Lost In Oblivion

The crowd roars, but the only thing I can hear is my pulse pounding. A minotaur twice my size swings his weapon directly for my head. My shield barely halts the blow, I feel my gauntlet crack from the pressure. Fix it later. The minotaur doesn’t let up. The hammer he’s holding is roughly the size of a child, and his one desire is to see it smash my body into a bloody, unrecognizable mess. He tries an overhead strike this time. I roll out of the way toward his unarmed side and the hammer digs into the Arena sand. With a leaping slash I cut out the beast’s throat and his body falls to the floor alongside his two brethren. I hear chanting. Dragonheart. My name.  The people cheer their champion. I hold my sword up and let out  a victorious roar. The Arena spectators roar with me.

Whoa, lost myself for a second there. What were we talking about? Right, YOU. You, Oblivion. You never-ending game, you. You realize it’s been almost three years since I first bought you? Yep, I remember the day. You were sitting there in Best Buy all wrapped up in your finest cellophane. Me, I was there with my Dad, he needed some wires or whatever and I decided to go along because I had some extra scratch and felt the new game itch. I remembered people talking about you when the 360 was released. Didn’t really pay much attention since I was one of the late comers to the 360 scene. What I do remember though, is that a lot of praise was thrown your way. The words “incredible” and “revolutionary” were tossed around rather liberally. I figured you and me, we could have a good time together. You brought along all your DLC already since you were a Game of the Year edition, so how did you expect me to say no? I honestly had no idea what to expect. Nor did I know at all what I was in for. I remember this one time…

I slip around the corner making sure I am out of sight. This tunnel is next to abandoned, but being a secret passage for the Emperor it is naturally guarded. The Emperor is not my target though. I just need to make it through here, and my prize awaits at the end. I cast my spell. This is the reason I stooped behind this corner. Through magic you can do amazing things: become invisible, shoot lightning, even summon up personal slaves from the depths of Oblivion itself. But there is no stopping the light generated by using magic and right now, as I said, stealth is my greatest ally. At my will my body fades from the visual spectrum. Not perfect invisibility, but that kind of magic is too unstable for my work. Should I make contact with anything outside of walking that shroud would fail, and right now stealth is my greatest ally. This spell simply fades my appearance. A shadow against shadows. In this near pitch black tunnel it will be more than enough. I cast my second spell and feel my eyes morph. My vision loses all distinction of colors, the trade off being that now no shadow can block my vision. In any pitch tunnel I would be able to see clear as the brightest spring day; in this tunnel with its sporadic torches, it will serve me well.

I make my way through the seemingly disused structure. I encounter guards on patrol at regular intervals but avoid any confrontation. Sithis only demands one victim tonight. I plan to please him to the utmost. How much easier this would have been if I could simply end them all.  Instead I cling to shadows and move around their patrols as best I can. I even press myself next to a pillar while a guard passes so close I can feel the heat from his torch blister my skin. The pain is strong, but for Sithis I remain silent. My body is obscured from his vision by the shadow of the pillar, my own partial invisibility and the fact he never looked toward his torch side. Fool. Once past him only a door stands between me and my prey.

I push the pressure block and the entire wall slides open. The guards are making their rounds far enough away that they have no hope of hearing it. Arrogant swine never believed someone could make it past the vaunted Imperial Legion. They never had a chance against a true child of the dark, and they should feel grateful my Lord did not demand their blood as well. I step through the open passage into my old jail cell where this all started. My target is across the hall. I open cell door with the key provided by my benefactor and step across to the cell of a living dead man. He is asleep. I silently open his cell with my key and enter before locking it shut behind me. I do not intend to let him die in his sleep, I will not deny Sithis of the dying pain in his eyes, or shall I be denied the pleasure of vengeance. I drop my invisibility before kicking him awake. He raises with a start, never expecting to find a hooded figure standing within his cell. He cowers against the back wall. Lovely.

“Wh… who ar- who are you?!” He stammers looking around for anyway to hide or defend himself.

Tenderise the worm a bit first...

I let out a low chuckle in response and lift my hood. “You mean you don’t remember me? How hurtful. After all the wonderful time we spent together.”

“Yes,” I growl “You remember, good. I was tossed in here for a crime I didn’t commit. And you preyed on the fear I felt, informing me that I would die in this pit. And you with your black skin and red eyes that all Dark Elves have, looked like the true embodiment of my fate. I was young then, inexperienced. Since then I have basked in true darkness, and revel in all its beauty. Now I’m back, to inform you of the truth.”

“The truth?” He tries to shrink even further into the wall, fear beginning to take root in him. Wonderfully glorious fear.

