Elder Scrolls: Oblivion Hands-On Preview

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

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/obliv25B.thumbnail.jpg)

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

I too am a TES fanboy but I like to think that I have a level head about the whole thing though. I think why so many people are in uproar about this review is because it seems that pred isn't a big fan of RPGs in general. Fanboys on the Offical Forums are too emotional to realize that maybe not everyone in the world likes RPGs. But at least them wallowing in their own fury doen't effect too much goings on on other forums talking about this game. I saw the fact that you never played Morrowind yet you still really liked this game as a big positive. I guess we'll have to see when the game comes out.

pred, sorry to keep bringing this up, but it would make a small segment of tes fans very happy, but how sure are you that the halbred was, in fact, a polearm. this seems like a small detail, but while spears were removed, in theory they could have kept halbreds, so thats why we are so curious about that, so could you give us as much detail as you can about the halbred. thank you for whatever help you could give us.

Shame on you, pred! Go back to marketing school and learn how to write a real review.

Certis wrote:

I got an email question I thought was worth sharing with the class. Care to chime in on this one Pred?

Hi, I'm a big fan of your site and have been reading some negative comments about Oblivions graphics on some other sites that had hands on time. In particular, the forest scene. One person who says that he was at the same event that you attended said that buildings were popping up out of nowhere in front of him while out in the wilderness, that the game would pause to load very frequently (especially on when on horse back), and that grass and foliage was only drawn in about 10 feet in front of you and that areas ahead of you were barren and plain.

Are these things true? Did you notice any issues such as the ones I mentioned? Any info in regards to this is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

I don't remember this being a particular problem, especially not buildings. Pop-up seemed to be rather restrained, if it happened at all. Out in the wilderness, you would see a bit of it sometimes, but the manner in which it occured was not obtrusive. It didn't seem that bad to me.

I covered the load times aspect in the article, they are there, and they do pop up more frequently than i'd like.

ryanw wrote:

pred, sorry to keep bringing this up, but it would make a small segment of tes fans very happy, but how sure are you that the halbred was, in fact, a polearm.

I fear that this may be my biggest mistake, and I do wish I had known about the removal of said weapons beforehand. My memory of this moment is fleeting, because I really didn't think it was the most important thing in the world at the time. Somewhere along the line, running through the woods, I encountered a bandit. We fought, I killed him, and I remember seeing what certainly looked like a Halberd, Glaive, or some kind of Axe-tipped Polearm lying on the ground that he had dropped. (Note: I don't remember him fighting me with it). Since I thought it was probably in the game already, I didn't pay any attention to it, and moved along.

I cannot give you 100% certianity, one way or another on the issue. I'm talking about a memory of something I glanced at for, perhaps, three seconds, at best, before moving along. There is a serious chance that I could be mistaken. Like I told Illum...

Prederick wrote:

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.

Prederick wrote:

Somewhere along the line, running through the woods, I encountered a bandit. We fought, I killed him, and I remember seeing what certainly looked like a Halberd, Glaive, or some kind of Axe-tipped Polearm lying on the ground that he had dropped.

Isn't a glaive the thing in Krull?

Nevermind, Wikipedia says glaive means all sorts of things.

I just want to highlight for people the beauty of this site. Prederick's preview is above and beyond anything I've seen at IGN, Gamespot, etc, because it is interactive. You can ask questions of the author and get answers, clarify things and learn more. No front page article sits by itself, you have the great discussions after each one. Every author is an active participant of the forums.

ok thank you very much for your answer, it was a good preview and i thnk you very much for your candor. if it does turn out that they had included some polearms, any at all, you will have revealed the veritable davinci code for a small but vocal group of the tes fans, including myself.

Long time reader, first time poster.

Pred, thanks your preview and the Gamersmark one have been my fave for an unbiased look at a game I am really looking forward to but feel will fail in several depts. Historically, Beth has lofty ambitions and sloppy implementations so anything I read about Oblivion is done with a large grain of salt.. I've officially gotten fed up with the irrational fanbois at that forum (and I am sure they with me, since I call them on their bs all the time...heh).

