Overrated:- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

As a human being I have faults, one of which is the way I have to have an opinion on EVERYTHING. I know EVERYTHING, and coupled with the immense satisfaction I get from irritating and annoying people for no reason whatsoever, I am simply a nightmare. Being a gamer makes it that little bit worse; I constantly find myself slagging off games I’ve never played or actually REALLY enjoy just because I know it’ll provoke a reaction and, believe me, there’s nothing more hilarious than an irate gamer. Which is why I constantly find myself slagging off the bigger, and more popular games, because the bigger the game, the stronger the reaction. Pro Evo, Fable, Half-Life, they’ve all fallen foul of my own personal ignorance. But whilst there are some games I’ve never really given a chance, there are also some that I simply just don’t get, no matter how much hype and praise they get.

Enter Oblivion, the fourth instalment in The Elder Scrolls series, just one of quite a few games that I can’t seem to see what the fuss is about, no matter how many game of the year awards it has picked up.

Before you ask, and start casting your aspersions, I must state that I have not only played the 360 version of Oblivion, but also the PC iteration of the game too, racking up about 8 hours of game time between the two (4 hours on each) so it’s safe to say I’ve given the game a real chance to impress me. So much so that I REALLY wanted to like this game, and kept trying to convince myself that I did during my time playing the game, but it seems I am immune to Oblivion’s “magic”, pardon the pun.

I’m not just talking about going back and playing Oblivion now, although it’s safe to say it’s not aged well at all, I’m talking about during its initial release, Oblivion did nothing but disappoint.

There’s such a multitude of issues with Oblivion, I simply don’t know where to start.

Credit where credit is due, there’s no denying that Oblivion was a landmark title in terms of design within the gaming environment. The universe in Oblivion is HUGE, perhaps even on a size and scale that we’d not seen before, at least certainly not in such detail. Other titles such as Red Dead Redemption (another game I don’t ‘get’) prove that the world within the game is not the be all, end all, it is merely part of the attraction. Interesting, memorable characters and an emotionally engaging story have to complete the package.

There's a whole lot of nothing out there...

But sadly, Oblivion is like an empty picture frame, the world its set in is breathtaking in scale, there’s just not a lot of exciting things going on inside of it to actually compel you. Its a story the stuff of clichés, nothing you haven’t already seen in one of the slew of macho medieval “epics” that hit cinema screens every year, except it lacks any actual emotional or breathtaking moments. No set pieces, no tugging on your heart strings, the fact that the 10 minute tutorial, in which you create your character and tweak his\her stats is the most exciting part of the game says it all.

It’s almost impossible to make a bad looking game on the P.C platform, especially with the power of current and advancing graphics cards and mod tools, so needless to say Oblivion on P.C looks beautiful. Stunning in fact. You can’t quite say the same for the console versions of Oblivion though because they simply don’t benefit from mod tools and advances in graphics cards.

Initially out in 2006 on Xbox 360 and PC, Oblivion was released alongside the likes of Prey, Gears of War and Resistance: Fall of Man, three games which still stand up in terms of their graphics to this day, which is why it’s especially puzzling that Oblivion looks the way it does on a console. Obviously different game engines have got to be taken into account, and developers Bethesda are hardly known for their graphical ingenuity, but even for its time, Oblivion looked terrible on Xbox 360 and PS3. It looked/looks old, and I don’t mean in an intentional, medieval old looking way either.

Oblivion on a console sports the kind of graphics that can only be found residing in my own, graphical hell. Its textures and detail are so in your face that it makes everything look and feel as if it’s 2D. From stone work to the facial features of characters, you seem to be constantly surrounded by cardboard cut outs, unintentionally eerie. And don’t even get me started on the various graphical glitches and frame rate issues, I’ll save you the tedium.

Oblivion is plagued with graphical glitches

Unfortunately, not only do the game’s horrifyingly aged graphics (at least on 360 and PS3) detract from the overall experience, but the voice acting in both versions of the game go some way to exacerbate the problem. Oblivion”s voice acting felt, and still feels to does this day, incredibly wooden. Maybe that’s down to the incredibly clichéd dialogue the voice actors had to act out, but something just doesn’t seem to sit quite right, a problem which the brilliant, BAFTA nominated score can’t even remedy.

