Thursday, July 20, 2000

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Review 9.0

Oblivion is EXACTLY how I imagined an RPG should be like back in the 80's, while playing Ultimas on Commodore 64s and Atari STs.

Oblivion has weather. While there is no wind other than a constant, gentle breeze, you do get rain/thunderstorms, fog, snow (no blizzards though, because there's not much wind). You don't slip and fall on ice but the sound of your steps is different whether you walk on the road, on grass, on snow or on ice.

The world of Cyrodill is not exactly continent-size, maybe some 20-30 miles in any direction from downtown Imperial City but... what a world this is. Cities, settlements, camps, estates, roadside inns, ruins, caves, dungeons, mines, shrines. The landscape is made up of plains, hard-to-climb mountains, rivers, swamps, waterfalls, seas. You can travel on foot or you can ride a horse. You can fight your way into fame and fortune while doing good or you can sneak into other people's houses or pickpocket the unsuspecting. The guards will chase you and throw you in jail if you do illegal things but, if they like you enough, maybe they will look the other way sometimes. Powerful gods or humble people will ask you do 'little things' for them and, if you can make them happy, they will reward you according to their abilities. You can raise to the top of your profession, as a fighter, as a mage, as a thief or as an assassin or you can assemble your own little gang of dreamy crusaders so that you can fight evil and recover the relics of a legendary knight. Or you can do them all and become all, in sequence or make progress in all paths more or less simultaneously while moonlighting as a gladiator as well and, if still bored, how about helping a lady take care of the rats in her basement (that's NOT what you think) or some drunk guy at the inn get rid of the Trolls that took over his daddy's country estate? Oh and, I forgot, there's a world to save or... wait... there's TWO worlds, thanks to the Shivering Isles extension.

This game is so huge, I can't see how you could really 'finish' it. After more than 2 months of almost daily playing, I am maybe 75-80% into the main quest, half a way through the Knights of the Nine, only started the Shivering Isles adventures. I did become the realm's Chief Mage (and the titles earns me no respect from the scholar mages) and the grand master at the Fighters league, got myself 350,000 gold coins in my pocket, 2 comfortable houses and 2 nice offices, completed close to 100 quests, slaughtered 2000 creatures and hundreds of humans, murdered 4 or 5 and all but one by mistake (friendly fire), didn't even come close to the Thieves guild and, foolishly, made it impossible for me to ever join the Dark Brotherhood (these are the assassins). Also, I've never been a vampire and didn't yet start my career as a professional gladiator. I did massacre the peaceful dwellers of a small village but I did that under the influence of some drugs that made them look to me like bloody Orcs - that was the price to pay for infiltrating and destroying the source of that scourge. Oh, and while briefly in the land of Dementia - or was it Mania? - I did, willingly, push buttons that caused a few careless adventurers to go insane and I watched as they were becoming so. I humiliated a lovely princess - or was it a duchess? - and I killed so many fearsome monsters, I lost count myself but the game does keep a count so it's easy to know. In fact, the game keeps track of so many things... I could easily find out how many jokes I told, how many potions I made, how many horses I've stolen (one), how many hours I slept or how many books I read.

Well...? What do you think?

On the 'not so good' side, the game does slow down when you are fighting 4-5 monsters at the same time or when there are other things that keep the PS3 busy while you are fighting the baddies - like a fire burning. Loading/saving times are a bit too long but, while this is happening, you do get to read some randomly selected good advice on the screen.

The other thing that saddens me is that I don't believe the good people at Bethesda are working on the next chapter yet. I do hope that, as soon as they are done with Fallout-3, they are going to get busy with another adventure in Cyrodill or thereabouts.

My other problem is that I am now fighting with my kids over time on the PS3. We have a bunch of other games but, since Oblivion came into our house, I would say that 95%+ of our PS3 time was on Oblivion.

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