It’s difficult to say anything without saying too much, it would be easy to write a 50,000 word essay about this game without pause. This game is not a game, it’s a life experience, a never-ending adventure of extreme proportions. It allows you to escape- escape into your own personal fantasy world where nothing is restricted, and the only boundaries are that of your own imagination.
I will try not to go into too much detail here, and I don't want to plague you with my own specific experiences, encounters and methods. I will only attempt to summarise the key aspects of this immense first and third person action role-playing adventure for you, as briefly as I can help myself.CHARACTER GENERATION and CUSTOMISATION
You are given a choice of ten races of people, very different people from all corners of the continent of Tamriel. They are very different in many ways; their appearances, abilities, attributes and, due to their varying cultures, storyline and quest prompting. These races each have two sexes and a wide range of variations to their appearances, including hairstyles and colours, headwear, jewellery, spikes, fins, horns and more. The customisation is endless regarding the shaping and toning of the head and face. You are also allowed to change your age from an attractive youth to a wrinkled old person. Unfortunately you are unable to alter your body in any way, and you are given a fit, young, generic frame for all races, this is however complemented later in various storyline and action modes.
Depending on the choices you make and your skills you will find a very wide range of clothing and armours in the land of Cyrodiil, where this specific adventure takes place. These can be found in all places, such as towns and villages, caves, forts, chests at the bottom of lakes etc, or plundered off the bodies of your and other's various victims. You can where any item of clothing or armour despite gender, you can made your own, or you can just purchase them from the many stores available. You have five basic apparel: shoes or armoured boots, pants, skirts or greaves, tops or cuirasses, gloves or gauntlets, and finally hats or helmets. Unfortunately you cannot change the colours or patterns of any of these. However you can do something called 'Enchantment' to any piece of apparel as well as to any shields and weapons. This means you can bestow on them an attribute that will aid you in some way, for example boots that make you run faster, a hat that makes you see in the dark, or even a sword with in-built fire damage, and then you can name these items. The possibilities are very wide and include enough range to fully satisfy everyone.
Enjoyable and very extensive, if lacking minutely in some areas
8.8 / 10GRAPHICS and GRAPHICAL EFFECTS
For it’s time and considering it’s immensity the general graphics of Oblivion are astounding. Details of the grain on the trees and the rough on the rocks are minute, the array of surfaces are immeasurable and very skilfully grafted to their appropriate environments. It’s clear after a short look around that Bethesda took very great care and a lot of time when placing and colouring the detailed graphics of every single material in the world. From the awesome effects of fire, frost, shock (electrical effects), the cool waters in the form of seas, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, rain and snow, to the beautiful and majestic skies of Cyrodiil our eyes are evermore enriched. From the dregs of the lowest and filthiest dungeons to the clear and cold peaks of the Jarrell Mountains the graphics of Oblivion are meticulous and pleasing, sometimes forming combinations that can sting your eyes. Nothing is more visually breath-taking and stress-relieving than watching the sun rise over the Jerrall Mountains.
Beautiful and skillfully crafted
8.9 / 10GAMEPLAY and COMBAT
Unlike its predecessor Morrowind, Oblivion went all out and realistic for it’s combat engines and diversity of game-play. Instead of simple enemy engagement with an array of choice weapons etc, Oblivion allows you to choose an indefinite combination of styles and weapons to destroy your enemies. I have to make it clear here that unlike Fallout, Mass Effect and many other RPG’s you are not restricted to any class or style of combat. You are able to master every single skill simultaneously through practice. Simply use your sword and you become a better and better swordsman, sneak around alot and you become more stealthy, cast destructive spells and become more wizardly, or do them all and combine and adapt all your skills and experiences for any given scenario. It may be that a game as huge as Oblivion has some minor glitches and sometimes long loading times, but one has to remember the sheer complexities and enormous scale of such a world and excuse them as much as possible.
Unlike many other games the combat in Oblivion is entirely ‘free’, what I mean by that is that it has no target-locks, no restriction or even tendency towards specific targets or means of fighting. You are entirely free to engage any enemy or multiple enemies at any time during a fight. You can stun a man with a brutal sword lunge and then set his ally on fire before disengaging and firing an arrow to someone above you, in others words you are totally liberated.
You can use your bare hands and beat your enemies to death or alternatively you can use knives, short-swords, long-swords, claymores, war axes, battle-axes and maces all with varying speeds, strengths, weights, reaches and attached attributes. These melee weapons can be wielded with shields and they can all be mastered together fully and equally. You also have the option to go ranged with light and heavy bows with varying strengths and weaknesses and corresponding attributes, which can also be fully mastered along with all melee weapons if you so choose.
