Monday, July 28, 2014

Skyrim Mod Review - The Secret of Dragonhead

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Mod Review:
The Secret of Dragonhead (version 3.0)

Score: -4
Summary: Go from one room to another and fight levelled enemies. Waste of time since you really don't need to download a mod to get challenging fights. Just rush straight into a giants' camp.
- Featureless rooms. Early rooms have some trash. Later it's just corridors or rooms or caves. Even if they cut and pasted fully-decorated rooms from vanilla Skyrim they would have done better to make the environment interesting, but even that has problems because...
- Implausible layout. What starts as a fort quickly descends into caves and Nordic ruins impossibly deep down. The feeling is "WTF?" But if you are still with the mod more than fifteen minutes, then you really don't care about interestingness or story. You just like meaningless fighting, which is what this mod is about.
- Boring - Just one fight after another, and in each region you pretty much get the same enemies.
- Time wasting - From long winding corridors with nothing at all, to a huge maze filled with nothing but which forces you to run around looking for keys.

This mod lacks all of the basics of even a decent dungeon crawl for treasure. People complain a lot about vanilla Skyrim, but it is really actually very good and tries hard to give you an interesting experience at every location. This mod lacks a lot of basics to hold interest.
  • Rooms that are featureless make them not just visually boring but lacking.
  • Layouts that are implausible also work harder to hold your attention and fight against our natural tendency to make sense of things. There are ways to transition into implausible locations but it's not here.
  • There is no story. At the start you get a journal about soldiers taking the fort, only to be overrun by Forsworn. After that the rest just really doesn't make sense.
  • The mod is basically a linear sequence of fights with monsters just waiting to fight. Vanilla Skyrim is like that too, but it is disguised in various ways, such as having a story, laying out a place so that it looks like it has purpose or reason to be there, and having NPCs have a schedule so they look like they aren't just on sentry duty 24/7.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Skyrim Mod Review - Into the Depths

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Mod Review:
Into the Depths (version 1.3)
Original German Version

Score: +3/-5 but worth the short trip to experience it if you can overlook the drawbacks.
Summary: Linear survival horror experience. Just keep walking straight ahead and experience what the mod author has planned. Utterly linear, no real choices to make.

++ It's actually a pretty good horror experience. Not super-scary, but good atmosphere and use of sudden events. Token fighting, which is not as good as no fighting for a horror mod, but not so overused as to make it feel like a dungeon crawl.
- Various areas have holes in the map, where there isn't an object to properly plug the hole. Not that big a deal IF you play the mod the way it is intended -- that is, just keep walking straight ahead. There is nothing special to find, no secret items to pick up.
- Disappointing ending that's just combat.
- Unclear how you actually "win". Might be timed survival at the ending but it is not clear. You just get teleported out and told that the experience is over.
- Horrible English translations. Seriously, could no one help the author with a German to English translation that has decent spelling at least?
- Stop interpreting everything for me. Example: Even before you have finished reading a diary / book / journal, a pop-up summarizes it and tells you what your character thinks of it. What is the point of actually having the book in-game? Just let us read it and form our own conclusions / have our own experience.
Useful reward choice. My recommendation is to just uninstall the mod after and console in the equivalent vanilla Skyrim item. That keeps your mod list lighter and your game world cleaner.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Skyrim Mod Review - Moonpath to Elsweyr

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Mod Review:
Moonpath to Elsweyr (version 9.5) + official patch version 1.1

Score: +3/-4
Summary: Short missions in desert / jungle locations. Recommended level of 10 is too low if you are going at the enemies directly as some enemies in the very first area spawned at level 25. Radically different environment/terrain offers a refreshing break from Skyrim. Otherwise just a series of linear go-there-kill-that missions.
++ Nicely decorated and laid out areas, some quite interesting in layout. Visually very good.
- Many unintelligible voice overs, plus voice overs that don't match the subtitles.
- Barely any story to the quests. Each location / "quest" is basically a small to medium battle map.
+- Layout allows for some really cheesy stealth or terrain-exploit action. Not sure whether this was intentional or if there was not enough play-testing. For example, you can stand on a raised portion of land in a swamp and just shoot at the masses of lizard creatures who can't hop/climb the short distance up to the terrace and get at you.
- Some buggy monster issues such as not being able to hit the biggest of the giant spiders from behind with a dagger, but you can hit it from the front. And monsters have a retreat AI which makes them weaker because they can't run away and heal, they just run away and maybe come back later to finish getting themselves killed.