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The Elder Scrolls IV: OBLIVION

version: pal (it), first print w/map - year: 2007 - developer: bethesda game studios - publisher: bethesda softworks, ubisoft (eu) - format: ps3, blu-ray disc - condition: good - rarity: common

The PS3 version was released a full year after the PC and Xbox 360 versions, with enhanced graphics. This first print came with the expansion Knights of the Nine but missed the second expansion Shivering Isles, which was released on PSN and as a stand alone disk in North America. For Europe, Shivering Isles was only released as part of the Oblivion reprint GOTY (Game of the Year) edition. Apparently, the north american expansion disk of Shivering Isles is incompatible with the european version of Oblivion. Also, the lack of trophies support is also a bit of a shame, considering the amount of time you'll end up spending on the game, and no bragging rights since you won't be able to show your achievements on PSN.

 

The main theme of the game is highly dramatic and powerful, and is of very high quality, like the rest of the ingame scrores. Also, it should be noted that the game takes about 5 GB of space on your hard drive, so beware! This certainly decreases loading time, but doesn't eliminate it, as it remains annoying, especially after many hours of play.

 

The Knights of the Nine expansion will see you travelling across the continent in an attempt to recover the lost crusaders relics to ultimately reestablish the order itself.

 

The priory of the nine is a gorgeous place in the countryside...

 

...with beautifully detailed environments outside...

 

...as well as inside. Make sure you store your items in safe chests or else they will disappear after some time!

 

It is possible to see the white gold tower of the imperial city from almost anywhere in Cyrodiil, and that transmits a great sense of scale. Environmental pop remains a bit annoying though.

 

Sunsets pervade everything around you in smooth and gentle orange and pink shades. You can play the game in first person (like an FPS) or with a 3rd person view.

 

Oblivion Gates are always guarded by powerful beasts or daedric warriors. It is better to get rid of them before entering the gate of they could either follow you or wait for you when you come back out, weakened.

 

The tower holding the Sigil Stone is the middle one. It is often easy to spot the main tower, but the path to get to it is never straight-forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review - Let’s put it this way: it took me about 45 minutes only be able to create a half-decent character who didn’t look like some kind of circus freak.

After that, the initial part in the catacombs /sewer underneath the city looked generic and boring, with the sad highlight being the fight against unusually powerful and overgrown rats in an attempt to defend and escort out of the city the Emperor Uriel Septim VII (apparently voiced by the actor Patrick Stewart). After eating rat meat, and having my health bar drained, I started to get seriously pissed. Two hours into the game, and the repeating lines of the emperor’s guards were starting to get on my nerves too.

Had I ended the review here, Oblivion would have got a 2 out of 10, and a kick in the ass but I knew there was supposed to be more than just stupid-looking people, rats and boring sewers. The thing about sewers, is that I am getting sick of them. It’s like every videogame out there will push you down into sewers at one point or another but I digress... when I eventually made it out of there and opened the sewer cap, I was literally blinded by the warm sunlight which enveloped the colorful and vibrant world of Cyrodiil.

The sheer beauty of the environment just stole my breath away. Hills, rivers, lakes, forests, the diversity of the vegetation, the wildlife, the pink / orange sunrises and sunsets, the distant ruins from forgotten civilizations, the new cities of the continent, each with their individual architectural style, with their history and people. A huge breathing world enhanced by believable weather cycles, a convincing physics system, and populated by different races who lead their own lives and sometimes get killed in the process, without you even knowing. Until perhaps one day you’ll walk down a path and you’ll see bodies lying on the floor, probably the result of a struggle of some sort, or an ambush by marauding bandits.

And within this beautiful framework, you will be free to do what you want. Follow the main quest-line maybe, in an attempt to find the true heir of the emperor, or maybe join one of the guilds, or all of them, to acquire more experience, earn more gold and increase your skills. There are hundreds of side-quests you can decide to undertake or you can keep them on hold indefinitely while you do something else. You can even decide to buy your own house, a safe place to sleep for free and to store your equipment. You can't create a family though, so you could start feeling lonely and bored there if you don't do something else :) Anyways, this extreme freedom of actions is also reflected in a few moral choices you will be presented with.

If joining the Fighters or Mages guild presents few ambiguities, things get definitely muddier when joining the Thieves Guild or when approached by the Dark Brotherhood (or Assassins) Guild.

The Thieves have their own code of conduct, which normally requires you to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, and as a general rule, to steal from the rich to the benefit of the poor. Monetary rewards are also the lowest of any of the other Guilds, which is strange considering you are a thief. This Robin Hood approach to stealing gets a bit shaken towards the final part of your ascension in the Guild though, since you’ll be tasked to basically steal for glory, in one of the most inspired quest in the whole game.

The Dark Brotherhood missions are an entire different matter. The first one requires you to brutally assassinate a person hiding inside an Inn. You don’t really know why, you just know that person must be eliminated. You are given a choice, and if you decide to carry through the murder, then you’ll become an active member of that Guild.

I must say that I found the Dark Brotherhood missions to be a bit unsettling. Personally, in that mission I just mentioned, things went like this for me: I got into the inn, sneaked into the target’s room, but wasn’t stealthy enough so he woke up. After seeing me, he looked puzzled before my hammer came down on his face. He started running around before getting cornered, imploring for pity. At which point I crushed his skull and left him dead on the floor. Brutal don’t you think?

