Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Is Ten Years Old

A reader in the comments yesterday pointed out that it was Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion‘s birthday. Bethesda’s RPG is now ten years old. It’s the less celebrated of the series’ modern iterations – less weird than Morrowind, more awkward than Skyrim – but its my favourite in the series.

Happy birthday, potato men!

That’s probably partly because Morrowind passed me by at the time, meaning that Oblivion was the first Elder Scrolls game I played. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. As much as the game is maligned for being generic compared to the alien landscapes and creatures of its predecessors, I found the combination of its at-the-time high graphical fidelity and the grassy fields and leafy trees of its forests to be sublime. I was hooked the moment I first stepped out of its introductory sewer.

I think it also has some of the series’ best quest design. There’s rarely an objective that’s straightforward; if a mission begins as a seemingly simple fetch quest, it’ll quickly twist to reveal some narrative complexity. It’s easy to mock the potato faces and the conversation wheel, but I remember the game instead for the brilliant Dark Brotherhood quest line and the Thieves guild.

And, of course, for the mods. TESNexus has 877 pages of them.

What do you remember of Oblivion? It’s the best one, yeah?

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  1. Jokerme says:

    I still remember watching first gameplay video of Oblivion and being amazed.

    And now we are here with Fallout 4. Sigh…

  2. anandus says:

    I can remember the pre-release countdown like it was yesterday.
    Gosh, ten years already?

  3. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    I still have the Septim coin that came with the collector’s edition, back in the dark ages when people still bought physical copies of games.

    • RedViv says:

      And it still feels like more value than the shonky plastic Alduin they set us up with in Skyrim’s CE.

    • anHorse says:

      I love the pocket guide to the empire it had

  4. wisnoskij says:

    It was great for its time, but it will always be the little brother of Skyrim for me. Skyrim was where they finally got the right mix, the dungeons that were generic and all basically the same in Oblivion were transformed in Skyrim. Yes you could just wander around and enter some random house or dungeon in Oblivion, and that was great at the time, but it would be some randomly generated identicle to every other dungeon dungeon. While in Skyrim you would see a layout completely different and interesting, and you would likely be drawn into some huge continent spanning epic quest for unique loot with loads of story. Around every corner is something new and something with its own unique story, rewards and gameplay.

    • Lord Byte says:

      What Skyrim did you play? The dungeons in Skyrim were static, only the contents (monsters and treasure) changed depending on what (random) quest got you there.
      Unique loot? Really? It was scaled to level, and the stuff you made yourself was better… Not to mention that the random quests were boring as hell! Go here, kill everything, loot! I still think that the quest design compared to both Oblivion and Morrowind was a huge step backward!

      • Graham Smith says:

        I basically never did dungeons in either Oblivion /or/ Skyrim. These games are all about the guilds, to me.

      • fish99 says:

        I think he means the dungeons in Skyrim felt different to each other, whereas in Oblivion it was more obvious they were made from building blocks and you’d see a lot of very similar rooms.

        • Paul B says:

          I also didn’t experience a lot of these Go here! Kill everything! quests in my 150+ hours with Skyrim, though maybe on your playthrough you did.

    • Blake Casimir says:

      You must have played a different Skyrim to me. The visually impressive overworld isn’t enough to deter from the repetitious, non-linear, samey dungeons that offer NO explorative challenge, or the predictable quests (NOTHING like Oblivion’s DB questline in Skyrim!) or the dry, Tokien-esque writing, or the dumbed down so-called RPG mechanics etc etc etc

      It’s not a bad game, but Bethesda are NOT interested in making games as deep as Daggerfall or Morrowind any more. And their simplification began in Oblivion: just look at the character building compared to Morrowind…

      • Blake Casimir says:

        FFS where is the edit button? The dungeons in Skyrim are FAR from non-linear, and in fact quite linear and predictable copy-pasted designs. *Sigh* The wait for another Underworld or King’s Field game with similarly challenging non-linear level design continues… shame that practically no-one is making such games any more.

    • Stevostin says:

      Actually Oblivion’s dungeons were already all designed by hands, although they got better at it.

      • Sandepande says:

        I read somewhere that they had one or two guys doing the dungeons in Oblivion, and eight people in Skyrim. It shows, and even though the assets are repeated rather heavily, the dungeons in Skyrim are reasonably nice, atmospheric and interesting.

        • Stevostin says:

          Yup. That being said go play other RPG from that time: everybody was creating cheap content that way. Bethesda provided more content overal (way more…) so they indulged themselves into more cheap content.

          I sure like how they know to make dungeon onver the map interesting no matter what all over the map although you can feel the formula getting a bit old, especially in F4 for me.

