- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Developer(s) Bethesda Game Studios (Microsoft Windows & Xbox 360)
Superscape (Mobile phone)
4J Studios (PlayStation 3)
Publisher(s) 2K Games (Microsoft Windows & Xbox 360)
Vir2L Studios (Mobile phone)
Bethesda Softworks (PlayStation 3)
Designer(s) Todd Howard
Artist(s) Matthew Carofano Composer(s) Jeremy Soule Series The Elder Scrolls Engine Gamebryo (graphics)
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Mobile phone, PlayStation 3 Release date(s) Microsoft Windows & Xbox 360
- EU March 24, 2006
- JP July 26, 2007
- NA May 2, 2006
- EU April 27, 2007
- JP September 27, 2007
Latest release 1.2.0416 / April 30, 2007 Genre(s) Action role-playing, Sandbox Mode(s) Single player (first-person and third-person view) Rating(s) Media/distribution DVD, DVD-DL, Blu-ray Disc, Download System requirements
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (often referred to as simply Oblivion) is a single-player action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks and the Take-Two Interactive subsidiary 2K Games. It is the fourth installment in The Elder Scrolls action fantasy video game series, following The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
Oblivion was first released in March 2006 for Windows PCs and the Xbox 360. A PlayStation 3 (PS3) release was shipped in March 2007 in North America, and in April 2007 in Europe and Australia. After a number of smaller content releases, a major expansion pack—Shivering Isles—was released. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition, a package including both Shivering Isles and the official plug-in Knights of the Nine, was released in September 2007 for Windows PCs, the Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3, and was also released on Steam in June 2009. A fifth anniversary edition of Oblivion was released in North America in July 2011 and in Australia in September 2011. Versions for other regions have been confirmed, although release details are yet to be announced.
Oblivion's main story revolves around the player character's efforts to thwart a fanatical cult that plans to open the gates to a realm called Oblivion. The game continues the open-world tradition of its predecessors by allowing the player to travel anywhere in the game world at any time and to ignore or postpone the main storyline indefinitely. A perpetual objective for players is to improve their character's skills, which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. Seven skills are selected early in the game as major skills, which improve quickly, with the remainder termed minor. Developers opted for tighter pacing and greater plot focus than in past titles.
Development for Oblivion began in 2002, directly after the release of Morrowind. In order to achieve their goals of designing "cutting-edge graphics" and creating a more believable environment, Bethesda made use of an improved Havok physics engine; high dynamic range lighting; procedural content generation tools that allowed developers to quickly create detailed terrains; and the Radiant A.I. system, which allows non-player characters (NPCs) to make choices and engage in behaviors more complex than in past titles. The game was developed with fully voiced dialog—a first for the series—and features the music of BAFTA-award-winning composer Jeremy Soule. Oblivion was well received, praised for its impressive graphics, expansive game world and the schedule-driven NPCs, and has won a number of industry and publication awards. The game had shipped 1.7 million copies by April 2006, and sold over three million copies by January 2007.
Oblivion incorporates open-ended (or "sandbox") gameplay. The main quest can be postponed or ignored for as long as the player wishes to explore the expansive game world, follow side-quests, interact with NPCs, slay monsters and develop their character. The player is free to go anywhere in the realm of Cyrodiil at any time while playing the game, even after completing the main quest. The game never ends, and the player may build up the character indefinitely. The fast-travel system used in Arena and Daggerfall makes a return in Oblivion. When the player visits a location, it appears as an icon on the game world map. From then on, the player can travel to this location instantly if they are outside and not in combat, though the in-game time is adjusted to reflect the length of the journey. The game regards the player to be in combat when a hostile creature or NPC is near the player, regardless of whether or not the player is aware of the creature or vice-versa.
