Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - Frostcrag Reborn

Mod Review - Frostcrag Reborn
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Overall: Nicely fleshes out FrostCrag Spire. Disappointing quests and tedious dungeons.

Why You Would Download This: To flesh out Frostcrag Spire if you are committed to using it as your base.

Hundreds of high-quality screenshots of Frostcrag Reborn here.

Frostcrag Reborn has two parts to it: Expanding on the official add-on Frostcrag Spire, a short quest to unlock some areas, and a longer dungeon crawl into "Avalon".

As a Frostcrag Spire expansion, this mod does very nicely with some eye candy and interesting additions, such as boosts to your Alchemy and Armorer skills at the appropriate stations (which may or may not work depending on what skill levelling mods you have). I feel it still needs polish and updating, however. For example, the housekeeper could have been given dialogue to acknowledge you, give you directions, or just talk about the Spire.
Also, the Female Students area could have been cleaned up after that particular quest (one wonders why the area hadn't been cleaned up before, and why the dead bodies there weren't rotting corpses yet).

The first quest to unlock some of the areas in Frostcrag Spire is extremely boring. There is some cosmetic backstory that doesn't all add up and mixes in with a story of ambition and betrayal. It would have been better if the author chose just one of the two instead of trying to weave in both, which come out quite separate and somewhere along the way, the first story about storing items in the realm of the dead simply gets lost.

There are also tons of quite powerful items to simply pick up here and there in Frostcrag, all with no risk. Then you go into a long linear dungeon and fight basically the same enemies over and over. This is a theme of Frostcrag Reborn: Repetition. We'll touch on it again later in Avalon.
(Note that you can actually enter that area without going through FrostCrag Spire at all, if you can find the mountainside entrance).

The implausibility of Frostcrag Spire just happening to sit on an obscure series of tunnels and a very long spiralling staircase with a side door to a magical realm called Avalong is just too much. But if Jauffre can buy your story about the Emperor handing over the Amulet of Kings to a no-name prisoner, I guess we can handle this too.

The Avalon quest starts after you get past the liches and unlock the rest of Frostcrag. The initial areas look very promising as an epic landscape laid out in interesting ways. Subsequent areas have a "Star Wars" feel to it and worth a look (extensive screenshots here).
However, it all becomes extremely boring extremely fast. Here's why:

1. There are lot of medium-large dungeons in which you need to enter and get keys from bosses. The enemies are the same. They are ALL THE SAME. From start to finish (except at the very, very, end), you fight the same mix of enemies, wearing the same thing, over and over again. I tried it with a character at level 10 and a character at level 50. And it was the same monsters with the same gear.

2. In the second half, there is a lot of running around and not a lot of direction. There are places to go, but you might end up spending hours running everywhere because you have no idea where to go or what to do -- if you are even supposed to do anything in particular other than just walk around.
The places are epic, but without a sense of direction or purpose, you're really just looking for the exit.

3. Finally, you meet the uber boss. You're supposed to have a special ring or as soon as he takes damage, you are scripted to die. Once he's dead, you get a suit of heavy armor. Great. Did I mention I got Frostcrag Spire, a.k.a. The Wizard's Tower Official Plug-in because, uh, I'm a wizard?

My recommendation is to activate FrostCrag Spire and just use it as your base. Unless you're extremely bored and have time to waste, don't bother with Avalon. For the liches, just use the console to blast by them so you can access the rest of FrostCrag Spire.

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