Elder Scrolls: Oblivion Hands-On Preview

Every quarter has known us, and none bore our passing except with trembling.

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Jacob "Prederick" Flanagan was pressed into service this week to take one for the team and spend over four hours playing Elder Scrolls: Oblivion on the Xbox 360. I know, I wanted to kill him in a jealous rage too but he did write this very honest and comprehensive preview, so we'll let him live. It's worth noting that while he knows of the Elder Scrolls series, this is the first time he has played a game in it. Call it a very fresh perspective, something you won't find in many places on the net. Enjoy!

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I love New York City. Moreover, up until recently, I'd never even seen a Elder Scrolls game. So, when I was presented with the opportunity to visit a city I enjoy and at the same time, experience a gaming franchise I am wholly unfamiliar with, I opted to do it. Hence, here I am, to impart my experiences with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to you.

I've heard a lot of talk recently about the new batch of "true Next-Generation" titles that are eking their way into daylight for the Xbox 360. Along with Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Oblivion is supposed to be one of the games that will really prove the things that the 360 can do. That it does, if your definition of "Next-Gen" revolves mostly around a game's graphical showing.

So, I ventured down to the W Hotel in Midtown to take a look at the Xbox 360 version of Oblivion. Imagine my dismay when the organizers, rather than checking my ID at the door and ushering me into a massive conference room with row upon row of glowing screens beckoning for attention, I instead found myself shut up in a smallish room with about eight TVs. On the upside, I was still getting to spend some quality time with one of the year's first big marquee titles, but, on the downside, no swag. There was bottled water from Norway, however, which mitigated some of the pain of not acquiring a free promotional t-shirt.

Those of us invited by Bethesda Software to give their new crown jewel a spin were limited to about four hours of playtime total, and only allowed to progress roughly an hour and a half's worth of solid gaming time into the main story, so, this is, by far, not the be-all-end all word on the title, positive or negative.

The game begins with your character imprisoned, in a tutorial level that reminded me greatly of Baldur's Gate II. You do some dungeon-crawling, the beginning of the plot is revealed, and you begin to personalize your character, both in appearance and in skills. There is a broad selection of races to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages that may benefit you based on which classes and skills you develop later in the game.

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I wasn't thrilled by the character creation system. Given the myriad of options most sports games offer to their players today, I was a bit disappointed that Oblivion (and most RPGs for that matter) have not followed suit. It never really made me feel like I was really customizing my character, more that I was just tweaking a preset base.

Where one really is able to make a character theirs is in the "RPG" portion of the experience. The player is presented with a myriad of classes, from Assassin to Wizardslayer. My biggest disappointment with the demo was that I did not get to spend as much time as I wanted to exploring the classes, their advantages, disadvantages and how they develop over time. That said, the number of skills presented, and the manner with which they developed (want to improve your skill with bladed weapons? Grab a sword and get hacking) is very intuitive and easy to handle.

I began the game with a melee-oriented character, so I didn't delve very far into the abilities and spells that would be conferred on a wizard, but magic is a vital part of the game, even for the more melee-oriented. Scrolls and potions abound, meaning that even the burliest warrior may be able to turn the tide of a battle by using a scroll at the right time.

When the tutorial level has ended and you've got a character you can stand, you enter into the world of Oblivion, and it is, truly, a world. If Oblivion can claim anything, it's that it does a spectacular job of setting the scene. The art direction is highly reminiscent of Isengard and the Lord of the Rings trilogy at times, but Bethesda have done a fantastic job of giving the world a sense of scope, filling it with beautiful, vast landscapes, mountains that rise high into the clouds, and forests more lavishly detailed than I've seen in any previous game. Being able to walk off the beaten path, through the brush and encounter what looks to be an ages-old shrine that has fallen into disrepair, to stand on the stones, overlooking the countryside below, is an experience few other games can match.

Moreover, even with all this size and scope surrounding you, it will be very difficult for the player to get lost. The game provides a compass at the bottom of your HUD which keeps you oriented, along with a large, unmistakable red arrow on the compass that will keep you pointed towards your next major objective.

