Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC)

A super-sized look at the fourth game in the main Elder Scrolls series! No mods, no graphical enhancements. Just pure, straight out of the box Oblivion.

I have played this one before, but I never did finish it. If I remember right I mostly hid out in the Arena until I ran out of enemies to fight, then got bored with it.

(Click the pics to make them big.)

Oh right, I'd forgotten about the face editor in this. It's... a little dated. When I try moving one slider, other sliders start moving too, and the head gets distorted in all the wrong ways. Like if I try to make the eyes smaller, the cheeks get thinner too, it's weird.

Also a badly lit dungeon is a terrible place to give someone a makeover. How am I supposed to get my hair and skin tones looking right when I'm in crappy lighting? I could walk out into the sunshine later and find I've given my hero bright pink skin, and it's too late to do anything about it.

But hey at least I can jump right into the thing and make a character without having to play through an entire intro section first, like in Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2. Damn that gets annoying after the first playthrough.

I gave up on trying to make my character look good, and tried to at least make him look human. I'm playing as a wood elf so I'm not meant to look like a human, but I tried anyway.

Then I'm left in a cell to jump around for a bit while the prisoner next door throws verbal abuse at me. Until the arrival of some soldiers finally shuts him up.

Oh shit, extreme close up! I forgot it did that. Fully voiced dialogue too.

It's Emperor Uriel Septim, the guy from the intro video to Daggerfall! Only this time he's got a lot more hair, and sounds considerably more like Patrick Stewart. Apparently he's been having weird dreams about me, but I decide not to inquire further.

His guards quickly move him along through a secret door in my cell, but they're unable to lock the door behind them. The guy in the cell next to me can go fuck himself, because I'm getting out of here!

In the secret tunnels outside my cell I found a room conveniently filled with every type of weapon there in the game. I haven't been asked to choose a class yet, so I'm free to take and use whatever weapon I want. I'll take the long sword, the shield, the bow and the arrows.

Instead of just clicking on locked objects with my lockpick like in Morrowind, this time I have to play this damn lockpicking minigame before I can get to the valuables within.

Whoa, that goblin had good aim. Fortunately two arrows to the chest was nothing that a little cure magic can't fix. In the other Elder Scrolls games I'd rely mostly on sleeping to regain lost health, but I start with cure magic in this so I might as well use it.

So far the magic system seems to be an improvement on Morrowind. I've got recharging magicka, and I can cast spells immediately without 'equipping' my magic first. I just press the magic key and I'm healed.

Damn, I just got twice the damage from my bow by by shooting him before he knew I was there. I think I'll add 'sneak' to my list of skills to focus on.

Oh noes! I finally caught up to the Emperor just in time to watch him get assassinated. Sadly I wasn't able to take the assassin's armour afterwards. It was magically summoned gear and it disappeared when he died.

The guards wouldn't let me steal the Emperor's robe either! I did get given his amulet though. Before his death, the Emperor told me to take it to his son, and I totally made him believe that I'd do that.

The tutorial is over, and now that I've had a chance to play around with all the weapons and different magic, I get to choose which class I want to be. This is a far better way of handling character creation than just throwing me onto a stats screen when the game starts I reckon.

I'll go with a stealth specialization as recommended, because I like my x2 damage, but I'm changing my favoured attributes to Strength and Agility. Mostly because I want to be strong enough to carry all my loot, and being able to jump all over rooftops is crucial to my entertainment.

Actually no, that wasn't the end of the tutorial dungeon! First I've got to go through the sewers. I understand why they did it like this, but it doesn't make it any less of a pain.

Though I'm hitting for x3 sneak damage now I've got my class set up, which is nice. Foolish rats, they never saw me coming.

When I (finally) reached the end of the sewers, I was given a second and final chance to change my face, my class... everything, now that I've had a chance to play with it for a while. So... I can just save here, and if I ever want to make another character I can just load this save and never have to go through the tutorial dungeon again! Oblivion, you win this round.

Yeah okay Oblivion has aged a bit, but it's still pretty. Prettier than Morrowind, that's for certain, and I can actually see things in the distance in this! I think Morrowind has the more epic music though.

I was told to visit a man who knows where the Emperor's son is, so I should probably go do that. 

