One Gamer's Struggle to Keep Good Gaming Alive
Bethesda Softworks: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Hey everyone- got another review for you. This week it's one I'm sure you've heard of, probably even played.
Bethesda Softworks: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
A bit of history; Oblivion was developed by Bethesda game studios and published by its publishing arm Bethesda Softworks on June 16th 2009. It is the fourth game in the Elder Scrolls series and takes place in the world of Tamriel in the province of Cyrodiil. Personally this is my second foray into the Elder Scrolls series, first being ES3: Morrowind.
First, I have a short story to share. A few years back I was a full time college student, the majority of my time was spent playing video games. Break between quarters was two weeks and Oblivion was new(ish). I spent the ENTIRE time playing oblivion, clearing the game and then continuing beyond the conclusion of the main questline. I was so absorbed into the game world that when the next quarter came around I overslept the second day and convinced my half awake self that I would sleep in and then reload the day and miss nothing. It wasn't until a few hours later that the error in my logic became aware to my game-addled brain. Take that as a warning to anyone who gets lost in games, this one will pull you in.
Oblivion is one of those games that come along once every five years or so and changes the way people looks at, and design, games. It is a heroic fantasy story set in the huge and colorful sandbox of Cyrodiil. The province is populated by hundreds of NPCs that are fleshed out enough to perform daily tasks such as sleeping eating working and socializing with other NPCs. On top of that the game world itself is vast, containing nine towns (each with its own style, quests, NPCs, and housing).
The main story is about the empire being attacked by creatures called Daedra from another plane of existence called Oblivion through a series of gates that appear across the land. It is up to one brave hero to travel the land and "Close shut the jaws of Oblivion" before the empire is consumed. By the way- if anyone else heard that line in your head spoken by Captain Picard you receive 1 nerd point, well done. You see the game is voiced by Patrick Stewart as the Emperor Uriel Septim, as well as Sean Bean as his bastard son Martin.
Anyway, what this game did to really change the world of RPGs is to make the game capable of remembering everything you've done in every nook and cranny of the game world. For example, if I walk into a random dungeon and drop a fork on the ground at level 1, then return at level 40 that fork will still be there, unless an NPC dungeon delver came by and picked it up. This makes the game world feel lived in, and makes it very realistic, like you are literally controlling a character in another world.
Anyway, Gameplay, the important chewy bit at the center of a good game; Oblivion has one of the most visceral combat systems I've had the pleasure of playing. When a minotaur hits your shield with a club the clang and rumble and stagger of your character feels like it has real weight to it. The combat is challenging, rewarding, and somewhat slow paced. If you've played Fallout and are thinking of going to Oblivion you are warned; Sometimes an enemy can take a real pounding before going down.
Combat has three flavors, melee, ranged (Bow), and Magic. Each is unique in its applications and each can be used exclusively through the game with no real problem. The best way is however, to dabble in each to use their specific strengths to best overcome an enemy or situation. Example: in a dark cave, three goblins in the next room, they don't see your sneaking form in the doorway. You take your bow and land a sneak attack on ones head, dropping it. You then pull your sword and shield and drop the other two, taking some damage in the process. After the fight you patch yourself up with a healing spell, and then light the room with another spell. With the room lighted properly you can see a chest that was hidden under a pile of refuse, you cast an opening spell on it bypassing the lock.
That is of course a basic example and the game can be played in whatever way you want to. In fact a friend of mine is to this day unable to enjoy the game fully because he is compelled to rob every single house in every single city instead of questing or adventuring. Even so he managed to sink an impressive amount of time into this and managed to accrue a vast fortune by stealing everyone's dinnerware and hocking them to pawnshops and criminal fences.
The world is extremely well detailed and laid out, peppered with impressive vistas and dungeons to lose hours and gain levels in. Cyrodiil is a varied land with plains and scrublands in the west, mountains to the north, forests in the east, and swamps in the south. The color palette is filled with blues and greens and the world seems to glow in the sunlight. In contrast the Oblivion gates lead to a realm of fire and blood, under constant storms and crawling with daedra. Behind each gate lies an island in the plane of Oblivion that can be attacked and destroyed, sealing that portal. The expansion pack takes place on another plane of existence called the Shivering Isles, and it is the realm of madness controlled by the Prince Sheogorath. The realm itself is a mix of overly bright and very dark, representing mania and depression.
I assure you this is a great game, but why do I take the time to write a review of it? One word: Modability. Bethesa has always kept the mod community involved in its games, adding a toolset with the release version. This has lead to thousands of Mods being written and released for download to expand and enrich the original game experience. This means that on top of the top notch game and its quests, you also have literally thousands of game altering mods at your fingertips to enhance every aspect of the game and add hundreds of hours of content.
Here is a list of Mods I recommend, along with a short description for each:
Mart's Monster Mod
Adds more varied monsters to the game, with more complex behaviors and better overall look.
Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul
A huge mod that subtly improves nearly every aspect of the game, from character creation to quests to NPC behavior and faction.
Unofficial Oblivion Patch
A small mod that fixes some texture glitches, seals a few world holes and generally improves the overall look of the game, as well as correct some minor quest bugs.
A mod that revamps underwater environments to make them more colorful and interesting to view and explore, as well as add in many new types of aquatic life.
This pack adds in new types of plants and a vast array of animals into the game.
This mod pack is a large upgrade to both the layout and textures of every city in the game world. Each town is revamped with more explorable spaces and shops.
Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite mod, or if you feel I've left off one or two must have mods, please let me know.
Overall Score, release 8/10 Great game
Modded 10/10 Masterwork of gaming, must play
+ Vast and beautiful game world
+ Endless modding opportunities (http://www.tesnexus.com/)
+ Great quests and fully voiced dialogue
Final thought, if anyone has a game they would like me to review I am taking requests, just leave a comment with the game title and I'll check it out and post my thoughts.
Kyle Baker is a multi-faceted nerd with interests in table top, dice and miniture based gaming, comics, movies and other areas of pop culture. He has been an active gamer for more tha 12 years and runs weekly RPGs with his friends via the internet and from his home. He is married to avid cosplayer, gamer and Comic Relady Kelsey Benoit.
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