Saturday, November 27, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - Verona House Bloodlines

Mod Review - Verona House Bloodlines v12.0
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Overall: Good back-story, okay quest, essentially works fine (but see warning in our review below). Verona Bay is FPS intensive. 2008 house mod that could use some internal updates to things that COBL does much better. Some uber items.

Why You Would Download This: The story/quest. Some uber items.

First, the good stuff in this mod: There's a detailed back story, and over the course of the quest, more of it is revealed to you and you can slowly piece it together. It isn't an epic story, but it is seen through to the very end, with a tidy happy-ending wrap-up after you defeat the boss.

The mod comes with the quaint village of Verona Bay, which would be better if it weren't so FPS intensive as an exterior location. Nevertheless, the layouts, both exterior and building interiors, are nice. The Fantasy Art of Computer Games has several screenshots of Verona Bay.

The quest pits you against a vampire cult. They are small potatoes compared to the Mythic Dawn, and not very challenging overall even if you go solo and decline all the helpful companions. The early quests are quite interesting for the variety of tasks you need to accomplish, and this part is definitely worthwhile playing through.
Later on, the quests become more or less your standard go-there-kill-everything in deep dungeons and starts to drag. The final boss is disappointingly easy, and after a build-up in the back-story bits about him being very charismatic in a Dark Jedi evil-emperor way, it is also disappointing that you don't get to talk to him before he attacks you.

The bad part of the mod is in the scripting. Overall, the mod does work flawlessly, IF you follow EXACTLY what you are told to do as a next step. If not, there is no contingency scripting and you will be stuck until you "follow the numbers" exactly.


Example: At some point you will encounter Berra Gaunt. You find out she was an importer/exporter for an Imperial City company, Hackblett and Gaunt. You are not asked to investigate her Imperial City company offices, but if you take that initiative, you can find out that her partner, Hackblett, is having an affair with a woman while supposedly bethrothed to a foreign duchess.
There's nothing you can do about that right now, which is fine.

Later however, you are tasked to get some dirt on Hackblett in order to extract information from him. You already know about his affair, and maybe have stole the appropriate letters from the duchess, and have enough to at least further your investigation. However, the mod will not recognize any of this. You will actually need to go back into the office and again witness Hackblett and his mistress sleeping together before the mod will give you a quest update.

This sort of follow-exactly-along can cause you to get stuck in the mod if you are skipping ahead in what seems to be a reasonable way.

Again, I must stress that the mod does work flawlessly otherwise. It is version 12 and a lot of bugs have been stamped out. Scripting to cover contingencies can be very time-consuming, which is why Bethesda uses a lot of "requires a key" type doors and makes people un-killable ("essential") in Oblivion in order to prevent you from interacting with places and people and things before critical quests are completed. This is a simple type of contingency scripting, but one which comes across as generally artificial.

In the case of Hackblett, one way to do it might be to lock the Imperial City office and have a note saying that Hackblett is overseas. Then unlock the door and add Hackblett and his mistress later on, with the excuse that he's recently back.
But this is all additional scripting that a modder might not want to have to do and test, especially for an already large mod.

In 2008 the various sorters for alchemy and scrolls may have been innovative and interesting, but COBL came along with superior sorters that weren't reliant on having a container for specific items. For example, it will handle ingredients from any mod, instead of just official Oblivion and Shivering Isles ingredients.

Because of this, the house you get at the end of the quest is essentially just a house with place to store stuff. While it is an extensive house with a lot of storage, for the ingredient and potion sorters, you may want to pick up COBL and either Basement for COBL or Portable Sorters.

Of note is Harold the Steward, who can give you reminders about your duties to various Guilds, such as whether as Listener of the Dark Brotherhood you are due for a check-in with the statue in Bravil.

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