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Best of the Decade - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Platforms: Windows, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Release Date: March 20, 2006 (Windows and 360 versions)

Publisher: 2K Games; Bethesda Softworks

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios

Most of the games on this list were carefully chosen as modern experiences that still hold up as such. I have previously discussed my modernist mindset when it comes to gaming, a mindset that makes it difficult to enjoy certain older titles. In the fast-moving gaming industry, a game doesn’t actually have to be that old to feel aged. A glance at many PS2-era titles is proof enough of this. Even in just 10 years, games have come a long way indeed.

Oblivion is a good example of this. It wasn’t the first of its kind, as one need only look at its predecessor, Morrowind, to see where it came from. But Oblivion did represent a huge leap forward from anything that had come before. When it was released, it was definitively a “next-gen” open-world RPG. It was gorgeous, stunningly large, and complex. Perhaps it feels dated in some respects now, but Oblivion raised the bar when it was released and it’s telling that, even after all this time, few games attempt the sheer scale and depth it delivered. 

Part of my negativity toward certain elements of the game might be a personal bias, as one could say I’m a bit burned out on it after having spent over 150 hours playing it on both the PC and Xbox 360, but it’s true that modern RPGs have more detailed worlds, better stories, more to do, and plenty of other improved bullet points to put on the back of their box. 

Though I may find it a little hard to go back and enjoy Oblivion these days, there’s a reason I’ve put it on this list anyway. I spent far too many hours with this game, and enjoyed every one of those too much not to honor this amazing game. Things have gotten better, and I’m appreciative of that. I’ll honor one or two of the titles that followed in Oblivion’s footsteps before this list is done. Still, I have a special place in my heart for Oblivion. It’s not every day that one single game can captivate my skittish attention span for 150 hours. 

The amount of stuff to do in this game was staggering. There were so many quests to do, secrets to find, and areas to explore that I knew I’d never see it all. Here I am, more than 150 hours later, and I was right. There are still huge chunks of the game I haven’t experienced. I remember thinking that one of the reasons I liked Oblivion was that it felt like an MMO, only without the second M and the O. It was simply a massive RPG that fed into one of my primary desires in gaming: to explore vast, unfamiliar landscapes.

It’s true that when I pick it up today I skip all the dialog because I’m tired of listening to the same four voice actors. It’s true I turn down the difficulty so I can breeze through it and pick up easy achievements. It’s true I’ve gotten sick beyond words of the same cave and dungeon environments. But after putting this many hours into the game, four years later, it’s testament to the game’s quality that I’m picking it up at all.

For showing me what a truly massive RPG could look like and providing me with an experience unmatched in scale by few games even four years later, Oblivion is one of my Best of the Decade. 


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