Friday, September 28, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Sexy Maid of Chorrol

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Sexy Maid of Chorrol (ver 3.2 and crossover with Claudia's Little Secret and HentaiMania 2)
Score: +3/-1

Summary: Short quests, voyeuristic adult content, home expansion.

Why Get This: Humourous quests, masturbating maids for your home in Chorrol (no, really). Significant crossover if you also have Claudia's Little Secret installed.

This is a mod that feels larger and longer than it really is. For actual pornographic interaction, Sexy Maid of falls short of the newer and more sophisticated sexual-content resources and mods but at least there's a story here.
  • Definitely get Growlf's Universal Skeleton NIF if you don't already have it. Otherwise there might be issues with stretched textures.
  • The basement expansion to your Chorrol home sits in the same place as the teleporter for the Basement for COBL.
+ Humour to the quests.The humour is weak but doesn't sink to cheap and tasteless despite this being a mod with adult content.
+ More than just having quests that don't emphasize killing, the quests here actually immerse you more in the mod and give you more backstory. Too bad there are very few quests.
+ You can choose one a custom race for the maids instead of being stuck with the somewhat ugly Oblivion defaults.
- Unless you get the crossover quest with Claudia's Little Secret, there's no sex with the maids. The crossover quest there is somewhat boring, though, and you can more easily get sexual interaction just about everywhere with something like the basic Lovers Biko. Even with the crossover, you need to get the maid to follow you through a magic portal, then take a long walk to a pedestal, and press the button there -- it's tedious. With Lovers Biko, you just press the "L" key a couple of times.

The additional content from the Claudia's Little Secret crossover also includes a long story filled with sexual encounters. Pornography being so varied, some of this content could become too intense / tasteless / vulgar for you. Fortunately, the story is told in stages, so you can abort at any time and choose not to hear the rest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Giskard's Tales from the Tomb

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Giskard's Tales from the Tomb (ver 1.3)
Score: +2/-1

Summary: Dungeon crawl, character home, companions.

Why Get This: Bug-free dungeon crawl.

This mod starts off with promise of an intriguing experience but ends disappointingly as a pretty basic dungeon crawl. There are elements here that suggest it could have been much more interesting, but weren't followed up on. For example, there is a journal that talks about having to decapitate someone to prevent them from rising as undead, but you don't actually have to do that here. Would have made for a more interesting experience than a straight dungeon crawl with basically two different types of enemy grunts.

The quest starts out with historical Elder Scrolls lore-based data, but that turned out to be disappointingly token as well. At some point, just before you get access to the Reman Fort you are to investigate, you are basically handed the whole story. Whatever sense of mystery that was built up in the early stages of the quest is disappointingly dropped.

The story didn't entirely add up for me, but I would be more concerned about it if it hadn't been so token.
There's also what appears to be a very separate and unrelated Dwemer underground facility nearby. More dungeon crawling, only more aimless. Also FPS intensive on the second level.

The dungeons are not levelled. Level 50 bosses.
+ Player home where you can choose the population to a certain extent. Mostly you end up with a choice of companions and a convenient way to outfit them. If you want companions without too much overhead, then you can try this mod.
+ Decent voiceovers.
- The staff you get at the fort could use some cosmetic work. Even the female altmer dancer you get has the crude an ugly squarish face that comes with Oblivion. Sheesh. This just makes you look elsewhere for companions, and there's no shortage of player homes.

There tends to be integration from other projects, so there's the possibility that this mod will receive an expansion or crossover content. For now, however, there's not much here to see or that you can't get better elsewhere.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Heart of the Dead

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - The Heart of the Dead (ver 6.5)
Score: +8/-1

Summary: Excellent quest and encounters. Possible companion afterwards.

Why Get This: Good quest, interesting puzzles and environments.

