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/-5
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.

- Strange bug where almost all the time I could not Conjure Flame Atronach. The spell would fire but nothing would appear. When an Atronach did appear, sometimes it appeared far away and nowhere near where I targeted.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Skyrim Mod Review - Mighty Magick Artifacts

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Mod Review:
Mighty Magick Artifacts v3.16

This is part of the Mighty Magick set of mods, which we will review separately.

REVIEW IN PROGRESS - last edit: 2014-July-23
As we discover more about the mod's changes, we will update this review.

The full description of the changes is not available from the author (who basically addresses it in the Q+A portion of the article/readme about the mod by saying to just throw it away if you don't like it), so from the get-go you are basically going in blind.
Whether you do throw this mod away depends on whether you have encountered the artifacts before, AND probably at which stage of the game you did, AND at what stage of the game you are at now.
Some changes are interesting and feel appropriate. Others feel grossly overpowered. Still others are overpowered only in conjunction with certain character builds.

If you like some of the changes but not others, you can selectively disable them using the Creation Kit: When choose an ESP file to open, you can click on "Details" to list all the records added or changed by the mod. Pressing Delete activates an "Ignore" flag for a particular record.
You do not actually have to fully load the mod into the Creation Kit, and in this particular case you probably do not want to because you may want to reverse your decision, which you can by pressing Delete again to turn off the Ignore flag.

Amulets of the Nine Divines Some overpowered.
This is not too bad if you compare it with some common magical items, BUT in tandem with them, some can be too powerful if you happen on them too early. Here is a summary of the changes:

Divine Vanilla Enchantment Mighty Magick
Akatosh Magicka Regeneration +25% Heath, Magicka, and Stamina Regeneration +50%
Arkay Heath +10 Damage from undead -50%, Damage against undead +50%
Dibella Speech +15 Health +50, Stamina +50
Julianos Magicka +10 Magicka +50, Magicka Regeneration +50%
Kynareth Stamina +10 Animals will neither attack you nor flee from you unless you attack first.
Mara Restoration Spells -10% Cost Restoration spells -15% cost
Stendarr Shields Block +10% Damage Damage against daedra +100%, Shields Block +15% Damage
Talos Shout Cooldown -20% no change
Zenithar Store prices -10% Store prices -15%, Speechcraft +15%
  • The Amulet of Arkay is particularly excessive combined with the Mighty Magick Restoration spell Rebuke, which already does a lot of damage specifically against undead at an excessive range.
  • The Amulet of Kynareth can make travelling the wildnerness a less annoying experience, so you may want to hold on to that if you just like getting on with the game instead of stopping every few minutes to fight wolves and bears. Where it may feel excessive is because you get the same effect only after a pilgrimage up to High Hrothgar, reading all 10 Emblems.
You can easily find the ENCHantment records to set to ignore in the Creation Kit as they have the name of the Divine on them.

Armor of the Old Gods Good
The original Armor set you can get from one of the outcomes of the Forsworn Conspiracy in Markarth.

Piece Original enchantment Artifacts enchantment
Armor Destruction spells cost 15% less to cast Health +75, Magicka +75, Stamina +75.
Boots Sneaking is 20% better Sneaking is 25% better. Stamina regenerates 100% faster.
Gauntlets Bows do 20% more damage 25% more damage with One-Handed attacks, Two-Handed attacks, and Bows.
Helmet Increases your Magicka by 30 points Magic Resistance +15%. Destruction spells 15% stronger. Conjuration spells cost 15% less to cast.

The Artifacts version makes the armor much less specialized, though possibly at the cost of some flavour, if you believe the original enchantments are meant to reflect the Forsworn as guerilla fighters. The enchantments are not over-the-top and somewhat on par with what you can enchant yourself; plus there are some conveniences such as 25% more damage with all three weapon types on the same armor piece.
Compared to the original, the enchantments in the Mighty Magick Artifacts mod are more likely to be useful for a longer time. Depending on your level when you get the armor set, the original enchantments may be markedly inferior to what you have.

