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Living In Oblivion

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the nicer-than-you-might-otherwise-think dept.

Role Playing (Games) 296

The Elder Scrolls series is well known among PC gamers as the high water mark for an open-ended RPG experience. The series, set in the world of Tamriel, has a staggering breadth and depth thanks to the exacting standards of the team at Bethesda Softworks. The newest title in the line brings Tamriel to life in a manner that is renewing the faith of even the most jaded CRPG player. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion may not be the perfect game for everyone. For those willing to give it a shot, Oblivion treats gamers with a level of respect that is unique, uplifting, and (hopefully) inspirational for game developers in all genres. Read on for my impressions of a truly unique game.

  • Title: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  • Developer: Bethesda Softworks
  • Publisher: 2K
  • System:PC (360)
The Computer Roleplaying Game (CRPG) genre consists of two poorly-wed sub-genres. These genres were forced together at gunpoint simply because of some passing similarities. On one hand, you have Japanese RPGs. These linear, turn-based titles are typified by the extremely popular Final Fantasy series. On the other hand you have Western RPGs, which can trace their roots to titles like Wizardry or the 'gold box' SSI games. More recent examples of this genre include the incredibly popular Bioware titles Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic.

This latter category of CRPG is, regrettably, on the wane. The type of gamer who enjoys this genre has been drawn away by the promise of multiplayer interaction, either in MUDS or MOOs or in their more graphically advanced MMORPG offspring. Since the days of Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment fewer and fewer of these non-linear titles, with an emphasis on creating an actual role to play, have been lining shelves. The grandaddy of this genre is the previous chapter in the Elder Scrolls saga. Morrowind let you loose on an island nation with little more than a race, astrological symbol, and some skills. Once you were in the game there wasn't a single constraint on your actions. An advanced world editor ensured that a player who tired of the hundreds of hours of potential gameplay in the shipped title could download content from his fellow gamers. From the smallest item all the way to entire additional continents, this content has kept dedicated players busy since the game's launch in 2002.

These players can move on, finally, as Oblivion steps ably into its older brother's very big shoes. The level of polish this game displays is such that it is hard not to wander into hyperbole when describing what they got right. In point of fact, it's hard to nail down something they got wrong when keeping the genre as a whole in mind. There are, however, some big obstacles to enjoying the game. The most daunting can be a simple question of technology. A lot of game impressions seem to be based on the Xbox 360 version of the title, and for good reason. The 'recommended specs' on the side of the PC box could make anyone pause. A three gig processor, at least a gig of memory, and (if you're using Nvidia as your yardstick) a 6800 or better graphics card are what they suggest. I'll be honest, I don't reach the recommended specs. I've got a 2 gig processor and a 6600 card. Anticipating the game, I did upgrade to 2 gigs of memory as a stopgap measure, and I really noticed that purchase in the lightning-fast load times. Graphically, though, I know I'm not seeing the full experience. Unless you have a high-end rig, you're probably going to want to go with the 360 version. I'm told it has noticeable load times and some occasional control frustrations, but if your computer can't handle the title at least you can play the game.

The second roadblock potential players might encounter is one of the game's biggest strengths: the open-ended gameplay. Once you've finished the tutorial dungeon you're let loose with absolutely no strings attached. Tamriel is your world to explore, and you can do it however you wish. There is about 100x more direction in Oblivion than there was in Morrowind, and various gameplay elements make it much easier to get where you're going and know what you're doing. Just the same, if you like having a clear goal the freedom of Oblivon may throw you. The entrants in the Final Fantasy series look like barely interactive movies in comparison.

Finally, an aspect of the title that's throwing even dedicated players may prove to be the final straw for folks new to the series. There's no other way to say it: Oblivion is harsh. With freedom comes consequences, and for a certain kind of player Elder Scrolls IV may be a very frustrating experience. The best example of this philosophy is in character creation. It's entirely possible to create a useless character if you make the wrong choices. They give you an array of pre-generated character roles to choose from, and it's hard to go completely wrong if you pick one of those. If you so choose, however, you can roll your own class. If you really want to, you can set off into Tamriel with little or no experience in wielding a weapon. Oblivion is far more than your usual hack-and-slash, but there is still a lot of combat in the game, and such a character will probably have a very hard time of it. That combat, too, can be brutally unforgiving. Enemies throughout the land scale as you gain in strength, so the hope is that you won't ever come up against an opponent that's completely out of your league. Within your 'league', though, you can come up against enemies that are almost impossible to defeat. That can depend on the character just as much as the enemies involved, and either way the game isn't going to sit there and hold your hand.

With those caveats out of the way, I'll engage in just a little bit of hyperbole. Oblivion is the most engaging RPG I have ever played. It captures the essence of what makes tabletop roleplaying so enjoyable, and allows you as the player access to a sprawling and beautifully realized world of possibilities.

From the first moment you enter the world, the occupant of a dank jail cell, you'll be struck by the depth of the experience. A fellow prisoner makes rude comments to you from across the hallway, and the guards which appear at your door make no bones about their willingness to kill you. They're there guarding the emperor, who is fleeing an assassination attempt. Your tutorial for the game has you following the emperor (voiced by Patrick Stewart), and exploring a small cave system beneath the Imperial prison. Game elements are well explained, with numerous opportunities to practice combat tactics, stealth, and spellcasting. By the time you leave the cavern, you'll have chosen your race and class and borne witness to the death of the empire's leader. Blinking in the sudden light, on a grass-covered hill outside the Prison walls, you have a quest in your journal and a million options open before you.

This sense of freedom is Oblivion's most engaging quality. While the emperor asked with his dying breath that you travel to a Priory in the north and find his illegitimate son, you are under no obligation to do so. Ever. There is enough to do in the world of Tamriel that if you so choose you can spend the rest of your play experience happily ignoring the looming threat implied by the main quest. The main quest is well-written, and if you follow through with the line's goals you'll be rewarded through fame and fortune. Unlike other titles with the implication of 'freedom', Oblivion really does offer far more than just the central script. Just walking down a street in one of the many cities of the empire will allow you to overhear the possibility of adventure. The Non-Player Characters (NPCs) of Oblivion are wonderfully written, and all have their own very specific needs. Their AI puts them through a normal routine every in-game day, and causes the characters to interact in very realistic ways. While a peasant's normal day might involve working in a farm outside the city, stopping at a tavern for a meal, and then heading home for bed, it's possible that could be disrupted by the actions of another character. If it is, you can bet that there's a quest waiting for you.

This level of depth is supported by the game's many conveniences. The number of quests the citizens of Tamriel will throw your way would make it impossible to handle if you didn't have a good level of support. The game offers a featureful quest journal, which not only shows what quests you're on, but quests that you've completed and prior steps to ongoing quests. Quest goals are clearly marked on your world map, ensuring that even if you are unsure of what exactly to do you can always know where you're supposed to go. The game features a 'fast travel' system that can take some of the tedium of overland riding out of the game. If you do choose to travel overland, you'll encounter new adventure locales and opportunities for questing, but the option of moving quickly from place to place is really nice.

What you actually do on quest is extremely varied. While there are some quests that fit into the usual 'kill the x for me' or 'deliver this to so-and-so', a surprising number of them substantially differ from the norm. There are diplomatic missions, like the request from the invisible people of Aleswell. An entire village turned translucent by a thoughtless wizard wants you to go talk him into turning them back. The Thieves Guild quests primarily revolve around entering private areas and coming away clean with an item or items. One involved quest line I explored had me following around a merchant, who turned out to be purchasing his wares from a graverobber. While the quest line did end in a confrontation with the scoundrel, there was far more to the quest than simply 'go here and kill the bad guy'. Quests in Oblivion are deeply satisfying in a way that many RPGs (especially MMOGs) can't even approach.

