The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
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|The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion|
Cropped North American boxart
|Distributor(s)||2K Games (retail) |
|Designer(s)||Todd Howard |
|Series||The Elder Scrolls|
Physics — Havok
Foliage — SpeedTree
|Platform(s)||Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3|
|Release date(s)||Windows, Xbox 360|
|Latest release||1.2.0416 / April 30, 2007|
|Genre(s)||First person Action Role-Playing, sandbox|
|Mode(s)||Single player (first-person and third-person view)|
|Media||DVD, DVD-DL, Blu-ray Disc, Download|
|System requirements||512 MB system RAM|
2.0 GHz processor
128 MB video card
8x DVD-ROM drive
4.6 GB hard disk space
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a single-player role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks and the Take-Two Interactive subsidiary 2K Games. It is the fourth installment in The Elder Scrolls action fantasy video game series. It was released on March 20, 2006 for Windows PCs and the Xbox 360. A PlayStation 3 release was shipped on March 20, 2007 in North America, and April 27, 2007 in Europe. Following a number of smaller content releases a major expansion pack: Shivering Isles was released.
Oblivion's story revolves around an escaped prisoner and his or her efforts to thwart a plot masterminded by a fanatical cult—a scheme involving opening gates to a realm called Oblivion and unleashing its horrors on the mortal world. The game continues the open-world tradition of previous Elder Scrolls games, allowing the player to travel anywhere in the game world at any time, including the option to ignore or postpone the main storyline indefinitely. Developers opted for a tighter pacing and greater focus than past titles, a design choice that was well-received in the gaming press.
The game was well-received, earning high scores and winning numerous awards and scoring an average of 94% in Metacritic's aggregate, based on 90 reviews, at least nineteen of which produced perfect scores. It also scored 9.3 at IGN. Oblivion had shipped 1.7 million copies by April 10, 2006, and sold over three million copies by January 18, 2007. A package including both Shivering Isles and the official plug-in Knights of the Nine, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition, was released in Autumn 2007 for Windows PCs, the Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3.
- See also: Gameplay of The Elder Scrolls series
Oblivion uses open-ended or Sandbox gameplay. The main quest can be postponed or completely ignored as the player explores the expansive game world, following side-quests, interacting with NPCs, and developing their character. Players are free to go anywhere inside the province of Cyrodiil in the land of Tamriel at any time while playing the game, and even after completing the main quest storyline. The game never ends, and players are able to build up their character as much as they want, with no restrictions on skills or equipment. The Windows version of the game is open to almost unrestricted modification, and there are thousands of modifications available on the Internet. These modifications vary from minor item changes to complete game overhauls. The game provides a wide variety of enemies, including monsters and animals. Enemies become stronger and weapons become more powerful as the player's character becomes more proficient in skills. This game mechanic, called "leveling," keeps the difficulty constant throughout the course of the game. The player, however, has the option of adjusting the difficulty level.
The fast-travel system found in Arena and Daggerfall made a return in Oblivion. In Oblivion, when players visit a location, that location appears as an icon on their map. Players can then return to this location instantly. The in-game time is adjusted to reflect the time that would have elapsed were the player to have travelled there manually. One major focus during Oblivion's development was rebalancing Morrowind's stealth and combat skill sets. The skill system is similar to Morrowind's, though in Oblivion there are fewer skills. The "medium armor," "unarmored," and "spear" skills are removed altogether. The "short" and "long blade" skills are condensed into a single "blade" skill, and the "axe" skill merged with the "blunt" skill. The ability to "forget" spells was also removed. The game also introduced "mastery levels" which give skill-specific bonuses when the player reaches predetermined levels in a skill. The combat system was also revamped, with the addition of "power attacks" (added upon reaching specific mastery levels), and the removal of the separate styles of melee attacks present in Morrowind. Ranged attacks were also changed so that hits were based on the player's firing skill rather than the character's numerical skill level. Spears, throwing weapons, and crossbows were removed. The choice came from a desire to focus all development effort regarding ranged weapons into bows specifically in order to "get the feel of [ranged weapons] as close to perfect as possible" as the Havok physics engine allowed the team to do. Morrowind's passive Block skill became an active feature in Oblivion, activated by a button press. The dynamics of the blocking mechanism were also changed, causing enemies to recoil after a successful block and leaving them open for a follow-up attack by the player. Most of these changes to combat were received well: GameSpot commended the strengths of the game in each area, finding the game's melee combat "faster and smoother" than Morrowind's, the game's stealth combat "at least as satisfying" as its melee combat, and was generally impressed at the breadth and ease of use of the game's spell-casting.
