In case you missed it – A retrospective look at The Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be releasing later this year. Today we take a retrospective look at what made its predecessor, Oblivion so great.

by James Donnelly

The folks at Bethesda Game Studios have a motto, “Live another life, in another world” and it is quite apparent that they took this motto to heart in developing the huge, first person RPG the Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion.

To avoid spoiling the story, let’s just say the plot involves a dead emperor, a lost heir to the throne and loads of gates to hell opening all over the land. But the central plot of the game is not where Oblivion begins and ends. It is the world in which the story takes place that will keep you coming back for more. It is a place full with history and lore, a land of myth and legend that you can be a part of. It is the politics and intrigue between rival factions and the influence that you have as a participant in the plotting that make this game one of the greatest role-playing adventures ever made.

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Released in 2006 for the Xbox 360 and PC and later in 2007 for the PlayStation 3, the game was already harnessing the huge potential that the next generation consoles had to offer. This is revealed very early on in the game with the generic race, class and character build which every role-playing game offers, but what set Oblivion apart was the depth of detail that it allowed.

Starting with a selection of ten race classes, including a variety of human and humanoid choices like orcs, elves etc. each with their own respective skill and racial bonuses, the game allows a tailoring of your character beyond anything any game before it has offered. Every facet of your character’s face can be manipulated, distorted and customised until you are left with a wonky eyed, pink freak that glows in the dark, if that is what you want. The designers left the choice completely in the hands of the player.

This notion of choice presents itself in virtually every aspect of the game as well. For instance the style of gameplay can be tailored to suit any taste imaginable. If you prefer to rush in broad sword swinging, cutting your foes from navel to chin, by choosing to become a Nord, a specialist in heavy armour and bladed weapons, would be the best option. On the other hand, if you prefer the subtlety of an assassin, who despatches their foes from the foggy night, creating a wood elf with a disposition for sneaking and backstabbing could be an option.

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All these initial decisions are made during the opening quest where the player finds themselves locked in the dungeons of the Imperial City. A run of the mill plot develops and suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a fight for the very existence of the kingdom. That is about the extent of linearity that the game forces upon you as a player.

After escaping from the prison an on-screen prompt is displayed and you are given some direction to begin saving the land from oblivion or not, again the choice is up to you.

You can, if you are the sort who just gets stuck in, begin the game by opening up your map and fast travel to any city in the land, a great feature if you are not one for hanging about. However, by doing this, the main quest can be over very quickly and so much of the game will have been missed.

An alternative is to just push your thumb stick forward and run off into the horizon. This approach will undoubtedly be the fastest way in which to begin to appreciate the majesty of this game.

Last Updated: April 19, 2011

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