Several questions:
1. Did you notice, during the starting dungeon, if you saw the rats hopping like bunny rabbits? There was a shaky cam video I saw that showed this, which looked laughably bad located here:

http://www.playerone.be/videos/obliv...

2. Please check out the video (especially the far right guard at the 3:00 mark) here:

http://youtube.com/w/Oblivion?v=7srH...

Did you notice anything like that when you played through? I am referring to the guard doing a "robocop". Meaning his head stays stationary and his body turns 180 degrees.

3. Did you notice alot of skating during combat? Meaning when you hit a combatant, did they slide back or actually stagger?

4. Did you notice any treadmilling during your walks around town? Meaning people walking against walls for an indefinite amount of time?

5. What were your impressions of the NPCs going in and out of doors (interior to exterior cells and vs.). Did you find it objectionable or did you barely notice it?

I'll probably have some questions later. Thanks for answering them in advance.

ryanw wrote:

ok thank you very much for your answer, it was a good preview and i thnk you very much for your candor. if it does turn out that they had included some polearms, any at all, you will have revealed the veritable davinci code for a small but vocal group of the tes fans, including myself.

RyanW. are you playing Oblivion on PC or XBox? Most likely the PC mod community will have polearms in within a month or two.

Prederick wrote:

Stuff about halberds.

Hmm, perhaps it was just an odd looking axe?

5H4RP wrote:

Several questions:
1. Did you notice, during the starting dungeon, if you saw the rats hopping like bunny rabbits?

Yes, they did do a bit of hopping, especially prior to attacking you, when they'd launch themselves from about 3-5 feet away at your skull. Since it was the opening dungeon, I didn't really give it much credence, but that kind of thing may annoy some people.

Did you notice anything like that when you played through? I am referring to the guard doing a "robocop". Meaning his head stays stationary and his body turns 180 degrees.

No. That said, I didn't really bug the guards, given that they looked rather intimidating as was.

3. Did you notice alot of skating during combat? Meaning when you hit a combatant, did they slide back or actually stagger?

I can't give you anything concrete on this because, when I was fighting, I was generally concentrating on my enemies upper torso. With my shield and weapon obscuring my field of vision, I really didn't see that problem. Mind you, this could be because it wasn't there, or because I didn't notice it.

4. Did you notice any treadmilling during your walks around town?

None.

5. What were your impressions of the NPCs going in and out of doors (interior to exterior cells and vs.). Did you find it objectionable or did you barely notice it?

It matters what kind of doors you're talking about. I found there to be two kind of doors in the game. Area doors and Loading doors. Area doors are simple, easy doors that you find in an area somewhere, cell doors, swinging fences, et cetera. Loading doors generally lead inside (and out of) of buildings, and the game would stop to load the area (replete with a loading screen) before you went in.

NPCs went straight through area doors with no problem, and looked reasonably convincing doing it (not perfect, but convincing). I think Loading doors, because of the need to Load the next area featured NPCs fading through it, but I don't remember seeing it enough times to give you a 100% on that. Generally I didn't see many NPCs walking into and out of Loading Doors, I would guess because of that issue. If i've been to general, and you'd like more specifics, let me know.

zeroKFE wrote:
Prederick wrote:

Stuff about halberds.

Hmm, perhaps it was just an odd looking axe?

It'd have been a very long one. But there's a chance.

Superbus, I can't wait to play it..!

5H4RP wrote:

RyanW. are you playing Oblivion on PC or XBox? Most likely the PC mod community will have polearms in within a month or two.

heh heres the thing, and why i am so excited about pred's news, you can mod in textures and models, but modding in animations is pretty much impossible, it only was done a few tiems by incredibly talented modders, and those were non combat animations for the most part. But if there is a polearm, any polearm, then yeah modders can put in every type of polearm using the animations for the halbreds.

