Developer/Publisher: Bethesda Softworks || Overall: 9.8/10
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion finally saw its release on the PlayStation 3 this past month. After a delay, a short period of time followed where nobody knew when the game was going to be released for Sony’s current-gen console (gotta start sometime, right?), but the wait was wholeheartedly worth it. Everything I could have wanted from the game and more is delivered with flying colors.
Up until getting my hands on Oblivion, I hadn’t spent much time with any western-style RPGs (I usually stick with the Japanese-influenced side of the genre), resulting in personal unawareness of The Elder Scrolls franchise. But, after hearing all the positive impressions about the massive amounts of features the game has to offer, I was excited to get a chance to play the franchise on a console I owned. While it is a port of the originally released PC/X360 version, Bethesda spent a good amount of time in development on it. As a result, the game runs very smoothly, and even has enhancements over the originally released versions to include more content as well as improving load times and other outstanding issues.
It should be noted that the same improvements are now available for the PC/X360 although you’ll have to buy the extra content as well as an expansion pack to get the upgrades. While the PS3 version does not have the downloadable content available for it yet, Bethesda plans on releasing them as time goes on.
For those who haven’t already played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on another platform, the game is a first person RPG, in which you can almost literally do anything you want. There is a main quest involving an alternative realm called Oblivion, but you don’t have to follow it at all. You can steal, dungeon crawl, travel the world, do one of the many quests you might acquire, become an assassin, become an arena gladiator – the world of Oblivion is packed with so many things to do its almost mind-boggling. You could spend 50+ hours in the game and not even take one step in the main quest. Most of my initial time was spent dungeon crawling and acquiring items to sell. It is really up to you what you decide to do in the vast game world.
For the sake of mentioning it, the game’s main quest begins as soon as you start the game. The Emporer, Uriel Septim VII is assassinated by a mysterious group as you help the Emperor escape. Its not good news when you “fail” (aka you will fail no matter what) but before that happens, you will be given a very important artifact called the Amulet of Kings. The Amulet of Kings is vital in stopping the demons (called Daedra) from Oblivion opening an Oblivion Gate and entering the world of Tamriel. This certainly doesn’t sound like it would be a fun thing to have happen.
Once you push the main quest forward a few events, Oblivion Gates will begin to appear randomly around the world. It is up to you to close the Oblivion Gates, since no one else is going to do it. Oblivion Gates will send you to a Plane of Oblivion, in which you can find a massive amount of powerful items you might find worthy to keep or sell. Once you complete an Oblivion dungeon, there is a stone that you’ll ultimately get that can be used to enchant your armor/weapons (which gives your existing items stat boosts). Needless to say, it’s a valuable prize.
While most of the game will take place in first person, there is a third person camera that is available by clicking the R3 button. It’s nice to have a different view every once in a while, just to see what’s around you as you are running around. Combat is best done in first person, however, as the third person view mode will still control as if you’re in first person. Weaponry ranges from swords, axes, bows, hammers, daggers, and a wide variety of magic. When you first create your character, you’ll have a chance to figure out what kinds of things you feel comfortable using, so you don’t have to worry so much about choosing the kind of weapon you’ll prefer.
Practically anything you do is reflected in gaining “experience” — you’ll gain it for just running around. There are a lot of breakdowns for the kinds of things to excel in, such as Athletics, Acrobatics, Destruction Magic, Blade, Sneak, and Mercantile, among others. Using skills enough will increase the level of that skill. Basically, you’ll be better at the skill, and if you reach certain thresholds, you’ll be able to do new things. When you first start out, you will choose seven major skills, with the rest becoming minor skills. Increasing your major skills, in any combination, by ten levels will result in a main level increase, in which you can choose three attributes that you want to boost. Depending on what you choose, your character can become more to your liking, if you want to focus on strength, magic, speed – it’s up to you. However, as your levels increase, so do your enemies’, so you’ll always be given a run for your money as far as combat goes, and it’ll never really get “easier” unless you have some really good armor/weaponry at a level you shouldn’t have them.
The graphics in the game are quite lovely. The most impressive part of the game is the world itself. It is amazingly detailed, and looks beautiful at certain times of the day. The dungeon-type areas are also impressive in their own right, as the careful detail shown throughout the main world is also apparent inside the dangerous areas beneath it. Several types of dungeons settings are in the game, like forts, caves, mines, castles, ruins, and others. The only thing that I can point out as bad is that there will be times where people will be quite literally radiating light, and I have to squint while talking to them. It’s about as funny as it is annoying. Speaking of the character design, most of the time they are fairly ugly – this isn’t a game full of beautiful people. When creating your character for the first time, it might be hard trying to find a character that actually doesn’t look like a freak of nature. Frame rate drops are a rare occurrence, but it can happen at times.
Sound is also another important part of the game. Every character in the game is voiced – every single one of them. You have the option to turn subtitles on or off, in case you don’t understand what they’re saying or if you want to speed read ahead of what they’re talking about so you can get on with the quest you’re on. The voice acting isn’t bad, but the only qualm is that there seems to be about seven or eight people that voice all the characters in the game. When there are thousands of characters in the game to talk to, it can become unappealing to hear the same few voices repeated. Patrick Stewart is featured as the voice of the Emperor, but he dies.
The soundtrack is also impressive. It’s all orchestrated, so it makes you feel like you’re in a fantasy movie battling all the different demon monsters and walking skeletons you’ll encounter. The only time there is no music, is when it’s used carefully to create a feeling of isolation, or something to that effect. Upbeat “battle music” will start playing if there is an enemy nearby, as well. There aren’t too many “theme songs” to really pick out from this game, but the title screen song is the most memorable of all.
An important part of the game to mention is the sheer amount of content you’ll experience if you intend to explore every nook and cranny there is to be offered. You can easily spend upwards of 200 hours in this game and still have more to do. The game is worth it at practically any price you can get it for, and it being the same price as so many of the other short games on the market today is really a testament to the amount of value you can get out of the same cash you could have spent elsewhere.
If you’re aching for a game to put some time into, Oblivion will certainly deliver if you enjoy western-themed RPGs. With seemingly an unlimited amount of things to do for a huge amount of time, it is certainly a must-buy. If you waited on buying the PC/X360 versions and have a PS3, it might be worth it to you to give Oblivion a shot on your Cell-powered machine.