Oh yeah, the paper map for Oblivion is a huge disappointment after the incredibly detailed one I got with Morrowind. It has nothing on it! It's a big fold-out brown map with nothing but the main towns marked on it. What's the point of that?

I guess this in-game version of it is so tiny and zoomed in that they thought it'd be nice if players had a quick way to know where the towns are. I just hope Skyrim has some much better art on the map in the box. Also I hope it still has a map in the box.

Anyway, what was I doing? Oh right, I'm the gold arrow over on the right of the screen, and I want to get over to the red arrow on the left. This will be no trouble at all, because after a short disappearance in Morrowind, fast travel has returned to the Elder Scrolls games!

But fuck that, I'm walking it.

You know what the best thing about walking across the countryside in Oblivion is? It's not the huge draw distance, not the grass and the trees swaying in the wind, or the music... it's that there's no fucking cliff racers swooping at me. Man I hated those things in Morrowind.


Oh... well, uh, I'm not going into that town then. It appears that transdimensional demon forces from the evil realm of Oblivion are attempting to invade our realm and wipe out the Empire. And they've started by wrecking the town of Kvatch, which also happens to be where the Emperor's son lives.

Well, you know I'd love to get involved and save the world and everything,  but I've just escaped from the Imperial prison so I really can't be bothered right now. It's okay, there's no time limits so I could come back a month later at level 50 and this would all be exactly as I left it. I hope.

Ah, this town's better. No fire streaking across the sky or demons spilling out onto the streets. I had to go through a bloody city wall to get inside though. Gone are Morrowind's fantastic open towns.

And opening times for shops make a return, with the added complication of the shop owners actually leaving work and going out. I guess it's an overall improvement, but I miss being able to just run into a shop at any time, day or night, and being able to sell stuff.

First thing I did was join up with a couple of guilds, then I took all their stuff off the shelves and sold it back to them. It doesn't even count as stealing, the stuff is just free to pick up! To anyone else this crap would be next to worthless, but to me it's the cash I need to fix my sword and armour.

They've changed the shop's cash limit from 'total available cash' to 'amount they're willing to spend per purchase', which makes it much easier to sell a lot of things in one go, but even harder for me to sell my high value gear.

Which kind of takes the joy out of finding high value treasure really. "Awesome, I've found a 5000 coin hammer! I can totally sell this and become rich and... oh wait, shops would only give me 1000 for it. Well no point carrying that around then."

Okay fine, I'll go through the Oblivion gate at Kvatch and save the world then. The Emperor's heir isn't in Oblivion, but I have to shut this portal down before I can get inside the city to find him.

I have to admit, this place looks cool. It makes a change from the forests of Cyrodiil, which are very nice but incredibly generic. In Morrowind travelling outside the towns felt like an expedition into the unknown. In this it's like a stroll in the park.

I really hope I brought enough arrows to make it through this level. These guys are tougher than anything else I've fought, and they're just soaking up damage. But as long as I keep dodging out of the way of their attacks at the right time I should be able to avoid getting incinerated.

Okay this Oblivion dimension is quickly losing my interest. The damn place is a maze of towers and bridges and it's wearing me down.

Well okay yeah I could just use the compass marker to tell me which way to go next, if I'd thought of that. But it didn't occur to me until now so... fuck.


The ruins of Kvatch, devastated by the demons from the Oblivion gate. Much less of a maze!

Though I think I've broken the scripting because the soldier I'm supposed to talk to won't respond and he's gotten all his men killed by running out of cover.

One reload later, and things are turning out much better for everyone. I'm pretty crap in combat compared to these Kvatch guards, so I'm mostly standing back and letting them handle it. Then I sneak back afterwards to search the bodies for arrows.

Still no sign of the Emperor's son, but that can wait until this place is cleared out.


We race through the corridors of Kvatch castle, fighting off the last of the demons, but eventually there are just two of us left. The rest of the Kvatch guards put up a good fight, but sadly they don't have a heal spell like I do.

It's not a quick or easy fight, but eventually the town of Kvatch is liberated! Well, the rubble of Kvatch is liberated. Maybe they can build a new town here, and call it New Kvatch or something. The last of the Kvatch guard decides to quit, and gives me his magically enhanced Kvatch cuirass to wear, which is nice. You'd think everyone would assume I was a Kvatch guard now I'm dressed head to toe in Kvatch gear, but nope.