  5. GWOP says:

    Mmmm… potatoes…

  6. gbrading says:

    It and Skyrim are up there; it certainly had the bigger impression on me because it was my first Elder Scrolls game (second Bethesda game after Fallout 3). Cyrodiil just seemed like a wondrous place to explore; the varied landscapes between the towns, the randomised wildlife, the lush forests, the readable books filled with lore. More so than Skyrim, it captured that Tolkein-esque feel of magic and enchantment coupled with a quintessential “Merry England” atmosphere of medieval fantasy.

    If/When Bethesda do get around to The Elder Scrolls VI, I hope they avoid the rut they fell into with Fallout 4 and significantly reinvent the formula. Get back to what the series really meant in the days of Morrowind and Oblivion.

  7. 2Ben says:

    The real, objective reason to prefer Oblivion to Morrowind is the archery mechanics. Damn was that really wonderful compared to the stiff, straight-shooting stuff of Morrowind.
    I can’t wait to play Skywind or whatever TC mod that will give me Morrowind with this archery.

    • deadlybydsgn says:

      Absolutely. It’s an inferior game, but it made Marksmanship worth using.

    • DrNoided says:

      Also shivering Isles blows morrowind out of the water in every way, shape, and form.

      Not to mention Morrowinds lifeless NPCs that just stood around, in the same place, all the time.

    • Stevostin says:

      You can replace by “gameplay, really”. Everything is better on that regard, combats, magic, thievery, craft…

  8. K_Sezegedin says:

    Oh right the game I had to buy to play nehrim.

    • nigelvibations says:

      Logged in to say this. Nehrim is and was one of my favorite CRPGs ever, and I’m pretty snobby about my CRPGs.

  9. Alfius says:

    Goosebumps, every time.

  10. Urthman says:

    My first playthrough was two years after it came out using at least 50 mods that completely rebalanced and repopulated the game, adding completely new spell systems and crazy new content like a mage home sitting on top of an insanely huge and powerful ancient machine and Aelid ruins that extended seemingly to the center of the planet, infested by vampires so powerful I had to create overpowered new spells to defeat them.

    So I loved Oblivion, but I think I played an almost entirely different game than most people.

    • brucethemoose says:

      I always wondered what my first Oblivion/Skyrim playthrough would’ve been like modded to the teeth.

      That why I’m waiting for Skywind to progress before diving into Morrowind, it’s why I haven’t touched FO4 yet, and it’s why I won’t touch TES VI until at least a year after release… Bethesda RPGs are so much better modded, and I want to combine that with the wonder/excitement of a first playthrough.

      • Stevostin says:

        Bethesda games are improved by maybe 1 or 2% of mods released and damaged in term of art, performance or balance by the rest.
        Now in those 1 to 2% there can be some really essential stuff. Moreover my 1-2% aren’t exactly your 1-2%. But let’s stop pretend mods are awesome. The vast majority aren’t. A good deal can really ruin your experience. I can’t wait for real modding in F4 but in the meantime, let’s make it clear that most likely the most reasonable way to first play a Beth game is vanilla.

  11. Jerkzilla says:

    I actually hated it. I mean, not at the beginning, at first I thought it was as awesome as the pre-release trailers made it look. Then the small bits kept bugging me, like enemies that soak up 15mins worth of hits but not being a real threat either, the blandness of the main story*. It just sold it’s setting very poorly IMO, too many things just fit into neat yet arbitrary templates, like weapon sets with materials, buying a single house in each city, that part in the story where you do the same thing in every town, the dull, predictable grind in skills to get better damage.
    Also the fan service with the Blades and final “battle”.

    I went from “oh my god I’m finally playing it!” to feeling like the whole thing is a disjointed mess.

    *The Dark Brotherhood storyline still reminds me of the emo stuff that was all the rage back then.

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      yeah it really is an awful game, though the first ten hours are kinda fun before all the cumulative terribleness really sinks in.

    • Czrly says:

      Me too. I remember that, at the time, absolutely everyone was raving and raving about how good this game was. I enjoyed the intro and I enjoyed the first few hours but I entirely lost interest when the gates started opening up and I realised that the world might be large but it is definitely terribly repetitive and bland. The quests and items were much the same and the game-play was tedious at best – particularly the combat – and certainly not good enough to make wading through swathes of tepid content fun. I can well believe that mods fixed this but, personally, I don’t enjoy fiddling with mods and so I mostly play vanilla, unmodded stuff.

  12. RedViv says:

    Oblivion remains the first example I will give when talking about how devs might severely misunderstand what the problems with a previous game were, if you do not phrase it right. Or if they just don’t really pay attention.

    “Hey Todd, I got lost a lot in Morrowind because the directions w-” “GOT IT, HERE’S A GPS AND NOBODY WILL EVER GIVE YOU DIRECTIONS AGAIN!”

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      Right, and they misunderstood the problems with Daggerfall too. Daggerfall wasn’t much fun to play IMO, but at least its scale was interesting.

      But they saw the criticisms of its soulless random generation, reduced the size of the world to a postage stamp theme park and STILL managed to make Oblivion feel copy-pasted and soulless, while also feeling cramped and gutted by comparison.

