Review by arkaine33

"A splendid sequel but definitely not perfect"

After all the marketing, the hype and much fan-fare, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has finally hit the shelves. This fourth sequel to the Elder Scrolls series is touted to be the first "next-generation" Role-Playing game by Bethesda. Those familiar with the series will know that the Elder Scrolls are known for their open-ended gameplay and their huge environment.

Oblivion takes place in Tamriel's capital province called Cyrodiil. Like all the previous Elder Scrolls titles, the player starts the game in a jail cell. And you are tasked with finding the hidden heir to the throne by Emperor Uriel Septim VII, who had been killed by an unknown assassin. Overall, the story is very much about the player "saving the world(Tamriel)" and is progressed at your own pace.

The initial stage is cleverly devised as a tutorial to give players a feel of the game basics such as controls and combat. You also get to determine your character's race, appearance, various abilities and astrological star sign at this point of the game. However, they all have its upsides and downsides and it all depends on what type of character class the player would like to have. Much of how you play the rest of the entire game is governed by this crucial area as well. As far as the character creation goes, it is absolutely brilliant and offers a diverse selection of customizations, such as choosing your eye color, complexion and even the color depth of your lips!

True to the Elder Scrolls series, you could easily deviate from the main quest and pick up other side-quests or join guilds which offer their own individual quests and storyline. Exploring Cyrodiil is also made much easier since you could travel to a location instantly by bringing up the map, and clicking a specific city or town. It only works for places which you have already been to while the game realistically advances the game time forward. In addition, the user-interface is much organized this time.

Combat is very entertaining in Oblivion. The player can choose to butcher enemies using melee weapons, use a bow to take them out from a distance. Or opt to smite foes using different types of magic, ranging from fireballs to summoning a Dremora! As well as block melee strikes using a shield or your weapon. There is plenty of options at your disposable depending on your preference.

Although the game boasts a "groundbreaking new AI system" called Radiant AI by Bethesda, it is very much flawed. It hardly gives NPCs(Non-playable character) its own individuality and character as promised. For example, lets say NPC1 insulted NPC2, instead of what should have been expected, NPC2 reacted by greeting it like it would to anyone. NPC1 than promptly exchanged the greeting like the insult never happened! The NPCs also hardly react to changes in the game world as well. Conversations between NPCs can be shallow and awkward, such delivering one-liners which is evident as you play the game along. Overall, the "AI system" is quite scripted and wasn't as groundbreaking as stated.

The graphics are fabulous but nothing revolutionary compared to other PC games. The only major flaw in the visual department is that game does not render textures as far as you could see. Instead, it just displays a general texture which only renders as you get nearer. For example, if were you on a high cliff overlooking the forest, everything out ahead will just be a blurry scenery and buildings which are supposed to be there will be invisible until you get closer to it. It doesn't matter even if you have a current high-end graphics card such as the GeForce 7900.

The sound department certainly does very well. Wonderfully orchestrated music and the voice acting is excellent with different emotional tones.

Play Time/Replayability
As expected, the game is extremely open-ended and offers a multitude of side-quests, it could very well take more than 100 hours to finish every single one of them. Not to mention character customization allows to you to create a completely unique character and take on a different choice of gameplay as well. The only drawback is that the main quest itself is rather short and linear. It could be completed in 20 hours or less.

In conclusion, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is enjoyable despite its setbacks in both the Radiant AI and visual department. It is definitely a must-buy for fans of the previous Elder Scrolls series and could very well be the best game for 2006.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/27/06

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