This is a long adventure that is DLC-quality in story and scripting.
++ Very good voiceovers, with the exception of the Kat character, which had to use pieced-together voiceovers and therefore sounds kind of odd.
+- Companions that actually do things in the story instead of just following you around. Dialog and romance is very token, however (although the romance itself can play a part in the story if you choose to pursue it; and helps decide which companion you end up with after the story).
+ Some very interesting locations, especially at the start of the story. More dungeon-crawl later on, however.
+ Some very interesting scripted events and animations that enhance the experience instead of just being vanity/show-off scripting exercises.
+ A really decent story with good plot points. No huge text dump of information -- good mix of story progress combined with dialogues, clues and other getting-background-information events gives this quest good pacing alongside giving you backstory to better realize the scope of your involement.
+ A really good escalating ending that takes you step by step to a more dramatic ending each time you think you're at "the end".
+ Some quests have various alternative solutions and you aren't always following a very narrowly defined sequence of events to advance the story. This avoids a common frustration with some mods, especially those that combine do-my-specific-sequence-of-events with no-quest-markers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Bartholm

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Bartholm (ver 7.0)
Score: +3/-3

Summary: Worldspace and a lot of quests.

Why Get This: Quests.

There's a lot of content and quests here, but not a lot of it is really worth playing through.
+ New town. Slartholm isn't that interesting, however.
+ A lot of quests for characters of almost all levels. Only a couple of good ones, however. Probably only the Foreign Legion quest to clear the Moarmer (some good fight setups here) and the murder mystery on Slartholm are worthwhile. Even then, the murder quest is quite flawed and could have used more dialogue to enhance the investigative aspects.
+- Voiceovers. Unfortunately, mostly they are either horrid, annoying, or revoiced lines from vanilla Oblivion.
-- Shamelessly cloned content from vanilla Oblivion, such as the Bartholm Arena, where not only the layout and people are obviously only cosmetically changed if at all, but the sequence of fights is more or less cloned as well, down to the fighter with the magic dagger, the multi-character fights, and the mage with protection from magic. Plus the badly voiced arena announcer. Don't waste your time here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Viconia DeVir - The Underdark Saga

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Viconia DeVir - The Underdark Saga (ver 1.2)
Score: +2/-9

Summary: Companion. Buggy linear quest.

Why Get This: Companion.

