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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion PC Review
game: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
five star
posted by: Sean Hilliard
publisher: 2K Games
developer: Bethesda Softworks
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 11:01 PM Sun Apr 9th, 2006
last revision: 11:05 PM Sun Apr 9th, 2006

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion instantly brings to mind the time on The Simpsons when the game Bonestorm was popular with Bart and Milhouse.

\"Whoa, Bart! This game is blowing my mind and all I\'ve done is entered my name.\"

By the time all but the most jaded gamers have entered their name in Oblivion, they can consider their minds blown. That\'s how great this game is.

All right, I know what you\'re thinking - five stars out of five? But this guy\'s the most jaded gamer ever - he\'s never given anything more than three stars. There\'s got to be something wrong with Oblivion? Yeah, well, there is. But Oblivion is still as close to perfect as you can get, without playing Heaven: The Game.

It\'s hard to fault a game like Oblivion, but I\'ll try anyway. First of all, the load times are a little on the atrocious side. Not only are they long, but they\'re everywhere. You can\'t escape them, except when you\'re freewheeling through the wilderness atop a horse, looking for the next dungeon to plunder.

Secondly, the game can be hard. And this is almost the exact opposite kind of difficulty we \"enjoyed\" in Morrowind. The developers made a sloping difficulty curve so that inexperienced gamers can jump right into the main quest, when they really should be doing side quests for a while first. This means that no matter what level you are, the enemies you face are always equally matched. That\'s great for the noobs, but what about level 13 beasts like myself? I don\'t want to find myself getting stomped by little dinosaurs in the main quest when I\'ve just taken command of all four guilds in the game! Sheesh. I just killed the listener of the Dark Brotherhood, along with most of his advisors and bodyguards - why do I have to struggle with Clanfears?! You\'d think my Longsword of Pain would kill the stupid dino with one swipe. But no. It\'s a real shame when you\'re more than 40 hours into a game and start having real troubles. Continuous challenges are good, but there should be some beasts we can walk through with no problem once we\'re the most afeared whatever in Tamriel.

Well, now that that\'s out of the way, can we get back to how great this game is? The action in Oblivion follows different quest sequences that come in three varieties: There are the main quests, which take you through the overarching story of the game. There are also guild quests, which have you joining the four major factions found in the various cities and ascending to the top of their ranks until you wield monopolistic guild control. Finally, there are the miscellaneous quests you perform for the numerous citizens of Tamriel, ranging from collecting man-eating fish to corporate espionage.

Thieves Guild quests are sufficiently nerve-wracking, and Dark Brotherhood quests are perfectly challenging. Fighters Guild quests have you taking out all manner of tough warriors, and the Mages Guild is chock full of necromancers waiting to be blasted out of their clogs.

It just doesn\'t get better than that. The guild quests are much more accessible than in Morrowind, the previous Elder Scrolls game, and frankly, they\'re more fun and exciting. For example, by the end of the thieves guild quest sequence, you end up stealing one of the legendary Elder Scrolls in the biggest heist in the history of Tamriel. The Dark Brotherhood actually gives you rewards for killing guys by using stealth. The Fighters Guild has you invade a competing mercenary group by joining it, and eventually you take out everyone there. The Mages Guild is simply incredible. Wait until you see how you get to the top in it.

In fact, the road to the top of each guild is full of perils and surprises. I can\'t strongly recommend enough joining one or even all of them, if only for the experience.

The Main quest, despite its difficulty, is loaded with jaw-dropping surprises. The end of it leaves you with both shock and concern, as it should, Because this is an Elder Scrolls game, and you shouldn\'t be happy with any ending in this series of games. If you were, it would only mean that there wouldn\'t be another one. And there has to be an Elder Scrolls V out there somewhere in some developers\' mind.

I know you\'ve read Chris Martin\'s review of the Xbox 360 version by now, so I won\'t try to expand on anything he\'s mentioned, but I can\'t talk enough about how great it is to jump on a horse, whether stolen or earned the fair way, and ride around seeking adventure and loot.

The one set of quests that I loved the most in Morrowind were the daedric quests. They\'re back in Oblivion and better than ever. However, you can\'t complete most of them until you are a high level character. For most of them, you really ought to be above level 20, and that may turn off some gamers. However, it\'s worth it in the end.

The only daedric quest you really get to complete for the main storyline is \"Azura\'s shrine,\" who you may remember from Morrowind as the lady who talks to you after you kill the boss of that game. Completing her quest was one of the toughest tasks I had to face in Oblivion, and the required level for Azura\'s quest is level two. Level two, for crying out loud! Imagine how hard the daedric quest is that requires you to be over level 20. However, the rewards for the quest were well worth it, as I walked away from Azura\'s shrine with a nearly complete set of ebony armor and an awesome glass claymore (really big sword).

The major difference between the PC version and the Xbox 360 version of Oblivion is the ability to mod the PC version. This might seem like a small thing, but, in fact, the Oblivion mod scene is already alive and well worth looking into. There are mods to reconfigure the interface to be more PC-friendly (again, and ironically, the opposite of the problem with Morrowind). There are also mods to enable a variety of cheats, including removing the undergarments on female characters. Oblivion packs a robust editor to get users going on their mods, and much more info can be found online.

I could seriously go on all day about how great it is to play Oblivion, but there\'s better testimony to it out there: go play it for yourself. This is one title no serious gamer should miss. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is out now, waiting for you to buy it. Do so immediately.

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