Although it is set after the previous Elder Scrolls games chronologically, the game is not a direct sequel to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind or any other game. Oblivion begins with the arrival of Emperor Uriel Septim VII (voiced by Patrick Stewart), accompanied by a trio of the Imperial bodyguards known as 'the Blades', at the Imperial City prison. They are fleeing a group of assassins, known as the Mythic Dawn, through a secret underground exit in the city sewers. By chance, the exit is located in the cell occupied by the player. The player follows the party into a series of catacombs. In the catacombs, the group is overwhelmed by assassins and the player must guard the Emperor while the bodyguards engage the enemy. Meanwhile, Uriel entrusts the player with an item known as the Amulet of Kings, an ancient artifact traditionally worn by the ruler of Cyrodiil. He orders the player to take it to a man known as Jauffre. Immediately afterwards, an assassin ambushes and kills the emperor before being defeated. The sole surviving guard, Baurus, questions the player, and explains that Jauffre is the Grandmaster of the Blades, and can be found at a place called Weynon Priory. The player then has to face sewers and some minor opponents before proceeding to the open world of Cyrodiil.
As the game progresses, it is revealed that the prolonged lack of an Emperor has broken an old covenant. Multiple gates to Oblivion open and a Daedric invasion of Tamriel begins. The only way to close down the gates permanently is to find someone of the royal bloodline to retake the throne and re-light the Dragonfires in the Imperial City. Fortunately, it is also revealed that there is indeed still an heir to the Septim throne: an illegitimate son named Martin (voiced by Sean Bean), who resides in the city of Kvatch. However, upon arriving at Kvatch, the player is greeted by a fleeing refugee, who explains that the Daedra have attacked, destroying the city and killing many of its inhabitants. The leader of the surviving town guardsmen, Savlian Matius, says he saw Martin escape into the chapel along with a few others, but cannot get into the city, as the Oblivion Gate is in front of the main city gate. The player has to venture into the Planes of Oblivion and close down the gate. After having closed the gate and assisting Savlian Matius in a counter-attack, the player arrives at the Kvatch chapel and persuades Martin to join him/her to travel back to Weynon Priory.
Upon arriving, the player finds that Weynon Priory is being raided by the Mythic Dawn and the Amulet of Kings has been stolen. Recovering from the attack, Jauffre orders the player to escort himself and Martin to Cloud Ruler Temple, the stronghold of the Blades in the Northern mountains called the Jerall Mountains, north of the city of Bruma. At Cloud Ruler Temple, Martin is recognized as the Emperor and is given command of the Blades, and the player is sent off in search of the Amulet. After gathering information with Baurus (a Blade that was escorting the Emperor at the beginning of the game) and pinpointing its location, the player is tasked with infiltrating the secret meeting place of the Mythic Dawn. The Mythic Dawn's leader Mankar Camoran (voiced by Terence Stamp) escapes to his Paradise through a portal, taking the Amulet of Kings with him. The player must take Mankar Camoran's book, the Mysteriam Xarxes, because it can open the portal to Paradise. After fighting several cultists including Mankar's daughter Ruma, the player is able to escape the shrine and report back to Jauffre about the missing amulet. Martin deduces that the only way to recover the amulet is to create a portal to the paradise and follow Camoran. A "collect-the-pieces" plot begins, as the player must recover three key items that are necessary to recreate the portal. Martin states that the three things are "The blood of a divine" (Tiber Septim's armor, found at the fort "Sancre Tor", guarded by necromancers and Four undead Blades warriors, furthering the plot and providing a backstory), the blood of a Daedra (any Daedric artifact acquired from one of the Daedra Shrines throughout the world), and a Great Welkynd Stone (a blue quartz like stone found at the Ayleid ruin "Miscarcand" on the road between the cities of Skingrad and Kvatch, and guarded by a Lich). After collecting a Daedric artifact, you are needed to assist the Bruma guard in closing an Oblivion Gate, and have the option of reinforcing Bruma with guardsmen from the major cities. With their troops tied up with the gates on each of their doorsteps, the counts and countesses of each city will only send aid if the corresponding Oblivion Gate is closed first.