All that said, if you're not in the mood for considered action there's always monster hunting to lighten the mood. Ruins are scattered liberally across the empire, and exploring them will lead you into numerous combat situations. Combat in Oblivion shares the same first-person melee setup that Morrowind used. You hack and slash at your foes from behind your character's eyes, resulting in an immediacy to combat that raises the blood pressure quite effectively. There are several ways to fight, each with its own distinct 'feel'. Melee combat has a great kinesthetic feel, with your character swaying and moving in time to the action. Slashing your weapon across your field of view is enormously satisfying, and creatures bleed profusely when poked. Melee skills have been simplified a great deal, with 'Blade', 'Blunt', and 'Hand-to-Hand' constituting the three main options you have in this field. If ranged combat is your preference, 'Marksman' is the skill you'll want. Drawing an arrow on a bow conveys a real sense of power, and the whistling sound that accompanies a flying projectile imparts your shots with a deadly beauty. Ranged combat is most useful, I've found, to use when stealthing. Entering 'stealth' mode allows you to move quietly and unseen through the halls of the dungeon. If you can get off a shot with your bow or blade while remaining undetected, your initial blow will do far more damage. You'll be doing a lot of combat throughout your adventuring career, so the fact that they just nailed the feel of chaotic encounters makes it hard to get bored while exploring the depths.

Every system, in fact, has the mark of quality stamped upon it. Magic is just as engaging as the combat elements, with different schools covering a wide variety of spell effects. Spells are broken out into separate schools, which don't directly tie together. You can choose, for example, to improve your ability to cast healing spells and ignore other spellcasting elements. If you want to broaden your scope, the different schools can be used in synergy to create excellent effects. Magic schools, sneaking, bladework, and shield blocking are all covered by skills which improve as you use them. 'Leveling up' occurs when you've crossed a certain threshold of skills points acquired. Your increase in power (both via level and skill increase) is visible and enjoyable, with benefits to your prowess in battle immediately apparent during gameplay. There are also non-combat skills, which are just as well thought out as the more violent sort. Lockpicking and Speechcraft are mini-games, and both allow access to secrets you might not otherwise ever see. You can repair your armor or brew potions, as you'd like. You can leap from rooftop to rooftop to improve your Acrobatics, and haggle with merchants to improve Mercantile. The tapestry of skills works so well because not only do they hang well separately, they mesh together into a cohesive whole. Your character, as your window into Tamriel, manages to be just as interesting as the NPCs around you. You can actually find that you surprise yourself with what you can do, a truly rare treat for any game.

All of these well-crafted systems would be fun even if the game only looked 'okay.' What makes Oblivion so easy to lose yourself in, though, is the visual quality and audio presence the designers have lovingly applied to the entire experience. NPCs look at you with expressive eyes and delicate features. Enemy creatures attack with movement appropriate to their style of combat, and light winds stir the grasses around you while you sit and stare up at the beautiful sky. Tamriel is a gorgeous world, and the visual experience completes the powerful force pulling you into the gameworld. There are a lot of 'wow' moments, but what I enjoyed most about the graphical presentation is that after a time you just stop noticing it. Everything looks just right, and makes it easy to slip into your alternate persona.

There's just so much right about this game, it makes me actually a little sad. The strong statements made by the developers are entirely admirable: a harsh and open world where the player is empowered. Those same statements will put off a lot of gamers because we are just not taught to expect much of ourselves when we game. The power, beauty, and depth of this gameworld should be experienced by as many people as possible, and because of the bad lessons taught by other games there are a lot of people that are going to say 'that's not for me'. Oblivion is a game that forces you to make decisions with real consequences, a game that plays out those consequences on the world, and teaches you as the player to think fast and play for keeps. It's real life, packaged into a fantasy format and with a handy quest journal that I constantly find myself missing as I do chores around the house. It does what other games are afraid to do: it respects you. The finest compliment for a game that allows you to fill a role is to find yourself actually believing the role, and Bethesda has given you every tool you need to go off and be your very own hero. In an escapist niche of an escapist hobby, there's not much more you can ask for than that.

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296 comments

Shut yer piehole! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036307)

Fist Prost, bitches!

Re:Shut yer piehole! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036695)

Uh no this time it was me asshole

ct (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036316)

I'm going CT! Look out you AWP whores!

Truly Great (4, Informative)

XMilkProject (935232) | about 8 years ago | (#15036327)

A truly great game. I've been playing an awful lot since it came out a few days ago. I think the reviewer was spot on when he said that the player is given respect in the game. Theres no other way to describe it.

Oh, and this wouldn't be a game review without some tips!

Go find Dorian's house in the Tolas district of Imperial City. Kill him, and you can take an unlimited supply of money off of him. As much as your willing to take at 8gp per button press.

Re:Truly Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036415)

The game is entirely level based, if you're a higher level you'll get far more than just 8G. ;)

Re:Truly Great (2)

JoshRosenbaum (841551) | about 8 years ago | (#15036481)

You might as well be cheating if you're exploiting an in-game bug. Or was this meant to be part of the game? "Bag of infinite gold" or "Money Tree/Shrub"

Re:Truly Great (2, Insightful)

copenja (840759) | about 8 years ago | (#15036488)

If you want tons of gold you can just set it in the console.

No need to exploit some goofy bug.

Go to www.gamefaqs.com they have a list of commands.

It will be something simple like: set gold 10000.

Also, you can pretty much create whatever you want using
the contruction set.

But really cheating ruins the game, I don't recommend it.
As soon as you start cheating there is no going back and
imo it really ruins the fun level of the game.

Re:Truly Great (1)

minister of funk (123188) | about 8 years ago | (#15036537)

Why does cheating ruin the game? It just makes it a different game. I love to cheat against the computer. I also enjoy beating the computer within its ruleset.

Re:Truly Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036636)

I agree with you.

It's my 50 bucks. I enjoy the hell out of playing it, just not the way some others enjoy playing it.

I played Morrowind for ages and felt like I got my money's worth, even though I never completed the main quest. I made a ring of constant levitation and flew all over the place, killing stuff, doing minor quests. I loved it.

I never cheat at multiplayer; single player games and I'm a cheating mofo. Of course, I don't then brag about how good I am at the game, cause I'm not. I'm just having fun.

"ruined". what a joke.

Re:Truly Great (1)

XMilkProject (935232) | about 8 years ago | (#15036612)

The cheating on the console is too easy. This works on xbox though where you cannot do that, and really takes some patience to get the money. Also the guy is kinda hard to kill, he keeps running for the guards.

Re:Truly Great (2, Informative)

snuf23 (182335) | about 8 years ago | (#15036781)

David Marcus: "He cheated."

Kirk: "I changed the conditions of the test. I got a commendation for original thinking. I don't like to lose"

Re:Truly Great (2, Informative)

Cheapy (809643) | about 8 years ago | (#15036511)

That's not a 'tip', that's a cheat.

A tip would be how to join the Thieve's Guild for those who can't figure it out, or where to find Welkynd stones.

Tons of technical problems (4, Informative)

Nightspirit (846159) | about 8 years ago | (#15036345)

Before buying the game, see if there is a demo available. Right now the game has a decent amount of bugs, and it has problems running on alot of systems, including xbox360s. Some people with cutting edge hardware are having low fps issues whilesome people with lower end video cards are running fine. The xbox360 is having harddrive cache problems, ruining saved games, while alot of people on PCs are crashing to desktop.

I'm enjoying the game, but it is frustrating. however, I would advise others to wait for a patch, unless you can't restrain yourselves.

Here is the technical board for those interested:
http://www.elderscrolls.com/forums/index.php?s=9df 99cc632d35dd16ee09edf8a56b38a&showforum=23 [elderscrolls.com]

Mine crashes but... (1)

Wootzor von Leetenha (938602) | about 8 years ago | (#15036571)

Only when I exit it. I don't know, every time I save the game then click the "Exit to Desktop", I get a Windows error report prompting me to send the info along. Also, during the videos I get a very choppy experience. The opening video is fine for a second, then totally frozen for a second, then fine, then frozen... it's constant, and I can't tell what it's doing, but the game runs fine. It did CTD on me once though, right after I had saved. Still, these are not going to ever stop me from playing... and since it only crashes when I'm done, it almost forces me to never stop :) I'm not anxiously awaiting a patch since it's reliable 99.9% of the time.

