Review by MasterofFire
"Easily the most engaging Elder Scrolls game yet."
TES IV: Oblivion had a lot of hype and expectations to live up to, and it did so wonderfully. Oblivion continues Morrowind's famously non-linear side-quest gameplay, but manages to balance it with the main story to the point where you actually want to complete both. Instead of simply being dumped from a ship into a massive world, you enter an equally massive world, but this time with some motivation to start the storyline off.
The gameplay of Oblivion is just plain addictive. The quests manage to engage you, even when they are simple fetch missions, and the exploration is amazing. There are hundreds of forts, shrines and ruins scattered about the landscape, waiting for plundering, and though all of them share similar characteristics, they are sufficiently different to prevent boredom.
Oblivion's combat system is interesting, if a bit frustrating at times. The first person melee combat is done very well, with enough animations to prevent getting too stale, and enough variety to make it skill based, but not to the point of giving traditional RPG players fits.
The magic system is awe-inspiring. Once you send someone flying across the room with a lightning bolt, no other RPG will impress you with it's magic effects. The stealth system is also well done, with sneaking being implemented in a manner that stealth game fans will find a pleasant surprise.
The Radiant A.I. system is also a pleasant surprise, with NPCs actually carrying on conversations with each other, as well eating, sleeping, and occasionally stealing things and picking pockets if that character is of loose morals. Storekeepers follow you if you walkk out of their sight. NPC hunters will occasionally fight over a disputed kill, and unarmed mages will run to a display case to obtain weapons if you attack them. The A.I. is not entirely central to the game, but it is a refreshing break from dull robots that stand in one place waiting to say a single line over and over.
Overall the storyline and gameplay are streamlined and interesting enough to provide hours of entertainment, though some may be disappointed to find that a few things have been dumbed down since Morrowind.
Oblivion's graphics are definitely impressive, and make full use of the high end video cards available today. Some of the effects are simply jaw dropping to witness at full quality, but even so the game runs very smoothly, and is agreeably scalable to mid-range video cards, running smoothly(30-35 fps) on medium settings on both of the mid level cards I tested(ATI's 9800 Pro and NVidia's geForce 6600).
The sound effects are nothing to write home about in general, although there are moments when a decent speaker system really shines. You won't have much to complain about as far as sound goes, but nothing will really amaze you either.
Some of the other touches introducted to Oblivion are worthy of note as well. The Physics system is amazing as far as combat and viewing goes, but it will no doubt give absolute fits to Morrowing fans who enjoy complex house-decorating.
There are some crashing issues that seem to plague the game, but most of them are minor and don't affect gameplay(Crashing on clicking "Exit Game," for example).
The travel and quest system has also seen significant improvement since Morrowing. Instant travel is more readily available for those who don't enjoy long walks, though much of the content is only discovered by following roads and exploring.
The compass system will also please those irritated by the lack of direction in Morrowind, though make turn off hardcore exploration gamers.
Overall this game is an excellent buy, whether or not you have experience playing the Elder Scrolls series. It has a little of everything, whether you're an FPS fan or an RPG afficianado. Bethesda brilliantly executed Oblivion, and apart from some tiny flaws it could easily be the best game of 2006.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/28/06
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