Imagine being ten years old, your family has just inducted themselves into a new generation of consoles with the Xbox 360. Gaming on a scale you had never seen before, the most expansive game you’d ever seen to date being Driv3r for the original Xbox. You’re too young to play games like Grand Theft Auto or smart enough to grasp complex games like Final Fantasy 7 and Morrowind. But with this new console comes a game unlike anything you’d ever seen, beautiful, massive, and complex enough to blow your mind but not confuse it, that game was Oblivion, and it was the moment when I realized what games could be, and sparked my interest in the industry from a young age.
At the time, Oblivion was still rated T, ESRB’s fuck up allowed me to convince my parents to let me play it, and I don’t want to be over dramatic and say it changed my life, but I doubt I’d have this interest in the gaming community and industry or be in this position or even have figured out what I want to do with my life so early if it wasn’t for this one game, so in a way I feel like it did. Looking at it critically it may not be the best, it’s certainly not the most polished, and it’s not even the most fun I’ve had with a video game, but its undoubtedly the most important video game I’ve ever played or experienced, and I’m glad I did.
I still play it for hundreds of hours yearly, even though I’ve seen everything there is to see. I know “The Lusty Argonian Maid” pretty much by heart, and I’ve done every quest, and taken out every Oblivion gate before the final story quest multiple times.
Oblivion has some of the most thoughtful and worthwhile side quests in a video game pre-Witcher 3, from a young man leading a band of mercenaries into an Oblivion gate to prove his worth to his family, to a painter who got stuck in her own painting, to a motel made out of a ship getting hijacked by pirates due to a rumor, many of the side quests, even the ones not tied to the various separate guilds, are memorable and varied, something the series seems to have lost with Skyrim.
Everything in Oblivion comes together in a beautiful way in my eyes. It all forms a very special game for me, from the wonky graphics to the easily exploitable combat system, to the expansive environments, dense cities, and interesting characters, it’s like a mosaic of good and not so good to create something imperfect but special.
Yes, part of my love for Oblivion is raw nostalgia, which is difficult to explain, but it’s also a very good game in its own right. The quests are grand and there is a ton to do, customize, and explore. It’s truly an adventure every time you play Oblivion, AI has their own lives within the game, and encounters are rarely ever the same twice. You could play the same quest multiple times and get a different result each time. Its this freedom of play that makes Oblivion such a grand adventure, and while Morrowind is the critically better game, Oblivion’s accessibility without being completely dumbed down makes it much easier to go on this adventure.
This is only expanded upon in the expansions, which are two of the best pieces of expansion content I’ve ever seen in a video game. One has you traveling to a strange land to stop the destruction of said real in a map roughly half the size of the base game, complete with its own side quests and places to explore. The other has you going on a pilgrimage across Cyrodil to gather artifacts and defeat a powerful entity. Both are full fledged adventures worthy of their own games, but come with a game that’s already incredibly expansive in its own right.
Oblivion isn’t perfect, but it does much more right than wrong, and it helped me along to see gaming as the art form it is nowadays. Its a pillar in my gaming history, perhaps the strongest pillar in which my love for gaming stands on, and I will continue to pour hundreds upon hundreds of hours into it even when its become incredibly dated and obsolete. That’s just how much I love this game, flaws and all. Jesus, it sounds like I’m writing wedding vows.