symphony's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Collector's Edition), The (Xbox 360) review

Elder Scrolls IV: The Review

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has raised the bar for "sandbox RPGs". It allows you to do almost anything you want, anytime you want, anywhere you want. For example, if you don't feel like saving the world and closing Oblivion gates, you can go... be an Assassin! Or perhaps a Thief, or become an Arena combatant. You could forego all of those and just look for treasure in the numerous dungeons and caves littered throughout the land. There's no pressure to follow the main storyline. That being said, you're bound to hit a point where you wish you could do more. For example, becoming the head of the Assassin's guild or Grand Arena Champion are rather anti-climactic -- you're given a menial repetive task you can perform for some extra gold. Chances are you have very little need for gold at the point in which you attain those titles. Hell, even if you attain them at level 1, gold is pretty worthless in the game.

The ability to steal whatever you want makes purchasing goods an almost pointless endeavor. Finding better loot in easy dungeons is another nail in the vendors' coffin. About the only thing you'll actually care to buy is either arrows or potions (that is, assuming you're unlucky with loot off mobs). This in turn makes the whole merchantile skill almost pointless. Sure you can sell your loot for more, but what are you going to do with the money aside from purchase houses that, themselves, are pretty pointless (aside from the few that have interesting quests attached them). They're usually in an area that you have to go out of your way to find, so you're better off spending the 10 gold just staying at an inn if you really need to sleep.

There is a bigger issue than a lack of things to do with gold, however. That is the fact that leveling up is a penalty more than a boon. Specifically for more stealth-oriented classes. Am I the only one that finds it odd that completing the main quest at level 1 was far, far, far easier than completing it at level 30? Becoming Grand Arena Champion was also much easier, as was pretty well any quest chain I an think of. Sure, a challenge is great, but when you're playing an assassin or archer, and your tossed into combat the moment you step out of the door for many quests, the whole "element of surprise" aspect of your class is thrown out the door, and you're left to try and fight like a warrior without the proper tools of a warrior. Sure, there's the whole "Deck yourself out in full chamellion gear!" idea, but that feels like a sloppy makeshift solution to overcome a broken mechanic.

One final issue that stands out is the lack of voice actors. There are all of, what, 8 or so? They do a great job, but hearing the same person voicing 20 different characters is just... weird. Were they really that stingy that they couldn't have just hired a few more to give some variety? The were obviously paying for someone to do those lines, how much more would it have cost to get, say, one of the programmers to play a few of the characters instead? Hearing Nords and Orcs sound exactly the same was silly. 

All of that said, the game is still a solid game with fun combat and a huge world to explore with lots of great stories to be told.
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