The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - PC - Review
Tangled in a web of his own making, the bandit had run out of arrows at the most crucial of times and worst yet he backed up into a dead end and was surrounded by massive boulders. With no choice, this genius of highway robbery whipped out a knife hoping that would scare away the lanky Wood Elf holding the long sword and iron shield. Oh, it was almost comical to see the bandit try to take a quick swipe with his puny blade but if it wasn’t for the horrifying use of the Flame Spell, lighting up the thief like a human candle, his death was certainly no laughing matter. Well, perhaps the lonely shepherd by the road found it funny. Ah, welcome to the living, breathing world you’ll encounter in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the PC.
Having been a fan of The Elder Scrolls saga since Daggerfall and the more recent Morrowind, Oblivion is an altogether different and far better experience than both games put together. We’re talking about a story of epic proportions and a world that is free to be explored. Here you create a character, choosing from a number of options such as race (human, elf, lizard or ogre), sex, hairstyle and other small facial features. And then suddenly you start the adventure locked in a prison in Tamriel when the kind King Septim and his most trusted armed guards enter your cell to activate a secret passage to make their escape. As fate would have it, you are asked to come along since the King seems to have recognized you from a dream he had. Yet during the escape Mythic Dawn assassins appear and the King is slain right before your very eyes. Yet before he dies the King gives you the rare Amulet of Kings and implores that you take it to a man named Jauffre. From there you become involved in a quest that involves secret societies and the opening of the Gates of Oblivion (basically hell).
It is after you escape the sewer dungeons with the Amulet and picking a character class (you can pick to be a thief, warrior, mage or make up your own class) that you will come to see that the massive world that lays before you is open for you to explore freely. There is no area that is closed off to you and you can very well forget the main task to, say, go wandering into the woods or head into the various towns scattered throughout the map. Explore the woods and you will discover hidden dungeons or hidden villages not on the map. Remember that highway bandit I just mentioned? The world is alive with all kinds of dangers be it roadside bandits, vicious wolves and the occasional wandering monster. You will come across fellow wanderers, civilians going about their business whether they’re chopping wood or hunting deer. At any point you can also just drop what you’re doing and go bow hunting, shooting down deer for its meat or for it pelt you can sell in towns.
Speaking of towns, there are a number of them, each with their own variety of stores, houses and quirky citizens that go about their business like clockwork. It is in these towns that you can sell items you might have found or, if you killed a bandit, sell loot you dug out of their pockets. You will also discover that townsfolk have problems of their own and welcome your help, so aside from the main quest there are literally hundreds of side quests ranging from the simple to the more complex. For example, one town member will ask you to investigate why her precious cellar rats are being slaughtered while another quest has you conducting an investigation in a castle to see who stole a rare painting. There are also interesting side quests you’ll get for joining a guild whether you join the fighter’s guild or the mages guild. There are also other more secretive guilds like the thieves’ guild and the Dark Brotherhood that acts as an assassin’s guild. Best yet is the fact that each guild has their own set of rules and rewards.
You’ll quickly find that this world is much too massive to explore on foot or on horseback (you can purchase horses from various stables) so there’s a map screen you can pull up and fast travel to a town or place you might have visited before. So if, for example, the town drunk in one town wants to find out who is impersonating him in another town all you have to do is pick your destination and click on it and you’ll be able to travel to said location quickly.
Whether you’re a fighter or a mage, you will see a lot of combat in this game. While you can switch from first-person to third-person, the combat system can be a bit tricky at first. The keyboard makes for some awkward sword thrusts but thankfully it’s responsive enough that you’ll be able to hit your target. Even if you’re not a magic user you will have a few spells that the game allows you to instantly bring up and use thanks to a hotkey. So if you need to paralyze an oncoming attacker all you have to do is bring up the spell and press the button while facing your attacker. Fighters can also use shields to block arrow attacks or sword swipes and all of this is handled beautifully enough. You’ll also get a chance to purchase a variety of different weapons from battle axes, katanas, pikes and bows. There are even different armor classes.
There are a few glitches worth mentioning but they, in no way, really take you out of the game nor become a source of frustration. For starters, the load times are lengthy but it’s reasonable considering the size and features of the area it's loading. Occasionally you will come across bugs that make character speech stutter or the framerate stutter at certain points. There are also the same unrealistic elements that made Morrowind a bit annoying, like the fact that most guards are psychic. Steal a silver jug in the town of Bravil unnoticed and somehow the guards in that other town of Chorrol know you stole the jug and threaten to arrest you. Still, these things are small compared to the fact that this games gives you a lot to do and see.
As for the game’s graphics, Oblivion is a gorgeous-looking game with lush environments that look amazingly lifelike. Depending on your graphics card the game’s beautifully rendered backgrounds and character models will not fail to impress. When you speak to characters you’ll be treated to a close up of their faces so you’ll get to see every wrinkle and see their lips move in synch with their lines of dialogue. My only real complain in the visual department is that the majority of the women have manly faces, a fact that becomes evident if you’re creating a female character. Still, the game shows off a number of beautiful effects that are more pronounced if you’re a magic user.
The game’s sound is another major highlight since the voice acting, sound effects and the score are beautifully handled. The majority of the voices are somewhat recycled throughout the game but the delivery of the lines is done right. Just about the only voice you’ll recognize is Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies as well as Captain Picard from Star Trek), who voices King Septim. The score that plays throughout the game is cinematic and changes whether you’re just trekking across the woods or locked in battle. Even the sound effects are nicely detailed.
There’s no doubt about it, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is this year’s best role-playing game and a true gaming masterpiece that you will not want to miss. With an impressive world filled with an abundance of secrets and side quests you will not be zipping through this game like other role-playing games so be prepared to get lost in this surprisingly enjoyable world. So do yourself a favor and buy this one right away.
|Review Scoring Details for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion|
The game’s many side quests are actually very inventive - like the time you have to jump into a magically enhanced painting to save the artist or when you’re tasked with stealing a diary in order to gain entrance to the thieves guild. Combat takes some time to get used to but becomes natural depending on the variety of different weapons you can pick up and use. Forgetting the main quest to go boar hunting or mushroom picking is perfectly Ok.
Despite a few mannish facial features on some of Tamriel’s women, the game is just drop-dead gorgeous. Armor reflects sunlight and enemies go limp when you slay them. There’s even perfect lip-synching during conversations and watching townsfolk go about their daily business is a real treat. Spells are flashy and look amazing. As for the character models, it’s a blast going up against walking skeleton warriors and other freakish monsters like ogres.
Patrick Stewart leads a cast of unknown voice talent that does a magnificent job of bringing each character to life. The real star of the show is the incredibly detailed sound effects that will make you spin your character around to see if that hiss was a monster or an echo and you’ll know a magic user is around because you’ll hear him or her start a spell. On top of that there’s a great soundtrack that makes the game seem all the more epic.
The variety of quests you’ll come across range from the simple to the more complex. Some missions have you completing multiple objectives so you’ll be glad you can save the game at any point. There are some enemies you will want to avoid if you’re a low-level warrior.
The beauty of this game is that there is no shortage of things to do and see so you will be completely absorbed in its massive environment. You have the freedom to take on any task and explore new possibilities like becoming a famous battle-arena fighter or becoming a vampire. There are secrets aplenty scattered throughout the world and the main story is wonderfully crafted.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is one of those truly satisfying gems that show up every now and then, and one of the most brilliantly conceived role-playing games you will play this year. It’s a true epic in every sense and while it does have its few minor bugs, this is still one of those games you will not want to be without. PC gamers, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.