The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

RPGs are for geeky kids and men that never really grow up. It's not something I agree with at all, but I'm a geeky man, quite content upgrading HP, gaining levels, learning new spells and improving abilities, so I'm not qualified to question that view on my own. However, Oblivion is a game that puts aside a lot of the old RPG traditions and creates for itself a hybrid based on RPG elements and more modern action-adventure design ideas. This modern RPG is clearly influenced by classic Japanese games, but some of the best elements are integrated with Western gaming culture. The result is more approachable than the likes of Disgaea, but that's not to say it's dumbed down. On the contrary, Oblivion presents one of the most flexible and interesting challenges available. It is, in many ways, the Grand Theft Auto of the RPG world.


Oblivion has a major strength in common with the famous RPG Final Fantasy VII: the moment that the complete game world is revealed to you is one that will stay in your memory forever. Where Final Fantasy impressed with Midgar city, before allowing you to adventure outside, with the realization that Midgar was only a small part of a much larger world to explore, Oblivion goes one step further. You are first forced to traverse dark and oppresive caves before discovering the world of Oblivion which, in this game, features the province Cyrodiil. Roughly two hours into the game (depending on how long you spent making use of the extensive customization options for your character), you exit the initial network of caves and are released into Cyrodiil. You are immediately permitted to go anywhere in this world, one of the most beautifully realized in gaming history. Cyrodiil is jaw-droppingly beautiful and exploring it is an absolute joy.

Unlike more-traditional RPGs, Oblivion does not feature turn-based combat. Bridging the gap between First Person Shooters and menu-driven actions, Oblivion allows you to play from a first- or third-person perspective, engaging in combat and adventure from the character perspective. Aside from brief loading times between areas (an effect minimized for the release on Playstation 3) the game allows you to travel anywhere without hinderance, with no awkward transition to a special battle area. In addition, once you've visited a particular place, you can "fast travel" to that location whenever you are in an outdoor location, but with this game, you may decide that a stroll through the forest is actually quite enjoyable.


Cyrodiil is comprised of beautiful landscapes featuring forests, rivers, lakes and mountains, providing some of the most impressive environments on any console. Spread throughout the land are major cities (most prominently, the Imperial City, where the story begins), as well as numerous smaller villages, broken castles and worn temples. While the cities are perhaps the main feature, since they are populated with interesting citizens that are often willing to propose a new quest (usually with a suitable reward for completion), subsequent tasks frequently see you travelling to specific caves that lead to a second layer of the province. Underneath each grassy plain, the older, underground cities, long abandoned by civilized people, are still present, withstanding the harsh treatment of time harbour under a protective layer of earth. As well as providing a perfect hiding place for ancient relics and interesting treasures, these dark caverns invariably harbour numerous creatures that are far from welcoming. If you choose, you can ignore the main plot and spend all your time seeking quests from the people of Cyrodiil and will probably find yourself investigating a huge amount of the world.

You begin the game in a prison, locked away in the depths of the Imperial City, but are soon paid a visit by the Emperor of Cyrodiil, himself, voiced brilliantly by Patrick Stewart. The Emperor has apparently experienced a vision, featuring your character, and from here, the main plot sees you fighting to save the land from evil foe in traditional style (with swords, spells, persuasive language, stealth and much more). The threat that faces the province focusses around a Lord of Evil (obviously) from an alternate dimension, whose minions are busy creating portals between the twisted, volcanic, desolated plains of Oblivion and the scenic, green, bunny-filled lands of Cyrodiil. It's obviously evil and absolutely must be stopped, but that's fine, because you're there to stop the evil hordes and "close shut the gates of Oblivion".


It's actually quite good fun to take a trip through an Oblivion gate and spend some time battling baddies in massive castles surrounded by lava and is often rewarding in terms of the weapons, armour and other items that are horded in the castles. The gates also form part of the main story, so you'll find yourself engaging in tasks in both Cyrodiil and Oblivion on a regular basis. The extensive customization at the beginning of the game not only determines your character's appearance, but also their skills and other attributes. My own character was strong with magic (particularly healing), which meant that my attacks largely relied on spells, but with training (available from numerous non-playable characters in the game) the character could backup attacks with sword swipes and archery skills. If you'd prefer, you can go for the all-out assault strategy, with big weapons as your key, you can aim for stealth instead, sneaking around to avoid confrontation altogether, you can pursuade people to help out out, and many other options. No two people are likely to experience the same evolution in Oblivion - everyone will develop their character in their own way and approach the game in a similarly-unique fashion.

There are a huge number of people to meet in Oblivion, though you'll quickly start to see familiar faces with mild changes such as hair colour or clothing used to indicate that the person is a different one, but it's not very noticeable, particularly since the regular characters are much more individual. Similarly, the voice work (and there's absolutely tonnes in the game) starts to sound quite familiar, due to the re-use of several key voice actors. These flaws aren't too devastating though, and arguably improve on the text conversation of many RPGs (though the counter-argument is that a text box leaves the voice of the character to your imagination, yielding greater diversity and, quite often, a more fitting voice). The sound package is backed up by solid effects and pleasant orchestral tunes. Inevitably, in such a large game, most of the score will be very familiar by the end of the game, but it survives the test of time very well, particularly the opening score which continues to stir emotions admirably.


The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is one of the greatest RPGs of all time and fills a gap in Playstation 3's capability, early in the console's lifecycle. There are major RPGs on the distant horizon, such as Final Fantasy XIII and White Knight Chronicles but, for now, Oblivion is unchallenged on PS3 and a game with incredible lifespan. There's no online play, and no sign of the Shivering Isles expansion pack (unless you purchase the "Game of the Year" edition of the game, but there's easily 100 hours or more to play offline before any sort of boredom might set in. Get yourself over to Cyrodiil as soon as possible, and get started shutting those pesky gates to Oblivion.

Game details

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Review summary


Infinitely many paths; all fun


Beautiful even after a year


Some voice repetition, but good


Absolutely massive



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