The Elder Scrolls III: was the foundation for the entire franchise. Bethesda Game Studios however still needed to start building the house. Only another fantasy open world role-playing masterpiece would be enough to follow the expectations set by Morrowind. The Elderscrolls Series IV: Oblivion is the game that needed to follow Morrowind. Though countless improvements were made, there were also important characteristics from Morrowind that were abandoned. Released in March 2006, Oblivion wowed the gaming community with its incredible graphics, and impressive artificial intelligence. Just like previous Elder Scrolls games, no knowledge of Oblivion’s predecessors is integral to the experience. Yet, those steeped in TES lore, Oblivion will provide a deeper delve into its expansive world.
Oblivion begins within an Imperial prison in the heart of the Imperial province of Cyrodill. what crimes the imprisoned protagonist has committed is a mystery. Under dire circumstances, it is within this dungeon where the adventurer meets the Emperor of Tamriel. And of course, voice actor who plays the Emperor is none other than Patrick Stewart. The royal castle is under attack by the Order of the Mythic Dawn. The Mythic Dawn are a Daedra worshiping cult, whose purpose is to bring Lord Mehrunes to Tamriel. Their Lord is foe to all mortal races, and intends to cleanse this world from mortal filth. From there the game walks the protagonist through a story based tutorial.
The intro of the game leaves something to be desired. However, the player is soon out of the subterranean labyrinth after witnessing the murder of Emperor Uriel Septim VII. Before death, the Emperor reveals to the mysterious prisoner that there is a heir to the throne. The royal identity has been hidden even from almost everyone including the heir. Set out (if you so choose), and deliver the Amulet of Kings to the Grand Master of the Blades at Weynon Priory.
The open world of Cyrodill is very different to the alien terrain of Morrowind. The imperial province is bright and colorful. The landscapes are tranquil and beautiful during the day and at night. For the first time, the adventurer can ride a mount across the picturesque countryside. The colorful aesthetic is contrasted drastically by the hellish gates of Oblivion. The Oblivion gates will sporadically populate the country side and will be encircled by scamps, daedra and other nefarious creatures.
Each town and city is unique and representative of its integral place within the province. The towns have several citizens who will stop to have conversations with one another. There is the arena, located in the Imperial City, where players may both compete as well as gamble.
The Khajit and Argonians are more anthropomorphized in Oblivion than in Morrowind. The races of Tamriel populate all areas of the province. Though classism, racism and slavery are still rampant throughout Cyrodill.
Once met by emperor Uriel Septim VII, the character creation is initiated. The character creation in Oblivion is much improved over its predecessor. There are more aesthetic options and changes available for every race. Like in Morrowind, the player must choose which birth sign he/she was born under. Each birth sign bestows different abilities onto the character, and there are several to choose from. There are seven major skill available to chose from. The player will unlock new abilities after a skill reaches four thresholds (25, 50, 75, 100). There are 21 skill in total, divided evenly into three categories which are combat, magic and stealth.
Though the game was only released four years after Morrowind, the graphical improvements made in Oblivion are unbelievable. Oblivion Bethesda’s proprietary Radiant AI software and the Havok physics engine. The quality and attention to detail demonstrates the commitment Bethesda made to honoring the expectations for Morrowind’s sequel. The game however is less difficult that its predecessor in almost every way. The beginning tutorial walks the player though the basic mechanics of the game. The tutorial also introduces the potential hero to the world, where Morrowind never provides training wheels.
There is less freedom of play than Morrowind, travel was thankfully revised. Travelling is more flexible and enjoyable in Oblivion when compared to Morrowind. Simply click on a previously visited location on the map to fast travel. There are also mounts available, which greatly facilitate exploration.
The quest lines are very enjoyable, especially quests involving the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood. Markers are now provided on the map and interface, so tracking quests is not as laborious as in Morrowind. Other faction quests are also much more puzzle oriented, reduces monotony and augments the overall experience. On quests will direct the adventurer to locate a unicorn. Where as another will require the protagonist to poison a unknown individual’s meal from the shadows.
Oblivion improved the way in which the world responds to the protagonists actions through a fame and infamy system. The citizens of Cyrodill will begin to acknowledge the players achievements. Once the adventurer saves Kvatch, the citizens would start to hail the savior as the “Hero of Kvatch.” Unique benefits are given when the player reaches the top of a particular guild. Even gain an adoring fan after becoming the “Champion of the Arena.” Become a maniacle murderer, then NPCs will have a poor opinion of the player and will react negatively. These relatively minor details augment the overall experience and create a more immersive world.
Thievery mechanics are more flushed out in Oblivion. One can steal horses, pick pocket weapons, and unlock secret doorways. Everything in Cyrodil is ripe for the picking, until an NPC or guard catches a thief in the act. If the player is caught committing a crime, an option to pay the bounty, go to prison or resist arrest will become available.
Stop right there criminal scum!– Imperial Guard
The crafting system is complex yet enjoyable. Like in Morrowind, the repair skill will maintain the durability of weapons and armor. Ignoring an items durability will eventually lead to the item breaking upon usage. There are also several cool alchemical and enchanting options available.
There is even the ability to move items around, which can make organizing the hero’s domicile more convenient.
The leveling system in Oblivion is almost an un-fun mini game. Leveling in Oblivion is somewhat challenging for those who desire a perfectly optimized character. There are character attributes, and each attribute governs a number of different skills. When a skill is increased by a certain amount, stat increases are allocated to one of three categories. The three categories are health, mana and stamina. The maximum amount of points that can be designated to a specific category is +5 per level up. If the player levels up the character without enough points per level, the game will out scale the adventurer, become extremely difficult. Subsequently, the game disincentivizes gratuitous leveling. It is more advantageous to keep a low level until optimal level ups can be made. The system is extremely unintuitive, and yield large amounts of frustration to new players.
The soundtrack for TES: Oblivion is incredible. Award winning composer Jeremy Soule, who created the music for Morrowind, returned and created another classic score. The work earned a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for Game Music Composition. The tracks suite the epic nature of the game, and is what any fantasy adventurer would want to hear before entering a gate to Oblivion.
The combat mechanics have been significantly improved from Morrowind. Though still repetitive at times, combat is more enjoyable and dynamic in Oblivion. There are a large number of spells to choose from. Also, the ability to create spells remained in the game. Spells may be cast from a hand carrying a weapon, which allows for more flexible combat. Unfortunately, unlike Oblivion’s successor Skyrim, there is no dual-wield capability.
Like in most TES games, stealth combat scales extremely hard in Oblivion. The ability to one shot enemies from the shadows with and arrow, or backstab a beast into oblivion (puns), is extremely satisfying.
The original game had several bugs, which were fortunately fixed by patches and future game releases. The leveling system is arguably the worst aspect to Oblivion. Without understanding the system before hand, it is almost impossible to optimize the character. Many of the dungeons are meaningless labyrinths, and offer very little to the gaming experience. Sometimes the NPC interactions are awkward as characters who should know each other will treat one another like strangers. Lastly, at the time this was written, Oblivion is approaching its 20 year birthday so the graphics will leave something to be desired. At the time, the games graphics were awe inspiring. However, even with mods, Oblivion no longer competes with modern role playing games.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is one of the greatest fantasy RPG open world games ever made, perhaps second only to Morrowind. Oblivion is a masterful continuation from from its predecessor. The fourth installment proved that Morrowind was not a one off by Bethesda, and solidified The Elder Scrolls as a dynasty. The ocean of lore is deepened in Oblivion, and expanded the TES world with an awesome wave. Play Oblivion, explore the Imperial province of Cyrodill, and chose your adventure.