your race is chosen it,s then time to customize the appearance of the character, and this is where the character customization really takes off. You can morph and shape your characters face anyway you want by using simple sliders. It works a lot like the character creation in The Sims 2. There are a lot of sliders to adjust such features as the nose, chin, cheeks, eyebrows, eye color, etc. There are also a number of different hairstyles and hair colors for each race. Such a large amount of customization ensures that no two characters will look exactly the same. It,s really fun to fool around with these features, and you can make some truly hideous looking people.

The next part of the character creation includes your character,s birthsign. There,s a large number to choose from, and they all have different benefits. A lot of the birthsigns are great for going the route of mage, warrior, or thief. Most of them are tailored to be designed for a specific style of play, but anyone of them can be chosen. Choosing the right birthsign can give you an excellent attribute to your specific style of play such as extra skill points or other special abilities. This is the point in the game where you really need to think hard about how you plan on playing through the whole game.

The final portion of Oblivion,s character creation lies in choosing your character,s class. Just like the birthsigns, there are a large number of different classes to choose from. Each class has its own favored attributes such as strength and personality for the Knight class or strength and endurance for the Warrior class and so on. Under these favored attributes is also a list of the major skills that are in that class. Major skills can range from anything such as stealth and alchemy skills to heavy armor and blade skills. These major skills play a big role in the game as increasing these skills is the only way to level up later on. So it,s important that you choose the right skills that fit the way you want to play the game. This is another part where you really have to choose wisely, but you can also decide to create your own custom class by choosing your own major skills and favored attributes.

Once the character creation is over, you then find your newly generated character in prison. That,s no surprise here as just about every Elder Scrolls game has started you out in prison without any explanation as to why you,re there. This beginning level serves as an introductory tutorial. This is where you pick up your first weapons and get a taste of some combat.

The combat in Oblivion is far different from that of Morrowind. Morrowind,s combat was completely based off of your stats, and even if you actually hit a creature it sometimes would tell you that you missed since it was more of a random dice roll making it a lot like an MMORPG. Oblivion,s combat, on the other hand, plays out more like a first person shooter. This makes it a lot more enjoyable, since you actually have to hit the enemy directly and can now block with your shield or weapon manually. There are also a few different moves that you can utilize with melee combat including slashes and power attacks. Ranged weaponry is also a lot more fun this time around.

Fighting is one of the best ways to raise your main skills, and this is important since it,s the only way to level up. When you level up, every other character in the game levels up with you, so if the guards are 15 levels higher than you when you,re at level 1, then they,ll still be 15 levels higher than you when you,re at level 12. This is both good and bad. It,s good in the sense that the game ensures that it,s never too hard or too easy. After all who wants to start the main quest at level 20 and then breeze through the whole thing? However it,s also bad, because it sort of diminishes the whole concept of leveling up. Overall, though, I do like it this way as it,s not really noticeable, and it makes the game even more different every time around.

Of course, if you don,t want to go in swords a-swinging, then a more stealthy approach may be in order. This is one area of Oblivion that is done extremely well. The stealth aspect may not be as fine-tuned as the Thief series, but it,s definitely close enough for a RPG. Your character’s ability to effectively sneak around is based on their stealth skills, but it,s also based highly on the ability of the player. In order to sneak around and steal, you need to stick to the shadows. Thankfully a very helpful eye appears onscreen when someone can see you in sneak mode. Approaching people from behind to attack them will give you extra damage points, adding a bonus to stealth kills.

It,s the fact that just about every quest can be done any way that you want, and every quest feels very different from one another that makes this game so fantastic. There aren,t an abundance of "go here and get this" or "kill this guy" quests. Every quest feels like a completely new and interesting adventure. There,s also no shortage of quests, either. About 30 hours in, I had completed all the Dark Brotherhood quests, did a few side quests, explored a few towns, found about 15 dungeons, and didn,t even start on the main storyline quests yet. Once I beat the main storyline quests I had logged about 60 hours of gameplay and still had quests to complete for the other three guilds (Fighters, Mage, and Thieves), still had a large amount of side quests that weren,t done, and still had an enormous amount of stuff that still wasn,t explored. Keep in mind that there are actually over 200 dungeons in this game, ranging from caves and mines to ruins and forts. Each one is like a maze on its own and can take up to an hour or more to explore thoroughly. There,s literally hundreds of hours of gameplay here, and it seems to never get old.

