While not as epic as Daggerfall, Oblivion improves upon Morrowind and is yet another ambitious and fun RPG from Bethesda.
I see a pattern in the elder scrolls series, while I know some people will disagree, I felt the series got its start on the wrong foot. I just didn't care for Arena, the first game in the series
even if the ambition of the project got some respect from me. Then Daggerfall
came, and provided one of the most epic RPG experiences of all time, garnering my game of the year and quite possibly my favourite CRPG next to Fallout. While there were a couple good spinoffs, such as Battlespire
it would be a long 6 years before we were given a true sequel. While I know some people feel different, Morrowind
was a disappointment. To me, it lacked what made Daggerfall epic and I just couldn't get into the game. Yet when I started noticing the pattern of "Bad, Good, Bad, Good" I knew that the next entry had to be great.
I was right. When Oblivion came, I was treated to another incredible Elder Scrolls game. While it may not have been as awesome as Daggerfall, and it was definitely smaller than Morrowind and Daggerfall, but it was still an ambitious, beautiful, and incredible game. The first thing one notices when entering Oblivion are the graphics. The game came out 4 years ago and it still looks wonderful. The world in Oblivion is a paradise, and there are various locations that look and feel different. Many towns and places to explore. Exploring an Elder Scrolls game is always a treat, and Oblivion provides plenty of surprises for explorers.
The music is beautiful too, wonderfully composed and always fitting the mood and tone. The sound effects are decent, and it is nice to have full voice acting this time around, which means that if someone is giving a long, 3 minute speech it no longer requires you to read a novella to know what they are saying. There are some problems with the voices though, which I will list below.
The gameplay is definitely Elder Scrolls, you play from a first person perspective and you get various weapons of your choice and you can cast spells, pick various races, traits, and skills. The role playing system has been improved in some areas as well, such as the fact that you now learn skills not by picking them, but by doing them - much like in real life. Walking the wilderness, hiking, jumping will increase your agility and speed, simply swinging a hammer in battle, hit or miss, will slowly build your knowledge of blunt weapons. It is an intuitive and unique way to learn skills and helps the immersion.
The game is very easy to pick up and play, even those who shy away from RPGs or have no prior knowledge of the series can pop Oblivion in and get straight into the action and have fun. While there are some negative side effects of this, which I will list below, it means that Oblivion has something for everyone even casual gamers.
Freedom is another large aspect, your character can be a peace loving alchemist that makes and sells unique potions, or he/she can be a dark mage that has a nasty habit of melting your face if you stare at him wrong, and so many other possibilities. Most quests have choices to make and they can be done in your own time or style. As large as the game world is, the amount of quests is even bigger. There are enough quests that it could take a player a year just to see half of them, and as always, new quests and objects are found through the reward of exploration. You can join guilds, too. My favourite was the mysterious dark brotherhood, who make you an assassin. There is a quest for the Dark Brotherhood where you must kill a bunch of guests in a house as they search for a fake treasure, and you must mingle and slowly pick them off, you don't get your bonus unless you kill them silently and unseen, which raises panic in the group. Its like being the killer in your very own murder mystery, and its a helluva lot of fun. The Dark Brotherhood also gets rep because they can make you a vampire, and vampires rock.
The titular world of Oblivion is also a very memorable part of the game, coming across as a marriage between Hell and Mordor. Lots of freakish demons, mazes, and strange things await you in Oblivion, and each time you enter a gate its sure to give you a spooky feeling and a fight for your life.
Although the game can immerse you at times, there are many bugs and problems that can sometimes break immersion. Animations are poor, characters literally freezing to talk and stiffly staring at you. Its somewhat creepy. Speechcraft is also a lame element, as it always has been, and makes little sense and simply isn't fun, on the contrary its a nuisance but the game forces you to use it a lot if you wish to get your desired result.
The voice acting is also often poor, while there are moments that the voice acting is decent, you will run into tons of people who have no interest in what is going on and just speak their lines in a dull manner, and you will also run into tons of people who all sound the same.
Scaled leveling doesn't work here, although it worked in Fallout 3 due to the small monster roster as well as other elements, in Oblivion scaled leveling is an annoying feature, and it'll take you ages before the action truly heats up and the best of the monsters appear. Leveling up is also somewhat confusing in Oblivion, you have no idea how much experience you have and you will level up at random, long intervals and sometimes you won't even know it, its also annoying that when you level up, you cannot tweak your skills until you go to sleep.
The graphics, while great, can get repetitive. The land isn't nearly as varied as previous Elder Scrolls games, maybe excluding Arena, and as lush and pretty as the greenery is you will want to see more and very few areas truly deviate from that look and many places you stumble upon, excluding ruins/caves/etc. that are run by humans have little to differentiate from other such places and feel incomplete.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Oblivion is yet another vast, gorgeous and ambitious game from Bethesda. Its easy to pick up and play even for those who don't like RPGs or don't play them that often, such as myself, and it improves on Morrowind in gameplay and has a buttload of content which will last you a long time, giving you tons of bang for your buck. Its not as good as Daggerfall, but it is easily the second best game in the series.