      Then in Skyrim they throw out character stats because in Oblivion they were criticized as having too simplistic an interaction with the gameplay systems. So instead of making them more relevant in the next title, they jettison them entirely?

      These guys are masters of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

      • klops says:

        They are also pretty good at making money.

        • RedViv says:

          They’re good at making amazing games fast food. I do love them, don’t get me wrong – but they are also *rubbish* and I hate them and why do I even keep playing when I can only think of stuff to criticise later and the good experiences take a backseat what is wrong with meeee

          • Stevostin says:

            Their games have moved from “Here’s an exciting prospect” to “here’s an addictive game mechanic”. Imo ppl shouldn’t complain because they’re largely responsible for raging about the wrong things.

            – they raged about ppl in oblivion not looking handsome, as if it wasn’t precisely interesting of the art of their game so far has successfully remained closer to old school fantasy illustration rather than comic book fantasy.

            – they raged about blandness in a game that has bland indeed, but also very interesting bits (the Dark Brootherhood quest line, the quest within the painting, and the gem that is Shivering Isles)(also some very interesting custom magical items)

            – Oblivion had largely fixed (if not completely) huge money hacks from Morrowind. Hugely important, no one cared, etc.

            – They criticized every things seen on a F3 screenshot as being dumb intrusion while 99% of it actually was present in previous games already.

            – they criticized F3 as dumbed down vs F2 event though wiki walkthrough comparison demonstrate precisely the opposite whether in term of amount of options or ability to do extreme things.

            – when offered a real set of modding tools, they analyzed that “Beth ask us to finish their game”. While making such tools for the public actually is a lot of work.

            Of course Bethesda has stopped caring about all the great things they were doing and weren’t acclaimed and we have now more quests (why not) with better gameplay (yay) at the price of complexities (awwww). I can’t wait for the brigade to catch up (“wait, actually when I said it was crap it was good, can you put that back now?”) so we can go back to F3/FNV splendor.

      • malkav11 says:

        Bioware are still the masters of overcompensating for criticism, in my book, from ME2’s “oh, you didn’t like the inventory management? let’s just get rid of inventory entirely! You didn’t like exploring side planets? Okay, let’s make you scan them from orbit instead!”, to Inquisition’s “oh, you guys didn’t like DAII and a few people complained because it was such a small scope? let’s make a world that’s so staggering in size that we have to make up tedious busywork to fill it out!”

        But anyway. There are definitely things I miss from Morrowind to Oblivion, and more from Oblivion to Skyrim, but stats aren’t one of them, especially since in exchange we got the perk system, immediately making Skyrim’s levelling the most interesting in the series to date by a country mile. (I guess technically Oblivion introduced a really limited perk system, but it was not particularly impactful.) You have to mod it to have actually interesting perks, but even vanilla, picking discrete additional abilities and passive bonuses is just so much better than ticking a number up a few points, even when they’re not very creative. And I no longer felt the need to arbitrarily grind skills I didn’t otherwise value just to make sure I got a good increment value for a stat I wanted to improve. Okay, so it would have been just as simple to decouple stat progression from skill progression, but this’ll do.

    • badmothergamer says:

      This was my feeling. Morrowind was my first RPG and I loved it. Sometimes it took me 45 minutes of wandering around just to find the place I was looking for.

      I played Oblivion on a 360 with two roommates. Since we had to share gaming time fast travel and the compass were nice at first. Then I knocked out the Thieves Guild quest line in less than 3 hours and felt no sense of accomplishment because it involved little more than “receive quest, fast travel, kill, collect item, fast travel, receive next quest”.

  13. klops says:

    I bought it five years ago, wasn’t that thrilled, started to enjoy it quite a lot but got bored pretty soon. I think I never tried to close another hellgate after the first one.

  14. Jay Load says:

    I do remember enthusing abut the graphics pre-release. Some of the forest screenies looked so much better than we’d ever seen at that point. And coming off of Morrowind…well, it was hard not to be excited.

    Just a damn shame the game was so poor.

    My pet peeves were the appallingly told main story, the criminally bland game world, the hundreds of potato people voiced by the same four actors…and the famous levelling problem. I’m not sure if that was largely due to the weak combat or just the insane system that mean’t you only ever face your approximate equals in combat, meaning at lv20 you’d be having the exact same fights, for exactly as long, as you did with your lv2 rodents and forest critters. All sense of becoming a mighty warrior was crushed. That killed the game for me. I tried it again a few months ago, I think lured by an interesting sounding Mod, but still find it excruciating to play, and uninstalled forever without a backwards glance.

    Morrowind and Skyrim are the high points in this series. Oblivion had too many oddities and frustrations to achieve the same.

    • Sobric says:

      Agree with this largely, although I think that people saying Oblivion was awful are exaggerating slightly.

