I mentioned earlier that Oblivionís very openness leads to problems. These are issues that have been outstanding long in the Elder Scrolls world yet are difficult to fix due to the nature of the game. Take for example leveling, skills, and difficulty. The game automatically adjusts the difficulty levels of everything the player encounters as he improves. So, early on, you can storm an Oblivion gate at level 2, be challenged and yet still survive. Yet, at level 15, you will find roughly the same level of difficulty attacking an Oblivion gate. The same holds true for bandits, mercenaries, random monsters on the road, etc. Creatures you encountered earlier like rats, wolves and imps will still make appearances but those will be increasingly rare. The downside of this is that the player never feels really powerful; the upside is that the game is completely open and there are few areas denied to him because the baddies inside will be too tough.
Where things get problematic is when you combine the skill and leveling system. Your character will choose seven major skills of twenty-one available in the game. These skills are rated on a scale of 0-100 and will increase through use Ė so if you want to improve your Blades skill, you need to attack enemies with swords and daggers. When the player ranks up any combination of these skills ten times (total, not each), he gains a level. The game notices this, increases the difficulty of enemies and away we go.
Hereís the problem: some skills are useless in combat, but if you make them majors they still contribute to your leveling. Worse, some of them are useless and improve quickly by themselves. Acrobatics, Athletics, Alchemy, Armorer, Speechcraft, Security are generally not useful in combat and/or increase too quickly by themselves. The end result is that yes, youíll find better equipment in stores and on enemies, but youíll also be fighting much tougher enemies with combat skills that are more suitable to earlier levels.
Then again, with deliberate planning and a lot of patience, itís possible to do the complete opposite Ė stay a low level while enjoying very high combat skills. By taking abilities you donít plan on using as majors, you can improve your combat minor skills and not gain a single level unless you want to. The problem is that minor skills rank up more slowly than majors and, while the game is generally open-ended, it does have quests which have a minimum level.
However, as long as you understand the system and donít make bad choices at character generation, you should be fine. Even non-combat skills can make combat easier, and there is of course the difficulty slider. It takes a truly gimpy character to be unable to progress in Oblivion.