I'm finally able to meet up with the Emperor's son (who turns out to be Sean Bean!) who I found hanging around with the rest of the Kvatch survivors camped just outside of Kvatch, and finally I'm done with Kvatch forever!


I took a mission for the Mages Guild that required me to pretend to be a travelling merchant and spend a night at an inn, and then this came up! It actually took me by surprise, because I forgot about levelling up. I've been playing for a while now but this is the first time I've ever had to rest.

The game just doesn't have much of an incentive to level up. Enemy levels scale up along with mine, so I'd actually be making it harder on myself if I chose to level up any further. It makes a big difference from Morrowind, where my boss would always be telling me to improve my skills and take side missions to get more experience.

Okay yeah, there'd be better loot and more variety of enemies if I levelled up more. But on the other hand, it's taking me long enough to kill these damn creatures as it is.

On the path from the inn I'm assaulted by the mage I was sent to lure out. Don't worry, I'm fine! It's just a flesh wound, she's using hand to hand attacks to knock me to the ground... so she can beat the shit out of me while I'm helpless.

I'm just lucky that Imperial Legion soldier happened to be in the area to keep her friend busy. I'm supposed to be waiting for some mages to jump in to my rescue, but they're taking their damn time.

No! The mages arrived in the nick of time and saved me, but somehow they must have hit the soldier in the process. Apparently one accidental scratch is enough to send an NPC into a furious revenge attack, and the Legion soldier murdered the poor mage.

The other mage, furious over his friend's death, jumped in and murdered the soldier in retaliation. It's practically Shakespearian in its senseless tragedy.

All that was left for me to do was to steal all their stuff, then go back to the guild to claim my reward for completing the mission. Tragic.

The first Fighters Guild mission sent me to help a woman out with her rat problem. However, in an ironic turnaround that plays against rpg tropes, it actually turns out that I'm supposed to be saving her pet rats from mountain lions!

It might have been cleverer if they hadn't already put me fighting rats in a basement (and in a sewer!) in the training dungeon.


Okay, back to the plot. I'm meeting up with one of the Emperor's bodyguards for some spy work in the Imperial capital. I've gotta say, this place ain't perfect but it's a thousand times more bearable than Vivec in Morrowind. For one thing, it's not a bloody maze, and I can fast travel to any segment of it.

I'm fully converted to Oblivion's way of doing things now. I don't even know where I'm supposed to be meeting the guy or why, because this info is irrelevant and possibly wasn't even explained to me. All I do is follow the little red arrow and do what the short pop up messages tell me to do. It does feel a little bit too simplified, I mean I was doing fine with Morrowind's system of giving me directions and explaining what I should do, but it's not exactly ruining the gameplay for me either.


Oh, of course my secret spy mission would take place in a bloody sewer. Astoundingly it wasn't me that blew my cover and ruined everything for once, but I'm still the guy who has to sort it out or else my friend will be killed by a gang of angry cultists with magic armour.

Unlike Morrowind, plot critical characters cannot be killed in this, just knocked unconscious. But my poor friend has no plot armour so I guess he's not important after this point. No more awesome spy mission team ups for us.

I reloaded my save and took the enemy out the best way I know how. I shot them from the shadows before they even entered the room. I might not be much of a fighter, but don't ever bet against the guy with the quick load button.

The clues led to... another dungeon! Slowly and carefully I made sure to take out each enemy in turn without revealing my presence. Soon the corridors were cleared of enemies and I found a nice cosy hiding spot to ruin the cultist's meeting from.

I saw a guy held prisoner there, so I thought I'd let him out now. The corridors leading out were all safe I figured, so he'd be perfectly fine!

And then of course we had to go out via a different set of corridors, guarded by an entirely different set of cultists. And these ones were still alive. So instead of being a stealthy ninja striking from the shadows, I had to run out and go on a kill frenzy with my government issue secret agent katana, because the stupid prisoner would continually run ahead and get himself killed.

Eventually I saved the poor bastard, and returned to base with a mysterious book of sinister origin for the Emperor's son to study. Hey, isn't that the box art for the game?

