|Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)
Publisher: 2K Games
Available for: Xbox 360
The most highly anticipated game of the year has finally arrived, and yet part of me still wishes it was months away, mostly because “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” is perhaps the most challenging game I will ever review. The game is that big, and the world is even bigger. Hell, even developer Bethesda doesn’t know how long it would take to complete every main story and side mission in the game – going only so far as to guess upwards of 100 hours – and even after you’ve finished all of this, your character is still free to roam around for as long as he likes. This is the sort of game that consumes your days and nights, the free hours before work and those after, as well as the late hours of the night when you should really be in bed getting rest for the next day. “Oblivion” is, in fact, the ultimate RPG, but it’s also the best $60 that any 360 owner will spend all year.
The story opens in a dark and dank jail cell – the player a prisoner of the empire – but when the Emperor (voiced by Patrick Stewart) and his guards (the Blades) use your cell to access a secret escape route, your fate takes a turn for the better. Upon seeing your face, the Emperor recognizes you from his dreams and deems this as a message from the gods. He invites you to follow him out of the castle, but shortly after, is murdered by a group of assassins who have already killed his three sons. With his last dying breath, the Emperor enlists your help to find the only living heir to the throne and take back the kingdom before the gates of Oblivion (pretty much Hell) are opened forever.
And just like all of the other RPGs before it, “Oblivion” begins with a default character that the player must make his own. You’ll choose from a handful of races, select your sex, and then personalize his appearance with the strictest attention to detail. You’ll also have the opportunity to decide what character class (warrior, mage, thief, etc.) you answer to, as well as what astrological sign you were born under. This last choice is an important one, since you’ll be given various attribute bonuses that are exclusive to the respective signs. From here, you’ll escape the maze-like sewer system and make your way towards your first destination. You can choose to walk the distance (which would probably take over an hour) or take advantage of the game’s fast travel option which warps you to that location immediately.
Of course, you don’t have to do either. Instead, you can walk around the land on your own terms, picking up side quests and joining guilds until you’re ready to start up with this whole saving the world business. The largest portion of the game actually consists of these side quests, and while it’s easy to load up on enough missions to drive you crazy, the game’s organization system is a saving grace. You never have to finish a quest until you want to finish a quest. If you get stuck on a certain mission, or just get tired of moping around a certain area of the land, you can easily throw that specific quest on the backburner and try something else. And while you’re probably not going to want to walk from each location to the next, it certainly doesn’t hurt to take a stroll through the beautiful and vibrant environment.
“Oblivion” isn’t without its faults, however. Some of the creatures you come across in battle are far stronger that they probably should be, and load times (while shorter than usual) can still prove to be a major pain in the ass. With that said, these minor issues simply aren’t enough to deter any gamer from picking this title up today. Perhaps the most helpful tool in the game is the ability to hotkey spells, weapons and items to various directions on your D-pad. There are eight spots in all, and the ability to quickly gulp a potion or switch from spell casting to a handy sword is valuable beyond words.
It’s been said a few times throughout this review, and it needs to be said again: “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” is a beast of a title. I’ve been playing the game now for just under ten hours and haven’t even begun to scratch the surface; hence the partially incomplete review. There’s almost too much to talk about with a game like this, and instead of gabbing on the topic anymore, it seems more practical to unleash anyone fascinated into this amazing world of possibilities. Now go out and be a hero.