The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was the only thing on my mind in the year of 2002. The huge game world and detailed environments were enough to get my hyped up. The towns were rich in life, the graphics were beautiful, and the gameplay value was monstorous.
Morrowind did come with it's faults, however. I think most would agree that the fighting system was a bit stale, with it mainly being a simple "mouse-button 1 mash". Also, at times the NPCs seemed less like living people, and rather like complex encyclopedias. There were also countless "crash to the desktop" bugs.
Enter The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The sequel noted nearly every single flaw that it's predecessor was weighed down by, and modified them in some way. Infact, nearly everything has been added, modified, and advanced in a smart and inventive way. The game is bigger, no doubt, the fighting is incredible, and the characters are believable, smart, and have been brought to life.
The last point is the result of a new AI system called Radiant AI. This implementation allows for some of the most advanced NPCs the Role Playing Genre has ever seen. Each character has their own 24 hour schedule. They walk the town, talk to others, and hunt their own food. Gone are the days where you can simply walk into a house, and murder a single victim. Now, if you attack a character, he'll run out of his house into a new cell (that's right, they can do that now), and consult a guard. The guard will then approach you, and, well, your screwed.
A new, amibitious, and lively new addition to gaming will never be without it's flaws, however, and in Oblivion's case, it's no exception. There are a few bugs that come along for the ride. I was walking the Imperial City in my journeys and came across a Breton who approached a Redguard. The Breton announced "Hello", to the Redguard, and the Redguard replied with "Hello you filthy Breton." The conversation then continued without the Breton every showing any signs of anger. These bugs are, however, nothing to worry about, because it's both exciting to know it's happening anyway, and the experiences are sometimes hilarious too.
But walking towns and gazing at the AI is just a small part in the massive, enourmous, and damn right fun game. I myself, have walked so little of the large world that I wonder if I should even be reviewing this game at this early stage. At any rate, the game is simply monstorous. But isn't just a desolate gameworld, it's detailed! There are dungeons, elven ruins, gateways to Oblivion, bandit camps, small towns, mountains, fortresses, cities, blockades, wanderers, and forts all set up throughout the game. There's enough there to keep you going for years. Enough to keep you going for years without quests that is. Quests are another story.
There are four main guilds to join throughout the game: The Fighters Guild, The Mages Guild, The Thieves Guild, and The Dark Brotherhood. They are all far more interesting, detailed, and unique than in Morrowind, and each look different, play different, and the characters within ARE different. For example, to get inside The Arcane University, a library dedicated to the Mages Guild, you have to gain recommendations from each Guild Master in each main city. Some are easy, some are more difficult, but they're all unique.
On the other hand, it's a different story to get into the Theives Guild and Dark Brotherhood. Since they prefer to keep themselves hidden, it is harder join than simply approach they're base, and sign up. In the case of the Thieves Guild, you are forced to go to jail first, for any reason. Once you are out, you will be approached by someone offering you the chace to join the Guild.
The main plot line, from what I've seen (I have hardly begun my adventures there), is incredibly detailed, and matches that of any other linear game, maybe even a movie. There is excellent voice talent from our friend Patrick Stewart, and the exciting Sean Bean. They do an excellent job in the game, even though Patrick Stewart's role is quite brief.
The graphics are amazing. In the dungeons, they are dank, dark, and interesting. Outside, the world is vast, huge, and the view distance is incredible. This comes at a price of course though. The textures, looking at them from miles away, are pretty shocking. They are low, and crummy, but it really doesn't matter with a view like that.
The music is absolutely incredible. I have no doubt you will totally agree with me after seeing the intro cinematic. Following the lines of "And the final hours, of my life..." suddenly richocet into a bang, and the classic Elder Scrolls theme we know and love is suddenly travelling at full pace when you read: Bethesda Softworks Presents. But it continues getting louder, and more dramatic, and it feels better than a movie.
There is so much more I'd like to talk about this game, but I just won't be able to fit it in, like the expansive character creation to rival The Sims 2, the intuitive inventory system, and the different and diverse environments. Let me just say, that this is one of the greatest games of all time, and goes straight to the top as my favourite RPG to date.