Back in 2006, I was extremely new to the world of Xbox, having been a confirmed PlayStation guy through the previous two generations of hardware. However, after getting hands-on with an Xbox 360 and Gears of War, life switched up. It wasn’t long though before I was looking around for a new game to play, and being a fan of the role-playing scene, it wasn’t long before I washed up on the shores of Oblivion. Not physically, but metaphorically.
Rushing home from the local game store with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in my hot little hands, I couldn’t wait to load the game up and get cracking. Of course, this being a Bethesda game, it wasn’t as easy as that – first there was some character creation to take in: did I want to be human, a cat, a giant lizard? Which of the possible skills did I want to make major, and which minor? I must admit, that first time of playing Oblivion, I had not a scooby what I was doing, and so kind of did the digital equivalent of sticking a pin in a map, ticking up things that I thought may be useful. Stealth, for instance, has never been my strong suit in games, and so it was made a minor skill. Little did I realise that lockpicking was related to this skill tree. And so the learning experience began…
The story of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the real hero, although being honest this is a strong dynamic in any Bethesda game. I love nothing more than losing myself in the wilderness of a game like this, completely ignoring the main storyline, and wandering around, exploring, looking for trouble… and usually finding it! However, the opening of Oblivion is always the same no matter how often you run through it, and is still one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in a game, even today.
You start in a dungeon, and the world that you can see is limited to corridors and walls, and the Emperor of the land – Uriel Septim, for it is he who is killed in the dungeon by an assassin, after pressing the Amulet of Kings upon us and telling us to take it to The Grandmaster of the Blades, a man called Jauffre at Weynon Priory. It’s here that the game first blew my tiny little mind – as you step out of the dungeon into a living, breathing world populated by friends, enemies, animals and magical creatures. I’d never seen a game like this on the Xbox 360 before: a world where you can go and do what you want, when you want to do it, with there being no repercussions short of running into an enemy that you weren’t ready for. As an example, in my first playthrough I was wandering around aimlessly and suddenly stumbled across a wizard in a tower. He took umbrage to my presence, and promptly killed me. Lesson learned. I avoided him when I respawned and then came back when I was stronger and stomped him into the ground. No-one gets the better of me for long, Merlin.
Following the main narrative was rewarding, taking us to different planes of existence, from the realm of Cyrodiil, where we are for most of the game, to the Deadlands, a plane of Oblivion where the Daedric Princes live. It turns out that old Uriel, by popping his clogs when he did, has broken a covenant which keeps Oblivion locked away, and the only way to stop the invasion is to light the Dragonfires, with a person of the royal line being needed to perform the deed. Luckily, there is such a person kicking about, and it’s here that the story starts; we must go and find said person and get him to perform his royal duty. And that’s as far as I’ll go into the plot, as despite the fact that Oblivion has been kicking around for 15 years, I’m still wary of spoilers.
After the main story was done and dusted, you can imagine I was bereft. Starting again with a fresh character, a different build was the ideal solution, so that’s what I did; as I would guess did many others. It’s very rare for me to do this, diving straight back into a game I’ve just finished and playing it again, but Oblivion made me do it.
So imagine my joy when Bethesda made DLC for the game. Well, first they seemed to be trolling their player base by releasing Horse Armour as DLC. Yes, armour for the rideable horses that made absolutely no difference to the game experience at all. However, Bethesda did then come good with two full packs of proper adventuring. Knights of the Nine was the first story expansion, tasking the player with collecting relics in order to defeat a sorcerer-king known as Umaril. This was the shorter of the two packs, but the next one was an absolute doozy, and still ranks as one of the best expansions in my personal list.
Called The Shivering Isles, the story is fairly straightforward, as we are recruited to save a realm from an approaching doom called The Greymarch. However, the realm we visit is the realm of madness, and is ruled over by Sheogorath, a Daedric prince who is never knowingly under played by his voice actor. Sheogorath is everything you’d expect of the Daedric prince of Madness: in a word, he is absolutely bonkers and the missions we have to complete are equally strange. As an example, in the main game, you can complete a mission for Sheogorath and be rewarded with the Wabbajack, a staff that transforms enemies into other creatures. Imagine fighting a troll and turning it into a rat or a sheep; this is what the Wabbajack does. Equally, it can turn a weak creature into a powerful one, so a modicum of care is needed.
It was this madness that spawned a love in me of the open world, and especially the sprawling games that Bethesda do so well. Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, right up to Fallout 4 and Skyrim, I’ve played them all to death and loved every second – but it was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that really ignited that fire.
But how about you guys out there? Have you played Oblivion and its expansions, and if so, what do you think? If you haven’t played it, are you thinking of picking it up from the Xbox Store through Game Pass after the Bethesda/Microsoft merge? Let us know in the comments!