“The truth is, I am not the one who is going to die in this place.” He notices the unsheathed sword in my hand far too late. “You are.”  With one quick motion I stab through his heart. He falls to the floor convulsing in pain. The poisons I coated my blade with would make sure he lives for the longest time possible while causing him unbearable pain. The paralyzing agents will also make sure he suffers silently. I bend down and wipe his blood from my sword with his tunic. It was a gift from the Daedric Prince of Darkness himself and does not deserve to be stained with the blood of this wretch.

I exit his cell, and make my exit from the Imperial prison. I cloak myself again; true invisibility this time. Instead of traversing the hidden tunnel once more I make my way up the stairs out of the dungeon and head for the front door. I pass a very bored looking young guard, obviously unhappy with this assignment. True to the spell’s nature the cloaking fails as soon as I grasp the door handle and he jerks in his seat, shocked to see someone simply appear. I open the door casually, turn to the guard, wink, and leave.

I mean honestly, these two very diverse sections not only occur within the same game, but I didn’t even need to make another character to experience it. Most player choice games have you choose one of a select few character classes, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. While a class system exists in your world Oblivion, it’s less rigid than other games. Your classes simply give a bonus toward one stat or another, and specialization in a few of your multitude of skills. So while your classes offer a good head start, they basically are only used for a head start with character development. So even though I started as one class that was almost exclusively focused on the straight combat of a warrior, I made the shift to a stealthy spellcaster about half way through my game with no trouble at all. While I eventually made a new character that focused mainly on these skills (which ended up being way better at them than my first) this kind of freedom was brand new to me.

The skills on their own deserve their own attention. Everything from repairing equipment to spell weaving to fighting with a variety of weapons is represented within a character’s growth. How fast someone moves, how long they can fight without getting fatigued, how big of a fireball they can create… these things and more are all upgradable through your natural progression system. Want to cast better magic? Use more magic. Want to fight better with a sword? Make it your primary weapon and watch as you steadily gain access to new moves.

Honestly Oblivion, I could go on and on and on about how you exceeded every possible expectation I had ever held, and how you set brand new ones for every game I would play since. You don’t even understand how, more then three years later, I still don’t truly feel I’ve finished with you. I’ve now made over six different characters with their own specializations and ability focuses. Between them all I’ve poured over five hundred hours of my life into your disc. The best and also craziest thing about that is that each and every play through I never fail to find something brand new in your world. I honestly want to pour love for you all day but I know you brought me here for a reason. You had something to say. What was it? What’s that? You have a sequel coming out?!

Oh fuck you!

Last five articles by Adam R



  1. Chris Toffer says:

    Great piece Adam. I’m actually still playing Oblivion. (Lost my original saved game on release which was over 100 hours long)

    I never got back into it, but after playing Skyrim at Eurogamer and knowing that I won’t be able to pick that up on release I owed it to myself to go back. I’ve not regretted that choice at all. It’s still awesome :)

  2. Furie says:

    Little tip for you here. The Game Of The Year edition of Oblivion didn’t come with all of the DLC. There are little bits and pieces that change the experience, from bases for your characters to new additions to the treasure tables (something I feel they should have done more with) and the legendary horse armour (currently on sale). These might add even more enjoyment to the game for you.

    Personally I didn’t enjoy the game. As an offline player who got the game at launch I was confronted with a buggy mess that kept corrupting saves if I completed certain objectives or quests. When I finally got a character through as much of the game as I had learned was safe to do without fear of crashes, I found I’d spent only 86 hours on that save – a far cry from the over 440 hours that I gave to Morrowind before the expansions. As so much was samey, so much was broken and some core concepts were flawed (in this case the scaled levelling) I felt the game was a shadow of the potential it had and that the bad parts far overwhelmed the good.

    Now comes Skyrim with the same promise that Oblivion once held, but a wealth of experience with the current generation technology to back it up. The interviews I’ve seen there seem to back up the promise of the game, saying they’ve learned from what they did wrong with more hand-crafted areas, more dungeon types that use different tile sets and just generally more to do in the world. This could be the game for me that I’d hoped Oblivion would be and that you found in that one.

  3. Edward Edward says:

    Brilliant article, Adam :)
    The most of any Elder Scrolls game I’ve ever played is about 20 minutes of Skyrim at Eurogamer, but I can certainly see why people would get themselves lost in worlds like that. With so much to do there’s always going to be loads you can never see, and so many different ways to play it. It makes me almost want to give it a go myself, but I don’t have the time anymore! :(

  4. Tania Tania says:

    Good stuff Adam. I got sucked into Morrowind and then Oblivion. I can’t wait for Skyrim! :)

  5. Richie richie says:

    I liked this a lot. Oblivion is a special game. A sandbox game that you actually want to explore. Fuck running around some faceless district of whatever New York rip off, Oblivion is the place to be.

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