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)


I found Morrowind (ES: III) a lot more immersive. However, I really don’t like the interface of either of them. They really give me a headache. First person just doesn’t work for me in an RPG game. The only RPG games I’ve played to finish are Deus Ex (1st person, but very immersive), Icewind Dale (and exp), and Neverwinter Nights (and expansions).

In Oblivion I played about 30 or 40 hours before loading up Neverwinter Nights again to play some modules.

Oh, and the 3rd person view in Morrowind/Oblivion didn’t do it for me either. I preferred the 1st person in them.

I had a different experience. I could never get into the previous ES games, but I played ES4 to conclusion. I agree that KOTOR is about as good as it gets as far as single-player RPGs in the last several years. Before that, I’d say the Baldur’s Gate games, and then Fallout before that. I’m hopeful about NWN2–but then I am a bit concerned that they just don’t put the same kind of thoughtfulness into RPG design that they did in years past.

BTW, Oliver, drop me a line and I’ll let you know what I’m up to. My email should be locked into your blog database somewhere :p

Console + God Mode + Finger of Mountain = bouncing bodies everywhere :)

Yea there were too many ways to break the system. I read some comments on making your own turbo spells. Basically if you maxed out mana regen and did 5 second spells, you could keep buffs on you indefinatly.

I didn’t like how there were so many random dungeons and gates. They got tiresome. I think it’s suppose to be really neat running into another dungeon. But no, its just a similiar one that you’ve already been to.

Horses really turned me off too. Not being able to fight from one sucks! Pointless to have a horse really.

Meh, the whole Oblivion concept has been completely dumbed down for console gaming. On a PC it really shows. 8 hotkeys (for use on a console controller) Massive font (for TV viewing) etc etc.

Visually pretty but no substance to it really, kinda like Chinese food with a ton of MSG.

I played maybe 1/2 of Oblivion’s ‘main storyline’ but then quit. You can have 10K NPC’s, hundreds of miniquests, but somehow it still felt about as interactive as riding ‘It’s a small world’ at Disneyland. Somehow the world just felt very empty and I never got the sense that the ‘people’ continued moving or had their own motivations and lives once I left the room, or even when I was in the room. For hack and slash FPS types who are trying their first RPG it may seem wonderful. One thing that was missing for me was the urge to find out ‘what happens next?’ that I got from other games like Baldur’s Gate, NWN, and KOTOR. I like single player RPG’s that make me feel like I’ve climbed into a book as one of the characters. Oblivion was too open ended and tried to do too much for a single player game.

Interesting comments… I played about an hour more yesterday, but it grates at me. The NPCs do have their little ‘try to seem alive’ routines, and there is stuff that goes on to mix the world up a little bit.

But it seems like they tried to do two conflicting things – to create an open ended game, and to make it quest based. I don’t think you can make a truly fun game by combining the two, because good quests don’t leave you with a truly open-ended game, because they have an impact, the change the plot or your perspective on it. And if they don’t, well what’s the point?

If worlds could only evolve while you play. Instead they only come alive when you are within visible range. Maybe that is something that can come along in the future. Gotta give those other cores in multi core processors something to do. Plus the advances of embedded databases. who knows. Gotta dream.

I’ve always been a fan of the ES series, conceptually. They always seem to just not get something not quite right that always nags at you.

Hey Ollie,

Have you checked out Mount & Blade lately?
I know theres no RPG layer in it yet, but there are lots of Mods that do.
Just curious what your thoughts are on it.

I liked it.

They try to take it to the next step but they don’t quite make it, but still, two thumbs up from me.

We can’t fight on horses, can control so many parameters in the console, increase skills easily, travel the same dozen of dungeons and gates, actually we can spit on many things on the TES games… However I think it’s a very different way to other rpg stuck on archetypal dogmas.
4 games to begin a hard work to entire freedom hiding “secret” limits.
In fact, the developpers don’t make those hidden limits yet, they just let fans make them thanks to mods (construction set).
That’s the only thing I regret, developpers should test, check and test again, and make limits behind a hoped illusion of total freedom.

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