Thursday, March 27, 2008

Xbox 360 & PS3 - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion by Bethesda

While I realize this is a not-so-recent game, there is still no other RPG that compares to the level of detail that this RPG offers. Oblivion is presently the best RPG on the market for the nexgen consoles even if the graphics are a year older than most RPGs available today.


The graphics of Oblivion aren't the absolute best I've seen as of today, but it's a far cry better than Morrowind's graphics (the predecessor to Oblivion). The level of detail is not as high as games like Mass Effect or Halo 3 (even though Halo 3 isn't an RPG), but the graphics do not, in any way, detract from the overall gameplay. That isn't to say that the graphics are bad, though. For a 3D adventure game, the graphics are definitely in keeping with today's standards. However, even though it isn't state-of-the-art, the lack of it is more than made up for in the gameplay system.

RPG portions

Oblivion is as true an RPG as you're likely to find on the nexgen consoles. The battle system is real-time vs the turn based systems like Final Fantasy. It doesn't have 'dice rolls' or anything visual like this, but it does offer a random chance and probability system. So, if you're fighting, there is a chance you could do more or less damage on each hit and vice versa for your enemy.

Elf, Atronach or Redguard: Birthsigns and Classes

You choose what you want your character to be. Through the birthsigns and the classes, you outfit your character's strength and weaknesses. For example, the sign of the Atronach gives you strong magic skills, but no easy way to regenerate magic. You have to then create or buy absorb spells to regenerate your magic. If you choose to be a High Elf, then you get a 100% bonus to your magic skills, but you also have a 100% weakness to magic (so, one spell on you and you're dead). If you choose to be a Breton, this is a more well-rounded character and you are good at being both a warrior and casting spells.

So, again, it's your choice. Bethesda did a superb job designing this system. It's extremely well thought out. So, you can complete the game no matter which class or birthsign you choose. However, it could be a bit challenging if you choose to be born under the Atronach sign. But, if you've played the game once through, you might find it completely different playing it through again as a different class or birthsign. Once you know the game and what it has to offer, you can easily make up for your weakness by using other battle strategies.

Swords, Daggers and Spells

Weapons are found just about every location throughout the game. Most physical weapons are found on enemies you kill. Some are found in chests and other can be awarded to you through completion of quests.

Spells are found in one-use scrolls or multi-use spells can be created once you gain access to Arcane University. You can enchant items and equip these items to add additional effects to your character.

Battle System

Oblivion has a real-time battle system. I prefer real-time battles over turn-based because turn-based systems seem stilted and difficult to manage. Also, waiting for each character to take their turn is annoying. Most systems that use turn based systems also make you have blind random encounters. So, you don't see the enemy on your screen until the encounter starts. With Oblivion, you can easily see your enemy in the distance before you even approach. So, you can avoid the encounter if you so choose. For this reason, the battle system in this RPG is about as flexible as you can get.

The one downside, if any, is that Oblivion doesn't support squad based play. Later on in the game, you can have characters follow you around and they will fight when you fight, but you can't control their actions. They do what they do. If they die, they're dead and you leave them there.

Sneaking and Thievery

Oblivion offers the ability to sneak around undetected (under the right conditions). This allows you to approach people and creatures unheard and steal things or even pickpocket them.


The quests and the quest system in Oblivion are top notch. Bethesda thought of just about every way to make the quest system as friendly at it should be. From big easy to read type to linking each quest right to a point on the map, to putting a placeholder on the map so you know where to go. There is really no way to get lost when doing nearly all of the quests. There are a few exceptions to this, though.

The quest journal keeps all of your quests neatly in order. So, you can pick and choose the quest you want to pursue at any point in time. You can also change your current quest just as easily. In the quest journal, it's broken down into three categories. Current Quest, Completed Quests and Active Quests. The current quest is the quest you are actively working to complete. Completed quests are those you have finished. Active Quests are those that you have discovered, but not completed. Some quests are multi-step, others complete in one step. It's entirely up to the quest.

Some quests require you to be at a certain level before you can begin.

