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Computer Games disappointed with Oblivion

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Computer Games disappointed with Oblivion

Review - posted by Vault Dweller on Wed 29 March 2006, 05:17:38

Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Computer Games has posted a 7-page review of what seems to be the most perfect game ever - Oblivion. The reviewer rated gameplay at 74, impressions at 70, and the final score at 84 due to high graphics and sound scores.

Next up are the skills, 21 in all, from which you will have to choose 7 major skills, the rest becoming secondary. Again, you can go for any combination you want, but some skills are better suited for a certain character type than others. As you increase you skill level, you will also increase your proficiency, gaining perks along the way. Therefore, there are a lot of possible combinations to experiment with, which coupled with the huge world and hundreds of locations to explore would guarantee an excellent replay value. You’re probably wondering why I said “would” instead of “guarantees”. Because, at least from my point of view, Oblivion doesn’t have a really strong reason for me to want to play it. Which for an RPG is disastrous.

The biggest gripes I have with the game can be summarized in two notions: level scaling balancing and credibility.

First up, level (and loot) scaling. As you will discover during the game, and as “advertised” on the official forums (curiously, this little feature isn’t noted in the game manual) the world of Tamriel adapts to your character level. Meaning that the enemies will be replaced by more powerful ones as you level up (bears instead of wolves for instance) or they will just level up and get better equipment when you do as well. Erm, ok, so what’s the point in advancing my character then? Before I continue I have to stress the fact that the idea of level scaling the monsters is generally a good idea for a game this size, but in the case of Oblivion, the balancing is way off. This design decision made quite a stir on the official forums and caused a huge rift between Oblivion players, with one side saying it’s a good idea, the other claiming the contrary. The problem is that the level scaling can get coupled with some odd bugs, which can easily make your life miserable. For instance, at the beginning of the game, if you follow the main plotline, you will get to Kvatch, the town I mentioned earlier that has been overrun by demons, where you have to close one of the many gates to Oblivion. If you postpone this quest and return when you’re level, say, 10 or 15, you will have the unpleasant surprise of seeing that all your NPC allies get owned in the first 30 seconds of the battle, leaving you with 6, 7 or more enemies to handle, enemies which are of course as powerful as you are, because of the level scaling. The immediate result of this will be a swift death on your part, or a prolonged one, depending on how many health potions you have. If, by some Godly miracle, you manage to retreat and run for it, the stated policy would be to try and bait one enemy at a time, fight him for some obscene amounts of time, heal and spend a fortune on repairing your equipment (if you want to save a lot of money, the Armorer skill is your friend) and then do it all over again.

The same balancing issue with the level scaling system also created some embarrassing moments, when I couldn’t actually believe that they were happening. Situations in which me, Dragonheart, Champion of the Imperial Arena, the greatest fighter in history, having defeated the previous Grand Champion and all gladiators in-between, with a Light Raiment of Valor as armor, is almost killed by a wolf in the forest. This though happened when I was level 6. You wonder how I got to be Champion of the Arena at level 6? Well, let’s just say that the Arena is not all that it’s cranked up to be. It may sound funny at first, but trust me, it isn’t. And let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the monster level scaling wasn’t an issue. That it makes the game challenging long after you’re done with the main quest, which is true. But the same principle applies to the loot and equipment that you find or steal, which is scaled according to your level. You’ve defeated a mighty Minotaur? Very good, you can sell his weapon and armor without remorse, because it won’t be any better than yours. You managed to lockpick a “5 tumbler” lock, which rates Very Hard on the difficulty scale, while being level 2? Congratulations, you’ve found 20 septims and a carrot. Basically, even if you do manage to pull of an incredible feat in the game, like breaking a “5 tumbler” lockpick, you’ll never get something spectacular as a reward, or at least something that would justify the effort. So I then ask myself the grueling question: why do I play the game then? Why do I keep improving my character? Why do I explore the world, all the dungeons, catacombs and forts? For what? So that when I buy a new weapon or a set of armor, everyone else would automatically get something that’s equally good? To level up and see that all the enemies are suddenly just as good as I am?
Great review, Bossman. Drop by and say Hello, we haven't seen you since that Bloodlines incident ;)


Thanks, Tintin

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