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Review: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Oblivion is the fourth game in the Elder Scrolls franchise. Now on the Xbox 360 the expectations are high, but does Bethesda have the capabilities to live up to this expectations or even set the bar for future games? Xboxic uncovers in our review.

Gameplay
First, don’t be misguided by the Xbox Live logo on the box: the only thing this game does online is manage your achievements. Oblivion is a single player experience and nothing more, but hey at least it’s not like Perfect Dark Zero where you often feel the singleplayer was added as an afterthought, or Call of Duty 2 which didn’t get a decent multiplayer until 4 months had passed.

When you start you need to create a character. You can customize literally everything, from obvious things like the character’s class (Warrior, Mage etc.) and race to less common things like face and birth sign. Especially the face customization sets the bar for the level of detail found throughout the whole game: we’re not just talking eye color here, but inner brow level, cheek width, hair length and angle of the eyes. To round it all off, your chosen age is realistically factored into the looks of the character.

If you want you can play the story line from the end to the beginning but you also can start doing something else. I started with some free wandering around. This is the best part of the game, the fact that you have total freedom to do anything you want. It is possible to play for ages without even doing the main quests. In the first parts of the game you don’t have many weapons to play with but while progressing you can find and buy better ones. The game has a couple of large cities that are widely spread over the Cyrodiil province. There are two options to travel from one to another: on foot or horse or with the travel function. Being on foot takes a lot of time and you probably will hit the travel function when you are half way because walking for ages isn’t the most productive thing to do. You do uncover lots and lots of hidden locations in the woods though, because the 16 square miles of the game are literally filled to the brim with quest areas that are unrelated to the main story.

Graphics
With an extreme large ’seamless’ outdoor area to wander around I suspected some sort of GTA crappy graphics. This is a yes and a no: Bethesda has most certainly done a superb job in making an extremely large but also super beautiful world, but don’t expect the realism of GRAW all over. The natural environments can look like photos, but panoramic views tend to suffer from the polygon syndrome, where distant hills simply don’t have enough foliage and trees to appear realistic. Also the game does have a lot of distance popup in the graphics engine, and sometimes major framedrops during more complex scenes, even to my surprise during indoor situations. Hugely detailed games like Kameo and GRAW with immense draw distances have proven that this simply isn’t necessary on the 360. I’m not saying Bethesda did a sloppy job, it just could’ve been better. And the world isn’t seamless, there’s frequent loading times, even when wandering through a forest.

Audio
Many excellent games are great because of many reasons and one of the reasons Oblivion is great is the soundtrack and the voice acting. The in-game voices are done with some well known actors like Patrick Stewart (Jean Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, if you didn’t know this, you should be ashamed of yourself), Terence Stamp and Sean Bean. Sound effects like the clink of armor, the swooshing of the sword and everything is just ‘realistic’, the best compliment we can give. The soundtrack is great but when an enemy starts to attack you the music changes. Stupidly this takes away some of the game’s quality as a surprise attack is completely impossible: I’ve often noticed the music change even with enemies only on the horizon that I hadn’t seen yet.

Conclusion
The game is an absolute masterpiece from Bethesda. It delivers what an RPG is supposed to deliver: a hugely immersive world with quality gameplay and supposedly 200 hours of fantastic story to wade through. For gameplay and replay value we give this game top ratings. Graphics and sound all contribute to the great atmosphere that makes you want to go back and play more and more.

It’s the minor irritatations in the graphics field and the lack of surprise attacks that make us rate this game sub-perfect. If they had solved the (too) frequent framedrops, made the world more ’seamless’ and would’ve simply waited with playing battle music until a battle was actually happening, it would’ve been a good contender for 10 out of 10 points, but currently it’s not. It’s a perfect RPG, sub-perfectly executed.

Final Score: 9/10 - Very Good (how do we rank games?)

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21 comments on 'Review: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion'

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Pretty much agreed 100%.

