So this week marks the 10th anniversary of the first release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. On 20th March 2006, the fourth title in Bethesda’s longest running series was released on PC and Xbox 360 (later to be released on PS3 the following year). It was a pretty important release at the time, having generated ridiculous levels of hype: Oblivion pretty much heralded as the beginning of that console generation.
And so, in celebration, I’m going to eat some cake and fondly reminisce about one of my favourite games of the last ten years.
I didn’t actually manage to get my hands on a copy of Oblivion until I purchased it for £9 from a Computer Exchange in Peckham, but I do remember watching my elder brother play it around the spring of 2006. Having recently revisited the launch trailer, featuring the voice talents of Mr Patrick Stewart, I’m now currently bathing in the sweet, sweet waters of nostalgia. Having been but a wee lass at the time of its release, I still hold a lot of affection for Oblivion; especially as most of my earliest memories of the game centre around spending time with my brother.
At the time of Oblivion’s release, relations with my elder brother were not exactly Hunky Dory; after all, he was a teenage boy with a social life and facial hair, and I was still a petulant girl-child with a loud voice and a constant appetite for attention. But when Oblivion arrived in our house that Easter, there seemed to be some sort of magnanimous desire for a truce. There were more important things to do than bicker; such as fighting a troll or accidentally killing an old woman’s pet rat.
What I loved most about Oblivion, more than anything, was being able to share something so amazing with someone else. Certainly, I found the advanced graphics, huge open world, engaging combat and immersive plot-line all amazing, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much as I did if I’d experienced it all alone. To this day, I still remember laughing as my brother bemoaned picking to play a stunted little wood elf, and how engrossed I was as I watched him slowly assassinate each party guest during the Dark Brotherhood quest ‘Whodunnit?’.
Obviously, I eventually played the game through myself (also as a wood elf, because archery is awesome) and was absolutely swept away by the whole thing once more. I’m more than aware of the game’s many shortcomings. It hasn’t aged very well visually (without mods), the levelling system is broken, the difficulty curve is all off balance, and it’s absolutely rife with game breaking glitches and bugs. Technically, its sequel, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a far better experience. It plays better, runs better, looks gorgeous and contains menus that aren’t just a series of confusing lists.
Ultimately, Skyrim has far more cultural resonance than its predecessor. It was released during an age of mods and memes, whereas Oblivion only really has nostalgia to rely on. I’d even go as far as to say that The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind may be remembered more, as it still has such a strong hardcore PC following, particularly within the modding community. But Oblivion will always be my Elder Scrolls go-to, and not just for the sake of nostalgia, but for the iconic soundtrack, engaging storyline, memorable setting and overall excellence that, I think, still holds up to this day.
So happy 10th birthday Oblivion, and you, orange faced Sean Bean.