There are two reasons this review wasn’t posted earlier this week. The first is that Oblivion is a monstrously huge game, which would quite likely take over a hundred hours to complete if the player wanted to tackle the major quests – guilds, main plot and important characters. Of course, that figure doesn’t include random exploring, smaller side quests and of course trying out different ways to finish the quests. The other reason the review took longer is because after that initial slow period, Oblivion starts digging its hooks into the player; “just one more quest” becomes the cry – something strategy gamers are more familiar with than RPG fans, though for them it’s better known as the “next turn” phenomenon.
Like all Elder Scrolls titles, Oblivion has a vast, open environment and a game world that places very few limits on what the player can do, where he can go, and when. Want to take the top spot in the Thieves Guild? If you know how to game the game and are patient, you can do it while still being level 1. Of course, such openness and freedom has its downsides, which we’ll delve into shortly.
As an open-ended game, Oblivion starts the player out in the game world and places him in a position to pursue the main storyline, but he doesn’t have to. From that point forward, it is possible to join any guilds you like, complete quests in whatever order, explore freely and enjoy – or get lost in – the expansive game world.
Oblivion’s setting is not actually that large; roughly 16 square miles if the Bethesda marketing department is to be believed. This is almost certainly smaller than Morrowind and absolutely smaller than the massive world of Daggerfall – where it literally did take the player days to cross between towns. By way of comparison, on a medium-fast horse, it should take about half an hour to an hour to get across Cyrodiil (the province where Oblivion is set).
Despite the smaller world size, the amount of content is more impressive. Daggerfall was known for its huge world and empty wastes. While there was no shortage of dungeons in it, the probability of finding one by random exploration was minimal. Morrowind also had a fairly large world, though one where you could cross between towns on foot in reasonable time, but it too was rather empty. Oblivion goes the completely opposite tack, it is almost impossible not to stumble upon some ancient elven ruin, abandoned mine, mercenary hide-out or other dungeon, even after a mere five minutes wandering in the open. Later on, Daedric cult circles and Oblivion gates appear, the latter in fact popping up like the heads of a Hydra – take one down and two seem to appear elsewhere.