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TES Marathon

Discussion in 'The Elder Scrolls 1-4' started by Ziad, Jul 1, 2009.

  1. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    All guild lines are done, and unfortunately none of them was as good as the Thieves. The Fighters Guild was surprisingly bland. The rivalry with the Blackwood Company is present from the very beginning, but the story just never feels very engaging. I blame poor writing, especially since almost everyone in the guild is extremely unlikable. I guess we're expected to feel sorry for Viranus when he dies, but considering the only time we get to spend with him he's a complete jerk and a total moron (I lost count of the number of times he was knocked out during the mission with him... thank Bethesda for essential NPCs). Speaking of Viranus, am I seeing things or is he the only openly gay character in the game? (his diary had some rather obvious references I thought)

    The DB had a lot of potential I thought, but most of this is squandered. The "Whodunnit" quest seemed like a great setup, but it's incredibly poorly scripted and written. Being able to kill the guests one at a time while they're all in the same room, without anyone noticing, completely breaks the atmosphere. Worse, I convinced one of the guests (the Redguard IIRC) that the only other remaining one was the murderer, and he does and kills him... then panics because "one more has been killed and the murderer is still out there"... YOU just killed the guy who you were convinced was the murderer, you idiot! The Dead Drops also really annoyed me, because you are forced the go with the extremely linear plot and none of the options to do something are ever offered. I knew straight away when I got the 3rd contract that something was wrong (different writing, even different icon in the inventory) yet the game doesn't allow anything to be done. Worse, after finding the traitor's diary and finding Lachance dead I'm not even allowed to show the diary to the woman Speaker and tell her the traitor is still at large, even though I *know* that she isn't the traitor and therefore that I can trust her (because she was the traitor's next target). Had she been on her guard she might not have been the only surviving Speaker... then again the game locks you in cutscene mode when the traitor reveals himself, just because. So, although I agree the mood starts off great, the linearity and the extent to which the designers went to make sure you couldn't do anything to deviate destroys most of the atmosphere. It doesn't help that the traitor then calls you an idiot in his diary for "not suspecting anything". I hate games that insult my intelligence by not allowing me to do something then calling me an idiot for not doing that something.

    The Mages Guild was by far the worst though. The recommendation quests go on forever and there are serious pacing problems with the quests. The whole necromancer attack seems to come from nowhere. Why exactly did they target the guild? Sure the guild banned necromancy, but enough NPCs point out that it's still legal in Cyrodiil, so it's not as if the guild can do much to stop the necromancers from doing whatever they want. The last quest was a huge disappointment. First Traven kills himself for as far as I can tell no reason whatsoever - the "Filled Colossal Black Soul Gem" is supposed to protect you from Mannimarco, but either due to engine limitations or programmer laziness it doesn't do anything (and Mannimarco doesn't even mention his control/spell/whatever being blocked). Then there's the whole business with Mannimarco, gone from a robed godlike being, incredibly detached yet wielding immense political power, who actually ascends to proper godhood in one of the game's endings, suddenly turned into evil-laugh necromancer who cannot even gives a proper evil speech and dies after 3 sword blows. To add insult to injury, the reward for completing the quest is so lame it's laughable.

    Yeah, I'm not too impressed with most of the guild lines :p

    In other news I hit the magical level 20 and got Goldbrand from Boethiah, so it's now my main weapon. I've got most of the items for Martin and the next step is to open the Great Gate outside Bruma.
     
  2. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    Well that was fast. The last stages of the MQ move extremely quickly, so I completed the game earlier than I thought I would. Closing the Great Gate was a bit of a pain. Martin is suddenly made nonessential and since he has the annoying tendency to charge at the group of daedra that spawn near the gate he gets himself killed pretty easily (thankfully the fighting seems to stop as soon as I enter the gate). The time limit is incredibly jarring in a game that constantly tells me to hurry up but always waits for me - in fact I completely ignored (as I have always done in the game) instructions to be quick about it, so when "13 minutes remaining" appeared on screen I was really surprised. Thankfully my Speed is 90, so I just ran through without fighting anything and reached the Great Sigil Stone with about 5 minutes to spare. Closing several gates in earlier quests (especially "Allies for Bruma") helped, as I was used to the way the towers are laid out.

