Review by Galactus21

Reviewed: 05/08/06

Into the jaws of Oblivion

For 65 years, I have ruled this empire. General and kings have knelt at my command. But a darkness comes. The blood tide rises. These are the closing days of the third year and the final hours of my life… – Patrick Stewart

Perhaps the best opening deliverance of dialogue in video game history, as Patrick Stewart nails and delivers a flawless opening statement. From this point on a precedent was set. Certain expectations and high hopes began to surface. A sense of chivalry began to flow and course through the veins. Upon entering the bright sun of Tamriel, the scope and overall vastness begins to sink in. This is Oblivion, where your life truly begins…

But moments later, as the hype begins to fade, Oblivion’s ultimate appeal is its ultimate failure. From the opening moments of Patrick Stewart’s prologue, Oblivion shows without a doubt its high production value and massive structure that is the pure definition of free roaming. Having never experienced an Elder Scrolls game before, my immediate feeling towards Oblivion was overwhelming. At first, I thought it was kind of cool to be able to explore this vast world and have many different options, but soon after; the large world and open-endedness became the game’s downfall.

With the nature of it, I was thrown into this massive land, and while there was a map, I didn’t know which direction I should go. Should I try and follow the main quest? Or should I just start wondering around, doing God knows what? It’s really simple, just do whatever pleases you. This is what ultimately makes this game such an extraordinary experience and a disappointing one. With its massive structure, coupled with its vast array of quests and activities, the structure was defined.

Oblivion is highly customizable, as a player can literally spend an hour customizing his/her character. Despite giving such a vast array of options, none of its components were rather appealing. Perhaps it was the whole medieval era, where the atmosphere wasn’t quite appeasing. But one thing is sure, I definitely prefer the fantasy, hair spiked preteen protagonist over a buffed up wielding soldier. And that’s where my distaste for Oblivion begins. Don’t get me wrong, I think Oblivion has a fantastic atmosphere with an involving world, but it’s simply too non-linear for my taste. I purchased the game in hopes of finding a spark in these types of games, but it came up empty. While there is a definite main story point, the weak storyline prevents me from wanting to finish it. After about 18 hours of playtime, I simply got bored with the purpose of the game.

Being the free roam type game it is, the player can take their time with the main quest. In fact, the player can ignore the main quest and literally spend hundreds of hours playing through the game’s other many activities before one even begins the main quest. This is the biggest draw, but it’s also the main reason for people to find discontent towards the game. Side quests are numerous, as are different areas on the world. Walking from one area to another intended area can stumble you across an ancient and abandoned fort, or some dark and eerie cave. Despite its many activities and quest, the overall lure feels a bit uninspired.

From lowly prisoner to destined savior

Perhaps the best part about all this is the solid combat system. With slick movements and responsive controls, real time combat feels just about right for the first time. Having a preference in turn base combat, I found Oblivion’s real time combat to be solid. While it still very much feels like a hack and slash type game, the enemies’ ferocious and relentless attacks gave way to some strategic counter moves. Instead of just slashing your way through hoards of enemies, Oblivion forces the player to analyze the enemies’ movements and react accordingly. For example, a well trained soldier would probably have an upper advantage in swordplay, so it’s better to keep your distance and wait for an opening before you lunge for an attack. The hit detection during combat felt a bit off, so consequently the combat didn’t flow quite as well at times. But generally speaking, the combat felt good.

With Stewart’s opening lines, it seemed we were about to be bombarded by a great narrative. But it was quite the opposite, as the story felt like it had gaping holes. More importantly, it took a backseat to all the exploring and quests. Now, people will probably tell me to read a book, but I am a firm believer that it’s essential for an rpg to have a strong script. Even though the story felt a bit lacking, the combat system somewhat negates the somewhat lacking story. It was fun to slash your way through enemies, but the lackluster plot prevented me from fully immersing myself into this fantasy world.

Most surprisingly, despite the game’s massive roots, the game runs quite well. There are a few instances where the frame rate dips a bit, but there really isn’t anything that is detrimental. Load times can also be a bit of a hassle, but it’s only a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. Being so massive, the graphics left a bit to be desired. While the game had some gorgeous environments, through its beautifully crafted world and wide open areas, the game’s animation felt clunky. Character movements didn’t flow too well. This was evident, when the player switched to third person view and noticed how awkwardly the character moved. The few times that the game froze on me doesn’t help its cause either, but despite some of these issues, the game is still a solid looking rpg.

The musical score for the most part is strong. Each corresponding action or scene had its own tune, which brought a fictional world to life. This is reinforced with the strong voice acting. From Stewart’s beginning line to the vast numbers of characters, the voice acting was definitely one of the strong points in the game. With a great soundtrack, well done voice acting, it’s hard to argue about the high production values during my time spent.

Close shut the jaws of Oblivion...

With its massive structure, coupled with its vast array of quests and activities, Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion is surely the first rpg in the young life of the Xbox360 that should satisfies a gaping hole. The key word is should because more than likely you will love the huge world, but for those of us that likes more linear games, then Oblivion isn’t the game for us. Those that were disappointed in the Xbox’s suppose revolutionary title in Fable, has much to look forward to and love about Oblivion. Despite my somewhat negative comments, Oblivion is a fantastic game on its own merits. The problem is, it’s simply not my type of game. Do I recommend it? Sure why not? If there’s a slight chance you would like it, then I would recommend it, because it’s quite apparent that the game has many high production values that were made possible by a very talented developer. If you're into more linear rpgs, then you should probably rent first, but if you like the idea of doing anything you want, Oblivion is a great start.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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