Sweet As Syrup: Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion Review

There are few experiences out there that measure up to an Elder Scrolls game in terms of scope or content. Each Elder Scrolls game is packed with so much stuff to do that it almost becomes overwhelming. Bethesda puts a lot of hard work into each successive title and while the results aren’t always the best, there is usually a good experience to be had. Today, I’m going to talk about the game that got me interested in Elder Scrolls and its development company Bethesda. Today, I’m going to discuss Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Need To Know Information

Oblivion is an open-world action RPG that was released on March 20th, 2006. That’s right, Oblivion will be turning 10 years old in just a couple of weeks. The game was originally teased several years prior in a Easter Egg that was planted in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Oblivion was released on X-Box 360 and Playstation 3, as well as PC. Several DLC content packs were made (Including the now-infamous Horse Armor DLC) The version I’m playing only has two of those content packs: Knights Of The Nine and the full expansion The Shivering Isles.

Plot

The game starts off with a narration by Emperor Uriel Septim, played in this game by Patrick Stewart. Uriel explains that he is reaching the end of his life and that a growing threat is encroaching upon the lands of Tamriel. As it turns out, Mehrunes Dagon is trying to enter Tamriel through a portal to a hellish landscape known as “Oblivion”. He is sending down his demonic underlings through Oblivion Gates to ravage the world.

The game starts with your custom-created character in the Imperial City’s prison. What was your crime? The game never tells us, actually. When stuck in prison though, the emperor and his royal guard “The Blades” happen to show up. As it turns out, your prison cell just happens to be an escape route out of the city. The Emperor allows you tag along with you and his guard and you are allowed to escape prison and venture outside once again. Not before everything goes completely wrong and Uriel gets murdered, of course. With the emperor dead, you are now sent on a quest to find his last surviving heir and save the land of Tamriel from this great threat.

The game’s story failed to grab me to be honest. There were a lot of times where I was scratching my head, and the game seemed to have plot holes that were never addressed. The game’s two major expansions also have their own story. The plot of Knights Of The Nine has you sent on a holy crusade to stop a powerful Ayleid king from resurrecting and destroying the realm. Unfortunately, the plot to this expansion is structured poorly. Most of it is spent with you running around the land to awaken way-shrines and get the blessings of the gods. Even after that, most of the story is spent with you diving further into large dungeons before eventually having to battle the Ayleid king 1 on 1.

The second expansion is called “The Shivering Isles” and sends you on a quest to a realm of Oblivion. This realm is the home of the Madgod known as Sheogorath. The mad-king wants you to do a bunch of bizarre yet seemingly important tasks in order to save his realm from destruction. The story in this expansion is better than that of the last expansion or even the main game. I got invested in these unique and bizarre characters. The expansion felt a bit like Alice In Wonderland and had your character interacting with all these insane characters. It was truly a satisfying experience! Still, it kind of sucks that only 1 of the 3 stories I found to be entertaining.

Gameplay

Oblivion is more action focused than the previous games in the series. Unlike those games, all of your attacks register completely. There isn’t the element of your attacks constantly missing and the combat feels less robotic. The combat is pretty easy to get the hold of. You press a button to attack, another to bring up your shield, plus you can heal and use spells while in combat. Unfortunately, sword combat just kind of felt bland to me. When you attack with a melee weapon, your character will just haphazardly swing his arm around while gripping the sword. This makes the motion of his attacks seem more like he’s smashing a paintbrush against a canvas rather than wielding a mighty magical sword.

Combat isn’t the only focus of this game, however. You see, this being an open-world game there are plenty of things for your character to do. You can entrap the souls of your enemies inside gems, enchant items, use alchemy to brew potions, and explore a vast world full of adventure. The game features a plethora of side-quests and miscellaneous objectives for you to partake in. You can leap into a painting, ride a unicorn, fight off an army of goblins, battle a powerful snow troll atop a mountain-peak, etc. The game is packed with so much entertaining content, which is one of the many reasons I love this game so much.

A problem I had with the gameplay was the lack of meaningful boss fights. Most bosses are just some powerful wizard or some kind of suped-up lich. The Gatekeeper gave me a bit more challenge in Oblivion, but he was still a pushover once you figured out his weaknesses. Another problem I had was with the Oblivion Gates. The Oblivion Gates are special areas you can dive into and complete. The problem is that a lot of Oblivion Gates felt either too easy or too hard. I’d go into an Oblivion Gate and sometimes get a hard and unnecessarily long crawl through a somewhat-open hellish landscape. Other times, I’d just have to run to a toward and fight my way through a gauntlet of floors before nabbing the sigil. The sigils were a good reward though, as they would allow you to enchant you weapons and armor easily and more effectively than with Soul Gems. Despite these minor grievances, I still had a lot of fun with the gameplay overall. They did iron out a lot of this in the sequel, but that is a review for another day.

Visual Stimuli

The game looks pretty good, in all honestly. Armor designs and backgrounds are good enough, though I did notice a bit of pop-in when I played on PC. Character faces look downright horrible, it is easily the worst part of the game. Bethesda probably wasn’t used to designing realistic faces, so the face designs of each race looked equally terrible. Oddly enough, I found the facial designs of some of the characters in Shivering Isles to be a lot better than I was used to. The game has a decent soundtrack of fairly typical fantasy songs, plus an updated version of the Elder Scrolls theme.

The game kept a fairly steady frame-rate on my PC and rarely ever chugged. The voice acting was pretty good in the game, but even that had some jagged edges. Too many characters in the game shared the same voice actors and there were times when the radiant dialogue system would cause characters to spout out awkward conversations. Still, it wasn’t anything that annoyed me too greatly. The presentation is all in all passable, but not without its issues.

In Summation

Oblivion is great, it is a fantastic open-world adventure. It has a forgettable story and some presentation hiccups here and there, but it is all in all a good game. If you can get past the somewhat awkward combat and the dated facial designs, you have a solid action game with a lot of heart and soul to it. All in all, I can easily say this game is as sweet as syrup. I also award the game an 8.5/10. It is solid yet somewhat unpolished RPG fun and easy recommendation for people who want a good ol’ open-world experience.

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