Ebony Blade Overpowered in early game
Mighty Magick adds Soul Trapping and a chance of Paralysis. Which is not as bad as it sounds because the deadliest effect (Paralysis) is also on the vanilla Chillrend and you can custom enchant it on weapons as well.
The reason these additions can make Ebony Blade overpowered is because you can pick up the sword at level 20--which you can attain unavoidably too fast unless you take severe steps in slowing down your levelling. Chances are, when you get the Ebony Blade, it will be your best weapon and you won't find anything worth switching for a very long time, if ever: As weapons go, the Mighty Magick version has three of the most useful enchantments: the vanilla Absorb Health, and the additional Paralysis and Soul Trap.

The amount of effort to obtain the Ebony Blade is not relevant compared to powering it up. The Ebony Blade is meant to corrupt the user by enticing them to murder the people who trust them. The theme of the weapon, therefore, should be the temptation to increase the blade's power. For that to actually work, it must not be so powerful to begin with that you wouldn't bother playing Mephala's game of murder -- and the Paralysis ruins this since you can get 5 seconds of paralysis right from when you acquire the Ebony Blade.
Nevertheless, Mighty Magick does make the Ebony Blade at least worth getting in the first place.

The Gauldur Amulet Overpowered for Bretons
Mighty Magick makes this a worthwhile reward to get at +25% Magic power or duration (depending on school), and +25% Resist Magic. For Breton PCs, however, this puts you dangerously close to the 85% Magicka Resistance cap since you start at 25%, and can add another 25% with the Lord Stone. There's some running around to get the Amulet, but it's not bad and not that hard in the early game.

The Mace of Molag Bal Good
The original Mace enchantment is 25 Stamina Damage, 25 Magicka Damage, and Soul Trap for 3 seconds. The Artifacts version makes it more useful to have at 36 Health Damage, 36 Stamina Damage, 36 Magicka Damage, and Soul Trap for 5 seconds.
Without the additional Health damage, the Mace takes a back seat to most weapons except those dedicated to mage-slaying.

Saarthal Amulet Good
Changes the spell cost reduction from 3% to 10%. This is quite a nice change because it actually makes the amulet worth wearing in the early game. The Saarthal Amulet was probably not meant to be artifact-level, and this improvement doesn't suddenly make it artifact level. Also, if you are using the Mighty Magick - Fortify Magic School Enchantment and Alchemy Reversed module, then it is one of the few permanent ways to reduce the magicka cost of spells.

Staff of Corruption Overpowered
The vanilla staff does 20 or 50 damage with dreams. The Mighty Magick version does 100 or 200, plus an explosive (area effect) Fear effect, which is also applied to dream-stealing, which means when you try to steal dreams you end up assaulting people and making them hostile and will have the guards after you.

I feel that the worst aspect of this change is the now hostile dream stealing, which greatly changes the feel of how this staff works.
A more moderate change would have been to up the damage only of the dream-empowered shots, and also limit the fear effect to dream-empowered shots. With Mighty Magick, you can still do 100 damage with the staff normally, and the Mighty Magick mod gives all artifacts unlimited shots without recharging -- which is pretty potent on its own, and possibly overpowering in the early game considering how easy it is to get the Staff. Throughout the game, 100 damage, a fast direct-fire projectile, and a fast fire rate makes this staff a dragon killer.
You can mod the staff somewhat easily:
  • To make the fear effect work only on enemies and when there are dreams stored is apparently NOT as easy as copying conditions from Magic > Magic Effect > "DA16Skull04WakingMajor" to the fear effect in the Enchantment entry for the Staff. Instead, I recommend just deleting that magic effect from the staff's enchantment and living without it.
  • To change the damage done when there are no dreams stored, adjust the Magnitude for the effect "Psychic Agony: Health". I recommend a value of 20 and reducing the area to 5, the same as the DreamSteal effect.
  • To change the damage done when there are dreams stored, adjust the Magnitude for the effect "Waking Nightmare: Health". I recommend a value of 100.
We ended up modding the staff in a more complicated way into something with increased utility instead of increased power.
  • 20 damage or 50 damage with dreams, with area 5 or 15 (as vanilla Staff of Corruption). Left it as 0 charge requirement.
  • Soul Trap with area 15. Due to a bug or unforeseen scripting issue, when a soul is captured the staff will also reduce the dream count by 1.
  • No effect on Undead.
  • Changed projectile attributes:
    • Speed 4000 -> 400,000
    • Range 2048 -> 4000
    • Collision radius 10 -> 5
    • Impact Force 5.0 -> 0