A short “review”: Oscuro’s Oblivion mod

“Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul” is undoubtedly the most ambitious mod out there. I saw many people liking it and decided to give it a look, even if I’m not so fond of mods that aggressively change and add content.

This is an excursus of comments and things I wrote around the forums.

What I mean is that with these large packages based on users mods you always have tradeoffs of quality.

It’s different when you take a certain mod that tweaks a certain part of the game with a goal in mind, but when you aggressively add content and change the direction of the game you are always going to accept those tradeoffs. There will be interesting things as there will be things that really suck.

It’s great if you are on the second run through the game and want to see something different, but in many cases those “improvements” are definitely arguable.

Yes, choice is good. I discard about 98% of the mods I try. That’s the point.

With the big bundles instead you are sort of stuck with what you get. And it’s often “meh!”.

This was BEFORE trying the mod. And it seems I knew exactly what I was going to find.

(Based on a clean install. I have only bethesda’s official mods, unofficial patch 1.4.0, Book Jackets, DEJ Harvest, Living Economy, Oscuro 1.3 full and a small mod that sets the “timescale” variable to 15 instead of 30).

So I went on a clean install and gave that mod a try after reading up the readme and thinking it had some good premises.

The problem is that it didn’t made a very good impression on me. The tutorial part is pretty much identic. Rats and zombies do almost zero damage and die with two hits. Then you go outside.

Outside I had a few problems with lag, possibly because of grass and fish spawns added to the game. I notice that the crabs spawn in groups now. This is nice and they also have a veried size. I like the idea but I also noticed that the smaller crabs seems as resistent as the large ones. Not really a consistent behaviour when you see this tiny crab fleeing from you and you still have to swing repeatedly your big sword at it.

Then you have the same options as always. Your can cross the river to fight the two bandit and enter the Vilverin dungeon or go right where there’s a cave guarded by an imp.

Well, the bandit camp doesn’t have anymore the two weak bandits, but a whole squad of 5-6 of them, well equipped and almost unbeatable even if you “pull” and fight only one of them. With the bowman that takes almost 1/4 of your health with each arrow.

So I tried the other cave with the imp. And the imp fled as soon as it saw me and I had to chase it down for a while. Then I go in. There are more imps on the first level and again all they do is flee as soon they see me. Unfortunaterly fleeing in a cave just means that they run straight against a wall, with me repeatedly slashing their naked ass, till they die. Okaay…

Second level. More imps that flee as they see me, I chase them down the corridor, then I see a phantom like figure far away. Then I see a HUGE glowing projectile coming toward me that takes the whole corridor (impossible to dodge). It hits me. I die. I was at FULL health.

That’s pretty much it. From what I seen the difficulty scales HORRIBLY. You go from trivial to impossible in one step. From rats that do no damage, to imps that are stuck against walls without even trying to defend themselves (great AI, duh), to one-hit kills or even zergs of bandits RIGHT ACROSS the river in what is supposed to be the noob zone.

Beside that, there must be something that messes with the AI because in many, many cases the monsters didn’t notice my presence till I was very close (and not in stealth).

So, the impression I got wasn’t really good. There are some good ideas and I accept a mod that tries to make the content static. But if you decide to make the content static then YOU HAVE TO design the progression so that it is consistent and flows naturally. Without being overly frustrated or with unbeatable, one-hit kill monsters placed in a starter dungeon.

As it is right now the content just calibrated and designed very very badly.

That’s what I see, now tell me I’m wrong.

I wrote that and people told me they had different experiences. So I went on explaining my point and also had a discussion with the mod author about these points. At the end all that I wrote revealed to be true.

If I was complaining about the difficulty I could understand.

But I’m not complaining about that. I’m complaining about the scaling. The fact that I went from a monster that represents no harm at all to one that killed me in one hit. Without anything in the middle.

Not a very good, fun progression.

Sotobrastos: The bandit camp happened to have 4-5 bandits in your case… So why did you, a lvl 1, again, fresh out of jail, attack 4-5 bandits with crap equipment and a rusty sword? Just as there were 4-5, it could have been that only 1 or 2 were there. So, it was your luck. Would you prefer if I make it so that every place has a set number of enemies? No variety? No surprise? I don’t think so, personally.

Just good design.

You don’t find many games that put your character next to an unbeatable monster right at the start. Considering that a noob character ALWAYS comes out in that point of the map it makes sense to at least give him a possibility to familiarize with the game instead making him face sure death wherever he moves. I tried three things: bandit camp, Vilverin and the other cave. Those are ALSO the options that most players usually consider. Because when you play a new game you usually start by exploring the nearby space.

