The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion VS Skyrim

-by Dylan DiBona

Welcome back everybody to Versus. In case the premise isn’t obvious from the start: in Versus, I will pit two video games against each other and try to determine which is better. I’m going to try and avoid things like which game I personally enjoyed more during my analysis. One duo of games I’m always comparing are the fourth and fifth entries in the popular open world fantasy series, The Elder Scrolls. The fourth entry, Oblivion, was praised for (at the time) great graphics, seemingly endless world and its blend of RPG and Action-Adventure. The fifth entry, Skyrim, was loved for all the same reasons but also for its new character classes, combat mechanics and setting. Now, before I start comparing, I’d like to tell you the five categories I’ll be grading on (which are up for change depending on genre or series):

Gameplay|World|Side-Quests|Aesthetic|Lasting Appeal

These five aspects are the DNA of The Elder Scrolls; if any single of these listed items was lacking in a new release, you better believe you’d hear about it in all the reviews. Bethesda is trusted by consumers to give them games filled with imagination and dozens of hours of possibilities; but which world hit harder?


|Gameplay|

The Elder Scrolls are a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to gameplay; there are some people (like me), who love the games but realize the shallowness of its mechanics. The reason I have trouble going back to Oblivion is because its antiquated ideas. You can’t run, you can’t level up unless you go to sleep and combat is simply pressing or holding the RT button to swing a weapon. It’s not exciting but it did the job in 2006, and for the more easily pleased people, it does the job now.

Classes are determined by your birth sign in the beginning of the game. Each Class will give you some boosts in certain stats. Depending on the Race you choose you can also get special abilities, the Argonians for example can breath underwater, while the Khajiit are incredibly quiet and sneaky. Again, basic but it does enough. One little tidbit I did enjoy in Oblivion that you cannot do in Skyrim is being able to equip a blade and a weapon in one hand. It’s pretty enjoyable spitting fire out of your right hand and then using it to swing a blade.

Image result for oblivion game steam

Skyrim is one of those childhood games that I was so unbelievably excited for, and when I go back to it today, I say to myself “This is okay”. It’s only when you compare it to its predecessors does Skyrim seem impressive. Unfortunately the spell/weapon combo on one hand is gone, but so are the days of no sprinting and the days of choosing a Class at the beginning of the game.

Skyrim uses a skill-tree, which allows the player to craft their character as their questing goes on. Have you been focusing on quests that primarily require sneaking? Then start putting points into the “Thief” Class. Leveling up luckily happens while you’re out in the world and doesn’t require a silly nights rest in a bed. Combat is still as basic as it gets, but with new spells and weapons, things feel fresher. The new Dragon Shout mechanic allows the player to hold RB as their character screams powerful spell-like abilities The addition of Dragon Shouts is one of the best things about the fifth entry; the only negative being that you have to scope the colossal world for all three words of them, which isn’t very fun.

A lot of Skyrim’s ideas are basic by today’s standards, but luckily they hit consoles at the right time. It didn’t fix everything, but as a sequel it improved lots of fault aspects of its predecessor. Skyrim wins.

Oblivion: 0 | Skyrim: 1


|World|

This is where things get tricky and more in tune with personal preference. Let’s just pretend that both games have the same level of graphical impressiveness. Oblivion features a classic fantasy world with green plains, forests, lakes, torn down fortresses and caves. The world screamed “explore me” because you never knew what this sense of variety could throw at you. Dungeons would be dark and creepy like the picture above, but the outside would toss a bunch of colors at you. Exploring Oblivion is the very best part of the game.

Skyrim on the other hand, is absolutely monotone. Mountains on top of mountains with snow and more snow; dungeons all feature the same look and vibe. It’s not to say that Skyrim doesn’t also have forests, rivers and whatnot, but the gray filter on top of everything took some of the impact away. Villages feel the same, the only variety is in the larger castle towns. It feels like Skyrim stepped it up in every way but the open world itself. If we could’ve had Skyrim mechanics and graphics with Oblivion, the game would’ve been twice as good.

