Why Oblivion Sucks

 Part 3 - Roleplaying (or lack thereof)

Oblivion barely qualifies as a roleplaying game.  Despite the sandbox style gameplay and the open-ended world, quests are linear and character development is going the way of the dodo.

1.The inclusion of stupid mini-games for actions like lockpicking and speechcraft.  First off, these mini-games are reliant on the player's skill and not the characters which defeats the point of roleplaying to begin with.  It is possible, with very low security skill, to pick a lock rated at a difficulty of Master, after one masters the mini-game.  So what is the point in having a security skill?

Similarly, the speechcraft mini-game is pointless.  It makes no logical sense, it's not fun and it's more dependent on your ability to rotate a wheel in the right places rather than your characters ability at speechcraft.  Why bother levelling speechcraft at all?  Again, a simple mastery of the mini-game on the part of the player means that the few advantages one gets from leveling up speechcraft are not needed. 

Furthermore actions, that were in Morrowind, such as intimidate and taunt are missing.  Sure, there is a coerce button on the wheel, but all it does is raise or lower the disposition of the NPC your character is talking to.  And there is no taunt in Oblivion period.

2.Twitch-based combat.  Your character's skill in using a weapon no longer matters as long as the player has good reflexes.  Combat is now based on the player's skill rather than the character's.  Blocking is no longer based on your character's skill but your reflexes.  These changes are, again, antithetical to the very nature of role-playing games.  Combat can be fun without having to resort to turning The Elder Scrolls into a first-person shooter.

3.Limited dialog options.  Bethesda choose to waste all their money on a few well-known movie actors when they could have hired good voice actors instead for a fraction of the cost.  Furthermore, good voice actors can alter their voice and play the roles of multiple characters without sounding the same.  Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean may be good at television acting but they are not voice actors and are not trained as such.

As a result of Bethesda splurging on a few well-known celebrities, there are limited dialog options.  In the later stages of a Morrowind game, it was not uncommon for many NPCs to have as many as 30 or 40 dialog options.  In Oblivion, 6 options would be considered a lot for an NPC.  

4.Poor voice acting.  As stated above, Patrick Stewart et. al are not voice actors.  Any decent voice actor can alter their voice and play multiple roles without sounding the same.  A team of 10 or 20 voice actors could easily produce unique dialog and voices for each character in the game and at a fraction of the cost compared to Patrick Stewart et. al.

As a result of the above, voice acting is generic.  Many voice overs are designed to be used by multiple characters and as such, they are lacking in mood and sound choppy when linked together.  Beggars are the worst example of this.  When you first talk to a beggar, they talk in an old raspy voice that one would, stereotypically, associate with someone begging on the street.  The minute you ask a beggar about the Latest Rumors, they are suddenly talking in the same voice as the nobility.  It is appalling that the game could have been even released in such a state.  How hard would it have been to do the latest rumor voice overs in the beggar voice?

5.Linear Quests.  Every quest is designed to be linear.  You MUST complete the quest in the order Bethesda has decided.  Bethesda assumes that the player is too stupid to solve parts of the quest on their own and instead, guides the players hand like a child.  For example, in the Mythic Dawn Commentaries Quest, the player can solve the riddle contained within the four volumes of the book.  However, even if you solve the riddle yourself, you will not be able to advance in the quest until you get Tar'meena to solve the riddle for you. And there are many more examples like that. This style of quest-design is both immersion-breaking and insulting.