You wouldn’t call it an age old battle, unless you loved the Elder Scrolls as much as I do. So an age old battle is what we’ll call it.
Oblivion. Skyrim. And one ring to rule… Wait, that’s not right. Truthfully, the storyline of both these – say it with me – awesome games is hardcore smack-you-in-the-face fantasy. Ain’t nothing better than that. Or is there? Perhaps the sandbox style gameplay. Or the amazing graphics. Or the cheeky NPCs.
Yes, the Elder Scrolls series is great. In fact, it’s so great it’s almost diabolical. There’s just one problem: which of these two recent games is better?
For a lot of people this might be a no-brainer. Skyrim is newer, sexier and has dragons. But don’t judge a book by its cover – or a tavern wench by her skirt stains – because there’s a lot more to a great game than just its graphics.
I remember the day I picked up Oblivion for the first time. I remember the name of the character I made, her race and her class. I can’t say the same for Skyrim. And that says a lot. Perhaps, Oblivion evokes a sense of nostalgia in my inherently girly goblin-slaying heart, but I can’t shake that feeling of excitement. It’s the reason I ordered the 5th Anniversary edition of the game.
So let’s break it down. Let’s compare Skyrim and Oblivion. Mano a mano. Alduin vs. Mehrunes Dagon.
What better way to compare these two games than by their quests? Which got the juices flowing and the anticipation brewing in your belly? Grab a cup o’ ale and settle down for the show, kiddies. Let’s have some fun.
What’s better than saving the heir to the throne and defeating a towering demonic giant? Being the heir to the throne and killing a towering demonic giant then living to tell the tale. The main was fraught with the perils of the planes of Oblivion, but there are only so many times you can hit a Sigil Keep without yearning for a challenge. Or yawning.
Don’t get me wrong, kicking daedra butt is too fun, but after the twenty millionth ‘YARRRRG!’ the whole effort kind of lost its appeal. I started wondering when it would end. Then it did end with the true hero of the damn day – curse you Martin! – stealing the show by sacrificing himself to kill the Prince of the hour – Mr. Dagon himself. It was a spectacle and, though I worked hard to get there, I wasn’t exactly tickled pink when it was done. Martin was dead. The temple had a massive hole in its head, and I was the chick who’d helped lead the would-be emperor to his death. Sure, I was a hero. But at what cost? At what cost!?
Oblivion’s main quest had me guessing at first, but lulled me into a near catatonic state of daedra-slaying boredom after the twentieth portal to Oblivion.
Let’s face it, dragons are kickass. The main quest was colorful; alive with ancient heros, talking dragons and a mystery lost in the folds of history. Playing it had me longing for the ‘good old days’ in Cyrodil, where Cloud Ruler Temple and the Blades ruled supreme, and life had more order. In Skyrim’s main, everything seemed that much more modern. Which is exactly what the producers were aiming for – so good on them. The main quest itself was fun, but perhaps a wee bit predictable. The final battle with Alduin was too easy, but the comradeship I found in Sovn Garde was irreplaceable. In a way, I found myself longing to go back again and again. Only, I couldn’t.
The only irritation the main quest in Skyrim provided was its incessant need to throw dragons at me while I was strolling through town. Being roasted from behind while you’re picking pockets tends to put a damper on the whole experience. But hey, I signed up for dragons when I bought the game, and I’m damn happy it delivered on them.
Skyrim’s main quest didn’t disappoint. It had highs, lows and in-the-middles. Not to mention dragons and draugr layered in between.
Shock, horror! I have to go with Skyrim on this one. While Oblivion delivered on hours –and hours – of gameplay, I got a lot more excited about defeating Alduin with the help of my hero buddies.
What’s a main course without it’s sides? Can’t eat a burger without fries. But which game’s barkeeps held empty flagons?
