Review by ManeMane
"An unbiased look at Oblivion."
Welcome to my review of the Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. This game as you probably know, is the sequel to the popular game Morrowind. It is part 4 of the Elder Scrolls series and it was released on both the X-box 360 and PC. This review is of the PC version of course.
When coming up with this review, I decided to take my time with it and try to explore as much as Oblivion as I could while not rushing to get a review out only days after the game released. I feel this is important for the reviewer, because the first day or two of playing the game it maybe too easy to fall into all the hype without realising some of the cons that go along with the game. My goal here was to give people my unbiased look at this game, and tell them all the great things I love about this game, and some of the things that I felt weaken the game.
This game has some beautiful graphics. The characters, the weapons.. the scenery, all outstanding stuff. One thing that might bother some players is that the landscape is only details a short distance away, even with the slider on max. The weapons like I've said look superb, but I want to say one thing I've noticed about the character models. They look great, but they don't show enough emotion, especially in certain situations.. for example when I threaten to kill someone and the NPC is screaming for his life, he does not look that scared.
Music: If you played Morrowind, its pretty much the same thing. After a while I just sorta stopped paying attention to it, it is repetitive, but at least the tracks aren't lousy.
Sound Effects: Great stuff, no complaints here. Things sound for the most part as they should.
Voice Acting: My only real problem with the game. The voice actors do a fine job, but each actor/actress does the voice of way too many characters. Basically all male redguards are the voice of every male redguard you will come across.. same with a female orc, or a male orc.. you will get used to hearing these same voices from many different NPCs in shops, in quests.. in everything. It gets old. I really wish they had some more voice actors.
Whats to say, if you played any FPS game on a PC then you're going to feel right at home. You can adjust the keys you want(Most of them). There are a few that I would have really loved to have changed, but I was not able to and thats why I deducted a point.
The interface of this game is bad.. for a PC game. Its obvious that this game was made for the 360 in mind and the interface proves it. The way the save system works is a pain, and you'll find it difficult to manage multiple characters until you get a mod that makes it a lot more manageable.
The second thing that sucks is the inventory/map/spells/items/journal screen. I don't know how to really describe it, but it is not very good.. they can all be accessed by pressing journal, which will take you to a window with a bunch of big tabs each with smaller tabs. The letters are too large and the result is you having to use the scroll too often, and it doesn't seem to work with a mouse scroll wheel. There is a mod that makes the interface a lot better by making the font smaller, but other than that it still feels sloppy.
I want to make one thing clear. The date I write this is April 9th 2006, and as of now there is no patch yet for this game. I assume there will be, and thats a good thing.. because I want to say this now, the game is buggy. There are plenty of crashes and bugs in this game, and I thought I'd get this out of the way on the first paragraph because hopefully.. by the time you're considering purchasing it, this will be gone. I am not going to mark the gameplay on these bugs, but I want you to know that they are there until a patch is released.
With that out of the way, I can talk about
First lets start with character creation. I think it sucks. There are plenty of sliders.. I mean a lot, for your nose, jaw, chin, ears, eyes, everything. Thats fine except for the fact that too many sliders cause too many other sliders to move. It can make something that should have been simple into something that is a pain in the butt.
You will find yourself going back and forth screwing with sliders you just messed with because one slider you moved to the left put three other sliders more to the right. It can make it difficult for you to make a character look the way you want, and this is most evident when trying to give your character a decent looking mustache. There is so many sliders, you'll find yourself needing to move one slider because your mustache isn't dark enough, but in turn its trying to give you a goatee at the same time.. so you have to balance that out, and before I knew it, for some reason my character's skin under his chin and his neck turned blue. It was the oddest thing I've seen, and I just gave up on the mustache altogether. I hope that a mod is released to stop other sliders from moving when you just want to move one slider.
The Radiant AI is something I found to be really cool. Its what gives the NPCs life.. they will go about the day living their life, and engaging in conversations with other NPCs(The convos are always them trading one phrases to each other.. but still, its nice to see something like this in a game). They all have their own schedule, and they will go to sleep at a certain time.. some will go to a bar a certain time and drink.. I love it.
