Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
A number of people told me this was the be-all and end-all of modern RPGs. It’s several years old. I’d picked it up for the Xbox a few years ago but only played a few hours. So recently, I picked it up again.
I’m now about 24 hours into the game (yikes – I’ve spent a whole day on this thing!). Overall, I’m not very impressed. Given that it’s easier to list out the things I don’t like than the things I like, I’ll start with the former:
Ok, I’m generally a fan of open worlds – I don’t like artificial boundaries. However, there have to be limits. An open world should only be as expansive as the interesting content there is to fill it. And unfortunately, Oblivion is way too large for its own good. For the first few hours, you discover “secret” shrines, forts and caves in the countryside. Wow, exciting! Unfortunately, after a few more hours you realize they are all the same. Every fort looks the same, every cave uses the same pieces of cave wall. Everything looks the same. It gets really boring.
So now, I don’t even bother to check out those things.
First of all, it’s very slow. Oblivion can claim so many hours of gameplay because it stretches them brutally.
Second, there is satisfaction in getting absolutely schooled somewhere, then spending some time leveling up and coming back stronger, with better weapons. Unfortunately, in Oblivion, all the monsters seem to be scaled to your level. So nothing ever gets easier. I can see this making sense for random monster encounters in the countryside (to maintain consistent challenge), but I don’t think its a good idea for “quest dungeons” or the Oblivion Planes. I kept thinking “alright, now I can totally kick ass, let’s go back”. I would go back and now the monsters were even stronger and I still got my ass kicked. If I do spend time grinding/leveling, I expect to be rewarded. Not so in Oblivion.
Addictive rather than satisfying
I would describe the gameplay as addictive, not satisfying. I find myself wanting to play the game to get to the next level, get more loot, etc… But after I do, I am unsatisfied. I feel like I am wasting my time.
Everything looks the same
Oh, am I back to this again? Even the towns look all the same. Oh sure, some times they are made of wood and sometimes not. But within one town, the buildings all look the same. All the mage’s guilds have the same layout (I assume the same it true for the fighter’s guilds). I would like to imagine that this was done for gameplay reasons (“hey, this is familiar, I’ll know where to find the guy that sells potions”), but I suspect this was done to save costs. Honestly, with a budget as large as Bethesda obviously had, they couldn’t add more variety?
The towns suffer from the same “too-expansive” feeling as the rest of the land. It’s nice, and realistic, that every citizen has his or her own house. But it sure makes towns a pain to navigate.
I feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again. This game is really for people who like grinding, who like MMORPGs.
How do the following things help gameplay:
- repairing weapons after every single outing, since they degrade so fast
- recharging magical items
- making money by gathering ingredients and making potions
These things are fun the first few times, then they just get annoying. I think it’s important that a game keep bringing new gameplay elements in throughout the game (e.g. see Braid).
Ok, what did I like about it?
I liked climbing to a high hill at sunset or sunrise, and looking out over the game world. The land of Cyrodil was laid out before me, the skies were red or purple, it was very beautiful.