Another mission saw me wander through Cyrodiil in search of a family; a mother and her four children. The mother was peacefully sitting home in front of a fireplace, reading. I got inside her house and through deceits and nice words, I got her to trust me and provide me with useful information about the whereabouts of her sons. At which point she became an instant target. Again, I killed an innocent, an old lady this time. Then I went on to decimate her siblings, one by one.

Needless to say I really felt bad when acting this way, but I was somewhat compelled to go on to see just how far the missions would require me to go. This fact alone provided a good incentive, although the questionable things I was required to do were shocking, even if it was just fiction.

Of course, I could have neglected completely the Dark Brotherhood quests, but the strength of this game is that you are free to become a saint or a murderer. Or both. But, to be actively involved in horrendous acts is quiet different than merely passively watching a crime scene in a movie for instance…I feel Oblivion should have had a tougher age rating. 16 years for it seems a bit low, given the depth of the moral choices you are faced with, 18 would have been more suitable.

Aside from this aspect, I would say that Oblivion is a game that blossoms after about 50 or 60 hours of play. The intricacies of the game-play system will suddenly become clearer and you’ll discover the huge amount of things you can actually do. But after 100 or so hours of play, quests and side-quests might start to feel repetitive. There are just so many quests you can take which ask you to rid a cave of trolls, or bring back a certain item to some guy after talking to some other guy.

Also, randomly generated dungeons should provide some diversity for inside locations but they instead often share a very similar layout, and the same graphical themes. There is a lot of repetition there, and it seems like the huge variety of the open world environment is not fully exploited, since the player will spend a lot of time in look-alike dungeons which look nothing like the outside world. Interestingly though, some of these dungeons might hold a surprise: a contagious one too called Porphyric Hemophilia or Vampirism! If you don't cure it with 72 hours, you will turn into a vampire, meaning you'll acquire a few powers but annoyingly, you'll be hurt by sunlight and you'll be forced to feed at regular intervals if you want merchants to still talk to you. The awesome thing is that not only your character will look more "Vampiric", but the game will actually feel very different, and in my opinion, more challenging. If you fail to cure the disease on time, you can look for an antidote, although that's a day-long quest, which is actually bugged in the Oblivion GOTY edition...

Another thing I didn't like were the “invisible walls” placed as boundaries of the outside world. They just ruined the illusion of being immersed into a true organic open world adventure, with that message pop up on the screen informing you that you simply cannot go forward and you should move around. That’s cheap. Why not create believable obstacles like mountains or oceans instead?!

Despite these limitations, it is really fun to jump onto a horse and explore the continent in all of its extension, looking for shrines of forgotten deities, or for Oblivion Gates. These Gates are portals to the Oblivion plane of existence, and they spearhead a mass-scale invasion of Cyrodiil. When discovering a Gate, the sky will turn crimson and the music will suddenly sound more threatening. Otherworldly beasts will be vomited by the gate itself at which point you can decide to stay clear from the monsters, or you can jump right into the portal, kill everything inside it and seal the Gate for good by collecting a magical artifact called Sigil Stone, stored into the upmost part of an imposing main tower. Come back alive from Oblivion and the smoking crumbles of the Gate will be the only thing left behind you, like a burnt scar on the vegetation of the continent, testimony of your glorious deed.

While very exciting at the beginning, after closing about 10 of these Gates (I closed 18 of them), you’ll realize it’s always the same thing. Sure, Sigil Stones are very useful to enchant items, but this is simply not enough to keep you entertained over and over.

Another thing I found a bit disappointing is the difference between the beautiful surroundings and the character models, which really look like they were upscaled from a PS2 game. Plus they simply look ugly most of the time and to find a normal looking character seems the hardest of the quests in the game! Even in missions in which you are supposed to rescue the classic “princess in distress”, you’ll find yourself rescuing some lizard girl or some green Shreck-like troll lady...what the hell?

Luckily, characters do look much better with their armor and weapons on. The amazing details on these is simply exceptional, and their design often inspired.

One last thing I was disappointed with is the use of the same voices over and over for different characters. That can become quickly tiring and again, it somewhat shatters the illusion of being immerged into an alternate believable world.

Despite its few rough edges, Oblivion kept me glued to the screen for the length of the entire main quest-line, the Knights of the Nine expansion, the four guilds quest-lines, the Arena, the 15 daedric artifatcs and a ton of other side-quests for a mammoth total of 180 hours! And that’s just when I felt I was done, but this is just subjective. Some players might keep on going for an extra 100 hours probably but I feel this game offered most of what it had to offer well within those 180 hours.

In the end, I would say that after spending so much time with a game, it is easy to point at its faults but not many other games would have been able to steal from me such an enormous amount of time.

I would like to thank Bethesda in the first place for creating such a labor of love and giving me the opportunity to experience their beautiful vision. Fantasy worlds have hardly ever looked so good, and were hardly ever crammed with so many things to do. And for a single player RPG, this is as big as you can have it!

Bottom line: An arcade-rpg which is also very deep and involving. Unique in what it offers, although loading time can become tedious in the long run. 9/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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