Having played a ton of Skyrim and Dawnguard lately, I decided that I wanted to take a break from the fifth installment in the Elder Scrolls series, but still had a desire to play a game of the same style. I had only seen friends play Oblivion before, but had never picked it up myself. So when I found the game of the year edition at Best Buy for $20 I decided to buy it and finally give it a shot. I was concerned that it would be difficult to go back to Oblivion seeing as it is over five years old now, but quickly realized that this was not the case.
Unlike Skyrim, Oblivion has an opening cutscene, something that’s fairly uncommon in Bethesda titles. Fallout 3 and Skyrim had no cutscenes, simply scripted events that took place in front of your character, with the exception of Fallout 3’s slide shows. However, seeing an opening cutscene was a great way to begin the game as a way to introduce the situation and conflict of Oblivion. Seeing the Imperial City from above, the planes of Oblivion and the siege engine, and the Emperor moments before his death, helped to create an amazing sense of scale and adventure. The graphics, while clearly dated, still look great for a game of its time granted its sheer size. Oblivion’s map is easily larger than Skyrim’s, and each city truly feels unique and significant, while some of those in Skyrim fell a bit short of this.
Despite my excitement to finally play Oblivion, I knew from the start that I would dread the leveling system. Friends had told me that it was obnoxious and hard to actually spec your character correctly. Skyrim’s leveling system was much simpler in comparison, allowing players to dabble in any skill and level up from their progression. However, in Oblivion, you’re forced to choose “major skills” which you have to increase your skill in if you wish to level up. The skills that you don’t choose as major skills are considered minor skills, and do nothing to level you up. “So what?” you might be thinking. Just choose major skills that you would primarily use anyway such as blade, acrobatics, heavy armor, etc. The problem with doing this is that you will level very quickly, and you stand the chance to make the game very difficult for yourself since enemies level up when you do. Because of this I was very cautious in choosing my skills, and by the time I finished the game and its two DLCs I was only level 12. The problem becomes, better gear is available to you at higher levels, and every Daedric quest has its own level requirement as well. You’re required to complete a Daedric quest for the game’s main story, and fortunately one of them only has a level requirement of 2.
In regards to the game’s story, I found Oblivion to have a much better main quest line than Skyrim. Oblivion’s story was much longer, and had several optional quests as well, such as gaining the aid of every city for one of the later quests. The number of Oblivion gates that popped up around the Imperial Heartland was staggering, and each one could be entered, and closed for good. Keeping in the theme of the Elder Scrolls games, Oblivion offers different guilds for you to join, each with their own quest line and ranks for you to attain. In Skyrim I found some of the guilds not to have much of a story, although in Oblivion each guild had a very well written story, with fleshed out characters and conflicts. The number of plot twists in Oblivion is astounding, and very few of them are actually easy to call out before they happen. Even after over forty hours sunk into the game, I’ve only completed the main quests, the guilds, and both DLCs. I’ve barely started on the abundance of side quests.
The game’s score is tremendous, the main theme consisting of horns and trumpets as opposed to Skyrim’s drums and chanting. Oblivion’s Imperial City is massive, having a Roman Empire feel to it that compliments the already inspiring score. The surrounding countryside is well populated with ancient ruins, bandit camps, mines, and much more. Dungeons have much more complex puzzles, making the game overall much tougher, requiring much more attention to detail and keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary that can help you reach your next objective. Despite its age and outdated graphics, Oblivion is a terrific game, one that I am very happy to have gone back to the previous iteration of the Elder Scrolls series. While I have issues with its leveling system, there are several aspects of Oblivion that I prefer to Skyrim.
- Well written quest lines
- Great gameplay
- Complex dungeons
- Flawed leveling system
- Numerous glitches