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Posted on Apr 27, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Game Review (PC)

James Lombardi

intro2.jpgThis is likely the most difficult game I’ve had to review. Not because it was hard to get a grasp of the game or how I felt about it but because every time that I thought about starting in on writing the review I had this urge to go and play “just a tiny bit more” to get a “better feel” for the game. Six hours later, I’d have to take care of other business rather than write the review. Even now I’m wishing I had uninstalled the game just so I could get through this. Or maybe all those people gathering in the living room are finally here to give me the intervention I so desperately need to get away from my keyboard.

If you’ve played an Elder Scrolls game before, you have a good idea of what to expect here. The biggest change is that the game is slightly more directed now. While you still have tons of freedom, quests are marked on your map so you can usually see exactly where you need to go.

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If you’ve never played an Elder Scrolls game before, this is a great one with which to begin. The game is a fairly classic fantasy RPG, but played from a first person perspective. Be warned: Do not play this if you have trouble deciding between tons of options! The game starts with a short tutorial area where you choose your character’s race, class, etc. The main quest is also introduced here, with Empire (and Emperor voiced by Patrick Stewart) in danger from a mysterious group. However, once you leave the starting zone, you have a huge world to explore.

There are plenty of scenic spots in the game, just make sure you don’t get killed finding them. Castle Skingrad with dense forests in the background, it’s a nice neighborhood. Although you’ll find some of the people a bit quirky.

Many games with large areas partition them off so that only as you progress farther in the storyline can you access new places. Not so with Oblivion. If you wish you can immediately start following the main quest, you can also simply travel throughout the huge game space. I would strongly suggest letting the Empire wait a bit (seriously, it’s not in any rush – only in danger of utter ruin) and explore the other cities and countryside for a while. There are hundreds of locations to explore, and plenty of quests to consume your life (both in-game and out).

Not only can you find the usual random quests by talking to NPCs and such, but there are four major guilds you can join which lead to a string of quests which will let you rise to the top ranks of said guild. There are the typical fantasy guilds: the Fighter’s Guild (bunch of upright goody-goodies), the Mages Guild (a tad snooty at times), and the Thieves Guild (if it’s not bolted down, you might as well take it). And then there’s the fourth guild. For those, like me, of questionable morals, this is the guild for you — the secretive Dark Brotherhood. This is a group of murderers and assassins who serve very dark powers. And if that’s not enough, one of the best quests in the game is through them (along with plenty of great rewards and loot).

The ‘Human Torch’ has nothing on me… How can you go wrong with Monkey Pants, I mean really?

The game system is pretty solid. Your character has a set of 21 skills of which your class defines seven of them as “major skills.” As you level up these major skills, your character gains a level which allows for the usual stat increases and such. If you browse around forums, you’ll find one of the major complaints about this game is that the majority of enemies in the game (along with the loot you find) are based upon your level. So as you level up, stronger enemies appear (along with stronger weapons). I suppose this is a matter of opinion, but this actually keeps the game interesting rather than allowing you to become an all powerful character that can crush any enemy in your path. And the developers included a little feature to let you control the rate you level – when you gain a level you’re notified by a little icon on your screen. You only level when you actually go to sleep in a bed somewhere (which you don’t have to do). So with complete control over leveling, if enemies are getting too tough, just don’t level for a while until your character can catch up and handle them better.

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