Oblivion is one of the biggest disappointments in years.
Let's get right down to it: in a slew of Xbox games, one game stood above all, even above Halo. That game was The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. It is a staple in modern gaming, creating the best game world yet to be seen. You could spend hours upon hours playing this game, but the odds are that you wouldn't see everything it had to offer. It is, to put it simply, a masterpiece, and easily one of the best games yet created. It's because of this that Oblivion is such a massive disappointment. While the game leaves a terrific first impression upon you, digging any deeper than that and you will find a game that is at times magnificent, frustrating, and even broken.
It begins similarly to Morrowind: you are a prisoner, who is set free by the emperor, although your freedom is just a by-product of the emperor's actions. As the story unravels, you find yourself hunting down members of a daedric cult known as the Mythic Dawn to help avert a catastrophe the likes of which the land of Cyrodill has never seen.
While the main quest is engaging, it is ultimately very short compared to Morrowind's epic journey, although is presented in a good way. In fact, the quests in general are superior in Oblivion, giving you more variety than Morrowind. You're rarely just grinding out the same kinds of quests, which makes the game more fun and engaging. The combat is also improved for Oblivion, as is the class balance. Mages are actually playable in Oblivion. Along with that, the graphics are terrific. The world looks great for the most part, and everything just has a good layer of polish over it.
These are the very things that create that deceptive first impression. The first thing that really catches your attention is how mutilated the voice acting is. The voice actors on hand are generally either subpar or slightly above passable (except for Patrick Stewart, who provides some of the best voice acting I've ever heard), but the issue is that for the entire game, there's no more than 20 voice actors. Oftentimes, a voice actor will be engaged in a conversation with himself, and when they talk in unison...oh lord, it's bad.
The voice acting issues are passable. They're annoying, but they are in no sense damning. Where the true damning comes from is the world itself. While I called Morrowind the best game world yet to be created, Cyrodill wouldn't make the top 10. This is simply because the world is too similar to our own. Morrowind was a world populated by strange creatures that we've never seen before, like Nix-hounds and Guar. Oblivion has only the classic fantasy fare: goblins, liches, the works. Because of this, Oblivion has a distinct lack of personality and uniqueness. Because of that, exploring is a damn chore, whereas in Morrowind, it was like walking on Mars.
Even that isn't the worst part, though. A simple fantasy game can still pull it off, even if slightly inferior to its predecessor. The final nail in the coffin comes from the leveling system. It's broken, but I'll explain why it's the final factor. As you level, the environment levels around you. This means that at level one, you will find rabbits in Grapetree Meadow, but at level thirty, you will find ogres. It's very hard to keep up, and unless you spec out your character perfectly, it takes forever to fight these things. But let's say that it didn't take forever. Let's say that you could kill them with a little skill, and they died in a few hits or so. This aspect of the game would still be completely FUCKED, and here's why: It takes any feelings of epic adventure of a living world out of the game. You're so aware that you're playing a game because of this small fact. In Morrowind, if you walk into the wrong cave, you get roasted by a Flame Atronach. Oblivion, there's no fear of that. Because of that, there's no danger. Because of that, there's no point.
Oblivion could have been great, but the development team lost their balls midway through development. To be fair, the game is not a complete shithouse, but it's so inferior to Morrowind that there's seemingly no reason to play it. Oblivion will be forgotten, yet Morrowind will be remembered. Let's just hope Bethesda has learned from their mistakes.