PC REVIEW: THE ELDER SCROLLS IV: OBLIVION

A game so incredible, that I had to come out of retirement just to review it. by StewXX

March 30, 2006 - If you haven't played a PC-based RPG, you might not know what you're missing. Traditionally these games are huge and full of details - from the storyline to the graphics. Console RPGs have to be a lot more restricted due to processing limitations but with the Xbox 360, that's all in the past. This Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion version surpasses many PC-based RPGs and blows away virtually ever console version of the genre. This is one seriously amazing game. And in case you're wondering, it's also available for the computer.

Consider this the definitive version of the Elder Scrolls series. It's not a continuation, it's an evolution. Perhaps even a revolution. It's an all-new adventure with new characters and a new storyline. Prior knowledge of the series is not important. You can jump right in, create your own character and be up and running in moments. You are given total freedom with your character. You can choose to be good or evil, or perhaps a mix of both. You are not restricted by skills. Combine magic with your combat skills. You can use a variety of different skills and choose to level-up only the ones that you're interested in. You won't necessarily receive experience points for combat, you'll get experience points based on performances that favor the skills that you use most often. You'll only get experience points for combat if you become a warrior. If you're into magic, you'll get experience points for the successful use of magic. In this way the experience is much more personal.

There is so much to see and do in this game that you could wind up playing it for months - and it's not as dry as most lengthy RPGs. This game is loaded with action and adventure. Even if you've never played an RPG before this one won't bog you down unless you choose to read all of the books that give you a back history to the story. There's a natural flow to the gameplay that makes it seem like real life. You can go straight to the main quests or you can branch out into hundreds of different paths and experience all that the game has to offer.

Set in a fantasyland of elves, orcs, monsters, myths and magic, you become aware of a plot to overthrow the present emperor when he recognizes you from a dream and entrusts you with the search for his illegitimate child. The kingdom is overrun by monsters from Hell which are being transported to your dimension through Oblivion Gates. To learn the secrets of closing the gates you must first flee the Imperial City, being careful not to come under attack by these loathsome creatures.

You have three main powers at your disposal: Stealth; magic, and combat. You can employ ranged weapons such as the bow and arrow as well as magic-generated projectiles to kill the enemies. Melee weapons such as a club or even your bare hands can also be employed to defend yourself. If you prefer, you can run or sneak past the enemies using your stealth skills. As in Splinter Cell, there is an invisibility gauge that will indicate the enemy's ability to spot you. The more skill you develop in this area, the harder it will be for the enemy to see you.

There is plenty of combat in the game and while you can choose to sneak or run past the enemy, there are times when you're just going to have to get physical. Using your weapons is relatively easy. It's a matter of judging perspectives and pressing the action button at the right time. You can dish out light and powerful attacks by tapping or pressing on the action button while at the same time using your shield to block blows from the enemy. The AI is excellent and puts up a good fight. They get cocky when they are gaining the upper hand and will often slink away if they are getting a bad beating.

Your magic powers give you a lot of flexibility. You can use it to launch fiery projectiles or enchant the enemy into giving up their weapons and making them totally vulnerable to the simplest of attacks. These magic powers will even allow you to summon powerful demons and various magical weapons.

It's nice to have the option of playing the game in first or third person perspective. For my money, I enjoy the first-person. The action is much easier to see but there are times when the third-person will give you a much better view of your surroundings especially in mountainous or maze-like environments. Don't forget to toggle between them and use them to your advantage.

On the various paths that lead from the main cities to the various villages you will encounter many different gameplay opportunities including dungeons that require exploring, enemies that you must outwit or overpower and characters that require your assistance which results in numerous side-quests. You are not required to travel these paths by foot if you don't feel like it. You can go by horseback or even be teleported to the next area in a flash. There is no extraneous wandering if you choose not to do it. Even the side quests that you choose to perform are well organized in that you're given directions and instructions so that you don't have to search around aimlessly for such information.

The towns and villages are loaded with non-playable, but interactive, characters. There are hundreds of them and all are fully voiced. They will give you clues and offer you side-quests. These characters display great animated facial features that are incredibly expressive. Their reactions to you will depend on the personality that you've cultivated.

The game is narrated by Patrick Stewart. His voice is so authoritative that he could read aloud an Archie comic and make it sound like a Shakespearean tragedy. The other voiceovers fall into the "good" category with a few more natural sounding than others.

The graphics are nothing short of incredible. All of the environments, whether they be woodlands, cities or a version of Hell, are highly imaginative and distinct. I didn't detect any reuse of textures. Everything appears to have been created fresh, from scratch. This kind of visual depth would be impossible on the PS2 considering how massive this world is.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion sets a new standard in RPGs. There isn't a lot of difference between the PC and 360 version. Just make sure your PC is loaded or you won't enjoy the same crisp, graphic resolution. There is so much to do in this game and the interactivity of the AI makes it seem like a massive online multi-player experience. Expect months of fun and adventure.

Features:

  • Live Another Life in Another World. Create and play any character you can imagine, from the noble warrior to the sinister assassin to the wizened sorcerer.
  • Next Generation Graphics. Pixel-shader effects and high definition televisions are fully supported to create unprecedented visuals, including lifelike towns, dungeons, and the most realistic forests ever created in a game.
  • First Person Melee and Magic. An all-new combat and magic system brings first person role-playing to a new level of intensity where you feel every blow.
  • Radiant AI. This groundbreaking AI system gives Oblivion's characters full 24/7 schedules and the ability to make their own choices based on the world around them. Non-player characters eat, sleep, and complete goals all on their own.
  • Realistic Characters. Oblivion's features over 1,000 non-player characters who come to life like never before with facial animations, lip-synching, and full speech. They even engage in unscripted conversations with each other and you.
  • Open-Ended Game Play; Short Challenges. The enormous world of Oblivion is open for you to explore at your own pace, and shorter challenges such as fighting bandits, mixing potions, creating magic items and persuading friends keep the challenges coming.