Re:Tons of technical problems (1)

dan828 (753380) | about 8 years ago | (#15036607)

It's a fun game, but you are right, people should wait for the patch. Currently I'm crashing out to the desktop at random intervals. It can go two hours without a problem then crash or it can do it 3 times in a half hour. Either way, I have yet to exit gracefully from a playing session, and have lost a lot of game play to these crashes. It's frustrating and I've quit playing it for now, hoping that a patch will be available soon so that I can continue. Save your money for now.

Re:Tons of technical problems (1)

tourvil (103765) | about 8 years ago | (#15036838)

I bought the game yesterday and have the same problem with frequent crashes. I've seen a number of forum posts saying that audio/video codecs installed on the system may be interfering with Oblivion. I haven't it yet as I'm still at work, but here's hoping that fixes the problem...

http://codebot.org/articles/?doc=9350 [codebot.org]

Before you Buy! (4, Informative)

bahwi (43111) | about 8 years ago | (#15036355)

Before you buy, check the forums(which are completely negative with people convined no one ever, anywhere, has gotten the game to work, ignore thoses posts). Look for stuff on your video card. What runs Doom3 in High may only run Oblivion on Low, and what runs Doom3 on med may not even run it(or it may). My ATI 9800 Pro was nothing to it, barely ran, slowly, and very low framerate. I should have bought a 360 and the game on 360 but I want to be avail for plugins. Now I'm sli geforce 6800gs w/ 1gb ram and it runs high quality, but just barely, and slows down sometimes. But, it's incredibly beautiful, and very worth it. I think the 360 version will do plugins with the hard drive though, but I'm not sure, and I'm not much of a console gamer to begin with.

So, check your stuff out, but it's completely worth it. It requires Shader 3, so half life w/ HDR doesn't mean Oblivion w/ HDR. It's an intensive game, well worth it, but intensive. Your once top of the line comp is obsoleted by this next generation game.

And I hear GeForce FX series support is bad, ultra-low quality, etc... So 6000/7000 series, ATI 9500 or up to run, but my 9800 Pro was low quality, so be prepared.

But definately worth it. Man, pushes the limits of gaming.

Re:Before you Buy! (1)

Apathist (741707) | about 8 years ago | (#15036492)

My ATI 9800 Pro was nothing to it, barely ran, slowly, and very low framerate

Huh. That's odd. I'm running a stock 9800 (backed by an ordinary Athlon 2300+), and it runs quite fine at 1024x768. Sometimes - especially during fights - it can be a little choppy... but that is still much better than expected, considering the depth of field visible most of the time.

ATI 1900XTX series is best for this game (1)

mozumder (178398) | about 8 years ago | (#15036572)

But that's probably related to the similiarities to the 360 and its subsequent optimizations.

Benchmarks:

http://www.bit-tech.net/gaming/2006/03/31/elder_sc rolls_oblivion/4.html [bit-tech.net]

They indicate that even the GeForce 7900 has framerate difficulties when set to highest image-quality settings.

Re:ATI 1900XTX series is best for this game (1)

Janus67 (964266) | about 8 years ago | (#15036913)

buy a very negligable amount. My system (7800gtx, a gig of PC3200, 3700+ sandy, DFI motherboard, running at Ultra-High + HDR @ 1280x1024 I find a minimum FPS of 23-24 and a max of 60 (I have vsync on).

Re:Before you Buy! (1)

earnest murderer (888716) | about 8 years ago | (#15036652)

Funny how that works, my lowish end a year ago x700 plays Oblivion just fine at 1280x1024. Turning off (or in my case impossible to enable) HDR may make your game very smooth and still looks great

I was real skeptical when it came out, maybe I was a bit jaded, but it was largely Bethesda who was responsible for making me so. Turns out, Oblivion is a pretty decent game with some modest caveats. I'm really happy MS made them put another 3 months in before releasing it.

Getting stuck is real easy, enough so that they should have put something in the UI to work around that.

The lip syncing is really hard to look at. If I could turn it off I would.

Oblivion gates... I am getting the impression that there are 16 of these things I will have to close? I haven't done it, but it looks like I am going to have to go run the same/similar ganuntlet 16 times before I finish the game. I'll keep playing, but I won't be at all suprised if by the 5-6th tower I run the uninstaller or start looking for a "fun" mod to play. For myself, this kind of repetative time sink is largely what keep me from finishing games. In this respect, what Jerry said about craftsmanship [penny-arcade.com] rings true to me.

You don't need a monster video card (1)

edremy (36408) | about 8 years ago | (#15036687)

You just have to be willing to put up with some pop-in for grass. I've got a AMD-64 3000, 1GB RAM and an nVidia 6600- the first two barely meet the spec, the latter is below.

Still, I can play it at 800x600, 2xAA with good graphical detail. I've skipped shadows, bloom, some of the other effects and set the detail pop-ins fairly short and the framerate stays up save during big combats. It does get a bit twitchy when taking on 5-10 foes at a time- I find for these combats it's far better not to try going toe-to-toe and instead conjur up something, let the AI beat on that and shell them sith spells from a distance.

Probably as low as you can go: (1)

Odin_Tiger (585113) | about 8 years ago | (#15036790)

My system: ATI X550/X600 PCI-X, AMD 64 3500+, 512MB. Runs the game at a medium / low video configuration with occasional but only slight slowdowns, although it does lose stability after a couple hours (but after Morrowind, I call that an improvement...)

I see.... (0, Offtopic)

Aagfed (958473) | about 8 years ago | (#15036361)

In the future, Oblivion LARP'ers will join forces with the SCA to form the mightiest army the world has ever seen!!! Mewhahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Nicely polished game (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | about 8 years ago | (#15036369)

There's a lot of little things I really enjoy:
  • The quick travel option on the map.
  • The ability to see your quest history and make a quest your active one.
  • For your active quest, it generally shows you where to go next. While this may seem like "spoonfeeding" the player, in a huge world like this it saves tons of wandering around.
That's not to say there's no issues. I succumbed to weighing down the C key and leveling up my various magic skills by casting spells repeatedly. The game balance is also occasionally off, with encounters not always scaling to my current skill level. Early on, combat and enemies seemed easy. Now that I'm at level 22, each encounter takes a long time and is extremely challenging.

Still, hats off to Bethesda to making an incredible game.

Re:Nicely polished game (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036575)

The game balance is also occasionally off, with encounters not always scaling to my current skill level. Early on, combat and enemies seemed easy. Now that I'm at level 22, each encounter takes a long time and is extremely challenging.
I thought you said the scaling was off? That sounds like a good game to me-- all the great arcade games do the same thing. Having bigger numbers shouldn't make the game a cakewalk, you should have to perform on a higher level as well-- something that anyone who got past level 25 in morrowind knows was lacking there. The entire ghostgate region will fall on its face against someone with 100 long blade and 100 strength, and since you have to get a skill to 90 to complete the "Become a Hortator" (or maybe you don't, but it's listed on the requirements in any case), this makes the end of the game disappointingly easy.

Re:Balance (1)

symbolic (11752) | about 8 years ago | (#15036862)

Based on feedback from a friend that bought the game, I'd say the scaling issue is in need of some serious work, and there are lots of other Oblivion players who feel the same way - check out the forums on ars technica. He has had to re-roll once already, because if you don't focus most of your effort on combat-related skills, you will not get far, or have a VERY hard time doing it. Even if you do, things aren't easy. He finally had to set the difficulty level down to get past this one area, and he was only at level 14. He is not a n00b gamer either- he has wiped the floor with me almost every time we've played together.

There are other rediculous aspects to the leveling - namely that if you relegate all your combat stuff to minor skills, you can advance on those without it affecting your overall level. This allows for absurd situations where you have a level 3 character that can take on (and easily defeat) what would otherwise be very formidable enemies.

It sounds like it's a bad enough problem that I've decided to hold off on buying the game until it's fixed.

Sir Sleepington (2, Interesting)

Hecubas (21451) | about 8 years ago | (#15036374)

I think Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com] sums up Oblivion and its predecessors well.

Different strokes (1)

Phoenixhunter (588958) | about 8 years ago | (#15036535)

Got together with my P&P roleplay group earlier this week and we had much the same discussion, three of us really enjoyed the game, and one was bored to death by it. The odd man out is big on World of Warcraft, while the rest of us have never really taken to MMORPG's. I think the lack of constant interaction is what left him cold, while we were looking for immersion and story.

