Elder Scrolls: Oblivion first impressions (mini review)

I feel like a junky just about to get his fix! There's no excitement, no anticipation, no emotions, just 'need'; I now know how Gollum felt when 'his precious' was nicked - damn those Hobbits!. No other game has done that - except maybe my anticipation of Wolfenstein 360 - (but that's another story). Damnation to those people at Bethesda for making Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (and the previous 'Morrowind' for that matter!).

First impressions of Oblivion ^

It's actually good, better than I expected. I knew I wasn't going to be able to run the game on 'high' settings, so even though it's currently on 640x480 (due to my hardware being on the low side - more on that below) the game world still feels 'solid' and 'grounded', you do feel part of it rather than apart from it, Morrowind didn't have that quite so readily because the artwork had a sort of cartoony feel to it, they've gone for a more realistic - but stylised - look for Oblivion.

Facing facts ^

Although the bodies of characters are based on a generic male and female template (for a reason), what you can do with a characters face and cosmetic toning is pretty comprehensive; there are sliders to control visual features like the distance between eyes, how far forward a chin juts and so on. A lot of scope within each race for individualism.

Items and Inventory ^

Oblivion more or less uses the same setup as Morrowind with a couple of exceptions; the 'inventory' is all in one place, so accessing your character stats, the journal, quest info and the items you pick up are all in the one menu - there are various quick keys to access it but the information itself is all in the same place - a bit like a clipboard in fact - it, thankfully, saves screen space; having all those open in Morrowind required it's own management skill!

The game does feel a bit more intuitive than Morrowind which is a plus and you can still float between first and third person views ('vanity mode' is still there as well).

Oblivion performance ^

An interesting thing here, although the shots below are from the very start of the game and there's apparently not much on screen, the image quality doesn't have much effect on the games FPS - some initial quick tests found the game run the same when setting textures to 'low' or 'high'. This means the performance at a fundamental level is good, drawing raw polygons and textures to screen aren't hogging resources, other things in game are doing that. Looking through the *.ini file reveals quite a few graphical items that can be turned on/off to assist performance.

The journey into Oblivion begins!

The journey into Oblivion begins!

Textures set to 'low' which disables bumpmaps, shiney 'specular' surfaces and other related effects.

Textures set to 'LOW' which disables bump maps, shiny 'specular' surfaces and other related effects; lowering the quality of the textures and their resolution.

Textures set to 'HIGH' which enables bumpmaps, shiney 'specular' surfaces and other related effects.

Textures set to 'HIGH' which enables bump maps, shiny 'specular' surfaces and other related effects; texture quality and resolution is kept high

Speaking of the oblivion *.ini file - which is saved to ..\My Documents\My Games\Oblivion\oblivion.ini - if you want to enable screen shots you need to open oblivion.ini and find the following;

  • bAllowScreenShot=0

Set that to;

  • bAllowScreenShot=1

And you should be good to go using the 'Print Screen' button on your keyboard. Captured images are stored in ..\Bethesda Softworks\Oblivion\[screenshot].bmp

Test computer ^

As a reference point, Oblivion is currently being run on a computer with the following specs;

  • ATI 9600XT 256MB.

  • AMD XP-M 2800+ (1.6Ghz, socket 754).

  • 1 GB DDR PC2700 Ram.

  • Running from a 40GB Seagate HDD (5200rpm).

If you have Doom 3 or Quake 4, or indeed any of the other 'true' NextGen titles that have been out in the last 12 months or so, then Elder Scrolls : Oblivion's overall performance so far compares well; it plays better than Doom 3, which for me puts it in the frame with Quake 4; if you can get those games to play then you should certainly be okay with Oblivion.