Review by TKDBoy1889
"The quintessential open-ended RPG experience"
The Elder Scrolls lV: Oblivion is an interesting experience in that, when my cousin and I first bought it, we quite early on because of frustration and confusion. But later on we discovered that was because we simply had little experience with this type of RPG. After deciding to give it another go, we got hooked pretty fast and never looked back. Oblivion is the fourth game in the running Elder Scrolls series, and it is one of the best open-ended RPGs I have have ever played in my life. This is the kind of game that allows you to do whatever you want, whenever you want. It is completely non-linear and rich with detail and lore that will keep you hooked for a long time.
Oblivion is your medieval fantasy type of RPG. A game of swords, magic, and monsters. You start of as a prisoner serving time for some unknown reason. Your fate seems to be tied to bigger events as the emperor is being hunter, and the secret escape goes through your prison chambers. After earning freedom through what seems to be coincidence, you learn from the emperor that he believes you are the one seen in his dreams who is destined to stop the world from being overrun from the demonic dimension known as Oblivion. After he is killed, you are entrusted with the duty of finding the rightful hero to the throne and helping defend the world from a supernatural invasion of monsters. It's a fairly old tale, but it's told really well and there is some interesting backstory that links it all together.
You can do that right away, or you can decide to go out, explore, and do whatever you want. Yo can start, perform, and finish quests whenever you want, and this includes both side quests and the main storyline. You are free to do whatever you want. And you are free to b the person you want to be. You can be a benevolent defender, an evil assassin, or a mercenary who simply does whatever pays good money. And you can be whatever kind of character you want to be. You can be a swordsman with strong healing magic, a stealthy archer, an axe-wielding sorcerer with powerful destruction magic, and many other combos. There are so many skills you can level up and master, from blades to archery to mercantile skills to lockpicking to six different classes of magic. A total of 21 different skills that level up as you use them, linked to 7 attributes like strength and willpower and agility and such. These are what shape your style of character. As you use skills, they level up, and when your character levels up you can increase your attributes. And focusing on certain skills gives you benefits, as skills unlock perks to make them even stronger as they level up. As if the skills and attributes didn't bring enough variety, even more variety comes in the form of what race you choose to play as. There are 10 races to play as, each with their own strengths and unique powers that set them apart from others. You have the lizard-like Argonians that can breath underwater, the Bretons who have strong resistance to magical attacks, and so on.
What really makes Oblivion such an amazing game, however, is that it's it's an extremely vast world with tons to do, in order you want. After completing the tutorial questline, you can play an entire game without doing a single official quest if you desire. You can play the whole game raiding dungeons, killing enemies and taking their loot and selling it for money to buy houses and new items. When you decide you do want to start doing some quests, there plenty to choose from. You play this game for 100+ hours and still find new quests to do as well as new dungeons to search. You can join the Fighters guild to perform noble quests defending the citizens of Cyrodiil. You can join the Mages guild and spend the game performing quests that strengthen your knowledge of the arcane arts as well as benefit your fellow scholars. You can be a cunning but honorable thief in the thieves guild, a group that steal from the rich while protecting the oppressed poor. And for the truly evil characters you can join the Dark Brotherhood, working your way up the ranks as you perform assassination contracts in the name of an evil chaotic entity. And each guild is more than just quests pertaining to a style of character. Each guild offers benefits. The Warriors guild offers advanced skill trainers as well as merchants that only serve members. The Thieves Guild are the only ones with merchants who will buy stolen good. Want more? There's the arena where you can pit yourself into fights for gold and fame. If you prefer not to fight yourself, you can bet on fights and watch other fight each other if you want. And there there are countless random quests that can be found in every city and almost every hamlet or inn you come across during your travels. Simply put, there is a lot to do. Want to just aimlessly kill random citizens, or break into people's houses and steal from them? You can do that as well. And at the end of the day, you can take a break from all the fighting and killing and sit down to read a book, learning more about about the history of this world you are in. And there is plenty to learn, so much history and lore and detail that brings life to this world. This isn't just some random fantasy world. It's like a breathing, changing world that exists all on it's own. And it's a massive world consisting of nine cities, eight of which are filled with all kinds of content and quests to perform, as well as new people to meet. And many people may have interesting, or important info that they will only reveal to you if they like or trust you.
Of course, what you do will have some consequences. Performing quests that are helpful or noble grant your fame, while performing evil quests will grant you infamy. People will look at you differently depending on your past deeds, usually being more inclined to trust you when you have a lot of fame, or have done a quest specifically for them. Merchants who like you are also easier to haggle with, while those that don't are harder to get good prices from. At the same time, if your infamy is more than your fame, you lose some services, such as praying at alters to cure yourself of ailments. Also, committing crimes in a city will be reported if seen, resulting in a bounty on your head. If you are caught stealing or attacking someone or breaking into a store, you have to pay your fine, serve jail time, or flee as the guards attack you. Serving jail time is free but you will lose some skill points, reflecting your isolation and lack of training while in a cell.
