The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion Review
There was almost no real "role-playing" to speak of unless one initiated it themselves -that is to say, played a character a certain way even though the game might allow for more options- as every character could do everything without penalty or restriction. Why the hell would the thieves, who have very strict policy against murder and dislike the Dark Brotherhood, accept a member, if not the leader, of the assassins' guild -the aforementioned Dark Brotherhood- into their ranks? Why would the easily recognizable Arena Champion be allowed to waltz around in Dark Brotherhood amour or walk away from the scene of a murder without someone recognizing him or her? Why would a serial-killer be allowed to join the personal bodyguard of the new Emperor? Such questions are never answered, but instead we are supposed to rationalize that everyone is incredibly ignorant and incapable of passing along news and information (a function that even user-made modules have been able to implement without much trouble).
The level-scaling also detracted from the role-playing experience as everything and everyone was tied to your hero - I say hero because there was no "evil" option in the main quest, only the normal "you need to save the world" rigmarole. Oh sure, it's nice that your level one mage can kill a few things without being decapitated, but does that really need to extend to "bosses" and other high-level NPCs? For instance, read this description and see if it describes the kind of person a first-level charatar should be able to defeat: "The King of Worms, Mannimarco, is a powerful necromancer in Tamriel and the archenemy of the Mages' Guild. He was originally an Altmer and a Psijic, and a contemporary of Vanus Galerion. At some point Mannimarco broke away from the Psijic order (as well as Galerion, who went on to found the Mages Guild) to further practice his necromancy, and this is the point at which he actually first styled himself "King of Worms". From Scourge Barrow in the Dragontail Mountains, he has cleverly played all the political games and powers for millenia. His influences have even reached Summerset Isle, the homeland of the Altmer. The Sload, the necromantic slug-like creatures living in the Thrassian Reef, worship him as a god." Come on, are you really saying that a game that lets you kill some of the most powerful opponents, such as the aforementioned "King of Worms," at level one, with a rusty iron dagger no less, deserves an almost-perfect score?! Doesn't that ruin the entire world for you?
Another thing that bothered me was the focus on combat. Sure, we all like a little sword-swinging now and then, but does every encounter need to end with a bloody corpse or two? Why cannot the player decide if they want to kill the bandits or aid them, why cannot we choose to help the blackmailers by enticing more men to their lair? I guess you enjoy reading what you supposedly decided, but I think that any self proclaimed "role playing game" should at least try to let the player control the outcome once and awhile. Off the top of my head, although I will admit it has been some time since I played a non-modded version of Oblivion, I cannot come up with more than a handful of quests that actually let you significantly alter the outcome and even those are weak compared to any of the really great RPGs. Oh, but I was forgetting, there is that little mini-game you can play to influence people! I guess Todd Howard was not joking when he said "fantasy, for us, is a knight on horseback running around and killing things." Oh yeah, and did I mention the game will not even let you use items if they are flagged as "owned" - talk about breaking immersion and role-playing...
Talking about combat, it was not that great either - but I guess you could have predicted by now that I would have some detracting comment to spew out. All it really comes down to is sniping people from a distance, blowing people up with magic spells, or a combination of blocking and stabbing/blunting. I guess I must have high standards or something, but is that really a boring system of what? I mean, it may be entertaining for the first hour or so, but after that... well let's just say it looses some of its appeal. Of course spears, crossbows, and throwing weapons are not making an appearance in this game, I guess they were either too much work or too hard for Bethesda to manage after they spent all that time perfecting the gallons of blood that are seemingly kept inside everything you stab.
The AI is atrocious, although it is still better than some I have seen, and is more entertaining than formidable in most combat situations. Making guards fight each other, and anyone who started to help either one, is commonplace and easy to accomplish; while NPCs who are engaged in a task will often stand, or sit, still for you while you go on your murderous way. Oh yes, don't let me forget the mudcrabs - who would ever do that, their being such an critical talking-point in the world of Oblivion! Todd Howard says, "I'd say the "Radiant AI" system, and the NPC life. It's something no one has ever tried on this scale, and we're just starting to see how powerful it is, and how we can translate those NPC behaviors into meaningful gameplay." Yep, that "Radiant AI" is sure great - and, no, of course Bethesda, id est our "old friend" Todd Howard, wasn't exaggerating what it would be like before the game came out. Too bad I've seen much, much older games have more convincing worlds, maybe next time they'll get it right though.
Skills were, in keeping with Bethesda tradition, more dumbed down than the last game! Yes, your ax is a blunt weapon and one feat shall govern both daggers and greatswords! Isn't that logical! Oh yeah, we've also made it so anyone can take any skill and you really need X, Y, and Zed - so forget about making unique characters because they'll all end up similar due to our defective, simplistic system! Even things that showed promise, such as the ability to invest in shops, were squandered by Bethesda and turned into boring, idiotic experiences. But I guess you get what you pay for when you buy a game that was designed for, as Gavin Carter puts it, "...casual gamers who are neither 'hardcore' nor 'RPG geeks'."
Although there is more I could criticize, I think that I will end this now. In conclusion, Oblivion was not a "bad" game, but neither was it a "good" one - and certainly not a one that should have been given "100%" by most reviewers. Now, if you are playing a modded game, things are different, but the original was nothing to laud.