Review by Mister Sinister

"Extremely deep, detailed and immersive - you won't be disappointed !!"

FOREWORD

Whilst I had heard of the Elder Scrolls name before, this is the first Elder Scrolls title that I have had the opportunity to pick up and thoroughly examine. Like most RPGs I made sure to clear all my e-mails, feed the dog three weeks in advance and lie to all my friends and loved ones by telling them I would be out of the island for an indeterminate period of time before even cracking open the box (such is the usual time-investment requirement of a decent RPG) ... was it worth it ? Read on ...

OVERVIEW AND OBJECTIVE OF THE GAME

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is an entirely OFFline role-playing game, where you create a character and then explore the lands of Cyrodiil - part of the world map well-known to those familiar with the Elder Scrolls series - in search of fame, fortune and a fair bit more besides. What makes this game virtually unique among its peers is that you have an almost unprecedented level of control over the development of your character. You can be virtually anything you choose to be, from a dutiful student, focusing on your skills and working at bettering yourself, to an assassin, thief, gladiator, warrior, mage (from being very generalised to being EXTREMELY specific - e.g. an illusionist or a mystic), mercenary, travelling adventurer, cave-explorer, bandit, vampire-hunter, marksman, knight, property tycoon, alchemist, the list goes on and on. You may even create your own character class from scratch if you like !

With regard to the GOAL of the game ? To be honest there are too many goals to list. There is a main quest that runs through the game, but you will lose sight of that as you sign up with various guilds and undertake missions for them. Fortunately guild membership is non-exclusive, so you are not barred from signing up with the Mages Guild simply because you are already a member of the Fighter's Guild, for example.

It is the myriad of divergent and sometimes pleasantly conflicting plotlines which spin off from your travels throughout Cyrodiil which will continue to breathe life into the game. You'll see ;)

GRAPHICS - 9/10

Fantastic. Absolutely fantasic, as is the degree of interaction WITH the graphics. Characters mouths move when they speak in a manner that approximates what they are saying (not 100%, but as near as I've seen in a game so far (bar Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers)); if you are standing in fields, the grass moves gently in the breeze; animals play in the meadows; the sun rises and sets; clouds roll overhead, in every way the attention to detail in the game is astounding. You can pick up virtually anything you would expect to be able to in real life, from pots and pans to treasure and weapons, and you can move things around as well (by dragging or throwing them away), so you can rattle chains, knock things off tables, throw objects off rooftops, etc., etc.

VERY, very impressive work.

SOUND - 9/10

On par with the graphics, the sound in this title is VERY, very good. There are a number of voice-actors (not quite as many as I would have liked, as you will start to sense the repetition over time, even though they do try their best to put on different accents), and many of the races speaks reasonably differently as well (particularly the Khajit and the Argonians - they are unmistakable). They even have Patrick Stewart as the Emperor ! BONZA !!

The ambient sound effects are very eerie, from footsteps to creaking bones, crackling fires and squeaking rats off in the distance.

The music is a range of beautiful instrumental pieces that lift the tempo and mood of the game considerably, bringing eeriness to your exploration of dark and forbidding tombs, and light-hearted enjoyment to the experience of walking the streets of the Market District of the Imperial City, looking for things to buy.

CONTROLS - 9/10

Again, very very impressive !! As you would expect, you need to use a combination of keyboard- and mouse-commands in order to maximise your interaction with the game, but once you have gotten used to them (and they are all very homogenous with other games you may have played - W, A, S and D to move, left-click to strike an object with your weapon, etc., etc.), you will be getting right into the thick of it in no time !!

It is, unfortunately, slightly complicated doing higher-level combat manoeuvres, as the game does not really cater to overly-sophisticated close-quarters combat (it's basically either you block, strike, advance or move or dodge), but with a little practice, higher-level characters with good agility will be able to backflip and roll in and out of combat range, disarm their opponents and then finish them off - it's just great :)

PLOT - 10/10

There is no single plot to the game. The MAIN plotline begins as soon as you take control of your character - you begin the game imprisoned in the Dungeons of the Imperial City for a crime you do not recall committing, but are soon freed as the Emperor and his Blades (his personal bodyguard) need to venture through your cell as a matter of urgency, as the Emperor's life is in immediate danger, and the secret escape route they are planning on taking goes straight through your cell !!

