Review by XelhosTallyn

"Great, but could've been better..."

Oblivion. For many, including myself, this game was the avatar of the new-gen console war. Lustrous graphics and an unprecedented player customization system had many gamers drooling, and undoubtedly led many to purchase the 360 simply to play this game. However, for me this game didn't live up to my expectations, not in the technical departments, but in the way the province of Cyrodiil works. This review isn't as much about why I gave this game an 8 as why I didn't give it a 10. Let's begin...

Graphics-9/10
Wow. This has to be one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a few shining stars. The various environments of the game are superbly designed. You can almost feel the humidity and smell the stink of the sewers. You can almost reach ot and touch the bark of the trees. The characters and their garb, be it rags, finery, or armor, all look very real. In short, amazing. The only problems I have are that creatures (animals, not undead and especially not daedra) look rather bland compared to other things and the draw distance is fairly short, meaning there's a lot of magically appearing foliage. This isn't much of an issue to me, though, considering how MASSIVE Cyrodiil is. Oh, and on a smaller note, The races of Breton and Imperial are barely distinguishable from each other.

Audio-10/10
Absolutely beautiful. Rather than trying to have a Grammy-award winning soundtrack that overwhelms the rest of the gaming experience, Oblivion's music takes my preferred route: It's simply immersive. It's very subtle, but just enough to make you feel what's going on. I have to say, every time the "enemy nearby" music starts up, my pulse soon follows. Other than some female NPC's with decidedly masculine voices, this game is audio perfection. It's still good enough for a 10, though.

Story-5/10
This is in regards to the main quest. Emperor Patrick Stewart, er, Uriel Septim has entrusted you, before his death, with the Amulet of Kings to be given to his illegitimate son Martin. Soon, gates to Oblivion (hell) start opening around Cyrodiil, and the demonic Daedra are invading. Look, pretty much you, a prisoner, have to save the world. Really? I'd never have guessed. I find the main story to be outshined by a couple of the guild storylines. Honestly, the main story is nowhere near as fun as the side-quests. It's the classic conundrum of giving a sandbox game a plot: it really doesn't matter.

Gameplay-6/10
The controls are simple, and work well. RT is your weapon attack (or punch, if using Hand to Hand), RB is magic, LT is block, Y is jump, A is interact, B is Inventory Menu, and X is Draw/Sheathe. The problem is that fights often lack strategy, and reduce to trigger mashing. Also, unless you're a High-Elf or Breton, you likely won't have enough Magicka (MP) to use magic seriously. Blocking is a pain, as you pull up your shield so slowly that it's more about prediction than reflex.
There is another problem with the the gameplay: The scaling system. The problems of which are directly tied to the leveling system. Basically, when you pick your class, you take certain skills as major and minor. To raise level, you have to improve your major skills. When you raise level, you choose to increase 3 attributes. Every skill has governing attributes, and using those skills gives you a bigger attribute increase. For example, if you sword slash your way to a level, you'll have the opportunity for a big strength increase. The problem, however, is that if you power level, your character becomes very weak. Why? Because Bethesda thought it would be a great idea if they forced you to use your minor skills to attain the highest possible stat increases (+5, by the way). Basically, if the gamer decides not to use skills they deemed useless to their play style, evidenced by not taking it as a major skill, they are penalized essentially for going too fast. I'm sorry, but the snail's pace required for good stat-ups is downright annoying. In my opinion, the system takes the uniqueness from the classes by forcing you to play all positions anyway. Smooth move Ex-Lax. Because of this, scaling is your enemy, as it is based on level and not character ability. Getting owned by Clannfears (full-grown, NOT runts) at L17 is pretty humiliating. This completes my rant.

Achievements
Not scored, but I feel they're worth knowing. I like Oblivion's achievements. A lot. They revolve around completing the main quest, the 4 guilds, and the Arena. Simple, straightforward, and not Xbox Live dependant, a lone player can prove their merit and dedication solo, and earn the maximum 1000 Gamerscore in the process.

Summary-Very enjoyable and a great demonstration of new-gen technology, but broken leveling and the ensuing scaling problem crush its chances of perfection.
Final score (not averaged)-8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/10/06


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