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Encumbrance is always annoying in games. Nothing like the stupid reality of gravity to make a game unfun. We understand that it adds an element of strategy as the player must carefully consider what to carry on adventures, and that it feels a bit silly if you can carry twenty full suits of armor, a feast fit for a banquet hall, and more herbs than a medicinal marijuana facility, but at the same time, if you really want to use an encumbrance system, at least make it reasonable. We couldn’t count how many times we were deep in a dungeon, discovered some amazing piece of armor, picked it up, and suddenly couldn’t move. Then we had to shower pots, pans, and cheese wheels like a shoplifter at Costco.
Above: He may look all fancy-pants in that armor, until he realizes he can’t move
At the other end of the scale, Oblivion also lets you craft spells that make encumbrance meaningless. So what’s the point of even having it? Either don’t put it in there at all, or make the standard encumbrance more reasonable, and don’t let the player circumvent it. Hell, even Demon’s Souls, one of the hardest damn games ever made, had a more forgiving encumbrance system than Oblivion.
This is a simple one. Mass Effect lets you customize the color of your armor. In Oblivion, if you wanted the Glass armor, it had to be green. What if you don’t like green? It can’t be that hard to add a menu with a simple palette to choose from (or even sliders to customize the hue). Let the players have a unique-looking hero instead of the same, green fighter everyone else has, which sort of defeats the purpose of the deep customization allowed at the game’s beginning, since you can’t see your face or hair so well under all the armor.
Above: Maybe we don’t want that foppish gold finish?
An annoying thing about Oblivion’s map is how vague it is. It’s easy to forget where important landmarks are (like your wizard’s tower), so we’d like to see a way we can make notations on the map, or barring that, just more information. More detailed descriptions of locations would help us go, “Oh yeah, that’s the town with the houses built into the side of a mountain,” or “Ah, that’s the tower where I snuck in, stole and smashed everything I could, and then murdered all the residents one by one.” Also, make it big and obvious which house in a town is the one we own, so we don’t go walking to someone else’s house by mistake and end up getting arrested. And if we discover a particular guild, put it on our map so we don’t have to run back and forth across town trying to find it again.
Above: A big map full of icons. Icons are not necessarily useful
Whoa, whoa, feel free to keep that tomato-slinging arm cocked, but hear us out. Here’s the typical exploratory experience in Oblivion: after emerging from the opening prison-escape dungeon, the massive world stretches out before you. The options for exploration are staggering, even terrifying. You traipse through wildflower-speckled hills and shadow-dappled forests. Then you discover a small hatch in a hillside. What’s this? A huge dungeon, full of creatures and treasure, and it’s not tied to any quest? It’s just there for you to find and delve through? Amazing!
And what’s this? Another dungeon hidden in the snowy wastes? How did they ever create such a massive, dense game world? And look here – yet another dungeo – wait a minute. This hallway looks familiar. This room has the same exact ramps as the last dungeon. Oh, we see. All the dungeons are just swappable, randomly snapped together cloned pieces.
Above: Something about this cavern reminds us of something else…
Like the limited NPCs, Oblivion’s rinse-repeat dungeons took away from the hugeness of the world. Who cares if the world is big if it’s just more of the same, but rearranged? So, if you can’t hire a ton of more level designers to give us actual, unique dungeons in the same size world, just shrink the world so the level designers you do have can concentrate on making more details and varied areas to discover. Okay, commence tomato slinging.
This one may be a shot in the dark, but holy moly did Oblivion crash on us. If we played for more than an hour, it was going to crash. It crashed so much we got in the habit of saving so damn often we almost spent more time saving than playing. Often it seemed as if Oblivion was too much for the 360/PS3 (or not monster-muscled PC) to handle. We’d be tromping along a wooden bridge, and then suddenly the framerate would start chugging, and oh, god, here it comes again… FREEZE.
Above: Uh, oh. Draw distance limit achieved. Hard lockup in three… two… one…
Yeah, we know the game will be huge and complicated, and so bugs will be inevitable, but please try to make it run for two hours without a hard lockup. If they can do that, along with the other improvements above, we’ll be happy to spend another 150 hours practicing genocide on the hapless creatures of The Elder Scrolls V.
Jul 27, 2010