Preview By: Andrew Joy
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Updated 12-15-05: We've added 3 new screenshots revealed today via Bethesda's email newsletter and an MP3 of the title theme song. The new screenshots (images 13-15) show off an incredibly detailed port town (below), a lush forest scene at night, and what looks like either a character creation or in-game menu screen.
The light of the sun glistening off your sword, a spray of dried blood dulling the sheen of your armor and sweat dripping from your face as you stand over a heap of fallen and monstrous enemies. Such has always been our fantasy of, well, fantasy, but very soon, with the help of the Xbox 360 and the latest chapter in the award-winning Elder Scrolls saga, we will take a step closer to realizing those dreams. At least, in the video game world that is.
Few who have played any of the Elder Scrolls titles, or anyone who has watched it grow from its inception in the early 90's until now, can easily forget the draw of the series. The last game in the series, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, was so wildly acclaimed by both critics and gamers that it seemed hard to improve upon. And yet, Bethesda has found a way, using the next generation of hardware to create the next generation of RPG.
Every system has suffered a drought of RPG's at one point or another. Microsoft, at the launch of the Xbox 360, is set to early on fill that genre with titles like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Little has been released in any specific area, but what we have seen so far all comes together to give this game a +10 Wow Factor!
The story revolves around the royalty of Tamriel and the fate of the very empire. The emperor has been assassinated and with his dying breath he entrusts you with the quest of finding his true heir. As you progress through the game, demons lay siege to the land as Oblivion gates open and create portals to Hell. You must find and protect the new emperor as you deliver him to the throne and unravel the evil mystery that is Oblivion! Sounds fun, eh?
Most of the usual role-playing elements are intact, including staples of the Elder Scrolls series. For instance, once again you will start out by creating the perfect character for yourself. You will choose your initial class, general appearance, astrological sign, etc. Once again, on the course of your journey your character can also be turned into a vampire, an affliction that you must keep under control, lest you suffer the consequences.
Also new this time around, your character can buy and furnish a home in Tamriel, giving you a place to hang your hat...and cloak, leather jerkin or any other excess supplies. And you can obtain a horse, giving you an alternative means of navigating the randomly generated forests and ruins as you move between towns.
Its not just new additions that have made their way into The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion either, there are also a few changes. Probably the most noticeable will be the changes in how you fight. Combat will now more resemble a hack-and-slash instead of the typically swing-seven-times-and-still-not-hit-a-dang-thing game play we have come to know from RPG's. The Havok 3.1 physics engine has been integrated into the game, too, allowing archers to shoot more realistically, and they can now retrieve wayward arrows.
As for what the power and technology that the Xbox 360 brings to the table, well, a lot comes to mind. Radiant A.I. will make an appearance, and on a grand scale as hundreds of NPCs go about their lives on full 24/7 schedules, reacting to the world around them - a world you help to create! The graphics are certainly noteworthy, too. Oblivion has been enhanced with special lighting and weather effects and high-definition to bring everything to life. From the architecture to the creature effects to the weaponry and armor, it all has the ability to change the entire mood of the game, a powerful tool to have on your side when you are trying to create the best user experience possible.
Xbox Live will also come into play with Oblivion. Only a couple of examples have been discussed, with the possibility of more in the future. What have been announced uses the Xbox Live Marketplace to buy exclusive armor and weaponry and participation in special events, such as in-game holidays that alter the game while they are in effect.
The verdict is still out on a lot of the changes and additions being made to the series, and it will probably remain that way for a long while after the launch of the Xbox 360. The game is said to take almost 200 hours to complete (though, by Bethesda's own admission, many will finish the basics long before then.), as you traverse between nine cities, complete over 150 quests and explore over 200 dungeons.
As for me, this game is the only reason I am considering the Xbox 360. I am not much of a racing game fan and I can live without Perfect Dark Zero, but The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion just shows too much potential to be overlooked. I greatly enjoyed The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and the few gripes I did have with the game all seem to have been addressed. With these adjustments to it's long-running formula, Bethesda seems just as willing and able to welcome newcomers as it is to welcome back fans of its most popular series.
Posted: 2005-09-30 21:20:13PST