Tag Archives: Elder Scrolls

Best of 2006 #4: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

I love my immersive, coherent worlds, me. Make a good one of those and you’re halfway onto my top ten of the year list. One of the best ones won last year, in fact. This is also one of the best.

The scale of Oblivion is the amazing thing. As I type this I’m playing Final Fantasy V Advance, originally released in 1992, and it strikes me that what was a large game then can now be done in full 3D, fully voiced with proper actors, and just looking absolutely phenomenal. It had technical issues that were maybe symptomatic of overreaching on current hardware – or possibly unfamiliarity with it – but the magnitude of Bethesda’s vision was just phenomenal.

But give an ambitious and talented team the time and budget (and possibly the Lord of the Rings licence), and this shows what you can get. The moment when you first walk out of the sewers and up the hill – possibly getting held up or attacked by an ogre on the way – to look back at the city you’ve just come from is burnt indelibly into the memories of everyone who saw it, whatever they thought of the game.

Memorable towns and innumerable settlements and landmarks that can be endlessly explored make a great game, marred only by some technical quibbles. It’s unmissable.

Hot Potion of Healing

I’ve just seen the news that Oblivion has been re-rated by the ESRB to change the rating from its previous T to the more adult M. I’m surprised because although the game does have violence, there’s little in the way of excessive gore and I’ve seen far worse in T-rated games as most enemies in this game just fall down and die. The more interesting factor in the decision to rescind the T rating is this one:

partial nudity in the PC version of the game can be created by modders

Besides the fact that I have no problem with a 15-year-old seeing a “partially nude (topless) female” (how many of them haven’t?), I’d hoped that the ESRB had learnt something after the backlash surrounding Hot Coffee. Apparently not. I think I’m right in saying that almost any game can have its art assets hacked by a modder and made nude (or anything else) but that’s besides the point. As with San Andreas, this content wasn’t intended to be seen. Can you really hold them to blame when someone else modifies their code from its original state?

The assertion that they should is absurd, especially when they took steps to make it inaccessible in the first place. It’s funny to me that many of those who decry mod content and blame the developer for it are often the same ones who bang the drum of not holding gun manufacturers responsible when someone decides to play a “murder simulator” for real. I’m not saying that they should (the ethics of the gun industry is something that I’m not touching here), but that double standards such as that completely undermine the argument.

Oblivion First Impressions

I couldn’t let a 360 game as big as this go by without giving some impressions now, could I? Just as The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind hit the Xbox a few months after launch, the sequel does the same thing to the 360 in an infinitely bigger way. Bigger in every way, in fact. So big that I’m just giving some first impressions since I can’t hope to capture it with only a few hours of play.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The first thing I need to say is that I didn’t like Morrowind at all. I tried it, but after a couple of hours I could tell that it wasn’t the sort of thing I was up for pouring hour upon hour into. I honestly can’t remember why since it was so long ago, but whatever it was Oblivion hasn’t suffered from the same thing so far. It’s much the same in that it opens slightly slowly – this time with a slog through a dungeon – but once you get into the spectacular overworld the sense of awe is up there with when I first played Shenmue.

It’s kind of strange in that it’s a very deep and customisable RPG that plays somewhat like an FPS crossed with an MMORPG, but it works in making the combat feel involved and allowing the player to feel a part of the adventure. I’m sure everyone reading this is familiar with that feeling in any RPG of finding a new and bustling town to explore, and I spent most of the time in Oblivion experiencing that. I don’t want to spoil the early story, but suffice it to say that there’s a fairly early moment which goes up there with that infamous scene of Sephiroth in Nibelheim for me, and overall I’m certainly enjoying it as much as can be hoped with a swords and sorcery RPG. As much as I like Lord of the Rings I’m not often too big on playing it.

I’m going to be writing something slightly more in-depth for a first impressions feature over on Pro-G early next week, so keep an eye out for that.