When Bethesda released Oblivion on the Xbox 360 a year ago, it was quickly branded by gamers and journalists alike as the best reason to own the system. Some would even go as far as giving it Game of the Year status well before the 12 months of 2006 had passed. While these may be bold assumptions, for the most part they ended up reigning true, and Oblivion went on to sell millions of copies across both the PC and Xbox 360. Now a year later the chaps at Bethesda are bringing this enormous RPG to Sony’s new machine. The million dollar question on everyone’s mind though is – is it worth shelling another $60 if you own one of the previous versions?
The short answer is a resounding no. While the PS3 incarnation does sport some faster load times, upgraded visuals such as better lighting and textures, and even the inclusion of the download-only Knights of the Nine (which 360 owners forked over $10 for), there really isn’t enough here to warrant a return visit to the land of Oblivion. However, if you have never stepped foot in the world of Cyrodill then run, don’t walk to your local game merchant and snag a copy of this amazing title right now.
Now for most PS3 gamers accustomed to the traditional Japanese style of RPG Oblivion, will be an entirely new experience for them. Oblivion can be intimidating due to its enormous scale and seemingly limitless amount of tasks at your disposal. Aside from the already substantial main quest, the sheer amount of customization options and side quests will likely overwhelm gamers used to the linear styling of the traditional PlayStation role playing game.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the formula let’s get a quick rundown. Oblivion is an open-ended RPG that places you in the shoes of an escaped prisoner whose destiny lies in becoming the champion of Cyrodill. From the outset, you will be able to fully customize your character by picking a race and class, and before exiting the first dungeon you can assign certain skill sets to your character that will define how you play the game.
The difference between this and other RPGs is that instead of leveling up abilities based on skill points you actually only level up what you use. For instance, if you cast magic constantly that particular spell will become more powerful the more you use it, jumping will cause your agility to go up and using stealth will increase your chances of being a thief or performing stealth kills.
Another huge divergence in Oblivion is that the game doesn’t necessarily get harder the further you progress; it is actually based on your current level of ability. So if you spend the first 10 hours simply leveling up you will not become all powerful and simply blast through the first part of the game, in fact, it just makes it harder as the enemies gain levels alongside you.
While all of these methods are truly unique, they are not without their set of flaws. For starters jumping endlessly to increase agility is downright tedious not to mention ridiculous looking in the process. Now for the most part this isn’t an issue, however, if you decide to join say the Thieves Guild having great stealth will be beneficial in the long run thus causing you to sneak around for hours at a time. Players accustomed to MMOs will likely be used to this kind of tedium, but for the average PlayStation RPG guru this will sound and feel outlandish.
The combat system may also feel alien for those not used to this type of scheme. Oblivion uses the two triggers for offense and defensive maneuvers, and it works surprisingly well. Hit detection is rarely an issue and even casting magic feels delightfully intuitive. You can also map spells and items to different hot keys on the controller which lends themselves extremely well to the fast-paced battles that the game offers.
Visually this is one of the best looking games on the system to date. Even more so than the already gorgeous Xbox 360 version released last year, the PS3 iteration features some much appreciated improvements that really show off the engine and the environments. The frame rate has been vastly improved and Bethesda has taken the time to improve the overall quality of in-game textures, smoother loading times (almost twice as fast as the Xbox 360 version) and most importantly better draw distance.
Even with the recently released patch that improves the 360 version substantially, it really shows what a year of tweaking can do to an already impressive looking game. While graphic buffs are still better off going with the superior PC version, if their machine can handle the strain, the PS3 version is far and away the best looking home console interpretation of Cyrodill.
Sound wise you are getting pretty much the same game, but this is far from a curse. The ambient audio delivers some of the finest sound ever delivered into your home theatre. The voice acting is phenomenal with an all-star cast of characters including Patrick Stewart and the music is right on par with the pace and environments in the game.
Now to dive into what PS3 owners are no doubt wondering, what does this version have that the 360 didn’t already offer? Well as I mentioned earlier the additional Knights of the Nine is a nice pack-in, but as far as the rest of the downloadable content currently available to 360 and PC owners Bethesda is still up in the air. With the PS3 architecture it has presented a challenge in adding these additional packs in a manner that will work with the original game.
This also means gamers preparing for the soon to be released expansion Shivering Isles will only be able to experience it if they own either the 360 or PC version of the game. While this content could easily be available in the future if you want the full package that Oblivion has to offer this is not the version for you, however, what is here will likely keep you occupied for a very long time (over 100 hours if you manage to complete it all) and perhaps once you grow bored they will have solved the DLC issues currently plaguing the PS Network.
On a final note, there are some minor issues with the game that can be frustrating at times. I am of course referring to the occasional glitch you may run across in the world of Oblivion. Some of these range from comical such as NPCs somehow teleporting onto rooftops, to downright annoying such as falling through invisible cracks in the world or simply getting hung up in the environment. While small in scale when compared to the game itself these hindrances can be frustrating when working on a long quest, but are forgivable in a game world as vast as this.
The bottom line is that if you haven’t experienced this game yet, and you happen to own a PS3, you now have no excuse. This is one of the greatest adventures currently available anywhere and well worth the investment. PS3 owners have been clamoring for another must-own title and this is truly the case here. Unless you have already explored Cyrodill on another platform, there is no excuse not to snag this one up immediately.