I bought Oblivion from Direct2Drive last week. It’s very pretty, but besides that I couldn’t really see what the fuss is about. I found it to be rather 2 dimensional and overly simplistic. I can see that a great deal of attention to detail went into things like the sizeable volume of literature in the library of books scattered around, but they were too long for casual reading and too information-sparse to encourage me to do anything but learn you only need to open the book to be done with it.

There were some touches I liked – CTRL for crouch just feels right – but some of the real RPish stuff runs headlong into non-RPish ditches at every turn – the ‘speechcraft’ wheel that doesn’t appear to have any negatives other than time consumed.

Most of the quests I encountered seem fairly bland, the more interesting ones feel were still woefully predictable. I also found an NPC, Darion, with an endless supply of pickpocketable cash (I think its a sign error). After pulling 4000 coins from him, 34 at a time, I bought a house and furniture and wished I hadn’t.

I just failed to be immersed, I think. The combat is just blah, and there doesn’t appear to be a middle ground between gamer and rper – things are either tediously mindnumbing or epicly overdecorated templates. One quest in Skingard is to spy on some other NPCs. Some careful work went into building that quest, there are numerous little touches that make it quite neat – the way the game engine massages the NPC community to make you question the storyline, and notes you may eventually find from the paranoid guy. But it predictably lacked any actual skill challenge. It’s just a template that executes some AI scripts, with very, very, very limited triggers (did you see such an npc at 0600-0659). More simply put – the game engine fails to produce any of the embelishments or nuances in the execution that the quest engine implies.

And that’s a total spoiler for me. That was what made KOTOR the only RPG style game I’ve played to completion, let alone three times.

So am I just being over-analytical or do you have to crank it up to a higher difficulty for NPCs (not monsters) to start behaving a little less robotically and easy to manipulate? (e.g. always equip a weapon before speaking to NPCs you plan to speechcraft, then speak to them again without for a maxed out standing)