Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

 Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Review

Kid Safe: Moderate (4.0  / 10)                             Game Quality: High (8.0 / 10)

Genre:  Open World Action/Adventure RPG
-          This game takes place where choice is everything. Rather than providing a set story that a player has to follow, they are provided a world that they can explore and do as they wish with a focus similar to an action movie. Likewise, as players adventure through this title they will find alternate means of completing their tasks including battles, negotiation, and puzzle solving. Finally, players are able to create and developer their own unique character based on the decisions they make. 

Internet Requirements: Low
-          Elder Scrolls has a relatively low amount of internet requirements that are linked entirely to the acquisition of additional content. Players, in the instance that they have purchased the original edition and not the "Game of the Year" edition of this title, are able to purchase and download two sets of additional content in order to add to the title's available gameplay. Elder Scrolls does not feature online multiplayer.

Story Summary: In Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you take the role of an unnamed adventurer in the land of
Cyrodiil. You start off your adventure locked in a prison for an unspecified crime, however your stay is short lived when the Emperor himself frees you. Sadly, the Emperor is killed by a group of assassin's, and with his dying breath, you are tasked with passing on his sacred amulet to the his successor. The situation only gets more complex from there as entire towns begin to be destroyed by "Oblivion Gates", massive magical portals through which hideous monsters and demons pour to kill, pillage, and wreak havoc. Will you be able to save the land of Cyrodiil?  

Kid Safe: Moderate (4.0 / 10)
-          Foul Language: Low
o   Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has a relatively low amount of foul language that takes place in the following words: "d*mn", "h*ll", and "w*ore". These words are heard very uncommonly throughout gameplay, and when they are used it is only once or twice at a time. These words are almost exclusively used in instances of extreme anger or frustration.

-          Violence and Gore: High
o   Before we begin, I would like to note that we were initially going to rate this topic as moderate until we discovered the optional "Dark Brotherhood" line of missions. This optional quest line will have players acting as an assassin for the "Dark Brotherhood" group in the game. This set of missions features some of the darkest and most violent imagery of that found in this title due to a high focus on murder and death as well as some very gruesome images.

o   Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features a relatively high amount of violence and a fair amount of gore. As a fantasy focused Action Adventure game, players will be using a wide variety of weaponry to engage enemies which includes, but is not limited to, fists, daggers, swords, hammers, clubs, bows, and an absolutely massive number of magic spells that will allow a player to wield fireballs, lightning, ice powers, and more. Players will fight a large number of enemies that include everyday creatures like wolves and bears, to fantastical monsters like trolls and giants, as well as other humans, most commonly assassins and bandits. It is at the player's discretion as to who they attack as they are able to attack anyone and anything they choose, civilian or soldier.

o   As for the combat, it's actually pretty tame. Players will engage enemies in a first person mode, that is, the camera acts as though they are looking through their eyes. Players will slash, shoot, or cast magic spells. Even with "gore" turned on high, there was no display of blood or gore when attacking the enemy. When the enemy is killed, their body instantly goes limp as a ragdoll and a red streak is left on the ground and/or wall that the enemy was near when it died. Any arrows that are shot at the enemy stay embedded in the body during and very often after combat (unless the player can remove said arrows). Bodies will remain where they have fallen for quite some time, if not permanently.

o   Aside from combat, Elder Scrolls features a fair amount of gruesome scenes. As we mentioned earlier, the darker scenes tend to be exclusively in the "Dark Brotherhood" chain of quests with a couple of exceptions. One example of this includes a scene where an individual, suspected of being a traitor to his group, is found bound upside down with multiple holes, mutilations, and lacerations covering his body. Likewise, players will find a similar corpse found hanging upside down in the tower of a castle. Players will also find a basement that is littered with unknown corpses along with a woman's rotting head on a plate. Yet another example includes a dungeon area that is filled with torture devices that one individual uses to torture and murder beings of a particular race.
-          Sexually-Related Content: Moderate
o   Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion contains a moderate amount of sexual content which takes place almost exclusively through reference and some partial nudity. Starting off with nudity, when a player strips an individual of all of the items that the person was holding, this will additional remove the majority of their clothes. This action leaves the enemy/individual laying in just their underwear. This underwear is not overly suggestive in any fashion and will only show a small amount of cleavage and/or buttocks in female characters.

o   Aside from the partial nudity, the game actually has a decent amount of sexual reference that takes place from speaking to specific individuals or reading specific books. By far the most suggestive tail is a fictional book series that players may find amongst the world titled "The Lusty Argonian Maid" which is a reference, as you might have gathered, to a romantic novel involving an "Argonian" (a race of lizard/man creatures). None of the books, the Argonian Maid included, will feature explicit content, however there is suggestion towards sexual acts going to or having had happened. Besides literature, there are characters that players will run into that make reference to sexually focused activities including cheating on spouses and necrophilia. These actions are not discussed in explicit detail.

