General:Dave's Five Hour Oblivion Review

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This review of TES IV: Oblivion is from 2006 and should not be edited aside from general maintenance.

So I managed to find one copy of the game yesterday (March 20th) in a local EB Games and managed to spend a few hours playing it. Some initial thoughts and comments on the game (a more detailed review to come):

Game Performance
I have a Mid-High System which the game auto-detected as "Ultra-High End" running at 1600x1050 (widescreen, looks great). In a quick view of the graphics options I noted most settings were at maximum but there was still a number of them which could be increased. At this setting I'd guess an average FPS of 30...things were smooth with no video lag encountered anywhere.
Load times were very quick, much faster than Morrowind, with outside areas loading with no pauses at all and interiors loading in 5 seconds or so.
Pretty much faithful to the countless screenshots we've seen...very beautiful overall. Coming out of the first dungeon to a night time scene with rolling hills overlooking a small lake with the best star sky I've seen in any game and a slight smattering of clouds was breath taking.
If you do have the view distance set to high you can definitely notice that the scenery far away is very sparse and that things pop or fade into view as you approach. Honestly its not that big of a deal and being able to see the mountains and hills for what seems like miles greatly overwhelms things like this (in the first town I see some huge mountains in the distance which just made me want to start walking that way to see what they were and if I could get there...great stuff!).
I also noticed some strange pixelation in the first dungeon which is probably linked to some graphics setting set to minimum. A minor thing overall and not something you'd notice unless you were looking for it.
I'm not much of a sound critic so things sounded pretty good to me. Nice music, not too obstructive and fits the mood well, and the narrative speech is so good I think I'll disable the captions. Ambient sounds are also very well done. I did notice a very slight regular popping sound at one point but it either went away or was so low I didn't notice it most of the time.
Character Creation
The good news is there are tons of options to customize your character. The bad news is there are tons of options to customize your character. I know I could have easily spent hours tweaking every last feature, and probably will in future characters, but wanted to get into the game quicker this time.
So far I think its just a good interface design rather than a great one. Its pretty easy to learn and use but there are a few areas I could suggest improvement. The inventory size seems fixed so having a high resolution won't let you view more items at a time, the item font is just bigger. Since you can only see a 6 or so items at a time I'd think inventory management might become a pain once you are carrying more stuff. Fortunately the ability to sort items by rough type (like in Morrowind) as well as weight, price, condition, and quality helps with this.
The in-game map looks great but only shows a small area at a time. The ability to zoom in/out would be a great addition (at least I couldn't figure out how to zoom if it is in already).
Many people made a huge deal out of this and I didn't see the reason then nor do I now. I find it helpful yet unobstructive and probably a necessity to finding stuff in the wilderness (I know I would have walked right by a few dungeon entrances without it).
Much better done that in Morrowind, both in look and interaction. I picked up the persuasion mini-game pretty quick but it might be un-intuitive to some people (the first few times will very likely end up with the person hating you).
Still getting the hang of combat but with having to block and dodge and move around I can definitely see there's a learning curve to it, which is good since it means its much more an in-depth system than Morrowind's. At the low level, though, you can still pretty much get around by swinging randomly and hoping for the best.
Archery is pretty much the same 'feel' as in Morrowind. Haven't tried any longer sniping shoots to see how the arrows arc and how difficult it is to compensate. Being able to recover arrows is a definite win.
The stealth mode toggles nicely so you don't have to tap the Ctrl key down. Extra damage to attacks when stealthed is nice and can take out most critters in the first dungeon in one hit.
The lock-picking mini-game looks interesting, unfortunately I have yet to get the hang of it, even after breaking almost all the lock picks I retrieved from the first dungeon. I don't find the controls for it are intuitive at all (in a word: awkward) and it forces you to use the mouse (being able to use the WASD keys to control the pick would be a huge help). I'm still breaking a dozen lock-picks on a very-easy lock with a decent 30 skill and usually resort to the auto-attempt button (which gets it in one or two). I'm sure I'll figure out eventually...perhaps I shouldn't sign up for the Thieves Guild just yet.
No crashes or major problems other than the screen turned black a few times which forced me to quit the game and restart it. Fortunately this process is very fast, much faster than it was in Morrowind. I would hazard a guess this would be due to my graphics drivers since I haven't updated them in a few months.

Overall I'm very impressed so far and the few hours I played just want me to play more. There is very much the feeling of having a huge world with all sorts of interesting things and places to explore in, much like Morrowind, but with a vastly improved graphics and design.