Five years after the crisis in Morrowind spears have been outlawed and a new and powerful Daedra — which is the game’s word for demons — cult is part of a conspiracy to kill the Emperor of Cyrodiil, an act that hasn’t occurred in a long ass time. You play as a prisoner who is in the path of Emperor Uriel Septim’s flight from The Imperial City. Septim declares your presence as fate and tells his bodyguard to bring you along. Despite their best efforts to talk sense into Septim and keep him safe they fail in both regards. He is killed before your eyes and he bestows the Amulet of Kings on you — conveniently forgiving your crimes in this act, apparently. It is your duty to find the last heir to the throne and give him the powerful artifact — or you could go fight mud crabs instead, no rush.
When the legends say that a Septim must sit on the throne the legends ain’t foolin’. The walls between Cyrodil and Oblivion — Basically this game’s version of hell — and this strange cult are opening gates to usher in their Daedric host. Thwart their plans and take back Cyrodiil, brave prisoner-adventurer-guy or gal.
Immediately after the release of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind in 2002, Bethesda began working on the next installment in the series, Oblivion. The Havok Physics Engine allowed them to create a world in which objects could actually move in a semi-realistic fashion. Improvements in graphics technology and hard work by the developers allowed them to create a world approximately 14 square miles large. Sadly the enormous throngs of imperial citizens had to be curtailed to 20 or 30 to a town due to major slow down issues.
The big draw was the new Radiant AI system, home-brewed by Bethesda itself. It allowed them to alter and create semi-random behaviors in the citizens based on certain traits they had. Hungry characters who tended toward crime would steal food. Thieves will spawn outside of towns and try to sneak around to steal valuables. Some civilians will run away instead of fight — and others will, unreasonable, fight to the death because I stole a loaf of bread.
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion was released on March 20th, 2006. It’s competition was Kingdom Hearts II (PS2), Metal Gear Acid 2 (PSP), and Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2)
When I think Oblivion I think glitches. The game was notoriously glitchy on release. Bethesda would eventually do their best to patch things up but there were still problems. The craziest thing I’ve ever heard of follows as such.
My friend, we’ll call him Sparko, turned in a quest and in a scripted event he is attacked by the quest giver — nothing unnatural yet. Sparko retaliated, town guards arrived and joined in the brawl, killing the quest giver. The guards initiated dialogue and expressed sorrow that the dead man lost his mind. At which point the guards began shouting, ‘someone’s been murdered!’ about the man they just helped kill. Strangest of all, the body spontaneously rose as if nothing happened. He began to stare at where is dead body had formerly lain and joined in the chant of, ‘someone’s been murdered!’ Sparko then began to back away incredibly slowly.
Oblivion is a Sandbox Fantasy RPG. You’ll be swinging swords, firing your bow, or casting spells to get from A to B across Cyrodiil, to complete quests, or explore exotic locales and lost ruins. Um… that’s all there is to it really. There’s an overlying plot about putting an emperor on the throne but there’s absolutely no urgency to complete it and a million other things to do. There’s really no wrong way to play the game
Wanna kill an old lady, whatever, the guards’ll probably get pissed. Wanna steal stuff, aight. Like the plot and wanna pursue it, go ahead. Oblivion don’t judge and when it does it entails a slap on the wrist and some skill penalties — or death, those guards will not hesitate to kill you.
Ragdoll physics might be the greatest innovation in video game history. Shooting a minotaur with a lightning bold and watching him flop through the air like a drunken ballerina is one of the most viscerally pleasing things on the planet.
The quests in this game are generally really fun and interesting. Some are even downright challenging and fascinating. I still remember the truth behind the Grey Prince’s lineage and I can’t think of a Daedric Prince quest that was boring.
Speaking of Daedric princes, the Shivering Isles is one of the greatest pieces of DLC I’ve ever purchased. I cannot think of a world in which I felt more like a guest in my own home than the dominion of Sheogorath, The Daedric Prince of Madness. Most of the time I find insanity to be a cheap character trait but the thing that makes Sheogorath great are his moments of clarity — so inconsistent is his inconsistency that he has powerful moments of immense sanity. The characters, architecture, creatures, and larger than life depiction of the Mad God himself blew me out of the water.
The leveling up system in this game is a mess. I think it’s pretty cool that your skills level up as you use them, even if it is slower than dirt for some skills — I’m looking at you athletics. But then raising your skills related to your class makes you level up. I follow so far but in order to level up you have to sleep, why? I understand that it’s indicative of epiphany but… it’s annoying… really annoying — and the trite inspirational quote that accompanies each level up screen is similarly unwelcome. When you level up you select stats to increase by 1-5 points. I thought that the degree of increase was random but it’s actually related to the skills that were raised for that instance of leveling up and there are only a certain number of skill raises per level up. Each skill correlates to a certain statistic so if you want to make a statistically powerful character then you need to make sure you only raise certain skills that correlate to the stats that you want to raise and the game doesn’t tell you which skills correlate to which stats. How do you figure it out? You gotta look it up, I guess. TLDR: I JUST WANNA GET STRONKER! HOW DO?
I only complain so much about the levelling up thing because the higher your level the stronger the monsters get. So if you don’t put points in the right places, get good spells, and/or get good equipment then you’re gonna end up in the dust. My level 21 Orc Barbarian, Gronald, was stun-locked and viciously murdered by an unarmed goblin. That’s just wrong. This guy killed a giant demon spider and he got totally owned by goblin.
The persuasion minigame isn’t exactly intuitive and it’s certainly not fun. It’s not even particularly useful but some quests are impossible to complete without raising a subjects personal opinion of you.
I gotta complain more about the level scaling because it doesn’t just effect the gameplay, it can even shatter the immersion. Enemy equipment is also scaled up so sometimes the struggling bandits are wearing ebony armor. How did he get that? He just complained about his rumbling stomach. Did he blow all of his money on his suit of armor? Why doesn’t he pawn it for enough gold to eat for a year? I’m so confused.
Wouldn’t it be weird if the Arena, Thieve’s Guild, Mage’s Guild, Fighter’s Guild, and Assassin’s Guild all had the same leader? If you so choose, your character can be this individual. I’m not sure what the design alternative would be but it seems odd that it’s even possible considering that these guilds sometimes have conflicting tenets. Maybe quest chains could just end without the player becoming the all high, supreme, mega, leader and the actual Leader’s closest agent. Or maybe they could only choose to be leader of one faction.
I know I complain about it a lot but a few ticks down on the difficulty meter and the enemy scaling becomes much more manageable. For those few proud souls who refuse to lower the difficulty on principle I say, ‘Godspeed. May you be beaten to death by unarmed goblins for your hubris.’ That being said, the game is worth it alone for the Shivering Isle’s Expansion. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is available on Steam for $20 with all the DLC included. For the complaints I’ve cited I’d wait for it to go down to $15. It’s fun but it can be a real pain in the genitals. Especially when you could play next week’s game for the same cost as it’s theoretical sale price.
Next Week: Shovel Knight