Games in the pure RPG genre often have huge learning curves and can involve extra time spent in researching the "how to's" on the fan sites, require a fair amount of juggling and management of its myriad components, and take hundreds of hours of play. Due to this rather intimidating prospect, Oblivion sat in my library unplayed for a year. However, with the release of the next installment to the Elder Scrolls series, I felt it was time to have a look if I intended to play Skyrim at some point. I did go into this game with some preconceived biases expecting it to be more of a chore than fun. At first this proved true, beginning with the hassle of installing the required patches to fix the many bugs. Was it all worth it in the end? That's a resounding YES, YES and YES.
This game is simply amazing, but it does take a bit of playing to come to that realization. There is an enormous wiki at UESP that tells you everything you need to know about the world of Oblivion and it was very helpful. However, I have noticed that one of the side effects of tackling large games is the stress associated with following all the advice and becoming obsessed about "doing it right". With Oblivion there is just so much to learn about potions, armor, guilds, weapons, enchantments, moneymaking, magicka, leveling, and so on that it can all be a bit overwhelming. One might say information overload. It wasn't till around level 7or 8 that I started to relax and concentrate on just enjoying the game and that's really when I became hooked.
Oblivion takes place in the land of Cyrodiil where there are several cities surrounding its capital, Imperial City. As you travel from place to place, you will also discover many ancient ruins, forts, mines, caves, camps, inns and villages. When you do, these will be marked on your map. All of these are explorable at any time, but many are also related to specific quests. There are also special rune stones, wayshrines and wells of blessing that are never marked and can only be found by exploration. Quests are mostly given to you by talking to people in the various cities, villages or wherever you meet. The people of Cyrodiil act like real people. They live in houses, go to work, gossip in the streets and do various other activities. In this, the game is time sensitive. IOW, you can't access most people during the night as they are locked up in their houses. Some things can only be activated at certain times or on certain days. However, once you receive and accept a quest, you can pretty much do it whenever you want and it will remain active till you finish it. If you initially just talk to everyone, you may end up with an overwhelming number of quests on your roster, but don't be alarmed. At one point, I just avoided talking to people until I had caught up.
If you install the various DLC, there will be many additional quest lines and I would highly recommend doing this. Other than the expansion, Shivering Isles, these are completely integrated with the main game and make things much more interesting. There is no question about value for money as I have 600 hours invested in it. As with most RPG's, you can initially choose various classes, which appoint you with certain native skills. If you have not exhausted your thirst for the world of Oblivion on the first go around, you can choose a different class and play again. A couple of the DLC plug-ins will turn your character into rather a schizoid, though, having you alternate between being a hero and a black-hearted devil. If you want to end up on the good side of the coin, finish the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild before starting Paradise in the main quest.
Once you are familiar with how to play the game, stop and smell the roses. I'm awed by the amount of detail that went into this considering how vast a game it is. There is certainly some repetition, but it will take you a long time to get tired of any one thing. As each quest can be done entirely at your own leisure, you can avoid boredom by mixing things up as much as you like, even to the point of decorating your houses.
It's not possible to cover much about Oblivion in a few paragraphs. Suffice to say it's a game that requires a huge investment of time especially with all the DLC added. I like to play my games through from beginning to end, but many people have stretched this game out over months or even years. Interesting to me was the emotional investment as well. I felt truly sad when one of my horses was killed and also the game will make you do some things that might feel morally reprehensible. Perhaps these emotional reactions are what makes RPG's such a popular genre.
As a first experience with a game of this magnitude, I can now say I'm a fan and will look forward to other games in this category.
I'll finish with a bit of practical advice. After you've done a few levels to get a feel for the game, I would suggest reading all the UESP pages that deal with how the game works. You can avoid reading about the actual quests, but bone up on the basics about spells, potions, enchantments, magicka, etc etc. There were things I didn't know until it was too late to be of practical use. There's a page that deals with the optimal time to do certain quests and and many are listed at level 25 or 30. Unfortunately, by level 30 you may be very close to finishing the game, therefore the reward items end up having a limited value. I did follow the advice, but if I had to do it over again I would ignore it and do many of these quests after level 20.
Regardless of how you play it, if the idea of RPGs appeals to you, Oblivion is a must have in this category. Be sure your system meets the requirements though, as it is quite demanding.