All of these can be combined with your own home made poisons- poisons are a fantastic element of Oblivion one that has to be mastered all by itself. Alchemy is utilised through your finding, harvesting, experimenting and producing base to master potions and poisons from all manner of ingredients found throughout Cyrodiil. You can tip your arrows or your blades with any poisons of your making. Poisons have such effects on your enemies as paralysis, setting them on fire, electrocuting them, draining their health or even their specific powers or skills, removing their immunities, and amongst many others brain-washing them into fighting on your side.
All of this is without mentioning Magic. There are five schools of magic each of which has it’s own style, form and variety. Destruction magic is your primary and most favoured type of magic for it utilizes such spells as Fire, Frost, Shock, Health Damage and the Disintegration of your enemies’ armour and weapons. Combined with melee and ranged weapons Destruction magic is your ultimate means of killing.
On the opposite side is Restoration magic, which amongst other effects allows you to heal yourself and your allies it allows you to increase (temporarily) some of your skills and/or attributes. For example increasing your Acrobatics allowing you jump onto a high ledge, bolstering your Strength allowing you to withstand a mighty Ogre’s smash etc, etc. Restoration will cure your diseases and poisons as well as helping you resist enemy magic attacks.
Mysticism governs spells to make you see through walls, reflect or absorb enemy spells, manipulate objects with Telekinesis, or trap the souls of your enemies to be used to make new magical weapons and armour.
Alteration magic can be used to shield you from different enemy Destruction or physical attacks, and it can undo locks on chests and doors. It can also make you lighter to carry a heavy load of treasures back to your house or stores, or alternatively cast it on your enemy to make him too heavy to move. Alteration is also useful when facing water, it can make you breathe underwater and even walk upon it. The fantastic school of Conjuration is specifically aimed to literally summon almost any creature to fight by your side from thin air. From ghosts to zombies, and demons to Daedra Conjuration can really give you an edge in a fight. It also gives you the option to summon powerful emergency weapons and armour.
The final school of magic is called Illusion and has a very wide range of spells, amongst it’s most useful ones are night-vision and light (as in turning yourself into a beacon of light). It can manipulate your enemies’ minds, make your enemies scared of you or even fight to the death by your side against their own friends. It is equally useful for your allies, rallying them to fight when they’re afraid or calming them down when they panic. But Illusion has even greater spells in its arsenal. Illusion can make you and your allies partially or completely invisible. And to top them all mastering Illusion gives you the ability to completely and even indefinitely ‘paralyse’ your enemies.
Yes the combat of Oblivion is extremely diverse, but not only that, it gives you the choice to have everything at your fingertips at once and makes for some pretty awesome game-play. Combining this with a very high difficulty setting will make your enemies utilise the same diversity and melees will become so furious and fantastical that you will not wish them to end.
Sophisticated and enjoyable
9.6 / 10ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Every game with A.I. has two fundamental types with their respective differences. Allied and Enemy– it's often apparent that your allies seem to run around doing nothing while your enemies are working meticulously to kill you, not in Oblivion! Oblivion integrates proprietary ‘Radiant A.I.’ which reacts dynamically within the game–world. It is definitely superior and well ahead of its time. Your allies can be numerous, if you combine (name retracted), all the guilds, the DLC, Conjuration magic, Illusion magic, and the Staff Of Worms you can potentially have ten allies at any one time. This is ill-advised however because of sheer over-whelming complications and possible freezing of the game. My point was not to convey volume but diversity. Your allies will automatically follow you, fight for you and die for you. The A.I. of both ally and enemy will attempt to outwit you with counter actions, if you’re far away (depending on the type of enemy) they will use their bows or ranged magics. If you move in they will switch to melee attacks or close quarters (touch) magics.
Some enemies do not possess or are simply better at either ranged or close combat and so will move themselves to their advantage. The A.I. in Oblivion has decent intelligence, if you run behind a rock or wall etc they will not get stuck to become a static target they will work out an optimal route quite quickly, up stairs, through water tunnels, over rocky hills, and around other A.I.’s. I have to stress also that the extent of their manoeuvrability and guile is affected by difficulty setting, the higher the setting the more advanced they become, not only in intelligence but also in skills and attributes. I highly recommend a very hard setting once you’re used to this game, it greatly increases the complexity and range of events in combat.
