The Elder Scrolls 3 a.k.a. Morrowind will always be remembered for its stunning visuals, excellent first person perspective (somewhat rare for the RPG genre), and it's hours of completely open-ended gameplay. That game was released in 2002.
It's been four long years, and Bethesda Software had a tough task ahead of them: making a game as visually splendid for today's computers as Morrowind was for PCs back then, at the same time ret-aining the award-winning gameplay. After all, gamers everywhere were waiting anxiously for the next game in the series. Would the sequel deliver?
Enter The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, which was finally released in March of this year.
Put simply, Oblivion is the best-looking RPG to date, and cannot be compared to anything in the genre, eye-candy wise. We'd go as far as to say that visually, Oblivion is to RPG what F.E.A.R was to FPS. This game has the ability to bring even X1900XT and 7900GTX cards down to the vicinity of their knees. Parallax Mapping, Shader Model 3.0, complex and soft shadows, Bloom and HDR effects, Oblivion has it all!
One look at the amount of detail in a single scene will be enough to convince you; the complex movements of grass and foliage, water effects, volumetric and particle effects like smoke, fire effects-all very appealing. The unfortunate thing is that the game is very resource hungry, and needs a real powerhouse rig to play it at 1024 x 768 with all the eye-candy turned on. And believe me when I say this: you won't want to play Oblivion without all the effects cranked up and with AF and AA disabled, because this game is meant to played with all its bells and whistles.
Another problem with Oblivion (although there are third-party patches to fix it) is the LOD draw detail-it's simply horrible. You'll frequently see people suddenly appearing in front of you as you move close to their location. Similarly, a tree will appear, then its leaves will appear as you get closer, and finally, visual effects will be apparent upon getting closer. This is because the game tries to compensate for slower cards by rendering such textures on demand. The problem is that it does this even on the most powerful systems with the latest graphics cards-very irritating.
Gameplay-Awesome As Always!
Oblivion delivers big on this front. You start off in prison, and are freed to partake on a quest for the emperor, who also gets killed early in the game. Now armed with a relic and the knowledge that the gates of Oblivion have been opened, pouring forth a wave of nasty creatures into the world of Tamriel, you set forth on what should be the stuff legends speak of! Character cus-tomisation is good, and there are many classes to choose from. Once again, you cannot increase stats like in a regular RPG, but only by actually performing actions that utilise those stats repeatedly-thereby improving them over time. For example, as a fighter, if you use a lot of swords in a melee, your blade skill will keep on increasing the more baddies you slash up. Also, the more you block attacks, the more your block skill will improve. This is a unique experience and actually works quite well in the game. Combat-whether melee, or ranged or magical-works well, and the spell effects are particularly spectacular. Even the in-game physics is superb-you can actually shoot an arrow at an unsuspecting enemy and watch his body being plucked by the impact, turned around and thrown in a heap: very realistic. It's so pleasurable to see one of your flame spells incinerating someone while he runs around in panic! Oblivion's combat system rewards you every time you score a hit by actually making you feel like it. Likewise, when you're getting thrashed, you vision will blur and sway with the impact-thereby throwing off your aim.
The open-endedness of this game is sheer genius; there's no hurry to complete quests. In fact, you can take as long as you like, exploring the world around you-the fields, the sprawling meadows, the underground caverns, the towns, and the like. If you're in a hurry, though, you can rush around and complete quests. Then there are guilds to join, bounties to collect, people to interact with, weapons to maintain-all vying for some of your time. Oblivion also allows you to buy a horse to speed up your excursions, and you can gallop off to quests, instead of plodding along! All in all, while Oblivion plays slowly for the first hour or so, once you get a few completed quests under your belt and a couple of level-ups.
What gets slightly repetitive, though, is the constant need to travel around from quest to quest, although you can use the map travel system that instantly teleports you to your destination. The actual time spent simply moving around exploring does tend to add up though, and you find yourself actually waiting for some action. We're not sure whether the waiting is bad, or if the anticipation it creates is good-you decide!
Oblivion is an excellent game if you're a fan of the genre-and perhaps even if you aren't. Definitely one of the most anticipated games of 2006, it has delivered with aplomb: I was completely hooked. The only caveat is that Oblivion requires CPU and rendering power, and makes no bones about this. A lot of the gameplay is in its visual element, and if you have a more-than-decent rig, this game is an absolute must-have.