Having acquired all three items, Martin reveals a final item that needs to be used in order to create the portal, a Great Sigil Stone (a larger magical device, akin to lesser ones, used to open the Oblivion portals in the first place) used in a Great Gate, similar to the one that devastated Kvatch. Martin and Jauffre hatch a plan that involves allowing Bruma to be attacked by the Daedra so that a Great Gate can be opened. The player then must venture into the gate and obtain the Great Sigil Stone. Arriving on the battlefield before Bruma, Martin gives a moving speech before charging into battle against the Daedra. Many men are lost (depending on the difficulty and character level) but a Great Gate is finally opened. After a timed run though the Oblivion world, the player enters and recovers the stone.
Upon returning to Cloud Ruler Temple, a portal is created and the player arrives at Camoran's paradise. After fighting through Camoran's men and Daedra, the player confronts him in his throne room, and, along with his son Raven and daughter Ruma, slays them all in battle. Upon his death, the player takes the Amulet from Camoran's neck, and sees Paradise evaporate around him. The player returns the Amulet to Martin, and the Blades travel to the Imperial City intending to re-light the Dragonfires and end the Daedric invasion. However, shortly upon meeting with a Chancellor named Ocato, the Daedra begin a desperate final assault of their own and overrun the Imperial City. The player, Martin, Ocato and several soldiers fight their way to a small temple dubbed the Temple of the One, in the Imperial City Temple District, to find that a 200-foot tall being is wreaking havoc in the city, revealed to be the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon himself. The player and Martin fight their way into the Temple, where out of desperation, (seeing as lighting the Dragonfires are useless now) Martin shatters the Amulet of Kings to merge himself with the spirit of Akatosh, the Dragon-God of Time, becoming his Avatar. After an epic fight, he defeats Dagon in one final confrontation, then the Avatar turns to stone. The Amulet of Kings is destroyed, Martin disappears, the gates of Oblivion are shut forever, and the throne of the Empire again lies empty. A final monologue by Martin, describes this in an optimistic light, claiming that the future of Tamriel is now in the player's hands, although no major privileges are bestowed apart from recognition. After the battle, Lord Chancellor Ocato of the Elder Council proclaims the player Champion of Cyrodiil, and the player is given a set of Imperial Dragon Armor as a reward.
While designing Oblivion's landscape and architecture, developers worked from personal travel photographs, nature books, texture images, and reference photographs. Procedural content generation tools used in production allowed for the creation of realistic environments at much faster rates than was the case with Morrowind". Erosion algorithms incorporated in the landscape generation tools allowed for the creation of craggy terrain quickly and easily, replacing Morrowind's artificially smoothed-over terrain. Following the shift in the dominant focus of the Bethesda graphics team from water to flora, a number of technologies were enlisted to aid in the production of large and diverse forests. One such was IDV's SpeedTree package, which allowed a single programmer to generate a complete and detailed tree model in a matter of minutes through the adjustment of set values. Designers used bloom effects to give the game an ethereal look. This effect has been very popular in the last few years, and has been used in many other games, including The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Oblivion does not have deformable terrain, although, like Morrowind, it has dynamic weather and time, shifting between snow, rain, fog, and sunny or overcast skies, along with the darkening red sky near Oblivion portals. Oblivion also uses more multi-level environments than previous games, varying the topology to a greater extent than in Morrowind. The game's view distance was greatly increased over that of its predecessor, extending player sightlines to the horizon, giving views of distant towns and mountain ranges. According to a Microsoft press release, Oblivion's game world is approximately 16 sqmi (Expression error: Missing operand for round. km2) in size. Wilderness quests, ruins and random dungeons were added to fill the additional space. Content in the dungeons was packed to a high density compared to the available space, increasing the frequency of creature encounters, quest NPCs, and puzzles. The populations represented in Oblivion, however, do not match the numbers attested in previous in-game literature—populations of ‘thousands upon thousands'. The development team decided to set the NPC populations at a level that would play well, rather than one that would match game lore, since multiple entities on screen can slow down the game.
