Review by PapaGamer
"More MSPRPG (Massively Single Player RPG) Fun"
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a huge, freeform RPG where you can almost literally do anything you want.
Want to stick to the main story and "finish" the game? You can do that.
Want to ignore the main story and pursue status in a guild? You can do that.
Want to just wander around sticking your nose into everything? You can do that.
You could play this game for 100 hours and never touch the main story. You could play through the main story a half-dozen times and never do the same sidequests twice. The character building system is full of customization and a complex interweaving of skills and attributes. Fortunately, all this is within an interface that is quite simple and easy to use.
This has been the big hype leading into Oblivion. Even on a low-end system, walking outside and being able to see to the horizon is awe-inspiring. There's no clipping distance, "fog" or any other visual subterfuge. You can see as far in the game world as you can see in real life--though the detail that can be seen depends on your system.
If your system was state-of-the art two years ago, you'll be able to run Oblivion on medium settings. It's a good thing the graphics degrade gracefully. Low end systems will get slightly muddy textures and the occasional dip into single-digit framerates, but the game will still look good, and, of course, play well.
The music was composed by Jeremy Soule and is up to his usual standards. This is a soundtrack you should buy. The voice work features a few celebrity actors: Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean, Terence Stamp and Lynda Carter. But, there's so much voice work that, sooner or later, you'll run into some NPCs that sound a bit overdone. Which also describes some of the battle sounds, especially the cries and grunts. There's just the slightest element of cheesiness and not-quite-believable to them to drag the overall score down a bit.
In one sense, Oblivion is a game you can just pick up and play. The first dungeon in the game acts as a tutorial and fills you in on all the basic controls. The game's interface is simple and easy to understand. There are a lot of presets you can choose to get you started right away without going through the customization options.
But, lurking right underneath the surface, is an incredibly complex weaving of skills, attributes, birthsigns, classes, etc. that might be just a bit too much. Those who have played the previous ES title, Morrowind, will actually think there's too little complexity. Several things have been removed and the character building process has been streamlined. But it's still a lot to learn.
Combat is real-time and best conducted form a first-person perspective. There are many different options in combat, from archery to melee fighting to casting spells to backstabbing. In Oblivion, there are always options, there's never a "right" way to do things, though there may occasionally be a wrong way.
Oblivion isn't perfect. There isn't a game that is. But it comes just about as close as is humanly possible. There's so much to see and do in this game, that one could almost make the case it has something for everyone. The biggest drawback is also the biggest draw: the size and complexity make this a compelling, immersive experience, but may scare off all but the most hardcore gamers.
Don't let Oblivion intimidate you. Upgrade your PC or buy an XBox 360. Get the game and let yourself be drawn into the world of the Elder Scrolls.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 03/24/06
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