Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Initial Impressions

My first 4hrs with the game...

By on March 22, 2006 9:23:25 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Zoomba

Join Date 11/2002
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For those of you living under a rock (or just the non-gamers here), Bethesda Softworks released the fourth installment to their outstanding Elder Scrolls series yesterday; Oblivion. Being a fan of the single-player RPG and having gone years since the last good one released for the PC, I snagged my copy as soon as it came out. I've only spent about 4hrs with the game so far so I can't post a full review, but I do have a few, short, initial impressions of the game.

First, here are my system specs:
P4 3.0GHz HT
nVidia GeForce 7800GS 256MB (AGP)
3GB PC3200 RAM
SB Audigy 2

Now, for my initial thoughts...
Graphics - Ok, I have basically the top of the line AGP card out now, so I expected my graphics to be good... and damn are they good. I play at 1024x768 with all of the bells and whistles turned to max. I've got HDR going for me. I've got shiny rocks and translucent water and individual blades of rendered grass. My dungeons are oozing with virtual slime and fungus, and my opponents lurch and die with amusing realism.

One problem I have seen though is draw distances outdoors. If you've ever played Star Wars Galaxies, you're familiar with the effect I'm experiencing. You have a radius around you where everything is rendered and populated. But then there's a line beyond which the grass and rocks are gone, the ground texture is set to low, and only a few trees are shown. As you move forward, that edge moves out and the terrain then starts to "pop" in as you come into range. I have my distances set far enough out that it's not a huge problem for me, but I still get statues, buildings and large rock outcroppings poping in front of me.

Aside from popping, my only graphical gripe is with the faces on NPCs... For how darn good everything else looks, the faces just don't hold up in a lot of cases. I've got a longer associated comment about the character creation system, but I'll save that for the full review.

Sound - I've got a 5.1 speaker setup in my office, so I try to get the most out of the sound of any game. This game has very good natural ambient sounds and outstanding music. The most impressive part though in terms of sound is that all the dialogue I've encountered so far, even from random guard NPC has been fully recorded. I think Bethesda said at one point that the vast majority of the data contained on the DVD and installed to your system was recorded audio. I'm not surprised in the least. Other sounds for walking, combat etc are nice and solid. Only one I wasn't impressed by was the sound of drawing and firing a bow.

Content - Ok, Elder Scrolls games are pretty well known by the sheer vastness of information and playable area in them. They're the size of an MMORPG but with only one player. And if you thought WoW had a lot of little books and story bits to read scattered about, then you're going to be blown away by Oblivion. Like Morrowind before it, Oblivion has an entire virtual library worth of books and scrolls detailing the history of the world, news and current events. In my 4hrs playing, if I had taken the time I could have spent at least 2hrs reading all the books I came across.

The story so far, I'm not sure on. I've played a few missions but I think I took on the latest step before I was powerful enough to survive it, so I'm going back and just running minor quests to build up skills, money and equipment. There's a main thread through the game, but you could spend probably dozens of hours completely ignoring it and just doing all the side quests.
---

Oblivion however already suffers, for me, the same crucial problem Morrowind did... I'm given way too much choice and far too little direction or indication of what I'm capable of doing. If you're used to games like Baldur's Gate or Final Fantasy where you are given quests when you're powerful enough to take them on, and are given a clear idea of what the main quest threads are versus auxillury quests, Elder Scrolls games will present a significant challenge to you. They toss you in, give you the first task to complete and then set you loose to figure out what the heck is going on. It's up to you how the game plays out, how the events unfold and who gets saved and who gets crushed. All with very little influence from the game designers.

So that's just after a short evening of playtime. I want to get a few more days in, maybe some more quests under my belt and more of the world explored before I sit down and do a larger review. This is a game you can't slap a review and score up for after even 8-10hrs of gameplay.

In the full review expect more on the NPC conversation/influence system, the game tutorial and character class/race selection system, world travel/exploration and character advancement.
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March 22, 2006 11:43:24 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
It's out? And here I thought it was still a few weeks away, I might have to go get this one. I look forward to your review, happy adventuring.
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March 22, 2006 12:04:00 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
i been eagerly looking forward for this game too, but i am not about to rush out and get it, i gonna wait for while, let everyone else find those annoying bugs, after all lets face it, every good game has bugs and games that work on hugh scale like all eldar scroll games are sure to be full of LOTS of them, not only that they are sure to release lots of expansions and other such things, but still, i look forward to it
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March 22, 2006 12:14:28 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Does it use Starforce? I heard a rumor that it does. If not, then I definitely want to pick it up.
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March 22, 2006 12:23:02 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
If your lucky enough to have an Xbox 360 and your computer isn't that high end, I recommend getting the 360 version since it will be alot cheaper to get the console and game that upgrading your computer.
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March 22, 2006 12:24:42 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
One suggestion for getting around the use of Starforce is using Direct2Drive to buy it. Two downsides to that:

1) You're technically playing a different version of the binaries when you use a D2D application. This can mean there are different bugs and you may have to wait a little longer for patches.

