A much needed RPG for the PS3!
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was a long time coming to the Xbox 360 and to the PC, and when it arrived, it did so with the impact of a meteorite striking the earth. It was a much needed RPG for Microsoft’s new system as well as a highly anticipated sequel. Also, its predecessor, Morrowind on the original Xbox, was a much lauded game that introduced console players to the open world of the Elder Scrolls series. Finally and for the first time in gaming history, an Elder Scrolls title is making its way to a Sony console and the prognosis is in: The Elder Scrolls is as great an experience on the PlayStation 3 as it has ever been.
For those few gamers that have never heard of or played Oblivion, the open-world RPG takes place in the land of Tamriel. The player begins the game as a prisoner in a deep dungeon, but has erroneously been assigned to a cell that houses a secret escape route. Not too long after the game’s opening, the Emperor of the land, voiced excellently by Patrick Stewart (of Jean-Luc Picard or Professor X fame), must make use of the secret escape route as assassins are attempting to kill him. As you follow his escape, you eventually watch helplessly as he is killed by the assassins. The Emperor does have a final request of you, however: Find his illegitimate son. A person of the Emperor’s bloodline is the only thing that can prevent the land from being thrown into chaos, as their family is responsible for keeping the various gates to monster-laden Oblivion closed. Without the king on the throne, the land of Tamriel will have portals to the hellish Oblivion all over the kingdom, allowing monsters to escape and overrun the land.
That is the main quest of Oblivion, but it only scratches the surface of the possibilities presented by the game. You can choose to complete the main quest, but there are so many side quests and distractions that the main quest is only a fraction of what’s available. The land in Oblivion is immense, with thickly populated towns and a vast countryside, and the game does an excellent job of making the game world seem vibrant and alive. Characters have their own lives outside of what you do, and you’ll find them moving about the town, perhaps going to the bar, going to work, farming, and even settling down to sleep in their own homes at night. You also have tons of options available to you outside of the main quest. You can become an assassin, a thief, a wizard, or a mercenary for hire, joining their respective guilds and completing various quests for them. You can become a gladiator at the arena and fight for cash and esteem. You’ll even encounter various characters with smaller tasks for you, such as retrieving lost items or solving mysteries. The Quick Travel option makes the massive world a little more user friendly too. There is always something to do in Oblivion and plenty of ways to do it.
You can create a character from scratch, choosing your race, sex, class, and facial attributes from the start. Less picky players can create a pre-generated character and begin their quest without going through the incredibly deep create a character beginning. After a romp through the opening dungeon, the game evaluates your performance and decides which attributes and class you’re best suited for, although you can (and probably should) override the game’s choice and create your own. Your player evolves based on your actions, so a person that attacks regularly will become skilled at fighting, while a person inclined to spellcasting will become a better wizard, and a person who sneaks and pick locks will become a skilled thief. Unfortunately, this system is flawed and easy to exploit, but is also a fairly minor gripe among legions of things done right in the game.