Oblivion, unlike previous series games, offers few loading screens or breaks in the action as the player travels through the game world. Only when moving from interior to exterior environments, or when fast-traveling, does the game pause to load. The game world of Oblivion is cordoned off at its edges by an invisible, impassable wall. In most places, the development team built this limit around a physical barrier, like a mountain, but as this was not always possible, whenever the player reaches the wall the screen displays a message stating that "You cannot go that way, turn back", and prevents the player further access. The player may still look into these regions, however, as the team still built in landscape several miles deep.
Work began on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion shortly after the release of its predecessor, Morrowind, in 2002. By mid-September, 2004, Oblivion had been officially announced and its title released. The game was developed by American developing company Bethesda Softworks, while the PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game were co-published by 2K Games and Bethesda. While the official release date for the PC and Xbox 360 versions was originally November 22, 2005, developmental delays pushed it back to March 21, 2006; Bethesda had initially intended for the late 2005 publication so that the game could be an Xbox 360 launch title. The PlayStation 3 versions of the game (ported by 2K Studios) were released almost a year later in North America, on March 20, 2007, and on April 27, 2007 in Europe. In the interim between the PC and Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release, Bethesda made graphical improvements to the game and the PS3 version was subsequently praised for its enhanced visual appeal.
While developing Oblivion, Bethesda concentrated on developing a system which enabled them to develop a tighter and more realistic storyline which would incorporate more believable characters and more meaningful quests. Oblivion also features improved AI (courtesy of Bethesda's proprietary Radiant AI), improved physics (courtesy of the Havok physics engine), and impressive graphics for its time, taking advantage of advanced lighting and shader routines like high dynamic range rendering (HDR) and specular mapping. Bethesda developed and implemented procedural content creation tools in the creation of Oblivion's terrain, leading to landscapes that are more complex and realistic than those of past titles, with less of a drain on Bethesda's staff.
- Further information: Downloadable content for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Bethesda has released small packages of additional downloadable content for the game from their website and over the Xbox Live Marketplace for US$1–3, or equivalent, starting in April 2006. The first such update came as a set of specialized armor for Oblivion's ridable horses. It was released on April 3, 2006 and costs 200 Microsoft Points, equivalent to US$2.50 or GBP1.50; the corresponding PC release cost was US$1.99. Although gamers generally displayed some enthusiasm for the concept of micropayments for downloadable in-game content, many expressed their dissatisfaction at the price they had to pay for the relatively minor horse armor package on the Internet and elsewhere. Hines assured the press that Bethesda was not going to respond rashly to customer criticism. New releases continued into late 2006, at lower price points and more substantial content, and received better reception in the gaming press. Oblivion's final content pack was released October 15, 2007.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine is an official plug-in for Oblivion released on November 21, 2006. Downloadable on the Xbox Live marketplace for the Xbox 360 and available for retail purchase for PC users, the expansion content was included in the original version of the PlayStation 3 version. The plugin was developed, published and released in North America by Bethesda Softworks; in Europe, the game was co-published with Ubisoft. The plot of Knights of the Nine centers on the rise of the sorcerer-king Umaril, and the player's quest to defeat him with the aid of the lost Crusader's relics. Although it made little change to the basic mechanics of Oblivion, it was judged by reviewers to be a brief but polished addition to the game's main plot.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, the first and only expansion pack for Oblivion, was released on March 27, 2007 for Windows and Xbox 360. The expansion offers 30-plus hours of new adventuring, features new quests, new voice acting, monsters, spells, armor, and expanded freeform gameplay plus a new land "that you can watch change according to your vital life-or-death decisions". A PlayStation 3 version was confirmed and released in 2007. Shivering Isles takes place in the realm of madness ruled over by the daedric prince Sheogorath. The player is tasked by Sheogorath with saving the realm from an approaching cataclysm known as the Greymarch.
