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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (GOTY)

Released back in 2006, Oblivion was a huge success. Two years down the road and we've got a 2-disc Game of the Year Edition (GOTY). This pack includes the original masterpiece, in addition to the Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles expansions. But how well does this first person RPG play after so long?

 

Fill your inventory with apples
Starting off as a prisoner in a cell, you are soon greeted by the main story quest. Before long you're escaping through the sewers alongside a tutorial of the game's more important features. Once you've mastered the basics and escaped the dark and dreary sewers, you find yourself unsighted by bright sunlight. Once you've had a chance to respond to the HDR effects and lay eyes upon the glorious countryside, you soon realise what Oblivion is all about.

There are those which say gameplay is more important than graphics, and vice versa. Fortunately Oblivion has both. At its heart is an RPG. You create a character from scratch; choose your appearance, class and even your star sign. These will all define your skills and abilities, which level up the more you use them. After enough of these individual skills have improved, you can level up as a character. You can also pick up or interact with every object, fill your inventory with apples, plates and candles sticks, barter, bribe and create cocktails of potions.

But it is the nature of Oblivion which makes it so unique and freeform. You have a large county to explore; where to go is entirely up to you. The game world is dotted with dozens of dungeons, forts, small villages and ancient ruins. On your travels you will discover quests which aren't given to you; its up to you to choose if to get involved or not. There is a broad range in the type of quests too, from simple errands to plotting mischievous murders.

The combat is also a joy, with all fighting done in a FPS real time fashion. Simply making physical contact with the enemy with your sword or arrow will hit them, with the amount of damage inflicted depending on your skill level and the type of weapon you are using. The magic system is also similar, but instead of using weapons you have a range of spells to cast. These range from restoration arts like healing, to destruction spells like fire balls. Stealth is also an option if you prefer to avoid confrontation, or just gain an unfair advantage!

The main story arc involves fighting back against invaders from the "Planes of Oblivion", which threatens the county of Cyrodiil. While the main quest is excellent, it is the task of "closing" the Oblivion gates which gets long and tedious, and it eventually becomes a chore. Inside the gates you simply have to battle through numerous foes to reach the top of a tower and take a stone, which in turn will close the gate. Sounds dull? It is. Luckily though you can choose to ignore these gates altogether.

I'd best swiftly mention the additional expansions included here. Knights of the Nine features all the "downloadable content" released by Bethesda since the initial release, in addition to the lengthy quest itself. It lacks the polish of the original game, but is made acceptable this time around since it's bundled together with the low price tag. Shivering Isles meanwhile involves adventuring through the Sheogorath domain. It makes a welcome change with some exotic scenery, and has some enjoyable and unique concepts. However, this also seems to lack the effort in comparison to the original, and wouldn't be as recommendable on its own.

I've still not even had time to tell you about the dozen other great features to be had here; the guilds, the combat arena, buying houses, hiring pirates or even the wonder of riding horses. But one note worth mentioning is the user made content. There are literally thousands of user-made "plugins" to be found on the web. Many of these fix or change several minor flaws within the game, while others add more content in the way quests, graphical upgrades and sound improvements. Some overhaul the game completely! Although some of these "plugins" make you wonder why the developers didn't do some of these changes in the first place.

Streams trickling under aging stone bridges
Back in its heyday Oblivion was a genuine head turner, and even today that statement has barely been worn down. The countryside views are simply stunning. A generous draw distance, trees dancing in the wind, streams trickling under aging stone bridges and radiant wildlife are but a few of the effects which combine to make this game so exceptional.

Indoors, you will find delicately detailed houses filled to the brim with individual objects. Every item can be interacted with, either by being picked up or knocked over by the Havok physics engine. It doesn't to take long to turn a rich noble's well decorated house into a mess.

There simply isn't enough room here to tell you about how good this game can look. Some elements like blocky terrain and low resolution textures can spoil the view, but again user made content and recent patches change these for the better. Take my word for it though; the views on offer can rival Crysis for wow-factor two years on. You don't need 3 8800GTX's to run it either.

Chirping birds to breezy winds
You can have a glorious game world, but it just wouldn't work without accompanying ambience and soundtrack. When you have Patrick Stuart voicing the opening scenes, you know you're in for a treat.

The greatly mentioned countryside is further brought to life with the usual delights, from chirping birds to breezy winds. The towns, dungeons and the Planes of Oblivion themselves also have a solid enough atmosphere too. Sean Bean, playing the part of the heir to the throne brings a welcome charm to the main plotline.

Despite all this, it doesn't quite feel as passionate as the rest of the game. This is shown by some of the user made "plugins", which can add more variety and life to the game. While the voice acting in the various quests is top draw, the general script can be a bit repetitive and bland. To evade ending on a sour note, the soundtrack manages to keep the atmosphere on par with the rest of the game: to epic proportions!

Forms a romantic blend
If you're a keen speed reader and have skipped to end, I'd better get to the point. Oblivion is the benchmark when it comes to the single-player RPG genre. The storytelling, combined with the all the elements of an RPG and an expansive game world forms a romantic blend. You choose how and what you do. Oblivion defines "non-linear", and is whatever you wish it to be. Interested in progression with your character? Sure. Just want to go explore? Why not.

Even two years on I still find myself overwhelmed with the beauty of it all, needing a minute just to sit back and plan what adventure I fancy doing next. There has never been a better time to discover this encompassing world. PC specs have moved on allowing more people to experience this to the full, and there is a complete range of user made content to compliment Bethesda's top efforts.

9.00/10 9

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Reviewed on Windows)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Released back in 2006, Oblivion was a huge success. Two years down the road and we've got a 2-disc Game of the Year Edition (GOTY). This pack includes the original masterpiece, in addition to the Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles expansions. But how well does this first person RPG play after so long?  

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
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COMMENTS

mole
mole - 11:48pm, 3rd April 2015

It plays well after so long, was playing it before Far Cry 2 came out, still looks as good if you ask me :) Brilliant game!

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