This mod somehow hopes to recapture the interest and engagement in the character from the classic Baldur's Gate games, which included a long romance with the dark elf Viconia in Baldur's Gate II.
One of the big problems with this premise is that there is much less investment in companions in Oblivion. In Baldur's Gate II, you could control your companions as if they were a character completely under your control. There was much more tactical control and strategic options, especially with a spellcaster like Viconia.
In Oblivion, companions are typically more troublesome than useful. They typically blow your stealth, get lost, fall off cliffs, etc... They are generally useful only as distractions while you do the killing because the Oblivion AI automatically prioritizes them higher as threats. For this reason, companions are generally set to "Essential" (i.e., not killable, but you can knock them unconscious temporarily), and most companion mods will have a teleport-to-player feature to help them catch up because no creature other than the player can jump to negotiate obstacles, and because they get lost or stuck so easily.
For all these reasons, companions are generally more of a hassle than they're worth.
+ You get a fairly advanced companion with her own horse and straightforward control options through dialogue.
+- Good voiceovers. But they rarely match the subtitles. WTF?
- Part 2 involves a lot of events where the scripting is apparently very fragile. You have to do things in a very precise way sometimes or you will have broken the quest and cannot continue. A walkthrough is pretty much necessary to know when you've accidentally done something wrong.
- Some quests are very easily broken. For example, there are three entrances to the Underdark, but you MUST use the one entrance where the modder has scripted all events to occur. Only there's really nothing telling you that you must do it that way. You can't skip those events, but the story doesn't move to a chokepoint where you have to encounter them.
- She keeps sheathing her weapon and walking away in the middle of combat. The author admits that this has been fixed as much as possible, so don't expect this issue will ever go away.
- It takes about two months worth of linear dialog -- you get one talk with Viconia per day to advance the romance -- to get to the end of part 1. It's also really easy to see what you're supposed to say. You can "roleplay" and give her a snarky response, but that just penalizes you by forcing you to wait another day before getting closer to the quest events that aren't just a talk. Obviously you are playing along with the romance, otherwise you wouldn't bother downloading this mod; but it's really rather boring because we generally haven't built up the same attachment to the character.
In Baldur's Gate II, you really wanted Viconia around because she's powerful and useful -- and she was that way because you could closely control her and use her tactically. Also, there was a balancing act between her, Jaheira, and Aerie since pursing a romance with any one could alienate the others and cause you to lose them from your party -- the possible presence of the other two, and your investment in them, complicated and increased the engagement with Viconia.
In this Oblivion mod, there's just Viconia. And she (and companions in general) are so irritating to have around that you will probably end up not caring if she falls in combat because she's not killable. Besides, if she does fall in combat, you then don't have to worry about restraining yourself when using area effect magic.
TIP: Get a bullet-time mod like the one included in GQ Conveniences when using companions to help you avoid hitting them.
- Part 2 is incredibly boring because of all the running around through vast areas of the Underdark. It just breaks up the momentum/pacing of the story. Everyone and their pet spider is teleporting except you -- Can't they give you a magic item or something? Or get something like the recall-to-shrine spells from Morrowind. The Arcane University can research a Wish spell for Viconia, but they can't research a teleport? Plus, navigation is hard enough in the Underdark. Why can't Viconia actually help you find your way with waypoint quest markers or something like that?
- Finale of part 2 turned out to be broken. Lolth wouldn't show up. I just gave up at that point. You can try a third-party mod that fixes it that was written over a year ago for the merged story version of the mod, or try the separate files version.
- There are a lot of dialogs, but they are very contrived and lame. Some quests are extremely lame, such as the rescue-the-priestess mission where you basically just let Viconia do the talking. The priestess that needs to be rescued then appears out of nowhere and promptly teleports out to safety (!). You then have to leave by killing the single guard in the small prison -- the same guard you were warned against killing because something might look fishy. WTF?
- For the final fight, you are given a supersword scripted to kill 3200 Health spiders (that's not a typo) in the temple of Lolth in one hit. Uh... Why not just reduce the health of the spiders? Especially when your supersword won't work the same way on the priestesses or the smaller spiders with less than a tenth of that Health score.

Oblivion Mod Review - The Underdark

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Underdark (ver 1.1)
Score: +2/-5

Summary: Very large worldspace. Annoying to navigate.

Why Get This: Run around a lot. Kill things sometimes.

This is a large and promising mod that is obviously meant to give you a Dungeons & Dragons Underdark experience. However, the overall difficulties in actually finding anywhere interesting to go make this mod very annoying and a time-waster.
+ Huge worldspace to explore.
+ Quite a few quests that don't emphasize killing or simple "Fedex" style delivery/fetching.
- Irritating autoload feature for area transitions. This makes actually finding area transitions hard as area transitions in vanilla Oblivion are marked with doors on your map.
- No fast-travel map markers, which are important to locate landmarks and to avoid tedious running around. And this mod uses large worldspaces with a heck of a lot of running around.

- Ridiculous Health inflation on creatures. Driders, for example have 85 health per level. A mere level 10 drider therefore has 850! Nowhere as bad as Deathtrap Dungeon's thousands-of-Health, though.
- Vast, repetitive landscapes with not a lot of interesting sites.

- Mostly all that there is to do is kill. Pretty much everything is hostile to you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - BladeSong

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - BladeSong (ver 1)
Score: +2/-0

Summary: Romance mod, companion mod. Short quest.

Why Get This: Very nicely done short quest.

If you can get past severe disappointment after the extremely misleading mod advert that promises a heck of a lot more than the mod delivers ("Take part in an epic adventure that slowly unfolds over time and journey across the lands of Cyrodiil to discover new locations and entirely new distant lands.") then this is a nice short adventure. You also have to buy in to the romance part to really make it work.