The next step in the main quest led to... trying to win over some guy at a shrine so he'll give me info. You know, I gotta say that I really liked the voice acting in this game at first, but it's becoming really obvious that there's only like 10 people doing the voices for everyone in the game. I keep getting distracted wondering how long it must have taken the poor voice actors to read all this dialogue.
After playing around with the wheel of persuasion for a bit to make him like me I eventually get the next destination... another dungeon!


To take a break from dungeons I decided to go hunt down the Thieves Guild. After spending way too long trying to get anyone to tell me anything about where it is, I eventually get a hint that it might be at the waterfront.

With some searching I eventually got the breakthrough I was looking for!

Except not, because Armand Christophe refuses to admit that the Thieves Guild even exists, despite the woman standing next to him telling me he was part of it. Eventually I get sick of taking to them and go off to find something else to do.

I'm a pretty crappy thief anyway to be honest. I've got good security and sneaking stats, but I just can't bear to steal anything from these poor computer people or their virtual houses.

I've decided to get into the property market. This looks like a nice little mansion, and the price is right. I'll cost me everything I have, but what else was I going to spend it on anyway? New weapons, training, magic items, potions, arrows, repairs? Nah, what I need right now is a big house!

I decided to spend the night in my new house, just to get some use out of the place. But before I could even get a level up my sleep was interrupted by ghosts!

It's just lucky I've been carrying this silver sword around with me for just this eventuality. Well not this exact eventuality... you know what I mean.

Where's the guy who sold me this bloody haunted mansion? I wanna try my silver sword out on him.


One completely pointless trip to the Imperial capital and back, and I've found the dark source of my ghost problem. Shame I didn't get a "m'whaha" out of him.

Fortunately the evil ghostly necromancer isn't immune to arrows in the back, and I'm able to win the fight. And get my house back.


I've decided that being a home owner is just too dangerous, so I've gone back to my secret agent work. First thing they tell me to do... go into a dungeon, and fight ghosts. I really do not like fighting ghosts, it takes forever to hack through their health bars.


Then they send me to another dungeon! It seems that all the answers to the Empire's demon invasion problems can be found at the bottom of a deep dank hole in the ground. Guarded by skeletons.


Well I'm supposed to be going on a super dangerous mission to shut down a giant Oblivion gate, but fisrst I should be getting some backup to help. I need to go to each of the towns and ask them for assistance.

And of course each of them would probably reply 'I'd love to send soldiers to help, but unfortunately we've got a big Oblivion gate of our own sitting next to us and we need our soldiers for defence'. And I really don't feel like going through six more bloody Oblivion gates.

It's a big improvement on Morrowind, and a huge step backwards at the same time. The combat is much improved, but the enemy scaling is basically broken. The graphics are far prettier, but the music is less epic. I'm sure that the mods fix a lot of this and turn it into the game it should have been from the start, but I just hope that Bethesda have learned enough from their mistakes to get Skyrim right from the start.

Other Elder Scrolls posts:
Elder Scrolls: Arena
Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall
An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion


  1. Good post. Any plans to play Skyrim?

  2. Great review, also I finished every mission in Oblivion (including guilds, the main mission, hidden missions, etc.) by reading the official strategy guide and also going on UESP Wiki plus chance and luck, including the main mission (what an epic ending for the main mission btw!) I'll try the expansion packs sometime, then a few mods out for this game.

    I will buy Skyrim on Amazon when it's cheap as well like $20 used or under (I have bought used books, textbooks, PS2 games, music and movies for only a penny, plus S&H on there btw!)

    p.s. Please review Amnesia: The Dark Descent sometime, thanks.

    1. Wouldn't an article on Amnesia likely turn out as a row of pitch black screenshots with 'oh shit oh shit something's chasing me!!!' written underneath each of them? I'm willing to give it a try though if I end up with a copy.

  3. Oh god Ray I don't know what I was thinking when I typed that!!! Serious you are right. It's just that I watch this
    certain personality on youtube (his real first name is Mark I think) that plays these types of games and somehow
    I can see them, for the most part, clearly. But yeah it's a very dark game. Many times I actually have had to turn
    the brightness up both in the game settings and on my monitor as well as monkey around with other settings cause
    the game indeed it too dark.

    Though for April Fools or another occasion you could try some screenshots and post a review
    even if the screenshots are pitch black or very dark :)


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