Review by simonsteele

"For those three who haven't played the game yet..."

I really get into my games whether they are good or not.

After a long escape from prison I emerge from the sewers of the Imperial City dripping with sewage, but I am taken aback by how beautiful the landscape around me is. I am greeted by a vast world of hills and trees as far as my high end eyes can see, and my eyes really capture the details and resolution of Cyrodil. The water looks amazing, there are some run down ruins across the way, and I just can't wait to run from the sewer door and go do whatever I want. If I were to assign to numerical value to the world around me I might give it an 8 out of ten which turns into an 80 percent. B-. Not a bad grade.

So I want to get moving because I am a free citizen of Cyrodil, right? Well, the Emperor, before dying before my eyes, did give me the Amulet of Something which I need to take to someone in some place I've never heard, but luckily the Emperor is Patrick Stewart so he used some nifty Enterprise technology and scanned a minimap into my brain complete with markers to make sure I am going in the correct direction at any time. Because Cyrodil is huge place after all. Anyway, with this nice ability to track the exact specific point to where I need to go for any thankless job some guy gives me all that stands between me and dropping off the amulet is the distance between the Imperial City and some city called Chorrol where the person is waiting for the Amulet of Something. Well turns out Patrick Stewart gave me some more futuristic technology before he died as I can use the beam ray from the Enterprise to teleport to all the cities of Cyrodil! Score! This sounds real bad for the local horse breeder economy, but whatever.

At this point I begin to remember I am an escaped con. I'm wearing ugly green pants, sandals, and broken shackles. It's pretty obvious I'm an escaped convict, and looking down to the nearby road I see Imperial Soldiers patrolling the roads on horseback. I sure wish the Emperor would have asked his trusted bodyguards to carry the Amulet of Something as they had way better weapons, armor, and fighting power than me, but I guess he quit trusting them since they let him get killed by some freaky assassins in red robes. Well I can't go along the roads, and I definitely can't go to Chorrol with these irons still on me so I steal off into the woods under the cover of darkness. I am a Ranger, something that doesn't exist in Cyrodil, so I had to rename myself as a Scout. That's good for me because I know how to evade wolves and angry animals which grow hostile once I come into their invisible ring of personal space. So I stumbled through the woods heading south and east, keeping close to the river until the sun comes up. I need tools and weapons I know, but with the sun up I can't chance being so close to the road so I move further east into the low hills. As I am wandering through the hills I come across a small farm. I use my sneaking skills to creep around the perimeter and make sure no one is around. I go into the empty animal pen and find an hammer! Perfect! I break the shackles off my wrist, and just then I hear someone behind me. I turn around to the greeting of a High Elf female farmer. I smile, unsure if she saw my actions. I address her and, in a different voice than before, she tells me the Emperor has been murdered! Holy freak! I only just escaped the prison. How can she know this? She must be an undercover Imperial Soldier hunting me. I grab a wooden club from the wall and beat her to death. I get the feeling someone saw me do this, but it passes.

Well anyway, free of shackles I am much less conspicuous but I want to let things cool down before I go to Chorrol. I continue my journey to the south in hopes of finding some better gear and money. Maybe I can look up some old friends. I cross through the swamps swim over a river, until I come to the city of Leyawin, at the southern edge of Cyrodil. At the gates of the city I encounter a guard who seems rather agitated about a group of smugglers holed up about thirty feet away. He has been trying to hunt them down for ages, he says, but every time he gets close their lookout sounds the alarm and they run for it. Well I agree to hunt them down because he says I'll earn a great reward, and let's face it, an escaped convict in sandals and green pants could use some cash to buy some supplies. So with my wooden stick I run thirty feet over the hill to the smuggler's cabin. I think it seems foolish to set up a smuggler outpost so close to a city, but they are fast runners apparently.