Speaking of which, there is plenty to do in terms of combat. You can wield many various types of melee weapons, use bows, sneak around, or blast through everything with powerful magic. Combat is varied but easy to get a hold of. If you are carrying a melee weapon or a shield, you can block to stagger enemies and then counter attack.. Melee weapons also have different stats of speed and power. Small weapons like daggers are fast but weak, short swords a bit stronger and slower, etc. It adds nice depth to the variety of weapons. Of course you can opt for archery instead, firing from a distance and out of harm's way. Or of course you can go for magic, a skill most players use to at least some degree in this game because of how awesome it is. There are six schools of magic, each with different focuses. Restoration magic heals you and cures ailments, destruction magic causes direct damage to enemies, conjuration magic summons creatures to fought for you or bounds demonic weapons for you to wield, etc. Every school of magic has a purpose and each have some powerful spells at their disposal. And magic has some unique properties in that there are scrolls that you can find, items which can be used to cast a spell you may not have the skill of magic to use otherwise. of course, if fighting is not your thing, you can simply sneak around and stay hidden while you search for what you want. Sneaking is, however, somewhat limited. It's entirely possible to staying hidden but once you are discovered, there's almost no chance of hiding again in the same area. When sneaking, it's best to stay hidden the whole time, no attacking and then retreating.
There are also plenty of enemies to fight in Oblivion. You'll come across bandits and marauders that use weapons, necromancers and mages that use various magic spells, Animals that charge fast and attack, and various monsters that can physically attack on top of using various spells or powers. There are a ton of enemies to fight in the game, from petty bandits to heavily armored thugs and small imps to ogres and minotaurs. Many of the animals and monsters also have various weaknesses and immunity to certain attacks, requiring variety in attacks. That steel longsword is useless against some enemies and that lightning spell may harm some enemies a lot but others very little. This results in a need to have some variety in battle, which is good as it keeps things interesting.
In Oblivion, one thing is noted is that as you level up, enemies level up with you. bigger and stronger monsters and animals replace weaker ones as you reach high levels, and human enemies will wield stronger weapons and armor. This has earned some complaints, but it works for this kind of game that let's you explore anywhere at any time. This way, you aren't too likely to walk into a death trap of overpowered enemies early in the game, and it also keeps the enemies from becoming too weak later in the game. Weak enemies would be too easy and take away the fun and challenge. Some dungeons do have specific types of enemies that are locked in, usually ones tied to bigger quests, so there are some dungeons or quests that are best saved for when you are powerful enough to handle the task. But for the most part, this design is really good for this gameplay concept of "go anywhere, any time."
From a visual standpoint, the game is amazing. It is wonderfully constructed and detailed. Some might complain that it doesn't have the most "realistic" of visuals but what's more important is the art style, which here is really amazing. The open world is breath-taking, and the cities around the world are each amazing to looking at. Every city has it's own architecture design, often reflecting both it's culture and it's economy. The strong cities have beautiful and elegant designs while the poor cities consist of shoddy buildings made of cheap wood. The dungeons are well-crafted, and the different types each have very different looks. Old forts look completely different from caves which look different from ruins. Granted within each type of ruin, visuals may get somewhat repetitive but there is enough variety in the design to keep it interesting the whole way through.
The music is good too. Oblivion goes for a "less is more" approach in terms of general music. When peacefully exploring the towns or walking the roads, a subtle calm tune plays in the background to reflect the peace and beauty. When searching a dark and dangerous dungeon, a mysterious and slightly creepy tune plays in the background. When a battle starts, you get a battle theme that builds up and sounds epic, getting the blood pumping for the battle. It's mostly atmospheric and ambient type music, and it works incredibly well as it sets the mood for the game and immerses you in the moment of what you doing, whether walking around town or doing battle or searching an old creeping cave.
Does the game have some have some drawbacks? Yes it does. No game is perfect, and there is always something that is either done badly, or could be done better. One annoying thing about Oblivion is that the leveling system requires a lot of micromanagement in order to get the most benefit when leveling up. This wouldn't be a problem except that since enemies level up with you, if you don't level up properly you can end up pitifully weak against enemies later in the game. Also, the mechanics for speechcraft become repetitive fairly quick. The skill of speech is mainly done using a mini-game that after a few tries, becomes painfully easy and boring to sit through. Also, the general dialogue shared between NPCs lacks variety and soon you'll be hearing the same topic conversations over and over again
-Beautifully constructed and detailed game world
-Hundreds of hours of content and quests
-Tons of ways to customize character to your style of playing
-Game is completely non-linear, letting you do things at any time
-Nice variety and depth in combat styles
-Moral system has various consequences for your actions, leaving your choices with an impact on the game
-Different races and playable classes make for lots of replay value.
-Leveling system requires too much micromanagement
-Sneaking is limited
-Speechcraft is painfully easy and monotonous
-NPCs have limited and repetitive dialogue
Final Score: 10/10
Despite it's flaws and drawbacks in various areas, Oblivion is such an amazing RPG experience. It's a game where you can shape your own destiny and do things your way, when you feel like it. With it's amazing depth and variety and loads of contents, the flaws and issues become so minute in comparison. The 10/10 scores does not mean it's perfect. It means that the drawbacks are so minor in comparison to the positives that they almost seem negligible. This is an RPG for the ages. If you like sandbox, open-ended games or RPGs in general, this is a definite must. The only people I don't recommend this to, in fact, are those who don't like RPGs or sandbox style games. For everyone else, this a game you definitely need to check out sometime.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/25/12, Updated 09/24/12
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (US, 03/20/06)
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