Holy. Crap.
I can't believe I just read all those posts...

I mean, I read Pred's review when it was posted, like every other good TES fan, but what happened between then and when I logged in to GWJ at work on Monday morning?! Itsn't it Tuesday now? Haven't just spent two days of my life reading ridiculous posts?! What is all this madness?
I for one don't care if it was a halberd or a herring. Either way, I'm going to buy the game.

Anyway. Great job, Mr. "Predders" Flanagan. Congrats on making the big leagues.

Congratulations on the nice review. It's certainly one of the better ones I've read so far. It looks at the game from a totally different perspective.

Altough I disagree with some of the things you say. Yes I know ... 4 hours is not enough to get to know Oblivion since it can be played in many different ways.
But saying archery is superfluous ... . Melee, magic and archery are totally different playstyles. Maybe archery isn't yours, or you didn't get enough time to use it in a proper way.
The same could be said about the persuasion and lockpicking minigames. Some will like it, others won't.

Oh ... I almost forgot
Some people posting here seem just as bad as the so called "fanboys". The "fanboys" can't understand someone pointing out negative aspects of the game, and some people in here can't understand people liking the game so much that they don't care or don't notice the flaws in the game. As it is now, it seems that writing a preview without negative aspects in it makes you a clueless "fanboy" ... Maybe some people really like the game that much.

5H4RP wrote:

Pred, thanks your preview and the Gamersmark one have been my fave for an unbiased look at a game I am really looking forward to but feel will fail in several depts.

I wouldn't call Gamersmarks look unbiased. Unlike this article his shows a total lack of interest.

Oh ... I almost forgot
Some people posting here seem just as bad as the so called "fanboys". The "fanboys" can't understand someone pointing out negative aspects of the game, and some people in here can't understand people liking the game so much that they don't care or don't notice the flaws in the game. As it is now, it seems that writing a preview without negative aspects in it makes you a clueless "fanboy" ... Maybe some people really like the game that much.

your joking right? did you read that thread over at the official forums? I can totally understand liking a game so much that the flaws are overlooked (re: Deus Ex for one example) but thats not what was going on over at those forums about a game THATS NOT EVEN OUT!

Maybe some people really like the game that much.

double quote for emphasis.. ITS NOT OUT YET!

Haakon7 wrote:

Holy. Crap.
I for one don't care if it was a halberd or a herring. Either way, I'm going to buy the game.

Anyway. Great job, Mr. "Predders" Flanagan. Congrats on making the big leagues. :D

They put back in herrings? Great! I thought they dropped it becuase of scaling problems....get it? scaling! becuase fish have scales!

I crack me up!

The number of lurkers posting first time alone are a credit to the awesomenezz of this preview.

So, Pred, I just want to know two things:

1) Are YOU guying to buy it?

and

2) On what system? (this is something the other previews I've read dealt with, but yours didn't get into - please, FSM, let me not incite a flaming riot here)

The Black Knight wrote:

Altough I disagree with some of the things you say. Yes I know ... 4 hours is not enough to get to know Oblivion since it can be played in many different ways.
But saying archery is superfluous ... . Melee, magic and archery are totally different playstyles. Maybe archery isn't yours, or you didn't get enough time to use it in a proper way.
The same could be said about the persuasion and lockpicking minigames. Some will like it, others won't.

All the while this is happening, the person's opinion of you drops. I personally found it to be a little haphazard.
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.

I don't expect you to agree with me BlackKnight. My preview was based on my own experience, as someone who had never played a game in the series before. Everything I put in is a statement of my own opinion, not a statement of absolute fact, which is where a lot of the hubub has stemmed from, I think. Had I played for eight, ten, twelve hours, perhaps I would've had a different experience with Archery and other things. But I didn't, and that was how I felt.

This isn't a review, as I also said...

this is, by far, not the be-all-end all word on the title, positive or negative.

