Reviewed by Jimmy | 04.11.06

This is the big one; The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has to be the most anticipated title to come out for the Xbox 360 so far. It's the biggest RPG this side of Final Fantasy and no one besides Bethesda can give deliver the goods. Oblivion is one huge free roaming adventure set in a huge mystical land that is sure to provide the gamer with some classic gaming moments. Oblivion has arrived and here is our battled review of The Elder Scrolls III Oblivion.

It has been hard for me to write this review, mainly because Oblivion is such a huge open ended experience that is hard to express without writing a novel. Needless to say, I never wanted to take the controller out of my hand. It's a love/hate deal. Love my social life/ hate Oblivion for taking it way, well not exactly, but you get the point. Being this addictive is a good quality because it is does exactly what a video game should do; provide an entertaining portal to escapism. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and with the lengthy development time of four years and ten years of back history wrapped, Oblivion is a success... and well worth the wait. Oblivion is an instant classic, a total winner.

For those unfamiliar with the "Elder Scrolls," the Elder Scrolls franchise has been around since the early days of PC gaming (1994) and has slowly evolved onto the console front. I'm a former Morrowind (2002) follower from the PC days, so I know what an impact this franchise can have. It's good to know that the one small company, Bethesda, can make waves by believing in their project. Bethesda never let up once production started on Oblivion, shortly after Morrowind shipped.

Now this is a Sandbox
Much like Oblivions' gaming world, just explaining this game can get you sidetracked. Oblivion gives gamers the wonderful world of Cyrodiil and it's heartland of Tamriel to explore and live. TESIV: Oblivion is huge, which rivales other sandbox styled games like Grand Theft Auto. The best part is that you are not rushed to explore the world. Bethesda provides you with this "sandbox" and it's open season, journey through the land at your own leisure. You can spend hours upon hours going either exploring hidden caverns to abandoned forts and shrines, all without touching a quest. If you want to quest, well then you have more options then you will be able to manage. Become a master of the fighter's guild, a savior to the land, a pick pocket on the streets of Imperial City, or just some old woman's hero, its up to you. Side with the dark side of life in Oblivion and pray on the weak and steal from the rich, or become a honorable Knight or fearless Vampire Hunter. Oblivion is totally opened ended and only limited by your ambition and desires.

Dungeons and Rings
Before I go any further, I should state that Oblivion is set in a medieval setting with the normal lore and creatures you'd find in any 'Dungeons & Dragons' manual. Oblivion is a RPG nerd's fantasy, and they might hate to hear it, but it's true (I fall into this category.) Even though D&D is a infleunce it seems like Bethesda was influenced by 'Lord of the Rings' as well. This is apparent from the character design to metaphysical "Eye of Sauron" in the Oblivion gates. That being said, if you are a fan of the 'Lord of The Rings' media then you will probably get into Oblivion right away. If you're not into swords, gods and demons, orcs and goblins then Oblivion might turn you south, even with it's excellent gameplay.

Improved Combat
With all the expectations Oblivion faced, I think they did a great job improving on the previous build of the game while providing enough to keep our tongues tied for a good while. The most noticeable upgrade besides the graphics would be the combat engine. Instead of an invisible set of factors garnering the combat we now have a "normal" combat which gives the player immediate feedback. The behind the scenes system is still the rolling the invisible dice, but now we get to crack heads at the same time. The combat can get pretty intense at times being reminiscent of 'Condemned' for the 360. It's mainly melee combat that is best enjoyed in first person, although you do have the option to play in 3rd. The new combat system should help win over a larger demographic and you never know.. maybe some "action" gamers will get into an RPG.

Better than CSI?
Now that I mentioned RPG, Oblivion is the best example of the genre. Oblivion is rich in story that includes every thing from straight ahead action to sneaking, spell casting and political corruption. Oblivion is almost too customizable and immersive! You also have an overabundance of items and weapons that you can horde up in your vary own house. You can freely explore a world filled with realistic characters with their very own set of lives. The only side step to traditional RPGs for Oblivion is real time combat, which is more common this decade. Oblivion can capture any gamer's heart even if they don't usually play RPG games. Even watching Oblivion is enjoyable and I've heard statements like "it's like an interactive movie", and more typical responses "that was amazing", "I can't believe the programmed a game this size". Even more importantly is that my girlfriend says Oblivion is better then watching CSI. Now that is pretty unbelievable!

The Tale of Tamriel
For the main story it goes like this... you play a self defined character who witnesses the untimely assassination of the emperor Uriel Septim VII of Tamriel. Choosing to uncover the emperor's killer you will deal with a number of Oblivion gates filled with Daedra who are demon-like creatures that have spread darkness and fear over to the "normal" world of Nirn. The plot goes deep and has a few twists and is overall satisfying, but of course you can play this game for hours without even experiencing the main quest, besides the introduction. No one game will ever be the same and if you talked to any other Oblivion games you will most likely have a totally different adventure from them. It's really that huge, and you can do so much that it can be forever consuming.

New, New, New
So what is new in Oblivion from Morrowind? First and foremost Oblivion has a new quest, and mapping system that lets you follow missions more easy, and cures the random running around for hours not knowing what to do next. They also added the option of fast travel, the ability to warp to any pre found area on the map with a single click. The fast travel option along with another new edition of horses makes getting around the world easy and negotiable.

Oblivion also features upgrades besides the new combat system. Your character is more customizable then before featuring full face molding controls and an updated character skills and abilities. There are total of ten races that each have their own unique statistics and abilities (4 human, 3 elf, 3 creature classes). The NPC AI has also been retooled into the new Radiant AI which gives each character their own agenda, and lets them have more interactions with other NPCs. You can now eves drop conversations and gain clues, as well as talk to every in game character that isn't an evil beast. The Radiant AI isn't totally perfect and you will hear some of the same dialog lines often, but giving its only a game, they have stepped up the NPCs considerable from Morrowind.

Next on the new docket is the hotkey system which is like it sounds. The hotkey system is controlled by your D-Pad and can link to anything in your item lists. I divided mine up between magical spells, potions, and weapons. The hotkey system although a limited to eight items is a huge help and keeps you from constantly going back to your menu to equip a new item or spell. It's absolutely crucial in some battles to be able to switch between spells, and weapons. The only real problem with the hot keys is that eight choices aren't enough. A good suggestion for next time would be multiple hotkey entries, one for each section of the inventory, i.e.. weapons, magic, items, scrolls.


The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

2K Games
March 2006

Players 1
HDTV 720p
Xbox Live Aware