      My main issue with Oblivion is really with Cyrodill – it was just so bland – combined with the fact that the in-game lore for the province seemed to indicate it was more jungle-like. Romans-in-the-jungle would have been an excellent design brief for Bethesda’s artists!

      Anyway, I hope TESO doesn’t stop Bethesda from working on the next big single-player TES game (6?), hopefully on a brand-new engine (lookin’ at you FO4).

    • Stevostin says:

      Oblivion main issue was warrior gameplay. Indeed gameplay didn’t evolve over time, was simplistic to start with, warrior guild quest line was super boring etc. Thievery was way more interesting but the gem was the Wizard gameplay. Magic is much more interesting in Oblivion than in Morrowind because it’s somehow balanced and way harder to master globally. And it’s much more interesting than in Skyrim because there’s a spell creator. Beside the variety of magic schools alone created a very large amount of approaches and combination to fights.

  15. Davie says:

    I was thirteen when it came out and it utterly blew me away at the time. You can go in that house and knock everything over! You can go stand on top of that mountain on the horizon! You can pick mushrooms all day! I’d missed Morrowind, being a small child at the time, and Oblivion was one of the first “current-gen” games I’d played. My crap computer had to run it on medium-low settings at 800×600, but I probably damaged my eyesight happily playing that way for two years.

    Skyrim and Morrowind were both probably better games in most regards, but I never had the sense of wonder that I did those first few months I wandered through the forests of Cyrodiil.

    • jgwill898 says:

      Exactly the same for me! I remember my brother bought it but got bored quickly so I picked it up and started playing and couldn’t believe there was this HUGE game world where I could do whatever I wanted! I’d heard of MMO games remember trying to play star wars galaxies but hated it but I never believed there could be such a huge game world without needing to be online

  16. Vacuity729 says:

    Oblivion is the game I’ve unquestionably spent more time with than any other game, making mods for, getting mods to work (my way) with, and of course, playing a little bit, too.

    I didn’t finish the main quest ’til something like three years (and huge quantities of released mod material) after I got the game.

  17. Kefren says:

    I remember some giant city, expecting to be blown away: but when I got into it it was just teeny bland lanes, all identical, with load screens every few corners.

    Also: I had planned a staff-wielding monk character (a la Monkey). Played for days before realising there were no staves in the whole land. Was disappointed.

  18. Tuor says:

    What do I remember about the game? I’m glad you asked!

    I remember starting the game, leaving the intro dungeon, and then going off-track for a while. I didn’t go to that monastery until I was around level 17, IIRC. And that’s when it happened…

    I was at level 17, and due to Oblivion’s “amazing” scaling system, my enemies were also level 17ish.

    The guards were not.

    In about 15-20 seconds after the attack started, all my allies were either dead or, if they were plot-necessary, unconscious. This happened at every stage of my making contact with Whatshisname, the future Emperor. It forced me to basically solo an area where it was intended that I would have a posse of guards helping me out. I had no posse, so I was stuck doing my best to pull only one or two mobs at a time so that I wouldn’t get wrecked.

    Unlike Graham, I didn’t miss Morrowind. I loved that game. Oblivion was a step down (and often a big step down) from that game in every way except for graphics. And while Skyrim fixed some of those missteps, it still wasn’t as good a game as Morrowind IMO.

    I didn’t like Oblivion much, and have never played it since I beat it.

    Oh… and I almost forgot the bandits in full glass armor (or even daedric armor). Yeah, I’m wearing armor that would cloth and feed me for years and I’m going to hang out by the side of the road to jump weakass fools that go by. Enemy level-scaling sucks. It sucks a whole bunch.

    • Stevostin says:

      Morrowind had in comparison really poor fight mechanics, balance issue everywhere, less varieties in dungeons, much more superficial social play with a lots of things that were there to make your imagination work and little more.

      It had plenty of one thing that was really missing from Oblivion, though. It had charm. To me, that’s probably still the best art direction for any RPG I played. It was also packed with mysteries of books that seemed important (or not?), hard to understand, still coherent, written with an awful font etc.

      Ha, I know some ppl prefer Morrowing “Windows like” UI. I don’t. I don’t like my RPG to feel like a day at work :P

  19. dkfgo says:

    This is one caused me a lot of frustration. But it wasnt that I thought it was bad or anything, is that I couldnt play it when it was launched. I had a very, very poor rig back then, and there was simply no chance of updating it in a timely manner. I remember finding out about the series on a gaming website, and was totally excited about it. Too bad it needed those damn 9.0c shaders to run (I even tried modding it down, but the result was a depressing mess of a game). On the bright side, it led me to try Morrowind, which to this day is my favorite game in the series.

    I’m now playing it for the first time (actually been playing it since last summer). 87 hours in, and now I know for sure that my frustration back then was totally justified. The game is awesome, it would have sucked me in just like Morrowind did (and just like its doing it now). And all that in spite of the fact that I played more than 200h of Skyrim before.

