Review by ArkfellerKonan
"Explore, Barter, and Close Shut the Jaws of Oblivion!"
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It's just like what the back of the box describes it as, plus much more. Four years in the making, it surpasses its predecessor, Morrowind, by a mile. It is obvious that four years making this game weren't wasted.
Oblivion continues the firm tradition of the Elder Scrolls series - open-ended make-your-own-choice sandbox gameplay. In other words, you are free to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Whether it be a rampage in the city, doing the Main Quest, or just exploring the countryside and taking in sights. If you take the path exploring, you'll be exploring for a long time. Sixteen (that's right, 16) square miles of countryside and cities. That 16 is not including water and underground locations. Dungeon-roamers, there's plenty for you, too! Hundreds of dungeons are scattered around Cyrodiil for you to find, explore and loot. Shipwrecks, deserted cabins, terrorised villages - Oblivion has something for everyone. Unlike Morrowind, the game guides you through a tutorial stage where you get to learn the ropes of combat, magic and whatnot. In the Morrowind days, the game dumped you in a perilous situation without giving you an introduction whatsoever.
The most (or one of the most) notable features of Oblivion are the brilliant graphics. When you step out from the tutorial to the wide world, the first thing that hits you is the amount of land and forest the game renders. The forestry rendering engine, SpeedTree, is capable of rendering foliage in a few seconds. Trees aside, the amount of detail put in the environment (dungeons included) is astounding. NPCs are also well-rendered (their faces created with FaceGen.) Effects like fireballs are as good as the rest of the graphics, supported by the Havok physics engine (remember Half Life 2?), so the game makes sure that an arrow flying through the air can bury itself in wood (if it needs to), not bounce off.
Sound in Oblivion, where not being as spectacular as the rest of the game, is an achievement nonetheless. Jeremy Soule, who composed the score for Morrowind, also did for Oblivion. Exploration, town and dungeon music incorporate well, however, once an enemy enters your area, the music dramatically changes. This can be disturbing for some players, who are not used to subtle turnarounds in background music. Voice acting for NPCs are fine, however, it suffers from bugs like the presence of sound, with the mouth not moving, or vice versa. Battle effects are well-synchronised, with every metallic clang in the right place.
In short, Oblivion isn't a game you should rent - buying would make much more sense. It has more value if you could spend more time playing it - with hundreds of dungeons to loot, with seven cities to purchase a house in, and a compelling Main Quest plus four factions, the fourth game in the Elder Scrolls series is bound to keep you coming back for more even after a year. Period.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/12/07
Game Release: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (EU, 03/24/06)
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