There was much rejoicing in the RPG community when the highly anticipated The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion hit the stores in 2006. After all, it had been a very long, four-year wait since TES III: Morrowind (which incidentally is still available as a budget title). Like any play-worthy RPG it starts out small - except for the bit where you get a front row seat to an imperial assassination, and snowballs into an adventure of epic proportions, with your character playing a pivotal role. The point of difference for the PS3 version of TES IV: Oblivion is that it includes Knights of the Nine, which is additional material PC and Xbox 360 owners can either download or buy separately. This includes a new faction to join and goodies such as armour for your horse, plus some nice accessories for the rider.
Every button and stick on the PS3 controller has been utilised, and it takes a good hour to feel truly comfortable using them. Once you’ve conquered the learning curve, using the controls becomes second nature, leaving you free to concentrate on all the gaming goodness.
Of course, you don’t have to undertake the main quest if your role playing preferences lie elsewhere. Along with its sheer size and scope, the strongest selling point for all of the TES titles has been their flexible, open-ended nature, which gives you the freedom to explore the countryside and develop your character’s skills and class, or affiliate yourself with the various guilds and factions, completing side quests to climb the ranks.
Dungeon delving is an immersive experience and plays a major role in TES IV: Oblivion. Running the gamut from simple caves to massive ancient ruins - plus everything in between, there are many of each type to discover and explore. Interacting with NPCs is another important aspect of TES games, and every citizen of Cyrodiil – human or not – has their own name, dwelling (even if it’s just a bedroll in an alley), and daily routine.
Graphics are nothing short of stunning - if processor-hungry; something PC users learned to their chagrin. Faced with the prospect of cranking the sexy visuals way down in order to achieve a playable frame rate, many PC owners – myself included, opted instead for an upgrade. Fortunately the PS3 has no such issues and is easily able to deliver everything TES IV: Oblivion demands of it.
The level of detail is incredible: shooting an arrow into a sandy cave floor will kick up a puff of dust. Spell casting and spell effects lean more towards practicality than showmanship; a fireball looks like a fireball, rather than a flashy set of gestures followed by a light show which fills up the entire screen.
The musical score is nothing short of a masterpiece; it’s the kind of stuff you’d be happy to listen to on its own, let alone whilst gaming. The in-game music generates both atmosphere and tension depending on the location and situation, switching smoothly to a faster-paced battle theme whenever you enter combat.
The bottom line is to run - don’t walk, to your favourite gaming store, because you will definitely get your money’s worth out of this one. It’s an absolute must-have for PS3 owners. Go ahead and lose yourself in the world of Tamriel, but be sure to stock up on supplies first and tell all your mates (and your mum) that you’re heading off on your OE.
Newsflash: just as we were going to print we received news that Bethesda Softworks will release a Game of the Year Edition of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in September (or thereabouts). The GOTY version will include the original game, plus the aforementioned Knights of the Nine.