But a game’s poor aesthetics and overall presentation can be forgiven so long as its overall gameplay impresses, after all, presentation is superficial, gameplay is essential. Yet, not even that can be Oblivion’s saving grace, as it features some poor gameplay design choices.

Unlike some, the game’s fast travel system isn’t actually my major gripe with the game. Although it was convenient, having to discover places before you could fast travel to them was a nightmare even if it did allow you to explore the beautiful world Oblivion. Put simply, walking around for hours and hours searching for a location in a game is about as fun as it is in real life (not very).

Nor is my biggest problem with the game’s extremely laborious and repetitive quests. Or even the game’s guild related quests which are puzzling (to say the least) due to the fact that you can become a member of every guild in the one game save, despite conflicts of interest and guild rivalries. Where’s the logic in that? A minor, and some would say, picky point to make, but a point none the less.

Clunky combat is one of the biggest problems with this game

My main issue with Oblivion (except for the aforementioned story), is the way the game controls. Oblivion ranks up there with some of the most awkward controlling games, EVER. Whether you’re playing it in 1st person or 3rd person, attacking and defending feels incredibly flimsy, the exact opposite of fluidity and precision. What should feel like an epic battle for the ages, quickly turns into a frustrating mess as you constantly spam your attacks and blocks in the vague hope you might land a blow, or at least avoid taking one. Being at the core of all of the game’s gameplay, combat within Oblivion SHOULD be far more refined and polished than it actually is, but yet it provides more proof, if proof be needed, that melee combat within first person perspective games doesn’t really work (minus a few exceptions).

The mystique and the allure is clearly there for some, and I honestly hope those who are looking forward to the newly announced sequel (there’s rather a lot of them), Skyrim, get the game they’ve been wanting since they’d finally put Oblivion to bed. Just stop yapping on about how amazing Oblivion is and was ok?

- Kieran Roycroft

Tue, May 3 2011 » Articles, Massively Overated Games..

16 Responses

  1. Mightyles May 3 2011 @ 8:30 am

    I loved this game when it first came out, but it really doesn’t hold up anymore. Long and frequent loading times, texture popping, terrible voice acting… Urgh.

  2. Rax May 3 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    Agreed, was awesome(ish), is now rubbish(ish), bring on Skyrim… ;-)

  3. Jakey Bee May 4 2011 @ 6:19 am

    It was a revolution of it’s time. In 2006. But it’s been 5 years since then. Compared to any other game out there, now at least, it’s no fun unless you’re playing it on PC. Current gen hardware could much better handle a recoded TESIV, but Bethseda is too busy slaving over Skyrim for that. An entry level gaming PC with a GT 430–no, that’s like 120+FPS, too unfair… a Macbook AIR with 256MB DDR3 VRAM could better handle Oblivion then a PS3 or 360 at this point!
    But in a land where the last comparable open world game was Morrowind, I can see why people enjoyed Oblivion. I can’t remember the last hugely open world realistic experience in 2006. I actually spent around 200 or so hours in the world of Oblivion and I don’t remember the fucking name of the region it took place in. Oh, I loved that game.
    So much to bash about that game now, but it really took us like 5 years to bash it. Go Bethseda. Great shelf life.

  4. Dave McHugh May 4 2011 @ 10:33 am

    This would have been so helpful… in 2006 when the game was released. Who are you exactly saving from this 20 dollar or less budget title exactly? Anyone who has played the game and loved it most likely picked it up and dumped a couple hundred hours into it 5 years ago.

    Of course if you pick it up and give it an “8″ hour play through half a decade later it isn’t going to hold up by our heightened standards. Also you stated that you put a fair 8 hours into the game on separate systems. So basically you played the beginning 4 hours into the game twice on different platforms. That isn’t really the same now is it. If you only watch a movie to the middle, stop, rewind, and watch to the middle again, you didn’t watch a full movie.

    Now also you have to look at the land scape of the 360 at the time. It was wildly successful because there were no good RPG’s for the system at the time. We had a few lame JRPG’s that would have been laughable on a PS2.

