Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Oblivion II

Posted by Mike on December 3, 2008

I’ve reemerged after a week or so off around Thanksgiving week. While I did get some time in with family (including my voluntary and periodic beatings given by my nephews), a great deal of my time was spent in the thrall of this brilliant game. I’m now basically done with the Main quest, am the head of the Fighter, Mage and Thieves Guilds, have finished all but the last Daedric Quest and have done all the Dark Brotherhood quests from Vampire Vincent. I’ve completed all of the town quests, but have probably missed quite a few of the settlement and miscellaneous quests. I also became a paladin of sorts with the Knights of the Nine expansion and just started Shivering Isles Monday morning, after I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Overall it’s been brilliant fun, but I’m now in that stage where being completist with the dozens of unquested areas isn’t all that fun. Part of it is I’m way over 200,000 gold pieces with nothing even remotely that expensive to buy and haven’t turned up many new items that are better than the ones I created for myself (although this may change in the Shivering Isles). As soon as I completed the Mage Guild recommendations and got access to the Enchant Item podiums, I created a fire+soul trap sword called Auspice and a fire+soul trap bow called Conflagrator and between the two of them, I haven’t needed much else on the weaponary front. Part of the issue is that weapon enchantments run out really fast, it’s rare to face two enemies before they need recharging and I found the whole attack, recharge, repair routine to grow fairly tedious after a while. As an archer, I was given fairly uncommon speed right from the get go and the combo of 100++ Speed and 120+ Blade usually leaves most enemies dazed enough they don’t strike back. Ironically, particularly if you come from the AD&D side of things, the toughest opponents often seem to be the Goblin Warlords and Shamans.

Also at some point along the way my left mouse button won’t hold down, meaning as soon as I start firing arrows I can’t really aim so much and have wasted lots of arrows this way. One of the Daedric quests was a trip to an Arena-like contest where the loot was ridiculous, so watching a lot of fabulous arrows (that you can’t enchant yourself) get wasted was frustrating.

The main quest was pretty fabulous I must say (spoiler stuff now). All the Oblivion Gate trials were terribly harrowing, starting with the first one that opens outside of Kvatch. The basic idea of the game is that these gates to the plane of Oblivion (which looks a lot like the classic rendition of Hell with lava pits and nasty critters) have been opening across the landscape. There’s actually dozens of them in full, but you only end up having to take out maybe 7 or 8 of them through the main quest. The idea is that you need to scale a big central tower in each gate to remove the Sigil Stone, which closes the gate and sends you back to Cyrodil. That’s actually the easy part, finding the entrance to the tower at times could make you tear your hair out. One in particular wound its way around and around, with a hidden loop around on a mountain path that was almost impossible to find, even after giving up and seeking help in a walkthrough. In fact that practice made a lot of the central gates much easier to close. Later in the game, you’re made to go into a major gate and find the stone with a 15 minute ticking clock behind you, with a gigantic siege engine emerging on the other side. Fortunately I was at the point where finding new treasure barely mattered but even then, this was astonishingly difficult, having to scale smaller towers, cross bridges, jump lava pits, up more towers to open gates, all while Oblivion’s best are making your life utterly miserable. Again speed helped a great deal, for the most part I just ran as fast as I could. When I finally nabbed it, I came back to find almost all of the NPCs you had grown to care about over the course of the game lying dead in the fields. I found myself almost bewildered at how much emotional resonance a video game like this could invoke.

The follow up jaunt to Paradise was a virtual breeze at this point, almost an anticlimax, until it became clear that it wasn’t actually the final act. That culminated in a full on attack on the central Imperial City with a really incredible and impressive animated finale that ended with the sacrifice of one of the main characters. I was literally stunned by the hugeness of it all and found myself retrospectively glad that I’d paced the main quest out, as this was indeed the climax and the game hasn’t really been the same since.

The Knights of the Nine expansion was quite short overall and it felt awfully weird playing the paladin, being part of the way into the Dark Brotherhood guild. Since this expansion used the existing map for the most part, I found myself starting to get bored going into the same caves, dungeons, forts or ruins, all of whose features became too familiar over time. But I think the part of the game that irritated me the most was having to fight along someone else, including a whole host of knights on the build up to the KotN expansion. I could never seem to be part of the fight without inflicting as much damage on my allies as my enemies, as if every swipe of a sword cut through 3 or 4 adjacent figures. I had to restart a game too frequently after a post-enemy swipe would call guards in after me. It was even worse when in a quest it was important to keep someone alive, someone who would always go wildly charging into every fight often several rooms ahead of me. As something of a fighter/thief combo at heart, I used the sneak attack as often as possible, which it rarely was without some companion going berserk at every moment. Closing the Cheydinhal Oblivion Gate with the Count’s arrogant son was virtually torture due to this, I barely got him through and certainly not the guy’s pal. Every chance I got to make a character wait was taken.

I did, however, really like the game’s fighting style, it seemed to be so open ended that one ended up learning through trial and error how to take on every specific enemy. Even though Oblivion levels up with you, some challenges still were too easy and some too difficult. During one part of the main quest, you end up having to grab a certain book in a meeting in a sewer. I tried this at one point and got my ass handed to me over and over. So I put it aside, only to come back a while later and take the guy out so fast I was in shock (much more difficult was keeping the other guy alive). So I’ll probably never fully understand the complaints over the game’s level up system, which seems to keep things playable even in later levels. I think Morrowind lost some of its luster for me after the first expansion because my character was too powerful for virtually any challenge. But I think some of that can be chalked up to far more powerful magic items at hand.

So Shivering Isles feels a little bit like the last chapter. There look to be a couple other user created mods worth checking out, but in terms of the whole arc, I feel on the downslope now, still enjoying the game but not feeling it as an addiction so much, which is good because it’s been very difficult to get away from over the last few weeks. I’m just nipping at Shivering Isles now, which is indeed very good, with probably the most original main quest in the Elder Scrolls series. You deal with Daedric prince Sheogorath who is excellently voice acted, simultaneously insane and brilliant all at once, with a number of bizarre quests that follow.

But definitely an incredible experience and with ES V tentantively slated for 2010, I’m considering a new computer by then as well. Hopefully the strengths of Morrowind (self charging enchanted items, a much bigger world and I believe many more quests) with Oblivion (the graphics, beauty and new fighting system) will be utilized to their best…

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