Oblivion: 1 | Skyrim: 1


|Side-Quests|

My friend would come to my house after school and ask me “Hey are you going to play Oblivion?” He wanted to watch; he was fascinated by my virtual travels and the interesting quests I chose to do. In the fourth entry, you can entertain yourself in a million ways; you can rise to the top in the arena, join different schools of magic, and even jump inside a painting to save a lost artist!

Fun Fact: Not only is the painting side-quest my favorite in the game, but the lost artist is named Rythe. I thought Rythe was such a cool name that I always use it when naming my Hero in Dragon Quest games.

The league of assassins known as the Dark Brotherhood will contact you during your sleep if you’ve decided to kill an innocent person. The quests with this guild are some of the most unique in the game, one requires you to sneak around and drop a wall-mounted deer head on somebody, another requires you to be the murderer in a And Then There Were None situation. To jump to the point, Oblivion has some beautifully creative side-quests.

Image result for skyrim dark brotherhood

The Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim disappointed me when compared to Oblivion.

Skyrim is a bit of old and new with its questing. You do get the shallow and boring fetch quests like “Get 10 Mammoth Horns” which plague today’s games, but you do also get the more interesting lore building journeys as well. Becoming a vampire is much more rewarding and fun than in Oblivion, there’s a quest where you have to overthrow a conspiracy in the kingdom, and one where you wake up after a long night drinking and have to trace your steps! My favorite side-quest isn’t even technically listed as a side-quest; if you explore a certain forest you’ll find a nice old lady sitting outside her cabin, go inside the cabin and you’ll find a letter revealing she’s an evil witch and she will then attempt to kill you.

I can’t help but feel like Skyrim’s monotone colors and themes work against it in the side-quest area. Everything feels a bit darker and more gory, there’s nothing that matched jumping into that colorful world of paint in Oblivion. On top of that, the franchise staple of an arena was taken away in this game. Skyrim doesn’t do a bad job at giving the player interesting side-quests, but I feel Oblivion did it better just by a small margin.

Oblivion: 2|Skyrim:1


|Aesthetic|

How do you determine aesthetic in entertainment? Is it how attractive something is to the eye? Or is it how proud a work of art is to present its style?

Oblivion is not a very attractive game by today’s standards; it’s the colors and peaceful music that entices players that go back to it today. As I said before, the world is wonderful and feels perfectly tuned to fantasy. During the gameplay, Oblivion has a strong presentation. The menus are where Oblivion is lacking, they are clunky and there’s almost too many.

Skyrim is guilty of similarly plentiful and annoying menus, but it’s a little bit better here. There’s a very cold and gray theme to the world, which isn’t to my tastes anymore but by no means makes it bad. Dungeons are dark and grimy, mountains are covered with snow and forests are dirty and green.

Both games wear their themes proudly, and while I personally prefer Oblivions world, Skyrim has things like a chorus chanting every time you level up, a skill tree that looks like the cosmos, and really gets to you with all the snow.

Oblivion: 2 | Skyrim: 2


|Lasting Appeal|

It’s fair and simple to say that when it comes to The Elder Scrolls games, lasting appeal is purely dependent on number of quests and size of world available. But not only would that automatically give the fifth entry a win; I think lasting appeal means something a bit more. Think about it, a game can appeal to us before it even comes out and we see it online in articles, it jams itself into our brains. Lasting appeal is the opposite; when a game stays attractive to us during playtime and after. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with both Oblivion and Skyrim, but when I look back, it’s Oblivion I see first.

Not only can Oblivion last you hundreds of hours, it’s filled with little quirks like the funny facial animations, the troll who commits suicide, the aforementioned painting world and an endless array of silliness. Heck, in the main story you basically go to Hell itself, that’s way more memorable than simply fighting dragons. Bethesda may be against giving Morrowind an HD treatment, but I truly hope Oblivion will see it one day, because it’s a game I’ll never forget.