    So, for anyone that is looking for a cheap title with an amazing amount of content, go pick up oblivion. Like I said, it’s like 20 bucks. It’s not the prettiest, but there is a lot to do if you actually put more than 4 hours in, talk to the NPCs, explore off the beaten path, take part in the main quest, advance beyond level 5 and find there are a lot more enemies in the game. Not to mention the LOOT. Anyone who played Diablo because of a treasure hunting addiction… play Oblivion. You hack and slash, and pick up a ton of crap. What is to hate?

    So go see if you like it for yourself. A used copy is easy to come by and if you don’t like it, GameStop has a 7 day satisfaction guarantee on used titles.

    Any other 5 year old games you want to “save” us from?

  5. Crofterz May 4 2011 @ 11:21 am

    Oh boy, where do I start with the previous comment?

    Mr Dave McHugh, I can’t help but feel that your previous comment was perhaps more of a knee jerk reaction to me bashing a game you like, and thus seems to totally miss the point of the article completely.

    Although the title may suggest otherwise, the “massively overrated” series isn’t about disuading people from buying the game, I am not trying to “save anybody, it’s more about taking a look at some of the games that are renowned or popular, but are simply just not as good as people make out. Hence why, like Oblivion, a lot of these games have cult followings.

    The issues I have with Oblivion are ones that I’ve had with it since it’s release. Although I might say that it hasn’t aged well, that doesn’t mean to say the game looked great when it first came out, in fact quite the opposite in this case.

    Age simply doesn’t effect the validity of this article at all. The game is old. I know it is and I think you’ll find a mention that quite a bit in the actual article, even as far as using exact dates. But like I said, it’s not aimed at disuading anyone from buying it, more analyzing a game held in high esteem among many. It’s essentially the same as if you were studying say, a movie like Citezen Kane, analyzing why it is, or isn’t a good film.

    I guess if you wanted to put a purpose to the article it’s actually aimed at existed Obliion fans, trying to convince the game is simply not that good, the exact opposite of what you’re suggesting.

    And the arguement about the amount of hours I’ve pumped into Obliion doesn’t really stand up. Yeah I played the same bit twice because I gave the game a chance to win me over again. How on earth could I have skipped to another part of the game? Simpy played through it all and carried on where I had previously stopped?

    If so then that’s further proof that Obliion isn’t as good as even you think. Surely a game is good from start to end? But you are implying that at a certain point in the story, Oblivion gets good. And why should I feel obliged to play more than 4 hours anyway? You wouldn’t carry on watching a TV series you weren’t enjoying would you?

    And you end with “what is there not to like?”

    All I have to say to that is, I recommend you actually read the article next time..

  6. WB May 4 2011 @ 6:37 pm

    Everyone’s entitled to his opinion, of course, so I respect the fact that you didn’t like the game. However, it’s laughable to deem it, as you do in your title, “a game you should probably avoid.” That’s like telling someone chocolate ice cream is a dessert you should probably steer clear of. Many, many critics, magazines and players all hold Oblivion in high regard, including going as far as calling it one of the greatest games ever made. That just doesn’t happen by accident. I say this as a service to whomever might be reading this and debating whether to “avoid” Oblivion or play it. The game is very much worth playing. After 200 hours of Oblivion, when you finally come up for air, food, to talk to your girlfriend, etc., you’ll thank me.

  7. Crofterz May 4 2011 @ 6:55 pm

    Just because I game is held in such high regard, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. Just as some GREAT games don’t get the attention they deserve. What you are talking about is going with the norm, “play this game because everybody else loves it”.

    Try to be subjective.

  8. alkitron May 10 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    I recently bought game of the year edition on steam of this game. I found it to be buggy as hell with my computer. I did find some of the game mechanics to be rather clunky like the alchemist stuff. But I overlooked that to be able to see whats all the who ha about this game. At times it was epic other times it was dull and boring. The main Overall problem that made me drop this game is the endless crashes this game had. I couldn’t take them it was crashing more than 3 times a hour which is crazy. I eventually deleted this and moved on. I have a 3ghz amd quad cpu with a gforce 285 more than enough to run this but ahh well I digress

  9. parkel June 15 2011 @ 9:24 am

    Personally, I bought the goty edition of this game (just like alkitron has) last year. What I thought was a good game (ign, gamespot reviews) had quickly became a disaster. A total disaster.

