Review by ReavenMK
"Giant and immersive game."
Hi, this is only my third review ever, but I'll try to do the best I can in analyzing this game. I'll follow several GameFaqs guidelines in my approach, including Score parameters, and its standard formatting style. I'll also try to grade some of the topics, since everyone likes to see how much each thing scores. :) However, the final score is not going to be an average, since it shall reflect my overall feeling on the game. If you don't like or for whatever reason don't want to read the entire thing, read the Introduction at least, it will give a good sight of what you'll find.
Warning: I played the game without using mods, so I can and will only pass my experience on my feelings on the non-modified game.
Oblivion is about experiencing it's world. You'll see me telling you to experience the world a lot in this review. And that's what you should do.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a non-linear, free-roaming, Action RPG game. Feeling tired to always move on tracks, even when apparently you're given the chance to change the story (Knights of the Old Republic-like)? Then here's your game. Oblivion's premise is that you can do almost everything you want, whenever you want, however you want. You're not stuck to a main quest; in fact, you are, from the closure of the tutorial, free to do whatever you wish. Think I'm kidding? Well then, don't play the main quest, instead, try to make yourself a career on the Fighters or on the Mages Guild. Or don't do it, just roam the world, visit places, interact with characters, discover dungeons, whatever you want. You'll have plenty to do: many of the sidequests will give you a full experience just like the main one. Don't be confused however, the game doesn't even pretend to give you much choice on changing the story, it doesn't focus on that.
In the beginning of the game you have to choose between many races and classes. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and you can also customize your choices. What you choose in the tutorial will be for the rest of the game, however it doesn't limit you that much. While you can choose strength over speed, you can balance this as you level up. You can also train all your attributes: from athletics to weapons and armor skills. Example: if you run or swim a lot, your athletics will go up.
One of the best things in Oblivion is that you really don't have to do anything. And you also can do everything. Oblivion is a game which you make the rules: you can play it any way you want. You're not stuck to a difficulty level; you can change whenever you want. You can save almost anywhere, even in battles. You can fast-travel (more or less a teleport) to the main points of the world and already visited places, or you can go on foot. These features do not make the game easier or anything, they just let you play the way you want. If you want to save and load every time you time to pick a lock, ok. If you want to downgrade a difficulty battle, ok. If you don't want to do neither, ok. It's all on you.
The game also features what is, in my opinion, an incredibly immersive world. In more or less real size, you cross mountains, swim on rivers, get to know cities, caves and other places. Because you can go or not go to anywhere, all cities can be as much shallow or dense depending on how much you deep you go into its problems. Also, there's almost no cutscenes, so you can interact with everything, even attack someone while they still talk about how impressive their evil schemes are. There's a visible effort in making the game "real": random weather, people having to eat and sleep, etc.
Also, there's no point in having to much freedom and details if there's nothing to do with them, right? Right. But Oblivion is far from having nothing to do. There are TONS (and I really mean it) of sidequests, and some are as long and interesting as the main quest. You can also train all you want, explore the IMMENSE map world and search dungeons if you're up to it. Sticking only to the basic main quest however, Oblivion still is a good game, though you'll lose VERY MUCH for not exploring on your own.
I must say it now: even if you think you're not going to like it, if at least you're a RPG fan (Western or Eastern ones), give it a shot.
There is a lot of things you can make your character do. You can move in either first or third person, and combat with a variety of types of weapons and armors. You also can specialize in the way you fight: a full tank Warrior, a sneaking thief, a long-range Marksman or Mage, etc. You're not bonded to the common RPG class laws, therefore, if you want to use a full plate armor while being mage, and also use a huge axe, you can. Your attributes include Strength, Endurance, Speed, Intelligence, Personality and Luck, and each (except Luck) rules one of your many abilities: Athletics, Acrobatics, Speechcraft, Block, the many different types of magic, weapon and armor, etc. Luck, as the game tells you, helps in everything.
Also, you have to keep track of three bars: Health, Magic and Fatigue. The Health is an obvious one, the Magic allows you to cast spells, replenish over time, and Fatigue is used as you jump, attack while running, etc, and is quickly replenished as you take a break. Becoming too Fatigued will make you drop on your feet, running out of Magic will make you have to wait for it to replenish so you can cast spells, and running out your Health, well, will make the Load menu prompt up. You can walk, jump, sneak walk, run, swim, and dive. All while exploring the world to your heart content. So you won't ever be lost, there's a World and a Local Map, and both have arrows pointing your way if you're on a quest, which you can choose and trade whenever you wish. You can also rest and sleep (which prompts a Level-Up Screen if you have gained enough experience).