Re:Different strokes (1)

CaseM (746707) | about 8 years ago | (#15036673)

I can understand why your "odd man out" was a WoW fan. I bought Oblivion for the 360 and played a few hours of it. The feeling I came away with was "Meh...". I understand the reasons why people don't take to MMORPG's (d00dz, kiddies, time, etc.), but it's many of those very reasons that are compelling to me. To me, grown up and a programmer, single-player CRPG's fail in that important "suspension of disbelief" aspect that I need to feel immersed in a game. Knowing that the avatars I'm interacting with are, at bottom, predictable, scriptable entities utterly bores me to tears.

Now, getting on my 60 rogue after having an alt killed in Stranglethorn Vale and repeatedly killing my alt's ganker...now that's gaming gold.

I'm not knocking the game or those who like the game - it has great production values and I can understand the appeal - I just happen to prefer human interaction in the games I play these days, even on the limited scale that WoW affords.

if only (2, Insightful)

voudras (105736) | about 8 years ago | (#15036382)

If only Bethesda would do Fallout3

Re:if only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036539)

They're supposed to. With Oblivion done, I'd expect them to start production on Fallout 3. From what I've read, they've only admitted to doing design/pre-production stuff.

Hopefully they'll do a bang up job. While I'd love a turn based game, I'm not expecting one (not a big enough market). Hopefully they'll keep the SPECIAL/Skill/Perk systems in place - aside from the story, I think this was partly why I loved the game so much.

the AI (2, Funny)

Mortirer (885969) | about 8 years ago | (#15036386)

Now i must be the only person that hates that the shops are closed at night. Who thought of making something that would inconvenience people? I just hate it when I can't make a beer run at midnight because things are closed!

Re:the AI (1)

mwheeler01 (625017) | about 8 years ago | (#15036779)

Well when else are you supposed to break into the shops and talk all the loot? Also the wait function (the back button on the xbox360 version) easily remedies this problem if you're always finding yourself shopping at night.

Nice review! (0, Redundant)

Criterion (51515) | about 8 years ago | (#15036387)

Nice review. Thank you! In fact, I will have Oblivion this weekend and I'm really looking forward to starting my experience. :)

eh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036400)

very buggy, i have lot's of stability issues, issues with critical npc's being caught in places so they can no longer follow me, leveling system is _retarded_, storyline part is redundant and annoying, but other than that its an amazing game, not worth buying (yet).

Worst part: (5, Interesting)

Xzzy (111297) | about 8 years ago | (#15036410)

The dumb "level matching" feature between your level and the enemies you encounter. It seems like a decent idea on paper but in practice it results in some bafflingly stupid situations. You'll run across bandits that are geared to the teeth with rare magical stuff, despite the fact you killed them 5-10 levels ago and all they dropped was leather. You never get the feeling that you "found" something, because in the corner of your brain you'll know that with your most recent level you triggered a loot upgrade and the game dutifully dispensed some +1 trinket to you.

Fights never get easier, or harder, as you level. Everything becomes more powerful as you become more powerful, ensuring you come out of a fight exactly the way you did in earlier levels. Good for balance, extremely poor decision for conveying to the player that they are getting stronger.

Thankfully there are mods out that fix this. It truly is a spectacular game, the current pinnacle of the genre. The downside is that this perfection only causes the poorly made decisions to sting stronger.

Re:Worst part: (1)

Pxtl (151020) | about 8 years ago | (#15036495)

Ahh, the workarounds of the advancement treadmill. At some point developers need to suck it up and realise that maybe having players cover 5 orders of magnitude of power over the game is a little excessive.

Compare v. World of Darkness - the maximum starting value for an attribute is 5, and the maximum potential value is 10. Players double in strength, so that n00bs are at least on the same scale (if pitifully inadequate) as high-power characters.

Meanwhile, in your average RPG, every 10 levels adds another zero to all your attacks, making low-level characters look like insects compared to high level ones.

Dude... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036835)

If you think someone with 10's in World of Darkness vs someone with 5's is only double the power, only one thing is clear, you've never played World of Darkness.

Re:Worst part: (1)

ThinkWeak (958195) | about 8 years ago | (#15036585)

Fights never get easier, or harder, as you level. Everything becomes more powerful as you become more powerful, ensuring you come out of a fight exactly the way you did in earlier levels. Good for balance, extremely poor decision for conveying to the player that they are getting stronger.

I'm not sure if we're playing the same game or not.... because in my experience, this isn't exactly the case. I'm not exactly running around "power-leveling" my character so that he is some immortal force to be reckoned with, I'm more or less just exploring and I get stat increases as I would naturally come across them.

The creatures I've been fighting have been getting pretty strong, and I'm seeing new character types each time I play. I haven't encountered some old monster dropping brand new loot either.

Also, if you're looking for a challenge - turn the difficulty meter up.

Re:Worst part: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036741)

>> The creatures I've been fighting have been getting pretty strong

This is the problem. "Have been getting".
A good RPG (don't get me wrong, Oblivion is a very good rpg except for this reason) should not getting pretty strong. Enemies should already be there, assorted in various levels of strength, around the virtual world. So that you can die meeting an ancient vampire at level 1, and so that you can massacre a small goblin at level 20 just with a sight. What you achieve with this is a sense of inferiority and humility at level 1 and big sense of accomplishment at level 20 when you finally beat that vampire who already killed you 3 times before, or when you finally be able to kill goblin as flies.

Re:Worst part: (2, Informative)

taracta (217357) | about 8 years ago | (#15036903)

So do you think that the bandits and other just sit there and wait for you to come back at your leisure to kill them? Or do they also go about their business while you go about yours and learn where to get better stuff and get their levels up just as you do? They are intelligent too! Too much of the old methods of dragons that are smarter than you, bigger than you, stronger than you, wiser than you, getting defeated by you because you went away and level up. That did never make sense to me and I was glad when D20 changed this perception for tabletop games. Now that Orc that you left to go level up has also gained level because he lives in the wild and untamed wilderness so it would be smart of him to do so. I think what they have done in Oblivion is the right thing and if you are having difficulty just change the level of difficulty and vice-versa. If you are too lazy to do that, then please continue to be lazy and not post gripes about easily correctible "features" and keep it to yourself. Most of the gripes I am seeing are either game option correctable or a misunderstanding of what is required by the game to do what it does. People will upgrade their computer with graphics cards, memory, etc. for Doom, Quake, HL, Fear, etc. which are mostly in enclosed environments but think it hard to upgrade for Oblivion with the same or better graphics but has a massive outdoor environment wherein which you can see the actual mountains, building, etc. that are miles away but still expect it to render flawlessly on their weak graphics cards. Get real people, this game is most likely the most graphically intensive game there is in terms of vectors and shaders and they pulled it off. I have nothing but praise for their skills and choices.

Gauging your playstyle (5, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | about 8 years ago | (#15036414)

One thing Zonk didn't mention is that as you go through the initial dungeon, your character is "classless". At the end, the game suggests in a clever fashion what class might be well-suited for you based on your actions up to that point. I've only played through the starting dungeon once, but it guessed closely enough that I went ahead and took its suggestion. You can choose a different class or create a custom class, though, just like in Morrowind.

Another thing Zonk didn't mention is that the official forums are rife with reports of crash bugs. While the gameplay is relatively low on bugs, the game itself is prone to dropping some people to the desktop, apparently dependent on other unrelated software they may have installed, such as third-party codec collections or certain printer drivers (though in some cases, it's nigh impossible to track down the problem). One hopes that Bethesda is diligently working to resolve these issues, but they've been notably silent on the situation so far.

Nothing revolutionary here (2, Interesting)

Schmam (18569) | about 8 years ago | (#15036418)

I purchased Oblivion a few days ago, and while I have enjoyed it, I find it disappointingly similar to its predecessor, Morrowind. I enjoyed Morrowind a great deal, and love the open-ended nature of the series, but other than the improvements in graphics (and the introduction of a few changes, like the "fast travel" option), Oblivion seems to be a carbon copy of Morrowind. All in all, Oblivion is still a fine game, but I expected a step forward in more than the cosmetic sense.

