The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a DVD-ROM in English by Bethesda Softworks, distributed with a 52-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and a 2 gigahertz Pentium PC or better, for ages 15 through adult, NIS 219. Rating: ***** If you are partial to fantasy-themed role-playing video games and want to invest in this one, you should have a sabbatical of several months coming to you: You'll need the free time if you want to play the whole thing, which should take about 250 hours. However, since it is completely nonlinear, if you want to focus on the main quest and not side missions, you can manage in "only" 35 or 40. The fourth in the Elder Scrolls series (after Morrowind, issued about four years ago), Oblivion can easily win the title of the most graphically beautiful piece of software ever released. The detailed, realistic scenery, the lifelike faces (whose eyelids open and close naturally) of the protagonists, the background music and over 1,000 non-playing characters will take your breath away. After the mysterious and premature death of Emperor Uriel Septim VII in the imaginary land of Tamriel, the throne is unoccupied. With no leadership, the empire is vulnerable to foreign attackers and the gates of Oblivion (Hell) are thrown open. You must find the lost (illegitimate) heir to the throne and uncover the secret conspiracy to destroy Tamriel. You hold the reins of power - playing either from the first-person or third-person perspective - as the unnamed hero (or heroine) imprisoned in a subterranean dungeon in the Imperial City. By chance, the secret escape route to get out of the city in case of an emergency passes through your cell. But before you set off on your mission, you must enter the tutorial to create this nameless character. It can be either a man or a woman (for a change), with customizable appearance - from complexion and hair color to nose width, with him or her getting younger or older depending on how much you move the slider to the right or left. You also determine the prisoner's class and abilities. You may choose among almost a dozen races, some of them human (Imperial, Redguard, Bretonian) and others decidedly not (Wood Elf, Orc and the lion-faced Khajiit, for example). If you are too lazy to customize your own character, you can accept a computer generated one - but be aware of the fact that laziness and Oblivion do not go together; there is too much to do! Don't worry if you spend an hour or two building your prisoner character, as you will have to live with him/her for a long time. The rest of the tutorial is spent learning to shoot bows and arrows, picking locks, casting Harry Potter-like spells and other basic tasks. Gamers can take the easy way out by accepting default skills for occupations such as knight or healer, but it's worth constructing your own from nearly two-dozen different skills, from acrobatics, alchemy, armorsmith and destruction to mysticism, security, sneak and speechcraft. You amass experience in skills from level 0 to 100, rising from novice to apprentice, journeyman to expert and then to master. The ability to fight is important from the outset, as your character is attacked by giant, hungry rats even before escaping from the dungeon. You have to slash or shoot them; fortunately, the rats do not spray blood when hit, but other creatures do. Nevertheless, the ghoul factor is relatively low. The artificial intelligence system, called Radiant AI, is superb, especially at bringing to life the myriad non-playing characters, who talk and whose lives can be followed throughout the day. Another welcome feature is your ability to save time by accessing the game map to reach places where you have been before instead of traipsing through the fantasy world to reach them. There are a few annoying bugs, such as the fact that many objects you pick up to store in your inventory for future use may suddenly disappear from storage if you obtained them by stealing them. But on the whole, Oblivion is a lavishly created, gargantuan game in which to lose yourself for days, weeks or even months.