Read the uninstallation instructions carefully! This mod significantly changes vanilla Oblivions NPCs in Aleswell and replaces them with dead clones. There is a script included to undo changes.
+ Good pacing with some nice plot twists. A bit heavy-handed on the romance, though. Could have used more quests to build attachment to the key NPC.
+ Nicely done story with interesting quests that aren't focussed on just killing X to get Y (except the war at the end).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Skyrim Ruins, Tombs, and Creatures in Bruma

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Skyrim Ruins, Tombs, and Creatures in Bruma (ver 1)
Score: +0/-2

Summary: Extra dungeons and tiny worldspaces to explore.

Why Get This: Kill things that looks like they came from TES V: Skyrim.

There is no quest to tie in anything here. You need to find the entrances to reach the small worldspaces. There's some attempt to make the worldspaces different and interesting from the rest of Cyrodiil, but there's not much to see. It doesn't really add anything to your game beyond some cosmetically different gear.
-- Hairless mammoths that skip around like deer. No, I'm not kidding.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Gates to Aesgaard Episode 1

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Gates To Aesgaard Episode 1 (ver 1)
Score: +1/-3

Summary: Linear dungeon crawl with "horror" atmosphere.

Why Get This: Dungeon crawl. Some interesting visuals.

This starts out as a promising story-driven mod with "horror" atmosphere, but quickly becomes boring and aimless. Initially you are treated to some backstory, but once you find Ashen Rose's corpse and her final journal update, the gameplay switches to just finding keys in small locations. The "horror" theme drops off sharply and you end up in mundane locations fighting undead.
+ Good attempt at "horror" theme locations very early in the mod.
- Too much immersion/atmosphere breaking. For example, there's an illogical-nightmare feel to the early locations which might have stood on its own just fine, except it was sadly made implausible by Ashen Rose's journal entries which suggest that the location has occupants and purpose -- some method to the madness, as it were. This itself is hinted at by some of the locations you can access (such as a large dining room / throne room). However, there is no cohesion to the place, no sense of purpose. Even the characters you encounter there are simply standing around doing nothing except waiting to be encountered so they can be hostile.
Another example: There's a portal that is labelled as a location 800 years in the past. I'm supposed to know this information? How? Once I'm through the portal, there's nothing obvious to tell me the location is 800 years in the past.
- Boring and aimless once the story elements disappear. Just another dungeon crawl. Going around killing things does not necessarily make a good mod. There's no shortage of things to kill everywhere in Tamriel in vanilla locations and there are far more interesting dungeon crawls around. The enemies here are either vanilla (skeletons, zombies, ghosts, wraiths) or just cosmetically different regular creatures (mages and fighters with a custom head model).
- Implausible clumps of supplies like several healing potions planted right before the exit door. Couldn't they have distributed these more? Or done something else less in-your-face, such as provide alchemy ingredients and apparatus strewn about over several early levels?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Cybiades

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Daggerfall Memories - Cybiades (ver 2.1)
Score: +2/-4

Summary: Dungeon crawl. Somewhat interesting locations. Looks horrible.

Why Get This: Kill things.

This mod would be a lot better if it didn't look so ugly and wasn't so irritating to play. Basically a linear kill-things-to-get-out dungeon crawl. NOT lore friendly, and a ridiculous attempt by the modder to justify it with token reference to characters and events from Elder Scrolls games.
+- Has voiceovers, which is typically a plus since it's extra effort to add atmosphere and immersion. However, the recording quality and tone here is extremely annoying that I wished they hadn't done any at all.
+- Interesting dungeon concepts in the second part, but made irritating to play because of the ugly landscape and dungeon design. Garish colours and primitive-looking dungeon layouts that may be "designed" to look like a very old 3D game, but just looks horrid now (and why would you want to play something that looks so primitive?). The words that come to mind are "cartoony" and "LEGO".
- It's boring. Despite the interesting dungeon layout, essentially the gameplay is linear and predictable. The fights are predictable and nothing really novel, especially if you are running Martigen's Monster Mod. It boils down to just arenas with fights.
- Too much boring running around through vast, empty spaces with nothing to do. Also, to trigger the second stage (the solo dungeon) you have to leave the island, come back, leave AGAIN, then come back. And each time you do a heck of a lot of running around. Duh.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Oblivion Mod Review - Windfall

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod Review - Windfall (ver 1)
Score: +3/-6

Summary: Worldspace and quest. A lot of annoying elements.