Re:Nothing revolutionary here (1)

elhaf (755704) | about 8 years ago | (#15036465)

You must not have tried firing an arrow up into a thunderstorm yet, then.

Fatally flawed (3, Insightful)

nastilon (525562) | about 8 years ago | (#15036424)

This game is fatally flawed. It is a good game, however, there is one aspect which this series of games had, up until now, managed to capture - The sense of increasing your power. As almost all enemies scale along with you, get the same armor you do, etc, there is absolutely NO sense of becoming more powerful. Additionally, what was in previous elder scrolls games extremely RARE items and equipment, such as daedra and ebony, is now the norm for ALL npc combatants. That is, you are fighting enemies who now have the same equipment as you, and there are no *rare* armor sets, just magic armor that has been dumbed down from previous versions. It gets a bit ridiculous when you walk into a tavern and four farmers there are wearing glass (top light) and one is wearing daedra (top heavy).. So Bethesda leaves it to the fan base to balance this. Um kk thx. This game is made for consoles, it is not a RPG, it is a first person shooter.

Re:Fatally flawed (1)

nuzak (959558) | about 8 years ago | (#15036544)

Agreed. Level scaling actually makes sense for some NPC's, like, oh, ones sent to kill you (I'm going with Morrowind here, but since I hear the DB makes a return in Oblivion, I imagine there's plenty of assassins to deal with). But to scale absolutely everyone up really makes a mockery of being a heroic figure.

That said, I expect the modding community will address that. I'm going to let the modders chew on the game for a few months before I buy it. That and I'll have saved enough for a computer actually capable of rendering it, assuming my SO doesn't toss me out of the house for it (AGP seems to be getting near the end of its life, so I'd actually have to buy a new machine, and I suspect she'd notice that).

So maybe I'll have to wait for TES 5 before I can get around to playing TES 4.

Re:Fatally flawed (1)

AzureWrathHal (949025) | about 8 years ago | (#15036599)

"This game is made for consoles, it is not a RPG, it is a first person shooter."

Congratulations on uttering the single dumbest thing I have heard all day.

Go have yourself a cookie. You've earned it.

Re:Fatally flawed (1)

nastilon (525562) | about 8 years ago | (#15036767)

Well I guess you didn't disagree with what I wrote since you obviously didn't deem it necessary to explain why you think it is NOT a FPS. My cookies are delicious though, your mom baked them for me. With love!

Re:Fatally flawed (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 8 years ago | (#15036601)

I don't have the game yet, however as someone who played Morrowind all the way through, I am looking forward to what you describe in Oblivion. My biggest complaint with Morrowind was that by about half-way through the game, your character was so utterly powerful that no amount of enemies could hope to even scratch you. At this point, it was just a chore to travel around and complete the main quest. Hopefully Oblivion will be challenging enough to hold my interest longer.

Re:Fatally flawed (4, Informative)

nastilon (525562) | about 8 years ago | (#15036696)

Basically, there are two scenarios -

1) Outdoor combat - These creatures/monsters are by default the same level as your person. That is, after you hit level 20 the likelihood of finding a troll (lvl 12 or so) out in the wilderness is 0. Therefore, after a certain point in the game you no longer find ANY low to mid-game creatures other than basic rats and crabs which do not progress.

    - There is a modder who has reintroduced all varieties of npcs to the game in outdoor regions, and made multiples spawn. Which means, you have a larger range of critters you will encounter now. This should have been in the game in the first place.

2) Indoor combat - These, so far, are all scaled to your level. So if you go in a dungeon, it is always going to be your same level. This begs the question, what if I go in a dungeon, find it too hard, can I come back later and try that dungeon and clear it out? No, if you come back, the monsters have accordingly been scaled to your level again. So, the dungeons are static, but the critters are always dynamic for dungeons. This means that you are "supposed" to get better skillz in the game to take down those creatures, instead of levelling.

    - There is no point to levelling then, because the traditional view of "What is a level?" means your character grows stronger, gains new abilities, etc. You may gain new abilities, but since the enemy strength always will be the same as your own, there is no notion of advancement, it is entirely constant.

    - There are mods to improve indoor and outdoor combat indirectly, which modify the armor that npcs wear. This means that non-monster types will not be wearing the most uber gear. However, the top tiered enemies in other monster groups will always level with you, and chances are they do not wear armor. What the equipment mods do do though is make sure that there aren't poor villages equipped with the phat loot that should have been impossible for them to get. You go to a village in the north, you expect people to be wearing fur armor, etc. Instead they are wearing heavy daedric (enchanted plate) armor, yea that is cool.

On AI (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036438)

From [wikipedia.org]

The following are examples of unexpected behavior discovered during early testing:

One character was given a rake and the goal "rake leaves"; another was given a broom and the goal "sweep paths," and this worked smoothly. Then they swapped the items, so that the raker was given a broom and the sweeper was given the rake. In the end, one of them killed the other so he could get the proper item.

Another test had an on-duty NPC guard become hungry. The guard went into the forest to hunt for food. The other guards also left to arrest the truant guard, leaving the town unprotected. The villager NPCs then looted all of the shops, due to the lack of law enforcement.

In another test a minotaur was given a task of protecting a unicorn. However, the minotaur repeatedly tried to kill the unicorn because he was set to be an aggressive creature.

In one Dark Brotherhood quest, the player can meet up with a shady merchant who sells skooma, an in-game drug. During testing, the NPC would be dead when the player got to him. The reason was that NPCs from the local skooma den were trying to get their fix, didn't have any money, and so were killing the merchant to get it.

While testing to confirm that the physics models for a magical item known as the "Skull of Corruption," which creates an evil copy of the character/monster it is used on, were working properly, a tester dropped the item on the ground. An NPC immediately picked it up and used it on the player character, creating a copy of him that proceeded to kill every NPC in sight.

Again with the western vs easten (2, Funny)

svip (678490) | about 8 years ago | (#15036443)

Get off your high horse already, Zonk, there's no such distionction, and you mentioning Torment, a game heavily inspired by Final Fantasy (and my favourite game ever) as a western example proves this.

Re:Again with the western vs easten (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | about 8 years ago | (#15036501)

With perhaps the exception proving the rule? There's a definite US vs. Japan flavor to most RPGs, with natural crossovers.

Re:Again with the western vs easten (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036634)

Here's the deal. People stop calling Final Fantasy-style games RPGs, we'll stop talking about the east-west RPG divide.

Real RPGs have you create the story.

Final Fantasy-style games are just barely interactive movies where all you do is pound the OK button to attack the same set of monsters over and over again.

(Or, in 12, you just let the characters automatically attack - apparently Square-Enix realized no one "plays" Final Fantasy games, and removed the last bit of interaction from 12.)

If I wanted to watch a story, I'd rent a DVD. When I'm playing a game, I want to actually play a game. I want to decide what to do. Western RPGs (aka, RPGs) let you do that. Eastern RPGs (aka, barely interactive movies) do not.

360 vs PC (4, Insightful)

TrueBuckeye (675537) | about 8 years ago | (#15036454)

"Unless you have a high-end rig, you're probably going to want to go with the 360 version."

I disagree...you overlooked one of the greatest parts of the Oblivion experience...the mods. These are user created changes to the game that enhance, alter, add to, or "fix" the game as it came out of the box.

Already there are over 100 mods available that do things from altering the leveling of the npcs, adding battles to the arena, and changing the UI to be less "console'ish"

That is one of the great reasons for going for the PC. The 360 will only have official patches or updates and will miss out on this entire wonderful area of the game.

Re:360 vs PC (1)

Zonk (12082) | about 8 years ago | (#15036541)

I totally agree with you. I'm really looking forward to what the community has to offer; for some reason I really like the house add-ons. People get really creative with the tools and make some really great homesteads to settle down in.

The reason I phrased it that way: if faced with the game running badly on their PC and running smoothly on the 360, I'd rather folks play the actual game well.

Re:360 vs PC (1)

lotrtrotk (853897) | about 8 years ago | (#15036587)

"Unless you have a high-end rig, you're probably going to want to go with the 360 version."