Character development is a primary element of Oblivion. At the beginning of the game, the player selects one of many human or anthropomorphic races, each of which has different natural abilities, and customizes their character's appearance. A perpetual objective for players is to improve their character's skills, which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. Seven skills are selected early in the game as major skills, with the remainder termed minor. Each time the player improves their major skills by a total of ten points, they level up; this provides the opportunity to improve their attributes. Attributes are more broad character qualities, such as "strength" and "willpower", while skills are more specific, such as "blade" or "destruction" magic. The game rewards the player with "perks" when the player reaches either 25, 50, 75 or 100 points in a single skill. The game's 21 skills fall evenly under the categories of combat, magic, and stealth. Combat skills are used almost exclusively for battle and incorporate armor and heavy weapons like blades, axes, maces, and hammers. Magic skills rely on the use of spells to alter the physical world, to affect the minds of others, to injure and debilitate enemies, to summon monsters to help fight, and to heal wounds. Stealth skills allow the player to crack locks, haggle for goods, use speech to manipulate people, and apply cunning in combat (through the use of a bow or in the way of a sneak attack). The spells, weapons, and other tools such as lockpicks that a player needs to employ and enhance these skills can be purchased in shops, stolen from NPCs, or found as loot on the bodies of foes or in dungeons.
Oblivion is played in either a first- or third-person view. The player may change the difficulty at any time. At all times the player is shown a heads-up display, which provides information about the character's health, magicka, and fatigue. Health can be restored by spells, potions, or resting; the loss of all health results in death. Magicka allows for and is depleted by the use of spells; it is rejuvenated naturally over time, but it can be restored similarly to health. The character's effectiveness in combat and general efficiency are functions of fatigue. Throughout the world are a variety of enemies, including standard fantasy monsters like imps and goblins and animals like bears and wolves. Enemies become stronger and weapons and armor more effective as the player levels up. This game mechanic, level-scaling, was incorporated to maintain a constant and moderate aspect of difficulty. However, level-scaling, combined with the leveling system has received criticism, as it has the potential to unbalance the game; characters with major skills that increase on an involuntary basis, such as athletics (by running) or armor (by being hit in combat) can find they level too quickly, making the enemies proportionately harder than intended.
Oblivion is set after the events of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, though it is not a direct sequel to it or any other game. The game is set in Cyrodiil, a province of Tamriel, the continent on which all the games in the series have taken place. The story begins with the player imprisoned in a cell for an unnamed crime and the arrival of Emperor Uriel Septim VII (voiced by Patrick Stewart), accompanied by Imperial bodyguards known as "the Blades" at the Imperial City prison. They are fleeing from the assassins of the Mythic Dawn, a Daedric cult, who have murdered the Emperor's three sons. The emperor and the Blades head to a sewer that leads out of the city, using a secret entrance that is located in the player's cell. There, the group, joined by the player, is attacked by the Mythic Dawn. Uriel Septim entrusts the player with the Amulet of Kings, worn by the Septim emperors of Tamriel, and orders the player to take it to a man named Jauffre, the grand master of the Blades. Immediately afterward one of the assassins kills the Emperor. The player then proceeds to the open world of Cyrodiil.
The lack of an heir for Uriel Septim has broken an old covenant—the barrier to the realm of Oblivion: a dangerous realm that is in another dimension. Multiple gates to Oblivion open, and an invasion of Tamriel begins by magical creatures known as Daedra. Jauffre tells the player that the only way to close the gates permanently is to find someone of the royal bloodline to retake the throne and relight the Dragonfires—with the Amulet of Kings—in the Imperial City. Fortunately, there is an illegitimate son named Martin (voiced by Sean Bean), who is a priest in the city of Kvatch. Upon arriving at Kvatch, the player finds that the Daedra are destroying the city. A massive Oblivion Gate is obstructing the main city entrance, and the player must venture into the Planes of Oblivion before searching for Martin. After closing the gate, the player enters Kvatch and persuades Martin to come to Weynon Priory.