My ACROMONK would own any of your silly cookie-cutter classes any day of the week. :D

Comment by Concerned Citizen on 2006-03-27 06:48:45 | Reply

Seriously, This game deserves 1000/10, The graphics are simply amazing, gameplays is a joy, amount of quests is endless. The minor bugs are completely overshadowed by the sheer awesomeness. I personally am not much of an RPG fan, but this game proved that RPG’s aren’t just for lamers. Bethesda did an amazing job, and your review is a disgrace.

10/10 is reserved for perfect games, or at best games with flaws that don’t matter. The screwed up battle music that ruins surprise attacks, the too frequent loads, and the frequent framedrops simply make this game less than perfect. Which is perfectly illustrated by 9/10. Must buy, but could’ve been better.

Comment by Billy on 2006-03-27 07:14:14 | Reply

What armor is that the character is wearing?

Full Daedric.

Comment by Paul on 2006-03-27 17:25:09 | Reply

this game ROCKS!

Comment by vandenbond on 2006-03-28 16:17:21 | Reply

this is probably the most amazing single player game in the history of man. Or at least the most immersive. This is second only to Halo 2 in terms of “must own” or “must buy.” It is the most exciting game I have ever played and I wished I had the PGR3 photo mode about a million times already…gorgeous..so gorgeous.

8 bit loading times and a tendency to crash once every 30mins, spoil this other wise superb game. 8/10 would be my score(cos these issues are v annoying)

I have experienced not a single crash myself during many hours of gameplay. Are you sure this is not related to your hardware setup causing heat problems?

As for the loading times, that’s in our ‘cons’ as “the world could’ve been more seamless”.

Could be, but probably not as this is the only game to do it.

Could ofcourse also be related to the fact that Oblivion stresses the hardware up to a certain extent that other games you tried don’t do yet :)

I’d try to play the game one time with the 360 standing completely in the open, and if it still occurs I’d consider swapping it through support.

Comment by prplaya4life on 2006-04-13 02:43:03 | Reply

BEST GAME EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What would be cool is if they added multiplayer arena battles(single and team).

Comment by Jaron on 2007-02-09 15:42:09 | Reply

I really agree with “Concerned Citizen” (the second guy to post), and with kobejonez. Multiplayer would be awesome, but this game is still one of the best ever.

Comment by Mononoke on 2007-04-16 17:33:35 | Reply

Single/Team arena battles would be cool, but the game itself would increase by the millions if they would make it Multi-coop. Considering everyone would have a choice of multiple different types of characters ranging from assassin to Straight Summoner. I’ve beat the game on the hardest difficulty since lvl 1, making this game an mmorpg would be a miracle non-the-less

hey ive been trying forever to get the daedric armor and i simply dont know how to get it, would someone please point me in a good direction on trying to get it please!!!

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-04-18 18:14:33 | Reply

Well what level is your guy at?

It becomes more and more common to find on random roaming NPC’s the hirgher your level becomes, quite rare to start with though and if you do find anyone wearing it in the early stages of the game they will probably just boot your head right out your arse and so you won’t be getting it by force at that point.

Gotta earn it to wear it.

Comment by Megan Opperude* on 2007-04-19 15:55:09 | Reply

well mi guy isnt very far so like what your saying is the higher your level the better of chance you have of finding it?..well who wears it?..is it the daedric people or just random people in town or what?…and is there an easier way to get your level higher cuz for me it takes forever..(ill be online tomorrow to see if you typed)

Comment by megan opperude on 2007-04-23 16:01:03 | Reply

is there a way to increase your level higher fast??

Comment by Adam on 2007-08-19 01:44:20 | Reply

I belive your crashes are due to your system overheating and the like. Also, people who buy this game for the PS3 will encounter none of the above difficulties.

Comment by Lord Potticus on 2010-06-10 13:13:06 | Reply

I absolutely love the elder scrolls series, but I cant help feeling that oblivion lacks certain freedoms that existed in the likes of Morrowind. For example, items you find are dynamic to your current skill level, making it impossible to acquire exotic items early on. If a character has an exotic item or armour, killing them reveals that they no longer have it on their person, so you cant get it unless paying for it fairly, etc. You also cant sell stolen goods like you could in morrowind. The map is also too contrived, being in a circular format, making it too simple and easy to explore. So I do find that the essential element of “freedom” is heavily interferred with on this one.

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