The cities themselves are given the same kind of loving treatment, so that every city really looks like it was built by hand, with some buildings beginning to show the signs of wear and decay, and others standing proud against the sky. I've never seen the thatched roof of a farm look quite so appealing, or looked up at the king's palace and really felt like it had a royal majesty to it.

The landscapes really are a graphical achievement, one that will certainly help players immerse themselves in the world. All of this would be absolutely perfect, if not for one small flaw.

Load times.

Sadly, the beast that has plagued gaming for so long still roams the countryside in Oblivion. More frequently than I'd like, when running through the lavishly detailed countryside, the game will halt for a second or two, indicating that it is loading more of the area before picking up again. It's not a game-breaking problem, and for me, it was not much more than a minor annoyance. However, if you go running through the countryside for five minutes, you will see at least five "Loading Area" prompts pop up.

Where the problem is most pronounced however, is inside of cities. Upon entering a city, and any building within a city, you'll have to wait while the game loads the area. It's not an agonizingly long time to wait, but the load times are comparable (roughly) to those of GTA: San Andreas for the PS2, which is a bit disappointing.

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Thankfully, when you enter these cities, you'll find that they're as alive as those in any other game. This is where the vaunted "Radiant AI" Bethesda has been hyping up comes into play. It manages to give every citizen their own desires, likes and dislikes. You can learn about new side-quests simply by overhearing a conversation on the street. It's not a complete simulation of human life, but it does its best to place you into a world, and the experience leaves the player wondering how much longer it will be before games can replicate the hustle and bustle of walking through Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.

Those conversations that happen on the street are, thankfully, entirely plausible, because the writing, and especially the voice acting for Oblivion are top-notch. The people do sound believable, the dialog isn't too over-the-top (it is a bit, given that it's a fantasy game about saving the world) and there are various accents strewn from region to region.

Conversations with NPCs aren't anything that gamers haven't seen before. You still select from a pre-made list of statements and responses, and the NPCs react based on what you've chosen. You can do some light gossiping and ask about the local rumors, but you'll never get into a meandering conversation with the armorer about superior smelting techniques.

People do react to you, both positively and negatively. While I didn't have enough time to see the full extent of the AI in action, I was a bit befuddled by the new persuasion system. A person's opinion of you can be improved through a minigame that I found mildly confusing. You are given four options of statements (boasting, joking, admiration and coercing) and must select the proper one from a dial in a set amount of time. All the while this is happening, the person's opinion of you drops. I personally found it to be a little haphazard.

The gameplay keeps itself moving along nicely, although the first-person perspective and style of gameplay it imparts did leave me a little disappointed. With a fatigue bar that depletes with every swing, jump or running step you take, you're forced to occasionally stop your attacks and hide behind your shield, but that didn't stop combat from occasionally feeling like a medieval version of Quake. Battle against a multitude of enemies occasionally felt a lot less like parrying and countering the thrusts and swings of your opponents, and more like circle-strafing your way to victory.

Combat is still entertaining, if somewhat shallow. The player is given two attacks, a normal swing, and a power-swing, which you charge up before hopefully delivering a solid shot to your opponent that will inflict extra damage, or stun them if they were blocking. Fighting against equally well armed enemies generally felt good, as I had to judge my attacks and wait for openings before launching into the offensive. Against "lesser" opponents, like Goblins, things had an unfortunate tendency to degenerate into a whirling, button-mashing hack-fest.

In the time that I played, I only had one experience of combat against a magic-user, a Goblin mage, so I didn't really get to see what it's like to fight an experienced wizard. The goblin mage I did fight was obviously designed not to be very challenging and simply charging headlong at him and slicing him to pieces did the trick. I would hope a little more thought is required against other wizards in the game.

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The weapons themselves and their various qualities will really affect the way you approach a battle, as some players will prefer the quick slashes of a short sword to the lumbering swings of a halberd or great sword. However, while being able to recover your used arrows from the corpses of your defeated enemies was a nice touch, the use of archery in the game at all seemed a little superfluous. Anytime an enemy detects you, they generally will come charging at you full-speed, leaving you able to fire a shot or two before whipping out your melee weapons and getting to the evisceration. I understand it's a unrealistic to expect the Battle of Agincourt when it comes to archery, but I just didn't see much use for archery in the game.

