[Overdue Review]: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
It’s been a while since I’ve done an Overdue Review so I figured I’d play a little bit of catch up this weekend. I finally gave Skyrim’s predecessor, Oblivion, a try and I have to say a lot has changed over the last six years. Oblivion still provides the same epic exploration of an Elder Scrolls game, but after the impressive Skyrim, Oblivion is definitely starting to show its age.
Like nearly all of the other Elder Scrolls games you begin as a prisoner. This time you’re locked up in the Imperial City’s dungeon as the Emperor is making an escape from an assassination. You join them in the escape and unfortunately witness the assassination of Uriel Septim. Before he dies he hands you the Amulet of Kings and asks you to find his last remaining heir.
Soon after you leave the sewers you’re left to explore the wide open country of Cyrodil. Compared to Skyrim’s harsh landscape, Cyrodil is far lusher with forests, low grass lands and even a few snowy mountain caps near the north. Though, the landscape is certainly beautiful and varied, the graphic quality has below par to Skyrim’s quality.
Textures in the distance are smoothed out, giving an unpleasant cloudy look upon the surface. The lighting is almost too intense giving a harsh aura reflected off the surface of trees, buildings and essentially any other reflective surface. Character and NPC faces have a near cartoonish look to them which is very unappealing and will make you cringe, more than appreciate. However, Oblivion is a massive game and takes up a lot of resources, so it can be forgiven.
While the graphics haven’t aged so well, it still has the great gameplay elements of an Elder Scrolls game. Exploring Cyrodil and its dungeons are just as enjoyable and deep. Dungeons never feel recycled and are often dark as hell making torches essential. Cities have their own unique looks and layouts. Populations are still sparse, but so were the cities in Skyrim, so things haven’t exactly changed.
Also, leveling up skills is done by earning specific points for your specific class. You can no longer customize your character to your play style. You can customize your own class, but only to a few chosen skills. The choice is still there, however.
Item lists are far more organized in Oblivion. Skyrim, while still somewhat organized, made losing items in the mess fairly easy. PC players of Skyrim already have a mod which fixes this problem, but seeing your lists broken up into deeper lists of stuff makes things easy to find in Oblivion.
Combat is little clunkier and you don’t have any nifty kill animations so winning fights aren’t quite as satisfying. And if you were a successful archer in Skyrim, don’t expect the same in Oblivion. Bows are exceptionally weak, even if you choose the archer class at the beginning of the game. But, when all is said and done you can still derive some satisfaction from taking on a tough enemy.
Quests are still just as epic, odd, frightening, mysterious and funny. The main quest is decent enough as you face off against the Daedric lord Mehrunes Dagon, but the best quests (as with any Elder Scrolls game) are the ones that dig into the worlds deep lore. Finding the quests leading to ruins and historical places still provide the life to the exploration of Cyrodil.
My time south of Skyrim has certainly brought me some new experiences in the land of Tamriel. Digging into the deeper lore of the Empire and its people has been a blast. And, of course, slaying goblins is just as fun. However, everything else has not aged so well sadly. Skyrim, simply allows more choice, improved graphics and smoother combat. Oblivion is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking to explore more of The Elder Scrolls, but if you’re used to the streamlined bliss that is Skyrim than you may want to stick to its frozen tundras.
Senior Stiv braves the video game wastelands each day in his own blog The Stick and the Button, go there to check out his other stuff.
For some more Elder Scrolls, check out out review of the first Skyrim DLC: Dawnguard. Too see if other games have held up to the test of time check out some of our other Overdue Reviews.