2) You're buying a DRM'd app, and while it is portable across machines (and its handy not ever having to keep track of a CD) in the philosophy of some gamers you are trading one evil for another.
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March 22, 2006 12:30:33 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Yeah, my pre-order came in yesterday...and it was x360 version I don't own an x360..... So they had to reorder it for me....Not that I'll get to play it until I've mastered galciv2 --men like windows preemptively multitask (one thing at a time in slices)--I probably won't get playing until April at this rate (I've only managed to finish about 3 full games of galciv2...the rest just vanish in the bustle of other annoyances like work)

Still it leaves me with the tingly feeling of Christmas morning
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March 22, 2006 1:15:19 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I would am going to wait. To buy Oblivion. I hate problems that come with good games.
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March 22, 2006 1:21:02 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I went out and grabbed the PC version last night. I've got no prior experience of Elder Scrolls. It's pretty overwhelming-- once I got out of the sewer and started looking for the monk dude, I didn't have any advice on what to do besides follow the red arrow on the compass. I ended up spending (wasting?) like an hour clearing out this cave full of bandits, most of whom I couldn't see well enough in the dark to hit! I do have the sense that the game is going to suck me in and take me away from GC2 eventually... I find the character building, combat system, and other gameplay mechanics really compelling. As for graphics...

A64 3500+
1GB PC3200 2-2-5-2
74GB Raptor
7800GTX (I overclocked it so it runs at the speed of one of the overpriced "KO" style cards)

The game detected Ultra High settings, but no HDR or AA. I turned on HDR, since you can't have both AA and true HDR at the same time on the PC. Framerate was a little nasty in the opening indoor sequences, but as soon as I got outside, nothing but slo-mo. I cut the resolution down to 1280x1024 and have actually been running windowed to make switching to other apps easier and it's been better, but still not butter-smooth. Maybe when my stepup 7900gtx is finally available...
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March 22, 2006 1:26:15 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
It doesn't use Starforce... Bethesda posted to their forums a while back saying it wouldn't... and I think Starforce made some typical "Well, if they don't want to sell their game, fine..." comment in response.

Personally, I've only had one crash of the game so far, it was a weird blue-screen when loading into a house... wasn't able to reproduce it. For a game this complex and graphically intense, I'm surprised it's run this well so far. But like I said, it requires a lot more time playing before I can say for sure.
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March 22, 2006 1:36:22 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
What a problem to have..
I have been on a WoW kick for about a year... not really deviating much to play other games, mostly because I was just not interested. Saw a retail box for GalCiv II. Went home and did a little reading...went back and bought said box and now finally I have something that takes me away from WoW (although the constant grind through BWL tends to wear you down as well... the focus has gotten fairly narrow now). Suddenly Oblivion is out as well!! Now after a year of not really being interested in much.. I have two desired games on the shelf at the same time. I already am hooked to GCII... but I know I am going to want to play Oblivion...

too many choices...
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March 22, 2006 1:37:52 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

"Oblivion however already suffers, for me, the same crucial problem Morrowind did... I'm given way too much choice and far too little direction or indication of what I'm capable of doing. If you're used to games like Baldur's Gate or Final Fantasy where you are given quests when you're powerful enough to take them on, and are given a clear idea of what the main quest threads are versus auxillury quests, Elder Scrolls games will present a significant challenge to you. They toss you in, give you the first task to complete and then set you loose to figure out what the heck is going on. It's up to you how the game plays out, how the events unfold and who gets saved and who gets crushed. All with very little influence from the game designers."

I think that that's the point of elder's scrolls games! To be huge, like another, virtual world, so you can do whatever you want instead of being told what to do! You can ignore the side quests if you like and do only the main quest, but that's like playing Galciv's Scenario campaign and ignoring the sandbox, or like not using the ship designer!!!
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March 22, 2006 1:45:49 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
I agree it's one of the main strengths of the series. I'm just saying it's a problem for me to get into a game like that. I know there's a massive wealth of content tucked away in the world, I'm just not entirely sure how to approach it at first. Think of it as a small child placed in a massive toy store and being told they can have any ONE item they want, regardless of price.

Overstimulation. Presented with so many choices all at once and given no real indication of how to start can leave a person feeling paralyzed. It just requires those first few steps to get you moving. Maybe a few quick pointers to a nearby quest giver.... or even an indication who who has a quest for you to begin with.

It's only an initial barrier. Once you figure out your direction you're pretty well set... but it can be tough finding that path to start with.