In addition to commercial content additions from Bethesda, there are many third-party modifications, also known as mods, available for the Windows version. These mods change many aspects of the game, such as adjusting the visuals, gameplay, user interface, and adding original content such as new races, explorable game areas, armor, and weapons. These third party modifications are made with The Elder Scrolls Construction Set.
Game of the Year Edition
At E3 2007, it was announced that a Game of the Year Edition for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion would be released in September 2007. The Game of the Year Edition includes the original game as well as the Shivering Isles and Knights of The Nine content packs,but not the other downloadable content. The game was released in North American markets on September 10, 2007 for the Xbox 360 and PC, and October 16, 2007 for the PS3. The game was released in European markets for the Xbox 360 and PC on September 21, 2007, and in Australian markets for the Xbox 360 and PC on September 28, 2007. A PlayStation 3 version was released in Europe on October 8, 2007.
Oblivion features the voices of Patrick Stewart, Lynda Carter, Sean Bean, Terence Stamp, Ralph Cosham, and Wes Johnson. The voice acting received mixed reviews in the game press. While many publications characterize its voice acting as excellent, others found fault with its repetitiveness. The issue has been blamed on the small number of voice actors and the blandness of the written dialogue itself. Lead Designer Ken Rolston found the plan to fully voice the game "less flexible, less apt for user projection of his own tone, more constrained for branching, and more trouble for production and disk real estate" than Morrowind's partially recorded dialogue. Rolston tempered his criticism with the suggestion that voice acting "can be a powerful expressive tool", and can contribute significantly to the charm and ambience of the game. Ultimately, his opinions were superseded. "I prefer Morrowind's partially recorded dialogue, for many reasons. But I'm told that fully-voiced dialogue is what the kids want."
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Oblivion's soundtrack was created by Jeremy Soule, a video game composer whose past scores had earned him a BAFTA award in the "Game Music Category" and two nominations for an AIAS award for "Original Music Composition". Soule had worked with Bethesda and Howard back during the creation of Morrowind, and, in a press release announcing his return to composing for the series, Soule repeated the words he had said during Morrowind's press release: "The stunning, epic quality of The Elder Scrolls series is particularly compatible with the grand, orchestral style of music I enjoy composing the most." As in his compositions for Morrowind, Soule chose to create a soft and minimalist score so as not to wear out users' ears. Soule has stated that, while composing the music, he did not imagine any specific characters or events; rather, he wanted it "to comment on the human condition and the beauty of life." In a 2006 interview, he related that this desire came as a result of a car accident that occurred during his composition of the score. He said, "I ended up rolling in my car several times on an interstate while flying headlong into oncoming traffic," and "...I felt no fear.... I simply just acknowledged to myself that I've had a good life and I would soon have to say goodbye to all of it in a matter of seconds." Soule sustained only minor injuries, but commented that the feeling he felt before the crash ended—"that life is indeed precious"—remained with him throughout the rest of the composition.
