The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim versus Oblivion

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The Elder Scrolls are arguably the best RPG series in gaming history. They have attracted diehards and casuals alike and amassed a huge, varied fan base. Skyrim, the latest addition to the series (no, Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t count) was wildly successful, managing to get a perfect review score on some sites. But for many fans, myself included, the actual gaming experience was slightly bittersweet. Skyrim was an incredible game, and had no shortage of things to do, but as the glitz of the new graphics faded away and the excitement of the new combat system wore off, I couldn’t help but feel that there were areas that were lacking. A feeling that was made all the more apparent by the fact that Oblivion actually excelled in these areas. With both games being considered “old” at this point, many fans have taken to comparing the two.

The following will compare Skyrim and Oblivion in Graphics, Gameplay, Storyline, Character Creation, World, and Factions.



Skyrim Oblivion graphics

This factor is quite self-explanatory. Put simply, it determines which game looks sharper, more realistic, and more beautiful.

Winner: Skyrim

This comparison, while not necessarily fair, is an easy one. Skyrim’s graphics are in every way better than Oblivion’s. The landscape and coloring looks more realistic, the characters are less clunky, and the magic is much sharper. The somewhat monotonous landscape of Oblivion just can’t compete with the stunning mountains and bursting geysers of Skyrim. Visually speaking, it is far easier to get swept up into Elder Scrolls V than its predecessor.



skyrim gameplay

This Factor examines which game offered a more exciting and seamless combat experience.

Winner: Skyrim

With vastly improved magic and archery, and the introduction of duel wielding, Skyrim was the clear choice for this factor. The occassional cinematic kills certainly didn’t hurt either. The combat in Oblivion felt clumsy at times. But it seems that Bethesda sought to address the issue with the next game in the series, and they very much succeeded.



Martin Oblivion Updated

 This factor determines which story was more compelling and inherently interesting.

Winner: Oblivion

The Storyline is an important aspect of any RPG game; we can often determine how memorable a game will be by how easily we find ourselves immersed in it. Both games have a storyline with apocalyptic potential. Alduin the World Eater and Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of Destruction, both serve as sufficiently evil antagonists. But the two storylines are not equally compelling. Skyrim really only seemed to have the Dragonborn running from location to location, killing the designated enemies along the way, and learning the occasional dragon shout. Oblivion, on the other hand, required that the player rescue and protect the heir to the Septim throne, close gates to the planes of oblivion, infiltrate a daedric cult, and fight a battle to decide the fate of Bruma. In addition to having more variety, Oblivion’s main quest line also happened to feel much longer. Furthermore, the relative obscurity of your character can be surprisingly refreshing; playing not as the hero himself (who in this case would be Martin Septim), but as his greatest asset gives us a leading role to play, without depriving us of the freedom a good Elder Scrolls game needs.


Character Creation

Skyrim orc

This factor is measured by the range of options in character creation and the appearance of a finished character.

Winner: Skyrim

While Oblivion may have had a more attractive story to offer, the same cannot be said for the game’s characters. Skyrim’s new and improved character creation system is far superior to that of its predecessor. More realistic skin tones, scars, and tattoos all add to the character creation potential. The addition a body type spectrum within each race was also a much needed change. Oblivion seemed to assume that race was the only determining factor in the size of a character. But Skyrim understood that variety exists at more than one level.



Skyrim dungeon

This factor evaluated and compared the open world of the two games.

Winner: Skyrim

Exploring without an objective is important in the Elder Scrolls, and should be a fun and rewarding pursuit. Neither game does poorly in this respect, but Skyrim has more to offer. Thieves Guild shadowmarks, words of power, and dragon priests, all scattered across the map, make wandering feel productive. And encounters from hired thugs, assassins, thalmor, and of course dragons, (none of which exist in Oblivion) add to the dynamic sense of adventure.



oblivion black hand

This factor took into account the quest line of each faction.

Winner: Oblivion 

Factions are always an eagerly anticipated aspect of the Elder Scrolls games. Whether your idea of a faction means spending time honing your character’s magic ability in the mages guild or fulfilling contracts by assassinating targets with the dark brotherhood, makes little difference. It is now a fan expectation for each Elder Scrolls game to provide a variety of interesting organizations to join. But this expectation, perhaps more than any other, Skyrim failed to meet. The college of Winterhold offered a painfully short quest line with a relatively unrewarding finish; the dark brotherhood didn’t seem to offer the macabre glory it has become known for; other than the werewolf backstory, the companions were not particularly interesting, and didn’t offer much in the way of unique experiences; and the thieves guild quest line was typical to the point of being stale, and neglected almost any mention of the Gray Fox. But most strikingly, there was no Arena quest line at all in Skyrim. Which, of all the imperial provinces, seemed the most inclined to enjoying some gladiator games. The factions of Skyrim often left players sighing with nostalgic thoughts of Oblivion.



Skyrim Dragon

Overall Winner: Skyrim

Winning four of the six factors, Skyrim is indeed the victor, but not by enough to make us forget its predecessor. Especially not in the areas where Oblivion still reigns supreme. If we’re lucky however, perhaps the next addition to the Elder Scrolls series will combine the best of both and continue to improve the experience for its players.

Most Elder Scrolls fans have played both Oblivion and Skyrim. Which was your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below!

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One Comment

  1. I guess I will have to agree to disagree, simply because I grew up on Oblivion being my very first game

    I love Skyrim, don’t get my wrong I did everything their is to do in both games character after charicter at least 1 per race.

    I loved Oblivions Story was the best by a landslide, and had a bit more detail. Oblivions Customization was so good, you could literally make a Dark elf look like an angel, or even a demon. Oblivion had more in depth factions and it actually required more than completing a good story to rise to the top. However, skyrim did have a better Dark Brotherhood story. Well, that’s mostly all their is to say but….. I can say only one other thing. Fallout 3 is best

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