Upon returning, the player finds that Weynon Priory is under attack by Mythic Dawn cult members and that the Amulet of Kings has been stolen. The player escorts Jauffre and Martin to Cloud Ruler Temple, the stronghold of the Blades. Martin is there recognized as the emperor and is given command of the Blades, while the player sets off in search of the Amulet. After gathering information, the player attempts to infiltrate the secret meeting place of the Mythic Dawn. When the player does so, their leader, Mankar Camoran (voiced by Terence Stamp), escapes through a portal, taking the Amulet with him. The player takes the book that had opened the portal to Martin, who deduces the way to reopen the portal. The player seeks out three key artifacts necessary to recreate the portal: a Daedric artifact, the armor of the first Septim emperor, and a Great Welkynd Stone. With all three retrieved, Martin reveals that a final ingredient is needed: a Great Sigil Stone from inside a Great Gate similar to the one that devastated Kvatch. Martin and Jauffre decide to allow the city of Bruma to be attacked by Daedra so that a Great Gate will be opened. Once it is, the player obtains the Stone and closes the Gate.
A portal is created at Cloud Ruler Temple and the player is sent through. After bypassing monsters and obstacles, the player confronts Camoran and kills him. The player returns the Amulet of Kings to Martin Septim, and the Blades travel to the Imperial City to relight the Dragonfires and end the Daedric invasion. They find the city under attack by Daedra and the Daedric Prince of Destruction, Mehrunes Dagon. The player and Martin fight their way to the Dragonfires, where Martin shatters the Amulet of Kings to merge himself with the spirit of Akatosh, the Dragon-God of Time, and become his avatar. After a battle, the Avatar casts Dagon back into Oblivion before turning to stone. Martin disappears, the gates of Oblivion are shut forever, the Amulet of Kings is destroyed, and the throne of the Empire again lies empty. In a final monologue, Martin Septim describes the events in an optimistic light and states that the future of Tamriel is now in the player's hands.
Official system requirements Minimum Recommended Microsoft Windows Operating system Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, or 7 CPU Intel Pentium 4 2 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 2000+ Intel Pentium 4 3 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 3000+ Memory 512 MB of RAM 1 GB of RAM Hard drive space 4.6 of free hard disk space Graphics hardware NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 128 MB or ATi Radeon 9500 128 MB NVIDIA GeForce 6800 128 MB or ATi Radeon X800 128 MB Sound hardware DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card Network Broadband required for downloads
Work began on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion shortly after the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in 2002. By mid-September 2004, Oblivion had been officially announced, and its title released. The game was developed by the United States software company Bethesda Softworks. Ken Rolston, who was Morrowind's lead designer, oversaw a development team of 268. The PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game were co-published by 2K Games and Bethesda. Bethesda had aimed for a late 2005 publication so that the game could be an Xbox 360 launch title. The official release date for the PC and Xbox 360 versions was originally November 22, 2005, but developmental delays pushed it back to March 21, 2006. The PlayStation 3 version of the game (ported by 2K Studios) was released on March 20, 2007, in North America and on April 27, 2007, in Europe. This version included graphical improvements that had been made since the PC and Xbox 360 release, and the PS3 version was subsequently praised for its enhanced visual appeal.
During Oblivion's development, Bethesda concentrated on creating a system with a more realistic storyline, more believable characters, and more meaningful quests than had been done in the past. The game features improved artificial intelligence from the Bethesda proprietary Radiant AI software, and enhanced physics with the Havok physics engine. The graphics took advantage of advanced lighting and shader routines like high dynamic range rendering (HDR) and specular mapping. Bethesda developed and implemented procedural content creation tools in the building of Oblivion's terrain, leading to the expedited creation of landscapes that are more complex and realistic than in past titles.
While designing Oblivion's landscape and architecture, developers worked from personal travel photographs, nature books, texture images, and reference photographs. Procedural content generation tools used in production allowed for the creation of realistic environments at much faster rates than was the case with Morrowind. Erosion algorithms incorporated in the landscape generation tools allowed for the creation of craggy terrain quickly and easily, replacing Morrowind's artificially smoothed-over terrain. In accordance with a shift of graphical focus from water to flora, the Bethesda development team enlisted a number of technologies to aid in the production of large and diverse forests.