The combat is simple: swing your weapon, shoot it, or cast a spell. Protect yourself (with your weapon or with a shield). Recover your health. However, there isn't much deepness really: you don't have different keys for different types of attack, like a weak and a strong one (you can attack while running of jumping, but that's it). The differences in the combat stands in how you do it: sneaking, using direct weapons, long range ones, spells, etc. However, even if the combat system isn't THAT MUCH DEEP, this doesn't mean it tires fast too, as it's not so bad, and the addictive elements of the game will make you forget these issues, and your focus will be definitely be on your surroundings, not on your actual movements. It isn't Devil May Cry or God of War, this isn't a pure ACTION game, and definitely, the focus is on the RPG elements. On the other hand, the combat plays a huge role, and for this, it should be better, as combat in third person is very awkward, and even in first person it isn't much of a joy.
Talking to people or hearing they talking with each other will grant you quests and subjects to talk to other characters that will eventually lead to more quests. Once you accept it, you can read what you have to do in your Map/Quests Menus, and the Maps will show you an arrow pointing to where you have to go. A Red one if you have to go to another place, a Green one if it's in your area. Also, you can follow these arrows with your compass as you move. In the World Map screen you can fast-travel to any known location, or to the cities, as long as you're in the open, and there's no enemy nearby.
Talking provides opportunities to shop and allow conversations. This conversation part is a mini game that involves you saying things that the NPC can like or not, and so, help with their disposition to you. In my opinion, this is the shallowest thing in the game, as the complexity of dialogues is narrowed down to a tiresome minigame. Of course, with the exceeding number of NPCs, this can be justified, however, there's no gain or need or anything else in raising the disposition of most NPCs, so it's a waste.
You can also pickpocket and lockpick targets, however being caught will give you a fine or even arrest. I give the arrest system as an example of the variety of things Oblivion provides: upon being caught, you can choose between a) pay the fine and lose all your stolen objects b) go to jail c) resist arrest. Going to jail will make you spend a time in prison, and lose abilities; HOWEVER, you can even try to escape prison! And making good friends with the guards will make them even look away at your crimes sometimes.
The game also provides a great number of NPCs, even though the cities sometimes feel empty. Nonetheless, you are allowed to talk with everyone, even if they don't have anything to say to you. You can be wandering in the streets, and suddenly, someone approaches you and invites you to a quest. The NPCs don't stand still, waiting for the oh-so-might protagonist to show up and give meaning to their life, no, the game simulates behaviors and schedules for everyone, so, if you want to shop, you'll have to go while the shops are open. Resting or Sleeping (the first can be anywhere without enemies, the second in a non-owned bed) will help you pass the hours to when you want, though the max is 24 hours.
Even if obviously is not, the games passes the impression that it is alive: NPCs that have schedules, random weather, the possibility to attack and kill almost everyone, impressive landscapes that actually takes time to run through, etc. What I think it's also a nice touch is that you'll find a huge number of "useless items" such plates, or other common objects inside houses or other places, and this contributes to making the world a real place, not an empty world that exists only so you can take quests and fight monsters.
As I told you in the introduction, the sidequests are an important element. They are actually, most of the game, and probably where you'll really enjoy the game. Not that the main quest doesn't give you satisfaction, but it's just a small part of it, and you shouldn't concentrate or stay just on it. There are dozens and dozens of sidequests, small and big ones, and the later ones many times being as complete as the main one. Usually games have just one storyline, but quests here are so massive, that you'll actually find many interesting storylines. As I said before too, while the game gives you freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, it doesn't actually works in the way of actually changing things. This isn't a good or bad type of game, where the events match your own choice. It doesn't pretend to. You can be good or bad, but usually will only change some quests and the overall disposition of the NPCs on you. The biggest problem is that almost all quests involve entering a underground dungeon, and that really could be diversified.
Oblivion is in no way a short game, and it isn't supposed to be. Should you hurry it, only wanting to finish it, you'll waste your play. It's a game that takes time, exploration, and even patience. It's a game that cannot be rushed through, it has to be enjoyed. I am someone that usually rushes to the ending, and here I was compelled to stay.
Being this huge of a game, it's expected to have a lot of glitches, and a lot of bugs and glitches you'll find. Sometimes they'll even wreck your experience and your gameplay, but they can be avoided by saving a lot. Even the game itself tells you that you should save a lot. All the FAQs will also tell you to save a lot. So, save a lot. This way, in the event of encountering a bug, you can load and backtrack only a short way.
*I am an anti-spoiler freak, if you are like me, you won't want to read anything this next section, as it may spoil you, even though I tried to do it in a minimum*
Basically, Oblivion has simple stories, yet immersed in an epic setting. There's also (again) a huge effort in the creation of the game mythology and other stories, as you'll be able to read (if you wish to) in the many books dispersed over the world that'll give you many details about the history of the places you visit. The Main Quest consists of a typical epic plot, that does it job, but in no way pretends to be a revolution in storytelling. Other long quests follow the same.
