I play JRPG’s. It’s my thing. Specifically on consoles, although lately I’ve been trying my hand at some PSP gaming (unsuccessfully). But every once in a while I get this weird craving to start fresh. To feel free from the trappings of the traditional JRPG gaming mold and go wherever I want, do whatever I want, and just plain wander around killing, looting and exploring.
That’s when I bust out the WRPG’s.
Specifically, over the last few weeks I have been immersed in the world of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
I know what you’re thinking. Dude. Skyrim? It’s like a way better version of this game? You might want to get up to speed here bro.
Well you can take your Skyrim and stick it you know where. Skyrim just makes me angry. Probably because I played on PS3 and it glitched me into insanity. Also I found the environment really boring. Snowy mountains anyone? And fighting the dragons was so annoying. “Hey dragon, want to stop flying around and come down here so I can smack you with my iron long sword? No? Oh…well then…”
Take away the improved combat, the dual wielding system, and the slightly improved leveling system (and the glitches, the boring world, and the poorly executed dragons) and you have Oblivion. A better all around game in my opinion, and the perfect place to do some wandering.
I fired up a brand new copy of Oblivion that I picked up for $8 (I’m not kidding about the price. Not the Game of the Year addition, which was intentional. I hate playing as a vampire. Google it yo) and started up the opening sequence. I created a friendly chap with scraggly hair, a five-o-clock shadow and a somewhat large nose and chose the Nord race. The irony of my choice is not lost on me, Skyrim lovers. In some small way I was hoping to rescue him from the monotony of Skyrim and send him to a brighter and more hopeful land.
I named him “Wander”.
Both as a shout out to Wander from Shadow of the Colossus, as well as because that was entirely what I wanted to do: Wander.
The world of Oblivion is awesome. It’s based around the central Imperial City, which has several large fully realized cities all around it like the hub of a wheel. In between are mountains, hills, caves, rivers and oceans, as well as ruins, mystical towers and quests.
The one thing that Bethesda has done well with the Elder Scrolls games is provide an open experience. Because the enemies level with you, there is no “right path.” I started out by connecting with the thieves guild and making some cash, then I went out and looted some caves looking for better equipment. After gearing up a little bit I started really wandering the cities, meeting people, gaining quests and doing obnoxious stuff like picking pockets and freeing people from jail.
One night, I crashed in an odd Inn over in one of the poorer districts of the Imperial City. I was amused that this Inn was actually a boat, so I went in and grabbed a room. When I woke up, I had apparently been bitten by a vampire in my sleep (CRAPPOLA! I hate playing as a vampire. I like the sun!), and not only that, our boat/Inn had been taken captive by some thieves and sailed out into the middle of the ocean. I proceeded to take my recently acquired vamp anger out on the thieves and beat them into submission, reclaiming the Inn and feeling somewhat swashbuckling in the process.
In a nutshell, that experience is the key to why I love this game. The unexpected, both good and bad. I thought instead of a formal review, I would simply share a few of the things I have been thinking about as I played Oblivion. They might be some good reasons for you to play a western game if you haven’t in a while.
1. You play the game, rather than having the game play you. I think one of the most eggregious offenders of this is Final Fantasy XIII, a game I am a pretty huge fan of actually. But still, basically everyone plays FFXIII the same way. The options are only the feeling of options, not actual different ways of playing. At the end of the day, almost everyone plays FFXIII the same. This makes it almost more like an interactive movie than a GAME in it’s truest sense. Doesn’t mean I don’t love it, but let’s be honest. When I talk to people about their Oblivion character, the difference is amazing. They found quests I didn’t even know about, and solved the same quests as me differently, or in different order, or were rewarded differently for them. No two games end up the same, and this amazing variety is what provides the quality.
2. Wander. Seriously. Don’t choose a quest line at all. Just wander. I found this to be such a relaxing way to play Oblivion. Instead of grinding through quests, I simply took my time, enjoyed the sights and wandered around aimlessly. I discovered beautiful ruins, waterfalls, strange creatures, bandits, and sadly, the edges of the map. But it was so fun and relaxing. I’m always that gamer who is trying to do everything in a game perfectly. But in Oblivion, I just plain sat back and enjoyed myself.
3. True Role Playing. If you really think about it, this is probably the closest thing you can get to taking the pen and paper role playing experience out of the basement, and into your living room television. You completely set up your character, and then are thrust into the world with complete freedom to make whatever choices you would like. You can choose how to approach the game, and in fact one of the best elements of it, is recreating multiple characters to see what play style you like. (The side note to the broad options available is the fact that any play style can be a successful one, as opposed to some games where a particular play style is favored.)
I could go on and on pushing different reasons why this is a blast to play, but honestly since the game is so cheap at this point, there’s really almost no reason not to give it a try if you’re one of the few people out there that hasn’t already jumped into an Elder Scrolls game.
Let’s do a rundown!
What is your favorite class to play? I always play a really well rounded character because I want to be able to kick butt in any of the guilds. So in general I look like a really sneaky sword wielding battle mage…that’s really good at stealing stuff. Did I mention that I love this game?
Do you really think Oblivion is better than Skyrim? Personally I do. I actually like Skyrim even though I was hating on it in this post, but I feel like it has some serious faults that tend to get overlooked because of words like “epic” and “graphics” and “dragons.” Bottom line? They’re both good games, but I have this weird fondness for Oblivion.
Do I need an FAQ for this game? Meh. Not really. You can easily kill this game, discover great quests and become a monster without any help from the online community. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check in once in a while to find a specific item I needed for a quest (in particular the vampire cure quest which I loathe).
How hard is Oblivion? You can adjust the difficulty so it can be either impossible or boringly easy. I will tell you though, if you’re not careful about what skills you level, at the normal difficulty, you will be getting your butt kicked by level 5.
What is going on with the leveling system!? You will probably want to read a FAQ about how the leveling system works, because it can be a bit confusing. Basically, you choose major and minor skills, and which you choose, and how often you use them, will gain you class levels accordingly. The problem is that if you choose the wrong major skills (ones that level too quickly) then you will gain class levels without the stat growth that you will need from your minor skills, and by higher levels you will be struggling. My hack job description doesn’ t do justice. Check out the leveling FAQ on GameFAQs.
What other WRPG’s do you recommend? Ok, some of these are technically not made in the US, (Dragon’s Dogma) but here is my list of what I would call the great WRPG’s on the current gen consoles: Dragon Age: Origins; Oblivion; Skyrim; Dragon’s Dogma; Fallout 3/New Vegas; Two Worlds II (its kind of bad but occasionally good lol). Note that I’m talking console only, not PC so some of you probably have a much larger list.
Ok here is a trailer of Oblivion to get you pumped to go buy your ten dollar copy and join the Dark Brotherhood!