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Kate! When she's not busy blowing the heads off of enemies to get to the next level, she's usually playing video games.

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Review: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion


If you had told me a month ago that something would replace my obsession with MySpace, I would’ve called you a damned liar. Never in a million blogs would I have believed that something could interfere with my daily (okay, make that 20 times daily) bulletin readings.

So when did the latest batch of porn star names and strange but true technology stories get moved to my back burner? It all started on an afternoon in late March during what I thought would be an average visit to GameStop. Little did I know that trip would change my life forever.

It was the week after my birthday and I had two things going for me: GameStop had Xbox 360s in stock and my boyfriend was in a gift-giving mood. I was one lucky girl. But looking at the massive selection of games for the 360 (all seven of them), it was hard to pick the right one. We stood there sorting through titles for about 10 minutes until one employee slowly came towards us, put a copy of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in our line of vision, smiled, and silently walked away.

At the time, that seemed a little weird. Looking back, though, that was the perfect way to introduce me to such an awe-inspiring game.

Oblivion takes place in Tamriel’s capital province, Cyrodiil. You are in charge of finding the hidden heir to an empty throne and it ain’t gonna be easy. The gates of Oblivion are open and spewing demons into the paths you must travel for success. (Click here to see the video promo.)

What would Chuck Norris do?
In the very beginning, you build your custom character. Depending on how you want to experience gameplay, you pick everything from your race to your skill set. You can put an amazing amount of detail into your character’s look. With that said, it was only a matter of time before someone created a celebrity look-alike. That someone is user Kaiem and that celebrity is Chuck Norris. See how he did it and watch his freaking hilarious video of Chuck in action here. However you choose to customize your character’s look, once you’ve finished, you can start your quest.

We are living in a non-linear world and I am a non-linear girl.
You unlock missions through exploring and by asking the folks around town about rumors. Occassionally, conversations lead to missions and those missions are added to your Current Quests menu. How or if you complete them is up to you. Stay on track with the main mission or seek out new ones. Like to fight? Join the fighters guild or test your strength in the Arena. Do you believe in magic? Hook up with the Mages guild for training or gather enough gold to buy spells and potions. Of course, how you get that gold is up to you, too. Want something less demanding? Search the vast countryside for unique ingredients, get your alchemy on and start selling potions. There are so many activities to choose from, it’s crazy.

Sweet skills
As you develop your skills in combat and magic, so will your enemies. This way, battles are always set at your level. I HIGHLY recommend purchasing the official game guide to help you make educated decisions on how you go about improving your rank and skills. Without it, figuring out the path you should take for the most enjoyable game experience can feel overwhelming.

Okay smarty, go to a party
The game features a new Artificial Intelligence system called Radiant AI which gives characters the ability to react to the world surrounding them. They’ll decide where to eat and when to sleep. Some will go to church. Others will go to the pub. With full facial animations and lip-synching, these characters are brought to life.

98% of the time, the AI is amazing. However, in any game this complex, there will be moments when it’s less than stellar. Check out the “Oblivious in Oblivion” video for an example.

“Just let me finish this level real quick.”
Because you have so much freedom with gameplay, it’s really hard to decide on a good stopping point. This can be a bad thing if you would also like to engage in other activities such as… well, anything other than playing Oblivion really.

Becoming obsessed with Oblivion is not hard to do. When my obsession began, I didn’t really notice it. I suppose you don’t start noticing obsessions until they begin interfering with your other activities. I’m not a super active person, so by “activities” I mean things like eating and leaving the house.

Luckily, I have a strong relationship with another gamer. I knew I had a good boyfriend when he bought me an Xbox 360 for my birthday. I knew I had a great boyfriend when he congratulated me for getting into the Arcane University and genuinely seemed to care when I found that 20th Nirnroot plant.

After about three weeks of refusing to do anything social in lieu of getting my skills up to speed, I finally forced myself to go out. It was a gorgeous night and The Mumbles were playing at Lee Harvey’s, so it seemed like a good time to pry the controller out of my cramping hands and get out into the real world.

I don’t drink, so blocking the map of Cyrodiil from my thoughts was not going to be easy. With a virgin rum and coke in one hand and a cigarette in the other, I tried desperately to think about something other than the game. Unfortunately, I’d arrived at drunk-thirty. Chatter was slurred and even though the band rocked, all I could think about was getting back home to close the gates of Oblivion.

Shortly after a drunken idiot squashed my toe with her stiletto heel, I ran into my friend Eli who works for Gearbox Software. He introduced me to some of the team and I asked what they were playing. Geometry Wars was causing some intense in-office competitions and, much to my relief, it turned out that I wasn’t the only one obsessed with Bethesda’s latest Elder Scrolls edition. At least one of the Gearbox girls had Oblivion fever just as badly as I did.

Suddenly, a flood of words I never thought I’d understand began to spew from my mouth… levels, blade skills, rankings. For a moment, I felt torn. Was I really so immersed in a video game that that was all I could enjoy talking about? Yes. Did that make me a dork? I’m afraid this moment lead to a resounding YES. But at the same time, it was very comforting to know I wasn’t alone.

I’ve stayed away from the RPG world afraid of the obsession I knew it was bound to cause. Now, I embrace it. I may be a Ren-Faire nerd at heart who enjoys gaming more than bar-hopping, but that’s okay with me. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I need to work on my Conjuration skills.

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  • April 2006
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In the Media

Game Heroes
Video podcast appearance
—June 2008

Sweet Flag
—May 2008

Attack of the Show
“The Loop” panelist
—November 2007
—June 2007
—April 2007