  20. deadlybydsgn says:

    It was an awkward time in PC gaming, and ended up frustrating me that an Athlon X-2 4400 and 7800GTX was not enough to play the game on desired settings. Consequently, it also taught me to never buy another flagship video card. What a waste of $500. (then again, I built my new PC before they delayed the game to early ’06)

    It never surpassed the love I had for Morrowind, but Oblivion was when I first fell in love with TES marksmanship. Bows seemed silly to me in Morrowind, but Bethesda’s combat changes and the addition of a physics engine made sneaking around with a bow and landing kill shots enormously satisfying.

    • deadlybydsgn says:

      Forgot to mention another thing Oblivion invented!

      When you’d kill an enemy on a hill or incline, it was possible for the dropped weapon to seemingly disappear below the rendered grass. I lost my first glass weapon (from a level-scaled bandit!) that way and was scared for [my gaming] life.

      I probably could have turned off the grass (and perhaps I did… it’s been 10 years), but the weapon seemed to fly off on its own, regardless.

  21. Quinnbeast says:

    This article needs a spot of Rab in it –

    [youtube link to youtube.com

  22. Scumbag says:

    Oblivion 2008: A time when I was old enough to know installing mods that gave all the women porn star bodies and stupidly skimpy clothing was a bad idea, but I did it anyway.
    Then the game broke, and huge holes appeared in the world. Giant sex labs seem to be fuelled by eldrich energy as they caused the capital city to fly and hills geometry suddenly made no sense.

  23. khalilravanna says:

    Mmm a lot of negativity in this thread. It’s almost as if some people can only spend their time picking apart games for their flaws. Thanks for sharing what you enjoyed, Graham.

    The game had a lot of problems but it also did a lot of cool stuff. It was a gorgeous, albeit generic, fantasy world for its time. It had really cool dungeons and atmosphere. Some great quests and characters, I love me some Lucien Lachance. The whole “radiant AI” was huuuge. Somehow all these things get forgotten because it didn’t get *everything* right.

    At the end of the day while every one sits around jerking off Morrowind in nostalgia-only mode, and shitting on Oblivion and Skyrim for “ruining everything”, they seem to forget that no other series has successfully created as immersive, *fun*, single-player, open-world RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series. Where else can I get lost for hours exploring a new world and feeling like a bad ass? (Notable attempts might include: Kingdoms of Amalur? Loved it but it really did feel like a single player MMO. Two Worlds? Honestly one of the closest attempts and while I enjoyed it but it was a buggy mess with a horrid story and voice acting. Risen? Yeah I dunno more of the same as Two Worlds mostly and they never game me the same sense of wonder and immersion.)

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      There is a whole lot of hipster when it comes to YES games tbh. There is also a big thing of “it’ll never be as good as the first one you played”.
      Those who played Morrowind, it gave them a unique feeling, they didn’t get the same with Oblivion because they’d had a similar experience before, so they brand the game as bad and nitpick it to death, it’s in no way a bad game tbh.
      I do understand it though, I loved Oblivion and was meh about Skyrim because it was a similar game but this time I felt like i’d done this already.

      • klops says:

        Oblivion was the first Elder Scrolls game for me. I still agree on the usual complaints and found the game boring pretty fast. Only common complaint that didn’t bother me were the ugly faces.

      • khalilravanna says:

        Yeah I love Morrowind. It’s absolutely my favorite, and I definitely think it was the best of the three in a lot of areas. And I think both Oblivion and Skyrim removed or diminished features that made Morrowind as great as it was. What I disagree with is when people go overboard with their criticisms, saying because so and so was removed or ruined that the entire game is garbage as a result. People take their negative points in a vacuum as if neither Oblivion or Skyrim did anything novel or anything well at all because of the potato faces, bandits in daedric armor, removing a lot of the cool factions, etc. (Of course all of this whilst ignoring the many, many numerous flaws of The Great Morrowind.)

      • suibhne says:

        It’s fine for you to disagree with the game’s critics – heck, I’m really okay if you want to stake all your cred on the proposition that Oblivion’s the best game ever made – but it’s not really cool to straw-man an entire set of respondents as “either hipster or narrow-mindedly nostalgic”.

    • Great Cthulhu says:

      The radiant AI was actually a bit of a disappointment. It was originally much more ambitious, but the results were too unpredictable, so Bethesda eventually only included a “light” (pun intended) version.

      Damn shame. It was the last time they tried something really ambitious in an Elder Scrolls.

  24. fish99 says:

    I know it’s cool to hate on Oblivion now, but I had 150+ hrs of awesome fun with it. There were definitely some good quests in there too, even if they weren’t to be found on the main plot line.

  25. carewolf says:

    I hated it. I had foolishly chosen a good starting character and role-played it, as a result I leveled too fast, and constantly had to replace gear (fortunately the local high-way men always hat better gear than me for no reason). It turned out you had to anti-roleplay and avoid levelling up, for intance by using non-character skills.

    What a strange game: The only winning move is not to play.