World / Map

Cyrodiil / Tamriel is easily one of the biggest landscaped worlds I've seen in an RPG. Mass Effect's levels are quite big too, but overall I believe Oblivion's map is the absolute largest. Bethesda went to great lengths to make the world seem as seemless and believable as possible. So, when you're wandering the landscape, it honestly feels like one very large area.

The map covering the world contains all of the necessary items you need to travel from place to place. As you discover new locations, they are placed onto your map. Some quests reveal undiscovered locations and place them on your map. The map is the central tool you'll use with this game. It's the primary way to select a new location for 'fast travel'.

Fast Travel vs Slow Travel

In Cyrodiil, you get the choice on how you want to travel between each of the towns, camps, mines or caves. You can choose to hoof it yourself and walk over there. You can buy a horse and ride. You can fast travel. There are different reasons to choose each mode of travel. When you run, it increases your athletics skill. When you ride a horse, it doesn't. When you're out roaming (horse or running), you can run into encounters which ultimately give you experience (blade, spell, etc). So, for leveling up, doing encounters is a good thing. When you fast travel, you skip all of the encounters. But, fast travel gets you from place to place extremely fast (in real time). So, you spend less time running around and more completing the quests.

So, it's really left up to you how you choose to travel and roam.

Conversation with people

In Oblivion, you can talk with anyone you see. Yes, even some enemies (as long as they are people). Animals and Daedra don't really converse... with the exception of some Dremora. So, when you're wandering the game, be sure to strike up conversations with anyone you see. Sometimes, the conversation will open up a new quest.

If you want to converse with enemy Conjurers, Vampires or any other humanoids in the game, you will need to charm them with about 100pts. But, they will talk with you without fighting you. Just be ready to get out of there or become invisible once the conversation is over and the spell wears off.

Main Quest

The Main Quest is really fairly short. The main quest requires you to complete a few side quests in order to complete the main quest. So, be prepared to be sidetracked a few times to go get a few items you'll need to complete the main quest. I believe the completion of the side quest is really to get you familiar with all of the quests in the game and how the questing system works.

Time needed to play Oblivion

The time required to play Oblivion is really up to you. If you want to complete every official quest, it will probably take you anywhere between 1-2 months of play (assuming you play for several hours at a time). If you want to complete only the Main Quest, you can complete than in probably a week or two. This game has so many quests and add-ons that you can continue to play and level your character up for months. This is easily one of the lengthiest games I've ever played.

Not for everyone

Some people have stated they couldn't get into the game and didn't really like it. You have to like this style of free-form gaming to really get into it. But, for those who like this style of game will absolutely love Oblivion. It is easily one of the best RPG style games to date.

Quests are mostly linear

Each individual quest is typically linear. So, there's a beginning and an end. There are specific steps necessary to go from the beginning to the end. Most quests are self-contained (i.e., they don't rely on other quests). The Main Quest is the exception. Some quests are two or three steps to complete. Other quests are 10-20 steps. It's all dependent on the quest. Most quests require you to venture into caves to find something or someone. So, expect a fair amount of fighting unless you have invisibility.

Main complaint

My main complaint with Oblivion, and in particular the PS3 version, is that the game is still buggy. At inopportune times it tends to crash and/or hang forcing a complete power down of the system. On the Xbox 360, it's reasonably easy to power it off. On the PS3, you have to press and hold the power button due to the 'touch' sensor. The Xbox 360 version is quite a bit more stable than the PS3 version, however. There were times I might reboot the PS3 about every few hours of play. With the Xbox 360, I might play a week (or longer) before I hit a hang.

So, obviously, the rule here is to save early and save often. Not so much that your character might die, but more so that you don't have to redo an entire dungeon and/or quest(s) because of a bug.

Even with the bugs, I still rate this game high due to the shear details, size of the game, length of the game and overall detail level put into this game.


  • Sound: 9/10
  • Music: 9/10
  • Gameplay: 8.5/10
  • Story: 9.5/10
  • Control: 9/10
  • Bang-to-Buck: 9/10
  • Replay Value: 5/10
  • Overall: 9.5/10
If you enjoy RPG style video games, Oblivion won't disappoint as long as you are willing to put time into playing it.

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