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Oblivion

[ Review Comments | Screenshots ]

Oblivion Review

box shotGame Info:

Category : Role Playing
Publisher : 2K Games
Developer : Bethesda
Release : 3/20/2006
MSRP (US): $49.99
ESRB: Mature

Official Site

Minimum Requirements:

System: 2 GHz or faster
OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
RAM: 512MB RAM
Video: DirectX 9.0c-compliant 64 MB video card
Hard Drive Space: 4600 MB
DirectX: DirectX 9.0c
Other: Sound card, speakers, or headphones required for audio

ScreenshotThe Emperor and his sons have been assassinated. Dimensional gates to the demon hell world of Oblivion are opening up all around Tamriel allowing the hellish monsters to run rampant and burn anything and anyone in their path. Without a royal heir to use the Amulet of Kings to light the Dragonfires thus sealing off the world from oblivion, Tamriel has no hope. Unless you take up the Emperor’s last wish that is…

The Killer APP of CRPG’s

Every once in a while a game or program comes along that redefines the standard for the genre that game or program belongs to. They call it the ‘Killer App’ and games such as Doom, Half Life, Command & Conquer and Everquest earned that title. There’s another to add to the list and they’ve been at it since the days of Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall. It is called…Oblivion.

Taking place in the world of Tamriel, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the latest of CRPG’s developed by Bethesda. Since their early title of Daggerfall, Bethesda has made it a habit of developing a vast, free form Fantasy CRPG’s that’ll eat hours of gamers time like popcorn and still be ready for more. Oblivion is their latest and believe you me, it is a work of art.

“There’s an eye opener, make no mistake.”

The graphics are the first hook and it’s a damn big one. The detail to the game is amazing; to the stitching of leather armor, the metal grain in a suit of plate armor, the architecture of the buildings in cities, the bark on trees or the leaves in the trees that sway in the breeze. The developers spared nothing in their quest of brining the gamer to a visually immersive world. When you look at the screenshots you think ‘ It’s rendered! I’ll never get that. That has to be full graphic settings on some uber machine that probably chokes on the detail anyway!” If you think that, yer wrong! What you see is what you get and Oblivion looks damn good even on low end systems. If your rig has some ‘kick’ to it you’re going to love it even more.

ScreenshotWhen you first walk your character outside, you can’t help but stop and look around at the world around you. It’s like the developers after watching the Lord of the Ring’s movies said ‘You know we need to make our game have some scenic sweeping vistas like that!”. As you stand there in the grass and wildflowers that sway in the wind, you can see the walls of a far off town cradled by tree covered hills and mountains. The game draws into the world as soon as you start looking at it! Did I mention the lighting too? Torches flicker and drop embers occasionally as you hold them in your hand. Luminescent fog hovering over a dungeon floor casts a pale and eerie glow just right for that ‘cold as death’ feel. Good stuff!

The sound in the game is nothing to sneeze at either. There’s a ton of ambient sounds for the ear to feast on ranging from birdcalls of different birds, the howling wind in the mountains or the way a monster breathes around the cavern corner. The soundtrack is good as well, heightening the mood nicely when in those dark hellish areas or giving you that oh so subtle battle music cue that tells you a baddie is coming after you. The sounds of swords on metal armor or against another sword are nice touches as well.

Close shut the Doors of Oblivion. Or not.

Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, its time for you to get into the game. Oblivion’s story and game play is as involving as ever. ‘Free Form’ and ‘Detail’ are golden rules in the Elder Scroll’s games and Oblivion is no exception. You can chose to embark on the quest or ignore it completely and nose around whatever the game has to offer. The NPC’s in the game talk with you and to other NPC’s in the game, wandering about the world with their own agenda and schedules. Shops open and close at different times of the day and not everyone you encounter will want to deal with you. The game is rife with quests. I’ve easily dropped 51 hours into the game and I’m not even halfway done yet! It’s a huge game world and it’s filled with all sorts of things to keep you busy; quests, ancient ruins, dungeons, wandering monsters, you name it! It’s like there’s too much to do. Is that possible in a CRPG? It ain’t bad that’s for sure!

