You know, I have no idea what the land in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is called. It’s probably mentioned somewhere, heck, it’s probably on the in-game map, but it isn’t coming to mind. So instead of some dramatic opening title, I instead hope you enjoy this first writeup of what I hope will turn into a great many writeups of my forays into … That Land … in Oblivion.
I missed the hype of Oblivion. I was just never really into RPGs at the time, let alone fantasy RPGs. It wasn’t until that World of Warcraft, and later Dungeons & Dragons, opened me up to the idea of a stat-based game that would be enjoyable. Oblivion got left by the wayside and it wasn’t until Fallout 3’s gun-based open-world RPG gameplay that I thought that I should give it another go. I grabbed it on Steam, load it up, start a new game, and here it is:
A man appears on-screen and Patrick Stewart’s voice rings out. The people of That Land appear to have the same opinion as me in regards to Jean-Luc Picard, and have made this man the emperor. He says something about the Gates of Oblivion, which look about as inviting as a summer home in Fife, and Professor X explains that he’s only got a few hours left to live. Cue a camera-sweep over a lovely-looking fantasy city, and we zoom in on a window to the city’s side, starting the adventure.
As with most RPGs I’m asked to create a character. I’ve had a good time with a female Commander Shephard of Mass Effect fame as of late, so I go with a female human from “Breton”. Obviously not based on Breton, France, as this is somewhere else entirely, that would be silly… right? A little tweaking from the original character, and I have something I can be proud to run around in-world with.
So I start off in a prison. A dingy prison. A dingy, rotten, stone-walled prison with naught but a wooden chair and table, a clay jar and cup, and some bones for company. I spend time lamenting my situation. How did I end up here? Why am I languishing in this Pit of Despair when I should be out, free, running through the forests, firing my bow randomly at NPCs and stealing their clothes? Will I ever be let out? Will I ever be free? Will I … ooh a physics engine!
The prison gives me plenty of time to mess about with its contents. Holding the Z key seems to let me pull on chains, move items around the environment, and… levitate items in front of my face without the use of my hands?
I soon notice that I’ve grabbed the attention of a fellow in the cell across from me. He appears to be some sort of elven chappy and, judging by what he’s saying to me, (“You’re going to die down here, Breton!”), he’s a bit of a dick really. Luckily, his insults are interrupted by the appearance of a few guards, and along with them strides Picard himself. They seem to be escaping something and all bundle into my comfy cell before escaping through a tunnel opened simply through pressing a prominent stone in the wall… hold on… I would’ve pressed that eventually!
Professor X seems to want to chat to me, and who am I to say no? But he’s obviously just interested in my character’s womanly physique! Check out some of these one-liners he blurts out!
Steady on, now Patrick! We’ve only just met!
Patrick lets me follow him out of prison, despite the fact that I may be in there for murder, arson, fantastical mushroom smuggling, summoning the undead, looting corpses, or any sort of thing that might happen in That Land. It’s a strange place, this, but I’m not one to complain, I’m free!
Well… I’m free except for the fact that the tunnel they opened up seems to lead straight to some assassins who want nothing more than to skewer both me and Emperor Xavier with some rather pointy swords. The guards do a little sword-wielding dance, however, and the assassins are soon dealt with.
During the fight, however, the Guard-Captain with them was stabbed. She’s dead, poor girl. She deserves a proper burial, and funerary rites, and she can’t
just lie there with that bright and shiny sword. That needs to go, it’s not respectful. I’d better take that with me… you know… out of respect. The other guards obviously agree, they don’t raise a fuss.
Shortly after that, the guards tell me I’ve got to stay. In this dungeon. Surrounded by possible assassins. After I fought with them. Bastards. They lock a door and leave me behind. Suddenly, a wall collapses and behind it a bunch of giant rats appear! Luckily I have my trusty… DAMNIT! I didn’t equip the sword! Luckily, time in prison hardened me up, gave me time to exercise, and I quickly dispatch the rats in classic Rocky style.
Nice timing, rats! You’ve left me a nice person-sized hole to sneak through in order to escape! Handy that!
I give another look over the UI. It seems extensive. There’s the inventory split into multiple sections, magic spell selection page split into multiple sections, map page with multiple views of quests and the map, and a few more pieces of detail that I don’t need right now while punching rats. I equip myself with a sword with a click, and select “Flare”, which seems to be a small fireball I cast by pressing C. Rats don’t like fire, right?
