I am an Imperial knight named Swarley with an innate ability for cutting dudes up with a sword, for protecting my jewels with a shield and for conning the honest to goodness merchants scattered all throughout Cyrodiil out of hard earned revenue with nothing but my alleged good looks and silver tongue. Of course that pecker of an elf in the imperial city deserves a bit of scamming, with prices like his, he’s practically asking to be scammed. Welcome to the world of The Elder Scolls IV: Oblivion.
Thirty minutes into my journey I met a guy just outside of the imperial city. Having just escaped from a life sentence in a dungeon, I was starved for human contact, and keen to make some friends. So I agreed to hunt down and kill some special fish for him. Whatever, not like I have a whole lot else to do. And I had the best of intentions, I swear; I wanted to find those fish. But as I explored the world, killed a few spirits of deceased Elven Kings, smashed a few underground necromancer operations, and became the best mercenary-for-hire, hit-man and arena fighter in the land, those fish that the guy that I couldn’t even remember the name of became trivial. I was above all that. I was the king of the world. I had the power to do anything – good or evil.
I guess, like in real life though, I couldn’t have everything. So while I could practically kill anything by looking at them, jump what seemed like six feet in the air, and light up a room with a slight hand gesture, I couldn’t pick a simple god damned lock to save my life. So consider me humbled (but I still didn’t find those fish).
That was pretty much the only frustration, albeit one that plagued me almost for the entirety of the 80 hours I poured into my adventures in the world of Cyrodiil, that could possibly make me think ill of Bethesda’s masterpiece. After all, what was the incentive to fight my way through samey dungeons, Elven ruins and miscellaneous mine-like locales if I would stumble upon a chest right at the very end that may or may not contain something valuable or useful to my character? You wouldn’t think much.
But something drove me to do all of the above, and that annoyance is also what made Oblivion so absolutely fantastic in the end. After getting over the fact that I was not born to pick locks, I accepted that it was my choices that led to my inaptitude in that area. Too often you hear how freedom opens so many doors, but for me, its the choices and decisions you make, all the way down to the character you create, that can also lock things off. That may not tickle many people’s fancy, but to me it is what I’m missing out on that can make an experience just that much more involving. Because hey, that’s life.
It is high praise when the biggest faults I could find with the game were the same things that I felt made it utterly fantastic. Unfortunately though, they are faults that look terrible on paper and so come off rather scathing. But if you actually read into what I’ve written there, nothing stopped me from playing the game night after night after night (80 hours is nothing to scoff at), and in spite of a couple of glaring sore spots, nothing can take the shine away from what is largely considered to be 2006’s game of the year. And it is probably because it was 2006’s game of the year that those ‘sore spots’ even exist at all – time can be a cruel, cruel beast. Not cruel enough to make Oblivion anything short of a ‘must-play’ video game though – and even though I preferred the world and story of its predecessor Morrowind, my time in Oblivion was well worth the subsequent decline of my social life. Just don’t let me see that Skyrim case sitting, waiting in ambush next to my TV.
And with that I successfully knock my first game off of The Mantelpiece. Feel free to send me gifts in celebration.