Review: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Classic Game Review)

Retro Game Review: Oblivion (Xbox 360) on Xbox Series S (2022)


Is Oblivion still fun in 2022? There aren't many games that I've put 400+ hours of gameplay into but Oblivion is one of them. I'm happy to say in 2022, Oblivion is very much still worth playing especially for anyone who hasn't experienced it. While it hasn't aged perfectly,  it had aged well enough to still be a great game. The main game not including DLC is currently on the Xbox Game Pass. 



Played On: Xbox Series S
Gameplay Time (2022): 12.5 Hours
Time On Past Platforms: 400+ Hours 

Overall Score 9/10 (A-)




The Elder Scrolls game franchise is one of my favorites in all of gaming. I originally played through Oblivion in the past originally on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. My first experience with Elder Scrolls was Morrowind on the OG Xbox and I was instantly hooked. When Oblivion first came out. I probably would have given it a 9.5/10.  Today at a 9/10, it has aged well despite some elements (like combat) that didn't. It's really the memorable story, memorable characters, tone (dark) and fun that keeps Oblivion playable all these years later. 

 

It's hard to believe but in less than 2 months,  Oblivion will be 16 years old. The last time I did a full run through of Oblivion was probably somewhere around 2010 before Skyrim was released. 


Time Required To Beat


The main storyline can be beat in about 25+ hours if you are new to the game playing naturally and exploring a lot. To do everything possible in the game including DLC bumps the game up to as much as 80+ hours of gameplay. For this playthrough, it took me 12:30:30 to beat the main storyline using a mostly stealth and speed build. 

Achievements 

Achievements aren't particularly difficult to obtain in Oblivion, but to 100% the game requires at least 25-30 hours. 12.5 hours on this latest playthrough without focusing on sidequests or exploring much netted me 30% of the achievement points (370). 

Difficulty 

Oblivion is not a particularly difficult game unless you want it to be especially with the difficulty slider which can go from drastically too easy on the left to almost too hard on the far right. I like to keep difficulty at around the 50%-70% range myself for a balanced experience.  Increasing the difficulty makes strategy like stealth and ranged fighting required making it a more complete experience. I do like the difficulty slider from 0-100 approach which makes the game accessible to everyone. 

Enhancements on Series S|X 

The resolution with Oblivion does not appear to be enhanced on the Series S but it would be enhanced 2x2 on a Series X Console. The following improvements to playing Oblivion vs. on an original Xbox 360 are: 

+Improved Texture Filtering 
+Drastically Faster Load Times 
+Stable Frame-Rate (FPS Boost)
+Quick Resume Option 
+Screenshots/Videos Easier To Share Than Ever Before (All images in this review are low resolution screenshots downloaded off my Xbox Android app. 

That all adds up to a smoother experience than playing it on the Xbox 360. Microsoft (unlike Nintendo and Sony) has done an excellent job with emulation for playing old games where the experience is actually improved. The biggest improvement is the FPS Boost. There were not many slowdowns or frame stutters like you dealt with on the 360 back in the day.  The game also only crashed one time on me. Hard crashes and freezes were common on the original 360 for this game. Playing on the Xbox Series S, the minimal frame stutters that did show up seemed to be related to riding a horse. 

Character Creation 

Character Creation for such an old game is pretty good. Personally, I feel like Oblivion is geared toward creating a magic user or heavy combat and not much in-between, but you can't really go wrong with any character options here. You definitely don't want things like luck as a main attribute though or it will take much longer to level up. There are enough varied options in character creation to build just about any kind of character you want. The game will even intelligently advise you on some options based on how you play at the beginning of the game. 

Leveling Up

It should be kept in mind that loot quality in the game is based completely on level not game difficulty setting. Leveling up (just like in Skyrim and Morrowind) is based on how much you use your abilities. The only I don't like about leveling is how you have to sleep to level up. That call be an annoyance depending on where you are at the moment. 

Open World

Despite being an old game, Oblivion still feels pretty massive while exploring. The game does a good job making you feel like things are open even when they aren't. Most quests become fairly standard dungeon crawls but they at least feel like there's a big purpose to them. 

NPC Interaction 

NPC interaction along with the bribe/persuasion system was a lot more impressive when the game first came out. While interacting with NPCs in the game is still fun,  it hasn't aged that well. 

Combat in Oblivion


Combat hasn't dated all that well in Oblivion but it's still passable. At this point,  playing Oblivion would be more about the great story. There's a lot of issues with NPCs getting in the way of battles which results in you hitting them and becoming am unintentional criminal but but it is what it is. There's no dual wielding weapons in Oblivion and obviously no shouts like in Skyrim. I find magic and ranged combat to be the fun way to go on Oblivion. I'd say the combat is clumsy and almost goofy at times. The hotkey system was not well designed so does cause you to go into the menu more than should be necessary. 

Graphics 


The graphics are certainly dated at this point but the game still looks good. Traveling across Cyrodil, things still look great and feel bigger than they are. The one thing that can be a problem in Oblivion is that things sometimes tend to be a little too dark especially in dungeons making it harder to see doors or chests but it's not a deal breaker by any means. 

Game Glitches

Most of the games glitches are still present in Oblivion which gives the game character I think.  NPCs will still wear the wrong equipment or end up in random places from time to time. Occasionally game progression can get halted by a door that refuses to open but that can usually be solved by sleeping or resting for 24 hours. The glitches add to the character of the game I think and also let you know you are in fact playing a Bethesda game. It wouldn't be a Betheada product without the bizarre glitches. 

Horse Riding/Travel


Horse riding is fairly goofy and unrefined in the game and can result in a game crash although not regularly like the original 360 gameplay.  For the most part,  it's often better to just use Fast Travel or to go on foot to new locations where you can advance skills along the way. 

Vs. Skyrim

This is a very subjective statement,  but  Oblivion is a better overall game than Skyrim in quite a few areas despite some serious flaws. 

 If you haven't played Oblivion and enjoyed Skyrim, you owe it to yourself to go back and play this one (and Morrowind)!  Skyrim looks better (obviously), is more immersive, has more features like modding and has drastically better combat and leveling options,  but there's just something about Oblivion that makes it a more definitive Elder Scrolls. The entire game is memorable. Despite not playing the game in 11 years, there was no detail that I had forgotten. That's rare in gaming...

Compared to Skyrim, Oblivion has better characters,  better story, spell crafting made magic users far more interesting, and Oblivion had more varied locations and gave you a grander sense of the world despite being a smaller game. The tone of the overall story on Oblivion was more compelling along with side quests that felt like they mattered. 

Optional DLC 

While Oblivion is currently free on the Xbox Game Pass, DLC for the game will still cost you. Without the Game Pass, Oblivion (360) runs $14.99.  Back in the day,  some of the DLC for the game was very divisive amongst fans especially the horse armor pack. The only DLC below that I think was worth paying anything for was Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles. The Shivering Isles expansion was VERY memorable. For this review,  I did not purchase any DLC as I already have all of it for other platforms.  Oblivion had a wild mix of great and awful DLC. 

Knights of the Nine $4.99
Shivering Isles $9.99
The Fighter's Stronghold $1.88
Spell Tomes $1
The Vile Lair $1.88
Mehrune's Razor $3.13
The Thieve's Den $1.88
The Wizard's Tower $1.88
The Orrery $1.88
Horse Armor Pack $2.49




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