Video Game Thoughts: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was a 2006 role-playing game by Bethesda Game Studios that I played on the Xbox 360 and PC. I remember seeing articles about Oblivion in the Game Informer magazine. The screenshots were just amazing. I couldn’t imagine a game having such good graphics. The problem was my gaming PC was outdated. I knew the game wouldn’t even work on it. I wasn’t ready to spend the money to buy a new gaming PC or even one of the new consoles. I got used to the idea that I wouldn’t be able to play Oblivion. Plans changed.

I became addicted to World of Warcraft one semester in college. Combined with a busy part-time job, I got an F in one of my classes. I quit the job, but I also wanted to quit World of Warcraft to give myself the best chances of improving my grades. I still wanted to be able to play games though. I decided to go back to console games because they always had an end. I might get addicted to a game, but it would eventually end. A massively multiplayer online role-playing game like World of Warcraft never ended. I might get to the end at one point, but then the developers added more content.

Now that a new console was on the table, Oblivion caught my attention again. At the time it was only on Xbox 360, not PlayStation 3. On top of that, the Xbox 360 was cheaper. I remember going to the local GameStop shortly after my senior year of college started to buy the Xbox 360. It was almost on a whim. I had been thinking about it for a few weeks but wasn’t serious. One day after classes I just went out and bought it. My mom was surprised to see the new console because I always told her ahead of time when I was going to make a big purchase.

Oblivion was part of The Elder Scrolls series. These games were aptly named “single player massively multiplayer online games”. Oblivion wasn’t a multiplayer game or even online, but it had the expansiveness and depth that you would expect from a game like World of Warcraft. The only thing Oblivion didn’t have was regular new content releases every few months, and that’s exactly what I didn’t want out of Oblivion.

I spent hundred of hours in this game, but because it was single player I never felt pressured to rush through it. I had an easier time putting it down to get homework done or study for tests knowing that the game was paused in my absence. I created numerous characters. I only played a few of them extensively, but I definitely got my money’s worth. Eventually, I created the “perfect” character. I planned everything out so I could max out all of the skills, complete every quest, and explore every dungeon, all on one character. I never did finish that, but I still had a great time.

The game wasn’t perfect though. Very early on I saw big flaws. The number one problem was that enemy monsters and people would scale with the player character’s level. The developers wanted players to be able to do any quest or explore any area and have some challenge. They didn’t do a very good job at this. Monsters tended to scale much faster than player characters did. In most cases, the player character would feel weaker as they leveled up. With many characters I had to turn down the difficulty slider. Some characters I purposely didn’t level-up so the monsters couldn’t scale.

Another problem was the “sameness” of the whole world. In a sense, the world was just a little too realistic. This was supposed to be a fantasy game, and there were a lot of fantasy elements, but the environments too many times just felt like some place in Europe. They had swamps and plains and lakes and mountains, but it was all just generic. The world needed to have some more fantastical areas. A common problem I had with this game was getting bored with every character after a certain number of hours. At some point all the areas started to feel the same. I lost the interest in exploring.

My plans for the Xbox 360 didn’t quite work out though. The Xbox 360 went in a different direction, away from my preferred game genre of role-playing games. I never used the Xbox as much after I finished with Oblivion. I even went back to World of Warcraft. Despite Oblivion’s flaws, I put in at least 500 hours into this game. I got my money’s worth and many good memories. I eventually got the game again on sale for the PC (after having gotten a new one), where I was able to try out all kinds of cool modifications that the player community had created.

Knights of the Nine mini-expansion

Knights of the Nine was a mini-expansion for Oblivion. It added a fairly long questline. I liked the religious order theme. Any kind of good, saintly character fit into this questline neatly. I had to first go on a pilgrimage to cleanse my character before I could be accepted into the order. It added several dungeons to the game for the quests. The player also got a nice armor set at the end of it. The downside to this expansion is that it didn’t improve the rest of the game. I am so used to expansions polishing up all the existing content, but this expansion was purely new content and no changes to existing content. I would have liked to see the scaling monsters and sameness of the world addressed.

Shivering Isles expansion

The Shivering Isles was a full-sized expansion for Oblivion. It featured a whole new large island to explore as well as an epic new questline. It was great to finally get to explore new lands. These lands weren’t generic like the base game. They were out of this world. That kept my interest. Many times I would start a new character and just skip the base game, going straight to the expansion. The downside to this is that the weapons and armor scaled with the player character’s level. Sometimes I felt pressured to wait until a high level to enter, but then I got stuck with the boredom of the old Oblivion lands. The sameness of the world was addressed, but scaling monsters was not addressed. That really killed my interest in the game long term. No matter how amazing the graphics are, I will get bored of a game with imperfect gameplay. Like I said above, I still got hundreds of hours out of the game, but it could have been more.

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