For the entirety of 2011, my mind, like many others, had been fixated on the then-upcoming game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I had watched the E3 videos, read the articles and announcements, and as this was my first TES game, I was excited to experience this series for the first time. On rolled Christmas, and with my brother asking for Skyrim, I decided to ask for its predecessor, Oblivion. I knew it wouldn’t be as pretty as Skyrim, but I decided that I’d give it a go, and went in with low expectations, as it “wasn’t Skyrim“. This was my first and last mistake regarding the quality of a predecessing game. Be warned, the article will contain spoilers for the various guild questlines.
I played through the prologue of the game, my Orc character swinging his greatsword, and I was loving it. The class system, the stats screen for leveling up, etc; it thrilled me. I chose to play as a custom class, with pure combat skills, and left the sewers into the wide world of Cyrodiil.
This is where I fell in love with the game. It was absolutely beautiful, despite being an old game. My first hour of the game was spent running round the outskirts of Imperial City, trying to find an entrance (I didn’t know you could fast travel to any major city at the time), fighting off wolves and imps.
The combat in Oblivion is very easy to get into, which helped me enjoy it; at the time, I was young and didn’t enjoy games that made me struggle (hence why I also quit playing with Dark Souls a few months later for half a year…). The simple “press and swing” design of the combat, for me, felt fluid and fun, and definitely easy for a newbie to pick up.
I eventually found my way in, as well as to the other cities, and I was drawn by how they varied in design. From the high buildings of the Imperial City, to the snowy land of Bruma, to the gothic-style of Cheydinhall, each city felt different and new.
In Bruma I ended up discovering the law of Cyrodiil, and in the wrong way; I murdered an innocent woman. It started off as a “can I actually hit you” question to myself, which was then followed by panicked screams and me butchering the old woman to try and silence her. I then found myself surrounded by guards who took me away, as I noticed a mysterious message in the lower corner of the screen which would lead me to meet the Dark Brotherhood, both my favourite questline of Oblivion and favourite Guild in TES.
The quests and questlines, for the most part, were amazing, and honestly much better than their follower Skyrim. The main questline led us on an epic journey through a conspiracy plot, filled with Daedra, ancient organisations and an incredible final battle. Likewise, the Guild questlines (Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, Fighter’s Guild and Mages Guild) all felt different from one another and unique; the Dark Brotherhood had us performing various assassinations and advancing our rank in the Guild, only to find out that a number of our targets were other members of the Brotherhood, which sent us on a hunt for the traitor in our midst, while the Thieves Guild has us helping our leader, The Grey Fox, in executing the perfect heist. Each was a breath of fresh air and added tons of hours to my playthrough, and definitely worth doing.
The side quests, unlike a few RPGs nowadays, were a lot of fun too. They always added a different style of quest each time, be it exploring a haunted house after being trapped in there, finding an escape route in an old ruin, with hunters scouring the passageways in order to kill us, the Imperial Arena (something I sorely missed from Skyrim when I eventually got round to playing that too), or the various Oblivion Gates that now litter the landscape. My first experience with these was heart-pounding and tense, as I drastically searched for a way in to the main Citadel with Daedric warriors and scamps shooting fireballs at me and swinging massive maces.
One of the most memorable parts of Oblivion was the Shivering Isles expansion pack; perhaps some of the best DLC add-ons I’ve ever played. It teleported us into the realm of Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Madness, and had us complete various quests to help the Mad God against the incoming forces of Jyggalag. The environment was a stark change from the base game, but a welcome one; the world was split into two. Mania, with it’s colourful and vibrant design, and Dementia, with it’s dark, grey and dreary land.
What made it stand out from my usual RPGs was that it made me believe I was truly in the world. A lot of RPGs I’d played then weren’t like that (they were usually ones that I’d lost interest in quickly, coincidentally), but I became lost in the world of Cyrodiil. I forgot that there was a real world while I played, and it was an amazing experience, to feel like I was a real Orcish Warrior, with nothing but that horrible Adoring Fan as my company (I knocked him off a cliff yet he still somehow found his way back to me…)
Overall, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is an amazing open world RPG that lets you completely lose yourself and live out the fantasies we all had as kids. It may not be as pretty or ‘alive’ as Skyrim (don’t get me wrong, I love Skyrim too), but it’s definitely worth picking up if you haven’t played it yet, or going back to it if you have.