Review by AmericanLink

"The best game I have ever played."

Ever since I heard about Oblivion last year, I have been extremely anxious to get my hands on it. The four-month delay really hurt, but on March 21st, I was finally sitting through my final hours at school ready to go get it. When I went to pick it up, the employee at the store told me he had had some time to play it, and that it was amazing. Arriving home, I shoved a couple slices of pizza in my mouth and ran upstairs to finally play The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This is my review of what I saw:

For those of you who are not familiar with The Elder Scrolls franchise, I will start out with a short description. Bethesda, the developer, has created a game where you can live another life, in another world. In Elder Scrolls, you create a character, and then do whatever you want in the massive, Tolkien inspired world of Tamriel. Every ES game takes place in a different province of Tamriel, Oblivion in the main hub of Cyrodil. Be anybody you want to be, from the selfish thief to the noble warrior. Its an RPG, by any standard, but its also considered to be more of an open-ended action adventure, with a lot of RPG elements. More about Oblivion in the game play section.

Graphics:
Note: I play this game on a standard TV, not a hi def so this section may not apply to you. The graphics are, simply put, amazing. While I do think the 360 is capable of more, this is incredible considering how huge the game is. What Bethesda has done is made basic surfaces 2D instead of perfectly detailed 3D. This means that what really should be protruding (like when there are different layers of brick) is protruding, but basic things like bolts on doors are 2D. I know this sounds sort of last gen, but somehow Bethesda has made it look awesome. You wont even notice it unless you walk up and put your nose on it. For example, on a log house, the vertical and horizontal logs are separate and 3 dimensional, but the separate planes are actually just on a 2D plain, but detailed very well. Looking at anything from over 10 feet away makes it look extraordinary. Snow and rain looks great, and also adds to the mood of the game. Clouds in the sky are varied and realistic, and the water looks as good as real life. Character models are also very good, although obviously not as awesome as the environment. Humans look the best, and orcs look quite plain, although there are few of these in the game. Horse models are acceptable, although not the best that they could be. The third person view is a huge step up from Morrowind, although the jumping animation is terrible. Weapons are incredible. You may find yourself just stopping to look at how superbly detailed they are, and how cool they look. I give graphics a 9/10.

Sound:
I really do not consider sound to be a huge factor, but having good music and sound is a nice touch. And Oblivion has that. The opening theme sounds great. Its nothing I would have associated with Oblivion, but it works perfectly with it. The music in game is just right. I hardly even notice it, which is how it should be. However, you do notice it when it stops playing for a second, and then becomes faster paced because an enemy is coming. Walking along, you notice the sound of your footsteps: crunching as you go through forests, tapping as you walk across cobblestone, and splashing as you walk through an inch or two of water. Hitting different objects with your weapons or fists always produces a different sound. Hitting metals produces a metallic sound and hitting wood makes a dull thunk. And hitting innocent civilians produces a nice scream and a squish. You can also hear your sword making the cool sound as it comes out of its sheath. The shiiiing sound, you know. The voice acting is varied. There is over 200 hours worth of voice recording in this game. Its not Zelda, lets say. They hired professional actors to provide the voices, including Sean Bean and a bunch of other people Ive never heard of, although not Halle Berry or Vin Diesel, how disappointing. The varied part comes from the civilian conversations. Youll walk around and hear civilians saying how they hate goblins to other civilians and then later you hear a different civilian saying the same thing, but in a different voice, which proves that they gave these actors extremely long scripts to record that were really all the same thing. And then sometimes the NPCs voices change. Its a big problem with the beggars. When you first talk to them, their voices are all raspy as they ask for coins, and then when you inquire about something, they have a completely different voice. Its not anything that will stop me giving the sound a 10/10 though.

Controls:

The control scheme is great. The only thing I had to get used to was pressing B to pull up your Journal instead of start, which brings up the game menu. It really works like any other first person game. Y is jump, click one of them spinny things to crouch, and pull the R trigger to use your weapon. There are a few little control issues in game, but they are very minimal. For instance, when you are fighting a really hard enemy, and you start swinging away, the actions are not interruptible. This means that if he dodges your swing, he can move in and start swinging and you cannot raise your shield because your sword is still swinging away, even though its only for a few half seconds. This is a right nice problem in the Arena, although elsewhere its not noticeable. Other than that, and a few other tiny problems, the controls and playability are fantastic. The controls get 9/10.

