Review by Flare_Dragon123
"Oblivion is one of the most deceptive games ever made."
Review for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion
Developed by: Bethesda Softworks
The fourth installment of the popular TES series is a celebrated landmark of new age role playing games (henceforth: RPG). In the months before I was able to play this game I was excited to play it, like really excited, anticipation like I've never felt before, and had I written a review in my early days of playing this game, it would've been a much different ball game then.
The Elder Scrolls 4 (henceforth: Oblivion) is a game that manages to impress immediately out of the box. When I mean impress, I mean the game knocks you off your feet, sticking you into a huge world of freedom the likes of which aren't seen on typical console games. Within the first hour you are left completely on your own to explore and characterize however you see fit the large world of Tamriel.
As you play on and gather up hundreds of hours you'll eventually realize a lot of that was a whole bunch of painted cardboard in the background of the limited area you really get. Oblivion is easily one of the most deceiving games on the planet, and I'm going to tell you why.
Now looking at the face of Gameplay alone, this is still one of the best interactive experiences you can get in terms of just being a game. Oblivion follows the tradition of dungeon crawlers before it, with the core of Gameplay centered on the goal of taking and making your character stronger. This is done mainly by getting better gear. Typically for dungeon rompers, the dungeons ARE the way to get better gear. While dungeons are certainly lucrative there is a LOT more to Oblivion than the dungeons (of which there are a couple hundred) that I'll get to later.
In battle you use simple controls to do things like use your weapon, use your shield, cast spells, and the other several things you can do. You can choose to be a rough and tough warrior, a sneaky rogue type, or a spell flinging Mage, each of which change the way you'll tackle battle and possibly role play your character.
There are thousands of items in this game, but few of them really impress. The core equipment, your weapon and your armor, will scale up only through the use of different material types. In other words, the improvement goes in this fashion: Iron Swords are weaker than Steel swords which are weaker than Dwarven Swords, and so on. This can be said for all the equipment you get, and it unfortunately doesn't feel that special. There's not a whole lot of excitement in finding something labeled so generically, but that's being a nitpicky.
The equipment gets its real flare whenever you begin finding enchanted equipment. That's when you start finding things like Longsword of Asskickery and Badass Bow of Make of Feel Like a Man, and so on. The only bad thing about most of the enchanted items in Oblivion is that, through a small hour or so of questing, you gain the ability to make your own enchanted equipment, and this makes most of the random equipment you find in dungeons like cheap side shows.
Speaking of Questing, there are nearly as many quests as there are dungeons in this game. You will spend far more time winging it with random dungeons and free form quests than you ever will with the main story quests or even the scripted town quests.
When you do cool down your epic treasure hunt and your holy crusade against goblins and demons, you will find that all the pre-made quests in Oblivion are all done really well. Most, in not all, have a nice back story and make you feel engrossed in completing the quest. There are normal quests you would expect to find, ghosts invaded my ship go kill them all please, and typical fetch quests like that. But the game really lays it on in its unique quests. One quest had me scrounging the castle of the local Count to find a missing painting that had disappeared one night. The whole quest played like a Whodunit? style mystery, and had me really interested in finding out.
There are a whole lot more Gameplay facets that I haven't discusses, such as bargaining with shoppers, talking information out of people, and repairing your own armor, lock picking doors, and etc. I will get to it, but break briefly for another part of the game.
The story of Oblivion sticks you into the shoes of a prisoner placed by fate. You start the game in the Imperial Prison, for an unnamed crime (a great way to start your role playing experience is to decide on the crime your character did and how they feel about it). Before long the ruler of the land, Uriel Septim (henceforth: Emperor) gets escorted in to your cell with his special bodyguards maneuvering him from an unknown danger. As they move him through, telling you to stand back, he stops and eyes you.
You were a vision in one of the Emperor's dreams. He tells you to tag along with them, and that your fate would be under minded by leaving you in your prison cell. As it would go, the Emperor is soon attacked and killed, leaving you with the cryptic message and task to close shut the jaws of Oblivion.
As you leave the starting dungeon and advance the plot, you find out that the Emperor had an illegitimate son that is now the sole survivor of the bloodline and therefore the only rightful heir to the throne. The plot quickly surrounds getting this heir to the throne, and battling the forces of Oblivion (a sort of Netherworld or Hell) as they try to kill the heir.
