Oblivion is without question my favorite game of all time. However, few people actually know that I almost didn’t even play it. It turns out that Oblivion was perhaps the biggest gamble I have ever made. Let’s wind the clock back to 2005.
I was at my friend Joe’s house when our other friend Chris came downstairs, his face full of excitement. He told us about this game called Oblivion and how it was the sequel to Morrowind. He went on and on about how this game would have realistic forests, rocks would erode, and just how amazing it looked. Joe and I had no idea what he was talking about. Neither of us had ever heard of Morrowind, nevermind play it. So, like good friends do, we shrugged him off and ignored him and went back to playing Smash Bros.
A year later and Joe has a PC. He had bought Oblivion on recommendation from our friend Chris and wanted me to see it as he began playing. We installed the game and took a look at the options. Unfortunately for Joe, his PC was quite low-end so we had to turn pretty much all of the settings down. And so, our quest began.
Patrick Stewart did his thing and we were soon staring at the character creation screen. Instantly, we were overwhelmed. Perhaps now would be appropriate to state that neither Joe nor I had ever played a game with so much choice and freedom before. So naturally, we were completely overwhelmed with the character creation screen. What did all these races mean? Did it matter what we chose? Not knowing the answer, we ended up making a Dunmer, purely on the basis that he looked like he was a well balanced race.
We played some more and eventually got around to choosing our birthsign and skills. Again, we were completely overwhelmed. There were simply so many pre-made classes to choose from. Do we choose one of these or do we make our own? We ended up creating our own class because, once again, we had no idea what we were doing. Finally, we emerged from the sewers.
Now, because we had to turn down all of the settings, the game looked like crap, but in a very endearing “but can it run Crysis” kind of way. Vilverin was there and so was Gnoll Mountain, but all trees and grass were absent. It looked completely dead and barren. I remember thinking, “was this seriously the game that Chris had been touting for the last year?”
Of course, our quest marker pointed us to Chorrol in order to see Jauffre and so, off we went. There was no sense of wonder from me, only disgust. No trees, no grass, horrible framerate, and awful stuttering. How could anyone like this game? After only an hour with the game, I left Joe’s house disappointed. What I didn’t know, what I couldn’t know, was just how deeply Oblivion had impacted me in that initial experience.
A week went by without me giving Oblivion a second thought. Fortunately, in those days, Joe and I worked at the same place. After work one day, I suggested that we go to GameStop just to browse around (we had just gotten paid). Upon arriving, I noticed Oblivion sitting on the shelf of Xbox 360 games. I had just received an Xbox as a birthday present and thought to myself that maybe, maybe there was a small chance that somehow this game would be a different experience on my Xbox. And so, I purchased the game and off we both went to my house.
Once again, we were both overwhelmed by choice so again we made ridiculous choices in race (Dunmer) and class (custom sword and board class). However, upon leaving the sewers, my experience took a very different turn. I was shocked to see so many trees, the grass swaying in the wind, the water looking positively real. My eyes widened in wonder. At that moment, I knew – I absolutely knew – that this game was something truly special.
I turned to Joe and could tell he was thinking the same thing. This game looked a lot better on my Xbox than it did on his PC. It was as if we were playing a totally different game. Once again, my marker pointed me to Chorrol and so off we went. But this time, something completely different happened.
As we rounded the Imperial Isle, we were met with scores of trees. We couldn’t just see Chorrol like we could on his PC because there was a literal forest in our way. Immediately, my mind began to race with all of the undiscovered things between us and Chorrol. What lay hidden in the forest? What lay beyond this forest? How do we even enter the forest? My adventure had begun.
I will never forget that day. That was the day my entire gaming life changed. Since then, Oblivion has completely dominated my adult life. I am forever entranced by its neverending beauty. This game, this unbelievable game, has strengthened the friendship between myself and my friends from home. We talk about it on an almost daily basis, sharing our adventures, debating over playstyles, and speculating on what the future holds.
This game introduced me to Elder Scrolls, eventually to Skyrim and most recently, to the podcast I am now fortunate to be a part of. It has given me a voice in our wonderful community. This one game has completely defined how I will approach games forever. It is perhaps the one thing that has had a very real impact on my adult life.
And to think I almost didn’t play it.