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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360) artwork

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360) review


"You vain piece of scum! Really think your pretty face matters while you’re standing behind bars, all up in shackles? Ha! Well enjoy your meager trace of freedom while it lasts, at any rate; which the Dark Elf man across the hall tells you with spite, is quickly burning from both ends. "



You vain piece of scum! Really think your pretty face matters while you’re standing behind bars, all up in shackles? Ha! Well enjoy your meager trace of freedom while it lasts, at any rate; which the Dark Elf man across the hall tells you with spite, is quickly burning from both ends.

“The guards!” he elates, “They’re coming. For you.”

Apparently so, as the suggestive echo of armored footsteps soon after reveals itself to be a small unit of well equipped Imperial knights clamoring down the stone stairwell, who are dead intent on approaching your personal quarter.

They’re surprised by your presence. The hardened female captain inquires to one of her men as to why you’re being kept in an area specified to be off-limits, who after being quick with an excuse on his good behalf, demands you to stand back, take your place by the window on the far side.

Wait.

As they enter, you realize that the guards are not by their lonesome, but accompanied by. . .the Emperor? Uriel Septim the Seventh, in your near vicinity? While they don’t make it obvious, I’m sure those who held the helm of the script meant very strongly to imply that your avatar gets the severe squishy-butts from sheer excitement.

Or not. Considering that one of your dialogue choices is the question: Who are you?

Regardless, what follows are a series of events that unfold in a greatly crafted fashion, through the depths of a crypt beneath the Imperial Palace and into the unknown sprawls of a system of caves, using skill and perception to defend your well being against the attacks of the first of your long line of adversaries, eventually running again, into the entourage of soldiers that previously left you for dead behind a locked door.

After the ruler decides that you may join them in the rear ranks and works a bit of his voodoo fortune telling on you, you’ll watch his bodyguards slice through repeated waves of assassins in the name of their homeland.

You are eventually complicated in the plot of things when a distraught (and clearly overly trusting) Emperor Septim, appoints to you the task of seeking out a man named Jauffre and delivering his Red Amulet of Forbidden Love – or something to that extent – and assisting in the deconstruction of the Oblivion Gates. Not a moment too soon, as after his closing words, the man is fatally wounded by a stealthy blade, who’s bearer leaps from the confines of a hidden passageway.

A matter of great urgency, and no small importance. Which is why you can get around to it whenever the hell you feel like it.

Being an open ended role-playing outing, the choice of whether or not to jump right into the game’s main quest line is left to you, but doing so will put to waste all of the freedom that the fourth entry into The Elder Scrolls series has brought to the table. To explore the land of Cyrodiil is a marvelous journey, even without entering a single ruin, fort or cave. Set in a great basin, at the far edges of the realm there can be so great a view into the center that you’ll want to spend more than a minute to marvel its beauty. Not only there, either, no; all around, there is something great to see.

The charred remains of a once prosperous township, who’s inhabitants still strongly insist on staying their home and keep a devious, cruel secret, more than willing to retaliate against a party, too curious for their own good.

Want to see more? Simple.

Walk around.

The most prominent reason as to why you may want to skip out on the game’s option of ‘Fast Travel’ which instantly teleports you from map mark to another. Fast and easy does not lead to being impressed and contentment, especially in this case.

For those who do care to risk their hides by adventuring forth and raiding dungeons, there is little disappointment to be found. While overall designs remain on the simple side, it must be noted that simplicity may be an art form on its own, as what they present you with is immersive and mood setting, ranging from the sense of exhilaration that wandering over the broken tiles of an ancient temple filled with angry necromancers conveys, or the sheer apprehension of navigating the lightless corridors and inner sanctums of a deeply wound cavern, the entrance of which was largely under the cover of overgrown foliage. Yet still, you enter, craving and with a sense of wonder.

The denizens and loot that you’ll find are placed in a method according to the level of your character, which means actually having a desire to exercise your skills and become enlightened, experienced enough to find snazzy new toys to play with and utilize on your path to mastery. Many have issued complaint about this facet, claiming that in doing, the creators have removed any sense of accomplishment and scale that the game may have been possible of providing, as you’ll never be faced with a single opponent who’s armament and techniques greatly overshadow your own.

But upon further examination, this was more than likely a crafty way of Bethesda to rain on the parade of the tools that would, in the previous installment, shroud themselves from the enemy’s sight and perform speed runs into the harder trials to nab the best equipment and return to the daylight unscathed. Instead of furthering your will to procure the most frightening of weapons in whatever means necessary, as early on as possible, it adds a little more poke to the fire that drives you to new heights of self-improvement.

And for those who bore of doing their best Indy impression, Cyrodiil is absolutely packed with quests to complete. Whether it’s obvious or not, there has been a decline, it seems, in the number available to you in whole, but the way in which they were written to be presented to you is often awe-inspiring, and otherwise, strikingly unique, sometimes even with a touch of subtle, twisted humor. One such escapade finds you while bumming around the only big city in the East, when you inadvertently stumble across a rumor about a magnificent artist who has recently gone missing. Eager to lend your talents to the man’s wife who is beside herself with worry, you begin an investigation. What you’ll find is an amazing work of art, indeed, more beautiful than the forest beyond the town gates in its own right.

All that you will ever see before you is a true, lasting treat for the eyes.

However. I feel that it is my duty to bring to the surface, my gripe about progression. The old mantra, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ has been ignored for the better, allowing the creators to expand and add flair to conventions that weren’t in any dire need previously, but suffered from a coat or two of mundane paint that detracted from the appeal.

What goes on to be the most displeasing and frustrating thing about the entirety of the experience, is that, what was needing repair and a great deal of TLC, was simply removed.

Being an avid, very passionate fan of spears and medium armor, did nothing to alleviate this blow dealt by developer laziness. Entire categories of weapon and protection alike were axed, as well as certain available skills, even small nuances such as being able to fully customize your suit of armor, so haunting because they’ve gone unaccounted for, and strip an appreciated degree of variety from your time at the controller and from the appearance of your character.

While Bethesda has made several leaps forward with The Elder Scrolls IV, you’d have to stretch this particular motion far past the breaking point to consider it anywhere near a step in the right direction, or even a front facing intention.

As much as I hate to say it (for the damned lack of spears alone), there’s no denying that given leeway and an unbiased outlook, you’ll be able to disregard any amount of pain enough to fully enjoy everything that is well intact and, to a great extent, much better than before. And whenever it may be that you grow weary of your days as an adventurer, marauder, whatever - you’re free to begin the act of becoming a renowned aid to the Empire in its time of need, and liberating its reaches from the threat of an evil Daedric prince, and his portals that invite upon a nation the minions of Hell itself.

Adventure. Glory. Tragedy. Cult and Worship. Murder. Vengeance.

Considering the price that one might pay to receive that sort experience in our world, money isn’t so much of an asking for the complete, virtual package. Mind you, there’ll be an extra charge for having as much fun as there is to be had here, regardless of the pretty case’s lack of exclaimer. No, for that kind of enjoyment, you’ll end up devoting amounts of patience, time and effort that will often borderline on the absurd and inane.

But gamers who know this full-well, go in willing and with an open mind (and schedule), will no doubt be pleased in more ways than a few, and if not feeling justly rewarded for all of their hard work, at least believing that they put a slew of free time to the best waste possible.

Rating: 7/10

carcinogen_crush's avatar
Community review by carcinogen_crush (April 06, 2007)

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