From the ashes of Oblivion comes a classic for the next-gen of gamers.

User Rating: 9.5 | The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition X360
Developed by Bethesda Game Studios 4 years after the successes of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, "Oblivion" returns us to the free roaming world of Cyrodiil for more high adventure and near endless excitement. Complete with 1 expansion, 1 game add-on, and offering over 200 hours of game play, Oblivion (Game of the Year Edition) throws us into the role of an unlikely hero thrust into the service of king and country. Faced with vanquishing the foes of the netherworld, and charged with restoring peace to a troubled land, Oblivion grants the freedom between a linear story or hundreds of major and minor side quests for hours and hours of exploration sure to keep even the most hearty of adventurers entertained.

Graphics / Presentation: (9.5 / 10)
Graphically Oblivion is impressive, even for being a few years old, with notable "oh snap" experiences in regards to scenery and the lay of the land. Though the templates for dungeons / caves / houses are limited, the creators use what they have extremely well allowing a similar, yet unique, feel to the environment that keeps Oblivion relatively free from the feelings of nostalgia. Menu's and inventory are organized well with the ability to sort items in multiple fashions for easier use and function. However, on the downside, Oblivion though having an option for 3rd person, was programmed to take place in a first person perspective which may be unfamiliar or frustrating to fans of the genre. Though there is an option to switch to a more familiar 3rd person angle, the animations, ease of use, and overall feel are dramatically degraded by doing so and is clearly not recommended.

Music / Sound: (10 / 10)
The maestro of video game music Jeremy Soule, composer of multiple Guild Wars scores, Harry Potter (Game) scores, and the original Knights of the Old Republic, has put together a wonderful score both soothing and sensational for Oblivion's soundtrack. The music is both fitting and exceptional, adding not only to environment but to the game play and overall feel of Oblivion. From themes uplifting to beautiful and chaotic to reverent, Jeremy Soule has produced a score worthy of the highest praise and purchase as a stand alone score.

Story / Creativity: (9.5 / 10)
Overall, the main quest line of Oblivion is good but not spectacular. Though the story itself is decent, repetition throughout keeps the tale from ascending to higher heights. However, Oblivion has a plethora of side-quests both minor and major ranging from the epic and grand to the trivial in scale, that are as entertaining or engaging as the main quest if not more so. Being free flowing and forming, Oblivion allows the player to ascend to positions within multiple factions, as well as within multiple villages and local governments. In addition, NPC's (Non Player Controlled Characters) react to side quest events through conversation and action which adds a unique feeling of involvement and attachment giving a positive overall feel to the story. Oblivion is also somewhat unique in the sense of allowing the player full freedom of how and when to complete certain elements of a story which in turn grants a sense of free form fluidity not common in many linear RPG plot lines. Truthfully, the amount of enjoyment depends on the players intuity and involvement with the villagers and the land. Certain quests are only unlocked by doing certain deeds, or "looting" certain items, and are not in the garden variety go to a "quest giver" format. Creativity and deeds both good and evil are rewarded as Bethesda clearly was striving for a life-like experience rather than the traditional "do this" and "do that" mindset. Overall the depth and multitude of opportunities and options overcomes the mediocre main plot line to give Oblivion an exceptional score in the story / creativity category.

Fun Factor (10 / 10)
Oblivion is one of those game you'll either love or hate. If you like the fantasy / action / rpg scene, and don't mind a game entirely in first person view, Oblivion is wonderful. However, if you're more a turn-based / 3rd person / traditional gamer, or a gamer not too familiar with a fantasy setting, then Oblivion would be better as a rental first than as an investment. However, once you start, Oblivion truly gets under your skin, allowing for hundreds of hours (I logged 115 before I completed the story) of exploration, interaction, and adventure. On the down side, Oblivion does not support a multi-player option and is completely single player in it's adaption and format. Also, Oblivion is a really long and deep title which, though a positive to many, may not be recommended for those with shorter attention spans or only a limited time to play games.

