One piece of advice for anyone buying Oblivion:- Get ready to do a lot, and I mean a lot
of walking around. Oh sure, you can fast travel, but the only way to increase your levels is to repeat actions, such as running, jumping, sneaking, hitting things with your sword, casting spells etc... This is fine at the very early levels, you're always getting little notifications, cheerily telling you "Your Athletics skill has increased", but by the time your level gets into double figures, those messages are fewer and farther between.
Athletics is a vital stat, it determines fatigue, which determines how much damage you do in combat. Naturally enough, you'll want to max this out as soon as possible. However, doing so isn't as easy as you might hope. To begin with, you'll simply run between towns, admiring the scenery and wishing you could step into such a lush and vivid landscape. Soon however, the novelty wears off and you begin to find yourself thinking things like "Oh look, another bloody tree. Just like the other three million I ran past on my way to this point, which is only one third through my actual journey from Leyawin to Bravil." Then, you begin to find your own head bobbing up and down in the rhythm of the screen movement. Then you find yourself composing US military style marching cadence in time to the forlorn and lonely slapping of your characters feet as you trudge from one town to the next, starved of all human contact...
"I don't know but I've been told,
(I don't know but I've been told)
This running's getting mighty old!
(This running's getting mighty old!)
I don't know but it's been said,
(I don't know but it's been said)
I want the lead programmer dead!
(I want the lead programmer dead!)
When you realise you're doing this out loud and your spouse is staring at you with fear in her eyes, you'll figure out a new tactic for the athletics boost. "Eureka!" you'll exclaim, startling your already nervous spouse into spilling tea on her favourite Triple H t-shirt, "I'll just fast travel between towns, but when I'm in town, I'll progress everywhere in sort of moon-man-bunny-hop, just like Buzz Aldrin. Buzz Aldrin's cool, he punches morons in the face!
If we ever have a son I'm calling him Buzz." Your spouse may or may not develop a habit of sitting with a heavy object always within arm's reach at this point. Anway, back to the moon-man-bunny-hopping idea. You'll enter town, you'll travel everywhere in a sort of frenetic, Tiggerish bounce. You'll probably even sing the Tigger song at first, it is awfully jaunty
Soon though, the doubts will begin to creep in. "Will all of this pressing of the jump button ruin my joypad/keyboard?", "Am I actually moving slower, now that I'm jumping everywhere?", "What must these poor people I'm talking to think? They're placing the future of the entire world into the hands of a person who jumps up and down on the spot while they talk to him", I mean imagine how you
would react, if you were talking to someone who jumped and down while you were talking to them. They're nodding gravely and taking in everything you say, but bouncing up and down like the front row at a Green Day concert while they do it... After that, you'll see doubt and suspicion in the eyes of everyone who looks at your character. NPC dialogues will take on a horrible subtext for you. When they speak to each other, saying things like "Did you hear about the hero of Kvatch?" you'll suspect that whenever you're out of earshot, they add "You know who I mean, that moron who's always jumping up and down". You already know everyone hates you, because no matter how many good deeds you perform, no matter how many lives you transform for the better, if your gaze lingers on something for even a microsecond, someone will snarl "Don't even think
about stealing that!", or even worse, you knock something off a shelf in a shop, you conscientiously try to pick it up and put it back and they attack you as a thief. You'll run away from them to avoid getting into a killing argument only to hear "STOP RIGHT THERE CRIMINAL SCUM!"
and a guard arrests you for the heinous crime of being a jumping loon who knocked a vase over. Trust me, you'll learn to hate that sound almost as much as the random battle sound on Final Fantasy VII.
As the above may tell you, I've spent rather a lot of time playing Oblivion. I'm getting Dragon Age: Origins in a couple of weeks, so I'll soon be able to add romantic angst to my gaming neuroses.
I'm kind of worried about that, since I've only recently stopped grieving for Aeris, who died in 1998. I went with her
on the roller-coaster in the Golden Saucer! If only I'd gone with Tifa, I might not have hurt so much.