|Game Informer||9.5/10 (Xbox 360), 9.5/10 (PS3)|
|GameSpot||9.3/10 (PC), 9.6/10 (Xbox 360), 9.5/10 (PS3)|
|PC Gamer US||95/100|
|Compilations of Multiple Reviews|
|Game Rankings||94/100 (based on 102 reviews)|
|Metacritic||94/100 (based on 53 reviews)|
Game of the Year
|G4, Spike TV,|
Golden Joystick awards, Shacknews
Game of the Year
|GameSpy Gamer's Choice awards, IGN Reader's Choice,|
Gamespot Reader's Choice, Interactive Achievement Awards,
360 Gamer Magazine
|RPG of the Year||IGN, IGN Reader's Choice, G4|
GameSpy, GameSpy Gamer's Choice awards,
GameSpot, Gamespot Readers Choice
Game Revolution, Interactive Achievement Awards
|Editor's Choice||IGN, GameSpot,|
PC Gamer US, PC Gamer UK
The reaction of reviewers to the English version of Oblivion was almost entirely positive. At Game Rankings, Oblivion holds an average review score of 94% for the Xbox 360, 93% for the PC, and 93% for the PlayStation 3 version, and holds the average vote of 9.2. In general, most reviewers praised the game for its immersiveness and scope, winning the game awards from various outlets. The television program X-Play, citing similar reasons, awarded the game a 5/5, with Eurogamer stating that the game "successfully unites some of the best elements of RPG, adventure and action games and fuses them into a relentlessly immersive and intoxicating whole". In Japan, game magazine Famitsu awarded Oblivion a 38/40, giving it their "Platinum award". GameSpot called the game "simply one of the best role-playing games ever made." Gamepro gave the game a 5/5.
PC Gamer UK did, however, criticize the repetitive and occasionally absurd nature of conversations between in-game NPCs, saying that it broke suspension of disbelief. Official Xbox Magazine also said that the Xbox 360 version of the game suffered from occasional frame rate drops, though they were not as frequent as the Windows version, as well as longer loading times on a Core system which lacks a hard drive. Although the Xbox 360 version is slightly more favored by critics, many noted that when tested on a high-end system, graphics and performance on the PC were better than those of that console's version. Reviewers have also criticized the leveling system of Oblivion. The criticisms aimed towards this aspect include its clumsiness and the non-sensical major and minor skill leveling.
However, despite these flaws, IGN stated that "none of those minor criticisms hold back Oblivion from being a thoroughly enjoyable, user-friendly, gorgeous experience with enough content to keep you returning time and time again", awarding it a score of 9.3.
In addition to the awards won by the game itself, Patrick Stewart's voice work as Uriel Septim won a Spike TV award, and the musical score by composer Jeremy Soule won the inaugural MTV Video Music Award for "Best Original Score" through an international popular vote. The game was nominated for five BAFTAs.
In North America on May 3, 2006, the Entertainment Software Rating Board changed Oblivion's rating from T (Teen 13+) to M (Mature 17+), citing game content not considered in the ESRB review. "The presence in the PC version of the game of a locked-out art file that, if accessed by using an apparently unauthorized third party tool, allows the user to play the game with topless versions of female characters." In response to the new content, the ESRB conducted a new review of Oblivion, showing to its reviewers the content originally submitted by Bethesda along with the newly disclosed content. The new review resulted in an M rating. The ESRB reported that Bethesda Softworks, the game's developer and publisher, would promptly notify all retailers of the change, issue stickers for retailers and distributors to affix on the product, display the new rating in all following product shipments and marketing, and create a downloadable patch rendering the topless skin inaccessible, despite having changed the game's rating to mature. Bethesda complied with the request, but disagreed with the ESRB's rationale. Although certain retailers began to check for ID before selling Oblivion as a result, and one California Assemblyman used the event to criticize the ESRB for failing once again, the events passed by with little notice from either the public at large or gaming journalists in particular. Although the mod was only used in the Windows PC-version, the rating was changed for all systems.
On 11 June, 2008 GamePlasma, a gaming news site, posted an article showing certain places in Majestic Studio's Limbo of the Lost were identical to portions of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion along with content from Thief: Deadly Shadows and the World of Warcraft among others. The game depicts its lead character walking in numerous shops and offices drawn from Bethesda's source material for Oblivion. After the plagiarism was discovered the game was pulled from sale as culpability within Majestic Studios remains disputed.