This brings me to the stealth system and the enemy detection AI. A special stealth icon has been introduced for Oblivion that turns different shades, darker or lighter as you go from undetected to seen. It's nice, and it allows for some sneaking, but, unfortunately for those people out there who might want to play the part of a stealthy assassin in this game, detection seemed to be an all-or-nothing gambit. Less pleasantly, some of the enemies seem to be rather deaf, as I managed to get into a hand-to-hand battle with two goblins, with a goblin mage no more than 15 feet away, and the goblin mage never even noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Getting around the world is exceptionally easy, thanks to the fast-travel system in the game. Any place in the world that you've been to can be accessed instantly simply by going to the map and selecting that place. It cuts down a great deal on travel time, as you don't have to go running across miles and miles of terrain to get from A to B, but I was a bit disappointed that this method of travel didn't include an occasional random encounter with bandits or wolves to keep things interesting.
With a good law and order system governing the world, the ability to buy houses, join guilds, or grab a horse and just go riding. Oblivion impressed me with the sheer amount of what it presented. Impressed, but it did not really "wow" me.

I left Bethesda's event thinking that I could not see this game being badly received by fans of the Elder Scrolls series. It's more of the same, done better, with more polish and thought going into its execution. The world is vast, expansive, and most importantly, feels to be alive. From what I've seen, Bethesda has created one of the highlights of the year thus far, a title I really can't see letting anyone down. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it struck me as the "next big step" that gaming is going to take, but damned if it isn't enjoyable, which, for my money, is all I care about.

- Jacob "Prederick" Flanagan

Comments

TapaRRR wrote:

A question, if you don't mind. The water has brought up a lot of whining and speculation in the Oblivion forums. Is it that the screens do not do it justice, or does the water really suck as much as it seems?

Hrm. Well, it's hard to say, I think. Water in the game seemed... sparse, and I spent a great deal more time running through the mountains than swimming in rivers. I'll admit, on the big list of things I distinctly remember about my time with the game, the water barely even registered. Take that as you will.

I didn't find it particularly problematic or artistically bereft, but I wasn't really paying attention to it. Looking at some of the screenies for the game, it looks like you'll be getting what you're seeing. Remember however, I didn't spend time skipping stones and evaluating water ripples.

DrunkenSleipnir wrote:

Pred, I really enjoyed your take on the game. It's refreshing to hear something which isn't hype-driven now and then :)

Thank you, but, I wish I had gotten some of these questions prior to going down. A unsettling number of them fall into the category of "things I didn't think about but now wish I had".

zeroKFE wrote:

Katerin always wins.

Fixed it for ya.

Ah, one other question just came to mind. Another thing that people have been obsessing over is the quality of the animations. Given that the animation in previous Elder Scrolls games has been so poor, people haven't had high hopes for Oblivion. Did it stand out one way or the other to you? Did it seem particularly good or bad, or were the animations perhaps unobtrusive yet unremarkable?

Pred - Thanks for sacrificing your time and for the honest review. Do you own 360 or are you picking this one up on the PC?

I found another preview (@VE) where the test equipment was a PC. The (p)reviewer was a huge fan of Morrowind so the article is much less objective, but there's no mention of a loading screen. Unfortunately, he was unable to get his hands on a 360 for comparison.

Chum

souldaddy wrote:
zeroKFE wrote:

Katerin always wins.

Fixed it for ya.

Really, if more people lived their daily lives by this maxim, the world would be a happier place.

Chum wrote:

Pred - Thanks for sacrificing your time and for the honest review. Do you own 360 or are you picking this one up on the PC?

No need to thank me for sacrificing my time, this wasn't anything even close. It was a trip I wanted to take, to an event I wanted to go to, to do something I wanted to do. The only sacrifice was train tickets.

zeroKFE wrote:

Ah, one other question just came to mind. Another thing that people have been obsessing over is the quality of the animations. Given that the animation in previous Elder Scrolls games has been so poor, people haven't had high hopes for Oblivion. Did it stand out one way or the other to you? Did it seem particularly good or bad, or were the animations perhaps unobtrusive yet unremarkable?

Part and part. Combat animations were nice, although I really would've liked more. You and your enemies seemed to only have a few (like three or four) different swings, and when you're fighting someone and it's the exact same swing a couple times, it detracts from the immersion factor some. Everything is very well articulated though, and didn't seem jerky.

