Not since playing the original Wizardry, the seminal adventure game for the Apple II back in the early 80s have I found an adventure-type game to be so engrossing – The Elder Scrolls Oblivion on the Xbox 360. Seriously, this game has everything – amazing graphics, an intriguing script, and superb gameplay. It’s so open-ended, I’ve been playing for a total of some 60+ hours and haven’t gone beyond 20% game completion. Oh – and Sam loves to watch me riding the horse through the forests! I keep trying to convince Amy that watching the gameplay is at least as good as most of what’s on tv these days, but she’s not buying it, sadly.
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I’m playing a sneaky-magic-thieving character, and it’s tons of fun to lurk about, trying to save the land – while making a nice income as well. Also fascinating about this game is the approach of offering downloadable ‘extras’ for the game. After a mistart with a lame piece of horse armor (yawn), I’ve been jazzed about their add-ons for mages (the Wizard’s Tower) and now, just released, the Thieves Den. Obviously for your sneaky types, this add-on offers a Captain Jack-style cave/ghost pirate ship hideaway, and allows you to hire a band of thieves, fences and other experts to support your Dark Brotherhood/Thieves Guild lifestyle.

It’s an interesting model where an already massive game with hundreds of individual missions can sell small add-ons like this for $2 a pop to extend the life and playability of a game just a few weeks after release. It’s likely the shape of things to come where big ‘point’ releases may come around, but the games themselves become more of a structure for future add-ons. It’s certainly all the rage in Korea where some cartoon-esque racing games have huge sales around car customizations, as well as for the burgeoning e-economy of Second Life. Micro-payments are in some areas already changing the nature of gaming. Let’s just hope companies don’t publish cripple-ware, hoping that users will be suckered into buying content that should have shipped with the title in the first place.

The game has gone so far as to spawn a fascinating podcast about the game, the Rough Guide to Cyrodill. Recorded by two amusing Brits, the ‘cast takes users through the nooks and crannies of the game. It was a helpful ‘fix’ last week when I was on a road trip and couldn’t get my daily dose. Sigh. The intervention for myself and poolagah can’t be far off….

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