I rarely actually finish big RPG games. You know, the ones that take 100 hours of play time to complete. Generally, not finishing the game makes me frustrated and a bit disappointed in the whole process…and less likely to buy the next one.
One significant exception to this a few years ago was Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. No, I didn’t finish the game. But I didn’t really mind, either. The game was so open-ended that I just enjoyed wandering around and poking at dungeons. I’m not even sure that I ever really was working on the main quest/story line. But because of the richness of the game, that apparent lack of “progress” didn’t really bother me a lot. I probably got 40 or more hours of play time out of the game and, as I said, never finished.
The next chapter in the Elder Scrolls series will be released soon. Its name is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. A few years have passed since the last chapter was released. Naturally, this means the graphics and such are improved. But I’m really pleased to see that, at least based on what can be read, the developers have kept their focus on the things that really matter. The world in Oblivion looks as “huge” and opened-ended as the previous chapter.
The main improvements in the richness of the world, aside from graphics and such, come from improvements in NPC AI. The old NPCs in Morrowind were a bit static, but in Oblivion they all have drives/goals/interests that direct their lives independently from interaction with the player. So much so that sometimes the NPCs even surprise the developers. Sneak around and steal from some NPCs and, if they don’t see you, they might start blaming each other. One might run home and grab a sword and start poking around in corners. I look forward to seeing this in action.
The graphics and such are also very impressive. You can download and view a few in-game movies to see what its like. Or watch the trailer, which is all rendered in game. Note that you’ll need the Divx codec installed in Windows Media (available for free download) or some other Divx player to watch that trailer.
And yes, that’s Patrick Stewart’s voice as the Emperor. These games are becoming big production deals now. Also note that Oblivion will be available for both Windows PCs and XBox 360 consoles. I’ll be buying Oblivion when it comes out, theoretically sometime later this quarter (rumours say the end of February).