Saturday, June 26, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review: Red Headed Gang Quest and Girl Companion Mod

Mod Review - Red Headed Gang Quest and Girl Companion Mod
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Overall: Interesting story with interesting plot twists, very worthwhile to play through. Needs a lot of clean-up and some quest sequences are too easily broken, but overall the mod is playable. Very basic but functional companion.

Why You Would Download This: You want a couple of well-told stories with some tough fights here and there. You want an uncomplicated companion mod.

Warnings: Buggy in places and can break in a couple of places if you don't let scripts run as they should.

If you are just looking for an uncomplicated companion mod, this is it. You get Cecilia, a Breton girl (not just a woman but literally a girl, resized down from an adult Breton female). She sneaks when you sneaks, follows you around, lets you modify her inventory, even goes hostile on you for live-fire "training". You get access to your companion's house in Skingrad if you have passed the first stage of the quest, complete with bed and chest for storage. It's very basic, but also very uncomplicated, so it is unlikely to break any other mod no matter where you put it in your mod load order. Your companion is also lacking any kind of companion-ish dialogue, however, and as companions go may be sort of boring.

The mod initially came with the story of the Red Headed Gang, but later a second optional story was added, to discover and explore Undergroundia.

Both stories are essentially simple, but scripted with some interesting events and flavoured with some humour -- together, these make the experience an overall more engaging and enjoyable one, and certainly more than mere hack and slash (of which there is definitely a goodly amount, but not such a gratuitous surplus as to be tiresome). For the story alone, this mod is worth a download and occasional reload because the author didn't account for every contingency (probably played it as a fighter without using too much ranged magic or stealth).

If you like to be involved in the lives of NPCs around you, doing at least the Red Headed Gang quest lets you bond more with your companion, though she has, sadly, very little to say.

The mod, however, does require a heck of a lot of clean-up in almost every aspect. The dialogue, for instance, is rather poorly translated into English, although you will definitely get the gist of what is being said.
Custom items are haphazardly given stats -- some are set to 0 value, some are given overpowered enchantments, some are given unusually high stats like 10000 Health on armor and 1.50 speed on melee weapons. Some NPCs don't react properly (e.g., the first Undergroundian you meet never changes from sitting in her chair and asking you how your visit went, even after you wreak havoc all over Undergroundia and the other civilians run about "fleeing" like chickens with their heads cut off).

Overall, when you play the quests, you will want to keep various savegames handy because there are various parts of the mod which could be buggy or break.

Example: If you do not speak to Marlson early on, he might be Disabled later (hidden from the game) and you cannot get the quest to visit Undergroundia. You can work around this by either talking to him (again) after the initial dialogue with him when you rescue him from the Red Headed Gang. Or, if you know your way around Form IDs and the console, you can use the "Enable" command to make him reappear so you can have that dialogue.

Example: At certain points, an NPC must speak with you, and you are prevented from moving or moving past a certain point by an invisible barrier. If you provoke that NPC into fighting before they talk to you, it can cause you to be stuck because certain scripts never get the chance to run.
For example, shortly after you grab the magic crystal in the Red Headed Gang quest, when you turn to leave you may see an assassin has appeared in the room from which you came. He stands in plain sight and can be attacked at range, but he needs to speak with you. If you kill him first, you cannot leave the sewers because you are blocked by a barrier that is supposed to freeze you and let him approach to talk.
The final confrontation with Dogo is also scripted this way. He is sort-of-hidden behind some robjects, but you can see him and snipe at him even before he rushes in for the final scripted scene and necessary dialogue.

SPOILER: In the Undergroundia quest, there will be a time when you have no gear but your companion still has hers. Typically, the Oblivion engine causes creatures to prioritize attacking your companion, but not in this case. Depending on your skills and resources, you can either fight your way out of it, or depend on your companion to save you -- and interesting turnaround as, by then, you'd have saved her a couple of times at plot points (as opposed to in random encounters). The Arena trick works here -- Block (which can cause your opponent to do the same while they wait for you to drop your block) and occasionally heal with spells. Meanwhile, your companion, who is not engaged by any hostiles, can get in some free hits against your foe.

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