This time I take a look back at Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion a game only spoken of before the time of Skyrim. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it may seem hard to believe, but trust me when I say that there were four complete entries in the Elder Scrolls franchise before the fifth and most popular one to date emerged. It was with Oblivion that I believe the Elder Scrolls series of games gained some real traction and made its move into the mainstream. Elements found in both Skyrim and Elder Scrolls Online started with Oblivion. Those elements include full character voiceovers, a completely open world with unique cultures and terrain, and the go anywhere, do anything style of play. So let’s jump in our time machine and find out exactly how the fourth Elder Scrolls title helped craft the base for our most beloved fifth.
When you dive into Oblivion you’ll instantly notice a few things:
- The world is already established and you were already a part of it before you began playing the game.
- You are a prisoner. How original. Right?
- Character customization relies on sliders and some sliders link with others.
- All races have similar strengths and weaknesses compared to their Skyrim counterparts.
- The action begins immediately and results in your release.
You can draw the parallels immediately. The major differences here are choosing and being locked into a birth sign that grants you permanent buffs and/or debuffs, and being locked into a class after finishing the main quest that picks which stats you will be most proficient in originally. After that, you are given your main quest chain and set loose on the world, free to do as you see fit. It is this combination of simplicity and depth that cause me to return to Oblivion despite the fact that I have a perfectly good copy of Skyrim within arm’s reach. There is something special to me about being able to first pick a class and have that direction, but still being able to develop any other skill. Skyrim leaves you a blank slate, tabula rasa, free to develop your own abilities but never really leading you down any particular path. There is something a bit more engaging about not having quests simply handed to you at random, but having to seek them out. Try hunting down the Grey Wolf, a master thief in Oblivion and see if you don’t tear your hair out just finding out how to start the quest.
The point is, if you want a nice bridge between the old and new generations of western RPG’s, Oblivion might be where you want to look. It has all the complexity and freedom of more recent titles but the direction and engagement found in older ones. Give it a try. I think anyone who’s only step into the Elder Scrolls world has been Skyrim will be pleasantly surprised.