The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Review

The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion Review

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The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion is a Role-playing game that was released on March 20th 2006 it is the fourth iteration in Bethesda’s acclaimed elder scrolls series.

The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion does something that most Role-playing games do not; it creates a living breathing world that is as immersive as it is expansive.

You will not regret playing this game, I’ve sunk well over 200 hours into Oblivion and still haven’t seen everything that there is to see. The Elder Scrolls series is as well known for its immersive world as it is for its sheer size and depth and Oblivion doesn’t fall short in this regard. The challenge that Oblivion faced was that it had to live up to the expectation that it be as good as its prequel – The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind, I’m happy to write that it can be said quite confidently that The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion has improved upon its prequel in almost every way imaginable. Oblivion is such an achievement that even those that normally stay away from single player Role-playing games may find themselves swept away by the allure of the expansive and deep world that Oblivion offers.  Oblivion is huge, so much so that very few people who play it will experience everything that it has to offer and because of the sheer size of the game and the amount of freedom and choices that it gives to the player, no two people will experience the game in the same way.

Sound:

The soundtrack in Oblivion is nothing short of remarkable; although when you discover that Jeremy Soule is the composer and remember that he also composed the soundtrack for The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind you may not be surprised to hear that. There are pieces of music in this game that are genuinely some of the most beautifully suited tracks to a fantasy world that I have ever had the pleasure to listen to, with an epic range that spans from frantic fast paced drum beats used in the battle sequences to melodic chimes and flutes played when exploring the scenic province of Cyrodiil, each piece of music fits perfectly into place in each scenario that it is used. A favourite track of mine is “Wings of Kynareth” a track which uses an orchestra of violins and flutes to perfectly embody the peacefulness and serenity of exploring the lush vegetation of Cyrodiil

Visuals:

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A stunning view of the Imperial City shows that the visuals of Oblivion have aged well.

Oblivions visuals when it was released were touted as being a testament to what the new generation of consoles (the Xbox 360 and the PS3) could achieve visually. Today though, some aspects of the visuals have aged better than others,  the scenery and the environments still look absolutely stunning, although the character models have aged considerably less well – the expressions on their faces when interacting with them offer about as much of an emotional response as a brick wall would and while this was criticised when the game was first released, this problem has only become more pronounced as the years have gone by and games have progressed by implementing advanced facial expressions into character models. As I’ve previously mentioned, the visuals in this game (excluding character models) can still be considered quite beautiful and the varied environments allow you to experience a wide range of scenery from snowy tundra’s in the north to sunlit wheat fields in the midlands to dark wet swamps in the south, this is without even mentioning what could arguably be called the most beautiful environment in the game – the Shivering Isles, this expansion comes bundled with the game of the year edition of Oblivion and is arguably equally as stunning if not more so than the main part of the game – Cyrodiil, the expansion brings two new environments to the game both representing two polar opposite states of madness, these two regions are called Mania and Dementia, Mania is colourful, vivid and bright, full of oddly shaped trees and vegetation while Dementia is a region that is dull, grey and marshy, filled with withering and decaying vegetation.

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The Visual differences between Mania and Dementia are stark.

Gameplay:

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An example of melee combat in Oblivion.

One of the core mechanics of the game is the combat, this has been heavily criticised by some people that claim that the combat doesn’t have any weight to it and that it feels as if the combat is based upon button mashing, and to some extent that’s true, the ranged combat in Oblivion is dismal and the melee combat isn’t something that stands out as being particularly deep but it is fun and is a vast improvement over Morrowinds combat system, also the immense depth in the selection of spells that are available to use in combat more than makes up for it as they are extremely fun to use and have  a variety of entertaining effects.

The gameplay of Oblivion is incredibly enjoyable and one of the most open and immersive experiences available to players, even by todays standards. The game allows the player to traverse its world in a myriad of ways all of which the player can choose. You can play as a mage and blast your way through the main quest line using nothing but magic, you can play as a thief  doing nothing but picking pockets and breaking into houses while fencing your spoils in what is effectively the black market of Cyrodiil (called the thieves guild) or you could play the game as a stealthy assassin, a rogue who accepts contracts for other people’s lives, you could do all of these things or none, you see that is the freedom that this game gives you, this game doesn’t force you into doing anything, it just places you within a living breathing world and says do what you want, it doesn’t force you to be good or bad, it just wants you to explore and become immersed in this extraordinary world.

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Oblivion’s map size is roughly a third larger than Morrowind’s map

Story:

The main storyline involves you being proclaimed as the chosen one by the emperor of Cyrodiil before his untimely demise, brought forward by a fanatic zealot group called the Mythic Dawn who worship the daedric prince of destruction (Mehrunes Dagon) and wish to see him summoned into Cyrodiil so that he can cause mayhem. You play as a prisoner who is imprisoned for an unspecified crime and whose destiny it is to rid Cyrodiil of the danger of Mehrunes Dagon. Overall the quest line is quite well written and offers some surprising plot twists throughout, it will also take several hours to complete and several talented voice actors appear throughout this quest line, actors such as Sean Bean, Terrence Stamp and Patrick Stewart the three of whom offer outstanding performances in their roles and help to compensate for the unrealistic facial expressions of the character models.

I can quite confidently say that most side quests in this game are extremely well developed and offer a huge amount of variety and side-story within them, they range from entering into a painting to find a missing painter and having to fight the painted creatures contained within the artwork to working for the daedric prince of debauchery to cause chaos at a banquet which devolves into people stripping down to their under-garments, shouting hysterically and eventually attacking each other, with the quest ending with you on the run from the town guards .

With a game this large there are always going to be some bugs but overall they’re quite negligible as all of the glaring/game-breaking bugs have been patched by Bethesda by now.

Replay Value:

The replay value of Oblivion is absolutely colossal, I have played through the main quest three times and each of my three characters are involved in completely different quest lines and have completely different skill sets which mean that they play in differing ways, because of these different ways of playing the game the replay value is absolutely tremendous, it’s always satisfying to complete a quest in a different way each time you do it, while because of Oblivions massive world always discovering new things to do.

Conclusion:

In conclusion Oblivion is without a doubt an epic RPG, I would go so far as to call it one of the best Role-playing games ever made, one which expanded upon many of the traditional RPG mechanics in games that came before it and one which offered a new level of immersion never before seen in video games. I take my hat off to Bethesda for providing me with an unforgettable experience, one which has surpassed any experience of single player gaming that I had ever had before it, if you haven’t played Oblivion and you claim to be a fan of RPG’s you are doing yourself a disservice by not playing this game. You can pick up the game in any video game store for under €10, trust me you won’t regret it.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Stunning visuals that can still be appreciated even when compared to modern games today
  • A large lavishly detailed immersive world full of interesting characters and lore
  • Varied and interesting Side-quests
  • Quality voice acting
  • Freedom to do whatever you want
  • An impressive soundtrack

Cons:

  • Character models facial expressions are stony and devoid of emotion
  • Some minor combat issues
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