The game scales up the difficulty of opponents based on the player's level, sometimes spawning harder-to-defeat enemies. For example, if a player clears out a dungeon at level one, the enemies would be skeletons. If the player returns at around level 20 or above, the skeletons would be replaced by liches. The enemies' weapons are also scaled up along with the treasure the player can find in chests and on enemies' bodies.
Oblivion features dynamic weather and time, shifting between snow, rain, fog, and sunny and overcast skies. The game features more multi-level environments (e.g. a four-story building) and a more varied topology than previous games. Oblivion's view distance is far greater than its predecessor's, extending player sightlines to the horizon and giving views of distant towns and mountain ranges. According to a Microsoft press release, Oblivion's game world is approximately 16 square miles (41 square kilometers) in size. Wilderness quests, ruins, and dungeons were added to fill surplus space. Content in the dungeons was more densely packed, with an increase in the frequency of creature encounters, quest-related NPCs, and puzzles. The populations represented in Oblivion, however, do not match the "thousands upon thousands" described in previous in-game literature. The development team decided to set the NPC populations at a level that would play well, rather than one that would match game lore, since the presence of a large number of NPCs on screen would have caused the game to slow down.
In response to the criticism that NPC behavior had been too simplistic in Morrowind, Bethesda developed the Radiant AI system for Oblivion. NPCs were designed to make choices, rather than complete scripted routines, to achieve predetermined goals. The manner in which goals such as eating, sleeping, reading, and speaking to others are fulfilled is dependent upon the environment, the choices of other NPCs, and programmed personality values. For example, an NPC whose goal it is to find food may eventually resort to stealing from others, if they are given the opportunity and if it is in their character. These development mechanics allowed Bethesda to "give the game a more organic feel" and to create NPCs who could engage in complex activity—such as traveling from town to town every few days or going to church on a certain day—without the chance of execution error. Oblivion (unlike previous games in the series) presents few loading screens as the player travels through the game world: only when moving from interior to exterior environments or when fast traveling does the game pause to load. The game world is cordoned off at its edges by an invisible wall. In most places, the development team built this limit around a physical barrier, like a mountain. Wherever this was not possible, the screen displays a message stating "You cannot go that way, turn back". However, the team still built past the point in which the character can no longer proceed.
Starting in April 2006, Bethesda released small packages of additional downloadable content for the game from their website and over the Xbox Live Marketplace for US$1–3. The first update came as a set of specialized armor for Oblivion's ridable horses. It was released on April 3, 2006, and costs 200 Microsoft Points, equivalent to US$2.50 or £1.50; the corresponding PC release cost US$1.99. Although gamers generally displayed enthusiasm for the concept of micropayments for downloadable in-game content, many expressed their dissatisfaction at the price they had to pay for the relatively minor horse-armor package on the Internet and elsewhere. Hines assured the press that Bethesda was not going to respond rashly to customer criticism. New releases continued into late 2006, at lower price points and more substantial content, leading to a better reception in the gaming press. Other small DLC packs include a set of houses themed after the game's factions, a new dungeon, and new spells that were not included in the initial release. Oblivion's final content pack was released October 15, 2007.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine is an official plug-in for Oblivion released on November 21, 2006. Downloadable on the Xbox Live marketplace for the Xbox 360 and available for retail purchase for PC users, the expansion content was included in the original version of the PlayStation 3 version. The plug-in was developed, published, and released in North America by Bethesda Softworks; in Europe, the game was co-published with Ubisoft. The plot of Knights of the Nine centers on the rise of the sorcerer-king Umaril and the player's quest to defeat him with the aid of the lost crusader's relics. Although it made little change to the basic mechanics of Oblivion, it was judged by reviewers to be a brief but polished addition to the game's main plot.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, was released on March 27, 2007, for Windows and Xbox 360. The expansion offers more than 30 hours of new adventuring, and features new quests, voice acting, monsters, spells, armor, and expanded freeform gameplay plus a new land "that [players] can watch change according to [their] vital life-or-death decisions". Shivering Isles takes place in the realm of madness ruled over by the Daedric prince Sheogorath. The player is tasked by Sheogorath with saving the realm from an approaching cataclysm known as the Greymarch.