    With all the items he needs Martin finally opens a portal Paradise, which is another area with great potential but not much done with it. It's really just a matter of following the yellow brick road from one end to the other. There are hints of daedra politics a la Battlespire but unfortunately nothing comes out of it or of the hatred that the "chosen ones" have for the daedra. The Mythic Dawn agent did genuinely surprise me - when he started lowering the cage I thought myself an idiot for ever agreeing to his plan and fully expected a betrayal, so I was surprised when he stays true to his word and even helps in the fight against the Camorans.

    With the Amulet back with Martin things move speedily to the conclusion, which unfortunately is a let-down. The wonderful AI once again messed things up completely when I got to the temple and realised I had lost Martin - he got stuck outside the palace, forcing me to restore from the beginning of the sequence. Aside from this hiccup the end game is just too brief and, more importantly, completely passive. Getting to this stage and just watching one big thing fight another big thing felt very unsatisfying (though somehow this didn't bother me in World of Xeen, maybe because it actually wasn't the end of the game), even though the ending animation itself is impressive. Granted, I'm no big fan of Chosen One plots, but being made into the Chosen One's sidekick for the entire MQ feels even worse.

    Reading back most of my comments feels very odd, as it gives the impression that I hated the game, which isn't the case. After all I enjoyed it enough to play through all the quest lines and even to start on the expansions. None of the criticisms I made are game-breakers or bad enough to make me stop or rob any fun I'm having. However they do turn the game from the greatness it could have been into merely an entertaining time sink. Sure the game's fun, but it lacks the things that made its two predecessors great, namely an engaging story, memorable characters and, ironically, a unique world that truly feels alive. For all the improvement in graphics and the NPC schedules, Cyrodiil feels far more bland than the Iliac Bay and Vvardenfell did with their political intrigue and rich backgrounds.

    I was going to move on to the Knights of the Nine questline until I noticed I hadn't done anything about finding Mehrunes Razor, so I'll do that first. The only other "proper" quest plugin (the Orrery) I already did while playing the main game, without even noticing it.
     
  3. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    Knights of the Nine

    [​IMG] The official plugins are an odd collection. I found the three homes to be the least interesting. While each one has something unique about it (Frostcrag Spire has the teleporters and the garden, Deepscorn Hollow has the Shrine of Sithis, Dunbarrow Cove has the pirates), they all share the same drawback: they're too far away from everything else. Even though the worst possible house is the shack in the Imperial City, I turned it into HQ because it was so convenient, and all three home plugins lack convenience. Spell Tomes are nice because of the ability to learn new spells for free (and then to use the effects at the altars), but it integrates in such a way that's it's hard to notice it's even there most of the time (not necessarily a bad thing). The Orrery is a bit of a joke - the whole quest can be completed in about 10 minutes and barely requires any thought or effort, not to mention the reward isn't that useful, at least not for the type of character I built. The worst by far is Horse Armor though. I cannot believe Bethesda charged money for what amounts to little more than a minor cosmetic change - and both armours look terribly ugly.

    Things get a bit more interesting with Mehrunes' Razor. It's not a fancy quest, in fact it's a pretty straightforward dungeon crawl, but the ruins under Sundercliff Watch are vast. The village, the excavation site, the Ayleid ruins, the layout of the place actually makes sense and it feels like a real location, rather than the series of rooms and corridors that most other dungeons in the game look like. While I have a hard time remembering the majority of the dungeons in the game this one really sticks out thanks to the thought that has gone into its design. The Razor itself is a nice weapon, but I had some much better ones by this point in the game so it went into my collection without being used much.