What I think is that while the story is there, the game doesn't help in making you really CARE. You do things because the game's fun, but I didn't feel motivated to proceed with the quests for the stories alone, and I'm a guy that does complete games sometimes only because I'm interested in the story. I will repeat: the story is good, it does it job, its just that, I don't know why, maybe because the "do if you want" factor, the story goes to a second plane.
Also, your character is YOU. He has no background (besides being in prison for whatever reason in the beginning of the game) and don't talk. You can only choose his lines, and the choices are very limited. So, don't expect character development. Actually, there's no much character development neither in you neither in any NPC.
Nonetheless, all quests, allied with the addictive gameplay, will make you want to do them. There's a few long quests, almost the same length of the Main one, and a LOT of small ones, that many times will provide interesting situations.
I'd like also to note that the characters, even the quest ones, are in general very bland, with an exception or two. Here, it seems there wasn't much effort in making the characters, even the main ones, very interesting, but they also don't completely go to the extreme boring side. Also, there're some quests that some characters, even main ones, can die, and even if they die, the story will move along, and that, for me, was something that compelled me many times to begin start liking and therefore saving them.
For a better understanding, I'm playing this game on a Intel Core 2 Quad 2400 4GB RAM and GeForce 8600.
Well, first, I'm not a graphics or an audio expert or enthusiast, I don't understand, mind or care about specific technical superiority or how many types of graphic or audio enhancing features one game has, I only see if the game seems and sounds pretty or ugly. And I guess this game has ok graphics and audio comparing to it's release day standards. It's not a game that actually impresses by its beauty or its music, but because of its size. I think you can criticize a small game with small scenarios that doesn't have an impressive texture or beautiful trees, but this game's world is ENORMOUS. You'd literally take MANY hours crossing it, and the landscape and the cities are somewhat realistic. Even the sizes too are more or less proportional to the character and to the house's inside space compared to its the outside space (you know, games that houses are 10 times bigger inside than outside). So, what I'm saying is that the size of the world and the places compensates for a non-ultra detailed graphics and character modeling.
I think the thing that will annoy most people, as annoyed me, its the generic-ness of the character modeling and voicing. I've seen MAIN CHARACTERS with the same voice and face as a generic NPC, and I frankly think it was really unnecessary. Yes, I agree that when all dialogues in the game are voice acted, repetition over voices in NPC is understandable, even repetition in their appearances, after all, there IS a lot of NPC. But I'd like more attention at least to the main ones. And I think that even if there was a lot of NPCs, and it's impossible and unnecessary for every NPC to have a different voice and face, they should have given even more voices and faces, so it would lessen the problem.
The music is convenient and while not one for remember, does it job just fine. Overall, aside from some problems, the game is actually pretty, and nonetheless what you think of it, at least it won't bother you.
Play Time/Replayability (10/10)
Really, now. This game is ABOUT Replayability, it isn't even focused on a main story. And you won't regret it isn't. There's a LOT to do in this game, and I REALLY mean it. Aside from the Main Quest, there's TONS of long and short quests, TONS of items, TONS of dungeons to be explored, and chances are that even if you probably can complete all in one game (after a LONG time, maybe 60 hours+, without mods), you'll be wanting to play a second time, with a different character. I, for one, played with an Imperial Warrior, and now I'm thinking in playing with another race's Thief, or Assassin. Depending on what you are, combat experience will change a lot.
Also, as I said in the beginning of the review, I never used mods, but from what I hear, playing Oblivion in the PC will allow you to install a great number of mods (alterations made by the developer or even gamers), that will expand your experience, and even fix some things that the players didn't think it worked well. There are also two official (non-free) expansions, a small one, Knights of the Nine, and a larger one, The Shivering Isles. Shivering Isles will provide you a new (while not so big as the original) world, with new quests, new storyline and new perspectives. It's really worth it.
Oblivion is a huge game and one that you don't see every day. And If you haven't played any game of Elder Scrolls series as I haven't, then you'll be surprised. If this game's better or not than its predecessors, I have no idea, but it IS a good, huge and well done game. Lots of NPCs, random weather systems, useless items, are all things that barely affect the gameplay, but are a change from the expected NPC standing waiting you/Cutscene rendered weather/empty places. The major and minor skills also give depth to the game, and make you feel like you need to train so you can be strong, and training WILL make you stronger. Run a lot, and your athletics will go up and you'll run faster. Block a lot, and your blocking will be more effective, etc. It's a game that you can finish without paying too much attention to the details, but focusing on them will give you a much better experience.
Overall Score: 8/10 - Great - fun to play, some minor but no major flaws.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/21/10
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (US, 03/20/06)
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