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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Collector's Edition) (Windows)

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Mattias Kreku (423)
Written on  :  Sep 26, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Summary

Oblivion is like a supermodel: pretty, but shallow and demanding.

The Good

The graphics are probably the best I have seen to date. And they're in a RPG! The fantastic backdrops combined with the Havok-driven physics make the game world a believable place, with day-and-night cycles, snow-clad mountains, lush forests, black lakes and a fauna so diverse it actually resembles nature itself. Combat can also be very satisfying, if you enjoy taking control of your character fps-style.

Some of the quests were very well made, with unique ideas and solutions. Being able to buy a house in every town you visited was also a nice touch, especially since some of them came with their own sets of quests to solve.

The Bad

Unfortunately, all this graphical splendor and few worthwhile quests seems wasted. The main story is totally linear. Nothing you accomplish in the world of Oblivion has any consequences. There's the dreaded auto-balancing of enemies throughout the entire game that removes any incentive to level, other than to "unlock" new weapon and armour sets (which happen every five levels or so). The game is unbalanced to the point where meta-gaming becomes part of the actual gameplay and money is a non-issue even after only a few hours worth of playing.

The side-quests, although greatly improved since Morrowind, are mostly dull and contrived (with a few notable exceptions). The voice-overs are incredibly repetitive with only, what it seems, five or six people doing the voices for all the characters in the world, except the main story characters. The Oblivion gates become repetitive after you've visited a handful of them, and their artistic design is less than attractive.

On top of that there's a high price to pay for all the technological bling-bling. At the time of Oblivion's release, there were almost no systems that could handle the stress this game put on them. Even the strongest machines kneeled when Oblivion turned on the big cannons. Since then a number of homemade patches have proved that this was partly due to Bethesda's less-than-perfect optimization of the graphics engine.

The worst part might still be the AI, which was highly touted before the release of the game. The non playable characters were supposed to have this great AI that made them walk around and do stuff, even solve quests. In reality they walked in circles around town, bumped into each other and uttered meaningless phrases over and over and over. Since they had so few voice actors, you could sometimes hear what sounded like someone talking to himself in the background.

The Bottom Line

Oblivion is a technical groundbreaker marred by uninspired game design and an overall inability to tie together the different parts of the game. If only they had made player choices matter, the main quest less linear and the side quests tie into the story of the game, this could have been a really good game. Oh, and Bethesda, hiring a talented writer to do the dialogue wouldn't hurt either.