    Second biggest gaming disappointing in my life, right after Ultima 9.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I just don’t understand this at all. I went into the game knowing nothing, played it how I wanted and experienced none of these issues with enemy scaling and such that people in this thread are whinging about. Seems like extreme nitpicking to me.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I mean “the only winning move”? What exactly was the game preventing you from doing if you lvled up a bit? I really don’t get this complaint at all.

        • Premium User Badge

          DrollRemark says:

          If I remember correctly, you levelled up based on your main skills, and your enemies levelled up with you. But if your main skills were not combat based, this would lead to them becoming far stronger than you.

    • Blake Casimir says:

      Ultima 9 had so many issues. But it still has more interesting dungeons than Skyrim…

  26. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Assaulting the portals felt pretty epic alongside the dark brotherhood questline and quests like the “murder house guests” quest. Also shivering isles was great, knights of the nine was ok.
    The biggest issues were
    1.) scaled bullet sponge enemies instead of spread enemy tables with harder enemies occassionally (Morrowind, Skyrim, Fallout 3/4). This lead to wearing out weapons on immortal regenerating zombies which was no fun at all. The best moment was with character level one when sneaking around a castle and sniping a bandit from extreme range one-shot.
    2.) godawful faces

    Need to replay soon with a scaling mod.

  27. suibhne says:

    It’s hard to feel any nostalgia for unmodded, release-version Oblivion. It was awful. The narrative setup is a little silly, with the game’s most-touted VO actor dying within minutes and you – at level 0, basically – fighting off assassins who just took down the Emperor’s own security detail. The feeling of freedom once you escape from the 15-minute tutorial is pretty fantastic, and it all goes downhill within an hour…once you realize that the gameworld doesn’t make any sense (with the world’s central empire comprising a few backwater villages connected by mostly-dirt cow paths), the AI is absolutely and suicidally braindead, the much-anticipated sojourns in Oblivion are just as cookie-cutter as the dungeons, and all enemies and loot scale with you (removing much of the challenge and reward from gameplay).

    For first-time Bethesda gamers, I can understand how Oblivion might have seemed exciting. For someone who played Morrowind, it was a remarkable step down – fixing almost none of that game’s problems, and ditching most of its merits, too.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I understand how you felt let down but at that point I had dozens of Morrowind characters and needed fresh air.
      However in the first hour there were:
      Godawful faces (my own!), few weapon classes, dialogue mechanic, unkillable characters (sacrilege).

  28. Moonracer says:

    Getting old and growing up with games, this was a big one. I enjoy watching the growth of game development over time. I lucked out on getting Morrowind free with a graphics card. It really opened doors for my appreciation of RPGs and a mostly FPS gamer. And the jump from Morrowind to Oblivion was beautiful. Fancy graphics, tons of voice acting, a vibrant modding community, HORSE ARMOR DLC!

    Also, I completely forgot about Oblivion using a chat wheel. Didn’t it involve some silly mini-game to gain respect?

    • suibhne says:

      Oh god, that Persuasion “mini-game” with the terrifying pie pieces. /shudder

      • Premium User Badge

        DrollRemark says:

        This was the thing that finally cracked me. I was running around the capital, doing that stupid chat mini-game on people, just because I needed it leveling up, and I just stopped myself and said “What are you doing here? This isn’t fun.”

        Never went back.

  29. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Umbra. He was my most enduring memory. I kept popping over to see him as I levelled up, and kept getting my arse swiftly handed back to me on a plate.

    Then, one day I beat him and nicked his sword. Damn that STILL FEELS GOOD NOW.

    • suibhne says:

      Your memory could be a little more enduring, then. Umbra is a female. ;)

      • Great Cthulhu says:

        Might be a mixup with Morrowind. Umbra was male in that game. (And an orc rather than a bosmer.)

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          caff says:

          Whoops, yes that’s Morrowind. My memory has obviously merged the two games into one another.

    • Werthead says:

      Oblivion is not great (especially by later Bethesda standards, for all their flaws), but it did give me one of my favourite moments in gaming:

      In my first play-through I wandered into a dungeon holding a powerful warrior named Umbra. Since I was only Level 3, I died near-instantly. After trying a few different tactics to overcome her and steal her sword (one of the most powerful magical weapons in the game), I gave up and fled the dungeon. As I looked back I saw the maniacal super-warrior chasing me along the lakeside. Fleeing at a full run past a guard patrol, I watched as they engaged Umbra and promptly expired. Still, their sacrifice allowed me time to escape. Thinking no more of the incident, I played on for about another 30 hours, bringing the main quest to completion (amongst many other things). On a whim I decided to travel on foot back to the Imperial City alongside Martin (Sean Bean’s character) for the final quest. As we approached the lakeside, we noted numerous corpses of guardsmen, bandits, monsters and merchants lying all along the road. There were dozens and dozens of them. Hearing a familiar cry, I saw Umbra emerge from behind nearby rocks and attack. It turned out that Umbra had spent the intervening in-game time (weeks, at least) wandering back and forth slaughtering everything in sight. Now considerably more hardcore and with Lord Boromir Stark at my side, I engaged the nutcase in battle and defeated her, getting her mighty sword just in time for the main quest’s climactic, huge battle.

