Review by IamTheWhiteGuy

"Singleplayer is dead. Long live Singleplayer!"

For those readers who are familiar with the Elder Scrolls series, rest assured that this latest game reflects the best effort by Bethesda thusfar, and, as if it mattered, you have my permission and goodwill to go purchase it.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Elder Scrolls series, make certain that you know exactly what you are getting when you purchase this (nearly flawless, immediately accesible, incredibly deep) RPG. More a 'fantasy sandbox' than anything else, Oblivion sets you in the province of Cyrodiil, and lets you make up your own adventure as you go along.

There is one thing that is important to note, however.

There is no multiplayer in The Elder Scrolls series.

No trading with other players, no wasting (enjoying?) countless hours in chat with your fellow players, no fourty man raids, no geektastical teamspeak, and absolutely no pink haired elves named "Hawt_Elf_gurl023". You're going it alone, pardner.

Now back to this 'fantasy sandbox': It is as novel a concept as it sounds, but it never starts to devolve into those weirdo Japanese console RPGs that more mainstream gamers dread (and rightfully so, but that is another story. . .). You begin the game by creating a character, selected from a number of races representing the usual fantasy archetypes, and through sliding bars, create your characters face. Yes. His or her face. Through a wealth of options (something like 60 variables you can define), you create one of millions of possible configurations for your character. Later on, you can even create your own class, with its own particular skillset (unfortunately, this process is not particularly well documented, and new players should be very careful to do some research as to what is effective and what is not). This sort of attention to detail and player freedom is typical of Oblivion, and players should expect it.

Oblivion does actually have a central plot, which is long, expansive, and interesting, but the real fun of the game comes from all the freedom you are given. This as non-linear an adventure as there has ever been, and the game has sheer boatloads of content to keep you going on your merry way. You can explore the countryside for caves and forts that are packed with monsters and treasure, you can wander around town, own real estate, participate in a gladiatorial arena, and become involved in the politics of the province through the four major guilds.

The meat of the game, combat, is an absolute blast. Players can opt to go the spells and sorcery route, or pick up the sword and shield, or both, and perhaps throw in a bow for good measure. This is one of the lovely things about Oblivion: your character has pretty much no limitations but the time you invest in it. That's not to say you'll need to spend thousands of hours to create an uber character, but rather that if you are determined to teach your mage type to put up his dukes and kill monsters hand to hand, then you can. And there are about thirty billion varieties of phat lewt to pick up.

Combat itself sounds basic in principle: you have hotkeys which you can bind to particular weapons or spells, and you may have one of each (a weapon and a spell) equipped at one time. Holding the right mouse button will block, and clicking the left mouse button will attack, while pressing 'c' will cast your selected spell. Of course, when you get into the thick of it, the difference between Oblivion and other fantasy RPGs is very apparent; you actually have control over your character, rather than watching and crossing your fingers as your automated avatar throws down.

As for aesthetics, if you've seen screenshots, it goes without saying that the game is mouthwatering good looking. That said, it will eat your PC alive unless its relatively up-to-date. This is not a game you will want to play on 'Low'. And its so good its worth upgrading for. The sound, too, is to die for. Brilliantly done voice acting and effects are the rule here, and there are no exceptions.

In summation, this is a game that is absolutely, unquestionably worth buying. It will be a rare gamer who does not thoroughly enjoy this, and he or she will almost certainly be colored by some bias or other. But don't take my word for it, go give it a shot, and prepare to descend into . . . Oblivion!

Seriously. Do it. You'll thank yourself later. :)

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 04/14/06

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