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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

You Are Now Departing Tamriel

Oblivion was definately escapist gaming for me - a secondary world to jump into with all the ramping stress of switching jobs, getting married and making travel and party plans in general.

What's odd about the game, in retrospect, is how it can go from being extremely engrossing to detached. When you first get into the game, you can be almost overwhelmed by the feeling of open choices - but by the time you've completed most of the main storyline, Tamriel begins to have a wide landscape of sameness all around.

In fact, the real irony of this game is that you might enjoy it the most if you don't try and do everything. Just occasionally venture off into side stories and missions and focus on the main story ... and by the time you finish the game will still have that shiny newness. I went the decidedly other route and mastered the Fighter's, Mage's and Assassin's guilds before even worrying about that whole dead king thing. Also became Arena champion along the way.

So it's not to say I didn't enjoy the game - clearly I played the hell out of it. And some portions are simply brilliant. When I accidentally got afflicted with vampirism, I had to decide what to do with it. I decided to take the quest for a cure, but remained a vamp for a good portion of the game before the abilities didn't seem to really help all that much. A handful of the missions, like the one where you hallucinate your way into a raid on a village, border on genius.

My few real complaints with the game mirror ones I had with Morrowind. For one thing, I ended up cheating. I didn't really like the idea, but some of the game mechanics just feel out of sorts. For instance, I could have spent hours and hours making enough potions to gain enough gold to keep my magical items thriving (not to mention creating them in the first place) - but that hardly seemed like fun. I'm not saying that having a price for item charges is a bad thing ... but many of the better items in the game run out of charges incredibly fast and can be quite costly to recharge. What's the reward in having earned that powerful weapon when you have to be careful when to use it out of fear of discharging it?

Naturally this can be worked around (Azura's Star plus a Soul Capture for instance) - but the same goes for using any item in the game (until you master Armorer of course).

Also, I think it's a shame that one of the more interesting aspects of the game - creating custom magic items - is really sidelined for the Mages. Like Fable, I found myself obtaining multiple skills in various schools instead of being focused on one - but it seems like this mechanic should have an outlet outside the Mage's Guild itself.

All that aside though, Oblivion offers a vast world of opportunity. Definately glad I had the PC version so that I could work around aspects I didn't like though. A vibrant mod community exists for the game, and I can see why. I might take an interest in trying to build a few mods myself - if I can find enough free time to poke at it.

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