Review by haeairnoens
"Good but not great"
Easily among the best parts of the game, Oblivion simply shines with it's incredible graphics and artwork. Everything from the way the light shines off your ebony sword to the way the mountains look in the distance is amazing. This game is truly next-generation in graphics. It does suffer from some unfortunate graphical problems namely, the way that the bushes pop up in the distance and the way the backgrounds blur to a mass of green in the distance. The way the water looks is also quite disappointing. Fortunately the small graphical problems don't effect the player much as you spend most of your time in cities or in ruins and forts.
From what I've played of this game, the controls are excellent and streamlined. Even if you don't like the button layout you can manually configure it in the in-game options menu and can switch to the southpaw style using the 360 menu. My only complaint is that the interface is quite bulky. This bulkiness combined with the fact that you cannot delete spells and you cannot throw away quest items causes your inventory and spell menu tend to become very cluttered and hard to navigate. Fortunately, the ability to hotkey and map your own controls alleviates some of this difficulty.
Simply stunning. I love Jeremy Soule's work in all his previous games such as KoTOR, KoTOR II and Morrowind and this game follows in that tradition. Unfortunately the music gets somewhat repetitive after a while and the combat music tends to grate one's nerves especially when you cannot find that one pesky enemy that is twenty feet away. In addition the sound effects are top-notch, as are the lip-synching and voices. It is unfortunate however that most dialogue is recycled among npc's and tends to make conversation somewhat hollow and impersonal.
Oblivion improves greatly on the usefulness of different skills within the holy trinity (magic, melee and stealth) of rpgs. Combat for instance is simply incredible, you really get that guttural feeling of being right there and in the action especially with the recoiling and manual blocks. My only complaint with the melee combat system is that it is a tad annoying to fight multiple opponents, which happens quite often. Magic also is much improved. Being able to cast spells and attack, in addition to the improved AI on summons make it very easy and fun to play a mage. Unfortunately magical combat has never been the TES strong suit and rather than revamp the magic system they decided to merely improve it. In magical battles it often becomes no more strategic than a rocket launcher duel, all you do is strafe and launch shock balls at each other which is greatly disappointing to those who hoped for an improved magic system over Morrowind. Stealth classes overall are also improved greatly. The only truly disappointing aspect of the stealth skills is the persuasion mini-game which is simply ridiculous... it's not that it is hard, it's that it is unrealistic, pointless and no more advantageous to the player than shoving gold in people's faces. Marksman is another issue that is improved, just not enough. Arrows and bows simply do not do enough damage to make playing as a ranger a viable alternative on higher difficulties. Fortunately lock-picking and sneaking are incredible. The mini-game is challenging and fun to pick locks and stealth depends both on your skill, the light in the area and what type of clothing you're wearing.
Unfortunately gameplay is greatly hurt by scaling. Though it works well for the combat oriented classes, non-combative classes, which might focus in sneak or speechcraft rather than blade or destruction, will encounter quite a bit of difficulty against enemies. It also detracts from that feeling of excitement and wonder when rather than finding any legendary items or fighting powerful boss enemies, every dungeon is just filled with randomized loot and enemies. This scaling of loot makes even less sense when at higher levels (i.e.: upwards of 20) daedric and glass are more common than steel or mithril.
Though Oblivion's storyline and quests are more exciting and fast-paced than its predecessor's was, they are definitely not perfect. Compared to other titles out today the main quest line seems greatly lacking in complexity and depth and can be completed within the course of a few hours. It also contains several gaping flaws in the in-game lore, such as *possible spoilers* the fact that the Amulet of Kings must be worn by the Emperor who must be a member of the Septim bloodline to keep the daedra (or demons) of Oblivion from invading the mortal realm. A careful observer may note that the Amulet was actually given to St. Alessia who left no heirs. In addition the Empire was once even ruled by a series of Akaviri potentates. These non-sensical flaws in coordination with a short main quest line and one-dimensional main characters leave the player very dissatisfied with the ending.
Replay/fun factor/intangibles: 2.5/2.5
Overall, Oblivion is a great game but it is not without it's flaws. Fortunately, what it truly excels in, it's replay value, is where it shines most. There are literally hundreds of dungeons to complete and thousands of quests. In addition there are multiple guilds ranging from the nefarious dark brotherhood to the benign guild of mages. These countless quests, along with the hours one can spend creating their custom character, make for an incredible game filled with fun and excitement.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/11/06
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