The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion  (Xbox 360, 2006)
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The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion (Xbox 360, 2006)

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  • Genre: Third Person Action, Adventure Role-Playing First-Person RPG Role Playing
  • Rating: Mature
  • Platform: Xbox 360
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Finally, A Killer App For The 360?

Pros huge, fun, lush environments
Cons animations, crime ain't easy, other annoying things
Recommended it? Yes
The Bottom Line:  great game and it's the only RPG for the 360 to boot
Let me start off by saying that I hated Morrowind (Elder Scrolls 3). Not only was the story incredibly boring/nonexistent at first, but the combat was just miserable. Since it was dictated by D&D dice rolls, a newly created player would miss almost all of his attacks, even if he was just using his fists. I've heard from people who liked the game that it takes 15 hours to really get going. Yuck.

Oblivion gets going right away and it fixes a lot of the problems of Morrowind. You start off in a jail cell, and soon the Emperor and his bodyguards come in because an escape route happens to go through your cell. Despite being warned by the "Blades" to stay put, I followed them and ended up in a dungeon.

That's when I had the first chance to see if the combat was any improved...and it is. While I'm still not a fan of this RPG being in first person, fighting is finally tolerable and Imagine that. If you're a Level 1 character, you'll connect on the swings of your longsword; they just won't hurt too much. So melee combat plays like a normal hack-and-slash from a first person perspective, and no longer was my hero killed by rats. Ranged combat (bow and arrow) is a bit harder to use because you'll have to keep running away from your enemy so he doesn't club you but it's manageable. Some magic is like that too (such as fireballs), but others are more close range (such as Cold Touch), so there's a nice balance here. While much improved, the fighting system still feels a little awkward and is not really a strong point of this game.

Yet there's so much more you can do while you're on your quest to close the gates to Oblivion (hell, basically). NPC's have a variety of actually interesting tasks for you to do. For example, one shopkeeper complained about another shopkeeper in town who is undercutting everyone else's prices. Your character can choose to follow this guy and get some dirt on him, all in the name of a balanced economy. The Guilds return again, all with interesting storylines of their own. There's all kinds of trouble you can cause around town such as bribing people, picking their pockets, breaking into their homes, and good ole fashioned homicide. And of course, the main task (save the kingdom!) is interesting in itself.

Morrowind did not have voice acting, so talking to NPC's required you to read from really long lists, but Oblivion has full voice acting with decent lip synching to boot. This makes the presentation of the game a lot better. The music is also great too and has a very epic feel to it (think Lord of the Rings-type music). Music in video games has come a long way from the MIDI stylings of Final Fantasy VII.

Morrowind was also quite an ugly game on the Xbox. The water in that game looked stunningly life-like but people's faces did not look like real people-faces. Oblivion also features stunning environments as well. The forests, the rock formations, and of course the water look incredibly lush. Not all the faces look lifelike or anything however, but given the huge size of this game, I say these are impressive graphics indeed. I mean, we all know the GTA games didn't exactly have good graphics but it was understandable because the games were so huge. Oblivion is the first RPG I've played that made the towns really seem like towns; the Imperial City has tons of shops, and several districts. No longer does a town contain just an item shop, weapon shop, armor shop, and an inn.

A number of features were implemented to make this game more user-friendly, such as an easy to use map/waypoint system.

One gripe I have about this game is quality of the animations. When you're fighting rats you'll notice they don't move like real rats. When you're riding horseback, you'll notice the horse's animation isn't very lifelike either. When you switch to third-person view, you'll notice your character glides when he walks and the jump animation is ludicrous. Also the framerate gets pretty jagged at times, especially when riding that horse. You see Oblivion is full of load times, and not even when you enter a new building/room. Just walking around outside will often require the game to load every minute or so. Riding that horse shortens that time to a few seconds, and while loads are almost instantaneous, the framerate goes completely to hell.

Like in almost every game, the stealth aspects aren't implemented very well. For one side mission I had to follow a shopkeeper and was even visible when he had his secret meeting but he had no idea I was there! Even though I followed him to the bar and talked to him and made a lot of noise running behind him. Even a "Spook-o-meter" GTA-style would've been better.

It's also tough leading a life of crime in the beginning of the game also, since the guards seems to all by physic. Break into someone's house and you got about 5 seconds to do what you got to do until you get busted (unless the break-in is required for a mission). Also, it's a bummer that no honest shopkeepers will buy stolen goods (and yes, they are all-knowing as well), so this game, while open-ended, seems to really encourage you to live a life of virtue. If the guards catch you for anything, they will confiscate any stolen goods you have. I'm hoping when I level up, I'll just be able to kill the guards or meet the Thieves' Guild and finally make some money off theft. Maybe sell some of the brandy that I stole that goes for around 70 gold each because they're useless items to actually use.

Complaints aside, this is a great game with lots to do and a great leveling up system (you level up the skills you use and upgrading enough of those lets you upgrade your attributes). The fighting system is still a little awkward but it's a LOT better than in Morrowind. This is the only RPG for the 360 and it's a great one and will reward you with lots of playing time. And unlike its fellow 100-hour behemoth of a predecessor Morrowind, it'll actually be fun.

Imagine that!



Update-6/20/06-After playing this game for a while, I'm afraid I have to downrate it to 4 stars. There are two main reasons.

First of all, the game absolutely refuses to put the save files in any order. This means that since my two brothers are also playing this game, I sometimes have to scroll past a 100 save files to find mine. And because they're in no particular order, I have to do it really carefully. Save number 125 will be next to save number 101 which is next to save number 2. Annoying!

Also, the leveling up is getting a tad annoying, because whenever you level up, your enemies do so also. This means that you cannot level up too fast or else you'll get left behind. But you level up by increasing any combination of your major skills by 10 points. How do you level up more slowly? By focusing on your minor skills almost exclusivly. Counter-intuitive, right? Now leveling up is this planned out, tedious process almost since I have to make sure I'm leveling up my attributes by 5 or so lest I get left behind. And it's not fun to know that my character will never reach a level where I can dominate...for example, the guards are always 10 levels ahead of you.

And I'm sick of guards in Leyawin knowing what crime I committed 10 minutes ago in Bravil. Do they have comlinks o something???

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