Thursday, July 3, 2014

Skyrim Mod Review - Dovahkriid - The Dragon Lords

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Mod Review:
Dovahkriid - The Dragon Lords

Summary: Dragons with lots of health.

Did anyone bother playtesting this? First impressions of the mod show it to be an utter waste of time.

I installed this mod and tried it with a level 28 character who had been following the main quest almost exclusively. Not loaded with tons of magical gear or very high resistances (about 35% magic resistance). Went to Ilinalta's Deep to check out one of the dragons -- Finkroniid. Ostensibly level 70, according to the getlevel console command. 10,000 health as advertised.
My character beat Finkroniid down to about 3500 health, and he flies off. Before I can even figure out in which direction he went, much less get there, Finkroniid is back with his health bar at around 7300.
At first, I thought this was a scripted gimmick, so I just patiently fight him back down to 3500 health. Finkroniid flies off AGAIN. Comes back again with health restored (probably around 7300 again).

So how many times am I supposed to fight this dragon? Am I supposed to get something to fly after him so I can keep him from healing himself?
No other dragon has exhibited this sort of behaviour, so I can only conclude that it is somehow a part of this mod.

A lot of people complain about the Elder Scrolls games. About dragons, they complain that they are too easy. Yes, they are. But you have to also think of the greater design philosophy behind it.
Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim -- One of the design themes in these games is the breadth of options available in character development. There is much more than is necessary to succeed. If you tap into everything, the game will be largely a cakewalk. What many people forget is that you don't have to exploit everything. The game lets you play pretty much what you want and how you want -- and still succeed. Instead of forcing on you certain tactics.

As it relates to dragons, this means that mage, archer, and knight builds all have a chance to take down dragons without necessarily having to cross-train. This is why enemies fight to the death. This is why dragons even land occasionally at all. It means that you can (eventually) get somewhere for your effort.
The encounter with Finkroniid is the opposite -- after laboriously tearing through 6500 health, you are "rewarded" by seeing the dragon fly off, only to come back healed. Now you have to do it all over again, and again, and again with no indication that this pattern will eventually end. There is a term for this -- WASTE OF TIME.

Even without the fly-away-to-fight-another-day Finkroniid issue, this mod is still a waste of time for another reason: More staying power and health isn't necessarily more fun.
The dragons as shipped in the vanilla Skyrim game are somewhat underpowered since they could get sidetracked into fighting a giant and subsequently get pasted without your intervention. But against the Dragonborn -- your character -- they are scaled so that you are not constantly delayed by a half hour or more of real time just to kill one dragon, out of possibly hundreds you will have to face over the course of following the main quest, as random dragon attacks are one of the themes in Skyrim.
Certainly it is fine to have the odd boss encounter where you do want the experience of a drawn out fight, but to encounter that constantly is pretty tedious. At some point, you will end up so bogged down in fighting that you will be barely advancing any plotlines. Therefore, Dovahkriid introduces two main things that, in my opinion, are bad for the game:
  • Tedious dragons: Excessive health = excessive time spent taking them down. Excessive damage = cheap tactics against them. If you find you have to resort to cheap tactics constantly, then you are no longer really playing the game, but instead repeating a certain move.
  • Too high level plus guaranteed appearance: If you pursue the main quest, you might not even be level 20 by the time you trigger these dragons to appear. Encountering one of these dragons somewhere you need to go could be a gamestopper.
    • Saying that you "should" adventure more, get more levels first, get such-and-such an item, etcetera, are all wrong answers because they defeat the theme of the Elder Scrolls games being one of choices, of having the freedom to pursue, or not, main quests and side quests.
    • On the other hand, if you use cheesy tactics, you may still succeed in killing them, in which case the powerful craftable items from their bodyparts may ruin your game by being overpowered too early.
If you insist on trying this mod, I recommend installing it in the late game or having some strategy to bypass them (e.g., invisibility potions, fast travel). Otherwise, just use Deadly Dragons and increase dragon stats to whatever challenge level you like. Deadly Dragons has both stat sliders and unlevelling (dragon level not necessarily tied to player level).

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