Now for the general AI of the game.. it has its share of problems, for example: I have gotten on my own horse only to be called a thief and confronted by a guard. This maybe considered more of a bug then an AI flaw.. but other things include killing an NPC in front of another NPC while in stealth.. and that NPC may react by pulling his weapon out.. but in a lot of cases they'll just stand there, or walk away and go about his business. There are other small ones that I don't feel the need to nitpick about.. overall I think the AI is alright. Nothing spectacular and you'll notice things from time to time that will make you shake your head at it.
The combat system of this game is pretty good. The feeling of dealing a devastating blow to your enemy is great. Throw in some ragdoll physics and you've got something really cool.
Ok for the combat itself: Swordplay is pretty simple. You can tap attack and do weak attacks, or you can press forward and hold down mouse and perform a thrust.. or press left/right/down and hold down attack and do a spinning attack. I've had a character that used left/right and attack that did a sideways move then a thrust. Blocking is pretty important for a melee fighter.. but it feels like it can take too long to get your shield up in time to stop an enemy attack. Overall its pretty good, but it can be annoying when too many enemies block all the time.
Bow and Arrow: Great fun, my personal favorite way to fight. The arrows are pretty slow so I recommend a mod that speeds them up. My favorite way to fight is with stealth, because once you raise your sneak up you will be able to do 3X damage with your bow, and 6X with a melee weapon. It is very satisfying shooting an enemy in the head with a sneak attack for an instant kill, and then coming over to see your arrow went through the NPCs head. Unless your bow is enchanted, any time you shoot a target the arrows will stay on them where you show them(Unless its a main character you cannot kill, if you shoot him in the head he will fall unconscious and the arrow will be in his belly or somewhere else).
Magic: Its what I've used the least so I don't have much to say about magic combat. I used other magic like invisible to help me escape out of sticky situations..
Overall the gameplay mechanics are great, especially the combat..
Small and boring. Thats the best way to describe it. There are occasional monsters and wilderness animals to kill, but not much. You can run a long time and not find anything in this little world.. there is not many interesting things to find besides the usual cave/shrine/small dungeon. And the feeling I've gotten was once you've gone through one, you've been through them all.
In all honesty, I had more fun exploring the small world of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The world of Oblivion feels lifeless and just boring.. and that is a major blow to the gameplay to me.. because it just feels pointless to explore. There is a lack of adventure in it.
NPCs and Leveling:
The leveling system in this game is awful.. what I mean is, it often feels like there is no point. Every time you level, all of your enemies get stronger too.. in their combat. So if you spent three levels building up your sneak, the enemies of this game spent 3 levels getting better in combat. It can make this game frustrating. To me it felt better to make my main skills things that I won't use to avoid leveling too much.. while keep things you will use away from your main skills categories.
For example.. don't put blade as your main or minor skills category, and you won't level when you keep raising the skill through use. Therefore, you can max this out and NPCs will still be low level.
Another thing that sucks about this system is that items that NPCs sell or items you get by exploring dungeons are all based on your level.. meaning if you go exploring all the boring caves in the game at a low level, you will only find low level loot.. basic steel sword and etc. And when you get high level a lot of enemies will have the best stuff in the game anyway.. so they take the need to really want to explore and find cool equipment with this.
The main quest was something that felt like.. the storyline was too big for the game's britches. What I mean is, they try to go about it like its something epic, but the lack of NPCs in the game will make it feel a lot smaller. Imagine watching Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and seeing the King giving a large speech to 14 guys in what is supposed to be a large battle.. thats the best way to describe the whole main quest. Also, its short.
You can be a gladiator.. which isn't really a guild.. but you can rank through it and get paid. Its short and very easy, can be done in an hour.
Fighters Guild/Thieves/Mage Guild: Be everyone's gopher, same crap as the original.. not too much of a reward at the end.
Dark Brotherhood: Really really fun set of quests.. it also felt short to me, but it was very entertaining. I wish every other guild was as fun as this one.
After you beat all these there isn't much to do in the game. Some of the things you complete will allow you to do some pointless task every 7 in game days. But there is nothing really to keep you playing.. the world is boring, the guilds are so-so, with the exception of the Dark brotherhood.
You can make a whole different type of character, but in the end you won't have anything more to do then the same quests you've seen before.
Buy or not?
I reccommend that until they patch this game you do not buy it. Once they do I think it will be worth it. There aren't enough action rpg games like this.. but if you are expecting to find limitless adventure in a world that will keep your attention for months, you will be disappointed. The game is a lot smaller and has a lot less stuff to do then you may have hoped for.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/10/06
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