Re: Oblivion

This is not a review.

Frankly I have no interest in reviewing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for a number of reasons. First I'd lose a lot of objective credibility in making statements like the following: Oblivion is one of the greatest CRPGs made. It is in the company of titles like Fallout, Planescape: Torment, Baldur's Gate, and Ultima IV. Further, and this is the real part that keeps me from penning any sort of structured review, I simply have no interest in wasting my precious Oblivion time being meticulous, objective, critical, or jaded. I'm having far too much fun simply exploring and experiencing the game to try and turn a cynical eye toward it. It's not that this is a game without faults, but to dwell on those faults would be like complaining that Keira Knightly's nose is too straight or Jessica Alba's lingerie was too see-through.

I have to this point played some thirty hours of Oblivion, which is, of itself, extraordinarily unusual. I could probably measure the number of games I've put 30 hours into over the past year on one hand. World of Warcraft, Civilization IV, Guitar Hero; that's about it. It is even more unusual that I've put in that time in just over a week. Further it is patently absurd that I feel as though I've barely spent any time at all playing the game, much less a day and a half. Every time I sit down before my Oblivion Delivery System – or the more pedestrian terminology: Xbox 360 – hours evaporate like liquid Nitrogen on a hot day.

I am not simply playing this game, but experiencing it. I don't know exactly how to describe the intricacies of that difference, but I think it has something to do with my general lack of direction, willingness to be sent off-track, and genuine curiosity at exploration. Never has a game so fully rewarded me for becoming my own man, dark elf, ogre, or furry cat guy. Unfortunately, this freedom married with the uncommon reward for exploring that freedom means that I regularly ignore the lamentations of the populace at large for my own selfish goals.

I want to attend the needs of my Emperor, but it's like telling a two-year-old to walk from one end of a toy store to another without touching anything. The Emperor tells me that the very fabric of our world is crumbling and I must, with all haste, embark on his mission to save all of our futures, but I'm not a half mile down the cobblestone road, his sultry, Sean Bean tones still reverberating in my ears, before I'm off spelunking, picking pieces of fungus off a mushroom, chasing deer across hilltops, or merely lounging on some quiet bridge admiring the scenery.

I imagine that if the game were any more realistic I would encounter conversations that went:

"You've arrived just in time, traveler, for the Daedra have taken the south bridge, our forces are decimated in the true sense of the meaning, and I'm pretty certain that a great horde of angry minotaurs are organizing for "… I'm sorry am I boring you? What? Yeah, that's a book about the Warp in the West; did you hear what I was saying about everyone dying? Yes, stranger, I do agree that the flames make the sunset a particularly stunning shade of red, but I'm not entirely sure that you get the full magnitude of "… hey! Can you please pick flowers later? I don't care if it is Nirnroot!"

This method of play is extraordinarily unusual for me. More often than not side quests in RPGs seem like a vaguely annoying concept that I must suffer for gains in loot or experience. Ho, traveler, my library book is nearly overdue and I need someone fleet of foot to deliver it to Westinghamburgville Library! Oh, and I hear that lady McWeespalot is missing her precocious son who is believed to have wandered off into the clearly labeled Orc Infested Cave #4. Yawn!

And, it's not even that I'm performing that many side quests, though I've been compelled by all the ones I have completed. In many ways, it's simply that I am creating my own series of quests, suddenly deciding on a whim to investigate a given dungeon, mine, ruin, statue, point-of-interest, Oblivion gate, Inn, camp, shrine, or whatever the hell else I run across in the endlessly dense landscape of Tamriel.

The world, as has been said countless times over the last week, is richly alive, and while the AI is certainly not perfect, it is quirky and interesting enough to usually elicit a response. I recall a recent encounter I had on the road to Chorrol, whereupon I encountered two guards hurling arrows at one another. They each danced around, ducking in and out of cover, trying to gain an advantage on their opponent for reasons I simply could not at the time explain, so I stopped and gawked as one guard finally delivered a fatal blow unto his once comrade, and stalked off. On exploring further, I found the corpse of a highwayman nearby, his body stuck with arrows as well, and imagined a number of possible scenarios. But, what struck me is that not a moment before this encounter I had nearly veered off the track to investigate some ruins, and if I had then this unhappy trio would have still gone about their murderous business without my knowledge. It simply reinforces how much of this game I simply won't have the opportunity to experience, and hints at a world in motion despite, not because of, my character's existence.

The finishing details that fully realize this world are too numerous to even mention, and I hesitate to give even a sampling simply because no one element makes this game. It is in the cohesive final product with its amazing art direction, prolific volumes of text, subtly changing regions, atmospheric visuals, complex and compelling story, and most of all it's extraordinary density that makes this not just a great reason to buy an Xbox 360 or upgrade your PC, but probably one of the definitive games of its genre.

Oblivion is not just the kind of game that makes a year's Best Of list, but will inevitably be mentioned in the breath with the all-time greats.

