So, you’ve seen that Oblivion is now available to download on Game Pass and you’re curious about what Bethesda was up to before Skyrim. That’s great! Oblivion is an excellent game (I reckon it’s better than Skyrim) and you’ll probably have a blast with it.
That being said, Oblivion is also pretty different to the kind of Elder Scrolls game you might be familiar with, so it’s worth reading up on a few quickfire tips before going in with no idea about what’s happening. Skyrim streamlined quite a lot of Oblivion’s systems for a more mainstream audience, meaning that there’s loads of stuff you’ll need to do here that might not seem immediately obvious. Don’t worry, though – us old school Elder Scrolls heads have you covered.
Learn On Easy
The first thing you’ll want to do is pull the difficulty right down. Oblivion works differently to Skyrim in that the leveling system isn’t quite as intuitive. The best way to learn how it works is to ensure you’re actually gaining levels instead of dying all the time. This is a game in which builds matter way more than they do in Skyrim, and even if you made a mockery of Dragon Priests in the Land of the Nords, you could find yourself getting smacked around by an ordinary citizen in Oblivion – which happens far more often than you might think. It’s not easy to just pump points into One-Handed and Destruction and leg it around as a battlemage – if you invest points in skills that are incompatible with one another, you’re going to make life incredibly difficult for yourself.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Preset Classes
I personally think Acrobatics is the best skill to level up, especially in the early game, but it really depends on what kind of playstyle you’re after. Just remember to lean into magic, melee, or ranged weapons, and to ignore skills that have nothing to do with your chosen vocation. I’d probably recommend just using the preset classes that’s closest to what you want until you get to see how skills, attributes, and perks all fold into one another and have relatively less ostensible progression than in Skyrim.
Magic Is Broken
Once you’ve got the hang of things and feel comfortable enough to ramp the difficulty up again – or not, it really depends on your own personal preference – it’s worth looking at how magic works in the game. The major difference between Oblivion and Skyrim in this guard is that you can create your own spells in Oblivion, some of which are frankly absurd. While you might think this means raining down fireballs that deal a million damage, it’s usually more effective to lean into Restoration or Alteration, which allow you to design wildly powerful support spells that can aid any class.
Remember, You Need To Sleep To Level Up
There’s also the actual process of leveling, which isn’t automatic. Essentially, you need to upgrade your skills by at least ten points in order to be eligible for gaining a level. However, this level isn’t added on acquisition of the tenth point – instead, you need to go and have a little nap. When you wake up, all nice and rested, your overall character level will have increased by one.
Levelling has pros and cons in Oblivion. On one hand, most of the gear you get in the game scales with your level, not just in terms of using it, but in that acquiring the same quest item at levels 10 and 15 will impose a noticeable difference on its quality. Most faction items like the Shrouded Armor should be left until later in the game, otherwise they’ll be near useless by the time you reach the end of the story. Enemies also scale with your level, meaning that every time you level up, the fights you engage in will become markedly tougher. The most important aspect of leveling, though, which outweighs everything else in this paragraph, is that gaining a level allows you to increase your attributes, which are sort of like skills within your main skills. If you don’t do this, your health won’t increase, nor will your damage output or Magicka and stamina.
All of this feeds into why it’s so important for you to practice on a preset build before trying your hand at your own unique buildcrafting. Between scaling gear, scaling enemies, and the major/minor skill/attribute split, you’ve got a lot going on and an unfortunately high chance to soft-lock yourself into being too weak in the late game, meaning you’ll need to farm side quests just to bring yourself back up to speed. You can also farm levels by repeatedly jumping your way up hills and gradients, which will ramp your Acrobatics skill right up, or by farming Sneak experience like how you would in Skyrim. Just remember that once you’re detected in Oblivion, you’re detected – you can’t just move an inch to the left and the guard won’t see you anymore.
Talk To Everyone You See
Speaking of which, trying to stay hidden all of the time in Oblivion is a bit pointless, because you’ve got to actively speak to NPCs to unlock major quests. It’s worth starting faction lines like The Fighters’ Guild, The Mages’ Guild, and The Dark Brotherhood early, but don’t do the later missions until you’re a decent level. Remember, you can get pretty great gear from these quests, so choosing to earn it early on just locks you out of obtaining more powerful variants of it later in the game.
Don’t Bother Exploring Oblivion Gates Too Much
In terms of the main quest, it’s worth knowing that you can just speedrun the Oblivion Gates. As in, there is rarely a case in which you need to explore the whole plane or kill every single enemy you see. Just get to the top of the relevant tower and obtain the necessary item, at which point you can head back to Cyrodiil without spending hours wandering around for no reason. It saves a lot of time and although the lava is cool to look at, there’s really no need to spend ages there when you could be doing far more intriguing side quests back in Bruma, or Skingrad, or the Imperial City.
If I could offer specific advice, I’d say to pick a Dark Elf and focus on a mixture of magic and melee. I’d do loads of dungeons right from the start to farm experience and items to sell for cash, then make a start on the main story and faction quests after getting a decent grip of how leveling, combat, and mission progression works. Once you’ve got a handle on that, Oblivion isn’t half as intimidating as it might initially seem, and the main story is loads better than the one in Skyrim. With that said, all that’s left is to have a good time – enjoy yourself in Cyrodiil.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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