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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

 

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: PS3
Category: RPG
 
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Developer – Bethesda Software
Publisher – Bethesda GS

Features

1 Player
4600 MB of HDD Space
Supported HD Video: 480p and 720p

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Oblivion for short) has already made its debut on both the PC and Xbox 360. However the PS3 version was delayed past the console’s launch date to allow for a decent port to Sony’s console. Bethesda was kind enough to send us a copy for review and after spending some extended playtime with this version I would have to say that the game is just as large and just as good looking as the two other versions that grace the other platforms. Once you start playing be prepared for a deep and immersive RPG experience that can dwindle the amount of hours in your day.

Graphics

Visually speaking Oblivion is a great looking game. You will find that the land of Tamriel is a gorgeous and lively looking place. There is so much variety to the landscape that you will actually wonder if it ever ends. Environments include snowy peaks, lush green countryside’s, inviting lakes, menacing dungeons and lively cities and villages. Something that struck me during my adventures was how far into the horizon I could see. The draw distance is huge and everything as far as the eye could see was quite clear and detailed. It really helped to make me feel like I was in a very, very large land and it helped to visually take me to a far away place. One of my concerns with any game with multiple locations to visit, especially villages and cities, is that developers will repeatedly use textures and the villages or cities will all look the same. However Bethesda is not a particularly lazy developer and all the villages and cities are well designed and look distinctly different. Finally the dungeons are worth mentioning too as you will find yourself doing many battles in them. They seem quite well...dungeonesque (editors note: we made up a new word) as you explore each one. As with the cities and villages each dungeon area has a unique feel to it. I swear that that as I ventured through the some of the dungeons that I almost felt claustrophobic as I wondered where I was and what lied around each corner.

As this game looks darn good, there are some minor quirks that some nitpickers will definitely complain about. Some of the objects and textures will pop into view a bit late. This was somewhat surprising given the draw distance of the whole world of Tamriel. As well there are also some collision detection issues. In some areas you will find that you can walk through parts of your environment (e.g. wall of a building) which is quite strange. However, given the total size and number of areas to visit, which was a result of a lot of level design and creation, I think I can let the odd collision detection slide as it is not that frequent and really didn’t ruin my gameplay experience. Overall Oblivion is a visually impressive game and one that does a great job on the PS3.

Sound

A Compliment the already great visuals is some great sound too. The sound track in the game not only helps to bring you into the world of Oblivion, but it also helps create more emotion too. The orchestral soundtrack changes at the right times such as when you are just exploring the environment in front of you and you come across an enemy. The music changes from a calm and relaxing tune to a melody with a quicker beat that communicates you are involved in a scenario where you have to be on your toes and alert to make it through. Each piece of music you hear in the game is very suited to your surroundings.

There is also a large amount of voice acting in Oblivion, something which I am a big fan of. If you listen closely you will recognize some of the voices. I for one recognized Patrick Stewart right off the get-go, something that makes me kind of a trekkie as that is where I was first exposed to his talent. Add to the voice acting that there are various dialects too, and this helps to make you feel like you are in foreign area meeting a vast array of foreign people.

As for the rest of the sound effects, from swords clashing during battle, magic spells, the sounds of the enemies to the environmental effects (e.g. running brooks) everything is clear and concise and brings to life the world on screen. Overall the whole audio package if well rounded and helps make this an even better game

Gameplay

I think it would only be fair to inform all you readers out there that I did not play the 360 version of this game. RPG’s have been hit and miss for me and I just didn’t get the chance to play Oblivion on the Xbox 360. So that being said my take on this game is strictly from the PS3 perspective, which I think is fair as this is a PS3 game. If there are any comparisons it will be based on my discussions with online friends I have on XBL that I know have played the 360 version for a lengthy time.

Oblivion starts out with the main world in danger. Cyrodiil, a province of the land of Tamriel, is being threatened by Oblivion Gates that are opening up across its’ land. These gates are flanked by some really foreboding stone columns which mark the entrance to some pretty evil dungeon settings. These gates are all over Cyrodiil and you don’t have to enter them in any specific order. That being said, this is just part of the game.

