Review by CardigansFan
"A great WRPG, better than Morrowind in some ways"
A game as large as Oblivion deserves a review just as large. Because of this, I'm not only going to go in-depth on just about every aspect of Oblivion, but I'm also going to go review two of the add-ons, "Shivering Isles" and "Knights of the Nine".
Main Story (10/10)
You awaken in a prison cell to find out that the emperor's life is in danger, and you're there to help. Upon his death, you are entrusted to deliver an amulet to a man named Jauffre. In addition, you are to find the new heir, a lost son of the emperor (Martin), and help him on his way to relight the dragonfires, which will stop the world of Oblivion and Mehrunes Dagon from taking over Cyrodiil. Not bad, it combines both a "find-the-lost-person" story with a "stop-evil-from-taking-over" story, and nicely threads it together. Along the way, you do various tasks to help Martin fight off Mehrunes, and at the same time, you fully understand what's going on.
Main Quest (8/10)
The main quest is almost as good as the main story. While the main quest progresses through many different regions around Cyrodiil, with a variety of people there to greet (or attack) you, most of the quest is simple retrieval. So while there are a few times that you'll have to kill, spy on, or escort somebody, in the end, it'll be for some artifact or book. The only reason I'm giving it an "8" is because of the fact that the quest is mostly spread over Cyrodiil, with some unique places too (and even some "epic" moments), but if it were all in one place, I might have well as given it a "5".
Side Quests (9/10)
Talk about a large number of side quests! Not only do you have more than 5 factions in the game that you can rise ranks in, and various tasks to do in major cities, but you even have Daedric shrine quests (where you find shrines of various gods and do tasks for them) and side quests in remote and rural areas. There's plenty of variety here. If you want to steal things right under people's noses and sell them like regular items, then join the Thieves Guild, where you'll steal various objects on request, and even transfer a high-ranking official to another city to make stealing easier for the entire guild. While it may sound fun, and it actually is, it requires much training in stealth, if you don't want to end up paying a fine or going to jail. Surprisingly though, not all of the quests are just retrieval quests. If you want to murder people helplessly in their sleep or even with style (making them looks like accidents), then join the Dark Brotherhood, where you'll murder victims that are a threat to the guild. Also sounds fun, and in this guild, the story becomes thicker than blood, making you think you're doing more than just murdering people that are a "threat". However, there is rarely a mission where you don't go out to kill somebody. If you want to be pitted against humans and creatures of various skills for entertainment, then join the arena, where you'll almost always have another opponent waiting to get his or her hands on you. I find this guild the most fun, because you get to show off your magic and combat skills in killing the enemy, while training those skills at the same time. If you want to really show of your magic skills and show those necromancers who's boss, then join the Mages Guild, where you'll be fighting an endless battle against those who use what we would think as the "dark arts". Fun, and there's not a big amount of retrieval missions here. If you really want to show off your blade, blunt, or hand-to-hand skills, then join the Fighters Guild, where you'll do different missions, such as killing goblins, rescuing a person from ogres, and many other types of missions. This guild also has little retrieval missions, but at the same time, you have to go back and forth between three cities to advance and get jobs, and in addition, the lives of other people might become in your hands when others join the help you. What's greatest about the guilds is that you can be in as many guilds at once as you want, and they will never put your position in a guild at stake. As for the non-guild side quests, some are interesting missions with stories you'll actually want to listen to, while others will be dull, "get-this-object-for-me" missions that you can't wait until they're over. So quite honestly, it depends on what you like to do, but with this must variety, you can't really complain.
One word: jaw-dropping. I've haven't seen a game with graphics this great ever. I just couldn't believe that you could have a game world this big, and still maintain awesome graphics and textures. Each tree actually looks different, whether it be in height, or number of leaves, or type of tree, etc. I just couldn't believe my eyes. But the environment isn't the only thing that has excellent graphics. The textures on walls you normally think of as being repetitive and bland actually look nice. People make realistic-looking expressions as you enlighten or disappoint them, in addition to their nicely detailed faces. Even the weapons, as many as there are, look nice and detailed. As best of all, almost all of the graphics are smooth as a baby's bottom. I rarely come across a place with graphics that seem sharp-edged or very unclear, and this is a big plus for a game of this magnitude. Even the water looks realistic.
Even though this game doesn't have many ranged combat capabilities, they did not skimp on the physics on this game. You have to accurately plan on how you will shoot an enemy above you, below you, or very far away when shooting with a bow. Objects fall at the speed that they should, and so do characters, gaining speed when falling from greater heights. What really amazed me was the fact that water, like in real life, can somewhat break your fall in the game. There was also something that completely shocked me, and that was blades of grass and leaves on trees both moved in response to wind like they should, and water sometimes even rippled too.
Environment Damage (1/10)
This is one part of the game that the producers pretty much left out. You can hit a wall or crate or tree all you want, but you won't see any effects except maybe a few splinters fly away near the blade. But other than that, you'd never know that it was damaged by you. Elemental spells do nothing to the environmental, which means trees won't catch fire from fire spells, water won't freeze from frost spells, and electricity won't conduct to kill your enemies in water from shock spells. And no object, no matter how high it was dropped or damaged, will ever change shape or color. Even when you harvest ingredients from plants, you still see the ingredients on the plants as if you never actually harvested them.
