Review by Ralta

"Revolutionary? Maybe. Sheer brilliance despite flaws? Definitely."

Having owned The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind for 2 and a half years, I got so much out of the game. Now that Oblivion is out, it is easy to see that Bethesda's reputation for greatness is well-earned. I waited for so long, like many others, for the release of this game; I read every article, watched every trailer, listened to every pod cast, but nothing could prepare me for the coming of this game.

Graphics: 10/10

Quite honestly, these are the most magnificent graphics in a videogame that I have ever come across, second to none (not even F.E.A.R comes close). Standing a mile or two away from the Imperial City, atop a snow-capped mountain and seeing the top of the white tower is, in a word, breathtaking. Standing there, I can see the trees swaying in the breeze, I can see a deer frolicking around, looking for grass. Everything about real-life environments has been thought about, and carefully implemented to achieve an awesome atmosphere. My only complaint is the water, which, even though it's realistic (being dark and murky), just doesn't appeal to me (though there are multiple modifications that can change that).

Sound: 9/10

The sound in the game is great – beautifully made musical scores that create a brilliant atmosphere whilst playing. As you're roaming the countryside, a mellow tune will play to set you at ease in the world. However, an adrenaline-pumping battle song will play as you fight enemies. It has a very nice effect and works well in the game. The sounds of sword on items and flesh are very nice – a satisfying ‘clang' as your sword collides with enemy armour, the ‘thwip' of an arrow being released, and the dull ‘thud' as you hit a wooden barrel. They are all very nice and appealing, as are the typical sounds of creatures (birds singing in the day, crickets playing at night and so on) that can be heard throughout the game. There is, however, a flaw that appears in the voice-acting. All the NPC's have been given nice voices that, luckily, don't all sound the same. However, certain NPC's (usually beggars) have two voices. An example of this can be found here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=SsAqyOCIZkk
This can make the game that much more unrealistic, but fortunately it doesn't take away from the gameplay.

Story: 9/10

Not much to say here – fairly typical ‘world in peril' kind of story – you play the warrior hero that is the only one that can save the world from utter destruction. Still a good story – I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Gameplay: 10/10

Ah, the heart of any game – this is where Oblivion truly shines. This game has so many brilliant features that I wish I could fully describe in such a short document. One of the best features of this game is that it's truly a free-roaming game. You can start any of the quests whenever you want – you don't have to do it at all – there are no restrictions, no boundaries, and no stopping your exploration except the creatures you'll encounter in your travels (that and the 16 square miles of land). Want to go plunder a dungeon (there are plenty of them, all with monsters and loot that respawns every 3 days or so)? Go for it. Want to find some quests to do in towns and cities? Go talk to some NPC's, and do those quests. Want to go monster hunting, and level yourself up? Go right ahead – there's nothing to stop you except your own skill levels.

Speaking of which, Bethesda has implemented a new levelling system – as you get better, the creatures around you will get better, and so will the loot you find. This makes for interesting gameplay. If you're finding the game too easy, however, there is a bar in the option menu that you can move up and down to change the game harder (or easier, if you're having trouble). Now, you're doing a quest, but that could involve going to the other side of the map. You could walk, but that would take a long time, as would riding a horse. So what do you do? You fast travel! This feature allows you to go into the map, click on where you would like to go, and be put there instantly (at the cost of a few hours, of course). Simple, no?
Anything else that you want to do – I'm sure that you can do it (within reason – things like marriage are not plausible and thusly, are not included). Stealing horses, for example, is another way of getting around without having to pay a large fee.

Finally; the character creation aspect. First, you choose your race (10 races, all with unique attributes) and then your gender. Next, you choose your face, using multiple sliders to determine all the aspects of your characters face (which makes you unique – no-one else will have the same face as you). Then, you choose how old your character is (looks-wise) and then the complexion of your character. After that, you choose the hair style, colour and length for your character. Finally, once you've chosen your name, you can start the game. After completing the first part of a quick tutorial-like section of the game, you can choose your birthsign, which gives you different spells, attribute effects and abilities. After the last part of the dungeon area, you get to choose your Class (there are many pre-set classes, or you can choose your own from 21 skills). Once you've done that, you're finished! You can go out into the world with your new character (though just before you leave, you can check to make sure that everything is as you want, then you can't change it again).

Mods: 10/10

All I'm going to say is that the mod base is larger than Morrowind's – and that's saying something (it's over 1000, that's for sure).

Pro's:

- Excellent graphics
- Massive number of modifications
- Incredible gameplay
- Ability to create spells and enchant armour
- Join guilds that add to replayability
- Create different characters to try out different roles (mage, archer, fighter etc)

Con's:

- Large system requirements to play the game at a steady framerate
- Many bugs and glitches (though there are unofficial patches to sort those)
- Levelling system can make the game boring (check out Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul mod or similar to sort that out)

Overall

In conclusion, Oblivion is a worthy addition to any gamers collection, and can be played by the casual gamer, or the hardcore gamer. It is definitely worth picking up, if only for the experience. I advise picking up the Collector's edition, if possible – it comes with a few nice extras – a real ‘Septim' (the currency of Tamriel), a pocket Guide to the Empire, and a "Making of Oblivion" Documentary.

I'd give it a good 9.8/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/05/06


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