Review by Vespa

"Oblivious to the Obvious Obstinant Ostricization that Occurs with Oblivion; Ignorance is Bliss"

Everyone will probably know the history of the Elder Scrolls games, and if they don't, it's not that hard to pick up; they're little more than a traditional D20 tabletop with something to watch as you roll the dice and attack. Well, okay, there is a LOT more to the Elder Scrolls games, but this is just simplification.

Oblivion, as the title of this review may indicate, will probably be a hindrance to your social atmosphere, puncturing holes into it faster than spray paint. It is an enjoyable though, as the life of a hermit often is, and while it fails on a few things still, for the most part, the game it true to its claims, and delivers on most every aspect, save a few issues here and there.

First off, there will be four sections to this review: Gameplay (most important), Storyline, Graphics, and Sound and Music. Each will be rated 1-3 depending on how it contributes to the game as a whole, 1 being no contribution, 2 being moderate contribution, and 3 being great contribution. Music will be a one point subject though, as the focus of most games (save some) is not the music. As long as the music is not overly frustrating, it is considered to add to the game experience, at least according to this system it is. With that in mind, here is the breakdown.

Gameplay: 2.5/3 - Summary: It gives you everything you could want to do, but you're still going to suck with the best everything.

Gameplay is difficult to rate in a game like Oblivion, because a lot of factors come into play; the ease of learning the game, the comfort of the button set up, how the game teaches you to play, does the game give you the opportunity to use all skills, how does the game incorporate different skills, does the game maintain a sense of reality while allowing you to do things you could never do, what do you do when you reach the top? Oblivion tried to improve a lot on the previous installation of the Elder Scrolls, and it succeeded greatly, missing on only a few marks. The skill system feels more solid, the relation of certain skills to fatigue is better defined, and the effects are more notable. From the beginning, the game helps you to figure out its own complicated system, by recommending to a degree what class you should be taking. While it doesn't force you to, the beginning dungeon is a good way to figure out what to be if you've never played an Elder Scrolls game before. It doesn't necessarily walk you through the game, but at the same time, you aren't lost in a 300 some page manual trying to figure out what is best for your desired character.

Speaking of characters, I could go into character creation, but that would mean that I'd be tempted to make a new character, which is all in all an enjoyable process. You are almost overwhelmed with options when making a character, which is nice, and the option to randomize your character is also useful, in case you simply don't care. I won't delve too much into the character creation, as it is something best explored by the player; needless to say, it is a harmlessly fun function of the game that most anyone can enjoy.

Moving on from the tutorial review, the world itself is huge. It is freaking huge. It literally has the feel that you've been travelling for days, surviving attacks from bandits, wolves, crabs, mephits, demons, necromancer cults, zombies, ghosts, and everything in between. The world is big enough that you can have a grand old time exploring, but there are enough guides and paths that you at least have some clue as to where to go. The overworld does, however, have some downsides to it. First, it seems that the only possible explanation that was given for why someone would camp out in the wilderness is that they are a bandit. Strangely enough, 9 out of 10 times you see another biped in the overworld, odds are they are out to get you, despite the fact that you may still be wearing sack cloth. This gets frustrating when you begin to wonder why all those bargaining and persuasive skills aren't working against a bandit that simply wants some gold and food. This becomes a problem when you are stuck being chased across the world by bandits or wolves, especially since everyone involved in the chase, including your character should die from running that long. While it is understandable that Bethesda was simply trying to give a more realistic feel to the game, the degree to which those bandits will run to chase a naked Khajitt is incredible. Given how realistic the game can be in some cases, the overworld experience with the NPCs is a little annoying.