The story quests always leave open spots for you to casually walk out and in to do your own thing. The only bad thing about the main story is that it doesn't change at all to your character. If you were the most infamous man on the face of the planet, they are still happy to welcome you in and do all the dirty work needed for saving an entire country and kingdom, so the story is not dynamic.
In the end, you've seen this story before, and while the ending is a nice twist, it's not the greatest fantasy epic ever told. But it is good enough to hold you in your seat wondering what is going to happen next.
Character Development 5/10
Now, I've discussed briefly in the Gameplay section what making your character means. To be more in depth, your character has seven stats and twenty-one skills. The stats are all typical enough for an RPG, Strength, Intellect, Endurance, etc. and the skills represent the three different aspects of your character, the Combat, Magic, and Stealth aspects. Combat holds the skills for weapons, heavy armor, and things like armor repair and athleticism. Magic is the seven schools of magic, from the normal fireball and snow storm Destruction, to the Skeleton Summoning Conjuring, and even to the telekinetic Mysticism. Stealth holds abilities like Sneaking, Lock picking, Archery, and things like Speech craft, and mercantile.
When you make a character you pick or make a class that has a focus on one of the three aspects. You cam pick two stats to detail the aspect and you can pick seven Major Skills. No matter what you pick you can still excel in all the areas and develop every skill, the Class simply picks what is going to be the highest at the start.
To level in Oblivion, you raise your Major Skills by a total of ten points, then you sleep, and you pick stat bonuses depending on which Major and Minor skills you raised. This system seems good enough on paper, but its actually one of the worst in gaming. Essentially, if you pick all the Major Skills you want to use a lot, you'll find that you level too fast, and you won't have good stat bonuses by the time you level.
This shouldn't be such a downside, but it is. The reason why is that Oblivion works on a leveling scale. For the early part of the game most enemies will have a set level, Imps for instance will never be higher than Level 5. But by end game (the leveling lists for items and new creatures maxes at Level 25) almost every enemy will be made to be on-level with your character. If you are level 35, the enemies will be level 35. If you are level 55, the enemy is level 55.
Now what you're probably thinking is, but if I'm Level 55, and I leveled correctly, then I should be ultra strong, and able to take on Level 55 monsters, right?
Wrong. As it happens, the leveling system will always leave you weaker than the monsters. At higher Levels you will always be chugging health and mana potions in order to stay in the fight with enemies, and after you max Strength and your chosen weapon skill, you never do more damage you max out!!
So you could be level 50 doing the same amount of damage with your sword or war hammer that you were doing when you were level 8. Yeah.
In other words this system makes Leveling extremely terrible for any reason, but if you want the best armor and weapons in the game you have to level.
This undermines the point of leveling in games, you can be a super powered champion of the land, but you'll only ever fight super power champions of whatever enemies your fighting, they'll never be weaker than you, you'll always have a long drawn out fight that just isn't worth it.
Oblivion is a great game when you start it up, and can even be a fun experience if you stay at a low level. Unfortunately, the way they handled the leveling system ruins a chance for fun at higher levels, which kills your drive to get to higher levels, which kills your drive to play the game.
The fact that Oblivion was awarded Game of the Year is a travesty, one of the worst failures in the critical gaming community to date. Such a flawed game should never have been given such a lucrative award.
So why did it? What does Oblivion have that others have.
I'll tell you what it has. The modding community. Oblivion was released with a mod building package that allowed anyone to create a mod that could then be shared online with the entire community. This led to the creation of several fixes for the most deep rooted problems in Oblivion, as well as made the game world expand tenfold with what vanilla Oblivion had to offer. I've sunk hundreds of hours into Oblivion, and the largest reason is because Mods exist.
If your playing Oblivion on a console, you are missing out. Is this unfair to the console community? Yes. Absolutely. Oblivion should never have needed the amount of fixes that are available in the mod market today, they failed terribly with the Leveling system to the point of making a game next to unplayable.
I also stand by the fact that a game should be playable out of the box, and for me, Oblivion is hardly playable out of the box. I don't want to waste weeks of my life leveling something that is never going to become a demi-god of men, without remaining at Level 1. Oblivion failed to impress. Get it for PC, mod the hell out of it.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/09/10
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (US, 03/20/06)
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