The Elder Scrolls is a popular series of RPGs (role playing games) set in its own fantasy world, albeit one heavily based on a variety of other RPG universes that all seem to owe a great deal to the Tolkien mythos. The vast game world is populated with a variety of elves, mages, warriors, animated skeletons, golems, vampires and the like – all playing major or minor roles in the open-ended story the player is participating in. In the latest instalment, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the sheer scale and detail of the surrounding environment has been taken to new levels.
The first thing that strikes you about Oblivion is the fact that your computer sucks. If you’re not packing some serious NASA-style hardware, you’re going to be scaling down the graphics options quite a bit from the highest settings. That being said, the Grapevine reviewed the game on an AMD Athlon 64 with half a gigabyte of memory and managed to get a decent performance out of it, but to keep it looking really pretty we had accept a fairly low frame rate during some of the larger battles.
Speaking of battles, you’re going to have to put any pacifistic tendencies aside and do some fighting if you want to survive in the world of Elder Scrolls. Granted, the open ended nature of the game means that you often have other options: such as using the powers of persuasion, bribery or stealth. It’s just that when you are charged by an army of unholy apparitions wielding magical bolts of fire and whatnot; negotiations are effectively over and you’re going to need to whip out a weapon of some sort. The weapons at your disposal are hugely varied, but they mostly fall into two main categories: magical and non-magical. Magical weapons include spells, enchanted daggers and such, while the more traditional medieval tools of destruction are all there as well. OK, so people in the Middle Ages may not have actually fashioned weapons and armour from the bones of trolls, but the design-theme is there.
All in all, Elder Scrolls IV is a fantastic RPG, but not a game that is going to win many new devotees to the genre. It’s a hard-core RPG outing and will no doubt please the Elder Scrolls fan base no end, packing in more quests, spells, options and refinements than you could shake a very large ‘Level 4 Enchanted Stick of Shaking’ at. Just don’t expect to be pampered or led by the hand through the experience: this is serious nerd territory.