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ups: Beautiful Graphics, Engrossing Story, Multitudes of Quests, 200+ Hours of Gameplay, Limitless Options, Improved Quest Log, Improved Fighting, Quick Travel
downs: Slowdown, Some Pop-up, Game Crashes, Bugs

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Review
game: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
five star
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: 2K Games
developer: Bethesda
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ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 10:54 AM Sat Apr 8th, 2006
last revision: 02:51 AM Tue Apr 11th, 2006

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By now everyone has seen the opening scene of Oblivion, whether through video reviews or in teaser trailers. You know the one, where you\'re flying over Tamriel\'s Imperial City, epic music swells, and you come face to face with King Uriel Septim who speaks of his coming demise. When I first saw this trailer, I must have looked like it was my very first Christmas-eyes big as eggs, a full, dumb smile with drool gathering to one side. I did not avoid the hype, I must admit, and for those who did, those who never heard of The Elder Scrolls series, it\'s time to learn.

There\'s no secret that The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was set to be a blockbuster title for the Xbox 360 (not to mention pull gamers from their WoWing) and... I\'m just going to get this over with: it freaking is. Oblivion is so good I\'ve actually been late to work because of it, I\'ve neglected things I shouldn\'t neglect, and every time I meet someone who has played it, I cannot help myself but ask what class they are and what quests they\'re on. Oblivion is too big to be discovered the first time through and it has entirely consumed me.

The game is beautiful, lush, serene, and exquisitely modeled. I wasn\'t as blown away with the graphics as I was the first time I saw it, but that\'s just diminishing returns. The game looks amazing in high def, and the high resolution textures look even better. Even on a normal TV, you couldn\'t do much better than Oblivion to show off your 360. Graphically, while stunning at first, you\'ll notice a few blemishes here and there. Slowdown at times will become an irritant, but won\'t make the game unplayable. On horseback, there are low resolution textures that appear bare, but grass will fade in as you approach. There is a large amount of pop-up out in the wilderness. But these are mostly annoyances that can be overlooked. Small cracks in the metaphoric windshield that remains strong despite them.

Each character is modeled with skill, Bretons, Altmer, Dark Elves, Orcs, etc. And while the characters look good, it\'s the dungeons and the towns that really give Oblivion its flair. Each town has a distinct flavor, which is reflected in the buildings and surrounding environment. People of each town seem to treat you differently as well but it can depend on whether you have a positive or negative reputation-or if you just plain suck at speech craft.

The best thing about Oblivion is just how huge it is. No, not just 20 hours of gameplay, the main quest alone is around 27-30 hours if you run right through it. Oblivion boasts an impressive 200+ hours of play with a seemingly endless number of quests. No small feat.

But a long game does not necessarily mean \"good.\" Luckily, Bethesda made a few major changes to the gameplay since Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The first is the battle system, which is quite nicely fixed. You no longer stand and hack away at enemies (though there is lots of hacking and slashing). Now blocking, attacking, and spell casting are all done real time (no more of this \"chance to block\" crap). In other words, if you can raise your shield in time to block that enormous claymore that\'s swinging your way, you\'ll be the better for having raised it. Fighting consists of not only hacking away at opponents, but waiting for a vulnerable moment to strike. Swinging into a shield will leave you open to future attacks and could be potentially worse than doing nothing. Making power attacks, holding the attack trigger, causes you to overextend yourself. This power attack has the possibility of knocking down, stunning, or breaking a block, of an opponent.

The second, and best, change to the gameplay of the Elder Scrolls series is in the quest log. While Bethesda claims to have fixed the log in the expansions to Morrowind, they didn\'t really. In Oblivion, selecting a quest puts a waypoint on your compass which alleviates any wandering around aimlessly.

And then there\'s the quick-travel option. Once discovered, any location on your map can be quick-traveled to just by selecting it. The game simulates how much time it would have taken to actually get there, which is fairly cool. And also, traveling on foot, while a fun deviation, can actually get tedious at times. So it\'s a nice option for those who want it. Also, if you don\'t like fast travel but want to get around quicker, you can always buy (or steal) a horse. Many of the graphical hiccups happen while on a horse, though, just to warn-and horses make tasty targets for marauders.

Bethesda took the whole dungeon thing to a new level in Oblivion. The dungeons, the real stars of the game, have entire puzzles within them. Sometimes the puzzles are simple, and sometimes the dungeon is the puzzle. You\'ll encounter traps, enemies, raids, and even an adventurer on his lonesome every once in a while (neat stuff). You see, just because you go down in a dungeon, doesn\'t mean the world around you isn\'t going on with its business.

Join the Mages guild, the Fighters guild, the Dark Brotherhood, the Blades, and more. There just is so much to do in Oblivion that I am at once gleeful to get back to play it and overwhelmed by the breadth.

The sound in Oblivion is nothing short of amazing. One-upping themselves again, Bethesda hired notable voice actors Patrick Stuart, Sean Bean, Terrance Stamp, and Lynda Carter among others. And the score by Jeremy Soule is brilliant and sweeping and epic. Sound effects are a mixed bag, however. Sometimes the timing of drawing a sword or swinging it at an object is just a split instance off. It\'s not a big deal, but you\'ll notice it. And while voices of characters are varied, you\'ll hear them say certain things over and over, just like in Morrowind, only less pronounced.

At times (to date I\'ve experienced it thrice) the game can lock up. Mostly it happens in loading screens, but I\'ve had it happen once on horseback and the other time I am not sure what I was doing. Save often. The game has a tendency of throwing danger after danger at you regardless of you being ready. Luckily, even when the game crashed I wasn\'t set back more than a minute of gameplay as Oblivion will autosave for you in addition to your other saves.

Make no mistake; Oblivion is simply a 5-star game. Even with some minor problems the game never begins to mislead you. It\'s big, it\'s epic, and it\'s one of the most addicting games I\'ve ever played, ever. Problems never surmount the gameplay and the framerate never drops too low. I mean, have I mentioned how big the game is? The fact that everything you ever do in the game (bodies never disappear, swords stay, people remember you) is kept track of forever is a testament to the hugeness of Oblivion.

Go get it, now. If you own a 360, go buy Oblivion. If you don\'t, here\'s your reason: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the blockbuster that makes it all worth it.

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