    I don’t care about minor graphical issues, or frequent game crashes. I didn’t have frequent game crashes in fact, only some minor graphical bugs which I encountered. That does not matter a bit to me at all.

    The main problem with this game is the combat mechanics and of course the amazingly boring exploration. Combat mechanics are fine to a certain level, until you are against 3 or 4 monsters, then the hurt starts to come in, and you feel like just breaking your lcd monitor, throwing your keyboard, and slamming your mouse on the table.

    As for exploration, the worst. Little to no monsters on the way to the next town. Just to say, I don’t like exploring dungeons. A waste of time. Just at least give me more monsters to fight and give me some enjoyment rather than just walking. And you just keep walking. walking. walking. walking. walking. walking. walking. *yawns*

    Meh. I’m selling this game as soon as I can. But so far I haven’t found a buyer. ><

  10. Oook July 14 2011 @ 9:36 am

    I bought Oblivion when it was released and it really impressed me, I was playing it for years, until I started playing old but still greats games as Might & Magic IV & V, then I understood that Oblivion didn’t offered anything new, just better graphics (and not so awesome).
    After completing World of Xeen, I reinstalled Oblivion. I was playing it for an hour an then I remove it from my PC. Boring world, boring combats, boring dialogues… there is a huge world and nothing to do there. Every dungeon are equal, no interest, no exciting rewards: boring.
    I hope Skyrim will solve all Oblivion flaws and give the exciting experience Oblivion should have been.

  11. simon jardine November 6 2011 @ 4:52 pm

    can`t get in to this load of crap nomatter what I try, the combat is crap, I`m fed up getting killed by every adversary I come up against-this game (the pc version) is crap from word go.
    I literally `don`t know where to start!
    I don`t understand it!
    I don`t `get` it!
    I don`t know how to play it!
    I get killed in every mission I try!
    I hate the control layout (on pc)
    I`ve given it a dozen go`s and I`m so frustrated I`m throwing in the towel!
    I truly hate this game!
    Fable pisses all over this!

  12. Rax November 7 2011 @ 10:43 am

    I have to say that that was pretty much my reaction. Yes the game is huge and beautiful, but the world is sparesly populated, the citizens terse, the combat at times infuriating, the quest system is clunky and unclear, the adjustable difficulty makes a mockery of the experience as a whole and there are bugs aplenty… a great game yes, worthy of it’s status for ambition alone? Perhaps, but a game I’d recommend to a new player? No.

  13. Peter December 4 2011 @ 9:35 am

    *the quest system is clunky and unclear* – *Put simply, walking around for hours and hours searching for a location in a game is about as fun as it is in real life (not very)* how can you guys even call yourself gamers afther saying that >< unless u have issues i cant see how u would ever walk around for quote: Hours and hours.

    anyway its obvious ur advice is of no worth as most of what ur saying is (no offence) Bullshit. and to avoid ur same weak respond. im not saying this because ur bashing on a game i like. i would mind if u made sense atleast, but u dont and it sounds to me like u should stick to Frogger or such

  14. Rax December 4 2011 @ 12:10 pm

    Agreed on all points! Great game, but with serious flaws…

  15. Vince March 26 2012 @ 4:00 pm

    It’s really not a great game at all and if it didn’t have the Elder Scrolls logo on it I very much doubt it would receive all the applause it continues to get.

  16. Rax March 26 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    ; Couldn’t agree more! ;-)

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  1. Thoroughly Underrated Games You Probably Should Play - 13. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind | newbreview.com ¦ Video Games News, Reviews, Deals and more August 30 2011 @ 8:01 am
  2. Thoroughly Underrated Games You Probably Should Play - 13. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind | newbreview.com ¦ Video Games News, Reviews, Deals and more December 15 2011 @ 12:42 pm

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