The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is 10 years old. Let that fact sink in along with the crushing sense of your own mortality.
On March 20, 2006, thousands disappeared into Cyrodiil—a world populated by NPCs with potatoes for faces, distant landscapes that resemble mudslides and bored big-name voice actors.
No, Oblivion isn’t a looker these days. It couldn’t have been stunning at the time to run on my first ‘gaming’ PC, which cost under £500, but there is a pervasive sense of possibility in its rolling fields, riverbanks and forests based on placid European heartlands. Farms and thatched villages don’t typically make for high-octane roleplay, but Bethesda wove the unexpected into its pastoral scenes in a way that it hasn’t achieved since: vampires off the quiet road to Cheydinhal; a Lovecraftian cult deep in the woods; a Mages Guild initiation gone wrong.
In Oblivion it was a wonder to discover these things. With a few spectacular exceptions (the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood chains) quests were a guide to sightseeing rather than pointers to new loot. I realise that I’ve succumbed to nostalgia at 23 years of age, but if you escape your family this Easter weekend, install Oblivion, load up as many graphical mods as it can handle and see how it compares as a space to Bethesda’s later games. It’s wrinkled, and cantankerous as only the elderly can be, but that’s because it usually knows best.