ScreenshotNot only does Oblivion offer you hours of content to enjoy, it offers players a myriad of ways to do it. the game provides a staggering amount of character classes to choose from. If those aren’t enough or not to you’re liking, you can even create your own. (Another hallmark of the Elder Scroll games). With eight playable races offering unique abilities as well as a boatload of avatar customization options to choose from, you can mix and match to your heart’s content.

The game features a level and skill based system that defines your character; the more you do something in the game like swing a sword or cast a spell from the school of destructive magic, your skill in it increases. NPC trainers are also in game to help relieve you of your gold in case you want to train faster in some skills than in others. The level aspect allows your stats to increase and set a limit as to how much you can train in a skill at a certain level.

Interacting in the game is a ‘twitch’ based affair, another hallmark of the Elder Scroll games. Players first encounter this via locked doors that require the use of a pick to manipulate those pesky tumblers. Once you get tired of it you can have it done automatically but it’s not as forgiving when it comes to low skills.

Combat is done via mouse clicks to swing/shoot your weapon and to fire off a spell. If you use a bow or like to cast fire bolts, then you better work on your aim because your arrows/spells go where you aim them. Can’t hit the broadside of barn? Stick to melee weapons and just wade in. Don’t like dodging arrows or sword swings? Use a shield and fight using the ‘sword and board’ technique. Just be ready to have it up in time and facing the direction of the attack. Oh and be ready to repair all that armor and weapons that gets banged up in combat. Nothing worse than having that sword of shield break at the worst possible moment that’ll leave you nice and shredded from a demon’s claws.

In earlier ‘Elder’ games, this type of interfaced received some criticism for being clunky in aspects and non traditional from standard CRPG’s. But in Oblivion, it works just right. Combat has a visceral feel to it. As you develop your weapon skills, you can use special moves to help bring that monster down faster. Add to that some footwork (Mouse work on your part) and you’ll be drawn into the battle, clicking away and dodging in your chair.

Too good to be True!

ScreenshotYou’re probably thinking that this game is too good to be true. Well believe it or not, there are a couple of things wrong with it. Not much thankfully but wrong all the same.

One of the painfully obvious drawbacks is the voice acting. Voice acting is a hit or miss affair in any game and if your game is heavy with it you can really screw things up if your not careful. The voice acting in the game isn’t bad, since most of it was done by professional actors such as Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean, Terence Stamp, and Lynda Carter to name a few. Problem is that unless it’s one of the notable NPC’s in the game, every other NPC of a type sounds like every other NPC. For a game that’s an immersive powerhouse, there’s nothing worse than encountering an NPC in the street, then coming across a guard or merchant a few steps away who sounds exactly the same! It kills the immersion factor. It’s not a game breaking flaw though so it can be overlooked. For a game this polished though, you’d think they would have thought of that. You would think actors would be able to vary their voice depending on what character role they play. Not here folks.

Another problem I have to point out is the game mechanic involving your character’s ability to persuade an NPC to talk. The game has this lame ass, hit or miss, puzzle rotating mood wheel aspect that you use to increase an NPC’s disposition toward you. It has nothing to do with role playing and less to do with puzzles since its not much of a challenge. Bottom line it’s lame and totally out of place in the game. Since most of the game involves you with talking and influencing NPC’s it hurts all the more. I hope someone out there comes out with a mod alternative to it cause it really needs it.

Other than that the only criticism I can throw at the game is some small interface issues like cumbersome inventory screens and journals. Thankfully there’s a few mods out there that fixes that so no biggie. A cooperative multiplayer aspect would have been nice too but probably not workable for technical reasons.

Wrap-Up:

ScreenshotYes Virigina, Oblivion really is that good a game!

Gripes aside, Oblivion is an excellent CRPG, one of the best I’ve seen in a very long time. Already the market is taking note and taking the ‘Oblivion Approach’ in designing their CRPG’s. If they’re as good as Oblivion all the better. Bottom Line, if you like RPG’s, you must get this one!

Alexander"Darke" Dinkel - November 2006

Screenshots: 1
Author: Darke
Review Score: 3.0

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