What I can say with confidence is that this game is HUGE. There is so much to do in so many different areas that this game will suck much of your life away. I have had the game for awhile now and I can’t help but feel that I have still only scratched the surface. The amount of sidequests included into this game make completing it a very daunting task. But these sidequests really compliment the main story and I highly recommend that you complete as many as you can. There are so many things to experience in Oblivion that each time you fire up this game the hours from your day will just disappear. Many people want to know if any of the past DLC for the Xbox 360 version is included in this PS3 version. Bethesda did add the “Knights of the Nine” 10 hours of extra content, but that is about it. I have not heard if any other content that is already available for the 360 version will be available for the PS Network.

Being new to the Elder Scrolls universe I was attracted to the character creation system. There were so many races available that I had a blast choosing what I wanted to be. Of course I took the safe route and chose the human race but you can also choose from multiple elf types, lizard people ad even a catlike race. Each of these races has their own inherent abilities too with different occupations added into the mix. Your goal, as was mine, is to find the right mix among these and make a character that is to your liking. Of course once you choose your character’s traits make sure that this is what you want as once you leave the first dungeon (the prison sewers) you are stuck with this character for the rest of the game. Remember, your character’s traits and abilities affects what you can do during the game and you don’t want to get stuck with a character that inhibits your abilities to do tasks that you want. That being said as you make your way through this immense game you will grow more and more powerful as you acquire better weapons, armor and spells to kill monsters. You will also be able to join any of the four guilds in Oblivion, which includes Mages, Thieves, Fighters and the Dark Brotherhood. Each of these guilds has their own, and very unique, quest lines which provides some pretty interesting acquisitions.

Something that I found during my gameplay experience was that Oblivion was somewhat user friendly, even for a relative RPG rookie like me. Once I was accustomed to the user interface the simplicity of such became evident within an hour or two. I was able to keep track of such tings like new skills learned and missions that I accepted. For example, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the tasks that I could accept and complete. I had no clue as to how I would know where to go and how I would do so many things. Well, within the interface was the ability to make only a specific mission your focus by marking it as ‘Active’ and once I did this my compass showed me the direction to go. This was so simple but yet so helpful as it allowed me see where I had to go in this extremely large land of Tamriel.

The battle system for Oblivion is also something that I really enjoyed. It is an action based system that is playable either a first-person view or a third person view. I found that the first person view added a bit more detail to the battles as I got a first hand view of the enemy(s) I was fighting. That being said, there is no doubt that some might prefer the third-person view as they will want to see the whole battle unfold in front of them, not just view the enemy. Regardless of what view you take battles are easy to get into as the controls are quite intuitive. Offense and defense are assigned their own independent buttons while customizable ‘hot-keys’ allow you to quickly switch between spells and other available powers. I found that the buttons and ‘hot-keys’ really suited the fast paced battles that I would find myself involved in. Speaking of the battles, the computer AI was quite aggressive too and made for some interesting fights. I found that the various enemies I came across, and there are a lot of them, really tested my skills and the more powerful I became, the more interesting it was to find different ways to take them out.

Something else I have to mention is the interaction with the people of Cyrodiil. Looks like Bethesda put a heck of a lot of work into the A.I. system of the NPCs as they engage in random conversations which you not only glean information from, but get sidequests as well. There has to be hundreds of NPCs in this game and they all act quite naturally with each other, as evidenced by their behaviours such as working in the village, sleeping and even sitting down to dinner together. Yep, it is that lifelike. At times I found myself spending a lot of my playtime just watching the NPCs interact with each other. I give kudos to Bethesda for their work on the NPC A.I.

Although I have wholly enjoyed what I have played to date, I have to say that there are still some evident bugs that make for some confusion now and then. Upon talking to my 360 friends who have played this game on their respective console they indicated to me that hey too had some bugs but it sounded like they were much more then those I encountered. On the PS3 version that I played there were some odd instances of NPCs dying without being attacked or characters appearing out of thin air. There were also the graphical anomalies that I spoke about earlier (e.g. collision issues). Even with the odd bug that I encountered now and then the size and scope of this game allows for these to more annoyance then that of a deal breaker.


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