The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Reader Review
Oblivion is a wonderful game in a lot of ways, pretty and clean, the setting is incredibly coherent and detailed, the quests are often interesting and a little bit different, and the people wandering around do a great job of making the cities feel alive. First impressions are highly positive. Second and third impressions are less so. The game is marred in a number of ways, each good point about the game seems to have an unsatisfying counterpoint, which unfortunately detracts from the game as a whole, and prevent it from being truly epic on the scale of FFVII, Ocarina of Time, Halo or Bioshock.
As a setting Cyrodil is wonderfully realised. Its sweeping green hills and plains are dotted with rivers cities and villages, and absolutely stuffed with ancient ruins and caves which add a wonderful sense of history. Each cities architecture is noticeably different. Guards wear different uniforms in different places, and if like me you tend towards petty larceny in these games, they can prove to be quite tenacious. Little details abound. Unfortunately it quickly becomes apparent that there are more guards then people, and what few people there are look and sound so similar it gives the impression that cyrodil is massively inbred. The rolling green hills and plains actually can make it difficult to tell where in cyrodil you are when exploring, and the dungeons quickly become stale as little varies internally other than the basic layout. The main plot, initially interesting, degenerates into a sequence of dungeon crawls and fetch quests, many of which seem pointless and purely present to extend the main game. The various guilds offer a bit of spice, alternative quest lines that occasionally throw up very interesting things. Although again these contain lots of fetch or kill quests of one form or another. Side quests abound everywhere, but for every one that proves to be fun, there are multitudes that are just tediously trying to get the reward. An accusation that can be levelled at RPG�s in general perhaps, but in a game of this scale and ambition it is incredibly noticeable.
Combat is a rather clunky affair. Often there is a slight gap between clicking the mouse and actually swinging your weapon. In enclosed spaces it often degenerates into a nasty damage dealing brawl, where having enough healing potions and spell�s is the deciding factor, while in open spaces it becomes a repetitive in and out dance. As the game levels up with you, combat can quickly become something non-fighting character�s must avoid even from pretty early levels, making it necessary for such classes to spend time grinding a particular skill in order to maintain viability. This can, and does, result in quite hideously powerful jack-of-all trade�s characters, or severely underpowered weakling�s with not much in between.
Of course this is partially because the levelling system is quite broken, as it was in morrowind before it, and the streamlining it has undergone since those days has served to make levelling even more broken. Although the restrictions on training make it less possible for wealthy and successful thieves to spend vast amounts of money training them up in whatever they need training up in, there is really nothing else to do with your amassed wealth beyond bribe people and buy houses. Houses may be a nice touch, but there is virtually no need or incentive to get one. Combined with the often uninspired quests and clunky combat the initial infatuation with the game soon boils to a slow paced grind.
The game remains excellent however, vast, detailed and an epic story of a few men trying desperately to save the world. It is a worthy enough addition to the Elder scrolls series or for fans of the first person RPG, it is sad however to note that this is yet another game on the ever growing pile of "might have been" and "almost was".
7 / 10