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.
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!
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!
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.