Playing Oblivion after playing Skyrim is really an interesting experience. You can see the ideas they kept, the ideas they refined and the ideas they threw out. I’m having a lot of fun playing, but it’s fun tempered with some issues.
I know many people have complained about the voice acting issues, and those complaints mostly focus on the limited number of voice actors used. The issues that I’m having with the voice acting are slightly different. It doesn’t break immersion for me to hear the same voice coming out of different mouths. I don’t really know why, but it doesn’t. For me, it breaks immersion to hear several different voices coming out of the one mouth (the male beggars suffer most from this). It also breaks immersion when the voice acting is so variable. Some of the voice acting is good, with just the right tone and delivery for the character. Some is simply over the top, as if someone has just had “acting” explained to them, and then was released upon an unsuspecting script. I could live with either, but having both means I can’t settle into a “style” and the feeling of being in a story is lost for me.
The dialogue “trees” are something that both are an issue for me, and work nicely. I put “tree” in inverted commas, because it’s more a list of topics you can build up. In many ways it reminds me of the old Ultima games (as I discussed earlier). You started knowing that you could ask three standard questions: “Name”, “Job” and “Health”. This led to responses that meant you found other words that the character would react to. In Oblivion, you often start only with the name of the area you’re in, and “Rumours”. Depending on what the person says (or other conversations you’ve had) you’ll end up with more words (or small phrases) you can choose. So far, it’s a nice, compact way of dealing with conversations. The one downside is in the way that conversation topics are ‘overloaded’. You might, for example, be given a topic of “Book”, and asking about that will tell you about a book you need to get. If you ask about “Book” again, before obtaining the book, you’ll get the same reply. Once you’ve got the book, however, choosing that option gives a different response. In the example given, there’s not much confusion. However, if you have multiple quests from a single person, or many speech options that are similar, it can become very confusing. It really would have been nice for “Book” to change to “I have the book” or “give book” or similar, to stop any possible confusion.
There’s a mini-game you can play to make people like you more, and which can get you better responses to some queries. It’s not really a difficult game, but I find it tedious in the extreme – especially as you usually have to have a few goes at it to “max” someone’s disposition towards you. It’s something I’m glad they dropped for Skyrim.
The Lockpick mini-game in Oblivion is very different to that of Skyrim. In Oblivion you get a cutaway side view of the lock. Each lock has 5 pins, some of which are in the ‘up’ positioh (i.e unlocked) and some of which are in the down position (locked). The idea is that you need to use a lockpick to push the pin up, and ‘lock’ it in place before its spring forces it down again. Sometimes the pin comes down very quickly, sometimes slowly. If you try to lock it in place while it’s moving up or down, you break your lockpick.
In Skyrim, you don’t see inside the lock. Instead you insert a knife and a lockpick into the lock (the knife to turn it). You then rotate the lockpick around the lock, and if you have it in the right position you can turn the knife and open the lock.
Both mini-games work well, making it more likely you’ll break lockpicks on harder locks if you have lower skill, but also at least giving you a chance to unlock higher level locks if you’re dexterous enough in Real Life. Personally, I’m happy with either in future games.
Oblivion Gates and Oblivion
I know the entire point of the Oblivion main story is that the world is ending, that Oblivion is encroaching on Tamriel, and that Oblivion Gates are springing up everywhere. However, actually going into Oblivion through one of these gates is just … dull. It just seems your standard “hell” type place and every visit is very similar to the last. I’m glad you only have to go into a couple as part of the main quest, but there are so many of them, my completest itch wants me to go into all of them (and we’re talking dozens).