Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
A bit of a dirty word in some quarters of the roleplaying community, given that it marks the beginning of once-revered series’ ongoing drift into all violence all the time, and directly led to Fallout’s controversial divergence from its former cRPG path. Good god, Oblivion was exciting at the time, though. Probably the most excited I’ve ever been a RPG ahead of playing it.
Those trees! The horses! Those NPCs who went to work and came home again! I worked in a magazine office at the time, and the first thing my colleagues and I did every morning for a fortnight was swap tales of our adventures in Cyrodiil. Our savegames noted hundreds of hours played. How can it be that so many of us sneer at it now?
“Fallout 3”, a game I did not think especially highly of, is the foremost answer to that question, but I suppose also it’s because our memories of unexpected encounters or consequences faded, replaced by annoyance at the horrendous voice acting, the pudding-faces, the risible conversation minigame, the bugs, the looping behaviours – and a creeping sense that Oblivion massively disrupted the course of roleplaying games, that the beloved age of Black Isle was truly over now that big action was earning bigger bucks than the genre ever had done before.
Just as Lord of the Rings made fantasy film massively mainstream, Oblivion – aided and abetted by the next year’s Mass Effect – made RPGs something that everyone wanted to play, and a price was paid for that. I think, perhaps, that I/we should remember it a little more fondly than we perhaps do, nonetheless.