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.

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