While there is a sound for almost everything, and it's very realistic, the sounds always seem to be the same. Most blade-type weapons will make the same sound when hitting an enemy or wall, no matter the size, and same goes for blunt-type weapons (although they do make a different sound than blade-type weapons). Jumping in water will usually generate the same splashing sound you hear every time. The music isn't bad too; it usually reflects upon where you are, so if you're in the wilderness, you'll hear calm music, but if you're in the city, it might change to be a bit less calm, and when you go into combat, it changes into up-beat music that doesn't stop until all enemies that have noticed you are dead. While the music isn't bad, I prefer to listen to my own music while playing.
Weapons and Armor (6/10)
This game really lacks variety in weapons and armor. What happened to the spears, crossbows, broadswords, scimitars, cleavers, halberds, shortbows, longbows, darts, throwing stars, and throwing knives that were all available in Morrowind, this game's predecessor? What happened to the third type of armor, medium, also in Morrowind? While this game still manages to have a variety of blade and blunt weapons, they almost completely forgot about marksman weapons, and threw out spear-type weapons. There's also a variety of armor for both heavy and light, but it's confined to about major 6 types, from Iron to Daedric and Leather to Glass, while the other types you encounter might not be full sets.
Combat System (10/10)
This game's combat system is a huge improvement over Morrowind's. Bethesda finally realized that it doesn't take skill to actually hit something with a weapon, but it takes skill to hit something effectively. This way you can slash away at enemies, regardless of your skill level, and still hit them. Now when your skill level increases, along with your Strength attribute, the damage you deal becomes greater with all weapons, up to a point.
Enemy AI (4/10)
Big BIG mistake here. I can safely say that the only really "smart" enemies in this game are frost atronachs, spider daedras, necromaners, and conjurers, because they are the only enemies I know of that heal themselves effectively. In addition, all those enemies except frost atronachs can summon other creatures to help them kill you, while they heal themselves and prepare to fight you. Most other enemies just flat out charge to hit you, and then continue to hit you, and block from time to time; however, they rarely (if ever) try to dodge your attacks, and the only enemies that can somewhat "sneak" up on you are marksmen, because you might not realize from where they are shooting from at first. The guards are even more horrible. Even if you can run faster than them, they will continue to chase you (if you resist arrest, even for a bounty under 50 gold) until you are far out of sight, where a person in real life would probably give up after about half a mile and leave the guards in the other cities to deal with you.
At the default difficulty level, the game is just right: it's not so easy that you can waltz through dungeons at low levels without healing yourself once, but it's not also so hard that you're chugging healing potions like a muscle car or SUV chugs gasoline. I also like the new enemy system, where enemies level up with you; what fun would there be if you still had to face the same dingy enemies at level 30 where you originally met them at level 5?
At first, it might seem hard to remember what every button corresponds to, but after a while, jumping while summoning a creature and then attacking becomes a walk in the park. The spell and attack weapons are nicely placed, just as the journal and jump buttons are. They're very similar to most FPS games, actually.
Choices/Non-linear Gameplay (10/10)
I just love how many choices you get in this game, no matter if they end up leaving you in the same place. You can design your character however you want, from race to hair color to nose size. You can do most quests in various different ways, such as making a murder seem like and accident instead of full-out assault. You can do almost any quest at any time in the game, regardless of your main quest progression. You can fast-travel to places or walk there and build your athletics.
Knights of the Nine (7/10)
For $10, you can get a nice quest that will result in a new and nicely enchanted set of armor, two new factions, some NPCs that can follow you and help you (like when you finish the Dark Brotherhood faction), some new locations, and some nice new weapons. In addition, you also get access to a shrine quest (that you can re-do) that clears your character's infamy. What I liked most was the fact that the story was actually interesting, from beginning to end. The only part I didn't like was the fact that this quest is almost completely retrieval, but it makes up for that with the fact that it has some great rewards.
Shivering Isles (9/10)
For $30, you get access to a world about half the size of Cyrodiil, and the main quest takes about half as much time as the main quest in Oblivion, so this is a pretty good deal (since Oblivion originally cost $60). The world is actually two worlds split in half by an imaginary line, all set in an archipelago-type setting. You meet a variety of new creatures, each unique in their own way, get access to some more powerful armor and weapons (for both types of armor and all types of weapons), new spells (such as summoning some of the new creatures), and a twisting main storyline that is both hard to understand and humorous at the same time. And unlike the main quest in Oblivion, more of the sub-quests in the main quest give you more choices, and the next sub-quests and rewards you get depend on those choices. The only thing I would have liked to have in this game would be some more side quests, and maybe some spells to summon some of the creatures natural to this world.
Replay Value (5/10)
There's barely any replay value in trying to beat the entire game more than once, since it takes around 40 to 60 hours to beat it with all side quests, but there's still some fun things to do after you've finished all quests, such as being a vampire, killing entire cities, jumping off mountain cliffs, or role-playing. That's what's great about this game: you can still play for as long as you want after completing the main quest.
So all in all, while you'll have some small disappointments in playing this game or any of the add-ons, you should be more than content with what's available, and sooner or later, you'll forget about the imperfections and play the game because it's fun. Definitely a game you should just go out and buy.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/06/07
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