The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion -- First Impressions Feature - The Next Level

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion -- First Impressions

Candice covers the bases and lets us in on her first journey to Oblivion.

Article by Candice Shane (Email)
March 27th 2006, 10:35PM

There is a strange calm that rushes over you when you see the logo of your favorite game melt onto the screen. The melodic hum of the title music, the slow fade from white into a deep leather tan, that was what it felt like to sit in front of the 65" HDTV in our living room and play Morrowind.

So you can quite easily imagine what one would've gone through after hooking up HD composite cables to the television and watching the title for Oblivion. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced, like the bewilderment after childbirth when you go through the pain only to be given sweet release, sweaty and enraptured by what rested before you. That pain was the years between the last expansion to Morrowind and the release of Oblivion. Did most people have such glittering comparisons? Am I the only one to explain it as if I were writing love letters to my soldier boyfriend?


With all that put to rest, the game starts and you find yourself amidst the radiance of a world that derails completely from its predecessor. Upon wandering through the long grass and flowers, you take note of just how bleak the world of Morrowind truly was. There is barely a flower or a green blade of grass. It seems as if the artistic license of our mind is finally let onto a canvas, thanks to Bethesda Softworks. So gorgeous to look at and even softer and sweeter to the ears this time around, could it be? Would this be the game that the Xbox 360 needed? It showcases the professional details that we had been waiting for. Forget what Rare showed us with Perfect Dark Zero, completely disregard whatever you might've thought the "killer app" was. They are all debutantes at Oblivion's ball.

While I could sit here and blubber to everyone, getting emotional and whatnot, there's more to this game than the sum of its parts. While it's packaged in perfection and the graphics push the 360 to its very edge, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's without flaw. The physics engine was such a huge focal point this go around, so how come it still lacks realism? In the video before release, the narrator boasted how you could shoot bows into the bucket and the bucket would swing as if in reaction to the arrows. You could then go pull the arrows from the bucket and so on and so forth. Obviously this took a team of people to accomplish, but what about other weapons? When I took my newly found sword and slashed at the bucket, it didn't move, even once, which was disconcerting because I was chopping pretty damn hard there. I swung at the rope that HELD the bucket and nothing. Did it break? Move? All the answers would lead to no, and this was my first main disappointment. Don't boast about the physics so much when the realism only applies to one weapon and its interaction.

For those of you that had the pleasure to play Morrowind and actually enjoy it, I say this to you: Crates. Remember how you could go to virtually any place and every single box, crate, bag, bucket and barrel was yours to open and inspect? It's not so this time. You can't pick every piece of flora in this game either. In fact, sometimes it'll just tell you that you shouldn't be interested in that particular foliage, and you should move on. Why? I guess they had way too much flora and fauna to declare it all a part of the game. Perhaps all those crates that you can't look at are just splashed onto the background for looks, because we all know how interested we are in seeing boxes. They could've at least given us SOMETHING to look at rather than patronizing us for wanting so badly to see what was in that box, I mean, they're the ones who originally turned us into pack rats. Morrowind was to blame when I'd walk down the street and want to go rooting through someone's mailbox. There might've been treasure in there, you know?

With the addition of new physics and graphics, they've given us much more leeway for customizing our characters. My character, a rogue named Matay Gawthain, found herself to be rather beautiful. I could lift her chin a little, push in her nose and widen her eyes, a gorgeous brunette with soft caramel skin. Could I have done this with most other games outside of simulations? No, of course not. In Morrowind, you stumbled upon many of your clones in other cities. There were no chances of making attractive characters because there was nothing you could do. You couldn't make someone terrifying because a good chunk of the NPC characters looked the same. With this one tweak alone, the game opens up thousands of possibilities that weren't there before.

Like in most games, however, when they change up the menus and action buttons -- things can get sticky. They generally do, and everyone gasps and wails about the difficulty to jump, now that it's not on the right trigger. The menu that you use to shuffle through items, maps, quests and such has been drastically reduced to something that fits on half your screen, scrolling down like a piece of muddled parchment that is barely readable and horrifying to maneuver. I would've been much happier with the Morrowind menu, personally. If only there was downloadable content that would open this up and give you an option for a new menu or the older more picture-friendly menu. That'd be enough to keep a girl like me around.

A clever addition is fast travel, which helps immensely when you're submerged in a world as large as Oblivion's. This is a welcome change over the previous games, where you'd start out on a Silt Strider and end up stumbling upon evil gremlins that are five times your strength because your map didn't tell you that there was a nest so close. You just wanted to get to the cave, collect the ebony and go back. Why must we detour through every quest because of geography? Well, the developers felt our pain and included fast travel, which puts a small blue arrow on your compass and leads you in the right path no matter what, and if that wasn't sweet enough, you can pretty much get from Mages Guild to Mages Guild with a flick of your cell-shaded wand.

Does this all come together well? Of course. The properties that needed to be updated were fixed and with few faults to its name, Oblivion delivers on every level. Nobody could make something absolutely perfect, but they came pretty damn close for a game released in March, when the 360 was released less than six months ago. For anybody who misses the experience of becoming a character in a game, for anyone who seeks out the answer to all those questions we had upon 360's launch day; there is Oblivion. As for any other questions you might have, pick it up and see for yourself because you certainly won't be sorry.

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