You tag along with them for a bit as the game teaches you the basics of play (spellcasting, looting corpses and treasure chests, levelling-up, picking a starsign and character class, and a few other niceities), and then you're pretty much on your own !

You are given one lead - a direction given to you by one of the Blades - so you can either comply with that (thus continuing on with the main quest of the game), or you can head off in any direction you choose to seek fame, fortune and adventure on your own !

The game comprises a number of major cities, from the harbour-town of Anvil to the towering spires of the Imperial City; from the ruined city of Kvatch all the way up to Cheydinhal and beyond, and each of these cities holds a number of quests (and secrets both light and dark) to lure you into it.

The beautiful thing about the plot of the game is that no matter where you go, even if you just walk off the beaten track for a minute or two, there is BOUND to be something you can do. Even once you have completed every single mission in the game (which will take you WEEKS of regular play), you will still be able to explore all the nooks and crannies that you overlooked - it's just an absolutely HUGE game.

GAMEPLAY - 10/10

Given the extremely high-degree of interaction throughout the game, from the initial character-creation process right through levelling-up, exploring, looting, pillaging *wipes a nostalgic tear from his eye* and beyond, you really do feel as though you are creating a rapport with the character you've created. He or she will adapt, and develop as you see fit.

You progress through the ranks of the guilds you join, setting your sights on the highest of positions attainable in each (if you've the aptitude), so this means you have a number of roles and obligations to consider (thieves NEVER steal from beggars for example, whilst warriors of the fighter's guild will not even be CONSIDERED for joining if they have a bounty on their heads) whilst you are playing.

Each of the skills your character picks up is developed through use, so if you use a repair hammer to hammer some of the kinks out of your battered armour, for example, your armourer skill will improve. If you shoot somebody with a bow and arrow, your marksman skill will improve and so on. You pick major and minor skills to round-out how your character develops, and must improve your major skills a certain number of times to level-up.

All in all the enjoyment and involvement you get from delving into and exploring the game is absolutely fantastic - REALLY enjoyable stuff.

REPLAY VALUE - 9/10

Whilst this score decreases over time (as it does with any game), until you get to the point where you have explored LITERALLY every single area of the game, downloaded a whole bunch of mods and played those to death, bought all the expansion packs and finished them and so on ? You WILL want to keep coming back to this game up until that point. It's the sense of intrigue and depth that the game boasts which makes it so moreish - it's REALLY hard to put down.

VALUE FOR MONEY - 10/10

This game is worth every single penny that it costs, no questions asked. Whilst I do find it slightly irritating that you have to buy the official add-ons, I wouldn't ask for them to stop being made. Likewise, there are a number of official expansion packs including the Knights of the Nine and the Shivering Isles, all of which are very worth having.

Finally, there are a HUGE number of unofficial (and often VERY very cool) mods out there that you can download for free, so the only question I have is ... why haven't you already got yourself a copy !?!?!

OVERALL - 9/10 (This is NOT an average)

VERY very enjoyable to play - literally every minute of it. There are times when you will be adventuring in the wee small hours of the morning, skulking around some crypt or another and you will LITERALLY chuck your mouse in the air when you turn around and realise there's a Vampire barrelling down the corridor towards you, ready to take a bite out of your neck - MANY a cup of tea has been spilled on my keyboard (and lap) in such moments of terror I tell thee.

For its longevity, its sheer depth, the beauty of its graphics, settings and nuances, and clarity of speech, this is quite simply a MUST-HAVE RPG title for anybody looking to invest weeks of their lives in an RPG game - BUY ... IT ... NOW !!

MAIN GOOD POINTS

* WEEKS of gameplay.
* Beautifully detailed and highly-interactive graphics.
* Clear sounds, and very cool ambient noises and music.
* Miles and miles of game terrain to traverse, including major cities.
* Plots and sub-plots coming out of your EARS.
* It's entirely offline, so if (like me) you don't "do" online games, it's for you.

MAIN BAD POINTS

* It's entirely offline, so if you do "do" online games, you might find the lack of interaction with other human players to be a bit offputting.
* Once you have completed everything (no matter how long it takes you), there are no really cool re-spawning quests (I don't want to spoil it, but the ones that ARE re-spawners aren't all that amazing), so the longevity hits a bit of a brick wall at that stage.

SO SHOULD YOU GET IT ?

* Yes !! Buy it now !!!!! NOW Y'HEAR ME ?????


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/06/07


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