I am first taken aback by the lack of guard outside the cabin--as the guard clearly told me their outside scout always sees him and sounds an alarm. I'm starting to wonder at this point if that guard back at the city is pulling my leg. Well I go inside and sure enough I find three guys--two of them are identified as Raiders (which is bad) while the third has a name. Well they handily kick my butt and send me into the ground to rest peacefully. But wait! I saved saved right before I went through the door. So I go back in and try again, this time running away when things get tough. Well one of them follows me out! We battle for five minutes in the front yard and no one else comes out to help their friend. I quickly learn if I hit and walk backwards I can slowly whittle down the enemy's life meter. Of course if he blocks it sends me staggering back leaving me open to three of his attacks. I get a great idea. I'll block and then hit him three times! So I block and it sends me staggering back so he can hit me three times. I'm going to stick with my first strategy. I finally beat the guy and steal his gear--heavy iron armor! Awesome! But wait, I'm proficient in light armor. So this is no good to me. But I can trade in my wooden club for his iron claymore! Yeah, now we're talking. I'm a nord and I need a big weapon. I go back in and draw another enemy out. I find this fight to be much less aggravating as it only takes about four minutes to whittle my enemy's life force to zero with the power of the iron claymore. I steal his gear--fur armor! I put it on and catch my reflection in the mirror of the cabin. I look like a furry circus clown, but hey, this is the medieval ages and fashion isn't so important. This time I run in and fight the last guy in the cabin without drawing him outside. He kills me in about ten seconds. He is much more effective at killing as he can do it in a fraction of the time that I can. Oh crap, I didn't save since the first time either, so now I have to kill the other two. Okay, after about fifteen to twenty minutes of try to fight past the enemies' amazing ability to block all my attacks, I finally win. I get a message that I should go to sleep as my skills are about to increase! So I go to bed in the cabin after looting everything and I wake up to a weird menu that allows me to increase my attributes. Come on, you know what I'm talking about. It's like after you go to 24 hour fitness and lift weights real hard for a week, when you wake up Monday morning you get a menu that obscures your vision and allows you to add five points to your Strength attribute. I guess I didn't work out hard enough in all my fighting because I only get to add 3 points to my strength. I do that, and then add a point to a couple other attributes. When I clear the menu some dude in a black robe is standing there!

Holy crap!

Well he's an assassin, and he likes how I handled that farmhand back by the imperial city and thinks based off that display I'm qualified to join the Dark Brotherhood, the assassin's guild. I remain silent to all his questions, an old interrogation trick I picked up in the Army, and it works pretty well because he basically tells me everything about his super secret guild. He must be a good judge of character. He gives me a knife and a murder mission and leaves.

Oh yeah, I have some big time cash coming my way for killing the smugglers! I run back down to the city gates and the guard heartily thanks me and says "here, you really earned this." He gives me.....drum roll......20 GOLD COINS! Wait? Twenty gold coins? I just took four times as much off the dead smugglers. For all my hard work I get TWENTY COINS? WHAT THE HECK IS THIS? I attack the guard and he readily hands me my butt and kills me. Crap! I didn't save and I have to start all over! (I later find out there is an auto save feature that kicks in every time I rest, oh well).

As you can see Cyrodil is a huge world and I haven't even scratched the surface. My adventures go on and I learn a lot about the land. Apparently I'm pretty special as every time I level up, the world levels up with me. Soon all the smugglers go from iron armor to super rare ebony armor. Where are they finding all this rare ebony armor? Also I find that everywhere I go the experiences are ultimately the same as my first experience. Since the world levels with me things remain difficult. I complete quests, get small monetary compensations, and there is no sense of creating my own life. Which sucks, because in an open world like Cyrodil I really would like to live out my days as a farmer or hunter who lives in the woods. That doesn't work though, because Cyrodil has weird powers over its inhabitants. Remember that farmer I killed earlier? Well I decide I'll go live on her farm since it's not being used, but when I go to try and lay down on her bed I get a message that says I can't sleep in someone else's bed, it is illegal. This bothers me on many levels as no one ever stopped me from breaking other laws like stealing and murder. So why the bed? Why stop me from sleeping in the bed? That's freakin' ridiculous. I mean I took my chances stealing the gold necklace from the nightstand of the Imperial Dragon King or whatever, took the risk of getting caught, I'm fairly comfortable with taking the risk of getting caught sleeping in someone else's bed! But no, I can't. I'm stuck to sleeping in the beds of only shady people of Cyrodil that I kill. Smugglers and the like. Unless I want to buy an overpriced house and furnish it. Which I don't. So I sleep in smuggler's beds, get bed bugs and fleas, have no friends because all the people say the same things and have no character and are scripted to do the same things day in and day out.

All the stuff I steal I can't sell because merchants can identify stolen material. I guess there is an advanced serial number identification process involved in all attempts to barter which effects all items in Cyrodil (not Tamriel I don't think because back in Morrowind everyone bought everything). These merchants are good. They won't buy my stolen goods. Though something bothers me--if they are so good and lawful why don't they turn me over to the authorities for peddling stolen wares? I mean it is clear by the first quest I took in this world that merchants ID smugglers and punish their antics by death! Else why would a guard allow me to murder those smugglers (trial by steel, convicted by blood just the way I love it)? Why am I not labeled a smuggler and hunted? Well because I have to help the Emperor's heir close the Oblivion Gates I guess. I don't know.

I've come to hate my stay in Cyrodil. What once seemed to be a vibrant open world of endless possibilities I quickly realized was an illusion. The world was created as though some god used a cut and paste function, and here I am, two weeks later, wishing I hadn't left Morrowind.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 07/21/09

Game Release: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (US, 03/20/06)


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