Oblivion: 3| Skyrim: 2

It may be controversial, but I did indeed say Skyrim is mechanically and aesthetically the better game; Oblivion just has something for its genre that Skyrim does not, an unyielding sense of charm.


So Elder Scrolls fans, how do you feel about my opinions on these categories? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.

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Super Mario 64 *VS* Super Mario Sunshine

-by Dylan DiBona

Welcome to the first entry in a series of blogs I’ve been wanting to start forever; Versus! In case the premise isn’t obvious from the start: in “Versus” I will pit two video games against each other and try to determine which is better. I’m going to try and avoid things like which game I personally enjoyed more during my analysis. One duo of games I’m always comparing are Mario’s first two steps into three dimensions; Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. Before I start, I’d like to tell you the five categories I’ll be comparing (which are up for change depending on genre or series):

Gameplay, Level Design, Stars, Music, Bosses

I believe these five aspects of a 3D Mario game to be the most important. Let’s face it, things like stories and puzzles aren’t the reasons we keep coming back to the plumber.

 Image result for super mario 64

 Gameplay

Let’s skip over the obvious fact that Super Mario 64 was revolutionary at the time; how does it play today? I never grew up with an Nintendo 64 and didn’t actually get one until 2014. That was the same year I first played Super Mario 64 and to my surprise it holds up like a dream. Mario has the ability back-flip, long jump, wall jump, triple jump, belly slide- tons of moves; they’re all easy to perform and thankfully don’t feel clunky when compared to modern games. The occasional hat power-ups are fun and useful, the only slog being the Wing Cap you see so decoratively placed on the cover- controlling Wing Mario while attempting to gain altitude is no fun. Super Mario 64 might just be the strongest game from its era, today.

Let’s give Nintendo a little credit when it comes to Super Mario Sunshine. Every ignorant outsider berates them for “copying and pasting” the same game over and over. Nintendo could have easily made a Super Mario 128 with the same basic gameplay as 64,  with similar settings and levels, and you know what? It probably would’ve sold just as well as Sunshine. But they didn’t do that. Instead they gave Mario a water-powered backpack filled with new moves. Returning elements like Mario’s back-flip feel silky smooth and even easier to perform than ever before (more so than the Galaxy games too!). With F.L.U.D.D, the water-pack, Mario can hover in the air, blast water at enemies and belly slide infinitely. F.L.U.D.D also makes a great and creative weapon against graffiti and ink covered bosses. The power-ups for F.L.U.D.D like the Jet Nozzle and Rocket Nozzle are enjoyable, but only the former feels useful most of the time.

Overall I believe Super Mario Sunshine to have a better controlling Mario. The creativity is also another thing I have to note, it’s part of the reason this game shines (pun intended).

SM64: 0    SMS: 1

Level Design

Believe it or not, Super Mario 64 is actually still pretty unique in terms of its level design when compared to its followups. 64 is oft labeled the “open world” 3D Mario; by travelling through Peaches Castle and collecting a handful of stars, you can open up doors practically anywhere you want. Not only that but once you enter a world you can grab any star you want. Technically you’ll be going into a world for a specific star, but you can leave with a totally different one if you want to. It’s this sense of freedom that hasn’t really been repeated in 3D Mario and it’s something worth noting.

Another great aspect of Sunshine I see nobody giving credit for is setting up the “episode” structure of the beloved Galaxy 1 & 2. After 64, every time you enter a world, it’ll change for whatever specific star you’re after. This unfortunately takes the aforementioned freedom away, but this also means that you can’t see everything a level has to offer within one visit.

On a cosmetic level, 64 is the quintessential Mario to show newcomers. You get the classic grass, fire and ice worlds with a few uniquely themed levels to join in on the fun.