Dynamic, Superior and ahead of it’s time
9.2 / 10PHYSICS ENGINE
Oblivion utilises the latest Havok Physics Engine (at the time of its release), used in such titles as Bioshock 1 and 2, Assassins Creed, Red Faction: Guerilla, and amongst many others the latter Halo Series. This engine is the most sophisticated to date and allows real-time collisions and dynamics of rigid bodies in three dimensions. It provides multiple types of ‘Rag-doll physics’ and has a highly optimised collision detection library, which means different objects react differently depending on the precise force with which they are moved or struck. Upon an enemy being killed or knocked unconscious they will fall with perfect realism like a rag-doll and consequently contribute to a more believable and again diverse environment. This comes together with the falling and colliding of weighted items, from light books and wooden bowls etc to heavy weapons and boulders. Using spells such as a Fire Ball will cause materials to explode away, and if in a confined space, bounce around and hit other objects before succumbing to a stop from a genuine gravity. Arrows will have to be arched and will stick into wood and enemies’ bodies to be later recovered. Spells will travel vast distances, and I mean vast! Casting a Fire Ball angled at a far away mountain peak will not stop nor disappear, it will travel at moderate speed until it hits the peak for you to see in the distance.
One of the more powerful aspects of the physics in Oblivion is the ‘Trap’ array. Maces bolted to the ceiling of caves will be released by accidentally stepping on a pressure plate underneath causing massive and non-resistible damage. Pit falls with spikes, moving blades, log barrages, proximity mines, hostile plant-life and amongst others avalanches feature throughout Cyrodiil and the Planes of Oblivion. These are among the most devastating dangers because the only protection you have against them is avoiding them altogether. Also falling in general will cause massive physical damage, suffice to say the physics are highly diverse and concentrated.
Realistic and nicely balanced
9.0 / 10CONCEPTUAL ART, VOICE ACTING and MUSICAL SCORE
The artworks in Oblivion were not simply conjured up one day for a single video game. They have developed for many years over the course of many games and books and even paintings. Such talents as Matthew Carofano, Natalia Smirnova, Hope Adams, Noah Berry, Clara Cafasso, Tony Greco, Grant Struthers, Sally Huang, and Daniel T. Lee amongst many others committed countless hours in the designing and drawing of all the wonderful environments and inhabitants of Oblivion.
From the snowy mountains to the shining sea the lands of Cyrodiil are vast and diverse.
The voices in Oblivion feature none other than Patrick Stewart, Terence Stamp, Lynda Carter, and among others Sean Bean. Although the voices in dialogue are well acted and well written some of the voices do seem similar and can become repetitive, as the voice of one male wood elf for example is the same as every other male wood elf. Despite this there are many races and therefore many voices, and all the parts are very well written and acted.
The musical arrangements are all in orchestra and range from the award winning title score, to soft travelling music to exciting danger music. Composed by Jeremy Soule the music in Oblivion is perfectly suited to its moods and styles.
(I have to recommend here that although the music is sufficient there is massive enjoyment in playing your own music over gameplay. I’d have to say that the improvement in playing your favourite songs over travelling and exploration can be fantastic. There’s nothing greater than setting the mood with adventure music when riding your steed along the countryside, dark eerie tunes for exploring deep scary dungeons, or best of all heavy action rock music when storming the Sigil Towers of the Planes of Oblivion).
Fantastical and imaginative artwork, excellent voice performances, some repetitive and annoying dialogues, and wonderful musical score
7.3 / 10PLAYABILITY
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the largest 'type scale RPG' ever made, (including it's successor Skyrim), it covers an absolute insurmountable surface area in great detail. From open grasslands to dense forests, full sized mountain ranges to soggy swamplands, crystal clear lakes, rivers, coasts, and many other varying land features. It includes nine large scale cities (one destroyed and one central super city), over 250 caves, dungeons, ruins, forts, camps, castles, hamlets and villages, and countless other sites including graveyards, towers, abandoned buildings, treasure troves, inns, and many many more, not including the DLC. All of this will not be fully explored in any human’s lifetime, no matter how long you travel or how far you walk, there is always another new unexplored cave awaiting your discovery.
The missions and activities in Oblivion are all freely open to multi-choice. And I don’t mean just do them good then do them evil, I mean any one quest can be done several ways depending on your level, skills and the choices you make. The consequences and rewards differ depending on your actions during a quest. For example: if during a Thieves Guild burglary you are accidentally caught and end up fighting and slaying the person your stealing from, you will trigger a different response from your contractor and forfeit a hefty bonus of gold.
