Review by 9NineBreaker9

"A Vast World only Destroys Itself, but Everything Else is Good"

When I first heard of the Elder Scrolls series, I heard that “Morrowind was the best game ever!” I picked it up, and was completely disappointed. Nothing about it was good (IMHO), but decided to give the game another go with Oblivion. This time around, I enjoyed it.

Oblivion is a realistic RPG built with immense scope, with the focus being on…whatever. You really don't have to do anything in this game, but everything you do is an adventure in and of itself. However, this does lead to some problems…

The game starts you out as a nameless prisoner, being one of ten races. After being insulted by another inmate, the Emperor of the lands drops by your cell. It turns out that all of his heirs are dead, and he fears for his life. The secret way out just so happens to lead through your little hovel. After following the Emperor and his entourage, you eventually reach the point of no return, as the Emperor's fears are met…with his death. A guard tasks you to travel to a priory, and gives you the king's Amulet. You leave the area, and enter the vast universe of Cyrodill.

From this point on, whatever you do is completely up to you. You could go raid a dungeon, join a guild, even try to kill off a city – whatever you want to do is at your fingertips. You could even go along the storyline, but who would want to do that…well, mostly no one.
My biggest gripe with Oblivion is what Oblivion strives to be: a vast world. The entire would is available to you at once…at first, it seems like a big pro. You can do anything you want. The problem? You can do anything you want.

For example, I made a Warrior character. After I exited the sewers, I decided to raid a quick little dungeon. Three floors…two hours. After that, I traveled to a nearby city to sell my loot. Half an hour. I took and finished a few quests for the villagers…two hours…before I knew it, I was a level 3 character with ten hours banked. Mind you, all of that time was fun, but I soon ran into problems.

Being the “wack-um-smack-um” type, I joined up with the Fighter's Guild. The first mission was to fix a problem with someone's pets. She had rat's for pets, and someone was letting in cougars to kill them. The quest took two hours. You know who is causing it, but have to gain evidence. You kill the cougars, but have to follow a slow-as-an-iceberg hunter out into the wilderness to kill more. And after you finish the thing, you get a measly 50 gold, which won't even buy a bad sword.

What? Seriously? I spent two hours for that? With the giant scope, it oftentimes feels like the things you do are completely worthless. And the measly rewards don't help that fact either. The world is big, which gives you a lot to do. But, it usually feels like too much stuff.
What about the story…um…I never played it. I never, in the many hours I've played this, started one piece of the main story. And why would you want to, when there are guild/cults that kill people? Vampires to be slain, magic to be learned, mines to pilfer. Again, you don't really need much story, because everything is a little story and adventure upon itself.

Thankfully, the combat has been evolved from the horrors of Morrowind. All weapons are realistically rendered and wielded, adding a great realism and fluidity to the fighting. It takes a skill to attack at the right times, block and counterattack, rather than just button mashing. It's a refreshing difficulty that I fully enjoyed.

However, all of the swordplay, archery and masterful stealth is overshadowed by one simple thing; magic. Previously, magic was unimpressive at best (well, everything was). This time around, magic is the single most powerful form of combat in the game. Magic can benefit anything…there are spells for healing, spells for casting flame, spells for turning invisible…spells for everything!

Figuring this out, I made a Mage. Then, the game was impossibly easy. The Mage's Guild (which can be accessed by anyone) provides the ability to make your own spells and to enchant weapons, the two most useful things provided by any guild. With this, I could make kill all spells and armor that reflected all damages.

Becoming bored with my almighty spells, I decided to make a Rouge-ish character, what with the knives, bows and late night shanking. That was fun, but some situations were just over the top. Stealth is a useful component, or rather, all important one, and tip-toeing in the shadows is great fun. Lockpicking is based on player skill. Archery is realistically combined with gravity. However, if someone spots you, you CANNOT stealth back into the shadows…everyone has a innate sixth sense that finds you, not matter where you are…which is not fun when you are running from the scene of a murder.

Over the course of all characters are 21 skills, such as Blades skill and Heavy Armor skill that increase over time/use and raises your overall strengths. With these, you can build up any character you want by focusing on various skills. Each skill contributes to a stat, which can be translated into stat ups when you level. Unfortunately, there seems to be no difference in Blunt weapon skill between 50 and 55, nor a difference in power with increased Strength.

In the end, the gameplay of Oblivion is good. Good combat, big world, but an overshadowing scope undermines achievements and quests, as well as the almighty status of magics.

The graphics of Oblivion is one of the biggest points that sell people quickly to Oblivion. The world is giant, but every inch is absolutely beautiful. The characters are realistic, buildings are detailed, magic is full of flair…just look at any random thing, and look at how gorgeous it is.

The landscapes are beautiful in their own right. The water is vivid, the trees are realistic, the trolls are beautifully violent. Every place has a sort of theme that is perfectly conveyed, no matter what area you are in. My only complaint is that the same design is used for many things, such as buildings and dungeons. They look the same after a while, which kind of ruins the theme.

The sounds of Oblivion follow the size of the game: great. Sweeping orchestrations follow every area…uplifting tunes for towns, chilling songs for mausoleums, adrenaline-filled themes for battle…each one is placed perfectly to convey the area's theme even further. Magics sound realistic, blades and maces clash with great authenticity, and every little sound effect is just right.

The biggest pro under the sound section is the vast network of voice acting. Every character is voiced, and voiced well. Everyone has a personality, every person is filled with color and life, adding another level of realism to the game. Even with everything, I only have one complaint. There are only 21 voice actors in reality: some famous person that really doesn't do much of anything anymore (or at least a star whose name I don't remember) for the Emperor, and a voice for every race and gender. You'll end up hearing the same voice actor over and over, and it get's on your nerves after a little while.

Afterwards, I only have a few minor gripes, outside of the big issues. There is a morality system, but it is so petty and ‘black and white' that it serves no real purpose. Guards are physic and almighty, with the ability to hunt you forever and call support from thin air. Somewhat lamesause guild's, excluding a few Dark Brotherhood missions and the Mage's Guild. A wonky difficulty curve, where the leveling of the world to match yours doesn't match up correctly.

+Pros+
+ Vast world
+ Realistic combat
+ Wide array of weapons, spells, quests and items
+ Wide network of voice acting
+ Beautiful world
+ Great soundtrack

-Cons-
- Vast world undermines achievements
- Magic is too powerful
- Skills way of leveling is unimpressive do to small leaps
- Leveling of world sometimes leads to crazy difficulty curves
- Voice acting can get repetitive

In the end, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a great game. The giant world allows for amazing journeys and adventures, but leads to sometimes weak results. Combat is refreshingly difficult and realistic, but magic is too powerful a force. The voice acting is great, but repetitive. Music is sweeping, but sometimes annoying. The world's leveling system is a love/hate relationship.

But…in the end…I enjoyed this game. It's a great experience, but it does have it's problems. I own both the 360 and PC version of the game, and prefer the Xbox one. It's accessibility and standard beautiful graphics is great, but if you can run this game on a computer (which is relatively difficult), then, by all means, get it. The PC allows for mods, which is a barrel full of fun.

9NineBreaker9, signing off for another CRACKA'-JACK review, if I may say so myself…


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/01/07

Game Release: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (US, 03/20/06)


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