Oblivion: The Siren’s Deception

By Shamus Posted Friday Jul 7, 2006

Filed under: Game Reviews 26 comments

One thing that makes Oblivion so interesting is the sheer number and variety of quests. You never know what’s coming next. In a lot of ways, you can view each sidequest as an episode of the overall story of your character. Some are gruesome, some are funny, some are facinating, and a few are just stupid.

Anyway, the typical RPG quest is simple:

  1. Go kill X, or:
  2. Go acquire object Y

Games can’t do much beyond these two, but some games do a good job of pretending they are working on a deeper level. For example, in Oblivion you might be given a quest to “Convince the Earl of Esquire to make peace with the Duke of Ted”. On the surface it sounds pretty elaborate. I mean, “convince” implies negotiations. But when you get there the Earl is just going to say, “I cannot agree to peace because my people have need X. So, unless you could acquire object Y for me, we have no choice but to go to war.” So now this is just the same old Quest type #2, although with a few extra steps to dress it up.

And so for modern games the real challenge is to to disguse these same two quests, and to make them seem like more than they are. Oblivion is great at this. (Sometimes.)

One example is the quest “The Siren’s Deception”, which you get in the city of Anvil.

You start off meeting a woman in town who tells you she needs your help. It seems that her husband was drinking at the local tavern and was taken in by a pair of women who lured him out to their cabin with the implied promise of sex. Once he was undressed, they robbed him and sent him back into town in his skivvies. The women made off with his ring, which was a family heirloom, and the wife would very much like you to recover this ring. The husband is too humiliated to go to the guards, and there isn’t a whole lot they can do in this case anyway. Apparently these women have been doing this for a while, but nobody will come forward because they are too ashamed.

These are the girls your mother shouldn’t need to warn you about unless you’re a senseless dolt.

So I go to the tavern and in the evening the two women show up. If I was a male character, I’m sure they would have invited me to their cabin like their other victims. Since my character was female, they invited me to join their gang.

The ringleader explains their MO: They target married men (who will want to keep the whole thing to themselves, to keep their wives from finding out) who have been drinking. This is actually a pretty clever plan. A drunken middle-aged man is going to have a hard time resisting the chance for a ménage à  trois with a couple of fetching young girls. Once the trap is sprung, the men are unlikely to win a fight while outnumbered, naked, and drunk. So far the girls have been able to bring in a nice bit of cash without hurting anyone.

Did I say fetching? Erm. In Oblivion, the sexy women are the ones who don’t look entirely like men.
It’s probably just my crappy GFX card, but I could swear she has a 5 o’clock shadow.

Either way, the player is invited to the cabin. Now, if this were a truly freeform game, then you could choose to fall for their ruse (as a male) or join the gang (as a female), but there are limits on how much freedom you can give the player if you hope to ship your game this decade. So, once you get there conflict is inevitable. You can’t talk the girls into giving up or handing over the ring. You can’t leave without resolving the situation. You have to fight your way out.

Climbing up the hill towards the cabin at dusk. How I wish the grass would render for me. Still, this looks pretty good.

So, even though the dialog is clever and the story is amusing and unexpected, this is – at the heart of it – a “go kill the monster” quest in a fancy disguise. In this case, the “monster” is a couple of homewrecker bandits with no common sense.

I say they have no sense because no matter who you are they will still invite you up to their cabin, even if you’re a little old lady or a hulking Orc. When a huge guy strides in wearing Daedric plate mail and carrying a flaming axe the size of a ship’s rudder, these girls should have the sense to let him alone and look for an easier mark. Still, this was an amusing quest and I really enjoyed it.


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26 thoughts on “Oblivion: The Siren’s Deception

  1. Cineris says:

    I’ve seen some screenshots of other people’s characters and they didn’t look so bad… You weren’t kidding about the NPCs looking horrible, though. “Fetching” – Heh.

  2. Wonderduck says:

    What are you using to run Oblivion? I’m just aboot to upgrade my PC so’s I can actually put a graphics card into it (darn those cheap 300w PSUs), so I’m comparing systems right now… or are you an Appler?

  3. HC says:

    They were probably thinking of the resale value of Daedric Armor – and that someone with lots of practice in Heavy Armor and Axe probably isn’t so hot at fighting unarmed and unarmored. Their mistake.

    Torment managed to play with this convention very nicely. You could always switch sides, avoid conflict, or give them what they wanted*… even if they would be satisfied by nothing less than your death.

    *Four exceptions in the entire game, I think. Not that you couldn’t just kill everything that walked, if you wanted to… but it would be such a waste.

  4. Old Man Matt says:


    A huge drunk guy with a flaming axe the size of a ship’s rudder should be an even easier target for them since most of the blood has already left his brain.

    What those girls really need for their scheme is some sort of drug to slip into their target’s drink. Something that noone tells the PC about so that the big hero who tries to do them and fight them will wake up later naked and broke but with a brand new rash and some fleas.

