Monday, May 22, 2006

Video Game Review: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

If I could sum up Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in one word it would be “overrated.” I rented the game this weekend from Hollywood video. Now, before I go into the review I want to get this off my chest. Hollywood video charges 7.99 to rent an XBOX 360 game, which is a dollar more than a regular XBOX game. In addition, rental fees for all systems have gone up a dollar. Now, I understand retail places charging a dollar more for their wears due to increased gas prices, which make shipping more expensive, I can even understand a pizza delivery place charging a dollar to deliver, but there is no reason Hollywood Video should be able to charge a dollar more to rent games, let a lone a premium price to rent an XBOX 360 game.

Oblivion is a very pretty game, with great sound, that is about as exciting a game to play as Fly Fishing Unleashed. I’m sure there is some very rewarding game play in there somewhere, but I’m not able to find it.

First off, the game structure is a pain in the ass to understand. I know that this game is designed so that you’re not really supposed to understand what you’re doing while building your character the first time through, but being that it takes 40 some odd hours to beat it, I’d rather be able to know what I’m getting into a head of time.

Second, after six hours of playing and beating small quests, I’m still at a level one character with no idea how to level my character up. I’m got these “Major” skills to improve with little to no insight on how to improve them.

Third, the menu system is complicated to navigate and understand. I took at least a half hour just trying to get to the spells section so I could set a hot key.

Fourth, there is no option to shrink or enlarge or otherwise resize the resolution. Now, this might not be a big deal to most people, but I have an old school CRT rear projection HDTV, which are notorious for not being able to display the edges of a picture. Unfortunately, the designers of Oblivions decided to put all sort of message right along the border, messages that I can’t see. It would have been nice to be able to do something about this.

Fifth, the game is slooooooow, too slow in my book. This is by design because the makers wanted a role playing game with the freedom of a Grand Theft Auto world mechanic. You can do the missions, or spend hours doing little side quest and just farting around. While this is great in modern times, it falls a little flat in medieval times.

Sixth, getting around is a pain. Many of the cities are very large and you have to keep swapping to a separate screen to see the map. It would have been nice if I could have put a small map in the upper right of the screen. It’d have made moving around easier. Maybe this is possible, I don’t know, because as I said before the menu system is overly complicated. However, it was a nice touch to put in the “jump” feature that allows you to jump from town to town instead of walking the whole way.

Now, on to the positives…

First, this game is beautiful, I mean stunning. The sheer size and scope of the world is incredible, and I hear looks even better on the PC. My only gripe is the periodic loading of new areas, which sometimes can get boring to sit through if it’s big. This isn’t horrible because the big loads are far and few between.

Second, the music in this game is as incredible as the visuals. The score is perfect for the setting and surroundings, changing at times to meet the changes in game play.

Third, the voice acting is also great. I don’t think the voices always meet the visuals of the people using them, but any game that uses (sing it now) Captian Jean Luc Piccard of the USS Enterprise, gets a thumbs up by me. It’s a shame that I didn’t get to hear too much more from him.

Fourth, the control is spot on. I did pick up on the control of the game quickly and thought it felt sharp and accurate. I have no grips in this category. The ability to switch between third and first person is a nice touch, appealing to which ever style of play someone prefers to use.

Overall I’m sure this is a pretty good game, and probably the standard bearer of the genre. However, this doesn’t suit my fancy or my tastes, so I can’t totally flame it. I’m a more traditional Japanese style RPG fan, and the Elder Scrolls style game play never really appealed to me that much. There are a lot of statistics and tracking things you need to know about, and it was just a bit of overkill for me. I like the idea of not leveling up just by killing people for no reason, but if you’re going to do that you’ve got to make it a bit easier to figure out how to do it. I’m a fan of simpler is better when it comes to character stats and leveling, with more detailed growth as an option and not a necessity. This game might appeal to you, which is why I caution you to rent it first instead of buying it, even if it does cost 8 bucks. Its worth it just to take a few hours to ride around on your horse and look at stuff.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck Bethesda, fuck Oblivion, fuck the Elder Scrolls.

Softpedia Review

11:51 AM  

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