Overall Flow / Technical (9 / 10)
Oblivion is a massive title with near limitless customization and creativity but suffers somewhat because of it. Due to the gigantic scale of Oblivion and it's expansions, load times can become exceptionally frustrating between looting and traveling, and the overall fluidity is damaged in the process. However, Bethesda has integrated an instant travel option which allows you to select a destination you've already discovered and travel there immediately by loading the area and adjusting the in game time accordingly. This allows for much less wasted time traveling familiar roads and decrease in load times once you arrive in the particular area.

Otherwise Oblivion benefits well from the use of the Havok physics engine (Halo 3) with only a few noticeable glitches and problems. Of all the items in Oblivion's mass assortment, paintbrushes for example, have no physics applied to them whatsoever, meaning that once they're picked up and removed from the inventory, the paintbrushes will literally remain suspended in mid-air where they were dropped. Creative players can use these paintbrushes in the fashion of stepping stones to ascend to the heavens and reach undeveloped aspects of the game, such as the castle roof, or church steeples. Also, in the line of glitches is one involving any crime committed in game. If the player is able to attract guard attention and pursuit without being caught and entering the dialog screen, and manages to pay the fine to the underground authorities, the particular guards in pursuit will remain perusing indefinitely until the player is finally approached. This glitch denies the player the ability to rest, sleep, or fast travel while waiting for the dutiful guard at his post to make his accusation, but with the fine already levied, the guard merely runs at the player, sword drawn, to exclaim, "Hello Citizen", or "What can I do for you?". Though humorous at first, this can become a frustration quickly when tasked with important deeds to complete.

On the plus side, a feature in Oblivion that breaks RPG tradition is the way a character levels. Rather than offering a set amount of experience per kill, and a set amount required for a level gain, Oblivion focuses on experience through actual completion or exercise of an ability. If you want to get better at sword use, you have to use your sword, or in order to become a grand mage, you have to actually cast spells. You can't develop a talent without using that talent in Oblivion which forces the player to actually be the character they are trying to develop.

Finally, the biggest problem experienced with the overall flow and technical aspects of Oblivion was the actual progression of enemies based on your level. What this means is that rather than a rat becoming weaker as you level, the rat also grows in experience and remains the same level of difficulty no matter how high you level. Though perhaps explainable in some twisted sense of logic, this feature completely destroys any feelings of accomplishment or improvement. However, you are given the ability to change the difficulty in game allowing some sense of player development and ascendancy otherwise the score given would have been dramatically lower.

Value / Replay: (10 / 10)

Including both the Knights of the Nine add-on, and the Shivering Isles expansion, Oblivion (Game of the Year Edition) has more bang for your buck than the majority of game titles available. Though replay value is limited, the total depth of the game is massive and more than makes up for it. With near limitless customization of both player attributes and design, as well as armor / weapon and spell creation, Oblivion offers tons of end game content that will keep players coming back time and time again to pick up where they left off, or to start another set of adventures in the land Cyrodiil.

Overall Score: 58/60 = 0.96 x 100 = 96.6 / 100 or 9.5 for Gamespot

Final Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed Oblivion and don't feel bad in the slightest about the time I've spent playing and adventuring. Though I never played a straight play through without going to other games and later coming back, Oblivion is the type of game you can put down for a while without feeling hopelessly confused upon returning. After the completion of the main quest arc I finally delved into the expansions and was left with an overall satisfied experience and plenty of memories from my time spent in Cyrodiil and beyond.

Though I was never a fan of Morrowind, the Elder Scrolls 3rd title, I can honestly say that I'm eagerly looking forward to the fifth installment and have come to expect only the best from Bethesda Studios. I'd recommend this to anyone familiar with the Elder Scrolls titles who somewhat enjoyed the style of game play, or anyone looking for a good investment or a long and involving adventure. However, anyone who might be frustrated by real time combat, a first person perspective, or anyone looking for a quick and cheap thrill, might want to steer clear of Oblivion and its offerings.

~Saigo~ (Look me up!)
"Intelligent Reviews for Intelligent Gamers"