Monday, May 31, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - DeathTrap Dungeon EV

Mod Review - Deathtrap Dungeon EV (English translation of a German mod)
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Overall: It's NOT DeathTrap Dungeon. It's neither the original Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy version, nor a remake of the Eidos Interactive version. It's just another dungeon crawl, but with crazy-strong creatures.

Why You Would Download This: You like dungeon crawls for the sake of dungeon crawling. You have a uber character (probably with modded gear) or an elite tactician who isn't too proud to stoop to any strategy. Or, you have some nostalgia for the original Fighting Fantasy and were fooled by the name.

First off, in case you were looking for a role-playable version of the original Deathtrap Dungeon -- the Fighting Fantasy book by Ian Livingstone -- this isn't it.

If you are looking for a better remake than the Eidos Interactive version, this isn't it either (although there are token dwarf goblins -- but there are definitely no scantily clad acrobatic warrior priestesses). There's no Baron Sukumvit or the land of Fang. Forget whatever you know about DeathTrap Dungeon and start from zero as just-another-dungeon-crawl-for-Oblivion.

I used the English Translation version. The orginal can be downloaded from Planet Oblivion or Scharesoft-Portal.

This mod makes only a cosmetic edit to the existing game world (placing one NPC at the Imperial City Waterfront to transport you to DeathTrap Dungeon), so as mods go, this one is very easy to install and unisntall when you are done. And certainly nothing so complicated as needing Wyre Bashing or even thinking too much about load order. It's a bit tricky to find the NPC Colanen, however, as he might very well be INSIDE the wall. You may have to use the console command TCL (toggle clipping) to access him. He is near/behind the crates against the wall in front of the pirate ship Marie Elena.

Once you are sent to Deathtrap Dungeon, there's no turning back until you get to the very end.
For any extended expedition, the main problem in Oblivion mirrors real life: Supplies. Although you don't need to eat or sleep, warriors need repairs to their weapons and armour; magic weapons need recharging; alchemists need ingredients; and everyone needs potions for emergencies. Depending on how much you "cheat" with inventory (e.g., you might be using storage mods such as Storage Sacks and Portable Sorters), this mod can be thrillingly dangerous or a bit more tedious than your usual dungeon crawl.

The mod does cut you some slack, however: If you explore the little island you are transported to, you will find an artifact that gives you 100% Frost Shield. The interesting consequence of this is (if you are not using magic mods that change the effect of Frost Shield, such as Supreme Magicka) that whether you have armour or not (or if your armour is completely broken early in the mod) you will have an armour rating of 85 (normally the maximum possible). All a warrior then needs is a weapon, and many creatures drop levelled weapons. In this roundabout way, much of the issue of supplies (like repair hammers) is bypassed.

I entered the Dungeon at level 8 and, with portable storage, had about 150 repair hammers. I was down to 3 when I finished (and switched to cheesy magic tactics after level 2 of 5 levels -- but more on that later).
The first enemies encountered were level 10 Skeleton Legionnaires with powerful maces (huge damage rating, but scripted so you can't pick them up off the ground). The skeletons each had 600 (!) health each. The only reason all three of them (who magically appeared when I got closer) couldn't immediately swarm me is because two of them didn't know how to get past the log trap at the cave entrance.
I always try to get past an encounter without cheesy tactics initially, but it took a lot of potions just to take down the first skeleton.
This is a huge problem with the mod. Rats have 350 health. The first boss was level 1 (!), but with 2000 health. On the second level, there was an argonian mage with 3010 Health, and a skeleton legionnaire boss with 4000 Health. Starting on level 3 you will start to encounter Ogre Berserkers with 3000 health as typical encounters.
There are fewer foes later on, but they are tougher -- practically every encounter will feel like a "mini-boss" encounter.

And there isn't any supporting loot like potions or scrolls to pick up. In fact, if you stealth your way through (possible until you need the key to level 5, the only key that cannot be acquired without killing the boss that protects the key), you won't miss out on much. There is a Daedric Bow and a Daedric Longsword that can be picked up. Some creatures will carry Daedric-level weapons, but not many.

If you have an uber character who isn't daunted by these stats, then it's just another dungeon crawl, and can be a quick trip because there aren't a lot of enemies, and each of the five levels (plus a treasure chamber, which could count as a 6th) are very different, which means you won't get too bored at least of the scenery.

If each fight can drag out, then this mod can get tiresome really quickly. Because the fights are, as mentioned, like mini-boss encounters, it can get boring when you've cleared one, and halfway across the room is yet another 3000-Health Ogre Berserker. Or maybe even two of them. It wouldn't be so bad if, in such a case, they had more variety in enemies.
There are no new models or textures for enemies here, which makes the mod light-weight to download and install, but boring as hell if you've been to Oblivion and back already.

ogre berserker stats

For those who don't have uber characters, how can you possibly get through? Tactics. There are three general tactics here:

(1) 100% Chameleon. 'Nuff said.
(2) Spell Stacking Weakness magic effects. Make a small area effect (10 ft) and make sure your spells all have max-level Calm so you can safely cast the chain on any creature (watch out for Spell Absorption, though).
(3) Command Creature. You'd be surprised how many monsters have a crazily LOW level.
For the ultimate boss, the Baron himself, there is a cooking pot on the left side of the chamber which supposedly enhances your arrows with fire damage, although I didn't try it myself.

If you want to stealth your way to the treasure, you can do so by sneaking around looking for keys (possibly stealing them off keyholders) until the end of level 4. The treasure is sitting upstairs of the last boss of level 4, but there is an invisible barrier preventing you from going up the stairs until the boss is dead.

Speaking of treasure -- The actual treasure of Deathtrap Dungeon is utter rubbish compared to what you had to do to get it. There's a lot of straight cash loot, an Axe of the Dragon (axe model, axe stats), and a Spider Sword (sword picture, sword stats). The "true treasure" of Deathtrap Dungeon is carried by the Baron himself -- if you can figure out how to pick it up.

The best unenchanted weapons in the game are the maces carried by the skeleton legionnaires and the Baron's sabre. However, if the item is dropped on the ground, a script causes it to be destroyed if you try to pick it up.
So, to get any of them, you must kill the person carrying it before they can draw their weapon -- otherwise, on death, they will drop it.

The trick with the Baron is that when his health is low, there will be a cutscene and he will flee into the treasure chamber. You need to follow him to finish up in order to get the key to the main treasure chest as well as get to the exit of DeathTrap Dungeon.
If you manage to kill him in his throne room, you will still get the cutscene, but his body will be nowhere to be found and he will not be in the treasure chamber. So, you need to hurt him enough to cause him to flee, then sneak up on him in the next chamber and kill him before he draws his weapon. You can then grab the sword from his inventory.
The prize? A cutlass that has speed 1.1, reach 1.0, and damage rating 90.

Overall, unless you like fighting or cheesy tactics, don't bother with this mod. There isn't anything particularly worthwhile as a trophy (not even the rank you get displayed in your factions page).
Some work has clearly gone into this mod, however, as there are three cutscenes. We've already mentioned one. There are two others which are very brief, but which are meant to alert you to a way to disarm two traps. Nothing particularly useful in-game, but neat to see and very rare in modding.

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