The highly anticipated release of 2006, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion meets your highest expectations. Oblivion is a one player role playing game set in the world of Tamriel. While the game sets a course for you in its main plot, Oblivion's freeform approach also allows you to do whatever you want----join factions, do quests, treasure hunt, and more.
This release offers a number of improvements over the previous game, Morrowind. First, the tutorial at the beginning teaches you how to play the game and use its default controls. The tutorial incorporates the main quest in Oblivion, and provides a sense of purpose in the game. Patrick Stewart offers an outstanding performance as the emperor during this tutorial.
The second improvement is the ability to fast travel in the Maps Section. Instead of walking from one location to the next, you can click on the circle for any location you discovered on your map. You start out with the major cities discovered. This feature takes the hassle out of the tedious traveling from one location to another. And you'll find this improvement a god send when you hop back and forth on the map to do quests.
A related improvement is the Current Quests menu which is under Maps Section. If you click on a specific quest in your list of current quests, you'll be given the option of getting the map for this quest and if applicable the ability to fast travel to that location. Additional features included are the ability to buy your own houses at the major cities and to buy horses.
Combat is somewhat changed from Morrowind. Oblivion incorporates blocking, where you can use a shield or a weapon to block an incoming melee attack. A successful block will lessen the damage from the block, depending on your skill level in blocking. Oblivion also adds marksmanship, allowing players to "shoot and run." This includes shooting at a target from a distance with a bow and running if the target tries to approach your character.
The quests in Oblivion range from simple grab and find, to complex puzzle filled tasks. The tasks in general are more interesting than those in Morrowind and some are even humorous. In many instances, completion of the quest gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction.
The most controversial aspect of Oblivion is the new concept of leveled opponents. For many areas in the game, the opponent's level is tied to your character level i.e.: your level plus 5 or minus 2. An opponent higher than your level will naturally have more health, mana, etc., and will be harder to kill. Accordingly, a lower level opponent will be easier to kill. The leveling offers a new wrinkle in Oblivion and offers players a more challenging game. However, players have the option of changing the game's difficulty level to suit their needs; if you find that you're dying with far too much frequency, you can make the game easier for you. But if you relish a challenge, then a more difficult setting may be your cup of tea. Furthermore, a level opponent will provide you with a better drop when killed. So a tactic for making money is to go back to old dungeons you cleared out previously and fight higher level opponents the second time around.
Another issue is the hotkey. In Morrowind, you could use F1-F12 to set your hotkeys. In Oblivion, you only get 1-8 which is four less keys than before. Another issue is the save function. While you have an unlimited number of save slots (limited only by the space capacity on your hard drive) if you have many saves it can be hard to keep track of what's in the save. It would have been nice if you're given the option to name the save file, so that you could make a name appropriate to what is in the file.
A third issue is the roving camera. You can switch between the first person (necessary for hand-to-hand combat and spells), and third person overview perspective. However, the variety of terrains that exist in the world of Tamriel include big trees, buildings, etc., that can sometimes block your third person view. This becomes problematic if you're engaged in frantic melee combat with a hard opponent.
The final problem is the steep systems requirement for the PC version of Oblivion. You'll need 4.6 gb of free hard drive space, a 128MB Direct3D compatible video card, and a 2 Ghz Intel P4 processor. Desktop users would probably be able to upgrade their systems if necessary to meet these requirements. But a labtop user wouldn't be able to play Oblivion if the labtop is a lower end system.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a solid release that meets the high expectations of hardcore fans. It sets a very high bar for other RPG releases to top. In my book, it is the Game of the Year 2006.