At E3 2007, it was announced that the Game of the Year Edition for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion would be released in September, 2007. The Game of the Year Edition includes the original game as well as the Shivering Isles and Knights of The Nine content packs, but not the other downloadable content. In North America, the game was released on September 10, 2007, for the Xbox 360 and PC, and on October 16, 2007, for the PS3; in Europe, it was released on September 21, 2007, for the Xbox 360 and PC, and on October 8, 2007, for the PS3; and in Australia, it was released on September 28, 2007, for the Xbox 360 and PC, and on December 13, 2007, for the PS3. It was also released on Steam on June 16, 2009. A 5th anniversary edition of Oblivion was announced and released in North America on July 12, 2011. Versions for other regions have been confirmed, although details on their release is yet to be released.
Oblivion features the voices of Patrick Stewart, Lynda Carter, Sean Bean, Terence Stamp, Ralph Cosham, and Wes Johnson. The voice acting received mixed reviews in the gaming press. While many publications praised it as excellent, others found fault with its repetitiveness. The issue has been blamed on the small number of voice actors and the blandness of the dialogue itself. Lead Designer Ken Rolston found the plan to fully voice the game "less flexible, less apt for user projection of his own tone, more constrained for branching, and more trouble for production and disk real estate" than Morrowind's partially recorded dialogue. Rolston tempered his criticism with the suggestion that voice acting "can be a powerful expressive tool" and can contribute significantly to the charm and ambience of the game. He stated "I prefer Morrowind's partially recorded dialogue, for many reasons. But I'm told that fully-voiced dialogue is what the kids want".
Oblivion's score was composed by series mainstay Jeremy Soule, a video game composer whose past scores had earned him a BAFTA award in the "Game Music Category" and two nominations for an AIAS award for "Original Music Composition". Soule had worked with Bethesda and Todd Howard during the creation of Morrowind, and, in a press release announcing his return for Oblivion, Soule repeated the words he had said during Morrowind's press release: "The stunning, epic quality of The Elder Scrolls series is particularly compatible with the grand, orchestral style of music I enjoy composing the most". As in his compositions for Morrowind, Soule chose to create a soft and minimalist score so as not to wear out users' ears.
Soule stated that while composing the music he did not imagine any specific characters or events; rather, he wanted it "to comment on the human condition and the beauty of life". In a 2006 interview, he related that this desire came as a result of a car accident that occurred during his composition of the score. He said, "I ended up rolling in my car several times on an interstate while flying headlong into oncoming traffic ... I felt no fear ... I simply just acknowledged to myself that I've had a good life and I would soon have to say goodbye to all of it in a matter of seconds". Soule sustained only minor injuries, but commented that his feeling during the crash—"that life is indeed precious"—remained with him throughout the rest of the composition.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Soundtrack album by Jeremy Soule Released March 10, 2006
Genre Soundtrack Length 58.5 minutes Label Direct Song
The official soundtrack to Oblivion is sold exclusively via Soule's digital distributor DirectSong. It features 26 tracks spanning 58 minutes, all composed by Soule. The soundtrack was generally positively received, though Square Enix Music gave it a 6/10, criticizing its "monotonous action tracks".