The dungeons are actually a great way to make a living and seem like little mini adventures all on their own. A lot of loot can always be found in dungeons, which you can then sell to any of the shops in Cyrodiil, and thanks to the new fast-travel system, you can do it in a snap. You can actually buy horses now, which are a lot of fun to ride around Cyrodiil and are definitely a fast means of transportation.

The end of the first level is where you finally get your first breath of fresh air in the land of Cyrodiil. The world is just absolutely stunning. Bethesda has done an amazing job at recreating some of the most realistic forests and scenic areas ever seen in a game. There is a huge variety of trees, bushes, flowers, grass, and other plants just strewn about through the game world, and they all move realistically with the wind as well as their shadows. Different plants can also be picked in order to create potions for use in alchemy. Along with this, the weather effects are excellent as you can see the dark clouds coming and the wind picking up before it rains, and the sunsets look beautiful over the land at dusk.

Unfortunately, though, the graphics aren,t without their flaws. The long viewing distance is excellent, as you can see the Imperial Palace Tower from just about any point with in the enormous game world, but this comes at a price. Ground textures that are far away look very low-resolution and ugly, and there are also constant (but very short) loading spots everywhere. Another downside of the graphics is the people. While the lip-synching is better than expected, some of their animations seem a little too stiff.

The new Radiant AI (RAI) system is easily one of the most impressive elements of the game. The AI system in Oblivion isn,t necessarily revolutionary, but it creates a very believable and realistic world. Basically every single one of the 1,500+ NPCs that inhabit Cyrodiil has their own distinct schedule to follow each day. So different people will wake up at a certain time, go to work, eat, and go to sleep, and this is the limit of their scripting. They can do their scheduled events anyway they see fit. So they may decide to steal their food or go to the local tavern for dinner. They also have random conversations with each other which don,t always sound fluent, but they still add to the realism.

Just to see how random the AI was, I decided to follow around one character in the town of Skingrad. She claimed that she was really good at making wine so I decided to see if that was true. Keep in mind that 1 day in this game is roughly 48 minutes of our time. At 6:00AM she woke up, left her home, and headed for the local chapel where she sat and prayed. 7:00AM, she left the chapel and went to work in the grape vineyard outside of Skingrad. While I was watching her at 9:00AM, I noticed a bandit chasing a poor civilian down a nearby road, another sign of the unscripted RAI. As soon as the bandit ran by me, a local guard and I quickly dispatched him. At 11:00AM my target decided to take a 2 hour lunch break where she sat in a local shack to eat her meal. 1:00PM rolled around and she left work to do some gardening behind her home. At 6:00PM, a beggar wanders into the same backyard and steals an onion. 7:00PM, she stops working and eats dinner, and 2 hours later goes in her home, where she finally goes to bed at 12:00PM. Now imagine all 1,500 NPCs having different schedules and living their own lives. Even though you don,t notice the RAI in effect right away, it,s really fun to watch and adds so much realism to the game.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has some excellent sound effects and music. The sounds of swords clashing and other weapons in a battle really add a nice touch to the combat. The whole environment is also heightened with the enjoyable sound of birds and wildlife roaming the grounds and the sounds of crickets at night. Once again, the music in Oblivion is just as good, or better, than that of Morrowind. The music is again composed by Jeremy Soule and is simply excellent.

Overall, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is one game that should not be missed. It,s one of the most enjoyable games I,ve played in years. Although it may have a few minor flaws and annoyances, none of these are truly game breaking or ruin the whole experience. There are a lot of great details in the game, such as the lock picking and speech craft mini-games. The latter of which is used to raise the disposition level of how much a NPC likes you, enabling you to get more information out of them. Oblivion offers up an overwhelming amount of content, coupled with one of the largest and most realistic environments ever seen in a RPG. Furthermore, if you,re not a fan of RPGs, that certainly shouldn,t keep you away from this game. At its core it is a true RPG, but the game allows you to play with a wide range of styles, including stealth or pure action, which should appeal to a lot of FPS fans. In any case, Oblivion is a lot of bang for your buck, and it comes highly recommended.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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