The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (PC) Rough Draft
But eventually I picked up Morrowind. I liked it, but in many ways, felt like a very empty game. A bit world, full of people, but very shallow people. You could barely interact with them, and the plot was not the most involving. But it had a lot of cool places to explore.
I was not planning on getting Oblivion right away, but a combination of getting caught up in the hype and seeing it on sale led me to buying it shortly after the release date.
Let me start off by saying that the graphics are the best I've seen in a PC game. Just amazing. Gourgeous. Even on medium hardware like mine it just looks nothing short of wonderful. If you want a game to show off your hardware, this is it. Just wanted to get that out of the way.
The basic of character creation have largely stayed the same since Arena, but have been simplified a bit. Your character has several attributes rated from 0-100, generally starting around 40 or so, and skills starting at 0 to 25 or so. You get to pick which skills start higher by picking a class. Leveling up a character is almost reversed from most RPGs - you level up when your skills have increased a certain amount, not the other way around as in D&D.
There are only 21 different skills, the least of any Elder Scrolls games. There's basically now only two types of melee combat skills, "Blunt" for axes, staves and what not, and "Blade" for swords and daggers. (There is also "Hand to Hand", but that is largely useless since you need magical weapons to hit many critters). Similarly, there's now only 2 different armor skills, "Heavy" and "Light".
One of the funkier aspects of the Elder Scrolls series is just how leveling works. Basically, you level up when your major skills go up ten points, but your attributes go up when your minors skills go up as well. So you have to be very sure to use your minor skills a lot in balance with your major skills, so when you level up, your attributes will improve a lot as well.
This has always been tricky, but in Oblivion it's even trickier, because of the fewer amount of skills and because you can only train (that is, buy skill improvement) 5 times per level. Which is only enough to get a small attribute increase.
Making sure your attributes go up is very important, because they determine things like how much you can be hit before dying, how much magic you can cast, and how much you can carry. If you just improve by the minimum each level (which would be 1 point), you'll have a very weak character.
So this is something of a problem area. People new to the series will struggle with it, and even Elder Scrolls veterans will have some problems with the new twists in Oblivion.
In a lot of ways, the Elder Scroll series has been a lot like that old space trading game Elite (except on a planet, of course) - you have a huge world to explore, and can mostly do what you want, but there is also a plot line to follow if you want.
In that respect, Oblivion is just like its predescessors. However, gameplay has been streamlined somewhat - the world seems smaller. You can easily walk from one town to another in a few minutes, while in Morrowind it was a major trek. It's impossible to miss any sort of place in Oblivion, because you have a big huge icon on your compass leading you to them.
While this is okay, it's also something of overkill. It takes away from the sense of wonder, and make you feel more like AAA member than an adventurer
Another big part of the trouble is that your opponents and the loot you find are basically tied to your character level. Both in the plotline quests and in the ruins you explore on your own.
This solves one of the problems of Morrowind - in that, after reaching 20th level or so, you were tougher than just about anything. However, this isn't that satisfying either, because you now don't have much of a motive to go exploring - you won't get anything great in terms of loot if you are lower level, and if you are higher level, you can get great loot from just about anything.
I also miss some types of dungeons. For instance, Morrowind has ruins of the ancient dwarves, who used technology. Their ruins were fascinating, sort of steampunkish. This sort of has something similar, ruins of the ancient elves, but they are much starker and cleaner, not nearly as atmospheric. Also as far as I can tell, no wrecked ships. And dungeons seem smaller.
The storyline reminds me a little of the original game, you also had to save the Emperor in that, but combines that storyline with that of Doom. Basically, the world has been invaded by Demons from the plane of Oblivion (thus the name of the game), which is more or less Hell, who have started coming though gates.
Most of the quests involving the main story line either involve going through one of these gates and closing them (which is basically like Doom, you go through the gate, follow a path, kill everything, then at the end, hit a stone and boom it's closed), or fetching an item for the new Emperor.
As I said way at the begining, the graphics in this are probably the best I've seen on a PC. Many times you'll stop and look at the landscape and just say "Wow!". Despite the cliche, I really don't think I could do justice to the graphics in a 1000 words.
Unfortunately, that beauty does not extend to the inhabitants. For whatever reason, pretty much everyone in Oblivion was hit repeatedly by a giant sized ugly stick. This has always been true in past games, but this really takes ugly to a whole new level. There is also something of a mismatch between their heads and their torsos.
Also strangely, no one has any facial hair, except 5 o'clock shadows. But even stranger, most of the women also have them.
For the most part, the sound is excellent.
All the spoken text in the game is actually voiced by actors. This would be neat, except I think there are only I think 4-5 actors for the NPCs. For women, there seems to be a British lady, a woman who sounds like Agnes Skinner from the Simpsons (the Principal's mother) and sort of a gravelly voiced woman.
Somewhat oddly, the 2 non-humanoid races talk like Jackie Mason. Which is funny. But you just don't normally thing of lizards or cat people as talking like that. But then again, Dr. Zoidberg does, and he's a lobster.
It's a good game, but at the same time, it still is quite shallow. Sure, there are lots of little quests. But all of them are quite linear - basically go someplace, kill everything, get the item and return. The main plot line is almost entirely linear as near as I can tell and you really can't affect the outcome one way or the other. In this day of games like Knights of the Old Republic where you can play games taking a different "path", this feels awfully restrictive.
So I don't think the game will have much replay value. Sure you could play it again. But it will play exactly like it did the first time. Sure, you could try with a new class, but with only 21 different skills, there's not a lot of variety.
Also, while you at least feel acknowledged in this game, your relationship with NPCs still feels very shallow.
All in all, while it's a fun game, it's not much of a evolution over previous games in the series. The only major change is the graphics, gameplay is basically the same, if somewhat simplified. In fact, so simplified, in many ways it feels more like a FPS than an RPG. But still very fun and thanks to the amazing graphics, very immersive. So I give it an 8.