This was the saving grace of the game. The side quests were fantastic. I got lost in them. Hell, I completed hosts of them before I even touched the main quest, and when I went back to them, I realized I’d only skimmed the surface. There were vampires to slay, pockets to be picked, houses to be cased, ayleid artifacts to be sold, and necromancers to behold.
My favorite quests were those in the Dark Brotherhood. After killing old Rufio, I felt as if I’d settled into a new skin. The best quest of all was ‘Whodunit?’ where my character had to kill off unsuspecting party guests when they weren’t looking.
Skyrim’s side quests disappointed me a little. Sure, the Companions were fun – it aint easy being a hairy, grey werewolf – and the Dark Brotherhood was okay, but I was disappointed by the College of Winterhold. Once I’d completed the Imperials vs Stormcloaks dilemma (I played the game twice to finish both ways) I felt empty. There just wasn’t more to it. Apart from the daedric quests and a few others, I found myself wandering the countryside – constantly besieged by Ancient Dragons – and asking ‘where had all the good quests gone’?
My favorite side in Skyrim was ‘A Night To Remember’. It was naughty and fun. After all, you know you’re in for a good time after blacking out during a drinking contest.
Oblivion takes it on the side quests. There was more variety and a lot more to achieve and discover.
By map I mean the actual landscape of each game. Was it drab or fab? Well, as fab as a goblin infested forest can be.
When I played Oblivion for the first time the graphics blew me away. The map was filled with towns and vast expanses of forests and quests in between. There was more to discover than I possibly imagined. I loved the changing landscape, from the freezing heights at the Temple of the Ancestor Moths, to the pirate-peppered salty docks of Anvil.
Skyrim’s map was amazing, yes, but it fell down in one area. Too many mountains, too little space to roam. Though, the changing scenery was spectacular. I spent more time on my horse in Skyrim, because I wanted to appreciate the beauty of the landscape. The area around Markarth appealed to me. It felt dangerous. In fact, the whole of Skyrim felt a lot more dangerous than Oblivion. And danger equals excitement.
My favorite town: Whiterun
Yes, the mountains detracted from the amount of roaming I could do, but the graphics were insane. Breathtaking. Thanks to that, I actually took a minute to sit in inns and look at the damn architecture. That’s not something I did in Oblivion. Thus, Skyrim wins the battle of the map.
Levels + Skills
Was it too easy or too hard? And was it complicated to do the leveling up once you got down to it.
Pain. In. The. Butt. How long did it take to level up here? And how irritating was it to have to sleep every time you needed to advance? Picking locks was great fun in Oblivion, but everything else seemed to take forever or wasn’t as quirky as I wanted it to be.
How much did you love the new skill system? All up in the stars and stuff. It was great choosing what skills you wanted from the constellations that ruled those talents. What was better, was that advancing your skills was pretty hands-on. Blacksmithing was actually fun in Skyrim. I went out and bought ingots upon ingots of every type of metal I could get my grubby little dark-elf hands on just to carry on smithing.
Skyrim kills it on the skills. Oblivion took too damn long and didn’t entertain in the leveling up department.
The Final Huzzah!
This is it. The final decision. Time to weigh it up. Skyrim obviously trounces Oblivion on almost every account, but I can’t deny the nostalgic kick that comes with booting daedra in the pants.
I choose Oblivion.
Shocked? Think I’ve lost my mind? Clearly Skyrim delivers in almost every category. But the one thing it doesn’t have is soul. And Oblivion – bless it’s slow heart – had more soul than a bucket of deep fried chicken. While Skyrim is pretty and fun to play, Oblivion was the game that had me coming back for more. The memories I had playing it stuck with me for years after and egged me into buying it again. That speaks multitudes for its quality.
After all, you can be prom queen on the night, but it won’t matter if nobody remembers you years afterwards. What matters isn’t the instant gratification of the game, but the years of memories of that gratification after.
The truth is, I played Skyrim. But I lived Oblivion.
Like Skyrim or Oblivion better? What say ye, gentle folk? Drop a comment below. Or check out some other awesome RPGs below.