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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 7, 2006

'Oblivion' has captivating power, stunning visuals

By Matt Sagle
Associated Press

Here’s a battle scene from the vast fantasy world of "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion," a game that took three years to make.

2K Games

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"The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" is almost too much of a good thing.

The vast fantasy world presented in this new video game for Xbox 360 and personal computers will take even the most stalwart adventurers weeks, if not months, to fully explore.

Even then, you may not want to leave.

This T-rated game by Bethesda Softworks LLC was three years in the making, and it shows: there's a handcrafted feel to just about every aspect of this title.

"Oblivion" functions and succeeds on two main levels.

There's the standard dungeon crawl found in most role-playing games where you kill monsters and collect loot like gold and improved armor as your powers grow.

It's very well done here, with an array of creatures and foes to fight using the usual swords and sorcery techniques.

What really differentiates "Oblivion" from its peers is the living, breathing world it immerses you in.

We're not talking about some lonely dungeon or even a populous city, but an entire province where heroes, villains and those somewhere in-between go about their daily routine — even if you're off casually riding around on a horse somewhere.

In a day where most fantasy games feature persistent online multiplayer worlds filled with repetitious grind, I found "Oblivion" to be a refreshing, and challenging, solitary experience.

Players can do pretty much whatever they want. Just be prepared for the consequences.

As with most role-playing games, the bulk of your time is spent undertaking quests such as retrieving a key or escorting fellow warriors into battle.

You're just as welcome to start attacking your allies. They won't hesitate to fight back, though.

"Oblivion" clearly falls into the same fantasy category as "The Lord of the Rings," yet manages to stay fresh with its own captivating story about the power vacuum created after the death of ruler Uriel Septum VII (excellently voiced by "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star Patrick Stewart).

This struggle extends into a sinister parallel universe of sorts called "Oblivion."

Closing the many Oblivion Gates — portals of red searing light that provide the conduit for a madman's zoo of hellbent creatures to flow into the land of Tamriel — is an increasingly harrowing job.

Visually, there's no better game to showcase the Xbox 360's potent power.

For a game as large as "Oblivion," there's an incredible amount of attention paid to the smallest details.

The intricate carvings on some of the armor, swords and shields actually gleam in the sunlight.

Every character you encounter will talk back with a unique voice. And through their facial expressions, these digital actors convincingly show sadness, surprise and anger.

"Oblivion" is a no-brainer for fantasy fans, but even those new to the genre might want to give it a try. It's an engrossing example of video game escapism at its finest.