    This leaves me with the Knights of the Nine plugin itself. I started the Pilgrimage much earlier and completed it shortly after the MQ. I have started collecting Pelinal's relics and will have more to say once I've advanced a bit more.
     
  4. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    [​IMG]
    That's a very adequate description. Still, you will probably have more good things to post about Shivering Isles.
     
  5. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    Hopefully I will. We'll find out soon enough! Knights of the Nine is quick-playing as it only involves four dungeons. Everything else is done outside and in fact I thought the non-dungeon tasks were much more interesting. Retrieving the Mace in particular was interesting. Anyway there's not much to the quest. I started the Pilgrimage early on and just stopped whenever I passed by a wayshrine until I got the vision. Gathering the relics was fun but unfortunately they're not that great and I had better gear for most pieces, except for the cuirass and greaves. Unfortunately I can no longer use the Gray Cowl because the Infamy makes it impossible to wear any of the relics.

    Anyway with the relics in hand I head to the ruins where Umaril is staying. Those are pretty small, though keeping my small army of Knights alive was rather challenging, thanks to the ever-idiotic AI. Destroying the Black Orb was fun and the effect it has on the battlefield is very atmospheric - the sudden quiet after all the noise and the rushing trying to keep everyone alive works very well. The fight against Umaril was a bit disappointing, as he was pretty easy to beat. Then again I'm at level 30 at this point, so there's not much of a challenge left in any fight that doesn't involve half a dozen spellcasting enemies at once.

    While doing the plugins I also finished the daedric quests (and got the oh-so-worth-it Oghma Infinium) and some of the master training quests. I still have some of these left, as not all my skills are high enough, but I'll move to the Shivering Isles and do them later on.
     
  6. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    Shivering Isles

    [​IMG] Last stop on the tour! So far I am a little disappointed in Shivering Isles. I've not started the MQ yet (aside from getting out of the Fringe) and have been doing side stuff instead. The side quests represent the worst aspect of Oblivion: endless collect-them-all quests. As if Ayleid Statues and Shadowbanish Wine wasn't enough, here there's the taxonomy, the Museum of Oddities, the tong and calipers collector... about the only interesting collection quest of the bunch is the one involving the restless spirits on the Hill of Suicides, mainly because the quest has no journal entry, is never actively dropped (it's just mentioned by a guy in Deepwallow) and there is no quest marker or journal popup when a skull is found - which would be frustrating had the skulls been randomly thrown about, but they're actually cleverly placed and it's usually easy to recognise they're more important than the regular bones lying around. All of the collection quest also share one common problem: the only way to finish them seems to involve exploring every non-quest dungeon in the hope of finding all the required items, and that's not something I feel willing to do, so I will either cheat and read a walkthrough or leave them uncompleted.

    The Shivering Isles themselves are a marked improvement over Cyrodiil in terms of originality. Gone are the generic look and architecture, replaced by an alien landscape with more interesting fauna and flora. Unfortunately even there I feel Bethesda didn't go far enough. The Isles have a certain Morrowind-y look and as a result come across as a different province, rather than a completely different plane of existence. It doesn't help that all the NPCs are the same 10 races found in Cyrodiil, with no daedric NPCs and nonhostile dremora or atronachs. Even the Golden Saints and Dark Seducers look far more human than their previous appearances in other games. While I'm glad they went for a different look for Sheogorath's realm (as opposed to Boethiah's and Pyrite's, which looked identical to Dagon's in blatant contradiction of canon), the Isles just don't look as alien as Dagon's Plane of Oblivion.

    The writing seems to be much improved over Oblivion. Haskill in particular got a few chuckles thanks to his completely deadpan delivery and general snark. Also, while the collection quests are a pain, the in-town ones are more interesting, though I still miss the ability to complete at least some of them in more than one way.
     
