We all love dungeon crawlers and fighting enemies like giant rats, don’t we?
Well, maybe not all of us: some just hate them and couldn’t be bothered to push through the first tutorial/mission of Oblivion.
We play a nameless prisoner who just happens to bump into Emperor Jean-Luc Picard just so we can see him get murdered in the first 5 minutes of the game. And now we’re stuck with his stupid which we have to carry through rodents-of-unusual-size infested sewers. Can any game be up to a slower start?
But good things come to those who wait: the moment we got outside the tunnels is a spectacle, turning your whole perception of the game: from a linear dungeon crawler to an open world with no limits.
Previous Elder Scroll games have done this before, and so did other games in the open world genre. But never before Oblivion this looked so stunning: the beautiful sunset (or sunrise, depending on the time of the day in which you left the tunnels) giving a warm tint to the continent of Cyrodill and rendered in beautiful HDR, and the massive Impirial city towers are reflected in the water was almost breathtaking. Oblivion was probably the first tour de force of the “next gen” consoles and could easily compete with any top of the line linear FPS of that time when it comes to the technology driving the game (not a small feat for an open world RPG game). The developers at Bethesda really showed us what an RPG can pull with some decent tech.
Because of the massive scale and freedom, some players used to linear and directed experiences might have had a bit of a rough time at the beginning – it was more then they are used to chew. But the ones who came prepared, ready to be slowly imeressed it, were in for a real treat.
But this beautiful scenery was just the beginning of a massive open world adventure, which for some players clocked well over 100 hours of gameplay. You could go anywhere, engage in various activities outside the main storyline, travel to different cities with unique architectural style and simply explore the extremely details world and impressive environments. Most well known open-world games of the past (such as GTA) confined you first to a small section of the world and didn’t give you complete freedom to go where you want so early in the game.
Oblivion felt like something new, Something fresh. Although not perfect, the massive scale and level of polish it brought to the genre coupled together with some interesting concepts and innovations, completely excuse it from some of the minor quirks and less then stellar features of the game. Not only this game still looks and plays great to this day (over 4 years since it was released), but will it also probably be remembered as the first true RPG this generation of consoles had to offer, and how it truly leaped ahead.