Sleepless in Cyrodiil

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has finally arrived on the PS3, and even a year late, it's still one of the biggest sinkholes of time you can buy.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 14, 2007
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Confession time: I never got a chance to play through Oblivion when it first hit on the PC and 360 a good year ago. I had the PC version, and for that first hour or so, I was absolutely enthralled (even if my spazzing hard drive trying in vain to load up new areas in less than 30 seconds wasn't). Then my video card bit the dust, and I was left with the piss-poor integrated graphics chip on my PC's motherboard. That meant no more Oblivion for me, and for once I'd dodged the addiction bullet. Granted, I had to listen to everyone around me raving about the game and how immersive and huge and open-ended it was, but shortly thereafter, the game was announced as a launch PlayStation 3 title. I could wait.


Except, as anyone else who was waiting for the game to hit Sony's sexy new black obelisk will tell you through clenched teeth, the game's release date slipped -- to the tune of four more months. Still, the game was coming and, as we'd talked about when we saw a near-final version of it running a few months back, it was actually going to be improved from last year's retail copies. And, well, it is. The first expansion pack, Knights of the Nine, which went for some $10, has been included, all the patches and updates to fix some of the bugs in the game were integrated, and basically the game is what should have launched with the PS3.

That does mean, of course, that PS3 owners (at least for the time being) will miss out on the new Shivering Isles expansion and some of the downloadable content -- including the infamous horse armor, thanks in part to the fact that developer Bethesda Game Studios and Sony haven't quite cozied up enough to start heaping things onto the PlayStation Store. Not that any of this will really matter to anyone who hasn't played the game before, because what you get for $60 is more than impressive.

In fact, it's huge.

Though the game starts out fairly rigid and nebulous, with you creating your character from a handful of Cyrodiil's races, sculpting the frankly fugly faces (it can take a good hour before you create something that most would find attractive) and settling into your new home. In a jail cell. Luckily, the King of Cyrodiil pops into your cell, mutters something about seeing you in his dreams and then scampers off with his Royal Guard, the Blades, though a secret passage in your cell. Hooray, a way out! As you stumble your way through the rank belly of the Imperial City, you'll learn the basic controls, start to craft the strengths of your characters and learn some basic combat.

Then you meet back up with the King moments before he's killed right in front of you, but not before the King passes along an amulet that must be given to his secret heir. This gives you your first quest and sends you on your way. Right before you exit the glorified tutorial level, you'll have the option to change most of your skills, and then you're barfed out into the world.

And then the game begins.

At this point, the entire world is open to you. You can go anywhere. You can do anything. You can talk to anyone. You can get quests. You can thump on the nearby fauna. You can explore caves. You can dive into the portals to the demonic realm of Oblivion. For the most part, the entire game scales to the level that you're on (for instance, some of the tougher random enemies in the game won't appear until you're at a certain level), so you're free to do nearly anything. This extends all the way out to how you conduct yourself. Though it won't go well, you can wade into down and start slashing at anyone in sight or stealing things or just generally act like a dick.

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