  7. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    I started on the SI main line yesterday, and things went surprisingly quickly. Xedilian was a fun dungeon and I particularly liked the ability to play dungeon master with the party of adventurers (I drove them all mad, of course). I think it would have been more fun if there had been hints of these obstacles on the way in, but it's entertaining as it is. Joining the courts was also fun. "Addiction" was particularly interesting thanks to the stat drops when going on withdrawal. Having a level 40 character means the attribute drain doesn't make a lot of difference even at the most severe withdrawal stage, but I can imagine how that would devastate a low-level character. The murder plot was a good premise but it's far too easy to solve.

    Speaking of level 40, I should mention that at this level I have now maxed all attribtues. I've also completed all the quests from the master trainers, though not all my skills are over 70 so I abused a small glitch to do this (the trainers offer the referral to the master trainer if the current value, not the base value, is 70, so wearing some Fortify Skill items helps).

    Anyway back to the main line, I sided with the Golden Saints to relight the Flame of Agnon, and then lit it on the side of Mania. Although I don't particularly like either side over the other, Crucible is such an ugly place (sewage everywhere... yuck) that I'd much rather help Bliss (and Mania). And since I don't want to the Duke of Sewage Land I opted for the Ritual of Mania, though killing Syl would have been much more satisfying (I almost felt sorry for breaking the conspiracy on her life earlier). The Ritual was fun thanks to all the stealth required (would've been even better without those annoying popups telling me what to do at every turn...). The next few quests were... a little boring, as they're just regular dungeon crawls with nothing remarkable about them. I'm now at the stage where Sheogorath has turned into Jyggalag and is gone, so I'm off to forge my own Staff of Sheogorath and replace him.
     
  8. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    I don't think we're meant to make an easy choice at that point. To me it was certainly the best part of the game (give me a setting like Shivering Isles and I'm happy). :p
     
  9. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    And we're DONE!

    By far the most interesting sequence in the game (and one of the most interesting in the series) is the fight against the dark clone in Milchar. It reminded me of a similar situation in the Stygian Abyss in Ultima IV, except that here the clone has ALL of the same abilities as my character, including all his spell selection AND all his inventory. I noticed this when he started using spells that I did not know, but that I carried scrolls of - and he went through them one at a time. This was by far the most interesting fight in the entire game and I feel no shame in admitting that I was soundly beaten the first time (though I managed to hang on for a while). By this point in the game I had enough Reflect Damage items to stack it to around 80%. Combined with the awesome Shadowrend (especially since the clone can wield it one-handed!) and fighting the clone in melee was pure suicide, even with extensive use of healing and buffing. So I opted for a more creative strategy, by distracting him with my own summons while I pelted him with arrows (enchanted arrows fired from an enchanted bow do a LOT of damage overall). Even this wasn't easy as he could tear through my summons quickly and I also had to deal with his summons happily throwing spells my way. I finally managed to beat him and grabbed Shadowrend.

    The rest of the game was by contrast a bit of a let-down. Syl turns traitor to everyone's surprise except mine (come on, she said rather explicitly she was joining Jyggalag) and I killed her to cure the Pools. As soon as the staff is activated the obelisks start showing up in the palace courtyard, and as soon as I shut them Jyggalag himself appears. I expected a tough fight but he's a pushover and went down with just a few strikes from Shadowrend. He then wraps up the plot and leaves, taking the Greymarch with him.

    And here ends my journey. I still have an uncompleted quest, namely the Museum of Oddities, but after checking a walkthrough and reading that half of the items are random spawns there's no way I'm going to bother with it. The whole series ended up taking less than 5 months, far less than I thought it would. Since there seem to be no plans for a 5th game I've got a long break ahead of me. I might replay some of the games later on, but definitely not before another year has passed.
     
  10. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    Kudos Ziad! You definitely deserve a break. ;)
     
  11. pugsley Gems: 1/31
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    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your play-throughs Ziad! Thank you kindly for taking the time to post your comments. Really gained a lot of insight from your posts.

    Also noticed your a fellow Montreal citizen! :thumb:
     
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