Matt Keller
15 Jul, 2007

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Review

PS3 Review | PS3 owners to experience loss of social life and many late nights.
Just over a year ago, PC and Xbox 360 owners got their greasy mits on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the latest in Bethesda’s long running fantasy RPG series. The game was a smash hit, shifting many millions of units and picking up numerous RPG of the Year awards, and inspiring the release of many mods and add-on packs, both user-created (on the PC version) and official. Now PlayStation 3 owners get a chance to live life in Tamriel, and although nothing much has changed in Tamriel in a year, the inclusion of the Knights of the Nine add-on pack and the smoothing of many technical and performance issues make it a worthwhile experience for those still on the fence.

Oblivion starts the player in a dungeon, in a cell for a purpose not really explained. Extensive options for customising your characters race and appearance quickly appear – you can be a boring old Imperial human, or a kickarse tiger-like Khajit – fat or skinny, big honker or button nose, the choice is yours. After a short introductory scene (and a bit of teasing at the hands of prisoners and guards), you’ll get to chose your character class and skill proficiencies. Again, in true Elder Scrolls style, there is a diverse range of skills and classes available – choose from the pre-made class types, or make your own. Soon, the main quest is revealed – the life of the current emperor (voiced by Patrick Stewart) is about to end, and with both of his heirs meeting untimely demises at the hands of dark forces, the emperor charges you with the task of finding his illegitimate son, Martin Septim (played by Sean Bean). If the heir to the throne is not found before the demise of the current emperor, the gates to Oblivion will open, and spill lots of evil monsters and such onto the land.

'Tis merely a flesh wound

'Tis merely a flesh wound
The beautiful thing about Oblivion is that you always feel in control of your own destiny – the world is yours to explore, and you’re never forced to do anything. It’s possible to spend a hundred hours playing the game without ever touching the main quest. The variety of player classes and skills means you are never forced to play the game the same way. Playing as a heavy-handed, sword-wielding fighter is very different to playing as a stealthy, quick-witted thief. Oblivion’s customisable class system allows you to create mid-range classes, say a sword-wielding fighter with a few magic abilities. Of course, the way you play within each class greatly determines the best skills for your character, given that skill raising in Oblivion is based on your use of each skill rather than some arbitrary experience points system. The player can take on a variety of structured quests, from guilds (fighters, mages, thieves, etc.) and various citizens of the empire, or they can just journey around the world of Tamriel, picking flowers for alchemic purposes, exploring caves and dungeons for treasure and slaying various evil beasts.

Many aspects of Oblivion feel much tighter than they did in Morrowind. Namely, the fighting system feels like it has real impact behind it, and isn’t based on any sort of D&D style hit and miss scheme, thus feeling far more satisfying. Magic and projectile weaponry also feel much more effective than they did previously. The enemy AI is far more adaptive, so it pays to vary your tactics when fighting. Alternatively, the use of stealth skills can ensure you never have to fight enemies. Obviously, Oblivion is far more attractive than its predecessor, making use of the power of the next generation consoles to render the beautiful, organic world of Tamriel and the fiery pits of Oblivion. Journeying up to the highest point in the land and looking over the world of Tamriel is a really impressive site – especially when you watch the sun rise and set. The PlayStation 3 version has a better draw distance than the Xbox 360 version, so you can see a lot more of the world. Load times are minimal, and the frame rate is solid, for the most part. A fantastic orchestral score and solid voice acting supplement the beautiful visuals. It would have been nice to have a few more varied voices between the various citizens of Tamriel, though.

Who you gonna call?

Who you gonna call?
There are still a few problems with Oblivion. Arguably the biggest problem has been seen across all versions of the game – scaling. In Oblivion, as your character gets stronger, the monsters you fight also see an increase in their abilities. When your character is an early level in a game, you might see a rat in a cavern, but when you return as a stronger character, that rat might now be an orc. This is particularly problematic when you have skills which cause your character to level up fast in non-strength skills – you might be quick and nimble, but you’re going to get flogged by these tougher enemies, and may never be able to finish the game as a result. One can see why Bethesda tried this approach, given that one could become godlike in Morrowind in a short period of time, but it’s still a big blemish on an otherwise incredible game. The other major problem is more related to the PlayStation 3 version of the game. While Bethesda was kind enough to supply gamers with the Knights of the Nine expansion, no other additional content is available for the PlayStation 3 version of the game, including the recently released Shivering Isles expansion, or any of the player-made modifications from the PC version are available. With the more expanded Game of the Year edition on the way in September, it makes this version a little hard to recommend.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is still an incredible experience one year on, and the port to the PlayStation 3 is excellent, especially when compared to other lacking ports of software onto the system. It maintains all of the best things about Oblivion, as well as all of the bad things. The only real problem with the PlayStation 3 version of the game is that it feels a bit locked off – while some of the expansion content has been provided, you can’t hop onto the PlayStation Network and grab the rest – you’d have to wait until the release of the Game of the Year edition in September to play the new content. And that kind of makes this version of the game a little hard to recommend, given that it’s still full price – perhaps PlayStation 3 fans wanting to sample Oblivion should wait until the more complete version of the game is available. However, if you’re the impatient sort, Oblivion is still an excellent experience that should be played by everyone.
The Score
Oblivion for the PlayStation 3 is still a class act, but those solo PlayStation 3 owners might be better served by the upcoming Game of the Year edition.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Content

Elder Scrolls going online?
02 Nov, 2007 New website silently opens up...
PS3 Oblivion delayed
10 Nov, 2006 Drops back to 2007.
Books based on The Elder Scrolls to arrive
28 Apr, 2009 First book set after the events of Oblivion.
6 years ago
I wouldn't say Oblivion has any replay value at all... I've bled my initial character dry, done every quest I can find, so I recently started another one and just got bored part way through. On top of that, I finished it all in about 60 hours, so.... compared to games like Killer 7, Resi 4, Wind Waker etc. which I've played through at least three times each, I'd personally say Oblivion's lifespan's not so great. Bloody fun game while it lasts though.
6 years ago
nice review, but weren't the screen shots from the knights of the nine though?
6 years ago
I am definetly keen for an RPG on the PS3 but i dont think this is the one. Although there is talk of a much more advanced package, with shivering isles and other niceties, i still think i will stear clear. However, all reviews for this game are very positive and it dosn't struggle to reach into the 9's on a consistent basis. Perhaps the best thing to do is just give it a go.
6 years ago
ittekimasu wrote
nice review, but weren't the screen shots from the knights of the nine though?
Knights of the Nine is included in the initial PS3 version.
6 years ago
I'm curious as to why they didn't include the Shivering Isles expansion. Whats the point of this BluRay stuff if they don't fill it up with content?
6 years ago
Surely they'd release the Shivering Isles content over PSN and not make everyone's copy of Oblivion redundant in 6 months when the GOTY edition is released.
6 years ago
well thats what i'm hoping, i already got it so making it avaliable over the psn would be more convenient
6 years ago
My understanding is that Shivering Isles is confirmed for release on PSN. Slightly before the release of the Game of the Year edition. You can find confirmation on the bethesda website.

Of course if it makes it to the Australian PlayStation store before 2034 I'll be surprised.
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