Suitably Impressed

Yes, I’m about to talk about that damn video game again. Not that I’m obsessed or anything. *grin*

I managed to actually find a copy of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion last night (I think I took the last copy available anywhere in Cleveland, or so it would seem) and spent some time starting on it last night. I’m quite impressed so far.

The outdoor environments are absolutely stunning. There were a number of those “Wow!” moments as I walked through the countryside. There is a dynamic day/night cycle and changing weather conditions that create a sense of a living, breathing world. Random wildlife wandering around, deers, wolves, butterflies, birds, and who knows what else add to that. The trees and grass sway gently in the wind.

Oh yeah, and it’s huge. I decided to walk from the first city you begin the game in to the next closest city on the map and it took me more than an hour in real time to get there. I did stop to explore a couple of ruins and dungeons along the way, but even if I have just walked straight there it would have still taken half an hour or more. Looking at the scale of the map, I’d guess that it would take a couple of hours (or more) to walk from one side of the world to the other, should you be taken by the madness necessary to attempt doing so. *laugh* It rivals and perhaps even puts to shame the massive game world in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Thankfully, you can buy a horse. So you’re not stuck walking huge distances if you don’t want. Though, with so much to see and explore in the countryside, it seems like walking might be the best way to experience the game. I’ll be curious to re-visit some of the dungeons I’ve already explored and see if it resets the monsters and/or treasure, or if it has a persistent state.

It’s also completely open. You’re not on rails here, having to follow a strict and specific path through the game according to the storyline. There’s also tons of side quests and all that countryside to explore, so you can basically play the game however you want. It feels like a cross between Grand Theft Auto and Lord of the Rings. Good times.

I really liked that it only required you to pick the sex and species of your character at the onset, and actually let you play the game for a bit (mostly through a series of tutorials mixed into the initial storyline) before deciding what character class you want to be (ie, fighter, magician, thief, etc.) and even analyzes your playing style and offers suggestions of it’s own. It also gives you a last chance to change any of the aspects of your character before you exit the first dungeon and begin playing the game proper, which is quite nice. (They also claim that the storyline can be quite different based on both your species and character class selection, so it may have some excellent replay value!)

Performance? Mixed. When it’s on, it’s on. Solid framerates with very detailed graphics settings. My once-godlike gaming rig has become a bit middle-of-the-road now, and it handles it very well most of the time. The only hiccup (and it’s kind of a big one) is when going from indoor environments back outdoors, things come to a screeching halt for sometimes a minute or two while it loads everything up. (Moving between indoor and outdoor environments are the only times there’s been any loading screens, the rest of the time it’s all streamed in as you move around.) I’m sure this is due to my lack of system memory. I have only 512MB, which is listed as the minimum for the game. I may have to run out and get some more soon, I’m overdue for an upgrade anyway. An extra gig of RAM should hopefully solve my problems. *smile*

Overall, huge thumbs up. I don’t mind the cold weather so much now, I’ll be sitting in front of the computer all the time now anyway. *laugh*