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        caff says:

        Brilliant :) Stories borne from interesting AI like this are why gaming is great.

  30. Doubler says:

    While I still think Oblivion is a low point in the series overall I must admit I’ve grown significantly more fond of it over time since mods largely fixed some of the most glaring issues it had. For some character archetypes Oblivion is just the better playground.
    I will never forgive it for what it did to Cyrodiil however. It could’ve been ‘the most interesting’ province, but now it’s the least.

  31. FreshHands says:

    The idea that Oblivion is the best Elder Scrolls is of course ridiculous/mad and definitely an affront to every gentleperson adventurer of consequence.

    Had some great fireballs though. Also Shivering Isles. So, happy birthday!

    I will now excuse myself and retreat to a bottle of skooma and some very fine Vardenfell erotica. Ah, the smell of netch leather!

  32. Jason Moyer says:

    Having replayed the last 3 recently (and never caring whatsoever for the first 2) Oblivion ended up being my favorite as well. It massively improved on the parts of Morrowind that were awful (the wikipedia aspect of MW’s dialog system, the stealth system) while still retaining the classic Elder Scrolls character development. I replayed the first 20 hours or so of Oblivion after replaying Skyrim, and another aspect that really stood out to me is how much better and weirder most of the quests are.

    If you gave Morrowind the greyed-out dialog system and stealth improvements, or gave Skyrim more interesting quests and the old-style character development system, there’s no question I’d rate both of them higher than Oblivion. As it stands, those little things end up meaning more to me than the stuff in Oblivion that is clearly not as good as the other 2 titles (the world design, the levelling implementation).

  33. Barberetti says:

    I got to level 43 I think, but there are only a few things I remember about the game.

    I spent a lot of time being a Sith Lord, shooting lightning from my fingertips at everything with that Something-Something-Mountain spell. I even had a set of black robes and hood.

    Somehow I became a vampire early on in the game, but by the time I had the cure, I was enjoying being a vampire so much I never drank it. The vamp look added to the whole Sith Lord thing I had going.

    I was coming up to a town once, and this guy started running towards me. I can’t remember the reason, but I needed to avoid talking to anyone, and I knew that this NPC was going to drag me into a conversation. So I ran.

    And ran.

    And ran.

    The NPC wouldn’t stop chasing me. I think I used magic on it a few times, but it was one of those invincible ones, and kept getting back up.

    It was like being hunted by a fucking Terminator.

  34. Gibs says:

    liked it better than Skyrim

  35. Recurve says:

    I still listen to the music for this game on Youtube. I can’t think of a better gaming soundtrack.

  36. Cyrus says:

    Modding is an arse for this game, attempted with FCOM some years ago and it never really went together without crashing it all.
    Because without mods it’s a somewhat unfulfilling experience.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Big Dunc says:

    Wow, ten years already, where did the time go? I spent a stupid amount of time playing this, both modded and unmodded (OOO was fantastic) and have many fond memories. I once swam the entire length of thr Niben river, just because I could. The levelling system was completely rubbish though…

  38. KayAU says:

    I will remember this primarily as the game which taught me not to trust hype and game reviews.

  39. Faxanadu says:

    The best part of Oblivion were all the porn mods.

    In the end my game was a lust induced dystopia where raping was more common than discourse and riding your horse meant RIDING your horse.

  40. Premium User Badge

    hemmer says:

    Personally I was really disappointed with Skyrim because it was prettier, but the quest design fell short of its predecessor. Stories and Characters are what stick with me and pretty much nothing in Skyrim stuck with me, while I can still recount most Thieves’ and DB Guild missions.

    But the games are different things to different people I think. Still I cannot fathom how much shit gets thrown at Oblivion, I still replay it every few years.

    • Premium User Badge

      hemmer says:

      Oh and also all the Quests involving the Gods are a lot more fucked up, I love those weird bastards.

    • Dicehuge says:

      I agree, for all it’s shortfalls compared to Morrowind and Skyrim, it had the best quests of the 3. The dark brotherhood questline was fantastic and Sheogorath in the Shivering Isles is still the best character from any Bethesda game.

  41. Faxanadu says:

    Morrowind was a game where you could FLY. It had boots that made you BLIND but insanely fast. They were called the BOOTS OF BLINDING SPEED. You could spend and hour jumping on Vivec’s stairs and become able to jump super high.

    Oblivion? Had NONE of this. It was a GROSS disappointment.

    • Moonracer says:

      A good friend of mine spent most of his time grinding the running and jumping skills of Oblivion, just so he could run through the woods and punch deer or something. But yeah, the Morrowind acrobatic skills were insane. I remember being able to jump on objects and use bows out of reach of NPCs.

