The last stop on my tour of The Elder Scrolls starting areas is the most recent game in the series: Oblivion. I first bought this game when it was released in 2006, although my PC could barely run it. I ended up downloading a mod called “Oldblivion” to make it on my machine, which helped down-grade the game so it ran well on my set-up. However I never did end up really playing much of Oblivion for various reasons. I bought a Xbox 360 soon after and concentrated on games for that plus there was a lot of personal upheaval in my life at the time. Now I own the Oblivion: Game of the Year edition with the Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles included. I installed it last year and messed around with Modifications a bit but never really started playing it again. I am looking forward to playing through it now.
The transformation of The Elder Scrolls from the last game is a bit more subtle than from Daggerfall to Morrowind. I can tell that the color pallet for this game is much brighter and the visuals are obviously an upgrade to the last game. However I do know I’m playing with several graphic mods in place, so much of that could be a reflection of those plug-ins. For this article I decide to not use any of the saves I created in last year and to start a new game. I love the way the opening screen and the loading screens look and they reflect the game world well just like in Morrowind. The loading screens in Morrowind spoke of a dusty and parches land. The ones in Oblivion speak of old scrolls and frail parchments that detail the history of the realm. I really love the design choice with all the loading pictures that look like pen drawings from some historian’s hand long ago. Then the opening sequence starts.
I haven’t watched the full sequence in a long time. Usually I just skip past it and get on to creating my character. Now I do and I am blown away. I have to say that this, for me, is the best one in the entire series. It could be the gravitas that Patrick Stewart gives to the role or the camera that sweeps over the Imperial City, zooming in on to the prison, but I really enjoyed it. It reminds me of the best openings from both movies and novels. The kind that takes me by the throat and pulls me in.
After that sequence is finished I am thrown to the character creation screen. Once more I realize how ugly the people are in this game, at least in the creation mode, and vow to find one of the character packs that litter the Oblivion mod scene. Yet the creation of the look of the player character is much more detailed than it has been in any other Elder Scrolls game. Spending time with the tools can help a person create a decent looking character. I ended up with a dark skinned Nord woman who doesn’t look half bad. (I even created a biy of a back ground for her in my head. She is the daughter of a Redguard woman who married a Nord man and moved up to Skyrim. She grew up being a bit different and that led to her current incarceration. Yes – I always think of things like that. Guess it is the writer in me.)
After character creation, the game plops me in a very well lit and detailed cell. The man across the way talks to me a bit, deriding my heritage and looks. He seems to not have good eye-sight, however. He calls me a pale skinned Nord when I am obviously dark skinned. No matter. Guards can be heard own the hall and soon enter my cell, forcing me back in to the corner. They have the emperor with them and time seems to stop as he talks to me, telling me he has foreseen our meeting in a dream. The guards are taking the Emperor through a secret passage in the cell. I follow, of course, and am there to help fend the Emperor from attack. Soon the the guards and the Emperor leave me and I am left to wander the catacombs alone.
Now comes a pretty much a typical tutorial area. The game shows me how to move, shoot, kill and explore. The first part of the underground tunnels are not really hard to get through. Everything is linear and I kill rats and goblins. I find a bunch of loot, both usable and not so usable, and eventually meet back up with the Emperor. He tells me that I am destined to take the his amulet to his only remaining son. I need to help declare the son emperor and close the gates of Oblivion that are now threatening to spring up all over the land. During this whole sequence I choose my class and my sign and after Spoiler alert the emperor dies end spoiler alert I am let go to explore the sewers on my own.
The sewers beneath the Imperial City are a bit more wide open than the previous linear levels but it doesn’t last long. To Soon I am at the door and exiting as the game asks me if I want to keep my class and sign or choose my own. I am happy with being a Battlemage so I say yes and am dumped out in front of a a sewer grate, close to the Imperial Capitol city.
One thing I have to say is that I feel this is the best tutorial area out of any game. I Think it was a tad to linear but it did a good job of explaining the story and keeping my interest. The opening scene was very cinematic and set up the whole game well though I doubt I’ll be hearing much from Patrick Stewart again. However, from a gamer point of view, I prefer how Morrowind does it. You learn a few things then explore a city. It is an interesting dichotomy in myself. One seems to be more of the heart and the other of the mind.
I do feel that the game is designed more for consoles generation. I can undrestand that since the previous game was a big hit on the original Xbox. The UI though, the user interface seemed not to be designed with a keyboard and mouse in mind. I would figure the developers would release a different UI for a system with a different control scheme. There seems to be a lack of short-cut keys, for one. I see the 1 through 8 buttons and F1 through F4. 1 through 8 can be set for items, weapons and spells. These are fine but I hate the fact I can’t press M and bring up a map. All the menu screens are anchored to the tab key, though F1 through F4 do bring them up. However I really would like to do things like press the M key for map and I For inventory. I do see that the keys can be changed, I’ll look in to that a bit later. Also this set up isn’t radically different than what Morrowind offers. In the future I plan to do an article just talking about the different control schemes, contrasting and comparing each game.
So here I stand, on the banks of a river with an epic quest unfolding. Of all the games I feel like I understand the reason for my virtual existence more than the others after leaving the tutorial area. I can see how this type if introduction could turn a few people off but it just makes me want to find out more.
Next week, before venturing back in to the Arena, I am going to spend a little time talking about the Mod community that has sprung up around The Elder Scrolls series. It is a seriously vibrant community that will probably be around for at least the next 10 years.