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.
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