Review: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

This post is more than 2 years old.

Ok, so this is probably an unfair review. I've only been playing Oblivion for about three hours and I'm still a level noob. But if there was any one game I had to pick to really show off the power of the 360, this would be it. I cannot describe to you how good this game looks. No video preview will really do it justice.

Let me give you an example. Early on in the game you have to escape from a prison. After fighting through a small dungeon, you exit into a lush forest setting, and the result is something akin to Dorothy landing in Oz. The grass sways in the air. The leaves sway in the air. The ambient sounds are dead on. Everything about this game screams detail.

Maybe it's just that I started my RPG life on games with tiles that didn't change, but I'm really surprised at how immersive this game is. One nice change for me (and this is coming from my last RPG being Knights of the Old Republic 2) is the use of time. The sun rises and sets. I still remember being shocked at the colours in the sky when I played last night as the sun was setting. Along with day/night cycles you have real weather systems. I've seen rain, which is probably easy enough, but I also saw just a general, overcast sky when I played last time. I swear the game "muted" the colours to match the change of light from the sky.

The engine is impressive, although a bit complex at times. I found myself fumbling for buttons a bit, but it is nowhere near as bad as Ghost Recon. I like how the compass will automatically switch pointers based on the current active quest. I also like not being tied to simple experience points for levelling up. Instead you have to get your skills (all of your skills) up to a certain average.

Two things stand out though as minor flaws. Faces. For some reason, every face looks puffy and a bit bloated, like everyone is suffering from either overeating or hives or something. I mean, the faces are very detailed... but just... puffy. Not quite sure why. Secondly, and I've seen this on a few games now - it really bugs me how hard it is to read small text. I don't have a HD TV (I need to add that to the wishlist! ;) but I do have a good size TV. (36 inch Sony WEG) I wish developers would handle text better in general. This isn't a complaint just for Oblivion though, I've seen multiple games with text issues.

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Ryan Stewart posted on 3/31/2006 at 12:26 AM

Ray, you should have gone with the PC version. I've been playing The Elder Scrolls games since Daggerfall (but I did buy Arena after beating Daggerfall) and the PC, to me, is the only way to go. Add in the fact that you can download and install plugins for the PC version and it's a no brainer. I think the text issue is better on the PC also. I haven't noticed any problems at least.

Comment 2 by Raymond Camden posted on 3/31/2006 at 12:27 AM

I don't play PC games anymore. Not that I'm against them, but my "good pc" is upstairs and I don't want to be away from the family. So I just don't bother buying them anymore. Although I'll probably get that last Star Wars game that came out.

Comment 3 by Joshua cyr posted on 3/31/2006 at 12:31 AM

I had to upgrade my video card to an ati x1300 to play this game with decent graphics. If you have pc and xbox, unless you have a sweet pc with latest card, go for xbox 360.

Game is quite fun. Stealthing, then one shot killing a goblin with my bow never gets old.

Be careful not to become a vampire unless you really want to. Otherwise it is a bear of a time to undo afterwards.

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 3/31/2006 at 12:35 AM

Joshua, I still haven't found any factions or guilds. I found the mage guild south of the big city, but I couldn't do anything with it. I figure I'll look more later as I move up. To be honest, I'm not talking to -every- single person or visiting -every- single house cuz if i do, I'll never finish. ;)

Comment 5 by Joshua cyr posted on 3/31/2006 at 12:42 AM

hahahaa. I know, I wish I started with the mages guild earlier. I have joined fighters, but haven't really done anything with them yet. You can join multiple guilds, and you should at least join mages guild for reasons below.

1) Join the mages guild. Once you do your basic qualification quests you can enchant items and make your own spells. Plus it is a good way to visit every city and learn stuff. Visit any city and find their mages guild. Every city has one. You can join by talking to someone in there, then get tasks from each one.

spoilers (very minor). dont' read unless you want to know how to do the thieves guild etc.

2) The Theives guild is handy if you need to find a place to sell your stolen stuff, or have a bounty on your head and want to pay it off. Just talk to a begger, and get his disposition of you pretty high. 70 maybe? Bribing is easy way, but you can also do that little mini game, or cast charm type spells on them. Then ask about grey fox. He should tell you how to join and start the quest for it.

3) in the major city is a merchant area. There is a quest from Jenna or someone like that to deal with a merchant that is undercutting in prices. Do that whole quest string and eventually one of the merchants will like you a lot. you can then sell your stuff for much more money with them.

4) don't forget to haggle. Even a little haggleing will help raise your skill.

Comment 6 by darron posted on 3/31/2006 at 1:09 AM

If you win the Adobe Flex Developer derby you'll get a nice 42" HD Plasma TV... and you can donate the 360 to me since you already have one!

Comment 7 by Raymond Camden posted on 3/31/2006 at 1:15 AM

Heh, I'd love to. I've been thinking of building a Flex2 interface to CFLib. I don't think that would win, but it could be useful.

Comment 8 by Pinkelton Wikam posted on 4/4/2006 at 11:10 AM

the faces are puffy because of the camera's (your primary view) field of view, it's "wide" so you can see more around you - which from a photography standpoint causes noticable distortion on faces. if the view had a 'longer' lens, the people wouldn't seem so distorted, but you wouldn't be able to see as much around.... google around for field of view and photography for more info on the principle.

Comment 9 by Pinkelton Wikam posted on 4/4/2006 at 11:12 AM

Crap I just posted this to a blog with the title, 'jedi master'... i don't know who should be more embarassed.

Comment 10 by Raymond Camden posted on 4/4/2006 at 5:48 PM

Pnkelton, thats interesting, and makes sense. Thanks for posting it!

Comment 11 by anon posted on 4/10/2006 at 6:37 PM

But the Xbox doesn't have access to the handy command console to bypass broken quests...

Comment 12 by Don posted on 4/10/2006 at 8:13 PM

I got it for 360 because i just don't want to deal with compatibility problems and stuff like that. Also in the mages guild and fighters guild they have all kinds of weapons, armors, and items laying around to use or sell and it ok to take them.

Comment 13 by Raymond Camden posted on 4/10/2006 at 8:16 PM

Don, are you sure on that? I was going to google it this week. I had wondered if i could just take those weapons and sell them.

Do they regenerate? If not, it may make sense to leave one or two behind.

Ray, the still struggling level 9 swordspell thingy.

Comment 14 by kieren hultquist posted on 5/14/2006 at 9:52 PM

how do you clear your criminal record in order to join the fighters guild

Comment 15 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/15/2006 at 6:15 AM

I'd suggest checking one of the faqs at

Comment 16 by kieren posted on 8/4/2006 at 2:04 AM

how do i clean my criminal record so i can join the fighters guild, please reply as i am really stuck

Comment 17 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/4/2006 at 2:09 AM
Scroll down to "So you have been kicked out?"

Comment 18 by Taulyn posted on 6/4/2007 at 9:47 PM

Any here joined the dark brotherhood??

Comment 19 by dylan posted on 6/11/2007 at 10:40 PM

ive joined dark brotherhood,i need to know how to clear my record for fighters

Comment 20 by Danny Camden posted on 7/6/2007 at 8:56 AM

we have the same last name... rad