Partially on that front, I was actually kind of dissapointed with the walking animation. Given that I spent much of the game in the first-person view, this is a minor gripe, but walking, running really, didn't seem as much like you were walking along the ground as sliding across it while your body rendered the running animation. It's not really a big thing, and it's not just Oblivion i've seen do this. I'm just waiting for the day when I can watch the grass get crunched under my feet as I walk through the clearing, and look at my footprints behind me.

For the most part, I thought the animations were fine though. Nothing seemed out of place, and when people conversed, they even seemed to gesticulate properly, rather than with random, wanton abandon.

I'd just like to reiterate this for everyone. All of my gripes with it, are mostly, small. I think this is going to be a blockbuster game, but, we're not looking at a paradigm shift.

Oh, and frankly, I don't know if I will be picking this one up Chum. People may read way too much into this, but there was nothing in the game that screamed "Buy Me! Buy Me Now!" at me. I have a PC, and I already have enough titles to satiate me. Oblivion didn't make me want to rush out and pre-order it. I may pick it up, but in a bit, once the price drops.

zeroKFE wrote:

stuff about animation

the dancing girls in Morrowind were just plain -creeepy- Part of the problem was that they used those segmented models, sort of like one of those posable wooden figure drawing guys. That made it easier for them to update the way a person looks while wearing different types of armor, but when the character gets naked, it just looks awful.

The animations themselves were nothing to write home about either.

Im happy to see that at least the segmented models went away (or just got a lot better. Neverwinter Nights uses them more effectively)

If you want a laugh, you ought check out the official Elder Scrolls forums (here is a link, but their boards move fast, so it probably won't work for more than a few days). They are seriously freaking out because you gave your honest impressions of the game.

Here is a sample:

Some crazy dude wrote:

the guy is just a douchebag he doesnt know what he is talking about and the devs are pissed now because its gonna make think oh so its not a good game now. id give the reviewer a visit and him,just kidding i just disagree with most things he said. The other reviewer should of went and had a look at this game.Though the reviewer di comment on the game on the end.

I'll take "Things that make me thankful to have GWJ" for $800, Alex.

zeroKFE wrote:

They are seriously freaking out because you gave your honest impressions of the game.

That's one funny thread. I especially like the belief that you need to have played previous Elder Scrolls games to have an opinion about Oblivion.

Oh, and the "He didn't spend enough time with it!" complaints are also rediculous. They can be glad I didn't have a look at the game. I'll write something off as junk without even spending 5 minutes with it.

zeroKFE wrote:

If you want a laugh, you ought check out the official Elder Scrolls forums (here is a link, but their boards move fast, so it probably won't work for more than a few days). They are seriously freaking out because you gave your honest impressions of the game.

Where do you think TapaRRR came from?

Four hours is definately not enough time to soak in the glory of a Elder Series game.

And don't blame the writer. Who is the editor? It's the job of the editor to make corrections.

Edited for inane spelling error.

The right? Republicans? I don't get it.

I see this preview is still rather a hot topic on the official forums. I'm a Morrowind nutcase as most of you know and I actually rather like the fresh breath of air a little bit of critique brings to the pre-launch hype.

Cheers Pred.

P.S: This statement

some players will prefer the quick slashes of a short sword to the lumbering swings of a halberd or great sword.

has caused not insignificant confusion in the forums as the devs were confirmed to have removed spears/polearms from the game. I assume you actually mean a double handed axe and not a halberd. Any chance you can clarify?

Thank you for the review. A quick question, if you don't mind. Do NPCs acknowledge your gender/status at all in the dialogues or in the way the behave towards you? I am a girl gamer and i would like for once to feel that my character's gender affects the world around her.

Watermark wrote:

Thank you for the review. A quick question, if you don't mind. Do NPCs acknowledge your gender/status at all in the dialogues or in the way the behave towards you? I am a girl gamer and i would like for once to feel that my character's gender affects the world around her.