Reception Aggregate scores Aggregator Score GameRankings (X360) 93.79%
Metacritic (X360) 94/100
Review scores Publication Score 1UP.com A Famitsu 38/40 (Platinum) GameSpot (X360) 9.6/10
GameSpy 4/5 IGN (X360 & PC) 9.3/10
Official Xbox Magazine 9.5/10 PC Gamer US 95/100
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion received universal acclaim from critics. Reviewers praised the game for its impressive graphics, expansive game world and schedule-driven NPCs. Eurogamer editor Kristan Reed stated that the game "successfully unites some of the best elements of RPG, adventure and action games and fuses them into a relentlessly immersive and intoxicating whole". Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club wrote that the game is "Worth playing for the sense of discovery—each environment looks different from the last and requires a nuanced reaction—makes the action addictive". Game Revolution's Duke Ferris noted that "Though the voices occasionally repeat, it's pretty impressive that they managed to cram so much voiced dialogue in here, and most of it is high-quality work". IGN editor Charles Onyett commended the game for its "Top notch storytelling, easy to navigate menus, and a wonderful upgrade to your map and journal". X-Play's Jason D'Aprile stated "All the games in this series have been known for their sheer vastness and freedom of choice, but the Elder Scrolls IV takes that concept and runs with it". GameZone commented "You can spend hours upon hours leveling up your character, doing various quests, customizing your character to however you want before you even get on the main quest". GamesTM noted "It's heavily steeped in RPG tradition, however, its appeal stretches far beyond the hardcore RPG demographic thanks to its ease of play, boundless ambition and focused attention to detail". GameSpot's Greg Kasavin wrote that "Morrowind earned recognition for being one of the best role-playing games in years, but the immersive and long-lasting experience it provided wasn't for everyone. Oblivion is hands-down better, so much so that even those who'd normally have no interest in a role-playing game should find it hard to resist getting swept up in this big, beautiful, meticulously crafted world".
Despite the praise, Patrick Joynt of 1UP.com criticized the conversations between in-game NPCs and the player: "When an NPC greets you with a custom piece of dialogue (such as a guard's warning) and then reverts to the standard options (like a guard's cheerful directions just after that warning) it's more jarring than the canned dialogue by itself". GameSpy's Justin Speer complained that he has experienced "disruptive loading stutters while moving across the game world, hanging load times in excess of 60 seconds during environmental transitions (even after clearing the cache), and several complete system crashes. On all systems we've encountered several miscellaneous smaller bugs, such as inexplicable floating objects and animals, lip-synching without speech and speech with no lip-synching". Onyett of IGN criticized the disjunction between enemies that scaled up according to the player's level and not their combat abilities or NPC allies, the loading times and the imprecision in the combat system, but stated that "none of those minor criticisms hold back Oblivion from being a thoroughly enjoyable, user-friendly, gorgeous experience with enough content to keep you returning time and time again".
Oblivion won a number of industry and publication awards. The game had shipped 1.7 million copies by April 10, 2006, and sold over three million copies by January 18, 2007. In Japan, game magazine Famitsu gave the game their "Platinum award". In 2007, PC Gamer magazine rated Oblivion number one on their list of the top 100 games of all time. In addition to the awards won by the game itself, Patrick Stewart's voice work as Uriel Septim won a Spike TV award, and the musical score by composer Jeremy Soule won the inaugural MTV Video Music Award for "Best Original Score" through an international popular vote. The game was nominated for five BAFTAs.
On May 3, 2006, the Entertainment Software Rating Board in North America changed Oblivion's rating from T (Teen 13+) to M (Mature 17+), citing game content not considered in the ESRB review, i.e., "the presence in the PC version of the game of a locked-out art file that, if accessed by using an apparently unauthorized third party tool, allows the user to play the game with topless versions of female characters". In response to the new content, the ESRB conducted a review of Oblivion, showing to its reviewers the content originally submitted by Bethesda along with the newly disclosed content.
The ESRB reported that Bethesda Softworks would promptly notify all retailers of the change, issue stickers for retailers and distributors to affix on the product, display the new rating in all following product shipments and marketing, and create a downloadable patch rendering the topless skin inaccessible. Bethesda complied with the request but disagreed with the ESRB's rationale. Although as a result certain retailers began to check for ID before selling Oblivion, and one California Assemblyman used the event to criticize the ESRB's ability, the events passed by with little notice from the public and gaming journalists.
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- Official website
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion at the Open Directory Project
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion at MobyGames
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion at the Internet Movie Database
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