Classic Games- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Posted on October 28, 2011

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The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is the fourth installment of the Elder Scrolls series, which has been around since the early years of gaming and as a result we’ve seen the series change and mature as the industry itself matures, rising up from the simple maps and textures and text dialogue trees to the massive and beautifully rendered world that it is now.

Developed and published by Bethesda Softworks, Oblivion is an intricate stat based RPG set in Cyrodiil, a province in the much larger land of Tamriel. From the start of the game you’re introduced to the large RPG aspect of the game with a character customization screen that goes into excruciating detail with every aspect of your characters face. Though I’m not one to spend the time creating my exact likeness for my in-game character, this shows considerable effort put forth by Bethesda to make Oblivion a truly unique and memorable experience. On top of the customization options you can tweak for your character, you don’t necessarily have to play as a human. You can choose to play as an Argonian, a race of lizard men with the natural ability to breathe underwater; A Khajiit, a race of lion men with the natural ability to see in the dark, or an Orc, with natural bonuses to endurance and strength and the ability to unleash a berserker mode. These unique races in conjunction with the ability to add points into attributes as well as specialize in skills creates a truly intricate and unique system of growing stronger.

The system of leveling up in Oblivion is also quite different from other RPG’s. Instead of doing quests and gaining X amount of experience to level up and put points into chosen skills and attributes, you do quests and level up your skills by utilizing them in-game. The more you swing your sword, or pick a lock, or sneak around an enemy the more you level up in those skills. Once you’ve leveled up all the skills you chose to specialize in you get a level up allowing you to put points into attributes. This is refreshing in the sense that you’re always making progress with building your character. Literally every step you take is progress towards something and skills like Light and Heavy armor require you to go out and get into a couple of battles in order to level up making sure every player lives a little and goes out to fight an ogre or two.

The enemies you encounter in Oblivion, ranging from the common highwayman to the fantastical frost atronach, are leveled to the player. You won’t encounter creatures that completely outclass you. They’re introduced when you reach the appropriate level so you’ll find yourself surviving smaller skirmishes until you’re ready to face bigger and tougher enemies. In the terms of combat that’s “just right” Bethesda has done an excellent job. Enemies never fold like paper but at the same time you’ll never find yourself completely outmatched.

The actual map of Cyrodiil is beautifully rendered. Grass can be seen swaying in the wind, moss is growing on the rocks and the water ripples with every step take. Simply taking a moment to look up at the sky is a treat but a game of this scale doesn’t come without bugs. Textures can be seen popping into view often and there are, like in all of Bethesda’s RPGs, places where you can get stuck into the map. Is this annoying? Yes. Yes it is, but, and maybe I’m being especially generous on this matter, I don’t expect a game of this sheer size and scale to come without flaws. The only thing I can suggest is to save often. The technical bugs in no way effect the overall quality of the game.

The AI also plays a large role in immersion. Instead of other RPGs where NPCs simply stand still and wait for the player to talk to them, in Oblivion NPCs can be seen conversing with each other. The guards go on regular patrols and the merchants don’t keep their stores open all night. In fact, they can even be found in the Tavern unwinding after a day of work. NPCs sleep at night, go to work in the mornings and return home in the afternoon to go back to sleep. This truly creates a sense of immersion. You walk into a town and instead of feeling the almighty center of attention you are in other RPGs you feel as though this city could function perfectly fine without you doing the many favors people have for you.

As largely a console gamer, I see a void in the RPG market of the PS3 and the xbox 360. With all the shooter games throwing the action directly into your face it’s easy to become a bit impatient with the time and careful stat crunching that comes with an RPG. But with all this action being thrown directly into our faces, maybe we’ve become desensitized? Maybe we need a large and engrossing story to draw us in. Maybe we need to put time and effort into creating something we can become attached to. Maybe we need more RPGs. The void still exists but rest assured that The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion doesn’t fill that void completely, but it comes close. Oblivion is a progression in a genre that has been pushed to the back for too long. Oblivion is a push forward. And with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim coming out soon, us RPG junkies will continue to push forward.

Reported by Brendan Buffington

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Posted in: Reviews