Another game that exemplifies this problem is X3 Reunion. No clue what to do to get started there at all. You're given a ship, some money and told to basically live in the Universe. You have some storyline missions at first but you can't always complete them until you have a better ship or some wingmen so you have to go off for a while doing "stuff" first. Do you manually trade? Setup an automated fleet? Start up production facilities? Become a pirate hunter? Become a pirate yourself? You're given all the options at the start and no indication of how to go about any of them or where to go.
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March 22, 2006 5:16:28 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
OK, I'm not a gamer, but...

My husband got Oblivion (for 360) last night, and level of customizing involved in creating your character's appearance is one of the coolest things ever. If they could make the Sims that detailed I'd never stop playing.
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March 22, 2006 7:59:30 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums
I played morrowind and loved it, but never finshed it, as the  lack of infomation about quests did me in. Chances are Oblivion is going to be the first game bought once I get my new computer finshed. How is the combat system compared to Morrowind.
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March 22, 2006 11:25:51 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Personally I only enjoyed Morrowind when I started playing it on a machine that could handle it - which I only had 3 years after the game release! In 2002 when I had the game, I couldn't play it because even tho i had a top of the line machine for the time it was too slow to play properly
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March 23, 2006 3:42:21 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums
I'm looking forward to playing this game.
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March 23, 2006 7:44:56 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
I restarted my game as a dark elf battlemage last night (was a Redguard Crusader previously) and am ignoring the story quests for now. I spent 2hrs just wandering around the Imperial City and only really explored two of the quarters as I make my way to the Arcane University. I'm going to try and advance a bit in the mages guild before I move too far into the story, maybe get some better equipment.

Also, I snagged the Strategy Guide for the game since the manual that came in the box was utterly pitiful and unhelpful. This is what a strat guide should be. 368 pages long... that's a LOT of strategy they packed in there! Definitely worth $20.
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March 23, 2006 8:04:06 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Well, im leaving for 3 weeks day after tomrrow... so ill wait and not dishonour that gfx angine by running it on my lappie's fx5600go

When i get back, its OC'ed Opty 180 & X1900XTX time!
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March 23, 2006 11:56:47 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Oi! Can you tell how many GB of disc space dat thing eat? And any commentz on deir praized Radiant AI?
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March 23, 2006 12:33:43 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
Game requires about 4.6GB of space... and expect that to expand as mods come out that people will just have to have. It dumps pretty much the entire DVD down to your disk.

As for AI, I'm not sure yet. I've only fought a few goblins and some rats so far. They're good at zigging and zagging to dodge arrows and fireballs, but I haven't seen anything in terms of tactics yet. I've already found a few ways to cheese melee combat when using a longsword. Basically you run in, and as you're running in you swing one, maybe two times. Your reach is just enough to hit, and then you immediately back pedal and take another swing as you retreat out of their range. It allows you to attack faster and not worry about timing blocks. I'm hoping this becomes less effective as the enemies get more powerful. It's already a waste against spell casters cause they'll just set you on fire.
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March 23, 2006 4:31:38 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Hmm. Game sounds interesting, but I don't like the notion of FPS style combat in my RPGs.
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March 23, 2006 4:36:11 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Don't expect something like Mortal Combat fighting there, its RPG you know It's just the same dice rolls as usual, just served better. And I feel somehow cheated on graphics! Don't get me wrong, the game is superb but with all this hype I expected something that would drop me from my seat. But landscapes... They are great on short distances but if you look at he horizon you feel like watching cartoon! And this with all graphics maxed out! If you ever have played Far Cry you know what can be done with wide landscapes. And to think that Far Cry needs far far lesser computer to play....
Well, this is the only thing that bothers me so far so I better quit whining.
And some tips for people lost in this big big world - search out some guilds and join. There will be plenty of quests given to you.
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March 24, 2006 12:54:49 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Don't expect something like Mortal Combat fighting there, its RPG you know It's just the same dice rolls as usual, just served better


Okay, fair enough.

This game does sound like a real resource pig too, and as you say, it sounds like the graphics seem to be less than they should be for the resources they use.

Notably, Morrowind (which I only played briefly on a friend's PC) was pretty ugly. And it turns out that it was partially due to sloppy programming/ design. I stumbled accross a mod for Morrowind once that was for VASTLY superior character models, that actually used a few less polygons! So its possible that this game should be capable of more, but the 'art department' was a little substandard (i.e. not up to the same skill level as the writers of the story).

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April 17, 2006 7:02:22 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
I was looking for a post from you on the forum but couldnt find one. I think I remember you saying it was your birthday today? So here it is:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ZOOMBA

(I hope i got it right, otherwize never mind, lol)
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April 17, 2006 7:13:33 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
Hehe, it's not for another few hours (April 18th is about 4hrs away right now). But thank you for the well-wishes

I"M OLD!
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