By StewXX
CCC Retired Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC)
5.0
Graphics
It's amazing how big this game is, and even more amazing how fresh the architecture and renderings of the environments are in all the different regions.
4.4
Control
The controls are kind of on the simple side but they are structured in such a way as to feel natural.
4.7
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There are hundreds of fully-voiced characters. Some of them are more believable than others. The music and sound effects are top shelf.
5.0
Play Value
There are so many variables in this game that you can play it for years and never have the same experience twice.
4.9
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Preview by Logan50

Yet again, Bethesda Softworks has shaken the pillars of the RPG world with its Elder Scrolls series. With its utilization of Half-Life 2s revolutionary middleware Havok engine, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has been given impressive environments in which every object and weapon in the game will be interactive. From the longest table, to the smallest copper coin, everything will have a real, physical presence. You can even retrieve your used arrows from fresh-made corpses.

But the brilliance doesn't end with the environments. The Havok engine also essentially eliminates the need for the classic D&D-style Die-Roll combat system, allowing Oblivion to move on to real-world-physics-based attack-and-defend combat. If you intend to dodge your opponents attack, youll have to actually move the character out of the path of the weapon, instead of just standing there, counting on a random variability equation to determine a successful dodge-roll on an 8-sided die. This adds an entirely new level of realism and immersion into the game.

The second major innovation is Radiant AI, a new Artificial Intelligence program that gives a genuine feel of sentience among NPC denizens of the realm, and allows the game to efficiently and accurately auto-scale the intelligence and abilities of your opponents to accommodate the players skill levels. Hopefully, this will allow players (such as myself, admittedly) that are proficient at certain areas of combat, yet significantly lacking in others, to still be able to get through the tougher parts of the game that they would otherwise have been stuck on, allowing them to get the most out of the game.

Of course, the only major drawback to this game that I've been able to spot is the fact that, with such powerful graphics and the processor demands this game will require, we will be forced to wait until the release of the XBOX 2 before we can actually play it on a home console, but something tells me that this one will be worth the wait.

Press:

Bethesda Softworks LLC, a ZeniMax Media company, today announced that The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion™ is currently in development for PC and future generation consoles. In development since 2002, Oblivion is another leap forward in role-playing with its combination of freeform gameplay and cutting-edge graphics. Oblivion is the sequel to the best-selling, award-winning role-playing game, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind®, named 2002 RPG and Game of the Year for both PC and Xbox.

"Since starting this project two years ago, our goal has been to create the quintessential RPG of the next generation," said Todd Howard, executive producer of The Elder Scrolls® series. "We looked back at what we had done with the series, and then looked ahead to what the future of video games could be, and we think this is it."

In keeping with the Elder Scrolls tradition, players will have the option to experience the main quest at their own pace, and there will be plenty of opportunities to explore the vast world and make your own way. Numerous factions can be joined, such as the thieves or mages guilds, and each contains its own complete storyline and the chance to rise to the head of the faction and reap further rewards.

Howard commented, "Our games have always been about great depth and variety in creating any kind of character you want and going out and doing whatever you want." He added, "With Oblivion, we're taking the idea of a virtual fantasy world as far as it will go."

Oblivion features a groundbreaking new AI system, called Radiant AI, which gives non-player characters (NPCs) the ability to make their own choices based on the world around them. They'll decide where to eat or who to talk to and what they'll say. They'll sleep, go to church, and even steal items, all based on their individual characteristics. Full facial animations and lip-synching, combined with full speech for all dialog, allows NPCs to come to life like never before.

Oblivion is a single-player game that takes place in Tamriel's capital province, Cyrodiil. You are given the task of finding the hidden heir to a throne that sits empty, the previous emperor having been killed by an unknown assassin. With no true Emperor, the gates to Oblivion (the equivalent of hell in the world of Tamriel) open, and demons begin to invade Cyrodiil and attack its people and towns. It's up to you to find the lost heir to the throne and unravel the sinister plot that threatens to destroy all of Tamriel.

 

Features:

  • Return of the Elder Scrolls. The sequel to the best-selling, role-playing game, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
  • Live Another Life in Another World Gamers can create and play any character they can imagine, from the noble warrior to the sinister assassin to the wizened sorcerer.
  • Next Generation Graphics Pixel-shader effects and high definition televisions are fully supported to create unprecedented visuals, including lifelike towns, dungeons and the most realistic forests ever created in a game.
  • First Person Melee and Magic An all-new combat and magic system brings first person role-playing to a new level of intensity where you feel every blow.
  • Radiant A Groundbreaking AI system gives Oblivion's characters full 24/7 schedules and the ability to make their own choices based on the world around them. Non-player characters eat, sleep and complete goals all on their own.
  • Realistic Characters Features over 1,000 non-player characters who come to life like never before with facial animations, lip-synching and full speech. They even engage in unscripted conversations with each other.
  • Open-Ended Game Play; Short Challenges The enormous world of Oblivion is open, allowing players to explore at their own pace. Players will encounter shorter challenges such as fighting bandits, mixing potions, and creating magic along the way to unraveling the main quest.
Click For Media
System: PC, X360 (shown)
Dev: 2K Games
Pub: Bethesda
Release: Mar 2006
Players: 1
Review by StewXX

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best