The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Possibly Bethesda’s weakest offering, but still great!

Speaking as someone who has played Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4, Oblivion, and Skyrim, I would say that Oblivion was the weakest of all these Bethesda games that have been produced since the PS3/X360 generation. However, that’s a bit like the title of “worst orgasm” or “best time I crapped my pants.” It’s a significantly shifted frame of reference that can misrepresent the game’s quality. It’s a fantastic game, and any RPG fan would be pleased with their decision to give it a go. With that being said, here are some of the game’s highs and lows...

*HIGHS*
- A fairly deep skill tree allows you to truly customize your approach to gameplay.
- Lots of side-missions can keep you busy for months. Even doing just the missions required for achievements took me a solid 3 weeks, and I do mean SOLID.
- The large, expansive world gives you plenty to explore, but destination markers and fast travel stop you from ever getting frustrated by feeling lost.
- Enemies adapted to your level allow you to always feel challenged without ever feeling overwhelmed (almost never, anyway).
- In my experience, the least glitchy of all the Bethesda games. I only had to reload an earlier save once in my entire play-through to undo an in-game glitch.

*LOWS*
- Achievements are fairly uncreative. Everything revolves around completing 6 quest lines, with no incentive to explore, create, fight, etc.
- Maps have to be viewed through a small window with no ability to zoom in or out. There is also no search option to snap to something you’re looking for. This can be VERY frustrating even at the end of the game once you already know the basic layout.
- The skill tree is possibly too complex and deep. Weapons are divided into 3 classes, magic into 5, armor into 2... this introduces some real grinding if you want to strengthen your character, to the point where most skills will rely on you standing in one spot and spamming a button for several minutes to no end. Having a turbo controller would help but even then...
- Characters are very generic. While you can interact with almost any NPC you find, MANY of them have no dialogue of their own. It gives a sense of artificial inflation in terms of content.
- The main story is very generic. Side quests have some fun variety and interesting plot points, but this is a game that had PATRICK STEWART on board as a voice actor, and blew its load on a paint-by-numbers “oh no the emperor is dead, who will protect us now?” story.
- The titular Oblivion realm is quite repetitive and boring. You can largely ignore it for the entire game.
- Items to sell often have a value that far exceeds what any merchant in the game can pay you. This leaves you in a position of holding onto expensive items in order to advance your character and get the best value out of an item, but that best value will never come. No bartering system exists either, meaning all that extra value is lost.

Overall, again, this is a great game. But the flaws I noted here, for me, put Oblivion at the bottom of the list. What this means for you is that, if you’re looking for an RPG to dive into, you’ll be happy with your choice to pick up Oblivion... but you’ll be even happier with the choice to pick up any of Bethesda’s other fantastic RPGs.
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