Review by plagueart
I've played lots of games in my time. Lots. I've traversed many of those fantastical dream worlds that are so highly regarded in our community of gamers, including the previous Elder Scrolls game, Morrowind. And never before have I said "Wow." so many times in the process of doing so. Oblivion may just be the most beautiful game of all time.
You start out in prison. A bunch of guards come to your cell and tell you to move out of the way, because they're escorting the Emperor out through a secret entrance. The Emperor looks at you and says he met you in a dream he had, and mentions that some assassins killed his heirs and now they're coming for him. You follow these guys through the sewers, and eventually the Emperor dies and you're set free, albeit with a small relic he left behind and a vague mission to save the world. From there on, you can make what you want of this game. If you don't want to do the main quest, then you don't have to, and I think that's the true beauty of this game. The story is great and masterfully told, but it's still one man versus an unstoppable evil force. Never heard that before, have you?
The first time you walk outside the sewers and enter the land of Cyrodiil, you'll probably say exactly what I did: "Wow." A massive expanse of land awaits you, all of it meticulously detailed. It's nice to be able to climb a hill in a game, and look out and be able to just gaze upon the beauty of it. The great thing is that the graphics don't just end there. Each and every character in the game looks different and each is detailed to an unprecedented level. All of the monsters in the game look menacing and appropriately monstrous, along with being profoundly detailed. Your computer will need to be pretty beastly to run the game at full, but the rewards that come along are a great payoff. This game is a visual masterpiece.
Each of the game's locales has a distinct audio "feel" to it that perfectly accompanies the graphics. Say, for instance, you're walking through a forested valley. The ambient sounds around you would make you feel like you're really there. You'll hear birds chirping or a falcon's call in the distance. The weapon and monster sounds are perfect as well. Perhaps the game's greatest feat in audio is in the area of voice-acting. Professional voice-actors were hired to do all of the game's 1000+ voices, and almost every one sounds distinct. There are a few repeats, but the quality of the voice-acting makes up for that, and the fact that there are over one thousand characters ensures that hearing the same one twice isn't going to bother you much.
Ah, yes, the meat of the Oblivion experience. The open-endedness and non-linearity of this game is enough to make most RPGers cream their pants, but it's amazing how immersive each element of the game really is. Take alchemy, for instance. It's been done before in games, but never to this level. There are a great amount of ingredients in the game, and each one has four alchemical properties, and the key to alchemy is finding the perfect combination to suit your needs. Combat, which is almost the main focus of the game, is fluid and simple, but never gets old. I suppose the Havok physics are to thank for that, as rushing towards a goblin and bashing its skull so that it flies off to your left is always an entertaining experience. It's mind-boggling how much work must have gone into this game, because every element of the game is huge. There are a few flaws here and there, like the enemy AI being a bit on the idiot side, but the game more than makes up for them, in that it'd probably take a few lifetimes to do everything you possibly can. Not to mention the fact that a construction set for the game was released days after it came out.
In the end, it's easy for me to say that this game is as close to flawless as most games get. The huge factor never wears off, and simply exploring is fun. If you're even thinking about getting this game, let me assure you: You won't be disappointed.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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