Now, certainly the use of the word overworld has drawn some attention, and just to specify, overworld refers to any non-dungeon/non-city area in the game. Underworld refers to the random dungeons, most of which literally are underground. The underworld facet of the overworld is nice as well; there are many little hidden dungeons where various groups of goblins, ghosts, necromancers, and everything else have taken residence. This is a great addition to help keep the game fresh, however it appears to lack a little as far as stories for all of these fine folk go, but understandably so. There could be a lot that gets tacked onto the underworld dungeons, such as being invited to be a cultist, figuring out why goblins have taken up residence in the monastery, solving the problems of the ghosts and so on. Instead, these seemingly random enemies are made out to be just that; faceless, random enemies that you are meant to kill and nothing else. Well, while the random killing is fun and all, the occasional interaction session is also fun. For example, there was a ruined fort that housed a necromancy society, which I was most curious about, as necromancy had long been outlawed, as the helpful townsfolk informed me. However, there was nothing else for the Necromancers to do, apparently, and they decided to just try and kill me, which resulted in their deaths. Sad, since I truly wanted to know why they were there, hear reasons for necromancy, and at least have some say as to whether or not I am a threat to them. Some creatures having a prejudice or senseless anger towards the player is alright, but some should at least be friendly.

That example ties in perfectly with one of the main problems of the game in regards to storyline, but that will be discussed later on. Now, onto items. Items are plentiful; if you can think about it, it's there probably. There are many fighting styles, many weapons, many bits of armor and clothing, you will not get bored trying to collect all these nice things. The addition of being able to purchase a house in every major city is also a bonus for storing those hordes of treasure you find.

The controller set up, is wonderful. There have been some complaints from people that the diagonal hotkeys are a little difficult to hit, but based on my experience and of the experiences of those I've watched play the game, it is mainly a matter of patience that has to be learned. It is very easy to hotkey the main attacks you want, keeping your menu expeditions limited at best and keeping gameplay quick and smooth. Battling couldn't be simpler, though the health bars could be a little more noticeable.

All in all, gameplay is near perfect considering what they promised. There are a few items in which they fall short, but for the most part, it works out.

Story line - 2/3 Summary: It's there, it's basic, it's good, but it's lacking.

The reason that storyline fell apart a little is because of the way that NPCs interact with you as a player. If it weren't for this critical flaw, I would just write great story and move on, but the Player and NPC interaction is simply horrid. Oblivion boasts that the characters will all speak their lines, giving you the sense of a conversation, and they do, incredibly well. Just like in Morrowind, you are given options as to what to say, and that's all you say. However, the interaction doesn't get much beyond that. The game makes a distinct difference between you as a player and your character, and tries to persuade you instead of your character. It hints at the possibility of missions, rewards, and monsters instead of persuading you to do whatever. In short, the roleplaying is non-existent. You will not feel like you are your character, and you will see right through the guise of the NPCs, and at times, can almost see the voice actors reading their lines to you from a script. The game goes so far to make an authentic feel to the atmosphere, yet the interaction is that of an SNES Final Fantasy, with everyone just saying what they've said already. NPCs only interact when you want to, only those essential to the plot ever approach you, and the casual banter on the streets, is pathetic. There is a lot more they could have done with the story in terms of the NPCs.

On the plus side though, there is a good balance between your own personal adventure and story and that of the game. The main story is easy enough to pick up at any time when you finally get bored of punching rats into bloody pulps, and it's easy enough to drop when you get bored of being led around. Oblivion does a great job of letting you control yourself as far as the game goes.

Graphics: 3/3 Summary - Do I really need to say anything?

Graphics...they have been delivered in a pleasing way. They genuinely enhance the gameplay, making scenes with Oblivion gates truly frightening, scenes in catacombs dark and spooky, and scenes in big rolling pastures serene and peaceful. The graphics work to help the story and the gameplay perfectly. There are some shading issues with shadows, but they are negligible at best. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who is truly not happy with the graphics.

Sound and Music: 1/1 Summary - Pretty

Not much too it. They're pretty, they help with the game. The creatures are authentic, the sounds of battle are nice, that's all. Nothing too impressive though. Nothing impressive expected though.

Summary:

Gamplay: 2.5
Story: 2
Graphics: 3
Sound and Music: 1
Total: 7.5
round up to get 8 total points.

Ending comments: None really; it is enjoyable. It is a truly enjoyable game with many levels to it. It delivers is most every aspect except the NPCs and the story, but for the most part it is great.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/29/06


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