Two years ago, I told the world that I had never played a Halo game. Now, I have another embarrassing confession to make: I am an Elder Scrolls virgin. Well, at least, I was. You see, up until a month ago, I had never played an Elder Scrolls game. I have always wanted to -- I am a fantasy role-playing junkie! -- but just never got around to it.
But with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim coming out this week, and the hype machine turned up to full force, I wanted to play at least one of the games in the highly regarded Bethesda series before the newest iteration came out. I am super stoked to play Skyrim, but what if I didn't even like the Elder Scrolls games? I decided to make sweet love to try out Oblivion (the fourth game in the series) to find out.
So, what did I think? Was my first time with the Elder Scrolls a passionate, sexy affair? Or was my experience with Oblivion more akin to the writhing, awkward pool scene in Showgirls -- one that left me sore, bruised, and guilt-ridden?
Create a Lannister!
When I first started playing the game, I was excited that I got to immediately begin designing a character using the surprisingly deep character creation tools. I love creating characters in games. I am not very good at it -- all of my characters look awful -- but at least it is fun to try to design a character that kind of looks like me.
In this case, my character did not look like me.
I have blonde hair, and the game’s “blonde” hair definitely warranted the quotes around the word. As for hairstyles, there was nothing at all that looked like my style. I guess I should have taken that as a compliment, but I was frustrated at the lack of options. And when it came to face shapes? Let’s just say the designers had a much manlier person in mind when designing that feature.
Despite the lack of features, the character that I eventually created looked strikingly like Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones. And that made me pretty happy.
With my Jaime Lannister ready for action, I jumped into the game. Starting in a jail cell, I was immediately reminded of how much the game felt like Fallout 3. I figured this would happen, since both games were created by Bethesda, but I was shocked how similar they really were!
Look, I can pick up everything like in Fallout 3! Look, if I carry too much stuff I will not be able to move! Look, my character feels really short when he runs around!
One thing that didn’t feel like Fallout 3, though, was the immediate appearance of ...
OMG PATRICK STEWART!
I think there is a rule that any videogame that stars Patrick Stewart is automatically awesome. The guy has a great voice, and it fit in perfectly as the voice of noble Emperor Uriel Septim VII.
I was happy to be playing next to Patrick Stewart as he guided me through the opening dungeons to help me escape my dark and dreary prison. With the Emperor by my side, I knew I could take on anything! I could destroy any enemy! I could overcome any obstacle!
I could ...
OMG PARTICK STEWART IS DEAD!
Oh hell no. While journeying through the game’s opening dungeon, Uriel Septim was unexpectedly stabbed by a random enemy soldier and killed. Dag.
He did give me the Amulet of Kings, whose delivery became the motivation for my first mission, but, man, losing Patrick Stewart that early in the game was a risky move.
At the very least, I knew Elder Scrolls IV had balls.
The vast world of Cyrodiil
Once I emerged from the game’s opening dungeon, I was excited to see what the open world had in store for me. The one thing I knew about the Elder Scrolls games was that they were known for having huge, breathtaking worlds that you could fully explore.
I was definitely impressed by Oblivion’s scope ... but was a little shocked by the game’s graphics. They weren’t bad by any means, but, man, they were certainly dated. For the time, though, I can imagine that the graphics blew people away. The size of the world, the details of the environment -- it must have all been very impressive.
But when compared to games released today, the game didn’t look that great. Which made exploring the lush forests, populated villages, and dark caves a little less exciting. Games like this really benefit from jaw-dropping graphics.
But, again, I appreciated everything about the graphics ... even if the dated textures scared me a little bit.
THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO!
I knew there was going to be a lot to do in Oblivion, but I had NO idea there would be so much!
After running around the game’s world for a bit, I decided to walk into Imperial City.
My God. I had no idea the city would be so huge.
