Review by Evil Monkey X
"A bound forward from Bethesda from great to nigh flawless."
Where to start with such a game as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? Indeed, this a vast question, both applying to this review and the game itself. For those of you not familiar with The Elder Scrolls series, here's a brief overview. The Elder Scrolls is a first-person (though third is an option it's not as good) adventure role-playing game. The series is widely known for its completely open-ended gameplay and the vast worlds that make up its maps. Oblivion is the fourth in the series, proceeding Arena, Daggerfall, and Morrowind, and it is by far the most technical achievement in the series. Arena was the start; Daggerfall brought the big (and by big, I mean twice the size of Great Britain) map, and Morrowind settled in with the open-endedness and honing the gameplay. Oblivion takes this to the next level by bringing jaw-dropping visuals, nigh self-aware AI, and a needed overhaul in the combat and spellcasting system. Let's take a look.
In a word: gorgeous. Oblivion is the most beautiful game on the Xbox 360 and rivals games like Half-Life 2 and Far Cry on PC. What sets Oblivion apart from the formerly mentioned titles and other Xbox 360 games is its lush greenery and the sheer amounts of it. No game has ever achieved an actual outdoor setting to the degree that Bethesda has in Oblivion.
The texturing and bumpmapping is above average, as the dungeons look gritty and scary, the buildings look time-worn and ancient, and the people have skin and not just polygons made to look a peachy color. The lighting effects are well-done. Just try carrying a torch around in a dark dungeon and you'll see what I mean, Ah, and the water effects. This game is just something you have to see to believe.
Bethesda really came through on this one. Morrowind was lacking in some of the gameplay aspects and especially in the combat system. The game ended up being nothing more than a hack-and-slash (especially with the dreaded Cliff Racers.) Here, instead, they give the opportunity to block and attack, as well as taking out the roll to see if you hit. You hit everytime now, you just may not do much damage based on you fatigue.
They also mapped spells to the right bumper instead of having it on the right trigger as well which makes spellcasting actually useful this time around. Magicka has been made to replenish which was desperately needed. Magic is a worthy venture in Oblivion, as it was mostly useless in Morrowind.
Persuasion, lock-picking, sneaking, as well the entire skill system was revised to only have seven major skills and that those skills come in four levels: Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master, with different advantages at next levels, which adds a layer of incentive to level in Oblivion. It should also be mentioned that Bethesda fixed the alchemy glitch/exploit where you could get stats infinitely high, thankfully.
Simply stated, only game has ever had a story to match the magnitude of Oblivion's, and that was its predecessor, Morrowind. The game is so engrossing. With sixteen square miles of a virtual sandbox to play in and every inch of it has a purpose to it. Some part in some story that you can take part in. That's what so great about The Elder Scrolls. You literally forge your own story by making choices and choosing paths. It is likely you will never finish every quest in Oblivion. In Morrowind, I spent well over 300 hours on it and never attempted two of the factions' quests. Since Oblivion is larger, you can only expect more. The best story a game has ever told is here.
Nothing to draw too much attention to here. The music is like Morrowind's ambient music, but a bit better. The music never stops, which it did more than occasionally in Morrowind, but it's nice. The sound works too and nothing to report that would bother a gamer, which is perfect.
Replay Value: 10/10
This game is the definition of replay value and only MMORPGs like World of WarCraft can fairly compete. Like previously stated, you will not finish this game. There is too much to do and too much to see. When games are reviewed for replay value, this game will be the standard.
Buy or Rent: Buy
You can't rent this game. There is only a tip of the iceberg you can skim when you only have five days to play this game. Unless you don't like RPGs, buy this game today. The game is a little slow-paced for some, but it makes up for it in the intensity and drive in the story that you won't care. And believe me, when you're fighting a clan of Clanfears, you won't be calling this game slow-paced. Go buy it. Today.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the best of 2006 and likely the best game released in the last decade. The game isn't without flaws, but they are so minor that they're lost to the sixteen square miles of the world of Cyrodiil to the gates of Oblivion. You'd be sinning to not at least give this game a chance. Come, enter the gates of Oblivion.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/24/06
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