My experience with the Elder Scrolls series is very limited. Like many, it began with Morrowind on the Xbox. While some people were salivating over the idea of killing whoever and creating a god in the form of a man, I wasn't a big fan. Yeah the freedom was nice but the story builds up to only end with a gigantic whimper, and an ending that basically said "You beat the game. Who cares? Go piss off!" In Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Bethesda decided to exchange some of the freedom for better plot and production.
Similar to Morrowind, your characters starts off as a prisoner. While in a jail cell, seemingly no hope in sight, a commotion starts, and surprisingly the Emperor of Tamriel shows up in front of your cell. Accompanied by his personal guard, they go inside your cell to expose a secret tunnel. As your only means of escape, you follow through the tunnel as it acts as a tutorial for you. Once at the end, assassins strike to take down the Emperor right in front of you. While dying in your arms, the Emperor asks you to find his son so that his son can take the rightful place as Emperor. From that point, the story goes through a series of events culminating in an epic battle between good and evil.
Oblivion continues the same FPS RPG style that started with the first Elder Scrolls game. This time around the game takes a hit on difficulty making for easier access to everyone but less customizing like previous games. At the start of the game, after the tutorial, you're given the choice of what class you want to be or even make your own. When it comes down to it, the classes are not a system of actual classes you can become but more practical in that a class has certain skills higher than others. For example, a magic user will have skills revolving around magic but have a very low numbers for weapons and armor. The opposite holds true as well thus allowing you to be a knight with the strong weapons and weapons, but you can still use magic although very poorly. If you want, you can forego the classes created by the game, and create your own class deciding how many points you want to put in each skill. Aside from skills used in combat like blade, armor and magic, there are skills used to interact with object and NPCs such as stealth, lockpicking, and speech. Each time you make use of these skills, you will gain an amount of points to level up these skills. Once the skill is leveled, it will improve thus improving its effectiveness. Do this 10 times and your character will level up letting you increase some base statistics.
Combat has been improved over previous Elder Scrolls games allowing for a more action packed combat rather than a very cut and dry spamming of the attack button. Making use of the block button, a well timed block can allow for a parry dropping your enemy's defenses for a bit. Hold down the attack and you'll begin to charge up your attack unleashing a much more powerful hit that can open up your enemy's defenses for a hit.
Another big change involving combat, that deserves special attention, is the leveling up for enemies. When leveling up, the game will improve enemy's levels to correspond with it. On one hand this will give you opportunities to fight tough enemies that will help improve your skills. The flip side is that no matter where you go, whether it's the first city in your travels or the last, there will be tough enemies around every turn. It was designed to keep players from being like a god in about an hour or two like Morrowind, but it made the game difficulty much higher since you won't have a true advantage over an enemy.
Just like previous games, there are tons of NPCs to talk to. Some needs jobs done, stories to say, items to sell, or just bother you. While there's a set amount of main missions that will allow you play through the main storyline, there are tons of sidequests to do. With several guilds like the mage's guild, thieves' guild, and fighters' guild to choose from, you can join up (sometimes easier said than done), and complete quests within the guild to improve your ranking. Reach the rank of guild leader (which is not easy at all), and you will be pleasantly rewarded unlike Morrowind where being a guild leader was meaningless. Sidequests unlock other plotlines typically involving one citizen's attempt for more power than they can handle or discovering something they shouldn't. While completing the main quest line is considered being "good", the role of being good or evil is still up to you. Sidequests will typically let you decide whether to do the right or wrong thing, and you'll have to deal with the results of those actions.
With such a vast world to play in, and a somewhat smaller evil world to deal with, it's amazing the detail and beauty the world has. From the beautiful bodies of water to the grand cities, every spot in the world looks at its best. Character models are also highly detailed, and somewhat unique which is especially hard considering all the NPCs that are in the game. The lighting and spell effects are also of the highest caliber. All this incredible detail for a world that stretches so far is just astounding. It's even more amazing when you consider how early in the next gen cycle this game was made. Even today's games are striving to be on par, if not better, than Oblivion.
In the sound department, Bethesda spared no expense. Voice actors include Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean whose performances as the Emperor and Emperor's son. They're not the only ones that put on a good performance with solid jobs for each NPC. An epic game like Oblivion deserves an equally epic score and that's exactly what we have here. A perfect blend of subtle music in the background to large booming orchestra music make for a score that matches any Hollywood movie.
To make sure such a vast world is not wasted on just one game, Bethesda continues to bring PC-like features to the consoles. Like they did with Morrowind, extra content is available for download. New lands, cites, items and abilities are added to these expansions to experience new adventures rather than just replaying the old ones. It's not like the game is light on the content. Oblivion takes at least 20 hours to complete the main missions, but could be easily triple that if you go deeper into the side quests and guild quests.
Some may criticize the freedoms that were loss in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion in comparison to its predecessor Morrowind, but the game more than makes up for it with its improvement in presentation and narrative. Rather than just give you a barebones story, Bethesda went all out and gave you an actual gaming experience.