'Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion':
When I was thinking of trying to sit down and write a review about this huge & amazing game, I was actually kind of intimidated. How do you explain without going on for ten pages how cool & huge Oblivion is? Well I guess I decided to give it a shot.
The Elder Scrolls series is well known for being gigantic, immersive RPG's that eat up your time like no other game in the genre. Oblivion follows along those lines, of course. I think the best way to describe how cool this game is, is by saying it took everything I loved about Morrowind (the previous entry in the series) and made it better. Then they took almost everything I hated about Morrowind and fixed it.
The previous game, Morrowind, was a gigantic game like no other before it. And while I loved playing it most of the time, the game felt too "open" for me. I was often lost at what to do next, where to go, and how to get there. The game wasn't that great looking (even at the time it was made) and it was VERY buggy even after it had been out for awhile. In fact, in the Xbox version I had to stop playing the game because one of the main quest items just never appeared after I killed a certain enemy. Very annoying.
Oblivion takes all of those problems and tosses them out the window. While the game is absolutely huge & there is an open world to explore, they streamline the process by giving you an excellent quest tracking system that will never have you lost at what to do next. On top of that, the game is gorgeous. There were many times I where I chose to head to my next quest on foot (instead of 'fast-traveling') just so I could look at the beautiful enviroments. The game has some definate technical issues (which I will get to later), but this was one of the best looking games on the PS3 when it was released.
And I have always ripped Bethesda Softworks for releasing games that are buggy. In reality, it would be almost impossible to find every bug in this game due to the enormous game world. You can literally play the game any way you want, so play testing this sucker must have been a chore. I have played the game for a few hundred hours, and I have yet to find a significant bug. Very nice.
The main storyline that you follow throught the game isn't going to win any awards, but it's still pretty good. Like most RPG's out there, this has good battling evil and so on. It should keep you interested up to the end, but it's nothing that will suck you in like the Final Fantasy games. The main quest also features some excellent guest voice work by people like Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean, who is one of my favorite actors. If you play the main quest all the way through, it should probably take you around forty hours or so if you don't actually travel everywhere by foot.
Things get really interesting when you start joining all of the guilds available in the game. These four different storylines will keep people hooked for awhile. While it's fun to play through the Fighter, Mage, & Thieves guild quests, it's the Dark Brotherhood that really shines here. In fact, I think the storyline that goes along with the Dark Brotherhood guild quests is better than the main storyline. Plus you get to be evil, which is always a big plus for me.
During the very first part of the game, you will get to create your character however you want. This alone, is one of the best parts of the game. You can literally make any kind of character you want. The sheer number of skills and spells available to you is outstanding. And unlike most RPG's, you gain levels by actually doing the skills you pick for your top ones. There are no experience points here, and I really like the way leveling up is handled. As you level up, so do your foes. If you went into a crypt at the beginning of the game and just fought a bunch of weak skeletons, you should check out that same crypt later on after you have leveled up a lot. You will find Liches running the joint instead. I like the way Bethesda did that as it continues to give you a challenge even after you have leveled up quite a bit.
As I mentioned earlier, the game is gorgeous. Just looking at the enviroments that you travel in can get addicting. The characters all look fantastic especially in their facial animations when you are speaking to them. My main problem with the game, however, comes along with these nice visuals. Oblivion has some serious pop-up or drawn-in issues that I haven't seen since playing games on the original Playstation. While you are travelling in the outdoor enviroments, it's pretty normal for you to see actual structures or tress literally load on the screen twenty feet in front of you. And when you get attacked by multiple enemies or when there is a lot going on at the same time, the frame-rate plummets so bad it's shocking. I know Oblivion uses the hard-drive quite a bit during the game, but these technical issues really hurt the performance. It doesn't really hinder you in any gameplay sense, but it's a problem nonetheless.
When I said the game loads from the hard drive a lot, I wasn't kidding. It literally loads while you are walking in the enviroment. The times I was just walking along and the game paused with a "Loading area....." phrase popped on my screen are too numerous to count. And it seems EVERYTHING you do in the game requires you to watch a load screen. At least 90% of the doors you open trigger a load screen. Even when they are very short, it can get annoying at times. Obviously the fact that the game looks great helps make up for this, but it's something I should definately mention.
While this game is one of the best games I have ever played, it's definately not for everyone. This is a game that you have to invest massive amounts of time & patience in if you want to see what makes it so good. And while going through all of the guild quests is fun, the dungeon crawling can get very repetitious. It's fun to level up and kill monsters, but after you have played the game for over seventy hours, you will dread going into your next Oblivion gate. Make no mistake, this is a dungeon crawling hack-fest of epic proportions and if that's not your thing then this game might seem boring to you.
Other than those minor problems, I could not find anything else I didn't like about this game. The game looks fantastic. The music and voice acting are some of the best in the business. You could literally play this game a year and not see everything it has to offer due to the excellent character creation. And most importantly, the game is really fun to play. It takes everything I hated about Morrowind and made it SO much better. This is a must-own for any fan of role-playing games and even if you aren't, you should give this game a shot. Just be sure to say good-bye to your girlfriend, friends, and family for awhile. They won't be seeing you much after you start this amazing game.
'Knights Of The Nine':
I am assuming if you are reading this review, then you have already played Oblivion and I will not go into how amazing that game is again. And just in case you haven't had enough of Oblivion, Bethesda Softworks has put together a nice little batch of downloads for you that should keep you busy for even longer.
