Review: The Elder Scrolls IV - Oblivion role playing game
The ultimate non-linear role playing game
Price: £34.99 (PC); £49.99 (Xbox 360)
Manufacturer: Take Two Interactive (Bethesda)
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Official Game Guide...
Overall rating: *****
Ave. user rating *****
Overall: With incredible depth, unparalleled freedom and a cracking storyline, Oblivion sets a new level for PC and console adventures
Chris Cain, Personal Computer World 25 Apr 2006
Every so often a game comes along that completely redefines its genre, raising the bar and setting new standards.
Oblivion not only moves computer role-playing to the next level, it could actually convert those who have never tried such adventures before.
The fourth chapter in Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion is the follow up to the critically-acclaimed Morrowind. Where the complexity of its predecessor could lead to frustration, however, the sequel has been streamlined to make things more accessible.
This time around the freedom to explore a medieval world is combined with better-defined missions, tighter controls and a truly engaging storyline.
Initially charged with finding the secret heir to the royal throne, you are all that stands in the way of a demonic invasion.
Only the appointment of the rightful new Emperor will restore a magical barrier between your world and a terrifying hellish plane, known as Oblivion.
With demons already enjoying day trips and weekends abroad, it falls to you to save the day - or at least you can, should you choose to.
The sheer beauty of Oblivion is that you decide what to do, who and what your character is and how you interact with the world. With a free choice of sex, race, attributes and character class, it's pretty much up to you how your game plays out.
You can stick rigidly to the main quest, enjoy random adventures of your own, or spend time sightseeing while nipping in and out of the plotline.
Meanwhile, the other inhabitants have their own agenda and continue to carry on regardless of your actions. If you thought the Grand Theft Auto games were the pinnacle of open-ended gameplay, you really haven't seen anything yet.
Career options include training as a fighter or wizard, signing up as a gladiator or joining the Imperial guard. Alternatively, those who like to play dirty can spend their time as a thief, picking pockets in the street and burgling houses for entertainment.
Get caught, however, and you'll soon end up dead, languishing in jail or running around with a price on your head.
We were invited to join the Dark Brotherhood, a secret society of assassins ready to kill for the highest bidder. Especially enjoyable missions here include staging the death of client, silencing a prison inmate and dealing with a traitor in the ranks.
None of this would work without a believable environment and Bethesda's attention to detail is nothing short of remarkable. Forests full of flowers and fauna, grand castles, hidden caves and ancient ruins are just some of the places waiting to be discovered.
In truth, it will likely take several weeks of dedicated play to undercover even a quarter of the delights on offer.
While the graphics are at their finest on a high-end PC, excellent lighting and detailed textures mean the Xbox 360 version is also little short of stunning.
Next-generation visuals are supported by a stirring score and voiceovers from the likes of Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean and Terrance Stamp - unlike Morrowind, there's full speech for everyone in the game.
That said, there is some noticeable repetition - especially from a chap who sounds like Trumpton's Brian Cant.
Bethesda has also streamlined the controls and interface to make this latest adventure easy get to grips with.
There's no getting away from the fact that traditional role-playing statistics still govern your character's equipment and abilities, and your progress depends heavily on increasing core skills such as fighting with a blade or bow, casting spells and athletic ability.
However, the game feels and plays far more like the first-person shooter than a standard RPG. As such it takes no time at all to lose yourself in the action, which could engage a whole new audience.
Take a look at our image gallery to see more screenshots from the game.
Xbox 360 or 2GHz P4 PC with:
512MB System Ram
4.6GB hard disk space