...so it's not supposed to make anyone's mind up about the game one way or another. This is one perspective to be taken with a grain of salt, that perhaps, will give people a different way to look at the game when it's released. Of course some people will like the things I disliked, but does that mean I shouldn't mention what I didn't like because someone might like it? Where does that logic stop?

I am, by my own admission, one n00b with an opinion. Moreover, I still think this is going to be a great game. But even the 1972 Miami Dolphins needed a little luck to go 17-0. Nothing's completely perfect.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

So, Pred, I just want to know two things:

1) Are YOU guying to buy it?

and

2) On what system? (this is something the other previews I've read dealt with, but yours didn't get into - please, FSM, let me not incite a flaming riot here)

1.) Maybe, probably not when it's released.

2.) PC.

dejanzie wrote:

The number of lurkers posting first time alone are a credit to the awesomenezz of this preview.

the preview is so awesome it even coaxes longtime non-posters out of the woodwork.

thats all i've got.

see you in another two years.

Who was that masked man?

Anyways, for those of you interested, this article has over 23,000 views.

This is the first time I've seen this site and let me say I'm impressed. I especially like how there is interaction with the previewer/reviewer. I have a major bone to pick with the well-known sources of game reviews and previews (ign, gamespy, gamespot, etc). They are basically all sell-out liars, or at best, reluctant to go against the hype. I haven't trusted them since B&W2.

In some other preview the author mentioned "bolts" but never actually said "crossbow". Can you confirm or deny the
existance of crossbows? If there are crossbows that is just damned sexy.

0zymandias wrote:

In some other preview the author mentioned "bolts" but never actually said "crossbow". Can you confirm or deny the
existance of crossbows? If there are crossbows that is just damned sexy.

I'm pretty sure that the developers have confirmed that crossbows (as well as spears/polearms and miscellaneous thrown weapons) won't be included this time around. They say that they felt their time was better spent perfecting the weapon types they already had included, and while it is a bummer that there will be less weapon variety this time around, personally I am okay with it if it means they managed to get everything else working right.

Of course, they could possibly be modded in at some future date, but that would be quite a feat given that it would require either:

1) Making entire new sets of animations

or

2) Making some hackish reuse of existing animations

Option 1 is probably much more work than anyone (at Bethesda or in the community at large) will be willing to invest, except perhaps as part of an major expansion, and I wouldn't even want to see option 2 attempted.

That makes me sad. ; ;

It's not like it'd be alot of work to add a few crossbows to the game coding wise. It's the same as the bow except a longer wind-up period and perhaps make it easier to keep cocked. Maybe they didn't want to spend the art assets on a whole selection of crossbows? It would have been nice if they'd added atleast 1 crossbow so modders could make a variety of them with the animation. Why is it so impossible to add animations?

hi, i too am a member of the TES forums, we don't go into OG (oblivion general) anymore it has become home to trolls and twelve-year-olds. most of the more highly ranked members have been hiding in the the community discussion forum waiting for oblivions release so the idiots can go flame at some other forum afterwards.

a couple of questions about the stealth though,

1. what level were you at for stealth?
2. were you wearing armour?

i ask because dev's have said stealth in armour is a no go, and your description of stealths digital nature leads me to believe your character was seriously low level, or you were sneaking around in fifty pounds of steel armour. were either of these the case?

also did you at any point try the argonian (lizard men) race? i'm very interested in how much modification is available for the faces.

and lastly, there are very specific characteristics for each 'race' in the elder scrolls, bretons look like anglo saxons, redguard look like african americans, imperiels look like extras from the movie troy. could this be the reason behind your lack of customisation you mentioned for the face generation? being new to the franchise you wouldn't have been aware of these differences unless you specifically asked. and those of us who have played just accept this as common knowledge so wouldn't have told you.

and one final thing to mention, the comment about the quality of the TES forums having gone down since the release of morrowind xbox is a little offensive to console gamers like myself, i think you will find that it was always as it is, the community forums on TES have been closed before due to bad behaviour of members, and that was before the release of morrowind, morrowind was the first teen rated iteration of TES, which lowered the average age of posters which also wouldn't have helped.

i haven't meant to offend anyone , if i have, sorry

Certis wrote:

Who was that masked man?