One of the biggest and most impressive downloads is obviously the 'Knights Of The Nine' expansion. If you played through any of the guild quests in Oblivion, than you will know what to expect here in terms of length and scope. The quest involves you running around and finding different parts of holy heavy armor to use and eliminate a badguy. Ok that is a VERY simple way to sum up the plot line here, but that's essentially what you are doing. You start the quest by talking to a very strange prophet in the town of Anvil. He tells you of a great threat to the world known as Umril. You are then sent on a quest to find all of the 'Wayshrines'. This is easily the worst part of this expansion. It's pointless to have to do this and just flat-out boring, as you will find out. The quest gets really good after that, however, as you are sent on missions to find all of the holy relics that you have to use against Umril.
If you used any of the Daedric heavy armor in Oblivion, than this is essentially the 'holy' versions of that armor. It gets the same armor skill, just with different enchantments. Needless to say, it's very useful armor and the sword was actually better than the one I had before. I think the best part about the quest is that it's cool to see the results of your missions when you get back to the 'Priory Of The Nine' (which is your base of operations) and see people have joined your cause, cleaned up the place, and look to you as their leader. They even join you during your final confrontation which is an assault on Umril's lair. The only problem with the quest is that's it's over way too soon. Don't get me wrong, I had already put about ninety hours into Oblivion and I didn't really want them to drag out the playtime of this quest by making the dungeons longer or anything. By this time I have had my fill of slashing the undead in dungeons. But I just didn't get that overall 'epic' feel by playing this quest. It was like you were doing this huge and honorable thing for all of mankind........except no one knows about it except your followers, the ghosts of the nine, and some crazy old prophet. I think some playtime could have been invested in making the storyline feel more 'epic' and lose the travelling to every wayshrines part.
Do not let what I just said hinder you in any way from playing this quest. Overall, the 'Knights Of The Nine' is a very cool expansion that I would highly recommend to anyone who loved Obliviion. Just be sure that you don't expect it to keep you busy forever.
As anyone reading this will already know, Oblivion is one of the best RPG's to ever grace a PC or video game console. The game was absolutely huge and you could play the game for a year and maybe not see all it has to offer. If you didn't get enough the first time around, here is your chance to re-visit this great game.
As most gamers know, there have been other downloads available for Oblivion. Some were quite good ('Knights Of The Nine' quest-line), & some were a waste of money (Horse armor, anyone?). Thankfully, the Shivering Isles certainly falls into the first category. This lengthy 30+ hour quest is a must download for any Oblivion fan.
When you start the game, you will be given a hint that some mysterious portal has opened near the town of Bravil. Of course, after entering the portal and speaking to a dry-witted british man (who you will come to know much better as the storyline develops), you find out that you were chosen to be a "champion" for a loony Daedric price, named Sheogorath. What this amounts to is you are sent on many quests to do many tasks to help save his realm from an invading force.
The storyline is pretty intriguing, espeically at different parts (which I will not spoil here, obviously). The main storyline in the original Oblivion wasn't the greatest, so if that left you wanting a more 'meaty' story to follow then you will have your wish here. Some of the quests are great and add some variety to the long bouts of dungeon crawling. There is one, in particular, towards the beginning where you get to play a 'dungeon master' of sorts.
Then there is the Daedric price, himself. This guy is absolutely insane. He borders on being funny one moment, and driving you insane the next. And when he speaks he sounds like Sean Connery with WAY too many pints of Guiness in his system. He either screams every line of dialogue or talks very quietly. For better or worse, he is entertaining, interesting & never really gets old. The point of his 'twisted' character is to reflect the realm itself, which is split up into two parts. One is a bright, paradise looking place and the other is a dark, dingy swamp-like area. That split-personality theme runs throughout the whole storyline. The problem is that most of the tasks this crazy prince sends you on turn out to be fetch-quests that will have you fighting through lots of dungeons that all look a lot alike. After playing the original game for over 100 hours, this was bordering on getting on my nerves. Of course, in Obivlion style, you trudge on anyways and are treated to a nice story and some ever nicer loot. Yes, you get to use a lot of new items and all of them are quite useful depending on what kind of character you have. One of the swords you get early on may be the best sword I have ever had in a videogame.
When you are not killing enemies in dungeons, you can roam around the world that is the Shivering Isles. This is a realm that looks FAR different than anything you have seen in the original game. And there are tons of side-quests you can do for various NPC's that can break up the monotony of running around in dungeons. Most of the citizens of this realm are crazy, so even having a converation with someone can be entertaining. Too bad the same voices used in the original game are used here, so that is disappointing.
Speaking of the visuals, I didn't really get into the style of this realm as much as other reviewers of this game did. It still looks great, of course. My main problem with the graphics is that they didn't fix any of the problems from the original game. There is still a ton of pop-up and the game even froze on me a few times. In other words, if you had technical issues with Oblivion, you will have them here too.
The Shivering Isles really doesn't add anything in the way of gameplay enhancements or improvements. It is a content-heavy download that just gives you more of the same if you loved Oblivion. And it certainly doesn't fix any of the problems (technical issues & too much dungeon crawling) from the original. But if you are looking for a good reason to dive back into Oblivion, then this expansion is perfect for you.
There are the full-length reviews for 'Oblivion' & it's two big exapansions. This PS3 "Game Of The Year" edition contains all of them and is an extremely good deal. 'Oblivion' remains one of the greatest games I have ever played and I can't recommend it enough. This one should be in every PS3 owner's library.