Review by Tomdogg

"Insanely good RPG!!!"

It's been a very long time since I have had another 10 out of 10 rating for a video game, but alas, the day has finally come where I can finally crown another game with the "perfect" rating. This very game happens to be The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, the best RPG to date. Oblivion has not only given new life to the Elder Scrolls series, but has redefined the RPG genre completely. Everything that most gamers though couldn't be reached in an RPG has been reached with Oblivion. Included in the 4th installment is all of what gamers could do in Morrowind and more. It's not really the fact that the game looks insanely good or that the soundtrack is beautiful, but the sheer amout of places to go, the variety of adventures and quests to complete.

The story does relate to Morrowind in some ways but is much more straightforward and more revealing. Instead of putting clues here, there and everywhere, the plotline unfolds from the very beginning. The story is about the emperor of Tamriel named Uriel Septim. His three sons were attacked and killed and now he must get out of Imperial City. You play as a prisoner of the Imperial City prison who one day, the emperor and his bodyguards one day walk into your cell. The emperor says that you are the one from his dreams and that your fate is bound with his along with the fate of Tamriel. Later on, the emperor is killed by an assassin and before he dies, he gives you the amulet of kings, saying that you must take it to a man named Jaufrre, as he knows where to find his last son. Soon after that, Oblivion gates (or portals to hell) start appearing everywhere, and the Devil's mortal servants known as the Daedra start pouring out of them. You then must find Martin, and help him light the Dragonfires to preserve the barrier between our world and Oblivion. Without it, the world of Oblivion will conquer the world of Tamriel.

Graphics- 10/10
Let's face it, The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion look downrightgeorgeous. The visuals in Oblivon (in my opinion) are the first steps to mastering the next-gen of video game visuals. Not only does this game look downright jaw dropping, but simply stunning as well. Let's start when you crate your character, as you change and manipulate the way your character, you will actually see his face morph. It's not very original, but it definitely surpasses the customization of Morrowind and is done in a mush greater detail. You can now manipulate nearly every part of the human face. Gamers may even find themselves morphing parts of the human face they never tought existed. The urban environments themselves look far better than they did in Morrowind. If you look at the brick walls or the stone floors hard enough, some gamers can probably be fooled into thinking that they are actually real. As for the outdoor environments, all look absolutely stunning. You can see the individual blades of grass, the individual colors of the flowers, the individual colors of the different leaves on the trees, the trees swaying with the wind, the grass following suit, and even the flowers doing the same. Even the individual real time shadows cast not only by the trees, but also by the flowers, the grass, the rocks, your character, the individual animals, the individual man made objects, and even when objects fall are visible. The visuals get even better with the lighting and weather effects. I'm sorry to say that you will not see the rain bounce off the environment when it rains and I was disappointed about that. However, when it does rain or snow, the screen becomes foggy and the level of visibility in the environments drops. The weather effects are real time as well, and the sky does change when the weather changes, or when an Oblivion gate is nearby. As for the lighting effects, they looks absolutely stunning. The light itself is unbelievably lavish and reflects off of other surfaces accordingly. For instance, the shinier the armor, the more light reflects off of it. Or, if your character is wearing a dark colored outfit, there won't see much light reflecting off of it. However, if your character wears something like steel armor, much light reflects off of it, and only reflects off of certain areas at certain points. There are even occasions in the sewers where light shines through a grate or hole and takes the exact shape or the figure it shines through. It is clear that much time was spent on the visuals and it's great to see that the same amount of work was put into the other aspects of the game as well.

Sound- 10/10
The sound is beautiful in general. To start off, this game practically has a sound for everything. Such sounds include footsteps from anyone or any animal, picking up objects, dropping objects, an objects bouncing off any type of stairs or other objects (yes, the sounds do differ) going through a door of any type striking someone with a weapon, swinging a weapon, drawing back a bow, shooting a bow +arrow, an individual sound for each object depending on what type of object you pick up, different running sound depending on what type of outfit your in (whether it be clothes, light medium or heavy armor, etc.) someone falling down the stairs or off a cliff, rock or logs falling, reading a book and flipping through the pages, someone dying, someone getting hurt, and pretty much everything else. Secondly, the characters: every NPC now has full voice work and even talk to each other randomly about various subjects. The subjects may vary depending what is happening in the world or if two NPC's are merely sharing information about a certain person place or thing. Whenever you walk by someone, they will say some thing like “good day” or “how goes it.” You can even talk to them about various subjects and the more they like you, the more information they give. This helps especially when the story is being told, and the NPC's are telling every piece of information, rather than just having gamers read what is going on or what to do. As for the music, it fits every scene perfectly, depending on what location your character may be in. You can be in the forest, various caves, the sewers, etc, and there will be a different piece of music every time to fit each scene perfectly. Even a separate piece occurs for when you are attacked, so you always know that you are being attacked when you are attacked. There are also seperate sound effects for the weather and wind to give a more atmospheric feel to the game. All in all, the sound is superb and is definitely a big step up from the sound range of Morrowind.