If the developers have kept to what they did in Morrowind, then yes, at the very least NPCs will change their pronouns when addressing you depending upon what your gender is. Incidentally, their reactions to you will also differ depending upon what your race is.

zeroKFE wrote:
Watermark wrote:

Thank you for the review. A quick question, if you don't mind. Do NPCs acknowledge your gender/status at all in the dialogues or in the way the behave towards you? I am a girl gamer and i would like for once to feel that my character's gender affects the world around her.

If the developers have kept to what they did in Morrowind, then yes, at the very least NPCs will change their pronouns when addressing you depending upon what your gender is. Incidentally, their reactions to you will also differ depending upon what your race is.

I've played Morrowind and despite the fact that what you say is true, all of this was barely noticable. The only interesting interaction with the NPC where the issue of gender played a significat part was with the perverted member of one of the guilds who wanted the player to take their clothes off to complete a quest. I'm wondering if there's a more deep interaction. Say, female NPCs flirting with the male PC and so on.

LeapingGnome wrote:

Where do you think TapaRRR came from?

Hey now...For one, I stopped trolling here and actually contributed, two, I said nothing "fanboyish" in my criticism of Pred's review, but merely criticized his grammar, and three, I do not share the rather silly views by the general concensus of the Oblivion boards.

So, before you try to start back up with the mud flinging, try doing so with a valid argument.

Jebus, I didn't think one 20-something's ramblings on a game would get that many people hot under the collar.

illum wrote:

P.S: This statement

some players will prefer the quick slashes of a short sword to the lumbering swings of a halberd or great sword.

has caused not insignificant confusion in the forums as the devs were confirmed to have removed spears/polearms from the game. I assume you actually mean a double handed axe and not a halberd. Any chance you can clarify?

No, no, I meant a Halberd. I remember seeing what, at the time, I thought looked like a Polearm of some sort. I gave it a cursory glance, and didn't pay it any heed, so I certainly could be wrong, that was one kernel of research I obviously omitted before going in. But if they say it's not in the game, it's not in the game.

Lawyeron wrote:

Four hours is definately not enough time to soak in the glory of a Elder Series game.

Well, no, but that's what they gave me.

And don't blame the right. Who is the editor? It's the job of the editor to make corrections.

Huh?

Watermark wrote:

Thank you for the review. A quick question, if you don't mind. Do NPCs acknowledge your gender/status at all in the dialogues or in the way the behave towards you? I am a girl gamer and i would like for once to feel that my character's gender affects the world around her.

They seemed to acknowledge Race (at least in the intro they did) but Gender? I dunno. I did play a femalce character one of the times I went through the game, but that female character wasn't human, so YMMV.

Some crazy dude wrote:

the guy is just a douchebag he doesnt know what he is talking about and the devs are pissed now because its gonna make think oh so its not a good game now. id give the reviewer a visit and him,just kidding i just disagree with most things he said. The other reviewer should of went and had a look at this game.Though the reviewer di comment on the game on the end.

...Come again?

Prederick wrote:
Some crazy dude wrote:

the guy is just a douchebag he doesnt know what he is talking about and the devs are pissed now because its gonna make think oh so its not a good game now. id give the reviewer a visit and him,just kidding i just disagree with most things he said. The other reviewer should of went and had a look at this game.Though the reviewer di comment on the game on the end.

...Come again?

That would be from the official forums. Lots of gems just like it to be found there - you even managed some threats of violence! Congrats!

So, before you try to start back up with the mud flinging, try doing so with a valid argument

How about everyone puts the mud down in my house, please? My impression is that the neighbors next door are happily letting fly with the mud, so anyone who wants to toss some about should go to their house. If everyone else in the world wants to be crazy-go-nuts, well then be sure and wear your straightjackets, but a lot of people are going to be looking through these comments and I'd like them to see our community at its best.

Tapa may have started off on the wrong foot, but he apologized and was productive so let's all leave it at that and stay on topic. Thanks.

Oh, and Pred, enjoy your trial by fire and welcome to the GWJ front page.

Elysium wrote:

Oh, and Pred, enjoy your trial by fire and welcome to the GWJ front page.

To be honest, i'm still not 100% sure what the hell just happened.

Prederick wrote:
Elysium wrote:

Oh, and Pred, enjoy your trial by fire and welcome to the GWJ front page.