Anyways, for those of you interested, this article has over 23,000 views.

Holly Crap Prederick over 23,000 views! I read every post and loved the "Preview" you gave. This whole thread was great and it was nice to have some site newbies to laugh at also. I thought it was well writen and loved the way you looked at the game but then again I wirte like a 5th grader at best so take that as you will.

Maybe next time someone from the site is going to go look at something this big we can know a couple days ahead so you can have some good questions to ask right off the bat.I blame Certis for not thinking of everything not you

TheGameguru wrote:
Oh ... I almost forgot
Some people posting here seem just as bad as the so called "fanboys". The "fanboys" can't understand someone pointing out negative aspects of the game, and some people in here can't understand people liking the game so much that they don't care or don't notice the flaws in the game. As it is now, it seems that writing a preview without negative aspects in it makes you a clueless "fanboy" ... Maybe some people really like the game that much.

your joking right? did you read that thread over at the official forums? I can totally understand liking a game so much that the flaws are overlooked (re: Deus Ex for one example) but thats not what was going on over at those forums about a game THATS NOT EVEN OUT!

Maybe some people really like the game that much.

double quote for emphasis.. ITS NOT OUT YET!

I suggest you read my post again.

The "fanboys" can't understand someone pointing out negative aspects of the game, and some people in here can't understand people liking the game so much that they don't care or don't notice the flaws in the game.

I use 'people liking the game' and not 'fanboys' to differentiate between the ones who actually played it (previewers) and the ones who would like to (fans ... yeah I know, a lot of them are a pain in the @#&)

I know my english isn't that good, but understandable enough if you bother to read it.

Prederick wrote:

I don't expect you to agree with me BlackKnight. My preview was based on my own experience, as someone who had never played a game in the series before. Everything I put in is a statement of my own opinion, not a statement of absolute fact, which is where a lot of the hubub has stemmed from, I think. Had I played for eight, ten, twelve hours, perhaps I would've had a different experience with Archery and other things. But I didn't, and that was how I felt.

This isn't a review, as I also said...

this is, by far, not the be-all-end all word on the title, positive or negative.

...so it's not supposed to make anyone's mind up about the game one way or another. This is one perspective to be taken with a grain of salt, that perhaps, will give people a different way to look at the game when it's released. Of course some people will like the things I disliked, but does that mean I shouldn't mention what I didn't like because someone might like it? Where does that logic stop?

I know it's written from your perspective (and that it's just a preview). That's what makes this article different than most others, since you haven't got Morrowind experience. And like I said before, it's one of the better articles I've read so far.
But when I did read the article (from my perspective), it seemed like you gave everything a fair shot ... except for the archery. I wasn't trying to offend or attack you (in case you felt so), I was just giving my impression on the article.

moose o death wrote:

a couple of questions about the stealth though,

1. what level were you at for stealth?
2. were you wearing armour?

i ask because dev's have said stealth in armour is a no go, and your description of stealths digital nature leads me to believe your character was seriously low level, or you were sneaking around in fifty pounds of steel armour. were either of these the case?

I wasn't wearing any armor, but I was very low level. It was the beginning of the game. So, the chance certainly is there that later in the game, once your ability in stealth has significantly increased, sneaking will become much more robust. That said, stealth did not come across as exceptionally deep. It seemed to be about as deep as it has been in many other RPGs, that being that you can get around a pretty good deal sometimes if your skill is high enough, and sometimes you just get caught. I should've clarified and said that it didn't seem like a blatant, silly matter of the guard just turning around and looking at you, no matter where you are. If it's at night, or if you're in shadows, it's a bonus. But I didn't see any exceptional enemy AI in the form of searching, alerting others, holding up a torch, et cetera.

