Since its inception in 1994, the Elder Scrolls series has accepted countless awards including a number of Game of the Year awards for Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Last month, developer Bethesda Softworks released Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion onto store shelves to let gamers have at it. They announced on April 10 that they had sold 1.7 million copies of the groundbreaking role-playing game (RPG). They have truly made major strides in next generation gaming to say the least.
At the very outset you are given the ability to create your character. Obviously there’s always the option to randomize a created character, but the heart of any RPG is imbuing your onscreen avatar with your desired traits and characteristics, and as expected Bethesda went all out with character customization.
Going beyond simple race and class selection, you can customize just about every aspect of your character from the shape of his/her jaw and forehead, to the tone of his/her lips and nose. Bethesda lets you take the creation aspect one step further by allowing you to tweak each individual feature with sub definitions. For instance, you can adjust the shape of your character’s brow, then go in and tweak it to protrude out or flatten it. Every aspect of your character has sub definitions that you can tailor to suit your needs.
The story starts with you locked up in a jail cell. Soon Uriel Septim, the Emperor of Tamriel voiced by Patrick Stewart, comes to your cell accompanied by two members of The Blades, an elite order of guards whose sole purpose is to protect the Emperor. They come into your cell and the Emperor says that he has seen you in his premonitions and from that moment on invests a great deal of trust in you, which likewise is not shared by his personal guards.
You follow the Emperor through a system of dungeons buried deep below the city, all the while being ambushed by various teams of assassins bent on murdering the aging ruler. During one of the scuffles, the Emperor is slain, but only after giving you the Amulet of Kings and ordering you to bring it to a character named Jauffre at Weynon Priory.
It should be said from the start that Oblivion is played from a first person perspective. This, however, does not act as a hindrance to the stellar gameplay. In fact, if anything it fortifies it. Players can opt to play in third person like nearly every other RPG, but Oblivion was optimized for first person gameplay, and for good reason. The sheer beauty of the environments can only be truly respected and taken advantage of in first person; only then can you really feel immersed in the world created for you. Oblivion is perhaps one of the greatest graphical achievements in gaming today.
Oblivion, unlike most Japanese RPGs is not party-based, meaning you are not acting as a member of a team. While some may be critical of the gameplay style at first glance, if given a chance it is clear that Bethesda flawlessly pulled this one off. Once you get past the half-hour or so learning curve, you grow a strong respect for the thought that was put into the gameplay mechanics. Players can swap between close-quarters and ranged weapons, cast magic, and block/attack with relative ease. Four years of development and a number of delays can calmly be excused after sitting down with Oblivion for a few hours.
The game features what is called sand-box gameplay, where you are placed into an expansive game world and are free to wander aimlessly or follow the main storyline. There are hundreds of side quests and the entire province of Cyrodiil is open to you from the start. Cyrodiil weighs in at an impressive 16 square miles of explorable land; so even if you don’t pick up Oblivion for its story, do so simply to traverse the immense game world, taking in the sights which range from the dense foliage of the Great Forest to the snow-capped peaks of the Jerall Mountains.
Bethesda has already begun offering downloads through Xbox Live and their Web site, for the PC version, to enhance your gaming experience for a relatively nominal fee. Thus far, horse armor and a new quest, Orrery, have been released.
They have also announced an unreleased download – Wizard’s Tower-which will be available for rent in the game.
There is absolutely no reason for those with either a high-end PC or Xbox 360 to miss out on this remarkable title.
So run, don’t walk, to your nearest retailer to get your copy of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.