It is very frustrating if you are punished at every step you move and cannot figure out how *the game* expects you to play.

Sideways cave: Imps are wimps. Why? Because they now hang out with much powerful kin. You entered sidways cave, which, if you are careful, you can effectively hunt in it pretty well. But, as soon as you run into a Mystical imp is going to be time to run, especially if you are a weakling level one.

Again my complaint is about the scaling. On the first level ALL the imps I met just ran into walls and waited for me to kill them without the slight reaction. I just didn’t find this realistic, nor really fun. I’m sure that they can do better than that even if they are wimps. It just looked awkward and I’m reporting this.

Then I moved to the second level and there were MORE imps, who again just ran in the other direction. I chased one and I found that ghost-like thing. I died with one hit.

Again it’s the scaling. I went from absurdly easy to die in one hit.

So I WOULDN’T suggest to bring the difficulty down. But I think it would be a good choice to make the difficulty scale more GRADUALLY.

Then there’s the other problem that I don’t know if it’s a bug, a side effect of some script or what. But I noticed that the monsters didn’t react promptly to my presence. I saw idle rats staring a wall with me just a few feet away and, finally, I was able to shot down an imp in that sideway cavern with my bow. The imp NEVER MOVED. It never reacted. I fired the first arrow and he was facing the other direction. I hurt him and he just sit there doing nothing, till I killed it.

I was right about the gap between the starting dungeon and what you find outside as the mod author said that the starting dungeon is so heavily scripted that he didn’t want to mess with it.

I was right about the mud crabs all sharing the same stats even with their varying size, in fact the mod author admitted that he forgot to update those values.

I was right about the framerate problems as it seems that the scripts ruling the new fish spawns give other problems to the game.

And I was also right about the difficulty being set just too random. After I went to look up things in the editor.

The reason why imps don’t attack and just flee is because they have very low “confidence” and “aggression” values.

In the exact same spot where these can spawn, this mod can spawn a “mystical imp” as well (48% normal imp – 20% rat – 16% crazed imp – 16% mystical imp). This creature is the one who killed me in one single hit.

– The “rats” have 4 hit points and do 2 damage.

– The “normal imps” have around 15 hitpoints and do from 4 to 15 damage (if they actually fought back).

– The “mystical imps” have 150 hit points and hit from 13 to 50+ damage.

That gap is just *excessively wide* to share the same spawn point.

My character had 60 hitpoints but I had the difficulty slider moved just enough to get 10 more and die with one hit.

Which confirms my theory. The mod just has the difficulty scaling really bad. You just shouldn’t have spawn points that can spawn a level 1 creature that just flees or a level 10 creature with that kind of power.

The original game had the content completely scaled and it wasn’t fun because you always knew what you were going to find. While this mod makes the difficulty completely *random*. From super easy to impossible in one step.

Wasn’t the main purpose of this mod to make content “static”? And if that’s the goal, isn’t a contradiction to have the spawn points show a so random behaviour?

RPGs to be immersive should be consistent. This means that they must follow an implicit or explicit logic. That the player will then understand and manage. Having GODLIKE creatures spawn randomly in the same place of trivial creatures is not a consistent behaviour. Nor one that helps the game to be more fun.

If there’s a dangerous place in the game, that’s good. What isn’t so good is when that place is going to be dangerous or absurdly easy on just a dice roll.

It just isn’t a consistent behaviour if the same spawn point can generate a rat, a troll or a dragon. The sense of persistence and consistence would be lost, because it would be just a random game without a sense or a logic. If this game tries to achieve “realism” then that’s NOT the direction where it should go.

Now what I’m criticizing in this precise case is that, okay, lets have varied mob types. Lets have multiple types of goblins and imps. It’s all good. But the gap between all those type shouldn’t be too wide to retain some consistence, or the game would lack logic. In the same way you don’t just take a rat, give it 400 hitpoints and make it bite for 100. It’s just stupid.

Those mystic imps spawning randomly in the place of normal ones felt to me just like a cheap trick to make the game feel harder.

Now I could try to hack together a small patch for this mod. I think it wouldn’t be too hard to address those problems I pointed out. Even if it would take too much work to rationalize the levelled lists I think it could be still possible to have a band aid and make the difficulty of the game at the early levels more forgiving and fun overall.

Problem is that the mod behaves awkwardly in the editor and I cannot save changes to a custom plugin. The mod author told me this is going to be solved when the official patch for the mod will be out. So I’ll wait for it before I try to put together my own “rebalance” mod over his own.

As things are right now, I still think that using the mod combinations I had already commented and suggested (with a drift here) is still the best choice to play the game in its best form.

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