.... unless you don't have a 360 either.

My rig which I wouldn't call a "High end" machine.... ran the game just fine on medium settings for the first hour or so.

But things started to get pretty choppy after that. We'll see how things work with a bit of tweaking. I was expecting this game to be somewhat tough to run, so All in All, I'm pretty pleased so far.

Ride to Oblivion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036461)

"For those willing to give it a shot, Oblivion treats gamers with a level of respect that is unique, uplifting, and (hopefully) inspirational for game developers in all genres. Read on for my impressions of a truly unique game."

So we're doing game reviews now? Just wait till F.E.A.R gets it's turn. Anyway I'm more interested in it's moddability, and game engine capabilities.

Good Review (1)

wolff000 (447340) | about 8 years ago | (#15036473)

Good review for a great game. I thought the author did Oblivion justice. Oblivion is just as good if not better than Morrowind which was a spectacular game. It is truly as expansive and consuming as the reviewer stated.

The Mods Shall Set Ye Free (3, Informative)

quantax (12175) | about 8 years ago | (#15036487)

I bought this the day it arrived in stores without hesitation, being a major fan of Morrowind and its expansions and have not stopped playing it since. There is one, MAJOR thing the author forgot in his piece: mods. While the Xbox360 version will ensure that you can play the game smoothly at high graphical settings, the PC version will ensure that you can play the game the way you prefer through mods, which is something pretty major. A couple things I do not like about Oblivion:

1. Interface is gigantic (as it was made for both console & PC but no effort was made to make a smaller interface for PC) and the world map forces you to view it through a keyhole.
2. Magic users imo get too little mana to work with, this is especially fustrating in combat situations
3. Wild life attacks you for no reason; when you (IRL) walk through the forest, rats do not attack you unless theyre rabid or some shit. Same for crabs and such. In Oblivion, all animals harbor an extreme hatred towards people apparently and attack on sight regardless of their place on the food chain. Kinda dumb.

You know whats great about these annoyances? The game has been out for almost 2 weeks and mods have fixed each of these annoyances; theres a mod that makes the interface a nice size for PCs as well as making the map fullscreen, makes wild life act like real animals, and I personally made a mod that gives characters more mana per levels of intelligence (the games mana equation works as such: mana = Intelligence x 2, my mod just changes that multiplier; its a simple fix until I can make a script that involves the actual character level). And these are mostly just tweaks, give it another six months to a year and we'll have some original user content as well; quests, new lands, you name it. This is what made Morrowind go from a game I played for a month to a game I played for atleast 6 months, since I could go online and find new ways to enhance the game when I got bored.

This is a great game and it will only get better with time.

For those looking for mods, the two main sites I know of right now are:
Tes Source [tessource.net]
PlanetElderscrolls [gamespy.com]

Re:The Mods Shall Set Ye Free (1)

Dimensio (311070) | about 8 years ago | (#15036725)

What I find interesting is that a number of the "new" features in this game, such as NPC schedules and shops that lock up at night, were implemented in Morrowind as well via user mods. Curious. I wonder if the next Elder Scrolls game will feature a requirement that a character eat and sleep (as per the Primary Needs mod of Morrowind).

Re:The Mods Shall Set Ye Free (1)

nuzak (959558) | about 8 years ago | (#15036769)

Morrowind mods have successfully made it onto the xbox version... It seems reasonable that Oblivion mods will find their way onto the 360. Or does the kind of access that gets you into the 360 filesystem result in your Live account being nuked? Meh, I don't have much use for Live anyway.

Assuming the mods are possible, this could be the title that bags me a 360 -- much cheaper than a new PC. Assuming I can ever find one for sale. Jesus, their inventory management makes Apple's botched Mac launches look like a masterstroke of genius in comparison.

Too Much Oblivion (1)

Metabolife (961249) | about 8 years ago | (#15036490)

I understand this is a great game. But since when does a video game on a "Stuff that matters" site deserves two headlines?

A couple of problems (1)

SilentChris (452960) | about 8 years ago | (#15036557)

I've had a few problems with Oblivion. The worst is a "design feature". In my case, I wanted to create a new character, so I just went to Memory in the Dashboard and removed all the files under Oblivion. Go back into the game to create a new character and adjust my brightness settings, and the options were already set. Even though I deleted every file related to Oblivion, there was no way to get rid of the settings file. Turns out on the Xbox 360 version, settings are saved within the user profile, instead of with the rest of the save game files. Meaning there's no way to delete the settings (in other words, if the file gets corrupted you're screwed). I talked to Take 2, and the only recourse if that happens is to delete your profile/Xbox Live account. I'm hoping it'll never come to that.

As for the game, it runs pretty well. I've seen some strange slowdown on horseback and occasionally the framerate takes a nosedive in seemingly random environments. Most of that is fixed by holding down the A button while starting up the game (it clears the HD cache).

The biggest problem, though, is that the game is just sort of... boring. The characters seem to have been purposely lifted directly from a Generic Fantasy (tm) mold. I'm sure there's an underlying story in there unique to the genre, but I can't get past the character design. When you start up a "lesser" RPG, like Final Fantasy, you're at least given some character personalities to hook into. Here you get a bunch of blank slates -- not just for you but everyone in the game.

I'm going to give it time, but I do yawn on occasion while playing it, which is a bad sign.

Re:A couple of problems (1)

Nightspirit (846159) | about 8 years ago | (#15036686)

the settings file is located under my documents, games, oblivion (or something close to that) regardless of where you have the game installed.

Re:A couple of problems (1)

HAKdragon (193605) | about 8 years ago | (#15036868)

He's talking about the XBox 360 version of the game, not the PC version.

Re:A couple of problems (1)

Nightspirit (846159) | about 8 years ago | (#15036919)

Thanks, when he was talking about the dashboard I figured he was confusing his mac or something. Looks like I was the one who was a fool.

Double-edged sword (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15036581)

As good as Oblivion is, Bethesda should be ashamed of the product they shipped. This game should have stayed in development a good while longer, if for nothing other than tracking down the plethora bugs. Further, the performance is atrocious - even on an xbox360. If you plan on exploring the world outside cities, expect horrific framerates and frequent crashes, both from the xbox's heat problems and actual bugs. NPCs and quests in general will frequently bug out, sometimes irrevocably, making the quest unfinishable. Also, I'm not sure if I got a disc from a bad run, but disc read errors are absurdly frequent, and usually require a full restart.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent actually playing the game (as opposed to loading times, reboots, redoing/initiating quests, etc). If you're considering purchasing this game, I strongly recommend waiting until a few patches from now.

No going back to RPG? (1)

random_amber (957056) | about 8 years ago | (#15036594)

Does anyone else suffer from "Once you go MMORPG you can never go back" syndrome? I used to LOVE regular RPGS...grew up on the ones where you spent endless hours mapping on graph paper (Bard's Tale, Wizardry)...but after years of EQ, AO, DAoC, etc....I've found it hard to sit and play regular RPGs for for very long.

This game sounds very intriguing and when I update my machine I'll probably pick it up, but I'm afraid I'll feel the same way I did with Morrowind and other RPG titles...after the relentless treadmill of obsessive leveling filled with fun and hilarious conversations with friends and guildies, how do i go back to a world where I can't send a real person a tell, or feel the utter joy of having JUST the perfect group deep in the dankest dungeon and FINALLY getting the rarest of rare drops?

Regular RPG games hold my interest for merely dozens of hours AT BEST (and lately not even that), instead of hundreds of dozens of hours like an MMORPG...which for me is probably their only major selling point now, since I wouldn't feel like I was wasting as much of my life! But still...such a vast, open ended world without REAL people behind the characters running around feels a little stale, yeah?

From the review though, it does sound fun though...for a little while.

Random_Amber

Re:No going back to RPG? (1)

Dimensio (311070) | about 8 years ago | (#15036680)

Does anyone else suffer from "Once you go MMORPG you can never go back" syndrome?

No. World of Warcraft could never hold my interest, and both Morrowind and now Oblivion have distracted me significantly from my active City of Heroes/Villains subscription.

