Starfield Fever? Play This Classic Bethesda RPG While You Wait
Skyrim takes an arrow in the knee this time.
Fantasy is hard. It’s bound only by the limits of imagination, which may sound easy. You can just make whatever you think of, right? Wrong. Because it needs to work. It needs to make sense. The more details you add, whether its new characters, plot twists, or easter eggs, the more you need to balance before it crumbles under its own weight.
The masters of fantasy make crafting intricate worlds look easy. Great video games do, too. What better medium for sprawling, captivating worlds than a digital simulacrum literally at the tip of your fingers? But fantasy is hard. Even among the greats, there can be only one.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the best of its class. Many argue (and often do) that Skyrim is better, but it’s a place you’d never actually want to go. It’s undeniably cool, and grand on every scale, but it’s dark, hostile, and drab. Its predecessor is the real destination. Lush and vibrant, with distinct cultures and cities that make it a delight to explore. And on the heels of a hot remake rumor (no, not Skyblivion), now is the perfect time to play it on Xbox Game Pass.
Oblivion will feel familiar to anyone who’s played Skyrim recently. It opens on the same trope, you’re a mute prisoner with amnesia who, after a daring escape, must stop at nothing to save the world. Odds are you will largely ignore this quest as the games continue to throw curiosities, quest lines, and distractions at your feet. These are games designed for wandering, and Oblivion has a lot to offer.
For starters, it has Patrick Stewart. Stewart’s role as Emperor Uriel Septim VII is limited to the opening tutorial, but something about that voice draws you in like a siren’s song. Once you make your escape through the bowels of the castle dungeon you emerge onto the shores of Lake Rumare, a resplendent view beckoning you to wander. Where to next? There are visual cues like far-off mountains or a nearby pile of ruins, and UI-driven ones represented by small icons on your compass and, of course, a red waypoint.
From here, Oblivion will offer up dozens of hours of exactly this. All you need to do is look around and you’re guaranteed to find something new and interesting to explore. This mechanic is incorporated into the campaign by way of the titular Oblivion Gates that dot the landscape. Each one is a portal to the Daedric Planes, a fiery hellscape full of demonic daedra and, well, you get the point. A beautiful loop emerges where you travel around one of the best maps in gaming history, creating a narrative and having fun, and then it's blighted by an Oblivion Gate for you to conquer and close forever.
The cities of Oblivion offer up unique settings and adventures. Craving Skyrim? Snowy Bruma has you covered. In the mood for arboreal fare? Woodsy Chorrol it is. An absolute shithole, a muddy, runny dump of a town with nothing to offer? Bravil welcomes you.
The world pairs nicely with the deep mechanics and inventories you’d expect from a Bethesda RPG. There are 21 skills to master, eight houses to buy, and hundreds of mods if you still can’t get enough. Will the rumored remake affect the availability of this masterpiece? Don’t wait to find out!