Gameplay- 10/10
The developers have added almost three times the amount of content into Oblivion then they did in Morrowind. As I said in the story section, the best part about this game is that gamers don't have to follow the story. Tell your Elder Scrolls story basically. For starters, it's possible buy property for a useful place to store items or spare weapons, etc, go on adventures to search for rare items, fight creatures in the wilderness endlessly, be an alchemist and try to create the ultimate potion, become a master of magic, join a faction, start and run your own business, become a combatant in the arena, be an errand boy for other people, or take on the whole empire's army by yourself. These are just a few of the nearly endless amount of things you can do. If you want to be a major land owner, buy lots of property. Then invest your money in a store, and sell lots of goods. Even steal a few. You can even be a thief, steal goods, join the thieves guild and sell the stolen goods. Or you can be a combatant in the arena and test your skills. You can be an adventurer or an explorer, or anything you want to be. Or you can simply follow the storyline to unlock more areas in the game. The best scinerio for beginners is to follow the story to a certain point, as the other quests can only keep players busy for so long. Or if you want, there are collector's who want rare items that you can collect for large profits. If you just want to steal for your own benefit, go ahead. Or become a master of all combat styles. Then, take on the whole empire by yourself. These are just a few of the long term goals players can acomplish in Oblivion. There's simply that much replay value to it. The NPC's this time around also have routines built into them which they follow daily. For example: Hamlof, the jewelry store owner, goes to the bar every night at midnight, giving you a chance to silently kill him, steal his key, and take all the jewelry for yourself. However, if you take too much, someone might notice you and call the watchman. Then, you have a bounty on your head and the bigger the bounty, the more the guards will come after you. Also, when it comes to sneaking, the heavier your boots, the bigger the chance someone will hear you. As for the combat, it's very well designed and balanced. The higher your level in a particular combat, the better your damage and the move power moves you will be able to do. For example, a novice of marksman is fatigued by shooting, but an apprentice is not fatigued. If you opponent has a shield, remember that the shield dosen't cover him completely and that he/she is vunerable in the spot that isn't covered. If your opponent wears no armor, they are more vulnerable to damage and take more damage than an opponent that is wearing armor. The heavier the armor, the less damage you or your opponent takes, and the higher your skill in the armor, the slower it degrades and the less it encumbers you. The lock pick system is also different from before, as players can do attempt lockpicking manually. You must press up, and when the tumbler reaches the top, press A to either succeed in picking the tumbler or failing and having it crush your pick. There's also an auto attempt option, but there's no increase in your security skill and there's a much greater risk of breaking the pick. The higher or lower your skill, the better the chance of you succeeding or failing. So the best option is to stick with manual picking at first until you can raise your skill to an acceptable level. Also, the higher your skill, the fewer tumblers will fall when you fail. For example, a novice will have four tumblers fall when he fails, while a master will have no tumblers fall when he fails. As for skill building, every time you get your skill level to the 25 point mark, you go up in seniority of that skill. A special bonus is also awarded in that particualr filed when you go up a class, so it's best to raise your skills, especially the major skills, as they are the ones that help you ascend in level. As for class creating, it's pretty much the same thing as it was in Morrowind, and players can still pick the sign of which they want their character want to be born under. Players can also pick your major skills, and the rest will be considered minor skills. The major skills level up faster and are the ones that count in helping you advance in levels. This time around, there's also a persuasion mini game to get help with speechcrafting and persuade people into favoring you more. There are four different options to choose, and when an option is highlighted, the NPC's facial expressions show how they would react to it, from very positive to very negative. The more that section of the circle of persuasion is filled, the more they will like or dislike the remark. There is also a bribe option but instead of selecting the amount of gold players wish to give, a standard limit on the amount you can give and the amount of points raised is automatic. There's also a haggle option for when dealing with merchants that allows players to increase the price for which they can sell their items and decrease the buying price of the merchants items. The more the merchants like you, and the better you're mercantile skill, the more money you can sell an item for and the less you have to pay for an item. All in all, when added all together, this game is unbelievable in every way. There is just so much to do and see here, that it can keep players busy for days on end. The gameplay itself, adds more than one hundred hours of replay value to say the very least, and can keep almost anyone busy for a very long time and the addictive gameplay will make most gamers lose sleep.

Despite how good Oblivion is, there are a few minor issues with certain areas. First and foremost, many brief but frequent loading times occur throughout the game. Most of these loading times occur when players travel throughout the Wilderness and last anywhere between five to twenty seconds. This dosen't hurt the overall feeling too much, but it can slow the game down, force some sounds off cue and other nick picks. There may also be other issues with performance such as music not playing when it should and there's a rare issue when the game may even crash. For some, these issues don't hurt the overall experience too much but for others, these issues may seriousely hinder the overall experience.

In the end, this is the RPG that all fans of RPG's should play, no matter who they are. If you don't own an Xbox 360 yet, get one and pick up a copy of Oblivion. If you have a PC, upgrade it to run Oblivion. All in all, just buy a copy, take all the neccesary measures to be able to play this game and let nothing stop you from doing so. Period.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/10/07

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