Story:

Fantastic. Tolkien, you are going down. The moment you click New Game, you get an overhead view of the Imperial City (the capital of Tamriel) and a nice monologue from Emperor Uriel Septim, in which he states that these are his few final hours. It was a great piece of dialogue, and the best intro into a story I have ever seen. Sean Bean did a great job there, even though hes not Vin Diesel. In the beginning of the story, fate (or possibly dumb luck) has brought you (the hero) and Emperor Uriel Septim together as assassins from Oblivion close in to kill him. After the tutorial/intro, you are launched into a war between Oblivion and Tamriel as you search for Septim's missing son. However, it will be a long time before I even touch the main quest. Oblivion lets the player create their own story. Its unbelievably open ended. You can do anything you want, as I said in my intro. The main quests story is great, but when you put the open ended ness in perspective, you have nothing but a 10/10.

Game play:

The most important part of any game is game play. The most important part of game play is the fun factor. And Oblivion is fun. I could go on for hours about how much there is to do in Oblivion. I will try and keep it basic, but get ready for an extreeeeemely long section. You start out with creating your character in the best character creation system I have every seen. You choose from 10 races, all with their own special abilities and powers. But you know what? It doesnt matter! In Oblivion, your character can do anything. A Khajiit (a cat like race) is the best starter for stealth players. But you could choose an orc and still train it to have stealth; it will just take a little longer. Thats the beauty of Oblivion, it lets your character be anything, or, if you have a few thousand hours, everything. You can train any race in every area, until you have a mage, thief, assassin, and warrior character. It will take time, but it is possible. But thats only a fraction of the game play. Once you beat the (its actually fun!) intro/tutorial, you get released into Cyrodil to play the game. You can do everything. Join a selection of guilds, save money to buy a house (one in each major city, very expensive, but full of advantages), steal weapons, tackle over 200 dungeons, go to jail, escape from jail, do the main quest, find miscellaneous quests, WHATEVER! To put this idea in greater depth, I am going to provide a long (not short) scenario about what you can do. Suppose you are walking along an Imperial City street during the day. You come across a shop called Edgars Discount Spells. Knowing full well that your magical abilities are very amateur, you go in intending to purchase a new spell. However, the spells arent exactly cheap, as the name of the shop would suggest. So, you go meet your friend in the Thieves Guild and buy some lock picks, and then go to an inn and sleep until nightfall, perhaps stealing some food while youre there. When you wake up, its midnight. You head down to Edgars, avoiding the guards just in case. When you get there, you pick the lock and go in. Edgar is nowhere in sight. He must be asleep upstairs. You see a scroll lying on the table, one that is encrypted with a spell. There are only a few of these out in the open, and none of them are ones you exactly want. But, knowing that thievery is not always the most advantaged path, you choose a spell that will increase your agility and leave. When you get to the street corner, a guard is standing with his back to you. You decide to pick pocket him. You find 35 gold coins in his pocket, but he catches you and sends you to jail, confiscating your stolen items. You have one lockpick left, and a spell that can be used once a day to unlock doors. You use this spell on your cell door, and go upstairs to find the evidence chest, where all your belongings, including the stolen scroll, are being kept. You lockpick the chest, receiving all your own items, as well as all your inmates, and escape. This is only a very small chunk of what is possible in Oblivion. Add that to the unequaled AI (every NPC has a schedule that they complete everyday, but always in a different way) and the awesome Havok Physics Engine (every item has its own weight, shoot an arrow into a hanging bucket, and the bucket now has a tilt to it because of the extra weight) and you have one of the most enjoyable games ever, and for that, gameplay gets a 10/10.

Other Positives:
-Its a lot of fun to stack stuff up just to play with the phsyics
-Everything feels real, Bethesda has worked very hard to create a living, breathing world
-There are tons of items you can find, all with their pros and cons
-Enemies scale themselves to your level, meaning that you wont have to worry about the main quest being to hard when you start out, or too easy when youre really powerful
-Loading times are frequent, but very short. Its not a problem like you would think.
-Mini games for persuasion and lockpicking are fun and original, and very difficult

Other Negatives:
-The crime system is too strict. Youre not even allowed to use the Grab function to move other peopls stuff (The reticule turns red when you look at an owned item)
-You may find yourself hating real life because its not as fun as Oblivion
-Houses and interior decorators are extremely expensive.
-Some guilds dont allow you to steal from your fellow guild members, but there are several regular people in these guilds and no way to tell if they are. You will find yourself losing a little bit of gold in the Thieves Guild because they charge you 200 for stealing from a member. Youll find your own ways of learning whos in your guild(s) and whos not, but its a bit annoying.

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 10/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 10/10
Gameplay: 10/10

Total score for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: 10/10 (not an average)

Rent or Buy: Not even a question. Go buy it NOW! It is a must have for the 360 and PC, you will not regret it. I also suggest picking up the Guide (20% off at Gamestop if you buy it with the game). Its very helpful, as it details every quest and enemy.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/27/06


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