Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - Meogron Knights

Mod Review - Meogron Knights (v1.6)
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Overall: Do not download - Badly thought out mod that modifies official plug-in files.

Why You Would Download This: Your list of mods has no dependencies on official files. You want to see a few more monsters here and there. You have finished the official Oblivion quests and just want to fight tough hand-placed boss monsters.

The "do not download" recommendation comes from the fact that the "mod" edits three official plugins: Horse Armor, Spell Tomes, and Knights of the Nine. This is very bad for many reasons.
For example, these official plugins might be themselves modified by other mods (most notably, the Unofficial Official Mods Patches (UOMP), which fix all sorts of leftover bugs).

It's possible that the author of Meogron Knights has taken that into account, but unlikely, since the Unofficial Patches would have to be loaded AFTER the official files, and this mod changes the official files. And the author states offhandedly, "Also I fixed few game bugs like Mora quest award. Now it gives +10 willpower as it should, also path of steel gives now +10 Str and End instead +10 Str and speed. Cameron staff has been fixed too and also it looks different." If these are the only changes, then it is a poor substitute for the UOMP.

It is also not worth your time to check into potential conflicts and it would be tedious to do so, because changes to the official files WON'T be easily discerned from official plugin content in The Elder Scrolls Editor.
If you actually trust the author of this mod above something as time-tested and community-approved as the Unofficial Official Mods Patches, then you may still want to consider that if you have a mod that relies on these plugins (although there aren't that many), then you have no idea how they will interact because those modders will not have counted on having the Meogron version.

After all these complications, if you still want to install this mod, obviously you will need to backup your original files.

Content-wise, if you read the (version 1.6) description, you may get the sense that although the author claims " So basically it doesn´t change the game as Oscura or Martigan mod, but it adds things in normal leveled lists. (such as weapons, armours, creatures, and scrolls and potions)", the mish-mash kitchen-sink approach to this mod actually does result in widespread changes, including music and the addition of items.
The focus of the mod still seems to be monsters, so lets examine that.

The monsters added are generally of two types: Additions to levelled lists, and hand-placed bosses in dungeons.

The basic additions list is moderate in size, but the author admittedly uses content from other popular mods, such as the excellent Martigen's Monster Mod. So if you're worried about missing out, you can probably get most and more content elsewhere. Otherwise, the effect looks pretty standard -- More monsters available.
It is not necessarily the case that more will show up. For example, a low-level character used to seeing imps might now see mostly ice bats at a certain level.
It feels like there is a bit more variety as you progress through character levels and thereby make more powerful monsters available on the leveled lists. But not necessarily more variety while you are still wandering Tamriel at a particular level.

For the hand-placed bosses, if you don't care about the game world as a whole and just want to fight, it probably won't bother you much that they are designed to be tough just to be tough. If you are still completing various quests, you may find that the placement of some bosses are awkward, if not outright stupid.
For example, there is a "Crystal Spider" in Fort Blueblood, described as a "deadly foe against spell casters". This creature has a very high chance of negating spells, either through spell absorption or outright spell reflection. All of which makes fighting it with spells tedious if not suicidal.

The author's justification is "Are you playing pure spellcaster then no melee or archery? I usually prefer melee caster. Beside everything dont have to be easy." There are so many problems with this defense.

First of all, it is based on the author's particular style of play, which tells you where their mindset is. This is an invalid defense and a short-sighted approach to design. We further have no idea how it was "tested", if at all. What did the author's character have? Is the spider of a fixed level? (Would that really make a difference?)

Second, although there is nothing inherently wrong with an encounter that is skewed against one specialty (the "luck of the draw in an open-ended world" type defense), Fort Blueblood deserves an exception because it is specifically a mage location, being a critical location for the Leyawiin Recommendation. And because it is a Mage's Guild Recommendation quest, we can expect it to be completed by low to lower-middle level characters.
Further, the placement of the Crystal Spider means it MUST be defeated: It is in the final location of the quest item, and there is a bug that can occur when monsters in that location are allowed to leave the chamber or are left undefeated.

When I tried it, the Crystal Spider did leave the chamber but was ultimately defeated. When I went back to finish up the quest, Kalthar did not have the required key for me to exit the room. This is an extremely serious bug because the door is locked as "key only" and cannot be lockpicked. Unless you know how to use the console, you're stuck. And if you thought the key was to be found in the room, you're stuck too because that's not how it's scripted to play out.
I restarted a game with this mod taken out. There were a few imps in the room. I killed them without letting any leave the chamber. Kalthar turned up as he should, and had the key on him when he died. Everything went smoothly as it should. If I hadn't researched the situation, I wouldn't have known earlier on that the key was meant to be on him.

For the bosses, if you like tough fights (especially if you will then unload this mod), this may be a decent sidetrip. (But keep a copy of a savegame where you haven't yet installed this mod, in case uninstalling this mod causes you to be unable to load or save games anymore -- some extensive mods can do that when unloaded).
However, if you just want to fight bosses (whether you uninstall the mod later or not), there are other more interesting alternatives out there, such as Martigen's Monster Mod (very highly and easily customizable) and Hentai Mania (it's not what it sounds -- trailer here, sample boss fight here).

Overall - It's in between an overhaul and a monster mod. The confused style of what goes into this mod makes it harder to integrate. Decide on what you want and choose a dedicated mod instead. There are excellent and extensive monster mods and item mods (like Armamentarium).

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