Thursday, May 29, 2014

Skyrim Mod Review - 3D NPC v3.05

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Mod Review:
Interesting NPCs (3D NPCs, v3.05)

One of the best things about this mod is that it uninstalls easily. It is HUGE to download because of the tons of voiceovers for each NPC it adds. The packaging makes it easy to handle once you have actually downloaded it.
For this reason, unless you have difficulty downloading the mod in the first place, it's definitely worth a try.

I will say now that I hate it.

But I hope this review isn't going to be just a rant. Rather, it will be about the type of player who might like it and the type of player who might hate it.
An analogy: Some people LOVE fast travel and quest markers. Others hate fast travel and insist on playing without quest markers. There's no right or wrong -- it all depends on preferences and what you value.

I personally value my real time. I play Skyrim and Elder Scrolls games to be part of the action. So, things I don't like to do in Skyrim include:
  • Reading books that have no plot or quest value.
  • Sitting my character down and watching her eat dinner and drink mead.
  • Randomly pick pocketing people for no reason.
  • Crafting a cartload of gold ring of waterbreathing from iron ore and petty soul gems just to level up Alteration magic, Smithing, and Enchanting.
  • Taking a half hour to kill a level 40 random encounter with an 8th level character who's just trying to get to the Shrine of Azura to start the Black Star quest.
If some or all of these things also irk you, then you might not like some of the NPCs added by 3D NPCs. Not all of them -- but that's a problem too. Without getting spoilers from the website, it's hard to know who's worthwhile talking to and who isn't. Pretty much every NPC I sampled was irritating to talk to, for various reasons:
  • They wasted my time.
  • They were very long-winded.
  • They were insulting, condescending, stupid, or had some other similar trait that made me NOT want to talk to them or listen to them.
Your own dialogue choices are touted as "roleplaying opportunities" with a range of response motivations, so you might be thinking of the Paragon/Neutral/Renegade dialogue scheme in Mass Effect 2 and 3. However, the actual implementation is nothing like it. The responses are very specific and sometimes outlandish or foolish that you wouldn't choose them anyway. Also, negative responses are invariably just ways for the NPC to insult you or make you feel stupid. There is no actual "roleplaying" here since you can't actually react to what they say. The NPC always gets the last word and the overall feeling is frustration rather than interaction.

In comparison, consider the vanilla game character Cicero in Delayed Burial. The character is clearly a fool. But you do NOT feel frustrated after interacting with him because for all his apparent idiocy, he is not long-winded and does not waste your time. Nevertheless the experience of him being loony comes through. In some ways, this is precisely because there isn't a futile attempt to "roleplay" the experience of talking to him -- he presents a mission, and you can choose to accept or not.

Nevertheless, you may persevere in talking to them because you think this is an Elder Scrolls game and they will eventually offer you some sort of quest or task -- In Oblivion, if you did every quest, you would have gone to every location and spoken to or interacted with every named NPC in the game.

3D NPCs does not do this. There are quests, but commonly NPCs do NOT offer quests. They just talk AT you. Sometimes, they have stories which might be interesting, but that is the same as reading a book in Skyrim -- you either want to read the book content, or you think it is a waste of time because you are not advancing a plot or quest.

Nevertheless, if you have the patience to sift through the NPCs, the mod does offer some good things:
  • Quests: If you are just looking for quests -- i.e., actions you can actually participate in rather than just be talked AT by annoying NPCs -- there is wiki page that lists the quests and how they are started. Using this will greatly trim down the number of meaningless conversations provided by the mod.
  • More bard songs.
  • A chattier companion -- Some of the more detailed NPCs who can be followers have "bonus conversations", similar to squad members in Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect who occasionally say something or have event-specific dialogue. If you play Skyrim solo, then this will be useless to you, of course.

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