To be honest, i'm still not 100% sure what the hell just happened.

You wrote an honest preview of an upcoming game that has been hyped to death, had it posted on the front page of a high quality site AND caused controvery among fanboys who cannot see how the game could have any flaws, as they have gone over every screenshot and understand every aspect of the game, both gameplay and technical, without ever having to touch it. Those fanboys, they think you are wrong and hate you for it, because you did not aproach the game in the correct way (on your knees).

I liked the preview, I wish more would be like yours. Honest about the good, the bad, and the amount of game played to make it easier for me to create my own impressions based on your impressions.

Pred:

You mentioned the character creation left "something to be desired". Since you did not play the last iteration you do not have a benchmark to compare it to. Morrowind had some great character creation on the PC version, and I know you demo'ed on the XBox version, but did you have the chance to ask if the PC version will have different character creation options? I ask because they might have "dumbed it down" a bit for the console audience. It would not be the first time developers have done this sort of thing.

And I am very grateful that you did go into Manhattan to give us a first impression of this. And I am jealous! Thank you.

zeroKFE wrote:

If you want a laugh, you ought check out the official Elder Scrolls forums (here is a link, but their boards move fast, so it probably won't work for more than a few days). They are seriously freaking out because you gave your honest impressions of the game.

Here is a sample:

Some crazy dude wrote:

the guy is just a douchebag he doesnt know what he is talking about and the devs are pissed now because its gonna make think oh so its not a good game now. id give the reviewer a visit and him,just kidding i just disagree with most things he said. The other reviewer should of went and had a look at this game.Though the reviewer di comment on the game on the end.

I'll take "Things that make me thankful to have GWJ" for $800, Alex.

Please do not judge us all based on the current idiocy that runs rampent on the official forums. I once considered the elder scrolls forums the best online community I had ever been a part of, however with the upcoming Oblivion release, fools are coming out of the wood work. I would recommend to all wishing for an intelligent conversation, that they avoid the TES forums like the plague till about a month after release (when hopefully the foolish will find a new game to troll.... like gothic three, or fable 2:more over hyped then the original).

Anyhow on to the questions. Did you get to play around with any of the stealth features? IE. Lockpicking, stealth combat? If so what were your impressions?

Thanks for the unbiased impressions Prederick. For a highly paid GWJ fatcat (kidding!) you touched on alot of the issues I'd been wondering about, but its a shame you weren't allowed to fight some more advanced foes. In the late stages of Morrowind -not counting the 2 expansions- combat became increasingly easy, and I am hoping to see more complexity in Oblivion.

The stealth system is particularly troubling. You said, "unfortunately for those people out there who might want to play the part of a stealthy assassin in this game, detection seemed to be an all-or-nothing gambit. Less pleasantly, some of the enemies seem to be rather deaf, as I managed to get into a hand-to-hand battle with two goblins, with a goblin mage no more than 15 feet away, and the goblin mage never even noticed anything out of the ordinary."

Granted, your stealth abilities couldn't have been very high considering the short allotted play time, but could you elaborate a bit on the sneak/thieving features? I'm interested in making an assassin.

Also, ignore the haters. Its just jealousy talking.

Such drama! Thanks for helping me to kill 15 minutes on a Saturday afternoon when I'm supposed to be working hard on an important project.

Honesty is always the best policy Pred, unless fan boys are involved.

You may need a GWJ Secret Service escort now. Give Edwin some pants and sunglasses and you'll be ok.

Cheers.

Great job! Thanks to your preview, I've grown ever the more anxious.

Mayfield wrote:

Pred:

You mentioned the character creation left "something to be desired". Since you did not play the last iteration you do not have a benchmark to compare it to. Morrowind had some great character creation on the PC version, and I know you demo'ed on the XBox version, but did you have the chance to ask if the PC version will have different character creation options? I ask because they might have "dumbed it down" a bit for the console audience. It would not be the first time developers have done this sort of thing.

And I am very grateful that you did go into Manhattan to give us a first impression of this. And I am jealous! Thank you.

Dude, I would've gone into Manhattan for a case of Sam Adams, frankly.

Matter of fact, i'll go just about anywhere for a case of Sam, but that's beside the point.

