The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is without doubt one of the finest games to grace the PC and consoles during this generation. It's a huge, stunning adventure that lets you go anywhere, exploring and tackling quests as you see fit. If you're a PlayStation 3 owner who is yet to sample the delights of Tamriel then Ubisoft's Game of the Year should be high on your list of future purchases.
Not content with the already epic original release, developer Bethesda Softworks released two expansions to the game. The first, Knights of the Nine, added a new 10-hour quest, while the second expansion, Shivering Isles, delivered more content than most full-price releases. So, rather than re-review all three titles, read on for highlights of our previous thoughts.
Greg on Oblivion
The sequel to 2002's Morrowind is such a remarkable accomplishment, not even because of its vast plains, seemingly endless amount of quests, and polished mechanics, but because it's equally accessible to both hardcore and casual gamers. You don't have to devote your life to Oblivion to truly enjoy it, and for those who don't want to pump in the hours, the main storyline can be completed in relatively few hours. However, once you've created your character and exited the sewers, you likely won't touch the main quest for quite some time.
The story begins with your character, for reasons unknown, waking up behind bars. Soon after, you're greeted by the Emperor himself (voiced by Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame) who warns you of his dire situation and uses a secret passage within your cell as an escape route. Eventually the Emperor is ambushed by a group of marauders, leaving it up to you to restore the rightful ruler to the throne and once again bring peace to Cyrodiil.
Initially, when travelling through Cyrodiil's landscape, you'll be attacked by the occasional rat or wolf, but as your level increases, more difficult enemies begin to appear. By the time you're at level 20 you'll be fighting Ogres, Trolls, Spriggans, Will-O-The-Wisps and plenty of powerful Necromancers. While I'm a classic RPG purist, and would usually love to be able to level up my character to be able to kick some serious Daedric ass with a single blow from my Umbra sword, having enemies level up with you actually makes a whole lot of sense. In Morrowind, if you ventured to certain areas of the map too early on in your journey, you'd face some of the game's toughest denizens. In Oblivion, you're encouraged to explore without having to fear the dreaded 'reload previous save' screen over and over again after groups of Frost Atronachs, Dremora Lords, and Spider Daedras decide to ambush your level 3 character. The system works well, but it can also be a pain in the royal behind for players who like to level up quite a bit before embarking on the main quest.
The game map is enormous, roughly three times larger than that in Morrowind, and is home to dozens of caves, landmarks, dungeons, cities, thousands of NPCs to interact with and four guilds to join (six if you count the Blades and Arena). For anyone who's played Morrowind, the game actually feels a bit smaller in scale, partly due to your character's speed (your character moved like a snail in Morrowind), and the illusion that cities are closer than they seem thanks to the game's incredible draw distance.
Equally impressive are the number of items and spells you can acquire in the game. I'm not sure what the exact numbers are but there must be well over a 1000 items that can be collected, equipped, and stolen. Similarly, there are a seemingly endless amount of spells that can be cast, provided you have the required amount of magicka and have reached the appropriate skill level.
From a technical standpoint, Oblivion doesn't disappoint. Bethesda has done a remarkable job at bringing Cyrodiil to life, and not just visually either. The Radiant AI delivers on all fronts, as NPCs go about their daily activities - eating, sleeping, hunting, training and generally living their lives the way people do. But every now and then the AI goes beyond its menial tasks and does something extraordinary. I've seen NPCs fight over kills; I've seen rival goblin clans fight one another to the death; I've seen the population of an entire city come to the aid of a downed comrade; I've seen NPCs steal items I accidentally dropped and then sell them to the nearest merchant. Occasionally they'll do something that is a little odd, but on the whole no other game features AI as impressively lifelike.
Cyrodiil is a massive province, filled with trees, grass that sways back and forth as you wade through it, towering stone structures, and beautiful sunrises - make a trip over to Dive Rock at around six in the morning and you'll see what I mean (watch out for the giant troll nearby though). Character models are well designed, although often quite ugly, and the lighting has also been well implemented. From an audio perspective, Oblivion succeeds, for the most part, with solid voice acting and an impressively epic score, but also fails miserably at times, with NPCs engaging in some horribly dry conversations.