This means that although the main storylines and large scale quest lines are in themselves very extensive, they can be played out quite differently multiple times offering immense time consumption factors. This coupled with the facts that A. you have ten species of character with altering influences on storylines. B. Extremely diverse and enjoyable combat systems. C. You do not end the game even after completing all main storylines and remain in the world. And D. The world in itself can never be fully discovered, makes for ‘indefinite’ playability.
If you allow it, Oblivion will eat your life for breakfast, it will destroy your social life and for some people who have attempted to fully explore and exploit it (me) have lost their jobs, wives and children, or have literally fallen into mental suicide.
Captivating, endless reinvention and randomness, highly addictive
10 / 10 ACHIEVEMENTS and DIFFICULTY
Ah yes the achievements, why have I left so late to mention them? Well the answer is simple; Oblivion is not played with achievements in mind. Even the most adamant Chevo hunter will be drown out by this game’s influences, and be forced to simply play and enjoy themselves rather than worry about the achievements. However, you are complemented by relatively easy and straightforward achievements in Oblivion; no collectables, only one missable in the DLC, and none of them are glitched or buggy. All the achievements in Oblivion are unlocked by either story progression or by major side quest progression. They are extremely casual and like I say cause no worries. You will spend all your time concerned with game-play and storyline and when the Chevo’s pop you’ll hardly notice. I have to admit that if your looking for a unavoidable challenge non-dependant on difficulty and for inventive achievements Oblivion will let you down. Being so simple and unfussy makes for a lack of imagination as not one achievement will cause you to experience the game in an inventive way.
Oblivion unlike any other title I’ve ever seen has ‘100’ difficulty settings. Yes 100, presented as an adjustable difficulty bar in the sense of altering the percentage. This can be modified at any time with no influence upon achievements. When beginning a new character you always begin at the recommended 50% and this is a good way to play. You have the choice to play at 1%, which will allow you to destroy even the mightiest sorcerer with your bare hands. However like I’ve mentioned in ‘Artificial Intelligence’ above, the harder the difficulty the more fundamentally enjoyable, realistic, and diverse the action becomes. Enemies will plan and retreat to recover, and use advanced weapons, spells and tactics. But above all the game-play becomes highly serious, you will travel through dark Vampire dungeons with extreme caution, you will have to prepare and plan certain excursions into such wild places as the Planes of Oblivion, and you will play the game as if your life depended on it.
Achievements are mostly necessary but many predictable and uninventive, but difficulty can be altered to suit any type of gamer
6.5 / 10DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT
Oblivion is already immense in scale and time consumption so why not release seven new quest lines with new locations, an entirely new world with it’s own very extensive lands and missions, an inclusion of infinite Spell Books, oh and new armour for your horse.
The DLC packs for Oblivion are nevertheless wonderful and offer not only to extend your game time but also your wardrobe, ingredients cabinet, arsenal, housing prospects, and spell matrix. They add very affordable weight to the world of Cyrodiil, fit in nicely amongst the original lands and missions, and offer useful assistance.
THE KNIGHTS OF THE NINE
This is a highly enjoyable and very mysterious storyline that ultimately gifts you with a unique full suit of attractive and useful armour.
You will also unlock seven new dungeons each with their own mysteries and new items. You will add new dialogues of dozens of original characters throughout the land, and you’ll unlock new magical abilities. This actually adds an entire new faction to Cyrodiil and offers a lot of quests and uses, definitely recommended for all types of characters, especially new players and those of moral disposition.
This takes you through a long mystery horror story where you will travel deep into a lost Ayleid underground system filled with dangerous Vampires. It is set in a new location called 'Sundercliff Watch' and when downloaded it becomes the largest single location in Cyrodiil. This DLC also includes all kinds of new, special clothing and armours, new books, unenchanted weapons, and jewellery, as well as a very powerful and unique Daedric Artifact. A good solid addition to the game with plenty for your money and plenty of new materials.
Without this you will always wonder what’s behind the permanently locked door in the Arcane University. It’s the Orrery, much more than a simple medieval planetarium. This will take you on a quest across Cyrodiil to find the missing pieces of the machine and restore the Orrery. Featuring three new powers for your character and the only chance to change your birth sign, the Orrery is a useful and enjoyable add-on.
THE THIEVES DEN
A small but fun quest to reclaim the infamous Red Sabre pirate ship in haunted Dunbarrow cave. After retaking the cave you are given the ship as a home with ample storage, a free bed, a new and exclusive thief orientated vendor, two new master trainers, over 40 new items, 14 new spells and an everlasting training chest to max your lockpicking skill. Highly recommended for rogues and thieves.