  5. Shamus says:

    Sadly, you cannot fall for their scheme. They do not show up in the tavern until the wife has told you about them, and once you get there a conversation ensues in which you have no choices: Just keep clicking until the fight happens.

    Some quests have lots of possible outcomes, but this one is strictly linear. That’s okay, though. It’s amusing the first time you do it. I think of it as a little ten-minute story.

  6. Will says:

    That was one of the more entertaining missions.

    I don’t know if it has something to with the particular files involved, but the grass in the fields east of Anvil (where this mission takes place) forces my 6600GT to a crawl. It also happens in the meadows northwest of Anvil. I seems to be only the light yellow grass along the Gold Coast that causes these severe framerate issues.

  7. wesley says:

    I don't know if it has something to with the particular files involved, but the grass in the fields east of Anvil (where this mission takes place) forces my 6600GT to a crawl. It also happens in the meadows northwest of Anvil. I seems to be only the light yellow grass along the Gold Coast that causes these severe framerate issues.

    i’ve got the problem to with the grass near Anvil too…the game stutters like hell, the FPS get’s horrible
    And I even got an 7600GT PCI-E 16x 256mb-ram GPU so i shoudn’t be a problem for the GPU, but it is…

    Are you using LOD mods – the mods the replace the lame blurry bethesda horizon textures with better looking ones!?

    I use all of them (the only one I don’t use is the high resolution LOD texture mod) and I use the grass tiling remover mod…

    1. Justin says:

      happens on xbox 360 also..

  8. Shamus says:

    Heh. ALL grass slows my machine to a crawl – I must play with grass off. There is a mod which reduces the poly count of the little grass tufts from ~20 to 2, but even with that in place the game is just too dang choppy. (I concluded this based on tests running around in the fields east of the imperial city.)

    So I didn’t even realize there were variances in performance from one region to another.

    I generally avoid MOD which enhance the appearance of the game, since for me performance is at a premium.

  9. Fraser says:

    HEy i dont know what the problem is with this quest whenever i see the people at the flowing bowl they attack me and i am forced to kill them. does nyone know what is wrong?

  10. rick james says:

    cocane is a hell of a drug, but eney way i killed them and now i storeevery stolen poiece i have in there in the 1 room i have skulls all on tables and armour every where ,rick james bitch

  11. Zanfib says:

    I thought technology was supposed to be getting better, but this game is even uglier then Morrowind and I think your computer is better then mine.

    Also, haven’t RPG makers ever heard of “Take the Ring of Power and drop it into the Crack of Doom”?

  12. Lachie says:

    RPG makers made ‘the Third Age’ as a LOTR RPG.

    Needless to say, I haven’t played it and I hear it reeks.

  13. Rawr! says:

    when i saw your NPC screenshot I LOL’ed , i will be clicking your advertisments from now on out of pity lol :)

  14. ob90 says:

    The truth is, What is known as a cpu bound game
    is in reality a hard drive bound game,.

    Most people into game pcs, are not computer technicians, but they want nice gear, pay attention to the wrong benchmarks, and start debates about pc tech stuff on the web, the problem with this is this leads to people in forums and on games sites to unknowingly mis-inform about why games jerk and get choppy frames to the point of setting confusion and this leads to people wasting money on expensive stuff they dont need and to me this is abusing people who just want to have with some fun with video games im sick of seing gamers being lied too and overcharged through marketing schemes, juste because gamers.
    enuogh with the crap and confusion

    The reason game fps rates drop to unplayable levels is not because of the video card, its not cpu, its not the ram speed or quantity (given you have at least 1 gig) actually the pcs CPU Speed is actually irrelevant to smooth game play. The most important factor if you play graphics intensive games at the highest setting is the HARD DRIVE speed. Cpu speed is only important when working 2D apps from ram (such as photoshop effects) because ram and cpus have almost the same bandwidth.

    Heavy and high resolution 3D textures in games and HD video requier a hard drive with a data output bandwidth of at least 150 MB/s *thats MEGA BYTES per second * (not mega bits.) SATA, EIDE , CANNOT do this MB/s rate,
    sata and eide drives have a data rate of 45.MB/s max. People must stop being fooled by those sata 350MB/s
    rates since these are only the rates the sata connection plugs will allow, and not the sustained read speed of the hard drive.

    Games like oblivion and doom-3 and uncompressed HD video cannot possibly load up all its data into RAM, regardless
    of what ram size you have. So the smoothness and speed of the game relies 100% on the hard drive speed
    while the pixel shading ,the resolutions,the texture filters, compression or other effects relies on the video card.

    Doom3 has a output data stream rate output of around 62 MB/s
    Oblivion has an output data rate double that of doom3 in outdoors scenes with animals, 126MB/S And uncompressed 8 bit HD video needs at least 120MB/S, wich needs to stream from the drive in sustained data reads. if you dont have a scsi ultra160 drive or a ram disk you can forget about smooth game play with intensive graphics.