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: Moderate
o   Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has a moderate amount of drug and alcohol usage. This takes place in two major ways: the usage of alcohol and the usage of a fictional drug known as Skooma. Starting with alcohol usage, players will be able to find and use a wide variety of alcohol throughout gameplay that includes beer, mead, whiskey, wine, and more. The usage of alcohol is not encouraged in any fashion and is generally regarded as being relatively unnecessary. While alcohol usage does not result in the rather common blurred/waving screen effect to resemble getting drunk, players do often take a number of severe reductions in their stats; effectively making them weaker and less effective in any given situation. There are multiple scenes of other individuals drinking.

o   Aside from alcohol usage, there is also the occasional reference to a fictional, controlled substance called "Skooma". This drug, which is shown as being in a small vile, can be used by players; effectively making them stronger and faster but equally causing a loss of intelligence and reasoning. Likewise, there are a number of quests and characters that make reference to individuals having been or are being addicted to this substance. One of the individuals that you meet shows signs of addiction (broken speech patterns, sweating, scratching, etc.) and players are able to murder this man through overdose by providing him more and more of the drug.

-          SPECIAL NOTE:
o   I feel it necessary to impart a bit of information to you. While there is little to worry about with concerns to this title on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, I would use caution if you are purchasing this title on PC/Home Computer. This game has a rather extensive modification community for PC, which means that there are players out there that have developed alterations to the initial game. Some of these "mods" can be rather enjoyable and change the game for the better in a variety of ways. On the contrary, there are others out there that will add any number of different, adult-focused gameplay features. Some of the most notorious (and the reason that this title was converted from originally being Teen rated to M-Rated) are modifications that allow players to see characters fully nude and even engage in sexually explicit relations. While these modifications are not readily available to a player through the game, they could be found and accessed via the internet if you have this title on PC/Home Computer.

Game Quality: High (8.0 / 10)
-          Graphics / Visuals: Moderate
o   Before we really get into it, I should clarify that this is our review of Elder Scrolls today and that, as a nearly 6 year old game, the graphics at the time were actually pretty impressive. Nonetheless, I can only assume that if you are purchasing it today, you have never played it before, and therefore you would like to know how it pans out against games of the present.

o   The graphical and visual quality of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is really a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Elder Scrolls boasts an absolutely incredible world that is as huge as it is beautiful, with every single nook and cranny planned out and fully explorable. On the other hand, you have some pretty poor looking character models that have not aged well with time.

o   Starting off with the good, the world that players can explore is still one of the finest on the market. There are no "invisible walls" or anything of that nature. If a player can see it, they can go to it...period. With sprawling forests, open tundras, stark mountain ranges, and a host of different cities, villages, dungeons, and temples to explore, there is always somewhere to explore. The set pieces are absolutely gorgeous, if only a little dated, and still stand up to quality standards of today. Likewise, players are able to access every room and building that exists in the world; and each one feels a little different, each one has its own tale. Not only that, but players can interact with and influence everything; even down to being able to pick up the food and plates that are sitting on the table.

o   In rather stark contrast to the world, which has aged like a fine wine, are the character designs, which have aged like milk in a desert. While I will, again, note that at the time the game was released, the character models weren't so bad, such is not the case anymore. Characters in the game carry themselves with an almost marionette-esque stiffness that makes them look more like robots most of the time than actual creatures. Likewise, while the characters can mimic basic facial expressions for happy, sad, angry, etc., compared to your average game today, these are generally unimpressive and even a bit bizarre looking. Finally, as a side effect of the older and sometimes randomized process of building characters, some people in the game just look...off. Strange and sometimes horrible combinations of facial features that just should not be made me want more than once to kill the occasional peasant just to free them of their disfigurement.
-          Audio: Moderate
o   Audio, again, is another mixed bag; however I'm not sure how much of this is to be blamed on age and how much might have just been poor planning on the developer's part. On a positive note, the music and a fair bit of the voice acting is exceptionally well done and generally rather enjoyable. However, on the negative side, the game has a huge problem with repetition and poor voice placement/planning.

