Why Oblivion is still my favorite Elder Scrolls game
This is sure to set off some people, as I am aware that this is an upopular opinion. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the best game in the franchise. To most diehard fans of the series, Morrowind is considered the best. I have played every Elder Scrolls game since Morrowind, but I still cannot get into the way that I can with Oblivion. For me, Oblivion captures a medieval, high-fantasy setting in a way that no other game has. I felt that there was more of a sense of adventure in it than the other ones. Although it was not without its flaws, some of those flaws are why I love it so much.
While its graphical fidelity is not as high as Skyrim's, Oblivion was breathtaking for its time
How my journey began
I will never forget being eleven years old and seeing the start-up screen for Oblivion for the first time. Perhaps I was easily impressed because I was so young, but I was amazed at all of the customization that came with each race and class. I was in awe of how beautiful the game looked, as the opening cutscene took gave a birds view of the Imperial City.
This was a world I could not wait to explore. The way people interacted with me could be determined by how much they liked me based on how charismatic my character was. The amount of spells amazed me, summmoning and striking lightning bolts at people in a way that I had never been able to do in a game. With the faction quests, side quests, and daedric quests, this world seemed vast and endless. Looking back on it and having played many other games, I am aware that Oblivion is not without many flaws.
The Arcane University of the Mages' Guild is just one of the many breathtaking sights in the game.
I learned by talking to others and eventually playing Morrowind that Oblivion had significantly watered down the series. While there were throwing weapons and crossbows in Morrowind, those were removed, and players were limited to bows, which are great and all, but it would be nice to stick a throwing knife in a mark during a Dark Brotherhood quest. Weapon variety was further limited by the removal of spears, medium armor, unarmored, and enchanting as a skill. Other skills, such as long blade and short blade, were consolidated into broader skills such as blade. The combat system, while better than Morrowind's, consisted of static hacking and slashing that was slightly improved upon in Skyrim.
One feature that meant to create an immersive world did the exact opposite. NPCs would have conversations with each other, and the result was nothing short of comical. It did not help that the game had about one voice actor for each race and gender, making it seem like you were hearing the same people talk to each other.
10/10 voice acting
Behold, the most punchable face in Tamriel!
While Oblivion made it so we no longer had to stare at the boxy faces featured in Morrowind, it still had some work to do. Many of the NPC's in Oblivion, even the ones that were supposed to be attractive, were butt-ugly. Elves of any type sported exaggerated almond-shaped eyes pointed at a forty-five degree angle, and Khajiits had laughably exaggerated features that made them look like lion plush toys.
Why it's still my favorite
I may be so light on Oblivion because it was my first Elder Scrolls game, but for me the things that it did right outweigh what it did wrong. I actually think that some of the flaws enhance the experience. I remember many times where I would sit in cities and just eavesdrop on NPC conversations to get a laugh. While the Oblivion gates became tedious, I could easily avoid them, unlike Skyrim's dragons that I encountered every five minutes even after the main questline was finished.
Oblivion also had a diverse variety of enemies. Not as many as Morrowind, but way more than Skyrim. Land Dreughs, Daedroths, Goblins, rather than draugr, draugr, and more draugr, made the world feel wild and beautiful and terrifying. I remember getting my character to a certain level and wondering what these strange creatures were that I encountered.
The land dreugh was a menacing foe even for a high level player.
What really made Oblivion for me was the quests.
The Dark Brotherhood and Mage's Guild questlines were some of the best fun I have had in a video game. The Dark Brotherhood truly felt eerie as you entered the sanctuary, and some of the quests made you feel truly vile. For the sake of spoilers, I will not say anymore for those who have not played, but sometimes you would find things in their quests that would make grown adults queasy.
The Mages' Guild, while grindy at first, led you to a grand conspiracy of necromancy once you got to the arcane university, where you had access to enchanting and spellcrafting altars. Guild quests in Morrowind were too grindy for my taste, and the pacing in Skyrim's was too fast. In Morrowind, you worked with the Morag Tong, and I could simply present a writ of execution if a guard saw me, which took a lot of the fun out of it for me. Daedric questlines in Oblivion took me on mysterious and trippy adventures that gave me some of the best loot in the game.
The cult nature of the Dark Brotherhood made working with them especially terrifying.
Overall, Oblivion provided the best atmosphere for an elder scrolls game. I still love Morrowind and Skyrim to death, but they will not have the place in my heart that Oblivion does. Nothing will compare to the first time I made my ultimate character in that game and went on my first journey in the lore-rich land of Tamriel.