Sunday, April 16, 2006

Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion (Completed)

It took 76 hours, 52 minuets and 58 seconds, played over 23 days for me to complete the main quest and all the achievement giving Guild side quests. That averages out at about three and a quarter hours a day. I manually saved 633 times and here are my other stats:
Days Passed: 262
Active Quests: 7
Quests Completed: 135
Skill Increases: 444
Training Sessions: 53
Novice Skills: 7
Apprentice Skills: 7
Journeyman Skills: 4
Expert Skills: 3
Master Skills: 0
Bounty: 0
Fame: 115
Infamy: 78
Days Jailed: 53
Items Stolen: 1762
Items Pickpocketed: 4
Trespasses: 0
Assaults: 62
Murders: 37
Horses Stolen: 3
Largest Bounty: 8505
Creatures Killed: 911
People Killed: 506
Places Found: 136
Locks Picked: 239
Lockpicks Broken: 106
Souls Trapped: 22
Ingredients Eaten: 12
Potions Made: 625
Oblivion Gates Shut: 6
Horses Owned: 1
Houses Owned: 0
Stores Invested In: 0 (no I don't know how to invest in a shop)
Books Read: 16
Artifacts Fund: 4
Hours Slept: 1878
Hours Waited: 1791
Days as a Vampire: 21
Necks Bitten 7
Jokes Told: 275
Diseases Contracted: 15
Niroots Found: 40
Oblivion is a good game, the most exciting moment in the game is the anticipation you feel just before you enter your first Oblivion Gate. However the worst and most tedious part of the game is having to close those very same Oblivion Gates. This isn't however the game's biggest failure. The biggest failure is by the designers not thinking the game through at design-time.

For starters although the graphics looks great the castle architectures would have benefited greatly if the level designers had of visited an actual castle. Some of the great architectural qualities of castles, chapels, green rooms, ball rooms, dungeons etc, and some of their most impressive defences, murder holes, "portcullis", arrow slits etc, are completely absent from the game. I don't know why because the architecture present is so generic that there is no question that the game would have benefited greatly from these additions.

O' yes and that big tower in the Imperial City. I CAN'T go to the top! Who said THAT wasn't an important feature!!! As a player you put something like that in front of me and of course I want to get to the top. Otherwise don't put it there.

Another big criticism is the language of the towns folk. All the voice actors have all recorded the same generic lines as each other. So you speak to a guard and get the 'Hero of Kvatch' speech, then talk to a woman and get the exact same 'Hero of Kvatch' speech, but with a different voice, yet she will repeat what the guard said word for word. Writing a little bit of variation for each voice actor's script shourly wouldn't have been so difficult.

Also with the language, all the towns folk have the same primp and proper way of speaking. The entire of Cyrodiil has the exact same vocabulary. It is as if the writer wrote all the spoken text with just one character in mind. There are a few exceptions, the Gray Fox for example starts every sentence with "Capital!", the Emperor has some great lines, Martin, Jauffre and there is a demon you can speak to later in the game who has a slightly different way of speaking, but the use of language is all so BLAND! Give me people with pirating accents, people that say one word too many times, people who use abbreviations, people who speak too fast, people who always shout, lisps, I don't care just not this same primp and proper way of speaking all the time.

Then there is the emotion of the characters in the game witch detracts from the believability of characters. First they are like "GET OUT OF MY HOME!" then they are "hello friend" and then "I AM CALLING THE GUARDS!" even when they asked you over or where expecting you. This could have been fixed with just a little bit more coding on the quests, but it wasn't done.

Almost every quest involves lots of killing and I have no idea how many times I have done a "somebody went to that cave, could you go and see what happened?" quest. Which almost always results in finding more dead bodies.

It might sound like I am being a bit harsh and I am because these issues should have been spotted at design-time. I am not even going to talk about the limited dialogue options which seem to have only been placed into the game to create the illusion of a conversation or the fact that the speech-game to get people to like you is a wasted feature. These faults are acceptable as one is a time & money thing and the other is a failed attempt which is ok because at least they tried. The lockpicking game could have been a negative, but is great and it wouldn't hurt to see other developers copy that or try something similar.

A good solid simplified RPG then, but the plot misses something and all the side quest stories miss something. Sometimes I think there might be a good story attached to the quest then it ends in a lot of killing, so maybe the quests are either too predictable or they need better closure. The main quest is not great, it is far too automotive to feel player driven or that player's action is even needed. Then there are the whole "how are oblivion gates opened" and "why would someone open one" questions. You can assume power, but the best villains in any game always have good motives for what they do and the evil guy in oblivion is only on screen for a couple of minuets at best so there is no chance of him commenting on the human condition.

Maybe Oblivion is a great game and I just have a problem with how the fiction is communicated to the player.