Re:No going back to RPG? (1)

dlc3007 (570880) | about 8 years ago | (#15036692)

Funny... that's exactly how I feel about MMORPGs: tedious, redundant kills for leveling, the pointlessly easy collecting of money -- all while hearing 12 year-olds shout: Duel me, you n00b!!!
I now find solo RPGs a breath of fresh air where I can relax and enjoy my gaming experience.

Difficult opponents (0)

bm17 (834529) | about 8 years ago | (#15036616)

I have to agree with the author about certain character classes being unworkable. I created a monk character and brought him to level 10 after a day or two of play. I got those levels by exploring the world and increasing my skills (sneaking around, picking locks, fixing armor, etc...). I didn't engage in combat as my main activity though I did kill a lot of creatures with my bow. The problem is that the monsters scale with my level. I went back to trying to fight monsters but now every creature I find can kick my ass immediately, presumably because I raised my level through non-combat experience. It's not like you can go back to the easy dungeons and grind away to improve your skills. Another problem I had was with the controls. World of Warcraft has very easy, intuitive controls but Oblivion is a pain in the ass. Dialog boxes have to be manually closed by clicking on a small corner button instead of being dismissed with something like the escape key. And the controls are not at all intuitive. It one point I was examining the inventory of a character that was in the mages' guild, as I was. I meant to close the inventory box so I hit the spacebar (which can make some of the other dialogs go away) and instead I unintentionally stole the guy's money, which but me in serious trouble with the mages' guild. On a side note, a few years back my girlfriend was working on a project that involved taking apart an XBox, so she bought one and also bought a copy of GTA: San Andreas to test the video quality and the graphics speed of the box. She way not a big game player and she had a lot of trouble figuring out the controls. When she came into work the next day she said "So, last night I accidentally killed prostitute and stole all her money. I didn't mean to do it but we were in an alley and she just wouldn't get out of my way!" Well, maybe you had to be there. Also, I have a pretty studly setup but it still had trouble generating satisfying graphics. I think the two main problems were all the individual plants and also stuff off in the distance. And the keyboard interface only sometimes registers key events. It seems to ignore key presses if anything else of consequence is happening. This make combat difficult. I might press one key to select a spell and then another key to execute it, only to find that the game ignored my first key so I executed some other, previously-selected spell, usually a powerful healing spell which wastes all my mana and has no effect because I am already healthy. So, it seems like a great game but the keyboard and creature-level issues made it unplayable for me. For me, the small amount of AI can't compete with WoW's massively multiplayer nature. There may be a way around the keyboard and level issues but when you come down to it this is just another "go kill whatever then come back and be rewarded" kind of game. Here's what I would really like to see in a game: a MMORPG, like WoW, where a) high-level players can add their own textures/gadgets/NPCs to the game, and b) real humans take turns playing key "NPCs", perhaps in exchange for their monthly online fee. -b

Real consequences? Play for keeps? (1)

kindbud (90044) | about 8 years ago | (#15036660)

Very nice review, and I can hardly disagree with any of it. However....

Oblivion is a game that forces you to make decisions with real consequences, a game that plays out those consequences on the world, and teaches you as the player to think fast and play for keeps.

That would be so if save games were disabled. But they are not. You don't have to play for keeps.

Max specs required (1)

Dishwasha (125561) | about 8 years ago | (#15036712)

I have a Shuttle SN25P, PCI-X 7800OCT 256MB (7800 GT with a slightly higher clock speed and overclocking capability), 2 Gig of RAM (2-4-8), 2 78Gig 10k WD Raptors striped with 128k stripe size (defragged of course), with an Athlon 64 3200+ runing Windows XP x64 Edition. Oblivion detected on installation that I was capable of running at 1024x768 with HDR. Dungeons were normally fine, walking/running outside was fine, but any kind of battles even with rats were a major slowdown outside as well as some slow down in dungeons at times. I used Perfmon and monitored CPU, memory, and disk utilization and I found that my CPU was sustained at 70% though not necessarily peaking. I ended up dishing out the cash for an Athlon X2 4400+ (dual-core with 2x1MB cache) and everything is smooth as silk with a sustained utilization of about 50% per core. I find that a little bit interesting since according to this article about optimizing Oblivion [atomicmpc.com.au] the Oblivion core engine components are not multithreaded. There must be a lot of AI intensive things going on since I really don't see a lot of disk activity for texture retrieval.

Thoughts (1)

JMZero (449047) | about 8 years ago | (#15036748)

That combat, too, can be brutally unforgiving.

It's worth noting that the combat, especially at the beginning, is much softer than in Morrowind. For the first few levels in Morrowind, there were very few things you could kill. Go near a cave? Guy kills you. Go near a tree? You're dead, bird eats you. Go in a lake? You're dead, fish eats you. See a rat? Make sure you have health potions.

My first time playing Oblivion I ran into a human who was angry - and so I ran away. In Morrowind, a similar human caster would eat any new player. When I finally gave up running in Oblivion, buddy died in a few hits. It was kind of shocking. Another good tip for new Oblivion players is that if you have any acrobatics skill you can kill a lot of enemies by running them off cliffs.

The only brutal combat thusfar in Oblivion (level 15 or so) has been the hero-level guy in the Arena with (what seems like) 100% magical resistance. He's proving hard for me to kill as a pure magic user.

not worth the 50 bucks. (0)

Truekaiser (724672) | about 8 years ago | (#15036766)

i am waiting till it hits the bargain bin, from what i have seen and experienced it's all flash and no substance. the game feels like they spent 90% of it's dev time making it look pretty and threw the rest in at the last minute. 20 bucks is all that i would pay for something like this, 25 if the drop the level and loot scaling.

Morrowind (2, Interesting)

caffeination (947825) | about 8 years ago | (#15036768)

I'm getting the impression from all these reviews that most journalists have either forgotten or never played Morrowind. All this raving on and on about this new freedom is redundant. You were all saying the exact same things about Morrowind a few years back.

Not only that, but the exact same problems are still present. People are still resorting to leveling by just standing there and repeating actions. Crashing is still a huge problem. Balance is still screwed, only now, you don't have the respite of becoming more powerful than your enemies.

It sounds like they've only fixed one or two of the issues with Morrowind: rigid NPCs, annoying travelling, and underpowered magic spring to mind.

I loved Morrowind. Spent months in it. I might do the same with Oblivion in a few years, late to the party just like with Morrowind, after they've patched all the needless crashing, and the hardware requirements become realistic to the current generation. And once the community has stepped in with mods to literally finish the game on Bethesda's behalf.

But I'm not buying a 360, and I don't run Windows, so maybe I'll just continue to run Morrowind on my Xbox. You can have mods on Xbox if you want to badly enough, by the way. Not likely to happen on thge 360.

Complaints about Bugs and Flaws (1)

Evil Shabazz (937088) | about 8 years ago | (#15036774)

Granted - there are several bugs and flaws in the design of the game. These, left unfixed, do take away from the gameplay. However, Bethesda did the same thing in Oblivion that they did with Morrowind, and offered a full Construction Set.

There are already several mods and plugins out there that serve to make the game a lot more fun and more well balanced:

BTMod - improves the UI dramatically.
Better Water - makes the water more realistic
VA's Better Coins - gives a nice high res texture to the coins
Rare Items - improves the item rarity and economy
Lighter Alechemy - alchemy items weigh less, allowing the alchemy portion to be more fun


I'm also looking forward to improved mini-gams for the Personality and Haggle interfaces, as those games aren't nearly as fun as I'd hoped.


But back to my point - Bethesda has done a marvelous job getting us 85% of the way to an perfect RPG. The mod community, without a doubt, will get us the other 15% with the great power of the Construction Set that Bethesda has offered.

Fun game demands big hardware (1)

Gumber (17306) | about 8 years ago | (#15036785)

I've been enjoying the game a lot over the past week, but to be honest, I've probably spent as much time looking for performance tweaks as I have playing it.

The graphics are incredibly ambitious, especially outdoors in heavy forest, as a result, even relatively high end hardware (7800GT) can suffer from low FPS in spots, and that's not even with all the graphics settings pushed to the max.

