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Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Developer: Bethesda | Publisher: 2K Games
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 03/20/06 | Genre: RPG

Although I have tried to enjoy the Elder Scrolls series in the past, I have been unable to really sink my teeth and get much enjoyment out of the franchise. That is not to say I haven’t tried. I spent hours upon hours in the world of Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind but when all was said and done, I quit in disgust. Perhaps it was the fact that I played it on the Xbox in the unfriendly 640 by 480 TV resolution. But I really think the reason why I have failed to enjoy this series, up to this point, is because the games were made for the hardcore fans of the series and nobody else. With little direction and help, I finally gave up Morrowind. It wasn’t until E3 2005 that I had hope to look forward to the future of the franchise.

At E3 2005, I was treated to a behind closed doors look at Oblivion. Running a beautiful engine, I gazed upon a living, breathing RPG world that would become the player’s own personal sandbox. You could be good, bad, concentrate only on the main quest line, or go off and find your own adventures. Heck, the game doesn’t even end when you beat the main quest line! After showing me all of this, Bethesda really caught my attention when they revealed the compass, map, and quest systems. Now players would know where to go, what else they have to do, and can never get lost. They even added a “fast travel” option to quickly return to places you have been to. No more hours of wandering the world in search for your next objective.

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As E3 2005 drew to a close, Oblivion was one of my Games of the Show. I eagerly awaited the Xbox 360 and PC releases. However, like many other great titles, Oblivion was delayed for some further polishing. I patiently waited until the game arrived in March 2006. Though it was months late, my Xbox 360 has yet to have another game disk inside it since Oblivion arrived. So let me go ahead and spoil this review for you now. Oblivion is better than advertised, greater than the hype, a worthy RPG for both the newcomer and veteran to the series, and is one of my favorite all-time games.

How can I boldly say such things about a franchise I have not enjoyed in the past? Bethesda has actually lived up to the promises they made. In my first thirty six hour marathon through the world of Oblivion, I have gone off on side quests, purchased homes, saved people, watched companions die, been a hero, created potions, learned new skills, and I am not even done scratching the surface of the game. I can start a new character, with different skills, and go through the game with an entirely different experience.

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Visually Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is nice to look at. The environments and character models both stand out as next-generation. However, because this game was in development for so long, it may not look as amazing as other next-gen games just coming out or are do out in the next couple of months. So while I do think the game looks good, I was expecting just a bit more out of the visuals.

Besides being in development for so long, the only other reason I can think the graphics being a bit less than I had hoped for is that the game has some performance issues. Occasionally you may find Oblivion locking up your Xbox 360 (or PC). These issues happen once in a blue moon. More often than that, you will find that the framerate will drop substantially--especially when entering into a room or environment with a lot of characters in it. This also leads to some draw-in issues when running around on foot or by horse.

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These graphical and framerate issues are minor but are worth pointing out. Asking for a game, like Oblivion, free from these issues might not happen in this generation or the next.

Besides the graphics, the controls for the game are very easy to pick up and a bit frustrating at the same time. Oblivion plays a lot like an action game. However, behind the action is a series of dice-rolls, stat checks, and all that other tabletop RPG stuff nobody understands except the biggest geeks. So while you are blocking, swinging your sword, and casting heal spells, the game is determining how effective both you and your enemies are. If you ever are in a position where Oblivion becomes a bit tough and you just can’t get through the situation, there is a built in difficulty meter that you can adjust on the fly. This ensures you can succeed no matter what the Developers throw at you.

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If you ever played Diablo or Fable, these are two games that remind me a lot of what Oblivion has become. While this series started before both games, Diablo’s hell aspect is a lot like what the Oblivion portions of this game. Fable, a game many loved and hated due to the hype and failing to live up to all the promises, reminds me of Oblivion due to the open nature of the world and the ability to live out your days as good or evil. Fans of either of these two franchises are strongly urged to at least rent Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and experience the game.

Players who enjoy MMOG’s may also really find a lot to like about in Oblivion. The game plays out a lot like an offline MMOG and has several elements of slowly raising up stats, farming gold, looting bodies, and collecting better equipment that MMOG fans love.

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The main quest line in Oblivion may only take you twenty to twenty five hours to beat. However, this is a game you can spend fifty to hundred hours in before you are ready to start over and do it again. I highly recommend this title and urge all Action, RPG and MMOG fans to give it a try. This is the number one contender for Game of the Year and it is going to be a tough act to beat in 2006.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 04/02/06
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence
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Screenshots for Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

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