Why Get This: Quests to do, new worldspace.

This is a large and promising mod with a lot of little quests to do. Unfortunately, it is badly written, which makes it annoying to play through.
++ New worldspace (island) and a lot of quests.
+ Quite a few quests that don't emphasize killing or simple "Fedex" style delivery/fetching.
-- Extremely implausible situations. For example, you can stumble onto the supposedly highly secret smuggling route and locations of the "Righteous" faction, and even encounter their key leaders. And they don't even react to your intrusion. Instead, you can talk to them just like anyone else. You can find the leader of the rebels but you can't report your find to the authorities even if you are working for said authorities. There are really so many of these, and some are so bad, that this is worth at least 2 strikes against them. In fact, this is the main reason I dumped the mod without finishing it.
- Too much unnecessarily juvenile dialogue. For example, if you talk to the locals about Windfall, sometimes you will get their opinion. But there is also a good chance you'll get something inane like, "Yes, this is Windfall. Haven't you figured it out?" Or while you are on an intelligence gathering mission, some of the conversations you get are "Shoelace untied -- Made you look."
- Easily broken quests. If you find the skooma-smuggling operation on your own, you can pick up the skooma lying around (WHY such valuables would be carelessly dropped and lying around is just another implausible situation in this mod). If you are later tasked to discover the route, you will no longer have the skooma to pick up and you cannot finish the quest.
-- Some quests are very badly written with no quest markers, leading to a lot of wasted time figuring it out. It's not automatically a strike against a mod to not have quest markers. But when a modder deliberately omits quest markers, then their instructions, objectives, logic, and scripting must all be impeccable. Not so here.
For example, if you join the authorities, you will be tasked to gather intelligence. The quest update says you have discovered a skooma-smuggling operation, and that it would be even better if you knew the route. You can discover the route on your own before or after this quest update. However, you are not credited for it when you report to the quest-giver about the skooma smuggling. Instead, the person will say that your information isn't worth as much because you don't know the route -- even if you do. You are then tasked to find the route, but you must do it in a specific way with specific checkpoints done in a specific order -- which defeats the whole idea of not having quest markers.
Quest markers help you script a quest without having to cover every contingency. When quests do not have markers, you can no longer expect someone to do the quest exactly as you want it to happen, because they can have a perfectly reasonable way of going about it.
Another example:
There is a quest to find a missing painting. At some point the trail directs you to talk to people who may have seen the warehouse workers who were supposed to bring the shipment containing the painting from the ship to the warehouse. The warehouse owner sent 2 persons. 4 showed up at the ship. Can't we just ask the warehouse workers who the other two were? No. That would be too straightforward.
You can ask around town, but no one can give you any useful information (not even the sailors at the cargo ship or anyone at the warehouse). The person you have to ask is the stationary guard outside the Jail. The problem is, if you ask at the wrong time of day, the guard gives you the same response as every other guard -- his route is a patrol and he didn't notice anything. You can ask all off-duty guards and they will say the same. So a plausible conclusion is no one saw anything useful.
The "correct" solution is to ask the jail guard between certain daylight hours. The correct guard is still a generic guard with no name, but stands in a slightly different location. Like the other jail guard (the one who told you his position is a patrol), he doesn't move. Why you would even ask this guard when you have asked every guard, on or off duty, is questionable.
Suppose you did happen to ask him at the right time. He will say that he saw 2 workers slack off early.
Why they would be allowed to "slack off", much less with a crate of cargo, is not explained. You are not told where they went from his location, so somehow you have to infer that they exited through a particular city gate. A broken crate and a note will now have appeared outside the city (why wasn't it there before?) explaining the "correct solution" that is so implausible for various reasons, some of which we have already mentioned.

When you have quests with no quest markers, then you have to do things the Deus Ex way -- set the quest objective to be something at a certain location, and allow the player to use any approach that works to get there -- instead of a specific sequence of actions that you think is the only solution plausible/possible.

If you have OCD and absolutely must finish this mod, you can try this forum for help.