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      caff says:

      More games need weird flying boots like Morrowind.

  42. Retroblique says:

    Never did get very far into the main quest thanks to the broken leveling up system. On my first visit to Oblivion I’d get my butt kicked by those dinosaur things. They could take me out in two hits whereas I’d have to pump about fifty arrows into them to take them down. And they’d ambush you in groups of three or four. Never did have the patience to fix it with mods. Morrowind and Skyrim, on the other hand, I’ve clocked up 250+ hours on each.

  43. Premium User Badge

    zigguratvertigo says:

    I remember approaching the arena in the imperial city and hearing the crowds cheering from miles away. Then getting inside and discovering there were like five guys there.

    But I did love the game and only stopped playing it when it kept crashing in Windows 10, always outside Skingrad.

    • FreshHands says:

      Ha, I am totally with you on that.
      The famous epic battle speech of the Emperor dude: Gates to hell open everywhere, the world is doomed, final battle of mankind. He, me and five grunts the only ones who seem to have heard about it.

      I also fondly remember the battles for Skyrim, solely waged by gangs of viking commandos.

      I think storywise a more personal scale would greatly increase immersion for my Elder Scrolls experience.

  44. malkav11 says:

    The thing that is hard to remember about Oblivion at this remove is that at the time I really enjoyed it and spent many hours with it. Also, that at the time it was gorgeous. There are some weirdnesses to the tech that have made it age extremely poorly (potato faces being a big one) and the artistic design was always pretty bland and generic, but when it came out the tech was really, really pretty.

    But yeah, the Dark Brotherhood questline was a definite highlight, the introduction of widespread physics was hugely exciting, Radiant AI seemed like it was going to be a whole thing before it became clear that it mostly made it harder to find people when you needed to talk to them and didn’t actually cause much of interest to happen, and the stealth and archery was a huge improvement on Morrowind. So yeah, there was quite a bit to like. For a while. It’s just that it was also deeply flawed and in some respects regressive compared to Morrowind, and those are the parts that stand out way more at this remove. Ultimately, Skyrim is a better Oblivion. So’s Fallout 3, kinda. And there are others that pretty much supersede it as well (including, so I hear, the Nehrim TC – I’ve never managed to get out of the starting cave in that so I wouldn’t know. Like, literally I can’t figure out how to leave.) Nobody’s ever done a better Morrowind, and that’s still my favorite.

  45. syllopsium says:

    Still haven’t finished it. The setting is generic, but I loved a lot of the mission design – it’s much more inventive than other games, particularly the one where you’re trapped in a painting.

    I really must get around to finishing it, and the expansions.

  46. Premium User Badge

    DrollRemark says:

    I liked that mission inside the painting. Bethesda always seem (I’ve only played a couple of their games) to have a handful of those kooky missions in each game, and they’re very memorable.

  47. Premium User Badge

    Aitrus says:

    I remember seeing the trailer for the game and being amazed that you could control your shield yourself! It was automatic and stat-based in Morrowind.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aitrus says:

      But every time I’ve tried to play it in recent years I couldn’t do it. Everything about the movement, controls, combat, etc feels so awkward and off, compared to Skyrim or Morrowind.

  48. celticdr says:

    I liked the quest where you have to sneak into the moth temple, that was cool.

    That said my favourite TES games go: 1st Morrowind, 2nd Oblivion, 3rd Skyrim – purely for the fact that each game in the series is dumbing down the RPG elements, Skyrim (which should have been the best of the series) was basically a FPS with dragons.

    Hopefully Bethesda will realise the error of their ways and fix this in the next TES game, however seeing how they dumbed down Fallout 4 it doesn’t bode well.

  49. Disturbed says:

    ES3 Morrowind is my all time favourite game. It really resonated with me when I first read about it in Level ( graphics were really good atm also, the water looked amazing on a 2002 GeForce4 ). I got it immediately after it was launched, used up all my allowance and I played it for 2 years and absolutely loved every moment of it.I liked Oblivion and Skyrim, but I did not love them. Never managed to pull myself to finish the main storyline in any of them, although they were enjoyable for a few weeks, I always felt they were worlds apart from Morrowind, that for me had this incredible atmosphere, this role playing experience that I have not found since ( maybe except in VTMB, but that’s a different rp experience ).
    Anyway my 2 cents.

  50. Sin Vega says:

    Whatever its faults, Oblivion was a hugely important game when it came out. It wasn’t alone, but it had a big effect on how games and particularly RPGs were perceived by people who’d previously had little exposure or interest. It was also a much better game in some ways than Morrowind. It’s a pity that there’s basically no competition for the games Bethesda make. Imagine if we’d had ten years of competition driving the series to real innovation, instead of Oblivion With Guns Without Guns With Guns every few years.

    (“I’ve heard others say the same.” – Everyone)