I addressed stealth better earlier though...

Prederick wrote:

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'...

...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.

also did you at any point try the argonian (lizard men) race? i'm very interested in how much modification is available for the faces.

and lastly, there are very specific characteristics for each 'race' in the elder scrolls, bretons look like anglo saxons, redguard look like african americans, imperiels look like extras from the movie troy. could this be the reason behind your lack of customisation you mentioned for the face generation? being new to the franchise you wouldn't have been aware of these differences unless you specifically asked. and those of us who have played just accept this as common knowledge so wouldn't have told you.

This I did not know, but it really wouldn't have changed my opinion of the customization in the game. My first point was that, as compared to Sports games you'll find these days, the character customization was very stunted. I would've loved to adjust how burly my character was, or made him more lithe and athletic looking, or changed the length of tail my Argonian had, or the type of tail, and so on, and so forth.

I'll defer to your knowledge on race archetypes, but like I said, it wouldn't change my opinion that much. I really didn't feel like I got that much variation, even with the facial randomizer. It's not the best analogy, but I thought about real life ethnicities when I was toying around with it. They do share certain characteristics, and yet, their faces run an exceptionally large gamut of looks. It's unrealistic to expect that kind of real-life variation from Oblivion, I know, but as I said, I never felt like I was getting anything more than variations on a set theme. When the game is released, i'm sure everyone will get a chance to take a crack at it and see how it fares for themselves.

The Black Knight wrote:

But when I did read the article (from my perspective), it seemed like you gave everything a fair shot ... except for the archery. I wasn't trying to offend or attack you (in case you felt so), I was just giving my impression on the article.

I didn't think you are, and i'll say that I understand where you're coming from. Looking at the article I can see how one could construe that I'm slating off archery entirely on a underinformed opinion. But i'm simply stating what I saw, and what I felt. When I used Archery, it felt almost superflous to a certaion extent, which may simply be a byproduct of my experience with a game in the first-person like this. I come from a background of party-based RPGs, where you could certainly have an archer who would sit back, and fire arrows at your opponent while another character kept the enemy occupied with melee combat. So coming into this, where it felt like I had time for an arrow or two before switching to Sword and Sheild felt wonky, to me. And that's probably why I viewed it as such.

0zymandias wrote:

That makes me sad. ; ;

It's not like it'd be alot of work to add a few crossbows to the game coding wise. It's the same as the bow except a longer wind-up period and perhaps make it easier to keep cocked. Maybe they didn't want to spend the art assets on a whole selection of crossbows? It would have been nice if they'd added atleast 1 crossbow so modders could make a variety of them with the animation. Why is it so impossible to add animations?

It is indeed sad, but I think you might be surprised by the complexity of the endeavor. In previous generations, you would probably be more correct; the difference between a bow and a crossbow is simply a difference in how you draw the weapon object on screen. Other than that, you are just firing a projectile straight forward, and adding a couple of frames of animation.

These days, however, things are vastly different. In real life, the mechanics and operation of bows and crossbows are fundamentally different things on a physical level, and so in a game like Oblivion they would need to be modelled in completely different manners in terms of the physics of use and arrow flight. Also, remember that any object the player can use is also usable by all other creatures in Oblivion, so adding a new weapon means adding a new set of animations for every creature in the game. When you think about it on that level, I think it becomes more clear why adding just one more weapon type is quite a monumental task. And that's not even to say anything about the time needed to debug and balance the new weapon type, which is another highly time consuming task.

So again, it is unfortunate that the variety of weapon types has decreased since Morrowind. However, I'm pretty confident that the variety within each of the types that is in the game will more that make up for it, when you consider the extra depth that has been added to the mechanics of using each kind of weapon. (Incidentally, from listening to and reading a few other previews, it sounds like they invested some serious effort into making bows realistic and fun to use; personally, I think my first character is going to focus heavily on bow use thanks to the attention and detail that has apparently been put into their design.