Not only is the capital city separated into multiple districts, each section is composed of a huge amount of locations, characters, and general things to do! When I walked into the market, for example, there were dozens and dozens of different shops and inns, each filled with NPCs, some with individual sidequests to complete!
At first, I was so overwhelmed that it almost turned me off. But as I started wandering through the city, I began to fall in love with everything.
I loved all the characters I could meet and interact with. I loved all the stuff I could buy. I loved all the quests I could take part in. It was all so much fun.
In fact, I was so sucked into the happenings at Imperial City that I didn’t leave for hours. Seriously, my first five or six hours of playtime were entirely within the walls of the city. Whether I was competing in the arena battles, following a shady merchant at night to discover his dark secret, or hitching a ride on a pirate ship, I was absorbed in all the amazing, interesting stuff I could do!
At one point, I almost forgot about the enormous world waiting for me outside.
Speaking of outside ...
Once I finally decided to give up on the sidequests and actually deliver the damned Amulet of Kings Uriel Septim gave to me, my personal Jaime Lannister was ready and equipped to take on the big, bad world of Cyrodiil.
My immediate thoughts as I started to explore:
“Damn, this game is big.”
Seriously, swimming didn’t make any sense in Oblivion. I do appreciate that you had to “hold your breath” by carefully watching your slowly depleting air meter, but, outside of that, nothing else made any sense.
“Swimming” didn’t feel like swimming at all. When my character was in water, he moved around just the same as he would on land. When on top of the water, it felt like I was floating on its surface, which, funny enough, I could actually do later with a helpful and cool spell.
It may seem like a small thing to be annoyed by, but the unrealistic swimming really bothered me when I was running through the world.
I did love hiding underwater to avoid attacks from enemies, though. Glass half full!
Fighting and spells!
My favorite things about Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion were the fighting and spells. I loved fighting and casting spells in the game. Loved.
At first, I thought fighting with a sword and shield in first-person would be awkward at best and completely disorienting at worst. Come to find out, it was neither! Fighting in the game was actually really great! And fun! Exclamation points!
After a little practice, I was blocking blows with my shield, swinging my sword, and casting fire and healing spells with the best of ‘em. I was obsessed with the fighting and would genuinely look forward to every battle in the game.
Don’t even get me started on the Imperial City arena. I DIDN’T WANT TO EVER LEAVE!
Have a seat ... IN THIS WALL!
Oblivion was filled with small, expected glitches that didn’t bother me in the least, but there was one that was equal parts hilarious and infuriating that it deserves a quick mention.
After becoming weirdly fascinated with the fact that you can sit down on chairs, stools, and benches in the game, I decided to do it all the time -- I really liked watching the strange third-person sitting animation.
As I wandered through one of the game’s many complex, impressive dungeons, I saw a random bench sitting against the wall. I decided to sit on it.
Upon standing, though, my character got trapped inside a wall. For some strange reason, Jaime Lannister decided to stand up on the wrong side of the bench, trapping me inside the walls of the dungeon.
It was hilarious to run around the inside of the walls ... until I realized I couldn’t get out and had to restart from my last save.
I did not buy this.
Seriously, who would buy this?!
Overall, I had a great time with my first Elder Scrolls game. I was a little distracted by some of the game’s more “colorful” moments (the clunky menus, the dated graphics, the weird glitches), but those details were nothing compared to way I felt as I wandered around the enormous world and discovered its mysterious, sometimes beautiful secrets.
I had such a good time playing my first Elder Scrolls game, that I am actually bummed it took me this long to finally experience the highly regarded series.
Now that I have lost my Elder Scrolls virginity, I can now walk into my date with Oblivion’s much hotter cousin Skyrim with the confidence of a strong-jawed, cocksure advertising executive.
The dragon candles are lit. The romantic lute music is playing. My chainmail is off.
I am ready for action.
What's Up? Our panel at PAX Prime 2014, Far Cry 4, Destiny Beta, Vietnam & a ferret
8:00 PM on 07.25.2014