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If there has ever been a game to light up a console when it hasn't got too many new releases out for it, this is the game. The Elder Scrolls titles have long been loved by Role Players everywhere and the companies last effort, Morrowind - while buggy, was a massive hit and rightfully so. With Oblivion we have what is easily the most long awaited Xbox 360 title released so far and probably for some time to come. So will the game be as great as the last one, or will it fail to meet its massive goals.
Oblivion is the quintessential role-playing game for the next generation and another leap forward in gaming. Step inside the most richly detailed and vibrant game-world ever created. Oblivion is the latest chapter in the epic and highly successful Elder Scrolls saga and utilizes the latest PC and next-generation video game hardware to fully immerse you into the experience. With a powerful combination of freeform gameplay and unprecedented graphics, you can unravel the main quest at your own pace or explore the vast world and find your own challenges.
After the mysterious and untimely death of the Emperor,
the throne of Tamriel lies empty. With the Empire ready to crumble, the
gates of Oblivion open and demons march upon the land-laying waste to everything
in their path. To turn the tide of darkness, you must find the lost heir
to the throne and unravel the sinister plot that threatens to destroy all
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 byan 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.
There is so much to Oblivion it is hard to find a place to start. There will be some gamers who just decide to follow the main quest and not branch out around the map to find the hundreds of excellent side quests that are available to take part in. Side quests range from helping rid farms to goblin like creatures to fixing rat problems in basements. But they are not all fighting quests either which is great, some require you to spy on people during their working day, see where they go and what they do, quests also don't end once you find your first objective, they branch out into bigger stories.
So what makes the game so damn good? Well for such an in-depth game, its quite easy to get into and to understand, even for those players who are new to the world of Elder Scrolls. The game starts off in a prison, where you are a prisoner, i won't spoil it all for you, but you find yourself helping out the Emperor (played by the excellent Patrick Stewart), the beginning plays off as more of a tutorial, letting you get a feel for the controls and how you want to shape your character for the rest of the game, but don't fear, you get one final chance to change your character type before you get out into the full world of Oblivion.
The main quest story in Oblivion will last most gamers around 20/25 hours, add in the mass of side quests and you are looking at a game that could for once enter the hundred hour mark which is fantastic value for money (even on the 360's overpriced games machine). If you do complete the main quest, you can still carry on playing for the foreseeable future too, so it doesn't just "end". Each class in the game has varying sets of skills, I don't want to go into too much detail here as it will take a long time to explain it all, but for every 10 points of major skill increases you do, you'll advance in your character level. Attribute power ups are based on skills which you level up in, such as blade (fighting), you'll get a bonus modifier for your strength etc if you decide to advance it. It is a lot of fun creating a class character of your own, rather than going with one that has been pre-made for you.
Fighting is one of the main parts of Oblivion and it works well, with the right trigger button you can use your weapon, using the left trigger you can bring up your shield. The right shoulder button is used to cast any spells you might have selected. Melee combat it much faster than it was in the last game, and the feeling of blocking an enemies blow and then hitting back with my sword is a great feeling. I had a lot of fun facing multiple enemies and working out who to take out first, what magic to use and when to block.
Some people have asked me why I didn't get my review up in time for the games launch - well Oblivion is such a big game with so much to do, I felt a lot of the reviews were rushed out to get quick hits on websites without really going deep into the game, but then again most of the reviews got it spot on back then, so perhaps I should have just stuck with 6-8 hours of playing instead of the 25 so far on my last save! What else is there? You can join guilds, I'm currently in the fighters guild, doing various missions for coin and to increase my levels (and unlock more of those 360 achievements!), you can take part in arena matches and even place bets on some of the games, then sit back and watch how they turn out.
The achievements that the Xbox 360 version dishes out to gamers are quite varied too, which is nice to see. They range from completing the early "tutorial" at the start of the game, to closing gates and joining guilds. Oblivion has loads to do and find, so it is good to see many parts of the game catered for in the achievement area. If I could find a fault anywhere in the gameplay side of things, it was that the inventory system isn't the easiest to navigate around with the 360 controller, but all credit to the company for managing to keep the game so detailed and not dumbing it down for the console generation.
The development team have talked up the AI in Oblivion no end and I'm pleased to say that generally it works really well, characters wander around doing their daily routines, shopping, chatting and some even fighting and hunting animals. I did witness some bizarre things going on though, one man on the street in a city I was in was just attacked for what seemed like no reason at all and I've heard many characters ask each other questions yet get the most ridiculous answers back. I liked the idea of stealing items too, although despite never being seen stealing things, I always seemed to get caught if I ever chatted to a guard or the equivalent law and order people, this seemed to break some believability there. Overall it works well though and does make the game feel more believable.
Graphics & Sound
While Oblivion isn't quite as spectacular as early videos made out, it is still a great looking game. The whole immersion feel that the gameplay has is carried over into the graphics. The engine deals with large open spaces quite well with some great detail and a massive amount of trees (thanks to the speedtree technology), but it isn't perfect, there are slow downs in certain areas when a lot of people are on the screen and also some judder when loading new areas outdoors. These problems can be easily forgiven when you are wandering around houses and dungeons, as this is where Oblivion really shows its muscle. Don't get me wrong though, graphically Oblivion is still a gorgeous game, with some fantastic views on offer and some are worth scouring the map just to check out.
Sound is generally excellent, great music and great voice work from the star actors, but...this is the only part of Oblivion i can find a fault with - why do all different characters the same voice actors doing the work, speak to a human, or any other character and at most points in the game, they will speak in the same accent as the last one did, its the only part of the game which seemed to break some of the atmosphere. I would also have liked the game to have read some of the books that you can read throughout the game to me, I know that makes me sound lazy, but with so much to read bookwise in the game, it would have been nice to have had the option to hear them.
I can't find much to fault in Oblivion, It is a huge game, loads to do and lots to see voice work was the only downside in a superb package and the story and general writing is excellent throughout. I know a lot of people will rush through the main quest, but it is well worth finding the many side quests in the game as they have big stories of their own. It is quite easy to call it the best 3D role playing game ever created.