Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion review

    The Elder Scrolls began with the game, Arena, and eventually moved on to become a number of successful spin-offs. I joined the series with Skyrim and have been working my way back through the series ever since. Oblivion was the first game I chose to pick up in this quest, having come out when I was first getting back into video games. I heard excellent word of mouth and as the precursor to Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, I had high hopes when I picked this up.

    The premise of the Elder Scrolls games is, usually, the player character is a prisoner who finds himself roped into a larger plot affecting the Empire of Tamriel. For newcomers, Oblivion is actually the end of an era as the game starts with the assassination of a major NPC in the franchise.

    This assassination triggers a cataclysmic series of events which culminate in the setting being invaded by the forces of the Mehrunes Dagon. The Devil, basically. At least in this game. What separates Oblivion from say, Diablo, is the game nicely contrasts the peaceful lands of Cyrodiil with the horrific Dante-esque universe inside the various dimensional gateways.

You must invade the dark-dimension of Oblivion numerous times to save Tamriel.
    Having familiarized myself with the Elder Scrolls universe prior to playing the game, Oblivion does its best to make the game a bit more "audience friendly" than the setting was previously. The province of Cyrodiil has gone from being a Roman tropical paradise to a forested Medieval fantasy-land all-too-reminiscent of countless others. Likewise, the titular dimension of Oblivion isn't really hell in the traditional sense but it's portrayed as a stereotypical vision of fire and torture.

As a thief, I rob this place blind. That includes the rather phallic Imperial tower.
     Despite these questionable elements, the overall game is incredibly fun. In addition to the main quest, there's a mammoth number of side-quests and in-game fiction. I was particularly fond of both the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild questlines, enjoying how they both went in very odd directions. The main quest was also surprisingly well-written despite the unambiguous nature of an invasion from hell.

    I was particularly fond of both Uriel Septim and Martin, voiced by Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean respectively. While neither character gets as much interaction as I would have liked, both endeared themselves to me so by the time their stories ended, I was truly sorry to see them go. The game is also unprecedented in the fact that you are not the one "Chosen" to save the world from hell. You're just a guy who happens to wander into a stereotypical fantasy plot and ends up crucial to its resolution. In short, the character of Martin is Luke Skywalker and you're Han Solo. It's a refreshing dynamic.

After Game of Thrones, it's kind of hilarious to have a major NPC named Jauffre (Joffrey).
    The graphics on display in Oblivion are a bit dated as of 2013 but, even now, are still quite impressive. The land of Cyrodiil is rendered in loving detail and while not a nice place to visit, let alone live, Oblivion is delightfully infernal. I only regret we didn't get slightly more unique designs for both as opposed to such 'classical' fantasy depictions. When you first escape out of the Empire's dungeons, the sight of Tamriel is enough to take your breath away.

Even if it's somewhat generic in its high fantasy roots, Cyrodiil is still quite beautiful.
    Sadly, NPCs in Oblivion are butt-ugly. There's no other way to describe them. The design for the faces of the many people you meet in Cyrodiil could definitely use some work. This detracts from the overall feel of the game and is something they should have delayed until they'd worked out the bugs from. I also feel the persuasion system was needlessly complex, boring, and added little.

    Another problem with the game is the level scaling. Dorky ridiculous looking monsters appear at low-levels but if you level up the wrong skills, you'll be totally outmatched when the bigger nasties arrive. Oblivion has an extremely adjustable difficulty level, however, so there's not too many problems with this. Just know, unfortunately, you may have to crank the difficulty down to very-very easy.

     In conclusion, Oblivion is a great game but has dated badly. Likewise, there's several flawed choices made by the developers that Skyrim fixed. It's still worthy of a purchase but it's not perfect. I recommend fans of Skyrim pick up the game whenever they finish all there is to do up north.


1 comment:

  1. Nobody asked me to kill ten rats or run a package over to the nearest shop. elder scrolls online