See, those are pretty extraordinary things to say about a game that's been out less than a week. I'm not necessarily in a position to defend my statements, as any criticism about proclaiming a game among the best ever after only 30 hours of playtime and roughly a week on the shelf is entirely appropriate. It is bombastic, presumptuous, foolhardy, and probably not entirely well thought out, but just wait and see if I'm not right.

You want my review of Oblivion, here it is: it's better than whatever game you're playing right now. Go buy it. If you don't have something to play it on, then buy that too.

Comments

Ramen.

Elysium spake, saying, "Let us all romp through Tamriel."
So we did.

And it was un-be-freaking-lievable.

{EDIT} Ramen. (Sorry, Fletch!)

I couldn't agree more. Great write-up. Oblivion is definitely up there with Fallout for me (so far). The first-person perspective really helps the immersion factor, as well.

The review is dead, long live the review!

Man, I do want to play this game, but I do not have the money. Not for the system to play it on, not even for the game itself! Fast forward to conclusion: this game sucks!

Surely, someone on this intraweb thingey must agree with me?

Great write-up, Elysium. Makes me wanna upgrade even more. Bastard.

Fletcher wrote:

Ramen.

Quite right, this game deserves noodles and noodles of praise.

Excellent way to give a feel of the game without going into spoilers. Well done.

All this talk of Ramen is making me hungry. Methinks it's time for a morning snack.

Elysium, my experience with the game - while likely vastly different - is similar in the sense that I have approximately 30 hours invested in it and feel as though I just removed the shrink wrap. This is the first game in quite some time that made me wish I wasn't a gamer with a job (big brother, if you're watching, please don't grant that wish). I'm already looking forward to getting some time with the game tonight in order to see what goodies I can find now that I'm finally stumbling upon good loot and have a house to store it in.

The finishing details that fully realize this world are too numerous to even mention, and I hesitate to give even a sampling simply because no one element makes this game. It is in the cohesive final product with its amazing art direction, prolific volumes of text, subtly changing regions, atmospheric visuals, complex and compelling story, and most of all it's extraordinary density that makes this not just a great reason to buy an Xbox 360 or upgrade your PC, but probably one of the definitive games of its genre.

Well said. This definitely ranks as my favorite Western RPG and I would say is in a figurative tie with Final Fantasy 3 and Chrono Trigger as favorite RPG's of all time. And if I continue playing it at the rate I have been, it might dethrone Diablo as the game I wasted the most time playing

Damnit I don't have the time or money to be playing this game, so stop talking about it like its the best game released for the PC in years.

Great write-up.

dejanzie wrote:

The review is dead, long live the review!

Man, I do want to play this game, but I do not have the money. Not for the system to play it on, not even for the game itself! Fast forward to conclusion: this game sucks!

Surely, someone on this intraweb thingey must agree with me?

Great write-up, Elysium. Makes me wanna upgrade even more. Bastard.

I'll agree with you, but for the same reasons you state :).

Elysium, you jerk.

I'm officially now pining for this game, and (to a lesser extent) the Xbox 360 or decent computer that would make it useful to me. I literally feel as if my throat is parched and wants only for a tall, cool, sweaty glass of Oblivion.

Is there someone that I could persuade to hold on to my bank card until I get a raise or 360s drop in price?

ARGH! There is no way I have the time right now for a game like this, but after listening to all the gushing here and in forums I am just about to buy it anyway.

I haven't played an Elder Scrolls game since Arena, but I quite fondly remember my time with that. Willpower...eroding...

Great non review... the debate about Jessica's lingerie is also worth delving into in great detail and photographs in another thread.

Just one minor flaw... is it just me, or are most of the characters bugly as hell?

You know what I like about Oblivion being one of the best games ever made?

When Bethesda took the Fallout 3 helm, everyone was going "Oh it'll be just like Oblivion except with Fallout models."

Now I'm saying "Oh! It'll be just like Oblivion except with Fallout models!"

Concentration on work.. related issues ...eroding.... imagining, Oblivion with guns, mutants, and a post apocalyptic environment! Can't... speak in.... complete.... sentences....

Zaque wrote:

Damnit I don't have the time or money to be playing this game, so stop talking about it like its the best game released for the PC in years.

Great write-up.

dejanzie wrote:

The review is dead, long live the review!

Man, I do want to play this game, but I do not have the money. Not for the system to play it on, not even for the game itself! Fast forward to conclusion: this game sucks!

Surely, someone on this intraweb thingey must agree with me?

Great write-up, Elysium. Makes me wanna upgrade even more. Bastard.

I'll agree with you, but for the same reasons you state :).

Yeah, same boat here as well. Hmm, maybe I could rob a bank.

PyromanFO wrote:

You know what I like about Oblivion being one of the best games ever made?

When Bethesda took the Fallout 3 helm, everyone was going "Oh it'll be just like Oblivion except with Fallout models."

Now I'm saying "Oh! It'll be just like Oblivion except with Fallout models!"

Guilty! And now I'm in the same boat. God, please let Fallout 3 be like Oblivion! And not to derail the thread (is it possible to derail an Oblivion thread? Can it be done?), but I wonder if this means that Fallout 3 will appear on home consoles? Seems likely, with the last two Bethesda games having been on XBoxes.

