Review by lighty691
"Good enough to rival almost any RPG game"
The Elder Scrolls IV - Oblivion is a single player role playing game developed by Bethesda Game Studios in March 2006. As the title indicates it is the fourth in the Elder Scrolls series but is the first on the Xbox 360.
To give a brief background to the game, Oblivion gives the player the change to explore a whole new world with almost complete freedom. You begin the game by selecting the type of character you want to play as. There are various choices ranging from humans through to Orc type creatures which all have their individual features and skills. You also start by selecting a particular class which will decide what your best skills are and any special abilities and spells you will be able to use on a day to day basis. You are then taken through a short "training exercise" of sorts that introduces you to the controls in the game whilst also setting the storyline. Once you have completed this initiation section the game opens up considerably. However we will go into more detail on this later on in the review.
Graphically, Oblivion has some of the best graphics on the console to date and is one of the major selling points of the game. This becomes particularly evident once you have completed the previously mentioned "training" section. After spending the whole of the game up to this point in dingy jail cells, sewers and underground passages that have very little light you emerge from the end of the sewer pipes into a beautifully vibrant and lush environment that really takes your breath away. You find yourself out on a lake with lush forests and birds flying overhead which is a stark contrast to what you had previously and really wins over a lot of the first time players. Oblivion is a game that boasts a huge amount of non-playable characters in the game, across several different races. Each of these races has been created beautifully, moving and acting exactly as you would expect. Each race is clearly obvious, for example humans can be instantly differentiated from the other races like Orcs and the half cat half human creatures called Khajit. There is a great deal of facial interaction with these people and the facial expressions and mannerisms have been created with unnerving realism. Similarly the weapons, armour and other items in the game are perfectly created. When changing armour it sits perfectly on the characters unlike other games where it can sometimes look a little unnatural. Finally the last section that needs mentioning regarding graphics are the in-game menus. These are again very clear and concise and have been well constructed, even if they take a little bit of getting used to initially. There is a wealth of useful information and have been designed to be in the style of an old well used book, in keeping with the theme of the game.
Music and sound effects in games can be a vital part of a game depending on the genre and RPG games are no exception. The music and sound effects can be the difference between a great game and an average game, or even a poor game. Oblivion strikes the right balance between too much and too little. Whilst you are out roaming the world you have a nice calming tune in the background that doesn't overshadow or drown out anything with the actual game. The pace of the music also changes and speeds up considerably when you are under attack or mid battle which is a great way to add tension to the moment. In RPG games the little sound effects are a really important in creating a realistic environment and a world that is believable. Oblivion covers this particularly well as the sounds of running feet on the grass and gravel paths throughout the game are perfectly in time. There are also little touches such as echo's in the large hallways and castles to give the game that added sense of realism.
As mentioned previously, Oblivion has a large amount of NPC's which also means there need to be a lot of voices to go with that. The voices have been well recorded in this game and sound very natural most of the time. Often in RPG games, particularly those that need to be translated, the voices can sound disjointed and sometimes completely out of place but this is not the case here. There are several different tones of voice depending on the situation and the characters feelings towards you and these are also very realistic.
Another essential area of any RPG game is the control. There will be lots of interaction with other characters in the game and often complex magic system and menus to get to grips with so it is essential that the controls are easy to use in order to avoid frustration. To be fair the controls in Oblivion are fairly standard for a game of its type with set buttons used for jumping and picking up items for example as well as set combinations for interacting with characters and fighting situations. One area of the controls that isn't particularly good is way the characters just. For some reason Bethesda just didn't get this right and the characters look a bit strange when they jump, however this is a very minor part of the game, particularly if you are playing in first person mode. Also navigation of the menus can also be a little confusing at first but this will become second nature once you have played a fair chunk of the game. You use the shoulder buttons along with the main keypad buttons to access all the menus which does become confusing as you have sub-menus within some of the main menus.
Along with the gameplay, probably the most important part of any RPG game is the storyline. A game without a decent storyline generally will not succeed particularly well. Oblivion's storyline is set in the world of Tamriel which is a medieval type world of knights and royalty. You begin your journey as a lowly criminal who finds his or herself in jail. As the story progresses though you become increasingly tied to the fate of the emperor Uriel Septim and are destined to shape the fate of the whole of Tamriel against the forces of evil. The main storyline is a good one and will keep you well entertained through to its conclusion. The only slight criticism is that it is possibly a little shorter than it should be, however this is more than made up for by the huge amount of side quests that are on offer. The characters do the job that they are supposed to without being anything spectacular. The characters all seem to be fairly similar in personality without many differing characters. Also some of the side quests can be a little bit repetitive as you find yourself in similar caves seeking similar targets.
As mentioned in the previous section the gameplay is a hugely important part of the game and Oblivion excels in this area. Firstly character creation and development is very open and allows players to shape and mould players to their specifications. All players start with specific areas that they are particularly strong or weaker in but these players can be modified over time to create stronger characters. Whilst on the subject of characters it is probably worth noting that there are several different races that players can choose from, ranging from the Human race to Orcs and the unique half cat, half human Khajit race. As regards playing the game itself there is a wealth of additional missions and jobs to complete through the game. The main way to do this is to align yourself with one of the "factions" in the game which involves completing missions that involve fighting, magic, the dark arts or even theft. These will raise your profile around the world and will also give you access to the best weapons, magic and armour. There are also some unique events that you can participate in during the game. This involves thieving and murdering which will often result in you being thrown in jail and either forced to pay a fine or lose all of your possessions to do jail time. It is quite an art to try and steal valuable items without getting caught and will provide a real challenge to players.
With such a large world to explore it would be rather frustrating to have to travel from one side of the world to another so the developers added in a feature that allows you to "quick travel" to specific locations which moves the game clock on the correct amount of time whilst only taking up a few seconds of loading time. Considering it would take a couple of hours (real time) to run from one end of the world to the other this is quite an important feature. There is also an option to wait or go to sleep if you need to wait for a specific event to happen at a specific point in time.
This brings us on to another point. One area of the gameplay that can be a little annoying is that a lot of the time in specific missions you have to meet people at certain points in certain area. The game sometimes has you waiting around for periods of time or often chasing NPC's around which can be a little frustrating. Also using stealth can be difficult because of the very broad senses of the characters. Even when in different rooms characters are still aware that you are there which makes sneaking around and stealing difficult. Regarding the difficulty of the game, players can also change how hard the game is, particularly as regards the strength and frequency of attacks from enemies.
So in conclusion, Oblivion is a game that really ticks pretty much all the boxes. Graphically it is excellent and the gameplay will keep you going for many, many hours. The controls are good and the music fits in well with the overall theme and vibe of the game, which is why it gets a very high score. Highly recommended to all gamers.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/31/11
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (EU, 03/24/06)
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