So a bunch of Germans have created a huge mod for Oblivion, called Nehrim.  I’ve been playing it and having a good time.  Unfortunately I can’t get screenshots to work, so here’s a stock shot from their site.

 

 It’s not an addition to Oblivion, it’s an entirely new continent, character, and set of quests, plus an interface upgrade.  Overall, it’s just close enough to the original that you can pick it up easily (the keys and the basic mechanics are the same); about all the changes I’ve noticed are improvements:

  • Much easier inventory screen (a grid with mouseovers)
  • Smaller, more easily readable font
  • Full-screen maps… especially appreciated in the local view
  • The world doesn’t level with you; instead areas are segregated by level
  • You advance by earning experience points, most easily acquired by killing enemies
  • You start out higher in alchemy, so you are not grinding through vats of Restore Endurance
  • There are mini-enchanted items, like herbs that increase what you can carry by 1 point, or a gem that I used to enchant my pickaxe to do 3 points of fire damage
  • You get skill points which you can put into new abilities, such as mining or cooking… I haven’t really been able to do this yet, but it sounds intriguing

In general, magic, archery, and blocking are said to be greatly strengthened.  You start out with only a healing spell though, and though you find scrolls, you don’t get much magic at first– though the main quest promises plenty of it.

On the whole it seems to be made by people who thought Oblivion was a little too Unserious.  Not that there is no humor; one of the first quests is to help a guy who’s got his head stuck in a helmet.  But  you can’t join five guilds and advance in them all, there are mentions of a big war going on, no one talks about mud crabs, you can’t be a Khajiit or Orc, the giant rats are only cat-sized, and in general the game doesn’t hold your hand as much.  (E.g. you don’t always get a convenient quest marker, so you may have to wander around more.)

There’s full voice acting with 50 voice actors… though it’s all in German.  This is kind of neat, actually… after all it solves the old fantasy problem of everyone speaking English instead. 

The initial cave takes almost two hours to get through, and can be challenging… especially after your torch gives out.  It’s better than Oblivion’s, and that wasn’t bad at all.  In general that’s the feeling of the game so far… they’ve learned from Oblivion and done everything with a lot of care.  Their site claims that it’s all handmade, no robo-generated dungeons.  Out in the wild they seem to prefer mini-dungeons to sprawling ruins, which is probably better.

My one complaint so far is that some solutions to quests are a little too quirky.  E.g. you’re sent to fetch supports for the main gate; the dungeon you’re sent to is small but nothing seems to quality.  Turns out to be a couple of shovels.  Huh? 

It’s a little slower to get going, if that bothers you.  With Oblivion you get the basic politics in the tutorial dungeon and if you follow the main quest you’re soon fighting demons.  With Nehrim there are hints about the overall situation, but after six hours or so I have no idea what the overall plot is.  I don’t see this as a bad thing; I don’t mind building up a character.

Also, did I mention it’s free?  (You have to own Oblivion though.  However, that’s just $20 on Steam, which is well worth it.)

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