It may have taken almost a decade for the past generation to finally start collecting dust, but it’s been a memorable ride for the beloved trio. It’s entireley possible that in years to come we’ll look back on this generation as one of the greatest we’ve ever seen. So what better time to look back at some of our favourite games, starting with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion….
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released 3 days before my 16th birthday. In the first 24 hours of its release, I had already racked up 13 hours in Cyrodiil, and today, my overall playtime reaches well over 200 hours. Needless to say, I was completely encapsulated by Oblivion’s world, the NPCs that populated it, and the seemingly endless number of quest lines that were lying in wait for my discovery.
I’m sure that many of you had similar experiences with previous iterations of The Elder Scrolls, but for me, Oblivion was released during a time in my life where gaming was an escape from the dull realities of high school, which gave me a chance to become deeply invested in a fantastical character that I was in complete control of.
The Elder Scrolls IV gave me a sense of freedom that I had not quite experienced before: freedom to play the character I wanted to play and do what I wanted to do. Graphically, it may not have aged as well as other games from this generation, but for its time, it gave players an extraordinary and expansive world that truly felt “alive.” The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and its level of immersion stands out as a defining moment of this generation, one that has stood the test of time and will be regarded as a peak of the open world genre in generations to come.
In my experience, much of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s immersion came from the Radiant A.I. system, which Bethesda developed and introduced in this iteration of the series. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the goal of Radiant A.I. was to essentially give NPCs lives of their own, allowing them to interact with one another more dynamically, and assigning them with specific tasks that they would attempt to fulfill each day in the game’s world. For me, this created a new level of interaction that I had not yet experienced in any game.
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The narratives within Oblivion were no longer driven by a set of stationary NPCs with linear actions and dialogue. Instead, I had been exposed to a world filled with diverse NPCs that were as enjoyable to watch as they were to engage in conversation. Radiant A.I., coupled with the game’s branching dialogue and massive world to explore, provided no lack of unexpected and surprising outcomes, which in turn brought about a gaming experience that I could truly say was unique to me in many respects.
In addition to Oblivions expansive and engaging world, it, like it’s predecessors, was also heavily reliant on side quests scattered throughout the world, which kept me exploring every nook and cranny in Cyrodiil. While the game undoubtedly has a number of memorable quest lines, the one that stands out in my mind is the Dark Brotherhood, where you become an assassin for the Night Mother. I’ve always played The Elder Scrolls as a thief-like class, relying heavily on sneak, so for me, becoming an assassin was a dream come true. One quest in particular, appropriately named “Whodunit?,” places you at a party in a manor, where the goal is to dispose of all of the guests whichever way you choose. Each guest had a specific personality and opinion regarding the other guests at the party, which could be used to your advantage. In my experience, this was one of the high points of the Dark Brotherhood questline. As a big fan of detective fiction, I loved how the quest played out much like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, except roles were reversed, and you became the killer.
As you picked off the NPCs one by one, they became increasingly terrified, and paranoia began to set in amongst them. Once I had taken out most of the guests, it came down to the final two, at which point I used a guests heightened paranoia to coerce him into killing another guest. At the time, I had never experienced this level of interactivity in a game world. I was essentially given free rein to finish this quest in a seemingly countless number of ways (seriously, see here, there are an insane amount of variables that one can use to their advantage). Whodunit? is a prime example of everything I love about this game: the choices, the rich A.I., and a series of unique quest lines that were not quite like anything I had ever played before.
As we transition into this new generation of gaming, I urge those of you who have never played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to give it a shot. No, it will not be as pretty as say, The Last of Us, but the game introduced one of the most creative and interactive worlds that I have ever experienced. Oblivion certainly left a lasting impression on the open world genre last generation, and I can only hope that it’s legacy remains an influential force in the development of next generation games.