Through the rat-hole seems to be a treasure trove of mundane items! I find a chest with gold in it, followed by a skeleton that seems to have suffered a worse fate than me. I blame his attempt to use a bow and a shield at the same time…
Luckily, that bow is the perfect size for little-old me. It gets equipped, and a couple of test shots are placed into a conveniently-placed bucket that sways as if this section was designed to show off a respectable physics engine.
A dead Goblin Shaman lies nearby. I suppose these chaps will be further into this creepy cavern which I have no choice but to follow. I can’t say I’m looking forward to this. Can’t I just dig my way out? I equip a torch and go through a door on the other side of the room.
Through a door and I am immediately set upon by rats. More rats! They attacked me as soon as I came nearby! It’s almost as if I was carrying a large,
flaming torch of some sort! Hmm. I put out the torch, pocket it, and take out the bow instead. This will work better!
I start sneaking. This is done by pressing Ctrl to toggle sneak mode, which will also overlay my reticle with a small eye. When unseen, it is semi-transparent, but if I’m seen it will get brighter to make it obvious if those rats that are chomping at my dangly bits can actually see me or not.
More rats spill round a corner, and I soon see why. Following them is an undead monstrosity.
Arrows are fired at it, with a nice sneaking bonus to damage, but they don’t seem to do much. The zombie starts beating me with its meaty zombie fist, so I switch to an alternate damage source: Fire!
Magical fire seems to do a lot more, and the zombie is thrown across the room by my Flare spell. I loot the corpse, as I am wont to do in these situations, and discover that I can take the creature’s “Mort Flesh”. It’s disgusting, it’s probably diseased, but I can sell it for gold so I take it with me.
A few rat-killings, chest-lootings and sneaky-shootings later and I’ve discovered something. I can only carry so much. I am “Over-Encumbered” and this means that I cannot physically move until I get rid of some items from my inventory. The thick iron breastplate is the first to go. It’s expensive, but it also takes up the majority of my carrying capacity. It clatters to the ground as I look for more items to discard. Also left in the room are multiple shields, and enough small weapons to equip a small village. How was I carrying all this? I even had to get rid of the Guard-Captain’s swanky sword. Apparently it’s not worth anything to anyone else, despite being the most swish item in my entire inventory!
A short distance ahead, and after I dispatch another goblin, I come across his (her? How do I tell?) Pestle and Mortar. So begins a simple tutorial on the creation of magical positons. It turns out that by placing Mort Flesh, from earlier, and Rat Meat into this and grinding them up, I get a dangerous poisonous potion. Similarly, grinding up a Cheese Wedge and a Tomato gets a Reduce Fatigue potion! Jamie Oliver eat your heart out!
After a little bit of foreshadowing with some hanging skulls, the cave crawl comes across a set of caverns designed to show off how combat can work here. A number of logs are piled next to a conveniently-placed slope upon which some goblins stand. A simple push sends the logs tumbling down, crashing into the goblins and granting me access to the delicious goodies they drop. Just prior to this, a goblin stands next to a gate to a “rat cage”, which can be opened from afar to wreak merry hell on the cavern, while a live and kicking Goblin Shaman fires electric bolts at me with a large skull-topped staff.
The staff soon turned into one of my possessions, but the charges required for its electrical attack were wasted on the rats I let out. Batteries must be found in short order lest I carry around a useless skull on a stick.
I become over-encumbered again. Apparently skull-sticks are heavy things, and
I instigate a new rule. The 1lb per 1 gold rule. If something weighs more than 1lb for every 1 gold it could make me in the shop, it gets tossed by the wayside. I thought you should know this as that is why I am now running through a cave, chased by rats, having discarded my shoes farther back…
I eventually come to a door! Is that… light? I break through the door, rushing into the light of the sun shining on my face!…
Oh no, wait, I’m back in the dungeon, and Picard’s here, too. The guards suspect me of working with the assassins, but Picard wants to have a monologue, and I get the sneaking suspicion that he’s still interested in me as he asks for my starsign. The flirt!
This is Oblivion’s character creation at work, as my star-sign (which gives me a minor boost to some abilities) and my character archetype appear during conversations with the Emperor and his guards.
The Emperor, however, isn’t long for this world. He gave me perhaps the most dire and worrying prophecy of all, shortly before being stabbed in the ribs by a man in red robes and a thick helmet.
With the Shakespearean actor lying dead, the guards let me be on my way with the Amulet which was given to me… outside of their view… which I could have killed the king to attain. You know, thinking about it, I won’t be hiring these guards to watch over my parties…
I turn a few corners and I’m into the city’s sewers making my escape, but a short rat-battle past that and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, literally. It IS daylight this time! I make my way out of the sewers, smell the fresh air, and I’m free to discover That Land.