Sunshine on the other hand is less about tradition and absolutely about its new setting, Isle Delfino. Levels aren’t meant to feel unique, but instead feel like one small bit of a bigger cohesive world. Unfortunately one big issue dragging the levels down are the blue coins. Not only is there no way to track them down, but some blue coins are only available on certain episode variations of a world.

Despite my love for the beach aesthetic, 64 gets the point for the sense of freedom and discovery which feels true to its era.

SM64: 1    SMS: 1

Stars

So we lightly touched on this topic in the last category, but I want to discuss what it actually takes for a player to get a star in these games.

In 64, a star can sometimes be nabbed in seconds, other times you’ll have to interact with characters and appease their wishes. The game is full of secrets and mysteries like the 100-coin star hidden in every world. Super Mario 64 does star collecting perfectly, and it sets itself up as a genuinely fun but possible challenge for those looking to 100% it.

The Delfino equivalent to stars, shines, function the same but take a little bit more to collect. The super easy stars are gone and almost every shine asks Mario to either complete an episode specific task, collect 100 coins or grab every blue coin. My main issue with Sunshine as a whole are the blue coins. 24 of 120 shines are used up on the obnoxious challenge of finding every blue coin, and if you paid attention to the last category then you’ll know that the task isn’t too easy. Not only do the blue coin shines get annoying, they lack creativity- you’re just paying money for shines and that’s no fun.

Super Mario 64 easily takes the cake here.

SM64: 2    SMS:1

Music

Oddly enough, this may be the hardest category to judge. You need more than two hands to count the amount of great tunes found in Super Mario 64. Dire Dire Docks, Peaches Castle, Koopa’s Road, Bob-omb Valley, File Select, Credits Music- and so much more. These tracks mix new and old and have been referenced in countless new Mario games today. I’ll go on record as saying that this game is probably the second most iconic in terms of music for the series, right after the original Super Mario Bros on NES.

In the past categories I’ve given praise to creativity and newness, that won’t stop now. Super Mario Sunshine may not have the most iconic songs in Mario history, but it has tons of the best. Instruments and sounds we don’t normally hear in Mario all come together in Delfino Plaza, Gelato Beach and Bianca Hills. The music is the perfect representation of Super Mario Sunshine; not repeated, creative, and cheerful.

I’m the type of guy whose tired of hearing the same Mario themes in every new game. It warrants praise when a series so old can spice up key elements and make it work. Sunshine gets the music category.

SM64: 2    SMS: 2

Image result for mario sunshine

Bosses

And so we come to the final category; bosses. Now normally I wouldn’t consider a Mario game dependent on it’s bosses, but the 3D games usually put a heavier emphasis on the bigger battles. Seeing as 64 was the first step into three dimensions, the bosses aren’t too varied here. The most notable ones are King Bob-omb, Eyerok and Bowsers multiple battles; they all work well enough and test the players mastery of Mario’s abilities. Most of them are forgettable, but they’re all solid and simple bosses.

Super Mario Sunshine is where the 3D entries started to get a little more interesting in terms of bosses. Alongside the basic platforming skills we get F.L.U.D.D, and every boss will require you to combine both for a winning technique. The standouts are Petey Piranha, Gooper-Blooper, Phantasma and a surprising unique Bowser fight. Even the ones I didn’t list put you into varied situations that are exciting and fun. Things like wiping off ink from enemies to weaken them or filling up Peteys stomach are memorable because of how well they implement the new controls.

I have to give this category to Super Mario Sunshine.

Outcome

For some strange reason Super Mario Sunshine has been seen as a blemish on the plumbers history from a lot of people. It may have its rare glitches, quirks and stupid blue coins, but Sunshine is a middle step between 64 and Galaxy. It’ll never be as iconic as the much deserved Super Mario 64, but I do genuinely believe it’s design is a tad bit better albeit different.

SM64: 2    SMS: 3

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So what does everybody think of my controversial decision? Do you have any counter-arguments? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.