Most helpful critical review
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Great game with Flawed Mechanics
on 3 October 2012
OK first up - Oblivion is not Skyrim. It's 5 years old now, so I won't be comparing the two, just taking Oblivion on its own merits.
The basic premise of Oblivion is that a parrallel dimension, known as Oblivion, and filled with Daedra - demon like warriors hell bent on the destruction and ruin of Tamriel - is staging an invasion of the Imperial heartland. Led by Mehrunes Dagon, the Prince of Destruction, the whole world stands on the brink of bloody conflict and conquer, and you are the only one who can stop it. Sound familiar? It should since the majority of RPG games feature a similar premise. What does Oblivion credit though is the way that it engages you in this storyline. It may be a bit tired as a narrative, but giving you a truly HUGE world to explore, books to read that give you history from the previous Elder Scrolls games in case (like me) you never played them before, and loads and LOADS of options for independant exploration to further you experience make it a deeply compelling world. Even for agame of its age, the scenery is impressive and there is an enourmous amount of content like side quests, guilds to join and activities to do. There are very few games that offer so much for the price on the box.
HOWEVER. The encouragement to explore, and develop your character, and level up is central to the ultimate failing of this title, and it is a big one. The levelling system, perhaps the single most fundamental gameplay element of any RPG is BROKEN. Yep. Broken.
It breaks down like this - Your character has attributes like Strength, Intelligence and Willpower. These values govern relevant skills. The higher your attribute, the more effective you will be at the skills it governs e.g. Strength governs weapon abilities like Blade which makes your better with swords and daggers. Your skill level (between 1 and 100) also governs how effective you'll be with a particular weapon, but not as much as the multiplyer from attributes. Attributes also govern your three basic character stats which are health, stamina and magika. You use up reserves of these states to cast spells, perform weapon attacks, run, jump, and take damage.
Seems like a solid system? Well it isn't. You level up by getting 10 skill increases in any of your seven 'major' skills that you nominate during the opening section of the game. Each time you level up you nominate three attributes to increase that level, and they will increase by between 1 and 5 points depending on how many skill ups you got that level in skills governed by that attribute. Unfortunately enemies scale to your level based on an assumption that you will always get 5 points of attribute increase in each of your three chosen attributes EVERY LEVEL and if you don't - YOU GET WEAKER BY LEVELLING UP. Relative to your enemies.
Unbelievable. What this means is that unless you turn the difficulty to minimum (boring) or spend every moment of the game relentlessly tracking and planning your skill increases to ensure you level 'efficiently' (also very boring - I speak from exhaustive experience here) you won't be able to complete the game as the end game enemies will out-power you by such a margin it becomes impossible. Can it be done? Of course if you track everything. Should you have to? Debateable, it is an RPG after all. Do you want to? Probably not!
The only way to enjoy this game is to set your major skills to skills you literally NEVER USE. e.g. for a mage your major skills should be all combat. Block, Blunt etc. This means you never level up, but your 'minor' skills can still increase to 100. This means you have a powerhouse level 1 character who can defeat just about everything in the game with ease. Downside? Most loot is level based, and since smithing isn't featured in Oblivion you will (almost) never see interesting or fun weapons and armor.
However taking this approach means you can explore and take advantage of the rich world and explore and actually have fun with the game as intended by the developers.
All in all then Oblivion is a frustrating game to play. You want to love it, and play it and enjoy it but its core gameplay mechanics mean that you can't, unless you take the approach I describe above. It has plenty to recommend it, but plenty that takes away from its strengths which is a great shame.
I'm sure that hardcore, stat tracking RPG players will love to spend their free time bookkeeping and note taking, but I'm a gamer, not an accountant and for this reason I can't give Oblivion a rating any Higher than 3*
What is does well it does REALLY well, but there are too many faults to let it shine.
If you're new to the Elder Scrolls, save your money and go buy Skyrim instead - That's the introduction to the franchise you deserve.