I'm seriously considering selling my card (which I bought primarily for this game) and getting a 1900xt (with its massive pixel shader power avantage over the NVidia offerings). I never thought I'd spend $400+ on a graphics card, but having already committed almost $300 it seems silly not to pay a bit more to get the experience I was hoping for. If I do though, I'll have to get more games to amortize the expense over.

If you are intrigued by this game, but haven't been eagerly awaiting it, I'd suggest waiting a few months before picking it up. That'll give the developer a chance to fix bugs. It'll give the gaming community time to figure out how to get the best peformance, and it'll give a little more time for price/performance on graphics card to improve.

This game is ruining my life (1)

cerebud (868302) | about 8 years ago | (#15036848)

Every time I think that I should do something productive in real life, I'm thinking that it wouldn't hurt to complete just one or two missions in the game. Damn, it's really good. It's the closest thing to a pen and paper RPG that I've seen on a PC.

Not sure I'm a fan of it... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 8 years ago | (#15036855)

To me, it feels too much like a well made, but single-player MMORPG. I think a good MMORPG rich in things to do and with a large gaming population is more appealing to me. These often have a disadvantage in storyline though, but actually an upper hand in immersion. Immersion on a different scale than what you get from experiencing a story; immersion through socializing with other actual people playing the game, laughing with you on TeamSpeak and talking about what they did today while we're relaxing in a mission outpost.

I also often feel like I'm wasting huge amounts of time playing games like these, with nothing good coming from it. One may say that a hardcore gamer is wasting "his" ( because women never play games right? ;) ) life regardless game played because after all you aren't on a pub trying to get dates, which is of course what life must really be about, but I have lost count of how many likeminded people I've met in all ages and both genders while playing online multiplayer games with social factors besides the escape from reality with the epic quests.

I didn't feel like this before when I was younger, maybe because massive online games weren't even an option back then. But now I feel I wish to do something more with my interest than dig myself into a world resulting on a savegame on my computer. :-/

Nothing about Oblivion per se though; I'm sure it's a great game for its genre as a single player RPG. And maybe I just feel like this because I suck a bit at socializing in real life, and don't want to make it even worse by shielding myself from others when I'm on the computer as well.

Two Words: Level Scaling (5, Insightful)

sysrpl (740738) | about 8 years ago | (#15036861)

Level scaling (and loot scaling) as implemented in Oblivion detracts from an otherwise outstanding game.

For those of you that haven't played oblivion yet, level scaling is a balancing mechanism where the game world adapts to your character's level. The enemies are replaced by more powerful ones as you level up. Bears instead of wolves for instance, or mob characters that level up and get better equipment when you do.

This has many players asking, "So what's the point in advancing my character?".

The idea of level scaling the monsters is generally a good idea for a game of Oblivion's size, but in this case the balancing is way off. The problem is that the level scaling can get coupled with some odd bugs, which can easily make your life miserable.

For instance, at the beginning of the game, if you follow the main plotline, you will get to Kvatch which has been overrun by demons. If you postpone this quest and return when you're level, say, 10 or 15, you will have the unpleasant surprise of seeing that all your NPC allies get owned in the first 30 seconds of the battle, leaving you with 6, 7 or more enemies to handle. Enemies which are of course as powerful as you are, because of the level scaling.

The immediate result of this will be a swift death on your part, or a prolonged one, depending on how many health potions you have. If, by some Godly miracle, you manage to retreat and run for it, the stated policy would be to try and bait one enemy at a time, fight him for some obscene amounts of time, heal and spend a fortune on repairing your equipment (if you want to save a lot of money, the Armorer skill is your friend) and then do it all over again.

In my experieince with the game, the balancing issues with the level scaling system created some embarrassing moments. I couldn't actually believe that they were happening. Situations in which I, Dragonheart, Champion of the Imperial Arena, the greatest fighter in history, having defeated the previous Grand Champion and all gladiators in-between, with a Light Raiment of Valor as armor, is almost killed by a wolf in the forest.

This happened when I was level 6. You wonder how I got to be Champion of the Arena at level 6? Well, let's just say that the Arena is not all that it's cranked up to be because of the balancing.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the monster level scaling isn't an issue. That it makes the game challenging long after you're done with the main quest, which is true. But the same principle applies to the loot and equipment that you find or steal, which is scaled according to your level. You've defeated a mighty Minotaur? Very good, you can sell his weapon and armor without remorse, because it won't be any better than yours.

You managed to lockpick a "5 tumbler" lock, which rates "Very Hard" on the difficulty scale while being level 2? Congratulations, you've found 20 septims and a carrot.

Basically, even if you do manage to pull of an incredible feat in the game, like breaking a "5 tumbler" lockpick, you'll never get something spectacular as a reward, or at least something that would justify the effort.

So this leads back to the grueling question: So what's the point in advancing your character?. Why keep improving your character? Why explore the world, all the dungeons, catacombs and forts? For what? So that when you buy a new weapon or a set of armor, everyone else would automatically get something that's equally good? To level up and see that all the enemies are suddenly just as good you?

I don't get it... (3, Interesting)

Cheetahfeathers (93473) | about 8 years ago | (#15036872)

Every time a new game like this comes out, I hear people gush about how fantastic the graphics are. Then when they look back at older games and compare them to what they have now, they say they're ugly and how they're glad they have good graphics now. I say if they're ugly now, they were ugly then.

Take a look at the screenshots. Oblivion doesn't look fantastic now. It's starting to get to the point of looking decent, and actually looks fairly good on a couple points, but overall it's still the same ugly 3d graphics games always run. The shadows and lighting are all wrong. The characters still have textures that are all muddled, unrealistic and ugly.. they seem to ignore fine detail and just make crude smudges in a lot of places.. hair is particularly bad. Many edges and creases, mainly in armor, look painted on, badly, rather than actually creased. There are still many angular and blocky 3d bits in there.

Morrowind had problems with clipping, the characters were angular and blocky, the textures were a horrible blur, the shading and lighting were all wrong, and hard things like armor would flex and move like a second skin. All I heard at first was how fantastic and wonderful the graphics were. Then I looked into visual mods and found folks that agreed that it was ugly. They put out mods that improved it, in some cases a lot, but it was still ugly.

The gameplay was something I heard everyone raving about as well. I loved the mechanic of use it to gain in skill, and the flexibility of character development and creation. That was great. I loath with an undying passion the fact that the world is so static. Nothing your character does seems to matter. Kill a god? So? Take over as head of a guild? So? You don't get into any secret meetings with the big powers, you don't get any political intrugue and planning, you can't make choices that shape and direct others and reshape the land. What can you do? Kill stuff, steal stuff, and play fetch. Good dog.

Take for example a minor side quest of saving someone from a bunch of slavers. You rescue them and reunite them with their husband. Great, a nice quest. Quest over, go away now. Wait.. what? Where do they live? Do they need an escort home? Once there, will they be greatful and help you out in some way, information or gold, or perhaps just a place to crash away from the inn? Interaction and consequenses.. these are the heart and soul of an RPG. Morrowind had next to none of these.

The sound I loved. The background music was enjoyable, and it added a lot to the game. Except for the winds. I wanted to icepick my ears so I wouldn't have to listen to that annoying wistle in the winds anymore.

Ups and downs (1)

kunwon1 (795332) | about 8 years ago | (#15036907)

I just bought an nVidia 7800, the AGP version because I don't have a PCI-X motherboard, and the -game- runs amazingly. 1280x1024 w/4x AA and all that, and -very- nice framerates, considering. However, the cutscenes are barely intelligible, apparently thanks to my mobo not supporting 'AGP fast write' which is something I hadn't even -heard- of prior to getting Oblivion. Now, I bought that video card -solely- so that I could have a great gaming experience with Oblivion, and now it looks like I'm gonna be either trading it in, or trading it -and- my mobo in so I can go PCI-X. It's a pain in the ass... but I've played the earlier games in the series, and I'll do what's necessary without blinking an eye. I think the game is worth it.

The question is, do you? Ask yourself how much you're willing to put up with before investing in this title. Maybe just head over to your favorite torrent site and download it first, make sure it runs.

But pay for it after you download it. This is one of the few games that is worth far more than they charge for it, imho.

Dave
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