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Ah, sweet Oblivion. You try so hard, so very hard, and yet fall short of your ultimate aim. That's not to say you aren't gloriously triumphant in many other ways though. Let's have a look see, shall we?

You see, Oblivion tries too hard. It sets out to be an all-encompassing RPG, set in a living, breathing world; with plot strands you can visit at will, and characters that go about their ordinary business and interact with each other, regardless of what you're doing. The game is full of side quests, riddled with dungeons and places to explore and crammed with things to attack and loot, and you can do this at your complete leisure. Linear isn't a word in Oblivion.

Plot: the Emperor of Cyridiil has been slain by a bunch of cultists who are hell-bent on opening gates to Oblivion, and unleashing the fearsome Mehrunes Dagon on the unsuspecting realm. This would be bad. Fortunately, as if by magic, you turn up. You start as a prisoner who is locked up in the cell that the Emperor is using to make good his escape from the Branch Davidians. One thing leads to another and he ends up dead and you end up free, but tasked with saving the world. Rejoice! So far, so generic, and this is Oblivion's problem. No matter how large a world it provides you with, no matter how many side quests you do, no matter how damned pretty Cyridiil is, it's dragged down by the genre's staple problems: half-dead plot, laughably poor voice acting, by-numbers quests, and repetition.

I should point this out now, and this may come as a surprise considering the above negativity: Oblivion is my bitch, and I adore it with a fanaticism bordering on psychotic obsession. If it left me and had a pet bunny, I would boil, drain, and mash the fucker. See, there's so much more to Oblivion than just completing it, or levelling up in trad RPG-style. This game lets you muck about more than any other, even the GTA games. This is the true sandbox.

So, I suppose I should tick off Oblivion’s bad points. Well, as mentioned above, it's all teeth-clenchingly formulaic, and, because it's such a large game and stretches itself so thin, the standard RPG parts aren't particularly well done. NPC interaction is ruined; the conversations the NPCs strike up are thunderously moronic - utterly immersion-destroying loops of nonsensical burbling. The side quests are dull in the extreme - go there and kill him, then come back and get this prize. Yawnz0rzz1 The levelling system isn't very well implemented either, as enemies level up with you thus ensuring you always have pretty tough fights that end with decent loot. This is not only boring, but eventually game-breaking as you soon end up with limitless supplies of cash from looting corpses. There are more cons, but I'm bored of telling you about them already as it's just not doing this game justice.

On to the pros then (as I like to roar after dark). The graphics are superb. There will be times, as you wander through leafy glades on your horse, with the sun rising into the sky and the butterflies flitting around you, that your heart will sing with joy. The whole design of the game creates a great fantasy world. The music is also good and well suited to the atmosphere... Oh look, I could rant on about the pros and cons of the game but it's these two things that really make it: Oblivion is both the world's finest ridiculous simulator, and also the most mod-able game on the planet. No other game lets me put on a suit of 100% chameleon and then run up to a Queen and punch her repeatedly, whilst she goes "Must've been the wind", until she's unconscious. No other game lets me smash all the food off a banquet table, as the royal family sit round eating and complimenting me on how muscled I am.

And the mods. Oh, the mods! You name it, you can do it. With the help of the mods, you can make the game actually work properly (all of the aforementioned flaws can be rectified), look even more gorgeous than it already does, or just fill it with wondrous new content. Seriously, there isn't enough page space in the Commonwealth to detail just what's possible with this game's mods, and searching and installing them can turn into a hugely satisfying, full time job.

Well, I feel like I've rambled here - I could talk to you about Oblivion until you thrashed me, and still not do it, or my love for it, justice. So, instead I'll just try and sum it up the best I can: To play Oblivion as a standard RPG is to miss the point by a distance that will plunge you headlong into the chasm of misjudgement. Give it time, tinker with it and mess around in-game and it will reward you richly. This game could last you a lifetime and still be different every time you play it. After over 600 hours of total play time, I still love Oblivion more than my family.