Near-masterpiece, absolutely phenomenal achievement for Bethesda, and no-doubt the best game on the PC in 2006, if not all formats
Oblivion is the 4th major game of the massive RPG elder scrolls series, and as we've come to expect with Bethesda Softworks, it's a work of phenomenal beauty. The quests are better than ever, the story is well thought out, the incredible graphics speak for themselves, and the game is more compelling than ever. Negatives? Well, I'll tell you one thing, it aint going to help your social life any.
That's HDR lighting in action for you folks
The first moments of the game involve this sort of goblin nonsense
Oh and a little point before I start. I'm not going to waste time harping on about interfaces, and menus, and so on. The game's control system is very good, leave it at that.
Let's get the real charms of this game out the way first eh? The graphics are the most obvious chatter-point. I don't like to harp on about graphics too much, in-fact I enjoy good games with poor graphics more than poor games with outstanding graphics; never the less I can't help but drool at the pristine appearance of Oblivion with the settings whacked to max. The models, lighting and brilliant architectural design all blend in to one on-screen to make a seamless picture of beauty. Personally, I think these are the best damn graphics I've ever seen in a game, including recent FPS F.E.A.R. I mean, for one, it didn't have any grand cathedrals or towering demonic obelisks did it?
The character development system in Oblivion is much the same as the previous TES games. First you choose a race, this determines your character's appearance - which is massively customizable right down to the exact shape of your eyes - and starting attributes (Strength, Personality, and so on). Then you choose a class or create one yourself. Creating one is obviously the most fun, and given the way the game system works in Oblivion, it makes sense to do it this way.
Basically, there's a whole bunch of skills available: acrobatics, blocking, illusion magic, destructive magic, etc etc. You choose 7 to be your major skills, the skills your character will excel at. Then you get a nifty bonus to them skills and hoon around your newly entered universe shooting arrows at things or throwing fire, or whatever the heck you want to do. And that's what makes Oblivion (and other TES games) so great, you do whatever you want. Want to rob houses? Great fun. Want to kill some guards? No problem. Want to throw dead bodies around and watch them bounce off the walls? Hey you can do that too, and it looks GREAT with the Oblivion physics engine. I'm just using these malevolent examples to prove a point of course *cough cough*.
The combat system is damn fine, with a variety of melee attacks now available with various motions of the mouse. Magic looks awesome, as you'd expect. I'm slightly concerned about the monster AI at times which sometimes seems a little shaky, but whenever I think about it I get distracted by the lovely shiny graphics and forget what I was thinking about. Let's just say, they aint gonna be using any fancy Halo 2 style tactics on you, alright?
The extent to which you can customize your character is impressive
A typical Friday night in Kvatch
I know *some other sites* have already reviewed this game and mentioned certain things about the main story-line. I'd like to, but personally I avoided hearing about such things before I played the game, so I'm not going to mention anything. It's the best TES story-line yet, it's very crisp and flows much better than previous games. Oh, and you start out in jail as is traditional in TES - but that's all your getting.
Why did I use the phrase 'main story-line'? Because this is a damn good RPG, and it damn good RPGs you make your own story-line. There's so much to do in the game and it's all very cool. The mage's guild for example allows its ranking members to create thier own spells and enchantments. The thieves guild is a great deal of fun, and for me added another dimension to the game because whenever I'd be doing something in town I'd always be thinking in the back of my mind 'Is there anything here worth stealing? And if so, can I get away with it?' There's even an assassin's guilds of a kind, but that's another story entirely.
Just in case you haven't got the message about the expansive nature of this game yet, let me give you an idea. The game essentially takes place in the country of Cyrodiil. Now, every actual ground/grass-inch of this country is an area of the game you could walk to, should you want to. Now throw in towns, castles, cathedrals, tons of dungeons (some of which are vast), mountain ranges, rivers, shrines, and so on. Think GTA: San Andreas, and then scrunch it up in a ball and toss it out the window because it's not a scratch on the magnitude of Oblivion.
So enough about how amazing this game is. Now I'm going to mention the bad stuff. First and foremost is the system requirements. You're not going to be playing this on anything less than a great PC. If you're wanting to max out the settings then unless you've bought some fancy components within the last few months, you're going to have to upgrade. I've spoke to people on the forums who've been having trouble with this game on minimal graphics settings with 3000+ AMDs, a gig of ram and fancy Nvidia cards.
Another thing, sometimes the game is a little too clever for it's own good and so when something out-of-place happens it sticks out like a sore thumb. Or in other words - the game is riddled with minor bugs. A lot of people won't notice many, and none of them take away much from the game. They are minor annoying things which I can't imagine a game on this scale not having.
And my final criticism of a game I'm personally dubbing a 'near masterpiece' is that it's more similar to Morrowind (the previous TES game) than I might have hoped. Maybe I expected a revised skills system, maybe a system which breaks down the weapons into smaller categories, maybe some new schools of magic; I don't know the solution, I'm just plucking at straws because otherwise I have to give this game straight 10's and there's no way that's gonna happen.
I tried to get him to wave but he wouldn't. I guess that's what you get for summoning a zombie
Oblivion is affluent with scenes like this
Alright so final thoughts: near-masterpiece, absolutely phenomenal achievement for Bethesda, and no-doubt the best game on the PC in 2006; if not all formats. The best graphics *ever*, the best physics in an RPG, and the best quest system and story-line of the TES series. Curtain closed, and bed-time for this tired reviewer because my sorceror's pet zombie has just started talking to me and I need to sleep before I start seeing necromancers leap out the screen.
Top Game Moment:
TOP GAME MOMENT
Watching your charactor grow and exploring the
world around them; and no other game does this RPG game aspect better