One famous author, writing his autobiography, noted that he was writing it slower than he was actually living, portending an endless task. Writing about Oblivion has the same unending feel; there's more in this world happening every second you're in there, than anyone can possibly communicate in an article, let alone a single sentence.
For example, here's one Oblivion story we've heard: "I blame Bungle. If he hadn't forced me to kill him, I wouldn't be in this dank prison cell and the Dark Brotherhood wouldn't be after me. Demons had overrun the city of Kvatch, pouring out of a portal at its front door and I'd crossed over to their realm to seal it. After much running and screaming in a hostile plane, I'd succeeded and now I had to rescue the city's survivors (if there were any) from the remaining roaming demons, - the Count in particular - from a whole cadre of flaming naked women.
"Bungle the archer, the sole survivor of the Imperial Legionnaires who'd helped me this far, was following me around. However, he kept taking pot shots at the fiery bitches, who'd kill him in a second then start on me. Without him I could sneak by and find the much more important count. The solution? Like Old Yeller or Lenny in Of Mice And Men, he had to be put down, gently; an arrow in the face ensured he didn't suffer. (I got the arrow back afterwards.) The invitation from the Murderer's Guild and the bounty on my head followed naturally on..."
That was a single moment described there, redolent with connections to other tales and immensely complicated in itself. Simply put, Oblivion is a game where the story never ends. The story of your exploits in any other game would have natural gaps, but here you can just keep telling it, with every yarn feeding logically into the next.
Oblivion, is, at root, a first-person role-playing game. You create your character then wander the world chatting to people, helping them out and bashing monsters and villains. Oblivion is also a game that ticks every box. It's the old school first-person RPG (in the mould of Ultima Underworld) gradually expanded to fill every genre, and something like Oblivion or Fable can be any game; specialise in destruction magic and it's a first-person shooter; specialise in acrobatics it's like an action adventure; specialise in alchemy, it's an Animal Crossing-style flower-picking game; it can be a Thief-style game, a trading game (you can own shops!), or just a nice walk in the countryside. Every skill levels up through use, so the game will reward you for focussing on the things you're good at. We're not going to list the enormous number of ways you can customise your character, though clothing, weapons, appearance and race are all available.
And that plot. You start out as a prisoner in a cell in Cyrodil's capital city - a cell that the prophecy-prone Emperor (voiced by Patrick Stewart) passes through, fleeing the assassins that have wiped out his family. He recognises your face from a dream and, shortly before his own death, entrusts you with seeking out his hidden heir and conveying a special royal amulet to him. Of course, it's not as easy as that and before long those demon gates are shooting up in every corner of the continent and you're running around like a plumber with his head cut off, trying to stop them wiping everyone out.
Rough Guide to Oblivion
A quick word on travelling; Oblivion's map is huge and, while hiking it across the surface reveals stuff you can't find any other way, you don't want to do it all the time. Thankfully, you've got horses you can buy (you can get given one for nowt within five minutes of starting the main quest) and then there's the excellent fast travel mode, which lets you travel to any big city or anywhere you've been before with a click of a button. Do this and you miss out on all the cool dungeons, monsters, temples, manors, farms, shrines, and even hidden towns that are out there in the wilderness. By the end of our review, we were travelling everywhere on foot just so we didn't miss anything.