Not much in the way of a quest and limited uses as a home. Deepscorn’s use lies with vampires and assassins, with the option to cure vampirism or to sleep and feed as a vampire.
It does feature some vast gold making opportunities, new ingredients, a new weapon, and good storage capacity but not an essential unless you’re a vampire.
THE WIZARDS TOWER
There’s no quest included with this content, other than to simply buy the upgrades for the tower itself. However this is one fantastic tower, especially for magic users. A beautiful and majestic wizards tower high in the snow-capped Jerall Mountains.
It's fitted out with not only the usual stores and bed, but also a very useful indoor garden with over 120 rare ingredients, the ability to recruit permanent Atronachs as companions, one of only two Spell making altars in Cyrodiil, an Enchanting altar, an alchemy font, instant teleporters to every Mages guild in Cyrodiil, and a breathtaking view of Cyrodiil. You will also get a new spell vendor posted in the Imperial City. This is a must for any character unless you really don’t use any magic or alchemy at all.
THE FIGHTER’S STRONGHOLD
This has a short quest line but a highly prized reward, a full sized castle to house all your trophies.
By far the largest and most impressive property available, you get sleeping areas, a wine cellar (which produces its own unique wine), a blacksmith and forge, an endless supply of knights of which you can recruit as companions, a chef, a maid, a combat trainer who you can spar with, and a lot of display area and storage capacity. Highly recommended for long-term and vain players.
THE SHIVERING ISLES
This could be an entirely new game in itself, and not a small one. The Shivering Isles adds a massive new land to Cyrodiil accessed through a magic door on a mysterious new island. It is not like Cyrodiil in the sense that it is completely mad!
This land is governed by an insane God called Sheogorath, featured in the original as one of the Princes of Oblivion (the one that makes you call a plague of rats with smelly cheese and makes it rain flaming dogs). It has brand new and incredible storyline quests along with many side quests and activities, (most of them crazy and wonderful). It features dozens of new and intensely weird creatures and characters.
This extension will also unlock loads of new and potent ingredients, new clothing and very attractive and powerful weapons and armours. New peoples, factions, shops, traps, laws and services: new abilities and spells, new books and tomes and plants and wildlife and a new and beautiful sky above it all. The Shivering Isles really is fantastic and ultimately outrageous to boot.
All wonderful additions that fit perfectly and offer real extras
9.8 / 10STORYLINES and ACTIVITIES
I will try not to give away too many details about the stories told and played out in Oblivion. You will be given a simple task near the beginning of your adventures that prompts the first main storyline quest. But as it states on screen at this point, you are free to wander your own path from the start to the end, and need not ever even play out the main plot. There are many other long and absorbent storylines to follow. Depending on the paths you wish to take you can restrict yourself to a set career. If you want to you can become a knight-errant and join the Fighters Guild, which can lead you through many quests of good nature to bring peace and justice to the land. You could become a mage or a sorcerer and join the Mages Guild, taking you through the schools of magic and the chaos of the supernatural. You could take more sinister paths in the Thieves Guild or even the iniquitous Dark Brotherhood, leading you down criminal routes of theft, pillage, extortion, and murder. There are many other exclusive journeys to take, and others which you yourself will invent, a hunter of the wilds where no quarry is too dangerous, a travelling merchant and highwayman robbing and stealing to make yourself ever richer, or perhaps an adventurer, one who ever travels the wilds in search of challenges, strange places and treasures untold.
The fact is that you can choose a destiny or you can choose all destinies at once. Why not join every guild, fight for the good of man during the day, only to pull over your hood and rob his house at night. Attend the classes of magic for the prosperity of the righteous mages, only to turn to the dark side of power and become an evil sorcerer and murder every mage in the school. Visit the quiet villages and help a girl find her lost father, then storm across the wilds and destroy an Imperial Guard to steal his horse.“Choose your destiny, choose your other self, because in Oblivion you can be whoever you want to be, and you can do whatever you want to do”.
10 / 10CONCLUSION
A must buy before you die.
89.1 / 100
The link below is the best source for general information not only regarding Skyrim but all the Elder Scrolls. This encyclopaedia can aid in every aspect of the game and also give you helpful advice to avoid disadvantages and glitches or how to resolve them. It’s also full of interesting facts and secrets that will greatly expand your experience.http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Main_Page
Please also see my Skyrim review for more insights: Review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim