Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - Caverns of Cloud Ruler Temple

Mod Review - Caverns of Cloud Ruler Temple
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Overall: Needs a lot of rethinking but could be a decent Cloud Ruler Temple expansion mod. WARNING: Very long land-tear on the road up to Cloud Ruler Temple. There maybe a slight possibility of falling through it, although it seemed okay when leading two mounted NPCs up.

Why You Would Download This: The overpowered armor you get at the end after cheating your way through the boss fight.

Caverns of Cloud Ruler Temple is a short mod that allows you to add various rooms to Cloud Ruler Temple after a short dungeon crawl followed by a shopping trip/Fedex quest.

The very basics of what this mod does is add rooms and "home" space (bed and non-respawning containers) to an otherwise boring Cloud Ruler Temple, which is otherwise interesting for its rare Akaviri architecture and importance in the Main Quest, but little else.

The backstory that accompanies this mod is so superficial as to be irrelevant. A more interesting backstory might try an integration with the Main Quest. Once you reach Cloud Ruler Temple, all the Blades there will talk about the Emperor's death as being a wake-up call for them, shaking them out of complacency. Yet they don't really do anything. An expansion to the Temple and the addition of defenses and facilities could easily have been the backstory here.
Instead, we are given a badly designed dungeon crawl.

The reason I say it is badly designed is that although the author claims the creatures are levelled, you go through a sparsely populated dungeon of light to moderate difficulty (depending on your character) but suddenly encounter a deadly gauntlet of lethal traps and a stupidly difficult boss (probably depending on your level -- once you are level 20+, your available resources or willingness to do cheesy tactics and rule exploits may negate the effects of even very high levelling in an opponent) in an environment so deliberately designed to be constricting as to ruin any sense of interestingness.

The boss fight is all out of proportion for what you get in terms of the Cloud Ruler Temple upgrades, and this makes the mod pointless since you won't get any temple upgrades until late-game when you are powerful enough to overcome the final traps and fight--and by then you will hardly be interested in the Temple upgrades as you will probably have gotten something similar elsewhere.

Even assuming the boss fight were to be stubbornly retained as part of this mod, it would have been better to somehow shuffle it to the end instead, and only to unlock the powerful armour you get (for starters, you get a piece of armor enchanted with 100% resistances in multiple areas, including all three magical elements). This is post-end-game stuff, stronger than anything you'd get in vanilla Oblivion. If you cheated your way past the boss to get the Temple upgrades, you'll suddenly get this game-ruining armor completely free.

Another profoundly disappointing aspect of this mod is the Temple upgrades themselves. They are cut-and-pastes from the Imperial City and use that style of Roman-like but supposedly Ayleid-style architecture -- which is very jarring from the Japanese style Akaviri architecture. Even assuming the existing Cloud Ruler Temple architecture couldn't somehow be used, there are no shortage of mods and resources out there, such as Aurygas Akavir Fuyohin Island and Akaviri Samurai Shop with more appropriate architectural elements.

The actual services are profoundly uninspired and sometimes outright confusing. For example...
  • The store is situated outside Cloud Ruler Temple, pasted on the butt end of the building. And with no direct access from the Temple interior. Huh?
  • There are sewers added, but where does it eject? And why are the shortcuts to the new areas via the sewers, of all places?
  • Why does the dojo sell Blackwood Company Armour?
  • Why are the training weapons rated at speed 1.50 when real weapons are nothing like that? Does that not defeat the point of training when you don't get a realistic experience?
  • The small character home/room has stacks of crates and chests for storage, crammed into the same space as the bed. As a purely aesthetic preference, I find this unsightly and claustrophobic. There are many choices for storage, including smaller chests and crates and different types of furniture. Also, stacking chests makes no sense -- To get at a middle or lower chest, you'd have to move the ones above it just so you could open the lid. Players using something like Harvest Containers may therefore have animation or Havok physics issues.

A more useful inventory from a new merchant might be (especially if we are to follow the theme of improving Cloud Ruler Temple and the Blades improving the organization as a whole) to offer a variety of existing and new Blades armor and weapons, possibly introducing bows (e.g., via Akavir Japanese Archery Modders Resource), Light Armour variants of the signature Blades Armour, and a Very Heavy version based on samurai armour (e.g., the Genji Armor mod). Additionally, if these were scaled to the player's level, Cloud Ruler Temple could be a proper headquarters for a character who wants to roleplay a Blade and maintain a Blades look for their character's equipment.

Overall, the idea of expanding Cloud Ruler Temple is an overdue one. However, I feel this mod hasn't given it a proper treatment.

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