o   We will start, as always, with the good. As we mentioned, the music and most of the voice acting is quite simply delightful. The musical score in Elder Scrolls really matches the gameplay well and provides the player with a very fantastical feel. The constant, ever flowing music gives the sensation that players are going on their own medieval quest, complete with a host of drums, wind, and string instruments that float with a certain subtlety. The score will always change to match the situation as well, sometimes even so much so as to provide an audible cue as to when a fight has begun as it quickly gets hard and strong toned. The voice acting is equally enjoyable with the majority of actors doing a decent job portraying unique and varied characters, even going so far as to include acting legends like Patrick Stewart.

o   While the specific audio and musical quality isn't the major problem, it is the overall repetitious and seemingly poorly planned nature of it that creates issues. While the music is well done and rather enjoyable, it never really evolves into something more or new. The same music you hear playing the first 20 hours of the game is the same music you will be hearing by 100+ hours of the game; the pieces are good but there just isn't enough of them for the size of the title. Likewise, more than once I found myself talking to the same voice actor over and over and over again through the guise of multiple characters. Even worse, there were instances where the same actor was talking to himself through two different characters. If that isn't enough, there were situations where one character had TWO voices and certain questions he would answer with one voice and then suddenly, without provocation, he would be speaking in a different voice.

-          Gameplay / Playability: Very High
o   The available gameplay and playability is truly this title's bread and butter; there is just so much to do! Starting with playability, the game does an excellent job in introducing most of the game's baser controls and concepts. Players will be initially led through a single dungeon and sewer section that will allow the gamer to really cut their teeth on a fair number of features. They will be introduced to how to move, how to sneak around, how to fight using melee weapons, long-ranged weapons, and magic. They will be introduced to varying enemies as well as traps and how to open lock doors. Likewise, as they proceed through, players will be able to choose the base statistics and powers for their character so that they can begin to craft one more suitable to their liking and play style. Even better, by the end of the dungeon, if the player doesn't care for what they have selected, the game allows them to pick and choose anything that they want to change before even stepping foot into the world. If that wasn't quite enough, the game caters to the player by making it so that no enemy they ever run into will be overpowered; they accomplish this by making it that all enemies and creatures that appear are equally scaled to your level and skill.

o   However, let's set aside the playability and talk about the gameplay itself. Even after years on the shelf, Elder Scrolls still offers a wealth of options for just about anyone. Perhaps you would like to follow the grand and epic adventure as your character attempts to reunite the empire and save it from the Oblivion gates. You can do that. Perhaps you would like to become a sneaky assassin who makes his livelihood by the blood of others. You could do that too. Perhaps murder and bloodshed aren't your style and you'd much rather become the king of thieves. You can do that. Not much into breaking the law? Why not join the mage's guild and master your arcane spells. Or, perhaps all of this sounds far too busy and silly for you and you'd much rather simply buy yourself a home in a quaint little village, furnish it to your liking, and whittle the days away perfecting your knowledge of alchemy and the local plant life. You can do that too. This game gives you a massive canvas with which you can paint your own story. There is no punishment if you choose to do one thing over another, or if you choose to do all of them, or even if you even do anything adventurous at all. It is your choice, have fun with it.
-          Dollar-Value: Very High
o   Overall, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has an incredibly high dollar value. This title, not even counting its additional content, offers well over 100+ hours of gameplay when you include all of the things that you can go out and do in it. So long as you can get around the slightly dated graphics and the occasional voice actor talking to himself, this game is worth every penny; especially when you consider that this is entering bargain bin costs. The number of adult themes are also lower than a majority of other games of a similar nature, so it just makes it that much better. This game is definitely worth the chance if you are looking for a fantasy adventure that allows you to live the life of an adventurer in the Empire of Cyrodiil.

-          Most games like this title are almost exclusively M-Rated and recommended only for adults. However, in the instance you are ok with adult themes, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas are two excellent titles from the same developers. Likewise, games like Arcana: Gothic 4 might offer a bit of teen-rated fun of a similar design.

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