If only I could find a way to play Oblivion and WoW at the same time.. I need a third arm or something...

dhaelis wrote:
Fletcher wrote:

Ramen.

Quite right, this game deserves noodles and noodles of praise. ;-)

Aren't we just punny today. Of course, as must be patently obvious, I completely share the sentiment behind the pun.

PyromanFO wrote:

You know what I like about Oblivion being one of the best games ever made?

When Bethesda took the Fallout 3 helm, everyone was going "Oh it'll be just like Oblivion except with Fallout models."

Now I'm saying "Oh! It'll be just like Oblivion except with Fallout models!"

Thank the gods I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Edit:

TheGameguru wrote:

If only I could find a way to play Oblivion and WoW at the same time.. I need a third arm or something...

Insert penis joke here.

For the record, and accuracy's sake, I played Morrowind for as little as about eight hours, before becoming bored and distracted by something that was probably shiny. I never called Morrowind a bad game, but thought it suffered a bit for its freedom and free-form presentation. Instead of feeling like my own man, I just felt directionless and ultimately disinterested. It certainly wasn't a bad game, but, like I said, I usually don't mesh well with that kind of playstyle, even though I recognize the quality of that game in at least an academic way.

My point?

If you think my Oblivion love is just the default posturing of a Morrowind junkie, then I have to disappoint you. Sorry kids, it's just that good.

TheGameguru wrote:

I need a third arm or something...

It's times like this that I'm almost tempted to trade in my third leg...almost.

Elysium wrote:

But, what struck me is that not a moment before this encounter I had nearly veered off the track to investigate some ruins, and if I had then this unhappy trio would have still gone about their murderous business without my knowledge.

Indeed. Similarly, I imagine in my own Tamriel that behind every approaching tree and glade as I wander is a small, impish creature, merrily whacking away and giggling as I pass. I will catch one of them and have proof someday, so help me Talos. And a coronet of shriveled imp dongs shall grace my neck in warning to others who might mock me!

Oblivion = bang-for-buck

I havent spent 70$ better in a long long time. I've bought 4 games since the new year, all good games, but they've all been trumped. I've spent more time in Oblivion (And that is the proper way to say it) than playing all of the other games combined.

Excellent characterization, Ely. You've captured the feeling the game creates quite well.

Bravo!

The day I first played Planescape: Torment, all I could do is, think about the game and with such amazing story and immersive game-play, who couldn't? I'll never forget the last 48 hours of the game... Story came to close, and yet left me with so many questions, which as much I want answer for... I hope I will never get. However that is not the only reason... In those 48 hours of the game, I have not slept, ate or even move from my chair. After the game ended... I was starving, I could not feel my legs, my eyes were dry and I felt like I had a bad case of hangover. I honestly didn't care... all I had on my mind is Planescape and how it was the most amazing game I ever played.

What I'm getting at, is that Oblivion is a first game to have the same effect on me after Planescape. In another thread I asked if I should restart a game after playing it for 40 hours. However, after looking at all I've done... which was nothing related to the story there for I had no problem doing it. Looking at it, all this time I was just wondering around aimlessly... and I honestly wanted more of that because in short, it was fun. He*l, I spend at least an hour just looking for a highest cliff I could find, just so that I can jump down in to the lake. <- I wonder if Emperor pre-seen that in his dream!
It's really one of those games that it's just hard to put down... and if one is able to do that, I'm sure he would have the desire to get back to it in less than a second.

I'm starting to think that this is a dangerous game... While am at work, I have stuff to do but all I can think of is dungeon crawling. Arh... ...and you all are not helping. Every forum I go to, all talk nothing but Oblivion.

All hail Oblivion (peace be upon it). I should have known the best RPG in years would come out when I should be writing my thesis.

Elysium wrote:

I just felt directionless and ultimately disinterested.

Oh man, I'm sorry I have to do this, but I can't help myself...

You mean uninterested. Disinterested means impartial.

... but Obilivion does rule!!!

Oh my God, Elysium just got schooled in grammar. This is the Seventh Sign! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

Insert penis joke here.

Hey, I think that *is* a peni... oh. i get it.

Let me add, I am also about to go out and buy this game. I've been resisting, because it's a bethsoft game, and they're almost always better after the first patch. But... dammit, I can't take it anymore. I'm reading all the threads here, spoilers, threads in other forums... it just sounds awesome.

I fear that it will bring my 2700+, 1GB, and 6800GT to its proverbial knees.

FNG post. Been creeping about here for a few weeks but all the Oblivion talk has got me hot and bothered. I'm going to wrestle the money from my wife to get it this weekend hopefully. I'll throw myself on the floor and cry if I have to...

Tyrian-

I've got 1GB and a 6800GT and it runs on high. Pretty and smooth. But I have a P4 at 3 GHz. I'd try it, but other people should have better advice than this here luddite.

bighoppa- Welcome! Depends on how big and HD your TV is. I've got a 21" Gateway flat screen for the PC and no Xbox 360, but the thought of 60" of HD Oblivion is damned tempting...