Well it’s time for another promo review and because Skyrim is almost upon us and I decided to give my thoughts on its predecessor, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Now, just as a quick warning to all you fanboys out there, I won’t be pulling any punches for this one. Because the game is so old, this review will be more on how the game holds up today rather than how it was when it was first released. I’ll try to take into account how influential it was for other games and how it was when it was first released but for the most part, this will be more on how well it holds up today. So if you get pissed off at what I say for this, please leave your insulting comments to a minimum. So here we go. These are my thoughts on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
The Plot and Characters
I decided to put these two together because I’ve often found that the plots and characters of games with complicated gameplay is usually what determines how well a game will hold up in the long term, not unlike the way movies do and because both have the same strengths and weaknesses. The plot of Oblivion revolves around your character who is trying to help the last heir of the empire of Cyrodiil prevent an invasion from the realm of Oblivion.
Unfortunately, this is an area where the game fell flat and even fanboys of the series don’t deny this. Now I will say that the concept of the realm of Oblivion was pretty cool and is a one that holds up even today. But unfortunately nothing else does. It took nearly every fantasy cliché in the book and portrays it in its blandest and most uninspired form.
Ultimate Evil trying to destroy or take over the world? Check
Basterd son of a king/emperor tries to take the throne? Check
Wizard and/or politician who wants to get in hero’s way and make evil succeed? Check
Current Kingdom based on some old Empire? Check
Some random dude who gets caught up in this B.S. for no apparent reason? Check
Red Shirt Characters? Check
Protagonist Getting Captured? Check
Now in fantasy, it’s nearly inevitable that these clichés are going to appear and they usually do. However, most fantasy writers actually have the brains to put some kind of new twist on the whole thing and that’s where Oblivion really dropped the ball in the plot department. Now some people may argue that it’s an older game so they may not have thought to put new spins on these things.
Considering that writers had already been putting fresh spins on these clichés for nearly a decade before this game came out, I don’t think that argument is going to fly.
I think what really pisses me off about this is that the developers have proven that not only can they write decent plots and characters to their games but they can do a great job at it. To me, the plot of Oblivion just seems, and has always seemed, like an excuse to make the game rather than a compelling story and it just pisses me off to no end.
The characters aren’t much better and suffer from the same problems in writing. Their facial expressions are very wooden and could be really creepy at times and even great voice actors like Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean couldn’t lift the blandness that the graphics and writing portrayed.
Then we have the protagonist. Ugh….Where do I even begin with this guy? He’s not compelling in the least bit. There are very rarely any dialog options for the character, (something that RPGs had been doing for a while even before this game came out), and he has zero back story. You literally know nothing about this character and it’s as if he never existed before the game began. With other RPGs like KOTOR and later ones like Fallout 3, you could actually select the character’s dialog from a list of options which in turn made the character compelling and it was almost like you were the character you were playing as. Your protagonist in this game just lacked any of that and this was something I had a gripe with even when it was first released
All around, the plot and characters sucks. Again, the only thing that really holds up or was even good when it was released was the realm of Oblivion and even that’s open for debate. It’s not a storyline that I have any respect for and the characters are just as bad and these categories are probably worst I have ever seen with a game with such widespread critical acclaim.
While the plot of the game was god-awful, most people tend to run to the gameplay for their reasons in praising it. And to be fair, it was really good for its time. The large open world was unlike any other of its time, with an endless number of things to do, that included various guild quests, (but we’ll get into those in a minute), being able to customize and armor your character anyway you sought fit and being able to pick up nearly every object and enter every building and all of these things keep players, (myself included), coming back for more.
There were things, however, that were bad even when it first came out. The environments seemed to repeat themselves over and over again and you see the same dungeon and ruins designs over and over again and it gets a little tedious. The other thing that was really aggravating was the combat gameplay as it always felt stiff, clunky and a bit of a button masher, (I can’t begin to count how many times I won a fight by just back stepping and swinging my claymore).
As I mentioned the main story is crap and the missions for them are just as clichéd and repetitive. The only guild storyline that I found appealing in the game was The Dark Brotherhood storyline. The rest, however, just felt like they were written for ten year olds, (working your way up the ranks of each guild in a ridiculously small amount of time and becoming the head of it and so forth).
Now, allow me to talk about the elements that don’t hold up well today. The graphics are no longer appealing and just about everything that was good about Oblivion was made obsolete by Fallout 3. Granted, the game does owe a lot to Oblivion but it’s still a fact.
All around, when the game first came out and when we walked through the world for the first time it was amazing and the good outweighed the bad back then. Today, however, it’s nothing special. Everything that was good when it was first released has been made obsolete by the games that have come sense and the bad things have only gotten worse.
Ultimately, this game does not hold up well at all and is one of the fastest aging games I’ve ever seen. I don’t mean to pan this game because I did like it when I first played it but everything that was good about it became obsolete the moment Fallout 3 hit the shelves and the bad things that everyone seems to ignore have only gotten worse. I won’t do a numerical rating on this game because it wouldn’t be on par with the rest of this review, but suffice to say that I wouldn’t recommend buying this game now. Again, don’t get me wrong. I did and do like it and it was great when it first came out but has quickly proven itself to be the fastest aging game I have ever seen.
So what’s next for the franchise? Well, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hyped. I can’t honestly say that it’s going to fix all the problems that I had with Oblivion but it definitely looks like they improved on all of them. The graphics look amazing, the combat gameplay looks vastly improved on, the character interactions look great, there appears to be an endless number of things to do and you get to kill a s**t ton of dragons! Granted I wasn’t sold at the teaser trailer the way I was with Mass Effect 3 or The Dark Knight Rises but now it seems like it will be the best of 2011. And I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
So until next time this is The Illusive One saying….
What is this?
Forged in God’s very flames!
Do mine eyes
Tell me lies,
A new Elder Scrolls Game?
Time is nigh
I must fly,
Venture forth on my quest!
And goodbye Girlfriend’s breasts!
I’ll be off
Catch you later Hyrule!
I’ll be gone
I’m no longer your fool!
Filled the gap
While I waited to begin…
The adventure of my life in the land of Skyrim!