No, I didn't really have anything to compare it to, and, as I said, my benchmark for character creation is the detailed things you can find in Sports Games these days. Most of those titles offer a host of customization options for just about all parts of your character, and i'd like to see that implemented in more RPG games.

I did not have a chance to ask about the PC version though. You're all making me feel bad with this list of "things you should've asked". I demand a notarized list the next time something like this happens.

TheBiv wrote:

Anyhow on to the questions. Did you get to play around with any of the stealth features? IE. Lockpicking, stealth combat? If so what were your impressions?

Yes, yes sir I did. And it's not Thief or Splinter Cell.

There is a "Stealth Mode" you enter, and upon doing so, a eye is placed over the targeting reticle that changes in shade based on how detected you are. The catch here is that there didn't seem to be much gradiation to it. You either get caught, or you don't. I was unable to figure out a way to try and distract enemies, so, perhaps there's a way for that, but don't expect to take out a guard and have others come looking. I got the impression that the game was more about the killin' than the sneakin'.

There is lockpicking now, and I was actually kind of surprised, because it's lifted almost completely from Splinter Cell. The same kind of display comes up, with the tumblers and your pick in the lock, and you maneuver the analog stick towards the vibration to push up each tumbler, just like SC. The difference here is that it is partially dictated by your Lockpicking skill, so anyone with a knowledge of how to work the minigame (of sorts) isn't going to unlock everything. Plus, there are varying levels of locks, to add an extra bit of difficulty in.

Stealth Combat seemed to be, "Sneak up behind opponent, attack, get attack bonus for attacking from behind." So in that sense, yes. If there are traps to be set and ambushes to set up, I didn't get to experience them.

MikeTheDad wrote:

TThe stealth system is particularly troubling. You said, "unfortunately for those people out there who might want to play the part of a stealthy assassin in this game, detection seemed to be an all-or-nothing gambit. Less pleasantly, some of the enemies seem to be rather deaf, as I managed to get into a hand-to-hand battle with two goblins, with a goblin mage no more than 15 feet away, and the goblin mage never even noticed anything out of the ordinary."

Granted, your stealth abilities couldn't have been very high considering the short allotted play time, but could you elaborate a bit on the sneak/thieving features? I'm interested in making an assassin.

See the above. I got the distinct sensation that there really wasn't much, for lack of a better example, "Splinter Cell"-type gradation to the awareness of your enemies. Shadows and the night help, of course, but stealth struck me as being a means to an end in this game, rather than a whole environment of gameplay unto itself.

That said, I was very low level (First), so I was probably kicking rocks and cracking branches wherever I went. I'm sure a Master Assassin will be able to creep around through the forest and deliver all sorts of death to his opponents. I just didn't get the sensation that, if you're sneaking inside of a mansion, and you kill the guard on duty, other guards aren't going to sound the alarm and start searching once they notice. Of course, I didn't get to try this particular tactic, so, I may have just missed something.

Please do not judge us all based on the current idiocy that runs rampent on the official forums. I once considered the elder scrolls forums the best online community I had ever been a part of, however with the upcoming Oblivion release, fools are coming out of the wood work. I would recommend to all wishing for an intelligent conversation, that they avoid the TES forums like the plague till about a month after release (when hopefully the foolish will find a new game to troll.... like gothic three, or fable 2:more over hyped then the original).

I can vouch for that, the pre-release and post-release craziness tends to subside after a while. I find most of the regular posters there are respectful and enthusiastic fans, for now you just need to sift for them through all the yelling

TheBiv wrote:

Please do not judge us all based on the current idiocy that runs rampent on the official forums. I once considered the elder scrolls forums the best online community I had ever been a part of, however with the upcoming Oblivion release, fools are coming out of the wood work. I would recommend to all wishing for an intelligent conversation, that they avoid the TES forums like the plague till about a month after release (when hopefully the foolish will find a new game to troll.... like gothic three, or fable 2:more over hyped then the original).

Yeah, I know what you mean. I've actually been lurking around the TES forums for quite a while, and when the old timers manage to get heard through the storm of new folks, there is actually some great discussion to be had there. Sorry to have implied that quote represented the community as a whole, but I thought it gave a pretty good example of the nature of the reaction to Prederick's impressions.