A few months back I ran into a friend on mine who was on and on about Oblivion. For those who are blissfully ignorant, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is an action oriented role playing game by Bethesda Softworks. He was so persuasive, that I finally got hold of the game and decided to have a go at it first thing when I was a little free. So about three months after first getting it, I finally had some time yesterday evening and decided to install and see what the game was all about.
The first thing you notice (or should I say hear) when you start the game, in this amazing title soundtrack. The only thing I can say is, Wow! Awesome music, it captivates you instantly. The story and cut-scenes following the initial game introduction are equally breathtaking. The next thing you do is choose your character. You can actually design your character the way you want him(/her, not sure if a female character is allowed) to look. Nice piece of technology, but kinda unimpressive. OK so you can change the look and feel of the character, big deal!
When the game begins, you immediately have a couple of characters talk to you. One thing I noticed is the facial animation system. Oblivion uses the famous Gamebryo engine, so I was more than eager to see what the guys had put in on top of that. The facial morph animation system looks good, but still not as good as the Source Engine’s facial animation system in Half-Life 2. I must say, not bad.
As the game progress, you are taken through tunnels and dungeons. The pace of the game is good, but I am not too impressed with hand to hand combat. Another thing that ticked me off is an extremely difficult weapon selection window/dashboard. The designers have crammed an insane amount of things in that small dashboard including spells and what not. You have to be pretty quick on the keyboard while selecting a weapon or spell, else you can get mutilated really quickly. This can get real annoying at times when there are too many enemies around. Playing the game, you end up spending nearly 40% of your time on the dashboard selecting and sifting through things. I mean, come on, selection via dashboard, didn’t the designers find any better way to do that?
Another thing that impressed me are the terrain and the atmospheric effects. I must say they are good and add good cohesion to the game play. The game features some interesting effects like moving-grass, thunderstorm, rain and fog. It is commendable that the game manages to keep a playable FPS with all these effects ON, but the results of level of detail calculations are painfully obvious on my dirt cheap 6200 card. I also liked the effects for the Oblivion gate, ooh! you have got to see that.
The gameplay is designed to allow the player to explore and lure him into a sense of a limitless world. This can get confusing at times resulting in the player losing focus of his goal. Sometimes the goal is not clear, sometimes you tend to wander off, or take a wrong turn and get lost, sometimes you can go around in circles. The game, I think, allows you to explore more than what is needed. You can enter any inn, house, castle and anything else and explore. Apparently, you tend to gain very little by exploring and in fact get yourself in trouble if you talk to a wrong person. You can directly approach your goal without exploring anything and it makes little difference to the game, maybe it does, but nothing is made clear.
The game features impressive enemies, but their role is not immediately apparent. Some enemies can pop-up in strangest of places, some just wander the terrain. Some just hit you for no reason and others don’t even seem like enemies till they throw a lightening bot at you. Why? Maybe things will get clearer as I progress. There seems to be one more thing, enemies get harder to kill as you progress. I am currently inside the Oblivion gate and I can tell you killing anything here is pretty damm hard! Thus far the game seems OK, not the best I have played, but good enough to continue playing, which could be a while since I am like extremely busy on the game release.