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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)