    Not many people know this but video games and HD video dont request much cpu bandwidth, but as i said they criticaly need hard drive bandwdith. satas drive topping at 45MB/S is just not enough. this is why live tv , games and HD video jerks or crashes if its not running from a scsi ultra160 drive setup (160MB/S), or a budget ram disk (approx 130MB/S on sata connector). Jerking video and choppy frames in games or video playback can only be cured with scsi set ups (if you need lots of storage.) or A ram disk.

    having at least 1 GIG of ram will ease game jerkyNess
    but adding more does not make your drive any faster.
    and your pc can only go as fast as your hard drive
    no matter what other speedy top notch pc component you buy.

    this means if you have a 350$ 3Ghz CPU a 500$ GPU, and a 45 MB/s Sata hard drive (wich actually cycles at around 200hz
    when you calculate the 45/MB/S bandwidth) your PC is only as effective as 200hz./ 45 MB/S. for games and video applications or anytime you access your drive for that matter.

    On the other hand if you just do internet surfing and play 2d games (like microsofts solitaire) and dont plan on playing high definition video, a scsi drive setup is then not a necessity here..

    IMHO From now on ,Game programers should have an optimal scsi hard drive bandwidth setup requirement
    just as vista has a ram requierement. Cpus have improved thousands of times in the last 25 years
    and as for hard drives only 2 or 3 times in the same time frame.

    Anyways If your gonna buy a performance PC, youre better off buying a scsi ultra160, 2-drive setup or a ramdisk
    and a $155 radeon X1800 GTO GPU, than a sata drive, and a 800$ latest and greatest GPU. And as far as cpus go, & although not many people know this, even 2 ghz intel celerons are blazing fast enough for running any game matter o’fact any intel or amd cpu over 266mhz is mad fast enough, Even the The Pentium II 400 MHz cpu has a bandwidth of about 300 MB/s wich is faster than sata 10 year old PC-100 SDRAM DIMMs, have a bandwidth of 800MB/s, so the fact remains, the bottleneck is isent the cpus speed nor the ram , it’s the sata /eide drive’s. People need to realise this

  15. becca says:

    Actually ram companies like ocz would make small fortunes if they sold a 20GB pc2-3200 ramdisk for playing games from
    or loading an OS, *at least something we can load vista on*
    ramdrives will do 150MB/s no problem given the bottleneck limmit on the sata connection bus is at least 150MB/s
    them things boot up windows in 8 secs. HOT!

  16. becca says:

    by the way, oblivion anvil castle has a data workload
    of 142MB/s not 126MB/s, the HDD bandwidth needed for this game to be smooth and details maxed is pretty huge. sucks that sata drives arent made with gamers in mind, you just cant game smoothly on a slow drive.

  17. whoott says:

    seagate is coming out with a 162 MB/s HDD in its new line up
    its not sata though its SAS, probably the best single drive for speed and pc games

  18. gie800 says:

    162MB/S ? WayToGo SEAGATE, thats excellent ! at least now we wont have to wait for those dummy economists at gigabyte to
    un-cripple their i-ram drive to ddr2 to get roomy n fast storage.

  19. Lingwei says:

    “Either way, the player is invited to the cabin. Now, if this were a truly freeform game, then you could choose to fall for their ruse (as a male) or join the gang (as a female), but there are limits on how much freedom you can give the player if you hope to ship your game this decade.”

    Funny, I was able to do it in two days:

  20. eoz says:

    hey dont buy a new computer until USB3 comes out

  21. Bearinstein says:

    I run Oblivion on my 360 and all is well.

  22. Brandon says:

    I am a PC gamer also, I prefer The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the 360 though, because the graphics are beautiful and the controls are easier. I never really thought of the outcome of quests based on gender, I have beat the game twice both times with a male character, I will try a female next time! This quest was fun, if you go into the basement of the gang, you’ll see peoples’ belongings everywhere, not really any good loot but interesting none-the-less. Currently, I have a level 31 Argonian thief. Master of every guild and grand champion of the Arena, beat the main quest, settlement quests, side quests and all Daedric Shrine quests. Good luck and have fun. =)

  23. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Try using Operation Optimization. It’s quite helpful, though I still can’t run the game with grass… that’s what people look like on lowest graphics? *vomit*

  24. Shadow says:

    Oblvion is a great game, especially on the ps3. I runs faster and has better graphics. Plus, the ps3 will always run games without lag. This mission is funny, but the whodunnit? dark brootherhood mission is better.

  25. bobbert says:

    Language Police warning,

    It is only a ‘ménage à trois’ if it is a perminate living arrangement. I.e. you have two wives living with you that somehow don’t kill each other (or you).

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