A new age has arrived. It was bound to happen at some point. Yesterday's dreams of the next generation have become a reality. It wasn't abrupt, but gradual, over a period of time technology developed. New games and systems came out, each with better graphics and more advanced features than the last. But when it really hit me, when I was really aware that the next generation was here, it was on March 20. The day "Oblivion" came out. The greatness of "Oblivion" isn't really a surprise. Since the success of "Morrowind," the previous installment in the "Elder Scrolls" series, people have been eagerly awaiting what came next.
The game takes place in Cyrodiil, the Imperial province where the Emperor Uriel Septim, an important but rarely seen character in the entire series, has his throne. You take the time to create a character, a game in itself considering the amount of customization offered, and then you're instantly thrust into the epic story. The game begins with your created citizen rotting in prison, for unknown reasons. But shortly after you awake, the Emperor himself enters your cell while running from assassins. You use his unexpected presence to make your escape, and from there you become a key player in a plot so convoluted it could mean the end of the world. But what's amazing about the game, what really sets it apart from all others is that you don't have to follow your destiny. You have the choice to follow the duties you're given, or shirk them and run. The main quest is completely optional.
The artificial intelligence in the game is really great. You can only expect so much from an NPC when there are several hundred in the entire game, but each in "Oblivion" is like a miniature character. They all have schedules like any human. Some wake up, eat and then leave their house, buy things at the market or visit friends, before they come home and spend time with family. Others keep to themselves, staying inside unless they have to leave. Many are too poor to even have homes. Differences like these create a deep and believable world, and make for a very immersive game.
Combat has been seriously improved since the last installment. One of the main gripes with the previous Elder Scrolls game, "Morrowind," was that the battle was a crude hack n' slash. In "Oblivion," blocking causes both fighters to recoil, and with the new physics engine, enemies and players alike respond to damage. Killing an enemy causes more than a simple death animation—they go tumbling backwards, or drop to their knees. The ragdoll physics display some brutal fatalities.
The skill system is revamped and better than ever. Just like in "Morrowind," skills range from alchemy to light armor to sneaking and lockpicking, and the characters gets better, not through experience gained in combat, but through practical application of skills or training specialists hidden across the world. Skills now have ranks, and when you gain enough points, you move up a rank and gain a perk. For example, mastering acrobatics allows you to jump on water, while mastering sneak allows your sneak attacks to completely ignore enemy armor.
You'll need to give me a minute to invent a new word for how insane the graphics are. Calling the environment realistic is like calling World War II 'a little skirmish.' On normal settings it's one of the prettiest games ever, on high settings it's hard to discern from reality. The characters and their expressions are varied and well crafted. Everything you equip shows up on your character, everything you see can be manipulated or effected. In a way, "Oblivion" has a sort of practical beauty. Sure, it's all amazing and wonderful, but none of it is eye-candy. Oh, and I thought of that word. Awesometacular. The graphics are awesometacular.
The sound, though excellent, is my only complaint about the game. There just weren't enough voice actors. A few different people were used for each race, which can become annoying. Nevertheless, all lines in the game are voiced, so there's hardly room to complain. The ambient noise and music is a big step up from "Morrowind."
There is massive replayability, because each game lasts forever. Often, games like "Black & White" or "Grand Theft Auto" are called "sandboxes." You're given an area where you can do whatever you want. I think "Oblivion" is more of a playground. You can play in the sandbox if you want, or you can step right over those little wooden walls to enjoy all the other features.
"Oblivion" is what all game designers strive for: A good idea executed perfectly to become a game that will go